Poetry Shelf review: Bob Orr’s One Hundred Poems and a Year



Bob Orr, One Hundred Poems and a Year Steele Roberts, 2018



Consider this book of mine

as if it were a rucksack


containing what you might need

if you were to step outside your door.


There are poems heavily knitted

as fisherman’s jerseys


in case you should find yourself

all at sea.  (…)


from ‘Rucksack


Bob Orr was born in the Waikato. He worked as a seafarer on Waitematā Harbour for 38 years and now lives in a cottage on the Thames Coast. In 2016 he received the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for Poetry and in 2017 was the Writer in Residence at the University of Waikato where he wrote most of One Hundred Poems and a Year, his ninth collection.

The book looks gorgeous – beautiful cover design with an oxygenated font and layout inside. Everything has room to breathe. Barry Lett’s exquisite drawing of ‘Blue Flowers’ on the cover is revisited in a poem.


Because sometimes you

remind me of a Catalan fisherman

these are the blue flowers of the Mediterranean




With a felt-tip pen

bought in a supermarket

one day you created myriad blue stems


from ‘A vase of blue flowers’ for Barry Lett


The poems are equally full of air and verve. The opening poem, ‘Rucksack’, is a perfect entry point as it likens the collection to a rucksack you might take with you for the day. We can expect poems we might shower with; that favour the casualness of jandals, the toughness of tramping boots, bare feet. The poem’s final image flipped me. Bob’s poetry moves through the air, out in the complicated, beautiful world and then underlines human vulnerability with the final line’s ‘bare feet’:

I wrote them while walking down a road with bare feet.

The collection is steeped in the sea: you will find boats, sea birds, ocean harvests and harbours as Bob travels by land and by ocean. He travels in the present time and he travels back through the past, gathering in friends and places, other poets, beginnings and endings. Poetry, the writing and reading of it, is ever present as the world becomes a page, a script to be read, a poem to be crafted.


I mention the containers

of the Maersk Hamburg Sud or P&O Line


if only because my autobiography

 or even this poem


and the cargo it must carry

would be incomplete without them.


from ‘Autobiographic’


There is death and endings; there is marriage and beginnings.


This evening I fly back

a delta-winged moth


my sadness like moondust

my night vision glowing like an infra-red camera


a stranger to these parts

gliding between the bittersweet shadows of apartments


to enter again if only I could find them

the strawberry fields that were said to be forever.


How many times and for what purpose

did we have to break

each other’s



from ‘A woman in red slacks’


I missed this book when it came out last year – and it is such a treasure. The fluid lines at times feel like the arc of a bird drifting across the sky and at other times draw upon the ebb and flow of the sea – always beautifully measured. Poetry has so many effects upon us – reading this book the effects are both multiple and satisfying. It comes down to music, intimacy and exquisite reflection, and an engagement with the world that matters. I love this book.


Steele Roberts author page











Poetry Shelf audio spot: Victoria Broome reads ‘The Heart of My Father’


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Victoria Broome, ‘The Heart of My Father’ from How We Talk to Each Other, Cold Hub Press, 2019




Victoria Broome has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, was awarded the CNZ Louis Johnson Bursary (2005) and has twice been placed in the Kathleen Grattan Award (2010, 2015). How We Talk to Each Other is her debut collection.


Cold Hub Press author page

Poetry Shelf review of How We Talk to Each Other





Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Starling – Issue 8 Launch at Wellington’s Book Hound


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Starling Issue 8 will go live on Tuesday 23 July, and to celebrate we’ll be holding a launch party on Saturday the 27th at Newtown’s finest bookstore, Book Hound!

There will be readings from ten of the writers featured in the Issue 8:

Rose Lu
Sinead Overbye
Rose Peoples
Danica Soich
Mel Ansell
Vita O’Brien
Cadence Chung
Isabelle McNeur
Claudia Jardine
Rebecca Hawkes

Come along and enjoy some of the best new writing around, and help us celebrate the new issue!






Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Verb Podcast – Kaveh Akbar & Kim Hill live at Meow

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Verb Podcast!
Kaveh Akbar & Kim Hill live at Meow (from the 2018 festival)
It was a real honour to host Iranian-US poet Kaveh Akbar at LitCrawl last year. Kaveh was a generous guest and incredibly moving poet. This conversation with RNZ’s Kim Hill was a festival highlight. Listen on our Podcast Page here. Enjoy! (And whet your appetite for more conversation and poetry in performance coming in 2019…).





Poetry Shelf notice board: an excellent Writers on Mondays 2019 programme

Wellington is such a thriving scene for readers and writers. I was so moved by the extraordinary number of poets who came to my Track event. Amazing communities. Meanwhile much to draw your attention here!



Writers on Mondays


From mid-July to October each year, the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), home of Victoria University of Wellington’s renowned creative writing programme, runs a series of events highlighting writers active in and around Wellington, as well as guests from overseas.

Sessions take place on Mondays at lunchtime, with additional evening events from time to time.

Writers on Mondays is a stimulating way to start the working week – and it’s free!

The 2019 Writers on Mondays events are listed in full below. You can also download the programme (2,050KB PDF). Previous years’ programmes are available to download at the bottom of this page.

Writers on Mondays is presented with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Phantom Billstickers, National Poetry Day and Circa Theatre.

Events run Monday 12.15 – 1.15pm on The Marae, Level 4, Te Papa with the exception of the two Short Sharp Script sessions at Circa Theatre.

Admission is free, all welcome.

No food may be taken onto Te Papa Marae.


2019 programme

22 July: Hot and cold – Lynda Chanwai-Earle

The 2019 Creative New Zealand/Victoria University Writer in Residence Lynda Chanwai-Earle is a ground-breaking poet and playwright, whose work HEAT was the first-ever play to be powered by solar and wind power. This year, she is working on the second and third plays in her ‘Antarctic Trilogy’, and co-writing a television drama drawing on the real-life murder of a Chinese student in Auckland that was also the basis for her play Man in a Suitcase. Lynda is a well-known public broadcaster with RNZ, and has toured in a Māori theatre company visiting schools and prisons. She explores her interlocking creative lives with producer/playwright Miria George.

29 July: Poetry Quintet

New York poet Amy Leigh Wicks finds a new home in Kaikōura in The Dangerous Country of Love and Marriage, and New Zealander Nikki-Lee Birdsey plumbs the fault lines between her lives in America and Aotearoa in Night As Day, while Chicago poet Steven Toussaint composed the deeply musical poems of Lay Studies in the United States, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand. Sugar Magnolia Wilson hails from Fern Flat, but the poems of A Woman’s Heart is like a Needle at the Bottom of the Ocean travel to Korea and into intimate and distant histories. essa may ranapiri (Ngāti Raukawa) is a non-binary/takatāpui poet whose Ransack rummages through language and history in a search of a place to call their own. All five poets layer place and history, love and loss in their books, yet all five voices are utterly distinctive. Introduced by Chris Price, they read poems from here, there, and everywhere.

5 August: Dig Deeper – Dinah Hawken and Lynn Jenner

Dinah Hawken’s urgent yet contemplative poems have been celebrated in Aotearoa since her award-winning début, It Has No Sound and is Blue (1987). In There Is No Harbour, Hawken sets the depth of injustice Māori have endured in Taranaki against her own family history in search of greater clarity in the present. In her new book, PEAT, Lynn Jenner enlists poet and Landfall editor Charles Brasch to help her think through aspects of the land and the national character unearthed by the construction of the Kāpiti Expressway. Two Kāpiti writers, who share a conviction that the past is not a foreign country but everywhere at hand if only we know how to look, join chair Bill Manhire in what promises to be a fascinating discussion.

12 August: Axiomatic – Maria Tumarkin

Cultural historian and writer Maria Tumarkin moved from the Ukraine to Australia at age 15. Her latest bookapplies a freewheeling intelligence to five common axioms such as ‘time heals all wounds’, interrogating their accuracy and adequacy in the face of trauma. “Maria Tumarkin’s shape-shifting Axiomatic deploys all the resources of narrative, reportage and essay,” writes Pankaj Mishra in the Guardian. “It is a work of great power and beauty.” Tumarkin is the author of three other acclaimed books of ideas: Traumascapes, Courage, and Otherland. She also collaborates with visual artists, psychologists and public historians, and teaches writing at the University of Melbourne. She appears in conversation with Chris Price.

19 August – Best New Zealand Poems

Best New Zealand Poems is published annually by Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters. Get ready for Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day (on 23 August) by coming along to hear nine of the best read work selected for Best New Zealand Poems 2018—and be sure to visit http://www.bestnewzealandpoems.org.nz to view the full selection. Join 2018 editor Fiona Farrell as she introduces Nikki-Lee Birdsey, Jenny Bornholdt, Doc Drumheller, Sam Duckor-Jones, Bernadette Hall, Anna Jackson, Therese Lloyd, Mary McCallum, and Chris Tse.

