Poetry Shelf pays tribute to Kevin Ireland (1933 – 2023)

Dusky Sounds, 2018

Like many other readers and writers in Aotearoa I was saddened by the news of Kevin Ireland’s recent passing. To see the outpouring of grief and commentary on social media and in print, reminded me of the width and depth of Kevin’s contribution to New Zealand literature. Significant, inspiring, connecting. I want to acknowledge this.

I have eight of Kevin’s poetry books on my shelves, but he published at least 27, along with short stories, novels and memoirs. Quentin Wilson Publishing published the third volume of his memoir, A Month at the Back of My Brain, in 2022. He received an honorary doctorate, the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary achievement in 2004, and the AW Reed Award for his contribution to New Zealand writing in 2006.

Kevin’s poetry reflects the magnetic and insistent pull of writing poems. Writing feels like a necessary part of daily life, and the process of writing, that mysterious and wondrous arrival of words that sing and chime, at times with a cup of tea, at times at a bus stop or in the dark of the night, finds its way into Kevin’s books across the decades. This attention to writing keeps me reading each work compulsively.

From his very first collections, such as Educating the Body (Caxton Press, 1967), Kevin wrote with exquisite economy, deft rhythm and rhyme, unafraid of slender poems, longer poems, the unsaid, the contemplated and the anecdotal. I savour the recurring themes of sea, sky, day and night, sleeping not sleeping, tides and foreign cities, but it is the presence of people who elevate his poetry for me, give it heart: his loved ones, his writing mates, his drinking buddies. He dedicated many poems to other writers to whom he was close such as Graeme Lay, Stephen Stratford, Peter Bland. This matters. It matters that Kevin was part of a writing community, supportive, inspirational, vital.

Above all, it was his ability to write breathtaking love poems that has haunted me. He has caught my ear and heart as he wrote of and for the women he loved so deeply. He dedicated his penultimate collection, Shape of the Heart, (Quentin Wilson Publishing, 2020) to people that mattered: his dear wife Janet, Fleur Adcock, Peter Bland, Bernard Brown, Maurice Gee, Vincent O’Sullivan and Karl Stead. He wrote of these friends ‘who have challenged, laughed, disputed, enriched and always entertained by turning words and ideas on their heads’.

To have taken my time to anchor within, and then find uplift, as I read the eight poetry collections feels like a private mourning, a personal celebration. Now when I want to speak of what Kevin’s poetry does, the words are like slippery eels in the night that skate and slide and feel inadequate. Instead I hold out six poems for you, as a tribute, as a eulogy, as an invitation to choose a poetry collection by Kevin, pick a private nook or cranny, and nestle into your own reading anchors and uplifts.

Kevin’s estate and publishers have kindly given me permission to share six of his poems. I have also included the review of Looking out to Sea that I wrote for The SpinOff in 2015.

My thoughts and best wishes are with Kevin’s loved ones, his family and writer and reader mates.

At the launch of Roger Hickin’s Roderick Finlayson, A Man from Another World 
at Timeout Bookstore, Auckland, 15 October 2022

The Poems

Choosing Words

Words are like trees. They come in all shades
and surprises, fingering through the Braille
ridges and crevices of rocks, and groping
through dirt and dust and shreddings.

The roots of words grip the dark depths
of our history and cluster high above us
to spread canopies that shimmer in the light.
Yet we can lose ourselves in words.

We must find paths through confusions
of letters, for words become jungles filled
with mad-eyed beasts. Stand still and clichés
grow between our toes. Move timidly

and we step straight into thickets
of expressions that may cut us to the heart.
Words can grow inexorably and straight
or they may bend on every small breeze.

When we use words, we should choose
those that are green and supple, and weave into
boundless connections. We should never
box words into life sentences.

from How To Survive the Morning, Cape Catley Ltd, 2008

The Wish

She asked me what
I might desire:
her flesh, her mind,
her eyes of fire?

I asked one wish
and one alone:
a kiss, a leaf,
a river stone.

From these I’ll build
a wall that’s vast,
a roof above
and love that lasts.

from Table Talk: New Poems, Cape Catley Ltd, 2009

A room with more than a view

Let me describe the room in which I try to work.
It has a desk, a chair, a cupboard — and the walls
have shelves, photographs, notes, paintings
and cartons. There are books and papers
strewn or stacked and tumbling everywhere.

