Monthly Archives: April 2015

Finalists for The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2015


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The judges are delighted to announce the three finalists for the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2015.


The prize attracted almost 200 entries from across the spectrum of New Zealand poets, from the new and emerging to the established and the iconic. The shortlist was chosen by the 2015 guest judge, Irish poet Vona Groarke.


The finalists are:

Diana Bridge: a Wellington-based poet, the author of five collections, including aloe & other poems (2009).

Alice Miller: a New Zealand poet based in Vienna, whose first book The Limits was published in 2012.

Ashleigh Young: a Wellington-based editor, essayist, and poet, whose first collection of poetry, Magnificent Moon, was published in 2012.


“The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize is about celebrating poetry,” says judging panel member Sarah Ross. “The diversity of the entries received, and the tonal and formal complexity of the best work, its deftness, its moments of insight, poignancy, and humour – all of this has made the judging process enormously rewarding. So too has working with the generous and perceptive Vona Groarke.”


The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize aims to make a substantial ongoing contribution to supporting poetry in New Zealand. The value of the prize is $12,000 in 2015.


The three finalists will read in a free session at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday 17 May from 1.30-2.30pm in the Upper NZI Room, Aotea Centre, Auckland. Vona Groarke will announce the winner at this event

Queries should be emailed to:

For photos or other details of finalists please email

For more information about Sarah Broom or the Poetry Prize visit




Diana Bridge

Photo credit: Simon Woolf

Diana Bridge has published five collections of poems, the latest of which, aloe & other poems, came out in 2009. She was awarded the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award in 2010, for her distinguished contribution to New Zealand poetry, and her essay, ‘An attachment to China’ won the 2014 Landfall essay competition. Diana is based in Wellington.

Vona Groarke writes: “Whether it is the violence of medieval history, the engagement with nature, or a re-imagining of Ovid that is the subject, Diana Bridge’s poetry has authority and elegance. Technically sophisticated, this work is complex but never obscure; lyrically charged but never sentimental. It is unflinching in its observational commitment, but also enjoys its ability to fashion unusual and arresting imagery. There is a kind of fierce beauty to this work, alongside its rigorous intellect and formal grace. In a description that rings true of much of her work, her poem ‘Prospero’s Stones’ notes, ‘driven phrases that lap /around each other’: this is a poetry that is linguistically alert, but that also remembers to ply sound and meaning into the kind of poetic weave that is colourful and playful, but also careful, thoughtful and wise.”



Alice Miller

Photo Credit: Dylan Whiting

Alice Miller’s first book The Limits was published by Auckland University Press and Shearsman in 2014. She is a graduate of the International Institute of Modern Letters and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Last year she was a Grimshaw Sargeson Fellow, a Visiting Writer at Massey University, and a resident at the Michael King Centre. She is based in Vienna.

Vona Groarke writes: “The ‘I’ and ‘We’ of Alice Miller’s poetry are rarely familiar and never predictable. The same is true of her poems, which are fully-charged and teem with surprises of imagery, narrative and language. Nothing moves in a straight line in this work: instead, the poems tend to turn on small pockets of beguiling mystery. Characters emerge out of an apparent nowhere and do the darndest things before they slip off again, as if in secret, out of the sightline of the poem. It all makes for an intense and intensely involving experience: the lines are so well managed and the narrative so deftly and subtly manoeuvred as to leave one ruffled, but pleasantly so. What might seem like aphorism turns out to be a strange and complicated proposition, as in ‘Saving’ where, ‘some of the moments we cling to most / are the futures we never let happen’. This is work that turns on a sixpence, and that manages each of its fascinating turns with assurance and aplomb.”



Ashleigh Young

Ashleigh Young is an editor, essayist, and poet. Her first collection of poetry, Magnificent Moon, was published by Victoria University Press in 2012, and recent work appears in Sport, The Griffith Review, Five Dials, and Tell You What. She co-teaches a workshop in science writing at Victoria University with science writer Rebecca Priestley, and she blogs, mostly about cycling, at Ashleigh is based in Wellington.


Vona Groarke writes: “Ashleigh Young’s poems defy their tight spaces to offer expansive and resonant narratives. Hers is a poetic world that derives great charge and vigour from proper nouns – named people and places -and specific, beautifully delineated detail that, as in flash fiction, sparks an entire world to life. People talk to each other in these poems, and whole lives get encapsulated in the kind of language that is as exact as it is vivid, as careful as it concise. Take for instance, ‘Electrolarynx’ with its arresting line: ‘Then our silence made a condemned building of us all’, or the opening of ‘Become road’: ‘When the car stops we are beginning already to become road’. These are poems that begin with the familiar, and then carefully walk it to the edges of perception, where it catches the light in arresting, singular and finely memorable ways.”

John Dennison’s Otherwise — a literal evocation and a metaphorical ripeness


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Otherwise, John Dennison, Auckland University Press, 2015

John Dennison was born in Sydney, raised in Tawa, studied in Wellington and St Andrews, Scotland, and is currently a university chaplain at Victoria University. His debut poetry collection, Otherwise, carries glowing endorsements from Vincent O’Sullivan and Gregory O’Brien on the back. It is a co-publication with Carcanet Press in the UK. He has also authored Seamus Heaney and the Adequacy of Poetry (forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2015).

This debut collection is a collection to slip in a pocket and savour on a daily basis.

Otherwise is imbued in love. Take ‘Touch and Go’ for example. You see ‘love’ in a moment caught within the poem’s frame; a blackbird, the game played, relations, life, dusk. And then the game becomes other. Like a tantalising elsewhere, so that just as things hide and seek, the world slips and slides and settles, in view out of view, a world hiding and a world revealed, open closed. Throughout  the collection, there is a consistent sway between a need to be literal, to celebrate this thing and that moment, and a need to lay the trope of elsewhere. A literal evocation and a metaphorical ripeness. And that sway gives the poems a delicious, almost metaphysical shimmer. A shiver almost. Like the sight is steam rising after rain upon the summer path.

There is also a love of language that is contagious. You want to keep reading and you want to start writing. Delicious phrasing abounds: ‘hot glob of dust’ ‘My lighthouse, my love, the rocks are night all around.’ Musicality is scored deftly upon each line: ‘small branches fret the roofing iron.’ Individual word choices refresh and surprise, particularly in the case of verbs and nouns: ‘this acupuncture of light’ ‘You wake as you home across London’s/ threshold.’ There are the repetitions, a word or phrase that slips to reappear a few lines later because ‘some things bear repeating.’ Comfort for the ear and then a shift in meaning.


Many poems stand out. For example, John’s reprisal of Allen Curnow’s ‘Lone Kauri Road.’ This carries the gold of Allen’s poem in its veins and then it moves elsewhere. One of the best reprisal’s I have read in ages. Here is how it ends:


(…)  Forgive my making light of

the glass half-empty and you weighing up the dregs;


but I will get up like a love-cast father

awakening to children’s voices, the night-

time true underfoot, who hears their laughter


and finds, at the unclosed door, the seam of light.


You will fall upon spiritual traces, stepping stones if you like, along an underlay-stream: ‘a congregation welling up’ (geese), ‘this sometime church’ (a swimming pool), ‘the joining of hands,’ ‘when by grace we vowed to enter marriage.’

The title of the collection signals ‘otherwise’ and it is there in the title poem: ‘We are so otherwise, and elsewhere lies our hope.’ This is the joy of the collection: the way the poem grounds you  in the marvellous detail of the here and now so you feel earthed, and then uplifts you to the transcendental possibilities of elsewhere. To a state of philosophical musing. Not all the poems held my attention, but unlike similar experiences with other books, I know it is a matter of returning at a different time to find that captivating entry point. This is a tremendous debut.


