Poetry Shelf congratulates Tusiata Avia, the Ockham NZ Book Award Poetry winner (ten things she loves, a poem, an interview)

Such heartfelt congratulations to Tusiata Avia, a much loved poet who has and who continues to inspire generations of poets. Yes Pasifika poets, yes young women writing, and yes, most importantly, yes us all. Her award-winning book is magnificent. She places herself in these necessary poems: her ravaged heart, her experience, wounds, scars, thinking, feeling, urge to speak out, sing, perform, no matter the price, holding out history, the coloniser, the colonised, Ihumātao, the Australian bush fires, translating for the gutted woman, the abortioned woman, her mother, her daughter, her lovers, but at times she is disabled with epilepsy, her father a presence, and she places a prayer for her daughter, for the stars, water, lungs, and for the reader, here in these poems, she places a prayer. Extraordinary.

Ten things I love

1. A photograph: The photo is of Sepela – exactly 10 years ago, a week after the big earthquake when we escaped to Hinemoana’s who lived in Kapiti then.

2. A poem by someone else: All they want is my money my pussy my blood by Morgan Parker (and pretty much anything from her book, There are more beautiful things than Beyonce.

3. A song: Back to Life by Soul II Soul

4. A book: Hurricane Season, Fernando Melchor, trans. Sophie Hughes, New Directions, 2020 (my favourite book of 2020)

5. A movie: My Neighbour Totoro

6. A place: South Sinai coast, Egypt

7. A meal: taro (cooked in the umu) and palusamu

8. A poetic motif: Can’t think of one, but I can think of a form I love – the pantoum.

9.  A place to write: Where ever the ‘thing’ is happening (see Five questions below)

10. A poem from my book (Tusiata did a stunning performance of this at the awards PG):

250th anniversary of James Cook’s arrival in New Zealand

Hey James,

yeah, you

in the white wig

in that big Endeavour

sailing the blue, blue water

like a big arsehole

FUCK YOU, BITCH.

James,

I heard someone

shoved a knife

right up

into the gap between

your white ribs

at Kealakekua Bay.

I’m gonna go there

make a big Makahiki luau

cook a white pig

feed it to the dogs

and FUCK YOU UP, BITCH.

Hey James,

it’s us.

These days

we’re driving round

in SUVs

looking for ya

or white men like you

who might be thieves

or rapists

or kidnappers

or murderers

yeah, or any of your descendants

or any of your incarnations

cos, you know

ay, bitch?

We’re gonna FUCK YOU UP.

Tonight, James,

it’s me

Lani, Danielle

and a car full of brown girls

we find you

on the corner

of the Justice Precinct.

You’ve got another woman

in a headlock

and I’ve got my father’s

pig-hunting knife

in my fist

and we’re coming to get you

sailing round

in your Resolution

your Friendship

your Discovery

and your fucking Freelove.

Watch your ribs, James

cos, I’m coming with

Kalaniōpu‘u

Kānekapōlei

Kana‘ina

Keawe‘ōpala

Kūka‘ilimoku

who is a god

and Nua‘a

who is king with a knife.

And then

James,

then

we’re gonna

FUCK.

YOU.

UP.

FOR.

GOOD.

BITCH.


Tusiata Avia

Five questions

Is writing a pain or a joy, a mix of both, or something altogether different for you?

A mix, for sure. Often, I don’t feel like writing – unless I have an experience (internal or out in the world) that I feel the need to write about immediately. At times like that, I feel a sense of urgency, sometimes verging on desperation, to stop whatever I’m doing and write. I have pulled the car over on a busy motorway and searched for a piece of paper to scribble it down . I’m not great at the discipline of writing every day.

Name a poet who has particularly influenced your writing or who supports you.

I don’t read her so much these days, but I love Sharon Olds. She helped me to write more openly – to be honest and vulnerable.

Was your shortlisted collection shaped by particular experiences or feelings?

Colonisation, racism, illness, a bit of Covid – all the relaxing stuff.

Did you make any unexpected discoveries as you wrote?

