Poetry Shelf celebrates new books: Nine poets read from Out Here: An anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writers from Aotearoa

Out Here: An anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writers from Aotearoa, eds Emma Barnes and Chris Tse, Auckland University Press, 2021

We chose words that delighted us, surprised us, confronted us and engaged us. We chose political pieces and pieces that dreamed futures as yet only yet imagined. We chose coming out stories and stories of home. We followed our noses. What our reading revealed to us is that our queer writers are writing beyond the expectations of what queer writing can be, and doing it in a way that often pushes against the trends of mainstream literature.

Emma Barnes and Chris Tse

The arrival of Out Here is significant. Editors Emma Barnes and Chris Tse have gathered voices from the wider reach of our rainbow communities. Queer texts, rainbow texts. Fiction, poetry, comic strips. I am delighted to present a selection of audio readings in celebration.

The readings

Stacey Teague

Stacey Teague reads ‘Angelhood’

Jiaqiao Liu

Jiaqiao Liu reads ‘as my friends consider children’

essa may ranapiri

essa may ranapiri reads an extract from ‘knot-boy ii’

Emer Lyons

Emer Lyons reads ‘poppers’

Oscar Upperton

Oscar Upperton reads ‘New transgender blockbusters’

Hannah Mettner

Hannah Mettner reads ‘Obscured by clouds’

Natasha Dennerstein

Natasha Dennerstein reads ‘O, Positive, 1993’

Gus Goldsack

Gus Goldsack reads ‘It’s a body’

Ruby Porter

Ruby Porter reads ‘A list of dreams’

The poets

Natasha Dennerstein was born in Melbourne, Australia. She has an MFA from San Francisco State University. Natasha has had poetry published in many journals internationally. Her collections Anatomize (2015), Triptych Caliform (2016) and her novella-in-verse About a Girl (2017) were published by Norfolk Press in San Francisco. Her trans chapbook Seahorse (2017) was published by Nomadic Press in Oakland. She lives in Oakland, California, where she is an editor at Nomadic Press and works at St James Infirmary, a clinic for sex-workers in San Francisco. She was a 2018 Fellow of the Lambda Literary Writer’s Retreat.

Gus Goldsack is a poet, cat dad and black-sand-beach enthusiast. He grew up in Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington and Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland, and lives in Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in The Spinoff and Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers From Aotearoa (Auckland University Press, 2021).

Jiaqiao Liu is a poet from Shandong, China, who grew up in Tāmaki-makau-rau. They are finishing up their MA in Creative Writing at Vic, working on a collection about love and distance, relationships to the self and the body, and Chinese mythology and robots.

Emer Lyons is a lesbian writer from West Cork living in New Zealand. She has a creative/critical PhD in lesbian poetry and shame from the University of Otago where she is the postdoctoral fellow in Irish Studies at the Centre for Irish and Scotish Studies. Most recently, her writing can be found at The Pantograph Punch, Newsroom, Queer Love: An Anthology of Irish Fiction, Landfall, and The Stinging Fly

Hannah Mettner (she/her) is a Wellington writer who still calls Tairāwhiti home. Her first collection of poetry, Fully Clothed and So Forgetful, was published by Victoria University Press in 2017, and won the Jessie Mackay Award for best first book of poetry at the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She is one of the founding editors of the online journal Sweet Mammalian, with Sugar Magnolia Wilson and Morgan Bach.Hannah Mettner

Ruby Porter is a writer, artist and PhD candidate. She tutors creative writing at the University of Auckland, and in high schools. Ruby was the winner of the Wallace Foundation Short Fiction Award in 2017, and the inaugural winner of the Michael Gifkins Prize in 2018, with her debut novel Attraction. Attraction was written during her Masters of Creative Writing at the University of Auckland under supervisor Paula Morris, and published in 2019 by Melbourne-based Text Publishing. It is distributed throughout Australia, New Zealand and North America.

essa may ranapiri (Ngāti Wehi Wehi, Ngāti Raukawa, Na Guinnich, Highgate) is a takatāpui poet living on the lands of Ngāti Wairere. They are super excited about Out Here being in the world even in these weird times. Their first book of poems ransack (VUP) was published 2019. They are currently working on their second book ECHIDNA. They will write until they’re dead.

Stacey Teague (Ngāti Maniapoto/Ngāpuhi) is a queer writer and editor. She is the poetry editor for Awa Wahine, editor for We Are Babies Press, and has her Masters in Creative Writing from the IIML.

Oscar Upperton‘s first poetry collection, New Transgender Blockbusters, was published by Victoria University Press in 2020. His second collection, The Surgeon’s Brain, is scheduled for publication in February 2022. It follows the life of Dr James Barry, nineteenth century surgeon, dueller and reformer whose gender has been the subject of much debate.

Auckland University Press page

Poetry Shelf review: Tim Grgec’s All Tito’s Children

All Tito’s Children, Tim Grgec, Victoria University Press, 2021

i.    History has never been an exact science. It is simply an
       emphasis of fact: figures moving in and out of view with
       a preoccupied smoothness, the way dates and events go
       missing like memories treading just above the surface.
ii.    One cannot be certain of anything except for what one
       sees with one’s own eyes. 

 

from ‘The Company We Keep’

In the 1970s I had a friend whose parents fled Hungary two decades earlier. I was studying history at secondary school, but standing in a basement with hanging salamis, bottles of moonshine, and the mother who had never become fluent in English, made history more real than any school lesson. I was standing in a recreated Hungarian pocket, and it was far more moving than history lessons on the unification of Italy or the Austria-Hungarian Empire. In my awkward teens I discovered that history is more than facts and figures, warped universalisations, crippling hierarchies and even more crippling erasures. History is the braided story of individuals, of daily lives, as much as it is the story of despots, political boundaries, the visible privileged.

When I lived in London in the 1980s, the African National Congress, Amnesty International, and the Women’s Rights Movements, got me reassessing the word freedom. In 2021 it seems just as important because people are still fleeing oppressive regimes, are still imprisoned for impossible-to-discern crimes, are still fighting for freedom from domestic abuse. And yes, the concept of personal freedom is a minefield because, within the bounds of freedom, there are things we ought not do and there are things we should do.

Tim Grgec’s stunning debut collection All Tito’s Children returned me to the Hungarian basement of my teenage years and to questions of freedom.

I am haunted by this remarkable book, by this poetry that is quiet, thoughtful, essential. The poems shift between the point-of-view of Elizabeta and Stjepan, two siblings from Kotoriba, a small Yugoslavian village. Their country is under the communist leadership of Josip Broz Tito, and his voice is a chilling presence. The siblings play a game of truth and lies (guess which statement is the lie) as the country itself grapples with an unreliable leader. Spot the truth, discern the lies. There is nearby conflict, unrest, farmers hiding crops, there is daily life going on. There is daily life going on. Who is Tito? Who is the person? There is mounting dissatisfaction and the seeds of doubt.

