Flapper Press Poetry Cafe: Mark Pirie

By Annie Newcomer:

The Flapper Press Poetry Café features compelling poetry and the poets who create them.

This week we turn our focus to poet, Mark Pirie.

An internationally published New Zealand poet, editor, publisher, and archivist for PANZA (Poetry Archive of NZ Aotearoa), in 2016, Pirie's compilation of selected poems, Rock & Roll, was published by Bareknuckle Books, Australia. Other books include the biography Tom Lawn, Mystery Forward (2018) and the artbook Folk Punk (2020) and the poetry book Gallery: A Selection (2003). He is a former editor of the journal JAAM (1995–2005) and currently edits broadsheet: new new zealand poetry.

We reached out to Mark to ask him about his influences and approach to his art.

Mark Pirie, Photo: John Girdlestone, 2006

AN: How did you come to poetry?

MP: I first started getting interested in words when I was about 17 or 18. I started writing rap lyrics and song lyrics. I was keen to do something like hip-hop or rock and was attracted to the idea of lyrics portraying a message and staying true to realism as opposed to escapism and innocent or naive thoughts on life. My rock lyrics, though, were different to my rap lyrics. They were more surreal. My main influences back then came from listening to rappers like Ice Cube, Paris, and Ice T and also to rock groups/performers like the Rollins Band, The Doors, and Jimi Hendrix. I was never very interested in "academic" poetry back then, more the pop culture and bohemian element.

The poems I have chosen to share are recent work but inspired by America of the past and present day.

Photo: By Tore Sætre

"Jimmy Webb Interviewed" is a poem I wrote in 2019 when I became interested in Jimmy Webb, mainly through the release of Bruce Springsteen’s inspiring album Western Stars that he says owes a debt to the great American songwriter. The poem I sent you shows something of my admiration for Jimmy and his unique songwriting that people have referred to as ”Twelve chords and the truth” rather than the old Country music style of “Three chords and the truth.”


Talking about

the song ‘Wichita Lineman’

Jimmy Webb