The whole book was unexpected. I was writing another book called Giving Birth To My Father, which took ages. After a while (quite close to my deadline) I realised it wasn’t ready for the outside world. The Savage Coloniser Book had to come together really quickly, if I wanted it published for 2020. I knew I had a few poems that were very ‘2020’ lying about. I wrote to those poems in a short amount of time.

Do you like to talk about your poems or would you rather let them speak for themselves? Is there one poem where an introduction (say at a poetry reading) would fascinate the audience/ reader? Offer different pathways through the poem?

During poetry readings/ performances I used to think the poem should speak for itself but many poems really need an introduction, particularly when people are not experiencing them on the page.

Tusiata Avia is an acclaimed poet, performer and children’s writer. Her previous poetry collections are Wild Dogs Under My Skirt (2004; also staged as a theatre show, most recently Off-Broadway, winning the 2019 Outstanding Production of the Year), Bloodclot (2009) and the Ockham-shortlisted Fale Aitu | Spirit House (2016). Tusiata has held the Fulbright Pacific Writer’s Fellowship at the University of Hawai‘i in 2005 and the Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence at University of Canterbury in 2010. She was the 2013 recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award, and in 2020 was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to poetry and the arts.

Poetry Shelf review

Selina Tusitala Marsh’s review at ANZL

Poetry Shelf: Tusiata‘s ‘Love in the Time of Primeminiscinda’ (The Savage Coloniser Book)

Tusiata reads ‘Massacre’ (The Savage Coloniser Book)

Leilani Tamu review at KeteBooks

Faith Wilson review at RNZ National

Victoria University Press page

Poetry Shelf congratulates Jackson Nieuwland, the Ockham NZ Book Award Best First Book Poetry winner (with a reading and a review)

Jackson reads from I Am a Human Being

Sometimes you pick up a poetry book and you know within a page or two, it is a perfect fit, a slow-speed read to savour with joy. That’s how I felt when I started reading Jackson Nieuwland’s I am a human being. I love the premise embedded in the title, that in turn generates a sequence of poems that form a secret title list poem (I am an egg, I am a tree, I am tree, I am a beaver, I am a bear, I am a dog, I am a bottomless pit, and so on).

The opening poem offers an image that, in its exquisite and heart-moving detail, underlines the range of the book: physical, metaphorical, fable-like, metaphysical, autobiographical. In one poem the speaker suggests they are not quite sure who they are yet, that there is no single word that adequately defines them (‘agender, genderfluid, trans …’). This book, so long in the making, lovingly crafted with the loving support of friends, with both doubt and with grace (think poise, fluency, adroitness), this book, in its lists and its expansions, moves beyond the need for a single self-defining word.

Instead we are offered the image of the egg – and the way we hold a universe of things inside us, and that sometimes we might break.

This is intimate poetry. This is slowing down to observe the quotidian, the daily comings and goings, the things you see and feel when you stop and reflect and imagine, that then tilts to surprise. There is uplift and there is slipstream.

This is contoured poetry because it ignites so many parts of you as you read. You will laugh out loud as you read. You will feel the poignant witty wise delightful magical joy. The shifting melodies. There are keyholes to light and keyholes to dark. The speaker speaks of outsiderness, of what it is to fit, and what it is to not fit.

Sometime you will turn the page to a glorious pun.

Sometimes the vulnerability is a sharp ache above the surface of the line. This from ‘I am version of you from the future’:

Your past self looks at you with sympathy.

They pull you into a tight hug.

You begin to sob

releasing years of tears

that had been held inside

due to the conditioning you received

from a patriarchal society

and the overload of testosterone

pumping through you body.

As you sink into your own embrace,

the two versions of you merge into one,

and you begin again

given a chance to do it all over

but differently this time,

with an open heart

like quadruple bypass surgery.

The risk of death is high

but what other choice do you have?

I am a version of you from the future.