The collection has its genesis in autobiography: Tim’s grandparents fled from Yugoslavia to Aotearoa as refugees in the 1950s. He has read and researched, and he has the family stories passed down. The poetry is strengthened by the marriage of piquant detail and pulsating gap. We don’t know everything. We are drawn to the physical (the mechanical broadcasts, the rows of crops under the heat of the sun). The muted questions and covert gestures of dissidence. How this book haunts. How this book haunts when people are still oppressed, still need to care for families, plant crops, write and speak.

This is what struck: the land is a constant. Contested yes, stolen yes, and where we stand yes; in our imaginations, in our bones and hearts, across generations. Our now endangered skies, sea, terra firma, have been a constant over centuries of change and conflict and exile. I don’t quite know how to articulate this but the word ‘wonder’ keeps arising. Questions and awe. Questions and awe. In this sequence of haunting dislocation that compels some people to leave as refugees, there are exquisite flashes of wonder. Where the power and the beauty of the land, that beloved homeland, transcend everything. Just for a moment, and in that contemplative brilliance, there resides fleeting hope. Tim’s ability to craft a line with such simplicity, such fluency, beams at you, amplifies the effect of wonder as you read. How I love this book. How this is such a perfect book to read in our own uneven times, where everything comes into question, where freedom is a tested concept, where we need to do better caring for the dispossessed. I hold this book to my heart knowing the best way to seduce you is with Tim’s words, not mine.

An old woman washing clothes on the Mura:
Why would you question that? she asks.
She knows everything about the flat rocks at the river’s edge,
the washed sky, at first foggy then red—the sun slipping
through its own lining. I watch her every movement,
rinsing and wringing, rinsing again. If I look away
I won’t have to imagine who will wear them—
the same family story—
or if she is retrieving
the stray handkerchief floating downstream,
set free from its basket
               like a piece of torn cloud.

 

from ‘Elizabeta’s Tiny Seeds’

 

Tim Grgec has master’s degrees in English literature and creative writing from Victoria University of Wellington, where he was the 2018 recipient of the Biggs Family Prize for Poetry. His work has appeared in Landfall, The Spinoff, NZ Books, Mimicry, Sweet Mammalian, Turbine and Starling. All Tito’s Children is his first book.

Victoria University Press page

Poetry Shelf: Tim reads from All Tito’s Children

interview with Lynn Freeman, Standing Room Only, RNZ National

Poetry Shelf review: Emma Neale’s The Pink Jumpsuit

The Pink Jumpsuit, Emma Neale, Quentin Wilson Publishing, 2021

Emma Neale, novelist and poet, has recently released her first collection of shorter prose pieces. Short fictions and tall truths, we read on the cover, and that gets me musing on the way fiction might draw upon the truth of experience while also liberating imagination. Perhaps the fiction that affects me most embodies kernels of human truth no matter how the fiction stretches and concertinas. And that is exactly what The Pink Jumpsuit does – and it affects me deeply.

The title of the book, and the title of a short story inside, references the cover work by Sharon Singer (‘Wanderlust’, 2019). The painting is itself like a short fiction and a tall truth, with its bounding enigma, accruing questions, miniature narrative. The rough texture of the acrylic on canvas renders everything a little more vulnerable, a great deal more mysterious. The diminutive figure, standing stock still in an ambiguous setting against an ambiguous dark, is a whirlpool of determination, despair, resignation, hope. Emma’s story references the painting in an epigraph and admits: ‘”Wanderlust” somehow leads me away from any specific narrative I think the artist might be trying to tell, and tips me sideways, Alice-wise, into a free-fall of memory.’ Emma’s story pivots on an awkward gift (‘a slim-fit boiler suit in a light denim fabric’) that the father gives the mother on his return home. This genius heart-smacking story traverses gift giving, relations rupturing, the way silences are like the packed suitcases on the figure’s head in ‘Wanderlust’, and the way we may never truly know anyone (if indeed ourselves). The story heads back towards the painting and you go keeling through the what you have heard so far and what you see when you fall into the wanderlust image. Then there’s the cracking hit of the final line.

Decades ago I bought an American anthology Sudden Fiction: American Short-Short Stories (1987) and it felt fresh and rich in writing possibilities. I loved the idea of fiction suddenness, was excited by the ultra short. Years later we have flash fiction, short fiction, prose poems (and more I am sure) jostling and connecting and opening wide the short story paradigm. Emma’s collection returned me to the notion of suddenness as an appealing reading effect. Read Emma’s collection and you most definitely experience the sudden as you jolt or gasp or shudder. Then again, think of this collection as a deftly composed piece of music, because the reading effects are multiple. You will also imbibe the slower paced, enjoying a story like a slow-release tablet on the tongue (or in the heart say).

Suddenness goes hand-in-hand with the power of the twist. The twist in the tail or the gut or the heart of a story. Take Emma’s ‘Worn once’, the best break-up story ever (reviewers seem drawn to this story!). I refuse to tell you what happens and dilute the effects as you read. Or take ‘Party games’, the child’s birthday written on extreme-nightmare setting, and experience the sudden jolt. Ah, these stories have to be read to be delighted in. Creepiness might creep up on you, the sharp edges and debris of living, the tidal slap of despair, fear, wonder, joy.

Any book by Emma Neale underlines what a supreme wordsmith she is. At times I stop and admire the sentences like I might admire the stitching of a hand-sewn garment.

Like Emma free-falling into memory, sideways skating after looking at ‘Wanderlust’, I am free-falling and sideways skating with this glorious book. I am free-falling into the power of truths, diverted by fiction, the dark the light, the raw edge of human experience. and this matters, this matters so very much.

First time I have done this on the blog! I would like to give at least one copy of The Pink Jumpsuit away to someone who writes a poem / sudden fiction / short short fiction (300 words or so max) jump-started by Sharon Singer’s ‘Wanderlust’. I would love to post some pieces on the blog. Send to paulajoygreen@gmail.com by 2nd November.

Emma Neale, a Dunedin based writer and editor, is the author of six novels and six collections of poetry. Her most recent collection is To the Occupant (Otago University Press). In 2020 she received the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for a Distinguished Contribution to New Zealand Poetry.

Quentin Wilson Publishing FB page

Emma Neale website

‘The Pink Jumpsuit’ appears at The Spinoff as an essay.

Interview at NZ Booklovers

Anna Jackson-Scott review Nine to Noon, RNZ National

Carole Beu review at Kete Books

Emma in conversation with Lynn Freeman Standing Room Only RNZ National

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Chris Price’s ‘Housekeeping’

Housekeeping

Of course I never bought
the wedding story

so now a blackbird does
the housekeeping on my lawn:

it costs me nothing but
the pleasure of watching her

turn dead leaves
into tasty morsels.

