Poetry Shelf Occasional Reviews: Doc Drumheller’s ‘Drinking with Li Bai: 100 haiku from China and India’

Drinking with Li Bai: 100 haiku from China and India, Doc Drumheller, trans Liang Yujing, Cold Hub Press, 2022

silk and poetry
in the local dialect
both mean the same thing

Doc Drumheller

This gorgeous collection, Drinking with Li Bai, is like a pocket guide book. Or an exquisite stand-in for taking travel photographs. Or sending memento postcards home. Doc Drumheller has written a sequence of haiku that capture moments, views, experience as he travels through India and China; visiting Enshi, Guangzhou, Guizhou, Suiyang, Shengze, Shanghai, and Beijing in China, and Odisha, Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, New Delhi, Varanasi, Agra, Bodh Gaya, and Allahabad in India.

Haiku is such a divisive genre among poets, yet a good haiku is a poetry treat. Haiku offer sweet morsels that delight the senses, that deliver visual impact, that place little poetic frames on the world, that favour economy, that open out onto richness of effect.

There are haiku rules teachers insisted on in school, that are still observed but often played with. Doc has generally followed the traditional rules: three lines, no title and a syllabic pattern (5 – 7 – 5). The haiku are translated by Liang Yujing with Chinese calligraphy by Dr Gong Qin. Many of the poems have been published in online and print journals, with a number appearing in Best NZ Poems.

climbing the Great Wall
you must go further to see
how far you can go

Doc Drumheller

Nature is a traditional haiku theme, and Doc celebrates the beauty of the natural world but also draws in people, things, actions, anecdotes, cityscapes, philosophy. The poems thread surprise, fascinations, questions, a personal presence.

Drinking with Li Bai, is a treat of a book, especially if you like to imbibe little poetry morsels across a week.

view from the turret
All Along the Watchtower
playing in my mind

Doc Drumheller

ancient turtle shell
a man builds himself a home
inside the fossil

Doc Drumheller

Doc Drumheller was born in Charleston, South Carolina and has lived in New Zealand for more than half his life. He has worked in award- winning theatre and music groups and has published eleven collections of poetry. His poems have been translated into more than twenty languages, and he has performed in Cuba, Lithuania, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Japan, India, China, Nicaragua, USA, Mexico, El Salvador, and widely throughout New Zealand. On his travels Doc Drumheller has represented the Waimakariri District as a Cultural Ambassador to Enshi in a Sister City Cultural Exchange. He was appointed New Zealand Director of the Silk Road Poetry Project, and has represented New Zealand at international poetry festivals in China and India. He lives in Oxford, where he edits and publishes the literary journal Catalyst. Haiku from this collection were selected for Ōrongohau Best New Zealand Poems in 2018 and 2020. Election Day of the Dead, Seventy Haiku from the Americas by Doc Drumheller was published by Cold Hub Press in 2020.

Liang Yujing is a Chinese poet, translator and scholar who writes in both English and Chinese. He was born in Changde and studied for his BA and MA in Wuhan. From 2014 to 2020, he lived in New Zealand and completed his PhD in Chinese literature at Victoria University of Wellington.

Cold Hub Press page

Poetry Shelf Occasional Poems: Frankie McMillan’s ‘Ode to Item #410096’

Ode to Item #410096 

Magnetic pen with extendable arm   

You are the cleverest of instruments to attract 

 from under the couch 

 a coin, a tiny screw 

come loose from sunglasses

— maybe even with your telescopic reach – the ring  

 the one that went missing

six months ago and further back, a silver watch,  

the keys to the studio in the woods, the house

 lost in the floods, the man I loved who disappeared, 

and then there’s my mother, red rooster in her arms, 

wandering through the magnetic fields. 

 Oh, wild heart, Oh item #410096 

I am charged with the certain kind of longing that

goes beyond The Department of Loss, beyond the prayers 

of Saint Anthony, even beyond that man I 

mentioned earlier, who held me with such force 

        before spinning off elsewhere. 