This is just the beginning—

I am a human being was one of my favourite poetry book of 2020. I like the addition of Steph Maree’s line drawings. I like the way the poetry stretches in its imaginings to draw closer to an interior real that is never fixed. I like the way the poetry is both anchor and liberating kite. I like the acknowledgement that, in order to know who you are, you need to embrace many things. I love this book so very much from first page to last. In the endnotes, the page where the poet gives thanks, I read the best acknowledgement ever:

And thank you for reading

this book. I’ve gone back and

forth with myself for years

about whether these words are

worth anyone’s time. It means

the universe to me that you’ve

read all the way to the end. I

hope you found something that

meant something to you.

Jackson Nieuwland is a human being, duh. They are a genderqueer writer, editor, librarian, and woo-girl, born and based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. They co-founded the reading/zine series Food Court. This isn’t even their final form.

Compound Press page

Pantograph Punch review (Vanessa Crofskey)

Landfall on Line review (Erik Kennedy)

Chris Holdaway (Compound Press) celebrates Jackson’s place on the longlist with a poem

Poetry Shelf celebrates new books: Nine poets read from A Clear Dawn

A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand

eds. Paula Morris and Alison Wong, Auckland University Press, 2021

To celebrate the arrival of A Clear Dawn, I invited nine poets to read one of their poems in the collection as audio or video. This fabulous anthology of poetry and fiction, so astutely and loving assembled by Paula Morris and Alison Wong, is sheer reading joy. I am delighted you get to have a taste of nine of the poets’ voices here. Auckland University Press have created an exquisite book. I love holding it, I love finding my way through the beautifully designed pages. I just love this book.

If you live in Auckland you might like to go to the launch at the Auckland Writer’s Festival:

Saturday May 15th, 5:00pm – 6:00pm Balcony Bar, Level Five, Aotea Centre

Enjoy a complimentary glass of wine with selected readings as this ground-breaking contribution to our literature is launched.

You can listen to Alison Wong discuss the book with Kathryn Ryan here.

Auckland University Press page.

The Readings

Isabelle Johns reads ‘The Dance’

Maryana Garcia reads ‘Glass questions’

Modi Deng reads ‘Ben Lomond’

Neema Singh reads ‘A proper way to make tea’

Jiaqiao Liu reads ‘to a future you’

E Wen Wong reads ‘one world sleeps in an apple’

Chris Tse reads ‘Punctum’

Rushi Vyas reads ‘I saw you and I learned this, beloved

Vanessa Mei Crofskey reads ‘What’s the pH balance of yin + yang?’

Vanessa Mei Crofskey is an artist and writer based in Te-Whanganui-a-Tara, who features in A Clear Dawn, the first-ever anthology of Asian New Zealand creative writing. She is the current director of Enjoy Contemporary Art Space. 

Modi Deng is a postgraduate candidate in piano performance at the Royal Academy of Music on scholarship. Currently based in London, Modi received a MMus (First Class Hons, Marsden research scholarship) and a BA from Auckland University. Her first chapbook-length collection of poetry will be part of AUP New Poets 8. She cares deeply about literature (especially poetry, diaspora), music, psychology, and her family.

Maryana Goco Garcia is a poet, and a journalist who dabbles in photography. All of Maryana’s work, visual or written, attempts to find the miracle in the moment, to encourage pausing, to look hard at what lies before us until we notice something new. You can find her poetry on Instagram where she keeps a visual and word archive as @ripagepoet. 

Isabelle Johns likes to write when she has the inspiration, and is (grudgingly) practising doing so without the inspiration part, too. She studies Computer Systems Engineering at the University of Auckland, where she can be found most of the time, either catching up on missed lectures or frantically debugging code before a deadline. Her poems have been published in The Three Lamps, University of Auckland’s literary journal, as well as the upcoming anthology for Asian New Zealand writers, A Clear Dawn.

Jiaqiao (Jay) Liu is a Chinese nonbinary poet currently doing a creative writing MA in Pōneke. They write about family, queerness, longing, myth and tech, among other obsessions. Some of their work can be found in brief, Blackmail Press, takahē and Queer the Pitch.

Neema Singh is a poet from Christchurch of Gujarati Indian descent. Her work appears in Ko Aotearoa Tātou: We Are New Zealand(2020) and A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand (2021) and she is currently working on her first collection of poetry, a series of poems unfolding the layers of culture, identity and history contained within ordinary moments. Neema is an experienced secondary school English teacher and holds a Master of Creative Writing from The University of Auckland.

Chris Tse is the author of How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes and HE’S SO MASC. He and Emma Barnes are co-editors of Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers From Aotearoa, due to be published in October 2021. He is The Spinoff‘s Poetry Editor.

Rushi Vyas is a writer, educator, and PhD candidate at Te Whare Wānanga o Ōtākou / University of Otago. He is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection When I Reach For Your Pulse (Four Way Books, 2023) which was a two-time finalist for the National Poetry Series in the US, and the co-author of the chapbook Between Us, Not Half a Saint, with Rajiv Mohabir. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Colorado-Boulder. He currently serves as Reviews/Interviews Editor for GASHER Journal. Recent poetry is forthcoming or published in The Georgia Review, Indiana ReviewPigeon PagesLandfall (NZ)RedividerThe OffingAdroitWaxwing, and elsewhere.

E Wen Wong is a first-year Law and Science student at the University of Canterbury. She was the winner of the 2020 National Schools Poetry Award.

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Pegasus Book Readings resume Friday May 14th

Pegasus Books

Friday 14th May at at 6:30

Price: Free · Duration: 1 hr 30 min

Welcome back to the Pegasus Books poetry reading series, warming your autumn evenings with Te Whanganui-a-Tara’s finest wordsmiths. Come along and soak in some literary lushness this Friday, 14th May, at 6.30pm.

Our first session for the year will feature the ethereal Nikki-Lee Birdsey, Ellen Morgan Butler, Chris Tse, and Sam-Duckor Jones (reading a sneak peek from his new collection Party Legend which will launch from VUP in June!).

Poetry Shelf: Love Letter to Featherston’s Booktown Festival

Dear Featherston Booktown

Thank you so much for inviting me to the fabulous Wairarapa to perform and feast on the words of others, to stay in a cosy cottage where it was quiet and pitch dark at night (so I felt right at home) and where Virginia cooked me crepes with ratatouille that were so fresh and herby and melted in your mouth (just what I needed after a long day travelling with a thousand hiccups), to touch base with David and his fabulous Hedley’s book stand that stocked poetry gloriously galore, to wander around the bookstalls crammed in the hall and discover some gold-nugget books,

to eat the best afghans ever with my best mate Selina Tusitala Marsh in the Supper Room, to hear Selina woo the Fish-n-Chip eaters with her sensational knotty Mophead work in progress, and hear her stories about performing for the Queen, to arrive early the next morning and hear Biggsy, Selina and Ben Brown talk in the “on the couch” session

to do a two-hour poetry workshop with local children and their mothers and get them all zinging and shining with poems (will be posting poems from this on Poetry Box soon)

to drive over to Greytown and eat the tastiest tofu dumplings ever, and then head to Martinborough to stock up on wine and relish for the family and to have dinner with our new reading ambassador Ben Brown and other authors and really click with Ben’s wisdom and approach to writing and working with children, and to eat a big fresh fruity breakfast to stock up my empty energy tank so I could stay up late and hear our national treasure John Campbell MC True Stories Told Live, and hear Renee’s wit and daring at 91 with a hilarious deadpan tale of action and “pot” plants, and then Anahera Gildea’s daring (at half that age) as she laid down a challenge for the rows of white men in the Anzac Hall photographs and for us, most definitely for us, and reminded us to bust up our immunity to the undercurrent words and images that surround and shape us if we are to move forward as a nation, and I just loved her for her words, and I wanted to hug her close, and it got me thinking of all the women in Wild Honey who had struggled to speak and to be heard as poets and as women for a century, and I thought YES! this is my festival highlight

and then downstairs to my late night Collision event between old and emerging poets and there I was hoping I would last the distance old woman me and not be nodding off in my chair next to my best mate Selina but I held up Wild Honey and said this book was my book of communities and connections just like a poem is community and connections just like Booktown is community and connections as are the bridges between readers and writers, and I shared a poem from my secret project and all that stockpiling self doubt that had accumulated over the past year in my hermit state just flitted off like moths to the light

and I got to hug all the Show Pony poets and talk reviews with Rebecca Hawkes and it felt like a transfusion of poetry love

and how good it felt to hear Tayi Tibble and Sam Duckor-Jones read from their new books and earlier on to hear Rachel McAlpine, Vana Manasiadis, Helen Rickerby, Carolyn DeCaro and Emma Barnes make poetry spark from whispery to loud

and to see gift-to-us Tara Black comic-stripping the sessions!