26 August: Electric/Antarctic – Rebecca Priestly and Helen Heath

In Are Friends Electric?, 2019 Ockham NZ Book Award for Poetry winner Helen Heath explores the merger of human beings with technology, and asks questions about the potential of a digital afterlife to assuage human desires and griefs. She talks with Royal Society Science Book Prize and the Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize winner Rebecca Priestley about her memoir of science on the icy continent, Fifteen Million Years in Antarctica. This deeply personal tour of the place Priestley had longed to visit since childhood also explores her anxieties, both for herself, and for the threatened place she loves.

2 September: The Next Page 1

A wonderful opportunity to hear a fresh mix of prose and poetry by the current cohort of writers in the Master of Arts in Creative Writing Programme at Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters. Caleb Harris, Ash Davida Jane, Elaine Webster, Cris Cucerzan, Rebecca Reilly, Geraldine Warren, Stacey Teague, Una Cruickshank, Mikee Sto-Domingo, and Fiona Lincoln are introduced (in that order) by Kate Duignan.

9 September: The Next Page 2

Part 2 of the popular Next Page sessions features readings from (in order) Danyl McLauchlan, Preya Gothanayagi, Melanie Ansell, Jane Cherry, Catarina de Peters Leitão,Tanya Ashcroft, Manon Revuelta, Dave Glynn, Louisa Buchanan, and Janey Thornton. They are introduced by Chris Price.

16 September: Short Sharp Script 1 – Circa Theatre

Actors perform dynamic new work by MA scriptwriting students from the IIML. This week scripts by Sally Bollinger, Mitchell Botting, Emily Callam, Emilie Hope, and Jonathan King are introduced by Ken Duncum.

23 September: Short Sharp Script 2 – Circa Theatre

More exciting work in progress from the second group of IIML scriptwriters, at Circa Theatre. This week the spotlight falls on work from David Mamea, Helmut Marko, Monica Pausina, Sophie Scott, and Rachael Stokes. Introduced by Ken Duncum.

30 September: Flight Across Worlds – Elizabeth Knox and Craig Cliff

Elizabeth Knox’s new novel The Absolute Book is set in London, Norfolk, the Wye Valley, and Auckland, as well as in the hospitals and train stations of Purgatory. Old acts of revenge return with force, as three people are driven towards a reckoning felt in more than one world. Craig Cliff’s second novel Nailing Down the Saint explores the life of St Joseph of Copertino, as recreated by the movie industry. Can rational materialism explain everything? Join Kate Duignan to discuss parallel worlds, moral reckonings and religious borrowings in these novels.

7 October: This Hostile Place – Carl Shuker and Lawrence Patchett

Lawrence Patchett’s first novel The Burning River is a work of fictional futurology set in a version of New Zealand where a plastic miner who survives by alliances and trade is swept into a perilous inland journey with new companions. In Carl Shuker’s novel A Mistake, a gifted female surgeon at Wellington Hospital must make her way in a male-dominated world. Fergus Barrowman explores the allegiances and codes these characters must navigate to survive, and the different types of world-building that have gone into each of these novels.

Writers on Mondays is presented with:

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Karyn Hay in conversation with Steven Toussaint @radionz

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This is a terrific conversation –  listen here.

Lay Studies VUP

at the Spinoff:  ‘TMI: An essay on contemporary poetry in Aotearoa/New Zealand’

‘This much is obvious: something electrifying is taking place in New Zealand poetry. I became a permanent resident of this country four years ago, and at that time I privately considered verse here to have grown a little stale. While stand-out collections frequently knocked me over – among them Amy Brown’s The Odour of Sanctity (2013), Chris Holdaway’s Six Melodies (2014), and John Dennison’s Otherwise (2015) – my general impression was that a nostalgic suburban quietism had captured the style, tone, and subject matter of New Zealand poetry, calling to mind James K. Baxter’s warning to denizens of this ‘Happy Island’ that ‘one of the functions of artists in a community is to provide a healthy and permanent element of rebellion; not to become a species of civil servant’. Since then, however, a talented cohort of writers in their 20s and 30s, many of them women, LGBTQ, and people of colour, have exploded onto the scene in a searching and incendiary spirit, and have transformed the literary landscape irrevocably.’

Steven Toussaint, from the Spinoff essay


 Lay Studies will be launched at Time Out Bookstore on Friday July 19th 6-8 pm