For decades I have managed to avoid the oppression
of this mess by gazing though a window
at the far worse clutter of the view outside —
the shambles caused by tangled branches,
clouds, birds, falling leaves — and always

by the reckless carry-on of weather.
But never had it crossed my mind that out there,
one day, I’d endure a baffling and alarming
and deliberate attack. Yet through the glass —
so I can now record — the world I looked on

has turned out to be enraged, malevolent
and treacherous. A virus stalked the shadows
in our gardens, skulked above the trees,
leapt from roof to roof and stole across back fences.
It slithered, unmasked, up the driveways

to our houses and puffed through all our keyholes.
I had to close the curtains for the first time ever
then firmly shut the door. I’ve had no option
but to shift the desk — and I’ve confronted
face-to-face at last, the chaos that is mine.

from Just Like That: New Poems, Quentin Wilson Publishing 2021

Happy Days

for Bernard, Graeme, Peter & Stephen

It is impossible to imagine gatherings better than this:
ace company, best jokes, fine lunch, quality wines —
plus quips, absurdities, anecdotes, games, inventions
and outrageous bulletins from the shifty borderlands
between experience and the imaginary, though fortunately
too late and far too unlikely ever to be acted upon —

then Pete declaims his latest transcendental poem,
an ode to mystery, sorrow, joy, love and the everlasting,
which grew inside him yesterday glowing
with petals of flame inside his head in Prospect Lane.

Where all this goodness goes to after we’ve used it
only for the afternoon is a mystery to me.
We should build libraries of Happy Days free to borrow
in every High Street worthy of the name.

from Looking Out to Sea, Steele Roberts, 2015

Poems in the night

I found it hard to sleep last night
so sometime in the darkness
reached out from the duvet
to the toppling pile of books
I collect beside the bed.

Perhaps it was something
I had eaten. Too much cheese.
Or possibly the wine.
But I couldn’t work my way
into the lines I read. I thought

the books were far too tangled
and the writing came with effort —
which has its virtues, yet overdone
turns pages into cabbage
steamed far too long.

You sleep till daybreak better
when you dream of eyelids opening
to a poem in the waking moment
when they’re breathed on softly
by a single fluky word.

from Shape of the Heart, Quentin Wilson Publishing, 2020

A going away poem

All poems end in a blank space
at the foot of a page. Sooner or later
the lines will fail to link and the words
will excuse themselves briefly
by telling you they may be some time
as they set off into a frozen white-out
of end-papers and are lost to all sight
except for the tell-tale last tracks of ink.

This one will soon enough give up
and lay down its head in the snow.
These black marks will be all
that remains of its impossible journey
to signal that you will be missed
even more than i ever dare think.

from Feeding the Birds, Steele Roberts, 2014

The Review

Looking Out to Sea, Kevin Ireland, Steele Roberts, 2015

Ireland’s collection is pitch perfect – a keepsake album that stands head and shoulders above his last few collections. It gets under your skin with its vulnerability, tenderness, sure-footed lines, edgy admission, witty scrutiny. Ireland is the miniature storyteller, the inquisitive archaeologist, a part-time philosopher as much as he is a keen wordsmith. The end result: poems that engage thought as much as heart and lines that stick.

The title poem (an elegy for Ireland’s brother) is looking back to sea as much it is looking out to sea. The book features poems with a backward gaze and a sheen of nostalgia, but the little switches and shifts lift the commonplace memory to one that moves profoundly. In this example, the competitive youngsters skim rocks over the pool, the pool becomes beer, the beer becomes dream and the ocean takes over:

In my sleep we were sipping his home brew silently
in love and peace when we heard the tide change
with a swish of seaweed and a lapping of water
against the black edge of the reef.

Younger selves overlap aged self (‘unreliable and unfocused’) as Ireland digs deep. He owns ‘up/ to the dozen or possibly the score of beings/ I know I tried to be.’ The personal becomes universal in the light of departure, loss, hunger, affection, love. Always love, and that, to me, is the vital pulse of the poems.

A number of poems pivot upon the whole business of writing poetry – poems are elusive, comforting, necessary. To keep returning to such notions might become tiresome, but Ireland finds a different slant each time. As much as this is a keepsake album for those he cares about, a love handbook if you like, this is also a pocket guide to poetry. I was particularly drawn to ‘Another one that got away,’ where Ireland compares an elusive poem to his old man racing for the bus at the last minute, and then just catching it in the nick of time. In the final lines, you meet the switch, the shift, the bit that startles and glows:

It’s the itch that’s always at work
under the skin of settled existence.
Or was, in my youth. Now it’s the poems
that rise early and go streaking away.

