Monthly Archives: February 2014

Richard von Sturmer’s new collection is aglow


Book of Equanimity Verses  Richard von Sturmer (Puriri Press, 2013)

Richard von Strumer‘s latest poetry collection is an utter treat. Inspired by Wang Wei’s Zen text, The Book of Equanimities (100 koans), Richard has assembled his own set of miniatures. He has used the tanka form but added a few lines to expand upon each moment. And this new collection is indeed a celebration of moments – billowing, shimmering, luminous moments in time and place. Through the act of writing, Richard stops still and opens his senses to the world and its splendid detail, and in that loving attentiveness reproduces astonishing movement.

In the introduction, Richard cites translator Yoel Hoffman’s observation that a tanka poet observes nature and in that observation observes himself (the tanka is thus a two-way mirror). It is an interesting entry point to Richard’s poems. The pleasure of reading this collection is the pleasure of contemplation, but it is not as one might expect, solely a regard of the sublime. Instead you navigate fablesque and pocket narrative, alongside the ordinary profound. Everyday detail sparks and reverberates. The poetic moment might be a transcendental landscape, but it might also be a trembling morsel of anecdote.

The physical details are glorious: a field of violets, kings, strong fingers, Jean Cocteau, weeds, an iron raincoat, the muddy waves, fishhooks, spades and shovels. Yet what elevates these miniature poems is the movement within the poem itself. There is always a shift — a tremor, a sense of humour, a wry wit, a cartwheel or tumble, an oxymoron, a doubling, a subtle difference. In the midst of the rolling of the blinds and the ebbing tide, there is a paddock ‘nothing to add/ nothing to take away.’ Alongside ‘salmon swimming upstream’ we read ‘somehow we’ve drifted away/ from our original home.’ Or to read of the ‘cough’ alongside the ‘toast popping.’ Or the person ‘who drinks/ excessive amounts of water/ is denied access/ to the swimming pool.’ Or ‘I divide my time/ between High Street/ and the Tang Dysnasty.’

This delightful book is a book of sweet harmonies, unexpected, enthralling. Like Dinah Hawken and Bernadette Hall, Richard’s poetry is aglow with wisdom, empathy and a love of poetry. I urge you to add this book to your shelves.


Richard von Sturmer is a poet with four previous  publications.

New Zealand Book Council page

Richard’s Auckland Zen centre website

NZEPC page

Puriri Press page

An interview on YouTube

Dunedin reading Poetry invite



Here’s a special bonus for all of us in need of some live poetry:
Riemke Ensing will be reading at the Port Chalmers Public Library, 6.00pm on Thursday 27 February. No need to book, just turn up!

Riemke Ensing is an Auckland poet, born in Holland, and in her work ‘has distinctively synthesised European and New Zealand influences’ – NZ Book Council

She has had several volumes of poetry published. Among her recent achievements are first prize in the NZSA Kevin Ireland Poetry Competition 2012, and also in 2012 she received the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for poetry.

Call for submissions for JAAM

Call for submissions – JAAM 32: Shorelines


Submissions are now open for issue 32 of JAAM literary journal.

Sue Wootton

Sue Wootton

For this issue we are shifting south, and are delighted that Dunedinite Sue Wootton is our guest editor for our 2014 issue. Sue is probably best known as a poet – she has published three collections of poetry, most recently By Birdlight (Steele Roberts, 2011), and has won awards for her poems. But she’s also an experienced prose writer. Her ebook of three short stories, The Happiest Music on Earth, was published in 2012 and her children’s book, Cloudcatcher, came out in 2010. Sue has twice been a runner up in the BNZ Katherine Mansfield short story awards, has been a finalist in the Sunday Star Times and Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize short story competitions, and has won the Aoraki Literary Festival short story prize.

The theme for JAAM 32 is ‘shorelines’, and Sue welcomes submissions that consider this theme from any angle, loosely, or not at all.

JAAM publishes poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, essays, photography and other artwork. Please don’t send simultaneous submissions, more than six poems or more than three prose submissions.

JAAM prefers emailed submissions. Send to, using ‘JAAM submission’ (or similar) in your subject line, so we know it’s not spam. Include your submission(s) in the body of your email. If you have particular formatting, you can also include your submissions in an attachment (.doc, .rtf, .pdf or any image file type is ok for images).

If you don’t have email, you can post submissions to:

PO Box 25239
Wellington 6146
New Zealand

Make sure you include a stamped self-addressed envelope for reply.

The deadline for submissions is 31 March 2014, and JAAM 32 will be published in or around September 2014.

C A L L F O R S U B M I S S I O N S for Ika

C A L L   F O R   S U B M I S S I O N S

 Ika wants to swim with you

 Ika 2 is emitting a high-frequency call for submissions to its second issue. The deadline is 1 May 2014.

 Ika is the literary and arts journal of Manukau Institute of Technology Faculty of Creative Arts. Ika publishes poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, visual art and photography, from Aotearoa, the wider Pacific and beyond. Ika’s contributors include writers and artists who are fully submerged and those who are putting their flipper in the water for the first time.

Submissions can be emailed to

Electronic documents are preferred, but printouts together with a self-addressed envelope may be mailed to: Ika Journal, Faculty of Creative Arts, Manukau Institute of Technology, Private Bag 9400, South Auckland Mail Centre 224, New Zealand

There is a submission limit of eight poems, eight images, or 7,000 words of prose. Inquiries are welcome.

Editors: Anne Kennedy and Robert Sullivan

Launch of page : stone : leaf by Dinah Hawken and John Edgar

page : stone : leaf


poems by Dinah Hawken

drawings by John Edgar

The publication of this, the last book from The Holloway Press, will be celebrated at the Gus Fisher Gallery, 74 Shortland Street, Auckland, at 5.30pm, Wednesday March 5, 2014.


Dinah Hawken and John Edgar will both be present to speak, read and to sign copies of the book. Some stone pieces by John Edgar will also be on display.


This is a last opportunity to acquire copies of this beautiful book (50 copies only) at the pre-publication discount of 20%, $280. For further details about the book see the attached file.


All welcome.







poems by Dinah Hawken

drawings by John Edgar


Twenty-one new poems by distinguished poet Dinah Hawken together with eight drawings from stone rubbings in crayons and pencils by leading sculptor John Edgar. Poet and artist have worked closely together for several years to produce this profound and moving book.


Dinah Hawken writes: For many years I have been instinctively attracted to the word ‘stone’ and equally attracted to stone and stones. So it has been fulfilling to work with John on this crafted book. It amazes me that a thing as dense, plain, and as taken-for-granted as a stone can give rise to so many human ideas and associations. In that respect a stone is far from inanimate. It is a catalyst, like a page. The poems in page : stone : leaf carry some of my associations with stone, along with a very short history of the page and its inseparable links with leaf and stone.

John Edgar writes: As a sculptor I have always been fascinated by written language, especially ancient symbols and inscriptions on stone, clay and paper. I have studied stele and standing stones, grave stones, church floors and temple walls, and more recently modern digital code. After much thought on my drawings for this project, I returned to the language known as ogham; an ancient text of celtic origin which was inscribed in simple lines on stone or wood.

page : stone : leaf is designed and letterpress printed by Tara McLeod on a Littlejohn cylinder press. The type is 12pt Helvetica linotype set by Longley Printing Co. Ltd. Images printed by GTO printers. Binding is by Design Bind Ltd. The paper is 290gsm Tiepolo, mould made in Italy. Hardbound, 21 x 22 cms. 42 pages.55 copies. Price until 10 March 2014, $280; from March 11, 2014, $350.

Wonderful! Gregory O’Brien’s Citizen of Santiago with photographs by Bruce Foster


Photo: Bruce Foster, Gregory O’Brien and John Reynolds at Quintay, a short distance from Santiago on the Chilean coast, March 2013

Citizen of Santiago poems by Gregory O’Brien, photographs by Bruce Foster (Wellington: Trapeze, 2013)

As participants in the travelling exhibition, ‘Kermadec — Art Across the Pacific,’ Gregory O’Brien and Bruce Foster stayed in an apartment in Santiago de Chile between March and May in 2013 while the show was on. Both men went exploring the city, one with camera and one with pad and pen. The urban navigation resulted in Citizen of Santiago — a delightful collection of poems and photographs.

citizen of Santiago cover    citizen of Santiago cover

I have always been a fan of Gregory’s poetry and have often wondered what it is that draws me to it. Partly, I think, the uniqueness of voice; the quirky mind that accumulates detail as the poet inhabits the world, and then the way that detail prompts little tracks of thought that surprise and tumble and turn.

The opening poem, ‘sombrereria,’ goes way beyond the tourist snapshot. The poet takes hold of an object that catches his attention, ‘the hat,’ and then burrows in deeper (trademark O’Brien). This poem is modulated by place (we get details that might attract the tourist eye), but to me the poem goes beyond a specific location (the hat nourishes imagination and intellect, and acts as a pivot of meditation).  Lines ring out splendidly: ‘A hat goes a long way/ to making up its mind’ ‘A hat is also an ear/ listening in on/ the head’s business.’

The afterword mentions the story that the Architect Cristian Valdes told of the origins of the Valdes Chair (in a nutshell, father and son were playing tennis, and then the broken tennis racquet was transformed into a chair). It also describes how Cristian’s exhibit at the Kermedes show (two free-standing, gib-board structures) might be a prototype for a summer house that could be folded away to one wall in the off season. Gregory’s poem replays the story told, but also acts as a metaphor for the way a poem can be unfolded and refolded. This gets to the heart of what I love about Gregory’s poetry: the way his poems fold in on themselves, delicately, wittily, not just at the level of syntax but also at the level of thought and the layering of music). His lines are flipping what you see or think or feel back in on itself (like philosophical or poetic peelings — you hold the potato peeler).

Bruce Foster’s photograph’s also sidestep the expected tourist snapshot. As with the poems, there is repetition, echoes, images folding back into themselves, (easels, legs walking). The photographs place human activity centre stage; a city is more than bricks and mortar, it is a psychological state of mind, communities of people. Strangenesses. Points of empathy. Universal registers (father and son laughing in Bruce’s photo). Accumulating narratives.

In one poem, I read: ‘It was all down hill from here/ as everything is/ in the sloping city of Santiagio.’ In one photo, there is a man half hidden by a slanted tree — the tree denies us access to his face (really we only ever get a partial view on any page), but the detail within the frame is electric. The bright pink, plastic crates match the man’s trousers; you leapfrog from the hole in the tree to the diamonds in the crates to squares in the windows. In both poem and photograph, the detail is fertile ground for visual, aural and semantic pleasure.

The book, through both image and line, sets you upon the slopes of reading and viewing, and then sends you skating and skimming and stalling in this foreign place. It is a poetic treat.

citizen of Santiago spread pp18-19

The Kermadec show- Artists in the South Pacific here

Kermadec Gregory O’Brien page

Kermadec Bruce Foster page

Gregory O’Brien Beauties of the Octagonal Pool AUP

Gregory O’Brien NZ Book Council page

Entries now open for the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize — established poets welcome to enter

cp-gleam cp-tigers-at-awhitu

Entries are now open for the inaugural Sarah Broom Poetry Prize. Poets (both emerging and established) are invited to send in 6 to 8 poems (of which at least 5 must be unpublished).


The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize is inspired by the spirit of imagination, freedom and determination that marked Sarah’s life and work. The prize aims to provide recognition for a New Zealand poet and a financial contribution to support their work.

The prize will be awarded annually, based on 6-8 unpublished poems, to encourage and support the recipient in the completion of a full manuscript of original poetry.

Entries for the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize open on 3 February 2014 and close 14 March 2014 and the inaugural Sarah Broom Poetry Prize will be announced at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival in May 2014.

Shortlisted poets will be invited to read their poetry at a specific poetry event at the Festival.

Fundraising for the Poetry Prize is now underway and will determine the final amount awarded to the recipient. If you would like to contribute to the fund please make a donation with your credit card or internet banking via PayPal.

If you would like more information about donating please


Details on how to enter here

Bob Orr’s book launch at Grey Lynn Library was packed out


Grey Lynn Library was packed to the brim (I am talking as squished as sardines here) with poets, fans of poetry and Bob’s friend to celebrate the launch of his new collection, Odysseus in Woolloomooloo (Steele Roberts, 2014). The crowd was testimony to how much we love Bob’s poetry as I don’t recall seeing so many poets supporting an Auckland launch before. Grey Lynn Library is a beautiful old building and a superb place to launch a book. The photo only shows the left-hand side of the crowd (there was also the middle and the right-hand side!). Roger Steele sang a waiata with Brian Potiki.


Lovely to see these kind of events in libraries! Roger Steele kicked off with a impassioned introduction and Bob read some poems that had the audience whooping with delight.

Here are my speech notes:

I am delighted to launch Bob’s new poetry collection. It is the eighth collection from a poet who was an active figure in 1960s and 70s poetry scene in Auckland and who has been writing ever since. [Roger picked me up for saying Bob is an underrated treasure on NZ’s literary landscape but I was suggesting this, not in terms of his extensive fan base, but other spotlights that miss him!).

This stunning new collection is that of a seasoned traveller — not just the harbours and seas of his working life, but also the harbours and seas of poetry (along with dreams, memory, city streets and so on). His poetry always takes you to far-off places with names and details that make your feet restless.

On the back of one of my favourite books of his, Valparaiso, he writes: ‘When I wrote this book, each poem was the beginning of an adventure.’ I am sure it is the same with this book.

I will declare from the outset that I love this book. This is what I love about it.

Travel, voyaging, the seas, foreign places have often featured in Bob’s poetry — the ocean is his personal seal upon a poem — but Bob shows so terrifically that poetry never renders any subject redundant.

I walk along the black sand at Te Henga early most mornings with lines of poems flicking in and out of my mind. I fell upon these of Bob’s with delight:

‘the broken blue urn of a east coast beach’

‘down an iron sand creek that glitters to the sea’

I love the way detail becomes gold nugget in the poems and the eye of the traveller is not immune to the details of home. Place names chart routes (KRd, Surrey Crescent, CircularQuay, Ithaca, the other side of Saturn). And then there are the juicy pockets of food: melons, apricots, nectarines, sandwiches. I love the way each poem is full of quite surprising turns. In ‘Foodhall Sutra’: ‘Jane from Thailand wonders if I’m a “rich man”/ How can I tell her/ that after eating a dish of Hainan chicken/ I feel that I most likely am.’

It is as though Bob as a poet has the ability to pause the clang and clatter of life and absorb a moment — and then leave traces of that clang and clatter (and life) in his poems.

Some poems are dedicated to other writers — holding and reading this book I get a sense of a poetry family: David Mitchell, Cilla McQueen, Martin Edmond and so on.

In one poem, Bob says, ‘I have no odyssey worth mentioning,’ as though the past is shadowy and hard to grasp. But, then, in the next poems, he steps into the shoes of Greek heros and heroines, smudging past and present to shine a different light on both. In one poem you get a Waikato farm, The NZ Women’s Weekly, a one-eyed giant as tall as an oak. Marvellous.

As a collection, Odysseus in Woolloomooloo, is tender, meditative, witty, measured, finely crafted, intimate, moving, lyrical. So many standout poems — from the understated narrative and emotional kick of ‘Afghanistan’ to the gentle confession to Cilla McQueen in ‘The South Island’ to the reflective turns in the title poem to the spare and haunting lyricism of the last poem, ‘After Villon.’

And from that final poem: ‘I’ve only got left the roads of this year/ catching their breath for the future.’

Reading this book is a way of catching your breath. Congratulations Bob!


Thanks to Bob and Steele Roberts I have a copy of the book to give to someone who likes or comments on this post.

bob orr cover   bob orr cover

Bob Orr’s Odysseus in Woolloomooloo book launch


Bob Orr has published seven collections of poetry that have gathered fans the length and breadth of New Zealand. I am delighted to be launching his eight collection, Odysseus in Woolloomooloo (Steele Roberts) tomorrow evening. The poems take you travelling — not just along Bob’s trademark oceans but down local streets and across the seas of poetry. The eye of the traveller-poet is not immune to the details of home, so this fine and tender collection is a treat for your heart as much as it is your wanderlust feet.

Book Launch details:

Grey Lynn Library 474 Great North Road (Next to St Joseph’s Church)

Tuesday 4th February 6.30 pm to 7.30 pm


bob orr cover  bob orr cover