Auckland University Press page




An invitation to Dunedin’s young poets – celebrate National Poetry Day 2015

from WriteNow:

We want to hear from Dunedin’s talented young poets. All secondary school writers (years 9-13) from Palmerston to Dunedin to Milton are invited to submit poems to the Dunedin Secondary Schools Poetry Competition.

Three poems will be selected to be featured on billboard posters distributed as part of National Poetry Day celebrations to shops, libraries and all Dunedin intermediate and secondary schools.

The three winning poets will each receive a $50 book token from the University Book Shop. In addition each winning poet will have the opportunity to read their work alongside three of New Zealand’s renowned poets – Dunedin’s David Eggleton and Carolyn McCurdie and Wellington’s Hinemoana Baker – as part of Dunedin’s National Poetry Day event on Friday 28 August at the Dunningham Suite, Dunedin Public Library. Winning and highly commended poems will also be published on the website:

Entries will be judged blind by Dunedin poet David Eggleton.

For further comment, contact Sue Wootton on 027 2000 850


Entries close 5pm, Friday 3 July 2015

How to enter and further details available here

Donations are now being sought for IIML’s National School’s Poetry Award 2015.

Donations are now being sought for IIML’s National School’s Poetry Award 2015.

Set up by Bill Manhire in 2003, this award is a golden opportunity for secondary-school students keen on creative writing.

As Tim Fraser, Hutt International Boys’ School, 2013 runner-up says: ‘The National School’s Poetry Award was something I never thought I could place in but I did it, ever hopeful. Getting in the top ten has much improved my confidence in my own skills. I will definitely continue to create poetry and certainly this Award has been a booster towards my belief in my abilities.’

Margie McLaren, who teaches at Baradene College, is also convinced: ‘The main benefit is the new confidence instilled in the students about the value of poetry in a utilitarian world which does not always attach the significance to poetry that it deserves . . . The Award is an affirmation of the many benefits of working with and celebrating language, and the special ways in which poetry can reflect human experience. The opportunity of entering for the Award has been a very positive and rewarding experience.’

You can donate here.

Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English — I flipped a question that I carried with me through my doctoral thesis


Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English editors Robert Sullivan and Reina Whaitiri (Auckland University Press, 2014)

I am curious as to how many Māori poets we can name beyond a handful, beyond the much loved Hone Tuwhare. Open a New Zealand literary journal and do we still fall upon a Pākehā bias? The arrival of Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English (2014) presents us with a selection of writing that celebrates a wide and vibrant field. The editors, Robert Sullivan and Reina Whaitiri have brought a glorious range of voices into the spotlight.

Robert, of Ngāpuhi/Irish descent, is a poet and anthologist, and is currently Head of the Creative Writing Programme at Manukau Institute of Technology. Reina, of Māori/ Pākehā descent, is also a poet and an anthologist, and has taught English at the Universities of Auckland and Hawai’i. Along with Albert Wendt, Robert and Reina edited Whetu Moana (AUP, 2003) and Mauri Ola (AUP, 2010).

Puna Wai Korero is a moving feast. The poets selected come from a variety of locations, circumstances, backgrounds, writing preferences. The choices of style, tone, subject matter and poetic techniques are eclectic. There is humour, inward reflection, love and loss. There are poems of the marae and poems of elsewhere. There are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. There is politics on the quiet and politics loud and clear. There is grief. There is home. There are familiar voices, there are those that are not. There are writers known for their fiction.

Through all this, I flipped a question that I carried with me through my doctoral thesis (does it make a difference if the pen is held by a woman?) to ask: Does it make a difference if the pen is held by a Māori. Do some writers deliberately and gloriously foster a Māori voice (perhaps, where the poet stands and writes from, how the poet stands and writes from, how the oratory traditions of the marae inflect the poetry, how genealogy inflects the poem and so on). I spent seven years hauling my question through politics, law, history, psychology, familial relations, art, literature, history, patriarchy within an Italian context and the Italian language. Over the past months, I have held a book that drew me in close to all of these things within the miniature frame of a poem and within the context of Aotearoa. You can view the poems within whatever cultural luggage you bring to them (a Western paradigm of how to write a poem and how to break a poem, both cemented by tradition and innovation). Or you can step out of that luggage and approach these poems afresh, and in doing so open out the ways in which we can make and read and hear poetry.