Every now and then I hit a collection that I want to write about for hours – to salute the way simplicity and complexity melds a satisfying poetry brew for ear and mind. This is one of them. At one point Ireland offers, ‘losing one’s bearings everything makes sense.’ He has no sure map to his past; he has fudged co-ordinates, the confession that you are never too old to love, and an ability to make a single line sparkle. I love this collection.

Full review available at The SpinOff

Poetry Shelf review: David Eggleton’s Respirator: A Poet Laureate Collection 2019 – 2022

Respirator: A Poet Laureate Collection 2019 – 2022, David Eggleton
Otago University Press, 2023

The history shut up in the book
of a tree opens out in the shape
of a house that sways like a stout
three-master far out at sea.
The arboreal lifts from its foundations.
Between dripping leaves the trees
become hundreds of stairwells
and eaves that lead up to the stars.
Remove an eave when it gets stuck;
it’s stripped back to its bare frame,
carved up and trucked off to a lifestyle block.
I am, sang the frame of the house.

from ‘Sawmill Empire’

Otago University Press has produced a beautiful book to mark David Eggleton’s tenure as NZ Poet Laureate (2019 – 2022). A hard cover collection with exquisite paper stock and excellent internal design choices, it is a book to savour over a long period of time. Most of the poems were written during David’s laureateship, but also during a Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer’s Residency at the University of Hawai’i in 2018 and a short residency at the Michael King Writer’s Centre in Devonport in 2020. A handful of poems were commissioned, such as ‘Hone’, ‘What the Future Holds’ and ‘Te Wheke’.

The Respirator represents the work of a poet writing at his very best, perhaps a fitting endorsement for the benefits of residencies and laureateships for writers. When I got to the end, I decided I wanted to listen to the whole collection as an audio book. Imagine being able to get audio versions of poetry collections we love. David’s writing is like a musical score: distinctive, deft, diverse in melody and sumptuous in aural effects.

While the collection is divided into seven discrete parts, there is a steady transmission of motifs, moods, ideas and form that echo and overlap, that loop and arrest. The opening section, ‘Circle’, is prismatic in its move across land and sky, foundation myths and history, and then wonderfully, heart-catchingly, the larger focus gives way to the small, the walnut, common clay or the white butterfly. The poems trigger a mysterious heart reaction, as you move from melancholy to transformation to moodiness. These poems emanate, think pulsate, from the sweet alchemy of making a poem. I had to put the book down for a week and let the poems simmer.

Young moths rustle mottoes of dust under
hard rustle of flax, clusters of cracked pods.
An old wetā trawls a sea of forest fronds.
Wasps weave and wrap their pollen trails
over briars loaded with black blood drops
heavier than hearts can bear, for the trees
are our parents’ parents (…)

from ‘Generations’

The second session, ‘Rāhui’, comprises one longer poem: ‘Rāhui: Lockdown Journal’. David’s laureateship was extended for a year due to the Covid restraints but I wondered how the pandemic affected his writing. It was a pandemic that, for awhile, seemed to reshape every nook and cranny for our lives. ‘The poem journal ‘Rāhui’ returns me to a time of daily briefings, the kindness mantra, cancellations, ghost cities, a new lexicon, re-evaluations. David ends his lockdown sequence with this line: ‘A poem is a kind of respirator.’ And writing (and reading) poetry becomes breathing apparatus, a survival aide, ebb and flow, rhythm and time keeper. It felt settling to have what is now distant occasions drawn close, especially when Covid still stalks and destabilises our communities.

I found myself wallowing, perhaps luxuriating in the pitch perfect lines, in the fourth section, ‘Old School Ties’. Other writers are saluted, writing elders such as James K Baxter, Frank Sargeson, Karl Stead, Hone Tuwhare. His tribute to the latter is incandescent with aroha, verve, admiration. The poem, ‘Sounds of the Sixties’ is a terrific ear-boosting, multi-layered incantation of a particular time, and just with the lockdown journal, David transports you to the thick and pumping heart of an extraordinary elsewhere time in which, like me, you may have lived.

I’m listening to Janis wail, Get it while you can,
and to Mister Mojo Rising, the Lizard King,
who broke on through Blake’s Doors of Perception.
Martin Sharp covered Cream’s double album in silver.
When boiled Cona coffee grounds simmer down,
the air-con still wafts cool from the mezzanine lounge,
all through 246 Queen Street up to his Lordship’s.
On black and white TV, we watched Town and Around,
and Martin Luther Ling’s mourners bearing witness.
San Francisco was where you wore flowers in your hair,
while Jefferson Airplane sang, Feed your head.

from Sounds of the Sixties’

David has never shied away from politics or protest, and politics and protests are both overground and underground threads, vital, challenging, necessary – from the avarice of capitalism to the smash of climate change as we desperately learn to convert words into substantial action. Speaking out matters. Political poetry matters. Shining lights on things that need changing in the form of a poem matters.

In some ways I see this as a transformative book of odes, tributes to who and how David is, and who and how we are, from the miniature to that shifty old dog, the universal. There is a moving section devoted to the ‘mana of whales’. There is a rich vein of poems dedicated to the Pacific, especially in a series written during his time in Hawai’i. The final section, ‘The Wall’, is almost like an ode to books, to the power of books, in all shapes and sizes.

The Respirator is a joy to read. It is precious testimony to the power and reach of poetry, to the essential role of our Poets Laureate.

I want to write a poem
                              like a rusted car wreck,
                              like a collapsed bridge,
                              like a random punch,
                              like a sly foot-tap,
                              like a Māori haka,
                              like a fresh death mask,
                              like peel-off future proofing,
                              like the smile of a stolen girlfriend,
                              like the scent of Adieu Sagesse,
                              like gravestones, like time-bombs,
                              fractal geometry, orchestra tom-toms.

from ‘I Want to Write a Poem’                             

David Eggleton (Rotuman Fijian/Tongan/Pākehā) has published ten previous poetry collections. He is a six-time winner of the Montana Reviewer of the Year, and a former Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago. He received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in poetry in 2016, the same year that The Conch Trumpet won the Poetry Award at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. From 2009–17, Eggleton was editor of Landfall. He received the 2018 Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writers’ Residency and served as the New Zealand Poet Laureate 2019–22.

Otago University Press page

David Eggleton’s Poet Laureate page

Poetry Shelf favourite poems: Kay McKenzie Cooke’s ‘Blue Person’

Blue Person

Hoping for eventual clouds
of hazy purple,
I planted two lavender today.
Small and tough enough to hunker down.
And tonight I left the bedroom windows open
in order to smell the rain,
the soaked earth, and pictured
the two lavender plants drinking.
I also bought a pansy
and a polyanthus because they were blue.
Some people say that they’re green people,
or red or, like my granddaughter says,
a yellow-orange person (amber, I tell her,
but she keeps forgetting).
Me, I’m a blue person. Blue that is almost purple,
or blue that is almost green
(I can’t decide). Then there’s sky-blue.
Clear, unattainable blue-blue.
The blue of agapanthus.
The blue of Delftware.
Peacock-tail blue. I bought
two lavender plants 
and a pansy and a polyanthus, 
flowers that will weather the winter
triumphant in the frost, victorious
in snow. But what about too-blue?
‘How can you trust someone
who wears so much blue?’ a friend said once
about her boss. And of course we must always
leave room for yellow. Van Gogh thought so.
‘I’m not a yellow person,’ I heard someone say
and thought it a pity. A world without yellow

Kay McKenzie Cooke
from Upturned, The Cuba Press, Wellington, 2020


I chose the poem, ‘Blue person’ because I will always appreciate the way it came to me almost fully formed, bearing the characteristic of a personal, chatty tone and light feet. It came bearing gifts – an assortment of ideas and characters – laying these down at my fingertips (so to speak). It had voice, humour and utilised remembered conversations to reflect something true.  It set out to draw attention to the reality of life’s charms. It wove a story without losing its rhythm or focus and without labouring the point. Although it is a seemingly simple poem, it still has merit; it carries its own weight. And even as it dances along, it is at the same time anchored to things and subjects meaningful to me: life, home, art, growth, weathering, peace, colour, family, place, nature, people, appreciation and humour.

Kay McKenzie Cooke (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe) lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin. Her fourth poetry book, titled Upturned, was published by The Cuba Press in June 2020. She is presently working on her fifth collection of poetry, so far untitled, as well as on her third novel set in Murihiku Southland.

Favourite Poems is an ongoing series where a poet chooses a favourite poem from their own backlist and writes a short note to go with it.

Poetry Shelf reading: AUP New Poets 9 – harold coutts and Arielle Walker

harold coutts

harold coutts reads ‘tee double u’

Arielle Walker

‘kawakawa’ from ‘rongoā’

‘harakeke’ from ‘rongoā’

‘whatu’ from ‘rongoā’

‘kānuka and mānuka’ from ‘rongoā’

AUP New Poets 9: Sarah Lawrence, harold coutts, Arielle Walker, ed Anna Jackson
Auckland University Press, 2023

harold coutts is a poet and writer based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. they have a hoard of unread books and love to play Dungeons & Dragons. you can find their work across various NZ literary journals such as Starling, Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook, and in Out Here edited by Chris Tse and Emma Barnes.

Arielle Walker (Taranaki, Ngāruahine, Ngāpuhi, Pākehā) is a Tāmaki Makaurau-based artist, writer and maker. Her practice seeks pathways towards reciprocal belonging through tactile storytelling and ancestral narratives, weaving in the spaces between. Her work can be found in Stasis JournalTurbine | KapohauTupuranga JournalOscen: Myths and No Other Place to Stand: An Anthology of Climate Change Poetry from Aotearoa New Zealand (Auckland University Press, 2022).

Auckland University Press page

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Hebe Kearney’s ‘ariadne in waves’

ariadne in waves

after ‘Poem 64’ by Catullus

i am in waves

the sea eats my hope
in its open throat

i wade naked

stripped of dignity
only salt & air to pity me

i & the ocean alone

watch the ship slip
into the horizon, the final blip

in the story of my life.

i will die here of sorrow
curled in the furrow

of cruel theseus’s

sweaty brow,
i know absolutely now

i was already nothing to him

when i took that red thread
& used it to make my brother dead.

though he spilled the blood

i was complicit
& my abandonment will not elicit

soft pity

in anyone’s heart
because back at the start

i could have done it differently

i could have done it better
but i was always ariadne

& no one ever let her.

Hebe Kearney

Hebe Kearney is a poet and librarian who lives in Tāmaki Makaurau. Their work has appeared in publications including: Mantissa Poetry Review, Mayhem, samfiftyfour, Symposia, Tarot, takahē, and Poetry New Zealand Yearbooks. You can find them at @he__be on Instagram.

Poetry Shelf Favourite Poems: Apirana Taylor’s ‘waewae pākura’

waewae pākura

footprints of the swamp hen
weaving pattern tukutuku
across the criss-cross patterns
woven into the panels
of the house
where the swamp hen
presses its feet into
the mud forever
leaving imprints tracks
of red toes in the ooze
where the flax weaver’s dreams
of the people are woven
into the whare tipuna
between the ancestors
who dance with the stars

Apirana Taylor


 I was inspired to write this poem while gazing at the pattern Waewae Pākura in a Whare Tipuna. I wanted to share the experience in words and take others on the journey I went on. I painted the poem first before I wrote it. The poem was first published in, the breathing tree, by Canterbury University Press (2014).

Apirana Taylor from the Ngati Porou, Te Whanau a Apanui, and Ngati Ruanui tribes, and also Pakeha heritage, is a poet, playwright, novelist, short story writer, story teller, actor, painter, and musician. His poems and short stories are frequently studied in schools at NCEA and tertiary level and his poetry and prose has been translated into several languages. He has been Writer in Residence at Massey and Canterbury Universities, and various NZ schools. He has been invited several times to India and Europe and also Colombia to read his poetry and tell his stories, and to National and International festivals. He travels to schools, libraries, tertiary institutions and prisons throughout NZ to read his poetry, tell his stories, and take creative writing workshops.

This is part of an ongoing Poetry Shelf series where poets pick a favourite poem from their own backlist and write a note to go with it.

Poetry Shelf reading: Jane Arthur

‘the better to see you with’

Calamities! Jane Arthur, Te Herenga Waka University Press, 2023

Jane Arthur is the author of Craven, which won the Jessie Mackay Prize for Best First Book of Poetry in 2020, and Calamities!, published in May 2023 by Te Herenga Waka University Press. She received the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize in 2018 and has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the IIML at Victoria University of Wellington. Born in New Plymouth, she manages and co-owns a small independent bookshop in Wellington, where she now lives with her family.

Te Herenga Waka University Press page

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Emer Lyons’s ‘Anthem’


you been here you been here long wouldn’t
know with the sound the sound I wouldn’t
know I wouldn’t know the sound
you’d be lovely somewhere
else somewhere else
and you’d be
lovely if
only you
were somewhere else
i thought you were speaking
a different language a language different
from speaking a language from thought
anything would sound good in your accent
in your accent anything
is there anything
good in your accent

Emer Lyons

Emer Lyons is a lesbian writer from West Cork living in Ōtepoti. 

Poetry Shelf review: Biter by Claudia Jardine

Biter Claudia Jardine, Auckland University Press, 2023

research the difference between Proteus
    and Proetus
because we are going to do this properly, alright?
of course readers will know the difference

things have not been the same inside my brain
since I watched you examine that bicycle tube earlier

 from ‘Raspberries’

Claudia Jardine brings her classical background (an MA in Classics with Distinction) to her poetry writing. She loosely translates some epigrams from the Palantine Anthology, a collection supposedly compiled by the Byzantine scholar, Constantinus Cephalas, in the tenth century. The work is said to have been written by various authors from C7 BCE to C7 CE. The inclusion of the epigrams with Claudia’s contemporary poems, forms a reading experience that is both unique and rewarding.

Perhaps every reading experience is unique, with its particular threads, epiphanies, diversions, soundtracks. In my experience, a poetry book offers diverse engagements and reactions depending on the context in which I read it. I often read a collection several times, especially individual poems, and the poetry refracts and reflects in glorious new and revealing lights. I am musing on the way what I have just read, written or spoken about, might be affected by what I have been dreaming of, what the weather is like, what music I am listening to, what I have previously read of the poet, books I have read that are similar, the espresso I have just drunk and the pastry I have just consumed. Maybe all these things feed into the mysterious and nourishing reading process.

I first read Biter when Tāmaki Makaurau was in a local state of emergency, our nearby roads were flooding, and there was the prospect of loss of power. I was curious how the weather outside, my cosy reading nook, the flicker thoughts of anxiety would affect the deliciously layered collection. So many reading channels to negotiate. Herein lies my reaction: the gap between the present tense poems (personal) and the past tense poems (epigrams of antiquity) is energising. Claudia admits she has taken “creative liberties” in her translations, as though a little of the present rubs into the past. I am wondering as I read if the impetus of an epigram to be succinct and witty, with perhaps a tiny twist in its tail, is a key element in the contemporary poems.

your delightful image appears in my whirlpools and rivers
my open sea
my glass of wine

from ‘Mad Dog” Palatine Anthology V.266

Claudia’s epigrams are sprinkled throughout the collection like sherbet, they fizz in your mind, little fascinations, so sweetly formed, and then, invitingly, hook you into the enduring power and reach of love, sexuality, hunger, recognition. Even the impulse to write, to translate internal meanderings into poetry, feels like a constant we have been doing for eons.

when we do meet
I lose my mind for a minute
briefly consider painting my name on a little boat
and staging my own death
float downriver just to hear you call me

from ‘Field Notes on Elegy’

Claudia writes with a musical ear, an ear attuned to the vibration and pitch of vowels and consonants, the sublime aural effect that may be invisible stitching or high viz.

If there is wit in the epigrams, there is acute wit in Claudia’s contemporary poems. There is such wit I am laughing out loud, relishing the humorous twists and turns. Her father, for example, is a professor who has no idea how to open a block of cheese.

At home, only he can claim the title of Professor,
but the way he opens a block of cheese
is akin to unwrapping a bar of chocolate
by putting it in the food processor.

from ‘Thoughts Thought After Surveying the Contents of the Fridge’

Expect family pets, rural settings, coffee, a tampon star sign, having sex, sister talk, back seat fumbling, a karaoke machine, kissing. Expect human experience veering and igniting all directions. Savour Biter‘s economy and richness, the love and longing, the then and now, and toast a collection that demonstrates the irreplaceable blaze of poetry.

discipule, quickener
in the focus of this somewhere I will miss
the staggering days of not knowing what to do with my face
when you are holding it

from ‘Adoration of the Magi, Ōtākaro’

Claudia reads three poems from Biter

Claudia Jardine has an MA in classics with distinction from Victoria University of Wellington, where she won the 2020 Alex Scobie Research Prize and a Marsden Grant for Masters scholarship. Her first chapbook, ‘The Temple of Your Girl’, was published in AUP New Poets 7. Her ancestors are from the British Isles and the Maltese Archipelago, and she lives in Ōtautahi.

Auckland University Press page