I don’t have time
to renovate, but still

I want something new
so this plain-purl-cross-

stitch that covers nothing
with seed pearls and

knits patterns of conflict
into tatty blankets

will have to do. This is my re-
production, the curtain goes

up every night whether
the theatre is empty or full.

I want you to sit down here
with me. I can’t wait

for your get up and go.
I fly by night

above the stage
so you don’t have to.

Chris Price

Chris Price is the author of three poetry collections and the hybrid ‘biographical dictionary’ Brief Lives. She has also collaborated with NZ physicists (in Are Angels Ok?), and with German poets (in the bilingual anthology Transit of Venus Venustransit). Chris convenes the MA Workshop in Poetry and Creative Nonfiction at the International Institute of Modern Letters. Her latest publication is the third book in Lloyd Jones’s Kōrero series (The Lobster’s Tale, Chris Price and Bruce Foster, Massey University Press, 2021).

Poetry Shelf audio and photographs from The Lobster’s Tale
Massey University Press page
RNZ Saturday Morning interview
Ian Wedde review Academy of NZ Literature
Bruce Foster and Chris Price in conversation Read NZ

Poetry Shelf Spring Season: Francis Cooke picks poems

Putting this collection together, I tried to group some of my all-time and recent favourite poems in ways where they sat comfortably next to one another – my little poetry playlist/mixtape for Poetry Shelf. Many thanks to Paula for inviting me to put it together, and to all the poets who agreed to be included (and apologies all my favourites that I couldn’t fit in – I was already pushing the limit!).

Alistair Te Ariki Campbell is one of my very favourite writers, especially his love poems. I feel like people often get self-conscious or apologetic about writing love poems – less of this, please! ‘The Fall’ is one of the reasons why it’s so good when a great poet absolutely gets in their feelings – a small, exquisite moment of tenderness, along with useful health & safety advice.

Sophie van Waardenberg is one of the people following in Alistair’s tradition as a great NZ love poet – she’s been slowly building up a collection of wonderful, open-hearted love poems across different journals over the last few years. ‘schön’ is the first of these that I read, a cascade of details and slightly askew metaphors that accumulate into something wonderful.

Cadence Chung’s ‘Hey Girls’ is similar to Sophie’s cascade of moments and images, building into a torrent – it’s one of a series of long, wild poems that have been part of Cadence’s rampage across NZ literary journals over the past two years (see also ‘Girls just wanna have fun’ in The Spinoff, ‘fight scene’ in Food Court, ‘that’s why they call me missus farenheit’ in Landfall, and much more). I’m very excited for her first book, arriving from We Are Babies press next year, giving her just enough time to finish high school in the interim.

I am a very easy touch for any poem that makes me laugh, and Caroline Shepherd is one of the funniest out there – she’s a master at telling jokes as a way to communicate something honest and sincere and sometimes painful. ‘MH370’ was a poem that I remember reading (in Mimicry journal, much loved and missed) and wanting to tell everyone about immediately. (Note: if you want to keep the theme of love poems going rather than pivoting to air disasters, feel free to substitute in Caroline’s equally great ‘Crush Poem!’ here).

I had the same response to ‘Children are the orgasm of the world’, which was the first Hera Lindsay Bird poem I ever read, and wanted to shout from the rooftops about for weeks afterwards (although I think I mostly settled for reading it loudly to my flatmates). I still think about it every time I see a bag with a cheerful affirmation on it.

Hannah Mettner’s ‘Birth Control’ is a recent favourite, one that knocked me down when I first read it in Sweet Mammalian, and then did so again when I heard her read it at Unity Books a few months ago. I love long, exploratory poems like this – something with the time and scope to tell you something new about art history and biblical studies on the way to its conclusion.

Sinead Overbye’s ‘Wormhole’ is another big, wide-ranging poem – I love Sinead’s writing in this form (see also her ‘The River’, ‘Hinemoana’ and more). She always uses her experimentations with the layout of her poem to structure and guide the reader to something deeply felt – she’s another very open-hearted writer. This was originally part of an exquisite corpse experiment for the Digital Writers Festival in Australia where it was paired with music from Ruby Solly (as well as video and coding from two Australian artists, Veronica Charmont and Ruby Quail), and I highly recommend reading it with Ruby’s accompaniment.

Chris Tse and Louise Wallace are both two of my favourite poets and favourite people, so I picked favourites by them that I think read well next to one another. ‘Spanner–A Toast’ and ‘Why we need a reunion’ are both quiet, reflective poems that still hit me hard, years after first reading them. I remember Bill Manhire once described one of Louise’s poems as being like a pebble dropped in the centre of a lake – at first it might seem small, but the ripples keep spreading further and further in your mind after you’ve read it. I think both of these poems do that.

Tayi Tibble’s ‘Karakia 4 a Humble Skux’ is the most recent poem I’ve read that stopped me in my tracks, so it’s the last poem here. It comes towards the end of her new book, Rangikura, and after all of the turbulence in that collection is an incredible moment of calm and transformation – Tayi is always shifting and surprising me as a reader, and she does it again here.

The poems

The Fall

for Meg

I had been painting the blue sky
a brighter blue.
I had been higher than I thought possible.
When I fell,
the sun wheeled spokes of light
about my head

I make no excuses for my fall –
anyone that aims at such heights
must take the necessary precautions.
He must take care
to lean his ladder against a fixed object,
preferably a star.

O love, knowing your constancy,
how did I fail
to lean it against your heart?

Alistair Te Ariki Campbell

from It’s Love, Isn’t It? The Love Poems, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and Meg Campbell HeadworX, 2008

schön

my girl watered her cacti until they drowned
my girl filled my house with flowers until the house coughed and fell down

my girl ties yellow ribbons to my hair with her cold hands
and calls me beautiful in swooping german and my girl laughs

when my girl laughs she cuts my life in two and two again
where she kisses me there is love fizzing from my cheeks to the car windows

and we walk into the supermarket at midnight when the lilies have gone quiet
and hold hands past the eggs and milk and cut-price easter bunnies

when my girl wakes up she looks at me close and still smiles
my girl nearest to me in the world plucks her eyebrows and frowns and proves her face

my girl and I, here we are, refusing to decide what to feed each other
in the crumbed kitchen with the lights off

my girl and I spill our egg yolks on wednesday’s astrology
forget that we are paper boats pushed out to sea by wistful hands

my girl forgets with me the drycleaning ticket
my girl forgets with me the breakfast cost

my girl becomes a calendar and I curl up inside her
my girl becomes a tongue twister and I curl up inside her

my girl lets the spring in through her hands
she puts her hands over my ears and I remember how it feels

it is nice and nice and nice

Sophie van Waardenberg

from Mimicry 4, 2018

Hey girls

Hey girls         could we dance
    in the glister of a winter night      could we hum
along to the hazy beat of jazz?     We could be neon

we could be starlets      eyeliner like slits in our skin
     holding that little 20s powder compact    in the shape of
a gun       (with a matching bullet-shaped lipstick).