and to barely sleep but to keep on my feet and somehow do a poet’s response to the four sublime poetry finalists in the Ockham NZ Book Awards and shuffle on the spot and say this year it is too close to call but that I will dance for joy whoever wins (Mohamed Hassan, Nina Mingya Powles, Hinemoana Baker, Tusiata Avia)

and to wish I had had the stamina to talk to all the people who wanted to talk to me instead of scurrying back to the cosy cottage or the back seat of my little hire care like an awkward mouse needing to reboot

and to feel sad I was too spinning-out-tired to hear the Show Ponies again especially when I heard how magnificent organiser Freya Daly Sadgrove was

and to somehow drive over the glorious Rimutaka mountain range on Monday morning with mist and cloud and spine tingling views, and go to Good Books and fill a box with book treats and talk books with dear Jane Arthur and meet author extraordinaire Eamonn Marra

and then and then

to find my way home.

Thank you Mary and Peter Biggs, Mary McCallum and the Booktown crew for your special festival, rich in community and connections. I had a wonderful time.

Aroha nui

Paula Green

Unity Books’s Marion Castree, poet Vana Manasiadis and I toast the end of the festival with green tea (for me) at Featherston’s wonderful Royal Hotel

(Poetic Licence: too tired to get words and photos and sequence of events in right order!)

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Anuja Mitra’s ‘the widow stands trial’

the widow stands trial

I’ll miss the attention,

that much is true.

the neighbours clutching

bags of flour at my door

as if all I could think to do

was eat. I appreciate the show

of sympathy, though of course

some hungers are larger

than that. winter bit like a dog

that year. I watched my breath

feathering the window

as our men prised

last life from the land, scouring

her cold cheeks for plunder.

funny: to them Mother Earth

is a harsh mistress

and not the first woman

we learned how to ruin.

but I digress — all this is just scenery

and you want to hear of the death.

see, severed from one husband

I wed Rumour in the night,

placed a band on my finger

and pledged to be his. now

my hand throbs pleasantly

as the villagers talk:

see how her face betrays

guilt not grief. she must have

done it. she must have

snapped.

much mythology there is

around the snap.

sometimes it happens

when you are slicing an apple

and a spider slinks out

from its bowels.

sometimes it happens

the third time he strikes you

(though rarely at moments

so climactic as that).

and sometimes it happens

alone in the fields,

hills pulled flush

against the gash of horizon

when something in you unlatches

and swings free like a gate

to some forbidden arch, some space

for the soul to surge through.

perhaps my story needs more

of a relatable flavour.

very well. to the judge

who asks how I plead,

I’ll say I’ve been pleading

all my life:

for some measure of grandness

to fill my wifely days,

some passion to slip through

the cracks of those hours

when I stood fishing ants

from the sugar.

a life for a life. his concluded

to make way for mine.

or so my accusers would say.

gentlemen of the jury, you must examine

my account; turn it round in the light

like some lovely old clock

whose hands you are not sure

you can trust.

there lies the question

you are asked to decide:

what unseemly things

have these hands seen?

let us put that to rest

as I did my good husband —

and while you deliberate

you may find me in the fields;

arms raised heavenward,

light catching my knife

like a smile.

Anuja Mitra

Anuja Mitra lives in Auckland. Her writing has appeared in TakaheMayhemCordite Poetry ReviewStarlingSweet MammalianPoetry Shelf and The Three Lamps, and will appear in the AUP anthology A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand. She  has also written theatre and poetry reviews for TearawayTheatre ScenesMinarets and the New Zealand Poetry Society. She is co-founder of the online arts magazine Oscen.

Poetry Shelf Theme Season: Ten poems about dreaming

Not many younger poets sent me poems about ice but there were loads of dreaming poems. I have always loved poems that dream because poetry is a close relation with its slants, mists, hallucinations, and deep personal cores. I sometimes think that to dream is to write. To enter the opaque, to reclaim the obvious, to have no idea where you will end up or how you will get there. To astonish yourself.

I am so very grateful to the poets and publishers who have backed my themed poetry season with such loving support.

Ten poems about dreaming

the dream is real

the moon is an open eye

high in the sky or winking

at the world below

the wind is the sea’s breath

rustling the leaves in the trees

night is a dark river

flowing through the day

a bird is a song

the dream is real

clouds are ghosts

flight is a wing

Apirana Taylor

from a canoe in midstream, Canterbury University Press, 2009

Insomnia

it is a black night

I lie perfectly still

mine is the long

awake adult body

two small boys

flickering at either side

night sweats

bad dreams

fluttering in and

out of sheets

I lie black

in between

head

thorax, abdomen

trembling children

my wings

Karlo Mila

from A Well Written Body, Huia Press, 2008

My Father Dreams of His Father

My father dreams of his father

walking in the garden of the old family homestead

on Kawaha Point.

I have not been back since he passed away.

As decrepit dogs wander off under trees

to sniff out their final resting places,

elderly men wait in the wings

rehearsing exit lines.

I’m sure my grandfather never envied his dog more

than during those last days.

I’m sure, given the choice, he would have preferred

to slip away under the magnolias.

The garden is tended by different hands now.

My grandmother still walks by the lake,

her little dog in tow. The current man of the house

is more interested in the chasing of swans

than the cultivating of camellias.

My father dreams of his father

walking in the garden of the old family homestead

on Kawaha Point.

I have not been back since he passed away.

Claudia Jardine

from AUP New Poets 7, ed. Anna Jackson, Auckland University Press, 2020

Sentries

I’m frantically chasing my mother who weaves in and out of the aisles throwing down craft supplies. I trip over scissors and quick unpicks

not seeing her face, only clean ponytail and collar poking out over plum cardigan. We run between shelves of antique vases but lose contact with the linoleum

and float out. In this world we drive couches like cars. I’m picking one up from the junkyard with a blue shag cushion for reference. Bumper stickers are glinting

while the couches lie gridlike. We scramble through the drivers’ seats running fingers through the upholstery. In the winter gardens there are fish tanks

nestled between succulents. One has a tangle of thin eels within it. Boys tap on the home of a solitary neon tetra until it shatters. I hold the fragments together

and try to keep the fish swimming in a handful of glass and water. They put me in the newspaper. I run out to catch you in the ocean, my mother

but you keep dipping under. As I look around I notice, embedded in rock formations are those white plastic fans, not rotating anymore just facing the horizon.

Lily Holloway

originally published at The Spin Off, October, 2020

interventionalist god

in my dream nick cave had a long, thick black mane.

it swung around his hips, kissed

with a bright white streak

snaking its length.

he served noodle soup at the concert

full of moving mushrooms, blooming

into elegant dancing technicolour spores;

tasted like purple.

the show was very red, like the blood

of his falling son. my mother

was falling too,

drunkenly, over crimson seats,

hurting her back and lying down with the room spinning.

pissing off the man in the toupee, and toupee’s wife.

nick drawled, don’t worry,

sung a song sad and it broke us,

spun around inside a steel cage,

spray-painted KINGS on our leather jackets

so we could get into his next stadium show free.

afterwards, we matched up our snails in the foyer.

nick was smoking through tears out back,

about to catch a flight, saying,

i think i’ve met someone with your name,

and it was you already.

Hebe Kearney

Lake Wakatipu

A jade lizard bends in a circle,

chasing its tail;

straightens, and darts for a crevice.

Mist swathes in grey silk the lake:

flat-stomached, calm, slow-pulsed,

a seamless bulk.

Vapours spiral,

pushing up to a cloud-piercer,

where snow has been sprinkled

like powder from a talc can at height.

Grandeur stands muffled.

The Earnslaw headbutts shorewards.

