15 Jan 2020

Poet Oscar Upperton to release debut book

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:37 pm on 15 January 2020

Poet Oscar Upperton has published work for The Spinoff, Metro and Best New Zealand Poems - and now he is about to release his debut book New Transgender Blockbusters, which is being published by Victoria University Press.

Upperton says he started writing poetry when he was about 9 or 10-years-old and having the book published is a dream come true for him.

Oscar Upperton 'New Transgender Blockbusters' cover

Oscar Upperton 'New Transgender Blockbusters' cover Photo: Supplied

“I had a teacher at intermediate who recognised I wasn’t responding to a traditional curriculum and she set me writing exercises instead which was fantastic. She got me writing poems and it went from there.”

He says none of those early poems made it into the book.  

Upperton explains the title of the book is a bit of a joke, because there’s nothing less ‘blockbustery’ than a poem, “at least one that I’ve written.”

“I like the ironic distance between what the title promises and, potentially, what you might get.”

However, he says the poems are all transgender poems in a sense.

“A lot of them don’t grapple with that theme, but they’re written by a transgender person so I see them as all coming under that category.”

Here’s what he calls the ‘title track’ from the book:

New transgender blockbusters

If we put on make-up the camera won’t linger
and we’ll change our clothes out of frame
or if we change our clothes in frame it will be done casually,
talking as we shrug teeshirts over our heads
or pulling on the spacesuit to try to fix the loose coupling
one last time. We won’t die, or if we die,
we’ll die surrounded by our grandchildren, handing out bequests
of stolen property and vowing vengeance on rival families.
We’ll travel in time, and save the world,
and doom the world but not in an earthquake-causing,
crime-against-nature sort of way.
We’ll have transgender friends and family members,
the frame of the film sustaining with ease the image
of transgender people talking to each other.
We’ll all be very very brave
because being a person requires great bravery,
and we won’t have to wear signs around our necks saying I am a Person.
We’ll become immune to all tropes, and win every prize.
If we find a gun under the floorboards in the first act,
we will bring world peace by the fourth act.
If we open our lockets to show the platoon a photograph of our loved one,
we’ll be guaranteed to survive until the end credits.

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