God, girls         I’d love to glow as green as
     radium glassware, discarded in the night
like a ghost’s banquet, all the dead dames and dandies

      sipping toxic wine, listening to the click of the
Geiger counter getting louder     louder      louder, girls,
   there are graves that still hum with radiation, that you

can’t stand too close to      or your cells will go haywire
    split, swirl, divide     oh girls        I’d paint my lips
fluorescent green      just to poison for 24,000 years longer.

Hey ladies       if the jazz gets too much    then how about
   we listen to the slow    descent    into tragedy 
that Chopin always reminds me of      like the blood

crusted onto a stale knife      with lapis, emerald, ruby
  on the hilt. We could waltz       far too close
at the ball       cause a scandal       come home with

our petticoats swapped around     and smelling like
       each other, so much so        that the swallows would
change their paths, mix up their routes        confused

with the exchange of souls       and lace, and love. My girls,
       I could be the humble gardener     with crooked teeth
and dirt down my nails       you could be the fair dame

who never accepts marriage proposals      and spends
    all her time planting violets       to coat in coarse sugar
make the bitter petals sweet.     Girls, we could dance 

in the dry-throated-heart-thumping mess of waiting
   backstage before a show, listen to the crowd shout
louder than the glaring stars.        We could wear huge

plastic earrings, so heavy       they can only be worn
  once a year. Girls, let’s tie the ends     of our button-down blouses
and make them into crop-tops      wear sunglasses on

our heads, but never let them blind us     to our brightness. Hey
    hey      hey     girls        if flowers bloom on my grave
then I hope they have disco lights        on their stamens

so people never forget      the sweat-slicked thumpthumpthump
     of my past; the statues        of the Greeks    were once painted
and were hideously gaudy, but we forget      that things were not always

just bronze, marble, and plaster.      We forget the click
     from the gravestones, growing louder every day. Ticktickticktick
tick, the ground is growing heavy     from the weight    of such

blistering souls it carries. Tickticktickticktick, girls, before
   it’s too late    let us paint ourselves    with the brightest pigment
  and burn our kisses    into history books    ‒     xoxoxo.

Cadence Chung

from Poetry New Zealand Yearbook, Massey University Press, 2021. The poem was the winner of the 2021 Poetry New Zealand Yearbook Student Competition, Year 12 division.

MH370

A whole ass plane disappeared five years ago and we still
Take the bins out and get Thai takeaway

Turn on the news and they’re talking about the print on the royal baby’s bib and I
feel like dragging a really large wine glass into somewhere crowded and
politely drowning in it
to force the point that an ENTIRE plane disappeared
OUT OF THE SKY and it isn’t the first thing the Prime News guy opens with like

“Kia ora good evening, I’m Eric Young, an entire fucking plane disappeared 1825 days ago, and this is prime news”

I am no expert in planes or in flight or in anything
I am silly and stupid and stuck on this, unattractively, like a mad child

but: an airplane, gone, vanished
that flushed, roaring engine
227 passengers, 10 flight attendants, 2 pilots and a snack cart

And the world continues, which I guess is what it does
But I want to place a formal compliant to whoever is in charge of this kind of thing
that cornflakes shouldn’t go on special when a plane is missing,
or at the very least milk should also go on special at the same time

A plane leaves and we look for it and when we don’t find it, we go on. We let the world get away with being this big. Worse- we know it’s this big and we don’t spend all our time afraid. That is the point. Sorry it took so long to say so. Something should not be so large and unforgiving 

Caroline Shepherd

from Mimicry 5, 2019

Children are the Orgasm of the World

This morning on the bus there was a woman carrying a bag with inspirational sayings and positive affirmations which I was reading because I’m a fan of inspirational sayings and positive affirmations. I also like clothing that gives you advice. What’s better than the glittered baseball cap of a stranger telling you what to strive for? It’s like living in a world of endless therapists. The inspirational bag of the woman on the bus said a bunch of stuff like ‘live in the moment’ and ‘remember to breathe,’ but it also said ‘children are the orgasm of the world.’ Are children the orgasm of the world like orgasms are the orgasms of sex? Are children the orgasm of anything? Children are the orgasm of the world like hovercraft are the orgasm of the future or silence is the orgasm of the telephone or shit is the orgasm of the lasagne. You could even say sheep are the orgasm of lonely pastures, which are the orgasm of modern farming practices which are the orgasm of the industrial revolution. And then I thought why not? I like comparing stuff to other stuff too. Like sometimes when we’re having sex and you look like a helicopter in a low budget movie, disappearing behind a cloud to explode. Or an athlete winning a prestigious international sporting tournament at the exact same moment he discovers his wife has just been kidnapped. For the most part, orgasms are the orgasms of the world. Like slam dunking a glass basketball. Or executing a perfect dive into a swimming pool full of oh my god. Or travelling into the past to forgive yourself and creating a time paradox so beautiful it forces all of human history to reboot, stranding you naked on some distant and rocky outcrop, looking up at the sunset from a world so new looking up hasn’t even been invented yet

Hera Lindsay Bird

from Hera Lindsay Bird, Victoria University Press, 2016

Birth control

We begin with the viral video of the anaconda
in New England giving birth to her exact genetic copies
because she’s never even seen a male snake
in all her eight years behind glass.

The headlines are calling it a virgin birth.

I watched the video this morning—
now everywhere I turn, a Madonna, a snake.
Oh, Rome, how you worship your silk-hipped mothers!

You heap your offerings of smoke and ash, your hard heels
of bread. This church is just another Santa Maria 
with an old woman in a shawl
and a takeaway coffee cup
shaking outside.

*

At the Vatican yesterday, I wondered
if he-who-sees-everything could see the small t-shaped 
thing inside me. I walked through the metal detectors and bag-check
and had the surreal thought that the Pope
might sweep down to deny me entry
like Jesus in The Last Judgment.

When I first had it inserted, I bled for a month and ruined
all the underwear I owned, even 
though I rinsed them in cold water first
the way my mother taught me. 
Every day I’d think it’d stopped, but it kept coming—
Mary’s stigmata, Eve’s—relentless
like the blood after birth—
uterus closing like a fist
with nails cutting into the palm.

In the Vatican there is so much art, so much wealth,
but what I notice is the absence of Madonnas. 
Every wall in Rome is frescoed with Marys
except here, the holy centre.

*

At home, my daughter, who has grown
so tall so quickly it looks like someone has grabbed her
at either end and pulled, starts taking the pill
to manage her bleeding.

