Thursday, September 04, 2008

Poetry is Free Speech - Speak Freely!

Catalyst 7: The Original Branch Manual

I just wanted to write about the significance of this volume in terms of what Catalyst is trying to achieve. At Neoismist Press we have a very human interest in numbers and their significance as well as patterns in mathematics so we can't resist doing something special for our 7th edition. Choosing to celebrate all the things we have achieved so far in Catalyst's 5 year history we wanted to represent them in this volume - poetry, visual art, design, spoken word and innovation. So on the occasion of our 5th anniversary and our 7th edition we have chosen to produce another CD volume containing 7 poems + 7 songs and in the accompanying booklet - 7 artists work. The innovation comes in the format of Catalyst 7 - forgoing the book format altogether and opting for a CD/booklet inside a DVD case.

We have long been fans of the quirky innovation of literary journal McSweeneys and have sought to emulate (with a miniscule budget)in some small way this playful approach to publishing Catalyst within New Zealand's literary scene. So far, we have largely been overlooked. Eschewed by arts funders and ignored by the literary press in New Zealand we have quietly continued to innovate and push boundaries all 'on the smell of an oily rag'. We may be small but we are proud. Catalyst was the first literary journal in NZ to commit to releasing CDs of spoken word. The polish and production of the first Spoken Word volume of poetry (accompanying Catalyst 4) drew praise from the music scene and silence from literary circles. However a raft of imitators and clones followed - poetry CD releases from other publications and poetry groups followed including the impressive series from Auckland University Press of Classic NZ Poets in Performance, Contemporary NZ Poets in Performance and lastly New NZ Poets in Performance.

Meanwhile Catalyst continues to quietly agitate in the shadows of such literary collossi. Catalyst 7: The Original Branch Manual once again breaks new ground in shifting it's format. In the first collection of spoken word (Catalyst 4), music was chosen to act as backing for the poets, enhancing and illuminating the delivery of the poem. This time round the exploration of the resonance between poetry and music is by direct contrast of songwriting and poetry. 7 songs were selected based not only on their musical quality but also their lyrical content. By juxtaposing the poems directly next to and overlapping the songs an alchemical reaction seemed to occur. In the words of Doc Drumheller "accidental synergy" even though the songs and poems were composed and written quite independently. The result of this experiment is The Original Branch Manual - Catalyst vol. 7.

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