This was the first joy of reading this anthology — navigating the burgeoning questions for which I felt inept at answering.

The second joy, the equally sustaining joy, was the discovery of new writers along with a return to those well loved (whenever I visit secondary schools I share my James K Baxter/Hone Tuwhare anecdotes that kickstarted me on the path of poetry in 1972). A wee taste of what I have loved: a tingle in reading Hilary Baxter’s ‘Reminiscence,’ the heart and gap in all of Hinemoana Baker’s poems, the sharp kick of Arapera Hineira Blank’s ‘After watching father re-uniting with sons in prison,’ the utter joy of Bub Bridger’s ‘Wild daisies,’ the force of Ben Brown’s ‘I am the Māori Jesus,’ the insistent catch of Marewa Glover’s ‘Pounamu,’ the evocative laying of roots in Katerina Mataira’s ‘Restoring the ancestral home,’ the pocket narrative in Trixie Te Arama Menzies’s ‘Watercress,’ the piquant detail of Paula Morris’s ‘English grandmother,’ the subtle shifts in Kiri Piahana-Wng’s ‘Four paintings,’ the verve and aural steps of Vaughan Rapatahana’s ‘Aotearoa blues, baby’ (I want to hear him read this!), the sumptuous detail in Reihana Robinson’s “God of ugly things,’ the poetic and political and personal stretch of Alice Te Punga Somerville’s ‘mad ave,’ all of JC Sturm (especially ‘At times I grieve for you’), Robert Sullivan (especially ‘Voice carried my family, their names and stories’), Apirana Taylor (especially ‘Te ihi’ and ‘Haka’) and Hone Tuwhare (especially, most utterly especially ‘Rain’).

This is a book of returns, to be kept on every shelf. Bravissimo!

NZ Flash Fiction Day takes me back to a missing book: the deadline looms



Years and years ago I bought an anthology called Sudden Fiction and I loved the way the writing fell on the page in bright drops. Were the miniature pieces agonised over and crafted to a sweet and shiny essence or were they a quick and vital shedding of narrative (stream-of-conscious-like)? Tiny. Surprising. Saporous. I don’t remember such details and I can’t find my weather-beaten copy but I do remember the way the anthology sparked my attention.*

Nowadays, look each way and you find Flash Fiction.

Poet Michelle Elvy is a key supporter and writer of Flash Fiction in NZ. Many other NZ poets move between poetry and the lure of flash-fiction territory: Frankie McMillan, Owen Marshall, Mary McCallum, Rachel Fenton, Caoillin Hughes, Elizabeth Welsh, Gail Ingram, James Norcliffe.


National Flash Fiction Day is New Zealand’s celebration of the shortest form of fiction writing, on the shortest day of the year.

The 2015 NFFD competition opens Feb 1 – April 30. See the competition page for information and guidelines.

The 2012, 2013 and 2014 competitions were great successes with 300 entries each year. You can find the winners from previous years by clicking on the tabs at the top of the page.

In past years, National Flash Fiction Day has been celebrated with prize-giving ceremonies and presentations by the judges as well as readings in various hotbeds of flash all across Aotearoa.

Events will be posted on the website as they are put together this year.


website here




*Ha! I went online and discovered this:  ‘Here Are 70 of the very best short-short stories of recent years including contributions from such contemporary writers as Raymond Carver, Leonard Michaels and John Updike; a few Modern Masters as Hemingway and Cheever; and an assortment of talented new young writers. Sudden Fiction brilliantly captures the tremendous popularity of this new and distinctly American form.’ The book was published in 1983 so I was living in London. Maybe I left it there. I am sure there were women in it! But I can’t recall.