Six months ago she was innocent as grass. 
Seems like every initiation into womanhood is an initiation
into pain. Into seeing the other women
busying around us, bruising hips
on the corners of tables,
gasping in the bathroom as their stitches tear—

trying to hold back the knowledge of it, doing their best
always, always rubbing honey into the wound, almond
butter into the cracks in their hands, delivering us
into the knowledge of blood. 

*

In this church the colours are fairy floss and hayfever
and bubble-gum flavoured milk but Byzantine.

The gold is so bright that we glow a bit, even though we joked
about burning up as we walked in. If god made gold, it was
definitely for this—to dazzle us into a submissive kind of belief.

But, later, all these churches later, what I remember
is the fresco of the one woman with her arms held wide
trying to call her companions
to order, like Bitches, please,
and that poor woman
on her left with a toddler and a baby on her lap
each clamouring for a breast.

Another woman seems to be resting a sandalled foot
casually on the decapitated head of a man. Her robe
drapes a bit in the blood, but she’s too deep in conversation
to notice that. On the far side of the group 
the woman in blue has her arm raised
to receive a raven while she whispers in her friend’s ear.

This is the pastel chaos of womanhood. And behind them
all in black, a neat semicircle of men.  

*

What’s helpful is to know what the line ‘Blessed be
the fruit’ actually means. It’s what the serpent said to Eve
just before she bit—what Eve said to Adam
juice dripping down her chin. 

*

In Rome, outside every church are four or five
armed soldiers and a jeep, spilling ash from their cigarettes
between the cobblestones, watching. Kitset boys in camouflage
and blood-red berets.

I sit on the steps of the fountain and google the church—
the first church in Rome dedicated to Mary, it holds the head
of the virgin martyr Saint Apollonia. But before that 
it was a pagan temple dedicated to Carmenta —
goddess of childbirth, prophecy and technical innovation.
Inventor of the Latin alphabet.

And the old woman, begging outside? One of the soldiers
calls her Maria and hands her a bomboloni
wrapped in a paper napkin.

*

The light around the broken temple of the virgins
is orange and thick. If the flame went out, the women
were blamed for being unchaste. Whoever the culprit—
she was buried alive with just enough apricots and milk

to make the death a low-angled wasting. What would her heart
do, while her face was pulling back into its bones? She
would cry, and you would too, for spending your life
a servant to fire, and never knowing
how it felt to burn. 

*

Parthenogenesis is the ancient word for a virgin birth—
not magic, but a well-documented biological process
in many plants and animals. Typically, what has happened

is that if men can’t explain a thing, they call it witchcraft
and destroy it. There is a hymn for everything here 
and this is the hymn for days made narrow through lack
of sleep. This is the hymn for the good-bad gift
of knowing.  

       

Hannah Mettner

from Sweet Mammalian 7, 2020

Wormhole

Sinead Overbye

from Scum, July 2020

Spanner—A toast

To be the sun.
To be locked in the care
of glass.
                 To show, then offer.
To know that love
is the most dangerous
sting yet to still give up an arm.
           To wake from machines
and know your hope will
never be yours alone.
To take to those machines
as an unexpected spanner.
To fill a touch
with a complete
backstory.
To leave sugar
at my door to keep
you close. To crave

                but not seek.
To know the future and
avoid it. To accept that
after silk comes rain
from dark, honest clouds.
To lose a smile
at a storied game of chance.
To let the morning
sweep away
the last nine months.
To wrong no other
even when the line’s
                   gone dead.
To family and friendship.
To starts, to ends,
to towers
we go.

Chris Tse

from He’s So MASC, Auckland University Press, 2018

Why we need a reunion

Something about long driveways,
wizened trees sprawling
overhead, the stew
and the yeasty bread. Country comes
from the stereo. I like it, I admit –
but only in this house.

At the lunch table it’s
the same old stories – comforting
like the meal. What will you do?
My family’s favourite question.
I try to think of a new answer,
one they might not mind.

Nana broke science.
She overpowered our genes –
wrestled them to the floor. Let’s forget
about who got the coffee table
she made from shells. But who did?
Let’s forget that.

I could have used a funny uncle
growing up. Call me ‘Boss’, he said,
and we did, but never saw him much.
Other than that, I can’t mention names –
everything is touchy still.
We won’t be here forever you know,
the gorse will eat the hills.

Louise Wallace

from Since June, Victoria University Press, 2009

A Karakia 4 a Humble Skux

I take a bath in my body of water
I take a bath in my body of water

I know I am the daughter of rangi papa tangaroa
I know I am the daughter of rangi papa tangaroa

& every yung god who fucked it up before me.
& every yung god who fucked it up before me.

Every day I breach the surface cleanly
Every day I breach the surface cleanly

& step out dripping so hard
& step out dripping so hard

ya better call a plumber.
ya better call a plumber.

God I’m a flex.
God I’m a flex.

I’m God’s best sex.
I’m God’s best sex.

I am made in the image of God.
I am made in the image of God.

I am made in the image of my mother.
I am made in the image of my mother.

I am made in the image of
I am made in the image of

my mountain
my river
my whenua

my mountain
my river
my whenua

Yeah I’m as fresh as my oldest tipuna.
Yeah I’m as fresh as my oldest tipuna.

Even when I’m lowkey I’m loud.
Even when I’m lowkey I’m loud.

Lil, but a million years old.
Lil, but a million years old.

I’ve been germinating like a seed
I’ve been germinating like a seed

been on my vibe like an atom
been on my vibe like an atom

& I am wilder than anything
& I am wilder than anything

my ancestors could have imagined.
my ancestors could have imagined.

So release the parts of me that call for change
So release the parts of me that call for change

but the energy is stale.
but the energy is stale.

I’m switching it all up
I’m switching it all up

fishing stars into the sea
fishing stars into the sea

and painting the skyful of whales.
and painting the skyful of whales.

Keep it humble, keep it skux.
Keep it humble, keep it skux.

Keep it pushing, keep it cute.
Keep it pushing, keep it cute.

I be in the marae doing the dishes
I be in the marae doing the dishes

cos there’s mahi to do.
cos there’s mahi to do.

Creator and Creation.
Creator and Creation.

I am made of the same
I am made of the same

star matter as legends.
star matter as legends.

Āmene.
Āmene.

Lesh go.
Lesh go.

Tayi Tibble

from Rangikura, Victoria University Press, 2021

Francis Cooke is a Wellington author and co-editor (with Louise Wallace and the editorial committee of Tate Fountain, Claudia Jardine and Sinead Overbye) of Starling journal.

Hera Lindsay Bird was a poet from Wellington. She hasn’t written a poem in a long time, and no longer lives in Wellington. 

Alistair Te Ariki Campbell (1925 – 2009) was born in Rarotonga and lived in Aotearoa from the age of eight. During his writing career of sixty years, he published 20 poetry collections along with novels, plays and an autobiography. His many honours and awards included a NZ Book Award for Poetry (1982), an Honorary DLitt from Victoria University of Wellington (1999), the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (2005). He was made an Officer of NZ Order of Merit (2005).

Cadence Chung is a poet and student at Wellington High School. She has been writing poetry since she was at primary school, and draws inspiration from classic literature, Tumblr text posts, and roaming antique stores.

Hannah Mettner (she/her) is a Wellington writer who still calls Tairāwhiti home. Her first collection of poetry, Fully Clothed and So Forgetful, was published by Victoria University Press in 2017, and won the Jessie Mackay Award for best first book of poetry at the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She is one of the founding editors of the online journal Sweet Mammalian, with Sugar Magnolia Wilson and Morgan Bach.

Sinead Overbye (Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata) is a poet and fiction writer living in Wellington. In 2018 she completed her MA in creative writing at the IIML. She founded and co-edits Stasis Journal. Her work can be found in The Pantograph Punch, Tupuranga Journal, Turbine | Kapohau, Starling, and other places.

Caroline Shepherd is (still) a Victoria University student whose work has appeared in the Spinoff, Starling, and Stasis, along with some other places that do not start with S. She is based in Wellington and likes mint slices, actually. 

Tayi Tibble (Te Whānau ā Apanui/Ngāti Porou) was born in 1995 and lives in Wellington. In 2017 she completed a Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington, where she was the recipient of the Adam Foundation Prize. Her first book, Poūkahangatus (VUP, 2018), won the Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award. Her second collection, Rangikura, was published in 2021.

Chris Tse is the author of two poetry collections published by Auckland University Press – How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (winner of Best First Book of Poetry at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards) and HE’S SO MASC – and is co-editor of the Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers From Aotearoa (AUP, 2021).

Sophie van Waardenberg is a poet from Tāmaki Makaurau and a current MFA candidate at Syracuse University, where she serves as an Editor-in-Chief of Salt Hill Journal. Her first chapbook-length collection, does a potato have a heart?, was published in Auckland University Press’s New Poets 5 (2019).

Louise Wallace is the author of three collections of poetry published by Victoria University Press, most recently Bad Things. She is the founder and editor of Starling and is currently working on a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Otago. She spent the level 4 lockdown at home with her partner and young son on the Otago Peninsula.

Poetry Shelf Spring Season

Tara Black picks poems
Victor Rodger picks poems
Peter Ireland picks poems
Emma Espiner picks poems
Claire Mabey picks poems
Sally Blundell picks poems

 

Poetry Shelf celebrates new books: Chris Price and Bruce Foster’s The Lobster’s Tale, photographs and audio

The Lobster’s Tale, Chris Price and Bruce Foster, Massey University Press, 2021

Lloyd Jones’ Kōrero series invites a collaboration between ‘two different kinds of artist intelligence’ on a specific topic. The first two books were a triumph of image, text and design: Lloyd Jones and Euan Macleod (High Wire); Paula Morris and Haru Sameshima (Shining Land). The third book The Lobster’s Tale brings together photographer Bruce Foster and writer Chris Price. A sentence threads along the bottom of the page, there are Bruce’s photographs and there is Chris’s text. The photographs track sky water land, imprints of existence. The paragraphs draw upon multiple voices that also navigate questions of being. The final and fascinating leg of the journey is the conversation that emanates from photographs, text and sentence thread.

The sentence thread running along the bottom of the pages, is described by Chris as a paragraph, a ribbon. A paragraph ribbon that is a poetic and fascinating accretion. An at-times borrowed thread that draws upon the words of Ursula LeGuin and William Beebe. As you turn the page, the paper rustle breaks into the stream of reading, a tiny rupture, visually and aurally. Which is how I read the book as a whole. Ideas arrive and I pause. The thread is an itinerary, full of pit stops and bridges and, as with any voyage, I can only hold it in pieces. I grasp the damaged earth, weather, diverse terrain, the air we breathe, definable time, indefinable time.

I travel with the paragraphs next, and each paragraph, reminiscent of poetry, expands in generous frames of white space. The writing is both intricate and plain. Complex issues of ‘being’ come to the foreground. ‘Being’ becomes notated existence, whether lobster or human, whether voyage or longing, repleteness or hunger, plunder or plenitude. Suicide is a linking echo. Albert Camus, Tupaia, Jonathan Franzan, Ursula Le Guin, David Foster Wallace, among others, make appearances. Yes, lobster is a starting point, from which reading and research radiate. Fascinating lobster facts and anecdotes reside alongside philosophical nuggets. I am attracted to these nuggets gleaming in the oceanic dark, like landmarks on my voyage into the unknown. The writing is both of and beyond the lobster. The writing is a means of becoming. ‘A profound thought,’ says Camus, ‘is in a constant state of becoming’.

The photographs register as loading bays for contemplation: secret-holders, blurred, still, even stiller, shimmering, creased and folded, abstract, political, sequences of trails, debris, impacts, light, land, water. The photograph is a means of breathing in the light. Facing our fragile future. The sequence itself offers its own haunting itinerary, a voyage that is more about the getting there than the destination. I join the other spectators, my back to the lens, gazing spellbound at the horizon, the infinite pull of water.

And then I pivot, and view the sentence thread and the paragraphs also as creased and folded, as shimmering talk, as sequences of trails and debris.

To read The Lobster Tale in the time of Covid is to refresh the voyage. It becomes imperative, in the face of difficulty and uncertainty, to acknowledge that everything is intensely personal, elusive and far away. Writing reviews is tough. I need voyage. I need anchors. And I need books, so lovingly crafted as this one has been, books that matter. I look forward to the next collaboration/conversation in the Kōrero series.

Chris Price reads an extract ‘below-the-waterline’ text from The Lobster’s Tale

Chris Price is the author of three poetry collections and the hybrid ‘biographical dictionary’ Brief Lives. She has also collaborated with NZ physicists (in Are Angels Ok?), and with German poets (in the bilingual anthology Transit of Venus Venustransit). Chris convenes the MA Workshop in Poetry and Creative Nonfiction at the International Institute of Modern Letters.

Bruce Foster’s current photographs consider the impacts on nature of political decisions and corporate actions. Recent touring  exhibitions that include his work are: the ‘Kermadec Project: Lines Across the Ocean’, an initiative articulating the issues facing one of the few pristine ocean sites left on the planet; ‘Wai, the Water Project’, an exploration of the cultural, conceptual and imaginative aspects of waterways and the existential threats they face; and ‘Toitū Te Whenua – The Land Will Always Remain’.

The photographs in this book were made between 1996 and 2020. For more information

Massey University Press page

RNZ Saturday Morning interview interview

Ian Wedde review Academy of NZ Literature

Bruce Foster and Chris Price in conversation Read NZ

Poetry Shelf celebrates new books: Mark Pirie’s ‘Slips: Cricket Poems’

Slips: Cricket Poems, Mark Pirie, HeadworX, 2021

When I was a child, my father held his transistor to his ear to listen to the cricket, and somehow I caught the cricket bug. Decades later I got to see Vivian Richards hit the ball oh so elegantly across the grounds at Lords. I was raised on test matches, and my love for them has never faded, but now I find different delights in the game’s shorter forms. Like Mark Pirie, I stream cricket whenever I get the chance, especially when the Black Caps or the White Ferns are playing. So yes I am currently watching the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. I am going to review Slips once a copy reaches my letter box, but yesterday I listened to the seven cricket poems Mark recorded to celebrate his new book. I got goosebumps. I love the way a poem can embrace a subject but cast light upon multiple things, experiences, memories. I found these poems so very special on so many levels. Take a listen.

Mark Pirie reads 7 poems

The Streaming Room

Park Song

Dreams

The Pavillion:

Bradman, in Wellington

Joe

Martin Crowe

Mark Pirie (b.1974) is an internationally published New Zealand poet, editor, publisher and archivist for PANZA (Poetry Archive of NZ Aotearoa). In 2016, his selected poems, Rock & Roll, was published by Bareknuckle Books, Australia (available from the publisher). Other books include a biography, Tom Lawn, Mystery Forward (ESAW, 2018), an artbook Folk Punk (2020) and Gallery (poetry) published by Salt, England, 2003. He is a former founder/editor of JAAM, 1995-2005, publisher for HeadworX 1998-, and currently edits broadsheet: new new zealand poetry, 2008-. Website

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Bill Manhire’s ‘The Hungry Past’

The Hungry Past 

The past isn’t dead; 

it’s eating my brain. 

It looks up for a moment 

then tucks right in again.

Bill Manhire

Bill Manhire founded the creative writing programme at Victoria University of Wellington, which a little over 20 years ago became the International Institute of Modern Letters. His most recent book Wow is published by Victoria University Press in New Zealand and Carcanet in the UK.

Poetry Shelf Spring Season: Sally Blundell picks poems

These are poems chosen in lockdown. Perhaps it shows. They are rooted in one place, with an eye on a flickering, shifting other. Ruth France, who died in 1968, finds herself between ‘headlands we did not know were headlands’ – France mastered the art of dislocation, her experience never quite fitted the map. Bernadette Hall’s twist in the tale, her superb tripwire, gives the land the upper hand, puts us in our place. Simone Kaho’s Blues holds the dream of music success just beyond the horizon of island time and an alcohol-fuelled bender. Rhian Gallagher is in that other place, of foreign sounds and welcome anonymity. Selina Tusitala Marsh’s perfunctory dismissal of ‘Jimmy’ Cook from his step on the podium of our history; Richard Langston’s gentle last rites for a roadkill seabird; the charged adolescent hopes in Airini Beautrais’ The Library – from our masked up, emptied spaces, these are Apirana Taylor’s reasons for writing: the richness of the land given to the poor.

Sally Blundell

The Poems

Near Hurunui

It is surprising, not far from home, to discover
An unknown, a shy bay where the water is very blue.


Where the road comes in through the bush
Casually, and arrives with no rush

But just comes there, beside the beach.
Where the headlands we did not know were headlands reach

Blue-shadowed into the the blue sea, stealing
Each from the other as an old remembered song


Of Greek islands lost, a long time ago.
There is a a feeling here of sleep, too

Many completed times we did not have part in,
And a strangeness as of other gods than our own

Walking among these hills. It is good in some ways
To come at evening back over the high ranges

Towards our own land, to leave such shadows behind us,
And feel tired, as though we have been a long way.

Ruth France

from No Traveller Returns: The selected poems of Ruth France, ed. Robert McLean, Cold Hub Press, 2020

The River Whau

for Linda

 

she tells me how her big desire
is to capture the River Whau

every day she sends me another photo

here is the river in gold dust
here is the river in ice        here is the river in mist
as it twists the sweet daily bread of language

who can explain the mystery of desire?

now, we’ve both been captured by the River Whau

Bernadette Hall

from The Ponies (Victoria University Press, 2007).

Poem note:  The Whau estuary is in Kelston. Auckland. The quotation is from Janet Frame’s poem, ‘I Write Surrounded by Poets’, from The Goose Bath (Random House, 2006)   

Blues

Andy Blues, man, soul man
let’s jam to the view
Do you want a cup of tea brother?
How did we get home last night?

Nah – good call good call.
Things have moved on man
it’s another day.
I’d give you that cat if it was mine
I swear sister.
Nah I’m Sāmoan, mainly Sāmoan.
My woman – she saved me
I like to think of her as an angel
I haven’t seen her all weekend

she doesn’t like to see me when I am on a bender.
Don’t you know who I am?
I’m Andy Blues
I’m gonna make it big in the UK
and come back and buy this street.
Yeah that’s what I said on Police Ten 7
haha cos they said You’ve got to turn it down sir
but here drink this sis

you gotta hydrate all the time
on the island.
That’s it
have a big long drink.

Simone Kaho

from Lucky Punch, Anahera Press, 2016

Abroad

I

Your own voice comes back at you
accentuating the rise
as if scaling a staircase of sound,
and everything here goes the other way round.
Everything you say is in question.

II

For the first time in your life
you feel free of your story,
walking street after street
in a city that is layered with history.
You are alone; you are in a zone of millions.
Anonymity shines down on you
from a sky so unclear
after years you will still not know
its true colour.

III

The islands shimmer against damp red brick,
flaunting their best appearances:
wild mountains & rivers & sea.
A tape in your head
plays the earliest memories. That girl,
you mother says, where she has gone?

Rhian Gallagher

from Shift, Auckland University Press, 2011

Breaking Up With Captain Cook on Our 250th Anniversary

Dear Jimmy,

It’s not you, it’s me.

Well,
maybe it is you.

We’ve both changed.

When I first met you
you were my change.

Well, your ride
the Endeavour
was anyway
on my 50-cent coin.

Your handsome face
was plastered everywhere.

On money
on stamps
on all my world maps.

You were so Christian
you were second to Jesus
and both of you
came to save us.

But I’ve changed.

We need to see other people
other perspectives
other world views.

We’ve grown apart.

I need space.

We’re just at different points
in our lives —

compass points

that is.

I need to find myself
and I can’t do that with you
hanging around all the time.

Posters, book covers, tea cozies
every year, every anniversary.

You’re a legend.

I don’t know the real you
(your wife did burn all your personal papers
but that’s beside the point.)

I don’t think you’ve ever really seen me.