After lying prone for years,

rocks shift downwards

at speed, eager to wheel

through air, crash in a gully,

and not move.

The lake buttons up to dive deep,

leaving a perfectly blank black space,

through which you might fall forever.

David Eggleton

from Edgeland and other poems, Otago University Press, 2018

Daisy

This town is just one great big farm. The main road runs alongside these power poles tilted over green green paddocks, the lines all sagging, the poles on the piss. You hit it at forty k and slug down the main street, past the Strand, the Top Pub, the Nott. Past blue election billboards and wooden fences painted red with Water Gouging and Inheritance Tax. The arterial line is just panel beaters, tractors, pots of pink flowers dripping from shop windows. She says they look like icing. And these cows. There are forty-two of them, all painted up to look cultural. Blue like an old tea cup, pearls and roses dribbling over the rim. One unzipped at the side, with muscle and guts peeking out like baked beans and salmon. One flower power cow, real LSD yellow and orange, like it sorta wandered over from Woodstock and got lost for years and years. Little kids run across the road just to touch them. Name their favourites after their pet cats. Rusty, Mittens, Boots. They’re bolted to the pavement so at night they just haunt the main street, all washed out and hollow. But the worst is that giant one right at the start of town. Two stories high, with black splotches like flames of tar. I have these dreams that the paddocks are on fire and the ground is opening up and all you can hear is mooing. The Mega Cow watching over his herd like some great milky God. The trains rattle past at dawn and wake me up. The cows hardly blink.

Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor

from Ngā Kupu Waikato: an anthology of Waikato Poetry, ed. Vaughan Rapatahana, Self Published, 2019

Tilting

The woman on the bus said

I’ve never been on a bus before

as she lifted her bag

a miniature suitcase

black and shiny as a beetle.

Next time you’ll know what to do

said the driver as he stood on the brakes

pointed to the building on the left and said

The lift’ll take you to The Terrace.

There were no ledges on The Terrace

just buildings tilting and leaning

and the wind to push against.

That night, unpacked and tired

the woman climbed on her black beetle bag

and flew across the harbour

soaring above its flat cool face

staring deep into its mouth

and wondering about earthquakes.

The next morning the bus driver couldn’t shake

the woman from his mind.

As he left the depot

his bus pshishing and grinding through peak hour flow

he checked his mirror

but she wasn’t there

instead he saw the edges of his bus converting

row by row, slice by slice

into a huge loaf of bread.

The aroma filled the aisles

stirring the appetites of even

his sleepiest passengers

and when he neared the end of Lambton Quay

all that was left of the bus, was the crust.

Some like the crust, some don’t, he thought

as he chewed and chomped

until the last crumb fell

into the gutter, into the drain

into the harbour, and out to sea.

What now? he said

peering skywards, catching a glint.

Trish Harris

published under the title ‘Openings’ in New Zealand Poetry Society Anthology 2015/2016

bone / tired

I am tired to my bones

this exhaustion

has wrapped around my ribs

sunk into my jaw

slunk

down

each vertebrae

I take deep slow breaths

each exhale

rattles the cage of ribs

I don’t sleep anymore

I just rattle around the house

the rooms empty of the wakeful

I touch each wall

like a talisman

like an averter of the evil eye

to avert whichever evil

might choose us tonight

I keep vigil

I don’t sleep anymore

rattle the bones

of the sleeping

I am rattled

to my bones

I don’t sleep anymore

the bones of my shoulders

have permanently rolled inward

they hunch

waiting for a fight

for a blow

I have never been in a fight

just in anticipation

of the fight, the flight

there are 27 bones in the human hand

I count them all

in lieu of sleeping

I am tired to my bones

I don’t sleep anymore

Rose Peoples

Pasture and flock

Staring up into the sky my feet

anchor me to the ground so hard

I’m almost drowning, drowning,

in air, my hair falling upwards

around my shoulders, I think I’ll hug

my coat closer. I’m standing

on hundreds of blades of grass, and

still there are so many more

untrodden on. Last night, in bed,

you said, ‘you are the sheet

of linen and I am the threads,’ and

I wanted to know what you meant

but you wouldn’t wake up to tell me

and in the morning you didn’t

remember, and I had forgotten

till now when I think, who is

the blades of grass, who is the pasture?

It is awfully cold, and my coat

smells of something unusual.

It almost seems as if it is the stars

smelling, as if there were

an electrical fault in the sky,

and though it is almost too dark

to see I can see the sheep

moving closer, and the stars

falling. I feel like we are all

going to plunge into the sky

at once, the sheep and I,

and I am the sheep and I am

the flock, and you are the pasture

I fall from, the stars and the sky.

Anna Jackson

from Pasture and Flock: New & Selected Poems, Auckland University Press, 2018

Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor was awarded the 2018 Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Essay Competition, and the 2017 Monash Prize for Emerging Writers. Her work has appeared in Starling, Mayhem, Brief, Poetry New Zealand, Landfall, Turbine, Flash Frontier, Mimicry, Min-a-rets, Sweet Mammalian, Sport and Verge. She is Poetry New Zealand‘s 2021 Featured Poet. She writes thanks to the support of some of the best people on this great watery rock.

David Eggleton is the Aotearoa New Zealand Poet Laureate 2019 – 2022. His most recent book is The Wilder Years: Selected Poems, published by Otago University Press. 

Trish Harris has written two books – a poetry collection My wide white bed and a memoir The Walking Stick Tree. She teaches non-fiction on the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme, is co-founder of Crip the Lit and edited their 2019 pocketbook, ‘Here we are, read us: Women, disability and writing’. She says she’s a part-time crane operator…but maybe she’s dreaming?

Lily Holloway has a Teletubby tattoo and is forthcoming in AUP New Poets 8. You can find more of her work here

Anna Jackson lectures at Te Herenga Waka/Victoria University of Wellington, lives in Island Bay, edits AUP New Poets and has published seven collections of poetry, most recently Pasture and Flock: New and Selected Poems (AUP 2018). Thoughts on dreaming and on being dreamed about can be found here and here.

Claudia Jardine (she/her) is a poet and musician based in Ōtautahi/Christchurch. In 2020 she published her first chapbook, The Temple of Your Girl, with Auckland University Press in AUP New Poets 7 alongside Rhys Feeney and Ria Masae. Her work has also been published in Starling, Sport, Landfall and Stasis. For the winter of 2021, Jardine will be one of the Arts Four Creative Residents in The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora, where she will be working on a collection of poems.

Hebe Kearney is a poet from Christchurch who now calls Auckland her home. Her work has appeared in The Three Lamps, Oscen, Starling, Forest and Bird, a fine line, and the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021.

Dr Karlo Mila (MNZM) is a mother, writer, award-winning poet and leadership programme director. Of Tongan and Pākehā descent, her creative and professional career has focused upon Pasifika peoples in Aotearoa. Her book Dream Fish Floating won the best first book of poetry in the NZ literary awards in 2005. Karlo lives in Tāmaki Makaurau with her three sons. Her third poetry book Goddess Muscle was published by Huia in 2020.

Rose Peoples is from Te Awakairangi/Lower Hutt. She is a student at Victoria University and, having finished her law degree last year, decided that the logical next step was to embark upon a Masters in Literature. She is a bookseller at Good Books. Her work has previously appeared in Cordite, Mimicry and Starling.


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.

Ten poems about clouds

Twelve poems about ice

Poetry Shelf celebrates new books: Courtney Sina Meredith reads from Burst Kisses on the Actual Wind 

Courtney Sina Meredith reads two poems

Courtney Sina Meredith is a distinguished poet, playwright, fiction writer, performer, children’s author and essayist, with her works being translated and published around the world. A leading figure in the New Zealand arts sector, Courtney is the Director of Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust, an organisation committed to championing Oceanic arts and artists. Courtney’s award-winning works include her play Rushing Dolls, poetry Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick, short stories Tail of the Taniwha and children’s book The Adventures of Tupaia. Burst Kisses On The Actual Wind is Courtney’s new collection of poetry, the book was released just this month by Beatnik Books. 

Beatnik Books page