 Item #410096 also known as the magnetic pen, let us write

a treatise on retrieval, repatriation and recovery, 

let us travel to the North pole, 

the South pole, let us seek out all missing items  

and persons, 

restore them to this brave, rotating world.       

Frankie McMillan

Frankie McMillan is a poet and short fiction writer. In 2016 her collection, My Mother and the Hungarians and other small fictions(Canterbury University Press) was long-listed for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. In 2019  The Father of Octopus Wrestling and other small fictions ( CUP)  was listed by Spinoff as one of the ten best New Zealand fiction books of 2019. In the same year it was shortlisted for the NZSA Heritage awards.

 In 2013 and 2015 she was the winner of the New Zealand Flash Fiction Day competition. She has won numerous awards and creative writing residencies including the Ursula Bethell residency in Creative Writing at the University of Canterbury (2014) the Michael King writing residency at the University of Auckland  ( 2017) and the NZSA Peter and Dianne Beatson Fellowship (2019). Her latest book, The Wandering Nature of Us Girls ( CUP) was launched in August, 2022.

Poetry Shelf Occasional Poems: Vasanti Unka’s ‘Mothers’

Our mothers

We
crafted our boats
with sugar cane sticks • we clinked
silvery anklets • we sang giggling x-rated lyrics
we laughed at our own silly antics • we were daring
we were betrothed at thirteen • we were betrothed at three
we met our husbands once • we tied a sari around our waist we tied
our hair into a bun • we painted a red sun on our foreheads •  we were
beautiful • we were dutiful • we said goodbye to our bha • we left our village
our dev • we travelled so far • we were children • we consoled the baby
in our womb • we carried our child on our hip • we climbed
aboard a ship • we spewed the journey • we chewed
the paan • we heard the waves chant • we shed no
tears • we are adventurers • we are
seers • we saw further than
the distance.

Vasanti Unka

Picture book creator Vasanti Unka is generally known for her quirky and colourful kids books for kids for which she was awarded an Arts Foundation Laurette for illustration (2021). Born in Pukekohe – her parents arrived here from India in the 1940s and ’50s – Vasanti has been unpicking her heritage. A book she compiled, With a Suitcase of Saris: From India to Aotearoa, Stories of Pioneer Indian Women, is being used in the new NZ history curriculum. More recently she has been writing a bit of poetry and prose about being Indian in Aotearoa.

Poetry Shelf review: The RNZ Cookbook

RNZ Cookbook, eds David Cohen and Kathy Paterson, Massey University Press, 2022

oven baked salmon

I like my fat cooking pot
I like my fat wild heart

Paula Green from Cookhouse (AUP, 1997)

When my debut poetry collection came out, I was flicking through the NZ Listener and spotted a recipe for oven baked salmon on the food page. I earmarked it as I love salmon, but when I went back to cook it – I realised it was my poem from Cookhouse. (AUP, 1997). The page included a photo of my book and one by Marcella Hazan, one of my favourite Italian food writers. It was a sign that food and poetry go well together. I have often thought it would be great if NZ food magazines including a poem each month!

A couple of early reviewers criticised Cookhouse for its reliance on the domestic and the presence of food, but I decided the domestic and food will never be redundant in poetry or fiction! One of my favourite poets in Aotearoa, Ian Wedde, elevates his writing with a salt and pepper food presence. The sensory layers are so satisfying.

Celebration time! The sumptuous RNZ Cookbook, edited by David Cohen and Kathy Paterson, gets me musing about writing and reading poems and making food.

Lauraine Jacob’s Potato, fennel, feta, olive and lemon tart

I love listening to cooks, chefs and cookbook writers share recipes on RNZ. Food is body nourishment but it also becomes a cultural anchor, an inheritance, a way of bringing friends and family together, a way of healing, a portal to memory. Perhaps I could argue no ideas but in food, no feelings but in food, no epiphanies but in food.

Jesse Mulligan, in the book’s foreword, said he listed ‘eating’ as one of his hobbies on a dating site. I get that – after five weeks in hospital and then not being able to manage domestic tasks until the last few weeks – I couldn’t believe how much I missed cooking (and even eating with normal tastebuds). To be cooking again, and making daily bread, along with reading and writing, is happiness.

Nicola Galloway’s ‘Oven roasted ratatouille with basil oil’

The RNZ Cookbook, as it states on the cover, is “a treasury of 180 recipes from New Zealand’s best-known chefs and food writers”. The recipes are structured like the day runs on RNZ National. You begin with Morning Report, tune into Nine to Noon, Midday Report, Afternoons, World Watch, Checkpoint, Nights, Saturday Morning and Sunday Morning. The recipes move from breakfast through to morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, desserts, weekend treats, essentials. RNZ has around 3000 recipes on their website – the editors, David Cohen and Kathy Paterson chose 180. Each recipe has been test and loved by the food writers and chefs.

There is also a timeline of the history of RNZ and one of the history of NZ food. Fascinating!

Allyson Grofton’s Ginger crispies

A portion of the royalties from the book go to Everybody Eats, a food charity founded by Nick Loosley in 2017. Everybody Eats is an award winning dining idea that aims to solve three problems : food wastage, food poverty and social isolation. Food to be thrown out is transformed into three course meals and diners pay a koha / what they can afford.

Each recipe mentions the recipe writer and the radio airing. The terrific design – I am talking layout and font – make this an easy and delightful recipe book to follow. I tend to use recipes as starting points and then add my own twists and biases. But to have a clear and accessible set of ingredients and instructions matter. Once I enter the cookbook zone I become a test kitchen, and cooking becomes discovery, a bit like poetry writing does!

peanut butter sandwiches

how we hold our babies close buttonholed for hours
the sound of laughter that is a simmering horizon
defines memory invention delight the plump toes
were a stone’s throw from rhyme and song
the lungs flung wild open I simmer alphabet soup
simply floating a message

Paula Green from Cookhouse

I now have a list of recipes I want to make, and a list of ingredients to add to my click n collect order. I have tried ‘Simply the best banana cake’ (Annabelle White) and it is excellent. Next time I will add chunks of dark chocolate. I have tried Allyson Grofton’s ‘Ginger crispies’, equally good. Sometimes I swap the ginger for Central Otago apricots and always include chunks of dark chocolate. Lauraine Jacob’s ‘Whole orange and date muffins’ are sublime. Next up to try is Dame Alison Holst’s ‘Spicy fruit loaf’. I loved Nicola Galloway’s ‘Oven roasted ratatouille with basil oil’, and am keen to try Melissa Hemsley’s ‘Chickpea wraps’, Niki Bezzant’s ‘Pea, mint and halloumi fritters with tomato and capsicum sauce’ and, for the first time in years, to make a quiche again, (Rosie Belton’s ‘Zucchini quiche’). Plus I think I will have Al Brown, Lucie Corry, Julie Buiso, Nadia Lim and Peter Gordon seasons. Big fan of their recipe books.

This is a book to cover in the floury stains of living. It is a treasury indeed! And it’s bravo Massey University Press, and Kathy and David.


pasta primavera

summer peaks interpret the time of our lives
when zucchinis eggplants red peppers

stew a flurry of kiss and tell
or simmer rivers stones mountains coastlines

Paula Green from Cookhouse

Lauraine Jacobs’ Whole orange and date muffins

Massey University Press page

David Cohen is a Wellington journalist whose work appears frequently in New Zealand media. Overseas, he has been published in The Spectator, the Daily Telegraph and the New York Times, among others. He has reviewed restaurants in Ireland and Italy, attended cooking schools in South Africa, and written widely about the food scene in Aotearoa. A writer by day, fledgling chef by night, he has a longstanding personal passion for Persian cuisine. In addition to his own previously published titles — there have been six — he has co-authored a cookbook, Ima Cuisine, with Auckland restaurateur Yael Shochat. He moonlights as a senior producer on Morning Report.

Kathy Paterson is a writer, recipe developer, food stylist and photographer. A plentiful herb garden and a trial-and-error vegetable garden give her the starting place for her recipes, along with her love of the classics with a modern twist. Her latest projects include the successful cookbook Meat & Three, a book showcasing New Zealand food and encouraging readers to cook with premium meat and seasonal vegetables, along with taking the lead on Cosy, a Food Writers New Zealand digital publication produced during the first lockdown in New Zealand, with all the proceeds going to city missions and food banks through the organisation Meat the Need.

Poetry Shelf Occasional Poems Bee Trudgeon’s Comforter

Comforter

I borrowed an extra duvet from your bed last midnight
Creeping through the darkened house 
to execute the crime that it felt like
Even though you didn’t need it
You weren’t in the bed

I can’t stand the sight of your naked mattress
Rearranged the pillows in memory of your dear head
The print on your coverlet is brighter than mine, still hopeful
So, I left it where it lay this morning
And wondered what you would say if it was still there and you came back.

Bee Trudgeon

Bee Trudgeon (She/Her) is a writer, rocker, stroller, strummer, mama, storyteller, dancer, perpetual student, and Porirua Children’s Librarian Kaitiaki Pukapuka Tamariki. Her journalism has been published in RipItUpThe Sapling, Gecko Press Curiously Good Book Club, NZ Poetry Shelf, and in the Free Range Press Radical Futures series volume Death and Dying in New Zealand. Her poetry has been published in Kiss Me Hardy 2, and the Amanda Palmer fan anthology Poems for the Ride. You can read more of her work on the Patreon page of her alter ego, Grace Beaster – where she posts a poem a week year-round, and a poem a day each April.

Poetry Shelf Occasional Poems: Amy Marguerite’s ‘hollowing full’

hollowing full

Let yourself submerge
in a puddle of your own
remaking. Permission sees
the unseeable shift from
nothingness to nothingness with
a ripple of renaissance.
Resistance strangles even those attempts
spurred by pure conviction.
Don’t let yourself half-arse it.
Don’t be fooled by anyone
who says this is an end, either.
A pool of water is the only womb
we choose to enter.

I once wrote in a poem
a cliff is only dangerous
after you jump off of it.
That was before I realised
I am terrified of heights.
A puddle is only dangerous
before you submerge in it
and by submerge I mean suspend
and by suspend I mean surrender
and by surrender I mean stop
looking up for an answer.

Amy Marguerite

Amy Marguerite (she/her) is a poet based in Aro Valley, Pōneke. She has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at the IIML. Her poetry can be found in Food Court, Salty, Milly Mag, Poetry Shelf, Bad Apple, Sweet Mammalian and on her blog.

Poetry Shelf Occasional Poems: Rachel O’Neill’s ‘Leaving the apartment’

Leaving the apartment

Needing ingredients for the meal, I rode the solitary darkness down to the ground floor. I was delivered to a courtyard, which was new to me. This lift of darkness was subtly different from the one I’d traveled up in earlier. The lift across the way was different again, which meant three boxes of night were operating. I set about looking for an exit on this plane, all the while wondering, was the woman who lived opposite me still dancing in front of the television with her son? What would be ideal, I concluded, would be to find the entrance I came in by. Eventually, a door led me to a blind alley where an old man sat cradling the memory of an animal. Back in the courtyard, two women were unenthusiastically painting their apartment. They directed me to a possible avenue to the outside in a language I was almost certain was Hungarian. A woman about my age passed, carrying oranges in a net bag. With an air of justified condescension she assured me in English the exit was just over there. Turn that corner and turn again, she said, and we shall never meet again. That night the sun was poisoned on the hill and darkness rode the lift to my apartment. In my sleep, I devoted myself to leaving the apartment, traveling the night of elevators.

Rachel O’Neill

Rachel O’Neill lives and works in the Wellington region and is currently developing books, films and collaborative projects. They have published two collections of poetry, One Human in Height (2013) and Requiem for a Fruit (2021). As a queer non-binary storyteller Rachel strives to represent the longing for connection and the humour and strangeness that characterise human experience. Being Pākehā, Rachel aims to look unflinchingly at their culture and to work collaboratively with others to reflect meaningfully on intersecting relationships in Aotearoa, past and present. To find out more about their work, visit their website.