You’re too wrapped up in discovery.

I’m sorry
but there just isn’t room
in my life
for the two of you right now:

you and your drama
your possessive colonising Empire.

We’re worlds apart.

I just don’t want to be in a thing right now.

Besides, my friends don’t like you.

And I can’t break up with my them so …

Selina Tusitala Marsh

from Ko Aotearoa Tātou: We Are New Zealand An Anthology, eds Michelle Elvy, Paula Morris & James Norcliffe, Otago University Press, 2020

Seabird

I have not forgotten that seabird,
the one I saw with its wings
stretched across the hard road.

One eye open,
one closed.
I wanted to walk past,

but the road is no place
for a burial –
I picked it up by the wings

took it to the
water & floated it
out to sea,

which was of no use
to the bird. It had ceased.
I like to think someone

was coaching me in the small,
never futile art,
of gentleness.

Richard Langston

from Five O’Clock Shadows, The Cuba Press, 2020

The library


The library is full of people looking for love. At the
sound of footsteps approaching, a boy turns around with
a meaningful glance, and casually slips a pencil behind his
ear. Girls pause on the landings, clutching armfuls of books
to their breasts. Sometimes, you feel sorry for these people.
You wish this wasn’t happening. All you want is a book,
and all the shelves are filled with eyes of longing.

Airini Beautrais

from Secret Heart, Victoria University Press, 2006

To write

to write of the mountains
to write of the rivers
to write of the lakes
to write of the seas
to write of the land
to write for the poor
that is the dream

Apirana Taylor

from Ko Aotearoa Tātou: We Are New Zealand An Anthology, eds Michelle Elvy, Paula Morris & James Norcliffe, Otago University Press, 2020

Sally Blundell is a freelance journalist and writer in Ōtautahi Christchurch. She holds a PhD from the University of Canterbury. She was books and culture editor for the NZ Listener and a judge (fiction) in the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She was awarded MPA journalist of the year in 2020 and was runner up as reviewer of the year in this year’s Voyager Media Awards.

Airini Beautrais lives in Whanganui and is the author of four poetry collections and a collection of short fiction. Her most recent poetry collection is Flow: Whanganui River Poems (VUP 2017). Bug Week and Other Stories recently won the Ockham NZ Book Fiction Award 2021.

Ruth France (1913–68) published two novels: The Race (1958), which won the New Zealand Literary Fund’s Award for Achievement, and Ice Cold River (1961); and two volumes of poetry: Unwilling Pilgrim (1955) and The Halting Place (1961), under the pseudonym Paul Henderson. Poems from a third collection, which remained in manuscript at the time of her death, are published as No Traveller Returns: The Selected poems of Ruth France (Cold Hub Press, 2020).

Rhian Gallagher’s first poetry collection Salt Water Creek (Enitharmon Press, 2003) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for First Collection. In 2008 she received the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award. Her second poetry collection Shift, (Auckland University Press 2011, Enitharmon Press, UK, 2012) won the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Award for Poetry. A collaborative work, Freda: Freda Du Faur, Southern Alps, 1909-1913, was produced with printer Sarah M. Smith and printmaker Lynn Taylor in 2016 (Otakou Press). Rhian was the Robert Burns Fellow in 2018. Her most recent poetry collection Far-Flung was published by Auckland University Press in 2020.

Bernadette Hall lives in the Hurunui, North Canterbury. She retired from high-school teaching in 2005 in order to embrace a writing life. Fancy Dancing is her eleventh collection of poetry (VUP, 2020). In 2015 she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for literary achievement in poetry and in 2017 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Richard Langston is a poet, television director, and writer. Five O’Clock Shadows is his sixth book of poems. His previous books are Things Lay in Pieces (2012), The Trouble Lamp (2009), The Newspaper Poems (2007), Henry, Come See the Blue (2005), and Boy (2003). He also writes about NZ music and posts interviews with musicians on the Phantom Billstickers website.

Simone Kaho is a digital strategist, author, performance poet and director. Her debut poetry collection Lucky Punch was published in 2016. She has a master’s degree in poetry from Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML). She’s the Director of the E-Tangata web series ‘Conversations’ and a journalist for Tagata Pasifika. In 2021 Simone was awarded the Emerging Pasifika Writer residency at the IIML.

Selina Tusitala Marsh (ONZM, FRSNZ) is the former New Zealand Poet Laureate and  has performed poetry for primary schoolers and presidents (Obama), queers and Queens (HRH Elizabeth II). She has published three critically acclaimed collections of poetry, Fast Talking PI (2009), Dark Sparring (2013), Tightrope (2017) and an award-winning graphic memoir, Mophead (Auckland University Press, 2019) followed by Mophead TU (2020), dubbed as ‘colonialism 101 for kids’.

Apirana Taylor, Ngati Porou, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngati Ruanui, Te Ati Awa, is a nationally and internationally published poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, actor, painter and musician. He has been Writer in Residence at Canterbury and Massey Universities. He frequently tours nationally and internationally visiting schools, tertiary institutions and prisons reading his poetry, storytelling and taking creative writing workshops. He has written six collections of poetry, a book of plays, three collections of short stories, and two novels. His work has been included in many national and international anthologies.

Poetry Shelf Spring Season

Tara Black picks poems
Victor Rodger picks poems
Peter Ireland picks poems
Emma Espiner picks poems
Claire Mabey picks poems

Poetry Shelf new poems: Fleur Adcock’s ‘In the Desert’

IN THE DESERT

As the Taliban surged back into Kabul
and the international correspondents
looked more exhausted with every broadcast
but not as exhausted as the refugees

I thought of my young second cousin Matthew,
one of the four hundred and fifty-seven
flown back from Afghanistan in sealed coffins
to Wootten Bassett and then, in Matthew’s case,

to York for his military funeral
in the Minster, after which the gun-carriage
paraded him on a tour of the packed streets
before beginning its sedate procession

to the cemetery while we, the mourners,
plus vanloads of soldiery sped off ahead
at a pace Matthew would surely have preferred,
with sirens and flashing lights, to get there first;

all of which might have been designed to persuade
his parents that being blown up by a bomb
at twenty-three was a worthy destiny –
an opinion they are perhaps revising.

Fleur Adcock

Fleur Adcock, born in Auckland in 1934, is a highly acclaimed New Zealand poet, editor and translator who resides in Britain. She has published many collections of poems, most recently Glass Wings (2013), The Land Ballot (2014), Hoard (2017) and The Mermaid’s Purse (2021). Her awards include the 1961 Festival of Wellington Poetry Award, the Jessie Mackay Prize in 1968 and 1972, the Buckland Award in 1968 and 1979, the New Zealand National Book Award in 1984, an OBE in 1986, the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2006, and a CNZM for services to literature in 2008. In 2019 she was the recipient of a Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement.