Monthly Archives: September 2015

NZ Book Council media release: Decision to place an interim ban on Into the River alarming for Kiwi readers

MEDIA RELEASE from NZ Book Council

9 September 2015

Decision to place an interim ban on Into the River alarming for Kiwi readers

The New Zealand Book Council is dedicated to encouraging a vibrant reading culture in New Zealand. We are therefore alarmed by the Film and Literature Board of Review’s decision to issue an interim restriction order for access to Into the River by Ted Dawe.

The ban means that a highly regarded, award-winning young adult novel cannot be sold or distributed by anyone, and will not be available to readers until October when the Board will consider placing a permanent age restriction rating for the book.

The New Zealand Book Council does not support the move to introduce a permanent age restriction for Into the River. This would mean that the novel could not be openly displayed on shelves in bookstores and libraries, and will drastically limit readers’ awareness of the novel and their ability to discover it.

The decision to impose an age restriction on a novel will set a dangerous precedent, which could lead to more books being restricted in New Zealand.

Peter Biggs, Chair of the Board of the New Zealand Book Council said that “The New Zealand Book Council is committed to opening up choices for readers and believes that access to books and reading is fundamental. Into the River is a challenging and ambitious novel that explores the reality of what many young people are struggling with in New Zealand today.

Furthermore, placing a permanent age restriction on Into the River will restrict the ability of family and whanau to make a decision on what is appropriate reading for their children; it will limit access for mature, advanced young readers.

Research demonstrates that reading fiction provides opportunities for people to understand real-life struggles that they may not otherwise be exposed to. For those experiencing any of the difficulties that are portrayed in this novel, a ban prevents an opportunity for others to understand, acknowledge or relate to their situation”.

For media enquiries, please contact New Zealand Book Chief Executive:

Catriona Ferguson
Phone: +64 4 801 5546
Mobile: +64 210 248 2637

Verge 15 — If all the issues have this vitality, and take you to a verge in such distinctive ways, it is worth a subscription



poetry is the mouthpiece of the unspeakable

Verge is a literary journal published by Monash University Publishing. The Press aims to bring ‘to the world publications which advance the best traditions of humane and enlightened thought.’

This issue is edited by two women with New Zealand links. Joan Fleming is a poet currently writing a doctorate on ethnopoetics at Monash University. Her second poetry collection, Failed Love Poems, has just been released by Victoria University Press. Anna Jaquiery is a Wellington based novelist. Pam Macmillan (UK) have published two of her crime novels. She is also completing a doctorate at Monash University in Creative Writing.

This issue contains poems and short fiction, and includes a number of writers with New Zealand connections (including Emma Barnes, Amy Brown, Lynn Davidson, Rosa McGregor, Lee Posna, Erin Scudder, Steven Toussaint, Sugar Magnolia Wilson).


Joan has written a terrific introduction that sent me down trails of sparking thought in view of my new project on NZ women’s poetry. She introduces the life-blood theme of the issue: errance (‘1. the act of travelling from one place to another without any clear destination 2. a wandering of the mind’).

Such a poetic prompt stands in for the way many writers work. Yes, there is a starting point but you then let go into uncertainty, discovery, uncertainty, electricity. Joan writes: ‘What we know and can’t know is a personal obsession of mine. I try and practice a mode of attuned, sensitive ignorance in my own poetry, as well as in my research.’ The word ‘can’t’ — a tiny hook as though taboo or impenetrable or withheld.

‘Errance’ also stood for the way I engaged with the issue as reader. In a sense (aural, visual), the work is afterness (Post Language) in that it steps out of Language Poetry. A thin, almost invisible guy rope. You enter into murkiness, the unfamiliar, difficulty, miniature theatrical stages, staged heart, aural agility, sumptuous image building, dissolution, elusive meaning, skerricks of story, smidgeons of character, semantic hinges. Aural chords. Visual melodies. Sharps and flats for ear and eye. What binds this collection of writing is an utterly infectious joy of language. A love of the word on the page — of the way this word electrifies that word. Or mutes. Or sidetracks.

I loved the metonymic kick between this word and that word, this presence and that absence, this gesture and that arrival.

Always poetic currency fermenting in the gaps.


Here are some of the poems I loved:

Cody-Rose Clevidence (I can’t reproduce the title correctly as the first word is crossed out) but the poem is from ‘Flung Throne.’ The looping, loping syntax brings you back to the word, then steers you to a pulsing visual tapestry. Hairs raising on the back of my arm as I read this.

Lee Posna ‘Job’s Clouds’ The poem takes ‘cloud’ as its poetic core and then surprises you at every twist and turn. The last line catches you, utterly.

Steven Toussaint from ‘Aevum Measures’ Reading this for me is a Zen-like experience where I get drawn into the moment of a line ( a word, a phrase) and everything stalls. The language — resplendent for the eye, divine notes for the ear. Poetry then becomes transcendental. Uplifting. Leads you elsewhere. Beyond this, for me, the surprising metonymic glints are a vital feature.

Cy Mathews ‘Old Song’ This is like a road poem, a skinny road poem (part fable)  spining down the page where nothing much happens, like that view that is always the same, never shifting, until you spend time and learn to look and there you are nestled in its alluring grip and difference.

Shari Kocher ‘Errancy: A Primer, after Emily Dickinson’ Poems split in two halves with an empty backbone that makes reading variable. You move through honeyed melody and crackling connections. Over that split between left and right. Up down. I acquired a compendium of phrases I want to keep with me for awhile.


Reading this issue it felt as though there is something in the air we are breathing. A poetry mist/spray that gets into our lungs. Motifs echo. Poetry here invites a different way of reading, yet never lets go of eye and ear. And still, in the very best examples, you meet that drumming heart. In the white space, the cracks, the cloudy patches, in the inbetween.

If all the issues have this vitality, and take you to a verge in such distinctive ways, it is worth a subscription. Bravo!






A call for earthquake poems

Call For Submissions

Proposed anthology of poems prompted by the Canterbury Earthquakes

There has already been a range of wide range responses to the earthquakes  – from moving to darkly comic, from passionate to offbeat and quirky.

All of this suggests – despite its rather bleak subject matter – a nuanced and richly varied collection of poems might be gathered together for possible publication in book form.

Local poets and editors Joanna Preston and James Norcliffe are currently gathering such material and would be interested in receiving work that might be appropriate.

The anthology is still very much at the projected stage and there is no certainty it will proceed. It is also proposed that any proceeds beyond publication costs be donated to appropriate earthquake recovery projects so that no individual payment will be offered.

We would be interested in considering either published or unpublished material.

Submissions, which should be sent to either

James Norcliffe  or  x-msg://2/

Joanna Preston  or x-msg://2/

Deadline:  October 30.

Small Holes in the Silence: where you can pre-order Norman Meehan & Hannah Griffin’s third musical poetry instalment


I love Making Baby Float.

I love hearing Hannah sing Bill.

A new CD on the October horizon.




I got to hear Bill Manhire’s glorious ‘Ballad of the Hurting Girl’ he sent to my Birthday Shelf.

You can order and listen here at Rattle Records, a division of Victoria University Press


Norman Meehan (piano)
Hannah Griffin (voice)
Hayden Chisholm (saxophone)

‘Following the popular and critically acclaimed Buddhist Rain and Making Baby Float, Norman Meehan and Hannah Griffin teamed up with saxophonist Hayden Chisholm for this third instalment in their New Zealand poetry series. The relaxed serendipitous style of Norman and Hannah fits Hayden like a glove. A musician of remarkably understated confidence and sensitivity, Hayden’s wonderfully nuanced phrases float effortlessly around the restrained sensitivity of Norman and Hannah.’ Rattle Records website


yes! reading out of a love of reading … and a desire to read on – Eleanor Catton’s talk at Melbourne Writers’ Festival at Horoeka/Lancewood

On Purpose: A Talk Delivered at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival 2015

  • by Eleanor Catton


    Reading is a creative act: it cannot happen automatically, and it cannot happen passively. Whether you are reading an academic argument or a poem, whether you are reading a dream or an appetite or tracks in the snow, you are using your imagination in the sense that you are seeing something more than what is there. You see not just the words, but what they mean; not just the people, but who they are; not just the shapes, but what the shapes suggest, and how, and why.

    It is impossible to read something when you are bored—in fact, this is a contradiction in terms, for boredom implies an imaginative lack, and reading is both the exercise of the imagination, and the enlargement of it. You can watch television when you are distracted or drunk or half-asleep—the picture will go on without you—but if you are any of these things with a book in your hand then you cannot really be said to be reading. On screen, sight and sound, which are external to the body, are separated from the bodily senses of smell, taste, and touch; on the page, all the senses must be invoked equally. So too with the immaterial dimensions: our imaginations, after all, are not only sensory, but emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and even moral.

    rest of talk here

check out ‘catch and release: Poems from Manawatu’ edited by Helen Lehndorf

catch and release:  Poems from Manawatu’ is the first e-publication from City Libraries and Community Services.  As part of the experimental poetry programme KUPU – PoetryBeyondWords, the book is one of a series of initiatives designed to engage the community in poetry writing.  Around two hundred and fifty submissions of poetry and proverbs were received and we’re thrilled with the response.

One of the aims of KUPU is to provide an avenue for poets of all levels to develop their engagement activities with local audiences, and act as a stepping stone in artistic development.  The point of the ebook was to create a piece of work that the contributing poets could use to profile their poetry.  “It is challenging starting out” says Genny Vella, City Cultural Coordinator.  “Being able to include publications in personal profiles and biographies adds a little more weight to the body of work poets are able to call on to demonstrate their talent”.

Ten poems were selected from forty submissions.  The result is a lovely anthology of works by known and previously unpublished poets about Manawatu – the creative expression of heart and place.

read them here

from Manukau Institute, Amber Esau’s striking essay is live at Horoeka Reading- panic, the inbetween

‘On Having My Card Decline at Countdown’ by Amber Esau

  • The checkout girl dropped the Nashi pears in with the dried goods and they’ll probably bruise. Do the job properly mate. I think she’s in the sixth form but you can never really tell these days even though I haven’t been out of high school long enough to get away with thinking that. A man in line at the next counter over holds his baby against his shoulder so that she’s facing me. Her milky spit dribbles down her dad’s back in time with the beeping of the wiry haired checkout girl. Louise, as her name tag reads, calls the total and I fumble around in my bag for my wallet. My least favourite part is finding it. My boyfriend says that I buy too much food for us but he’s never seen how my family has to shop. I pull my card out, swipe and punch in the pin. The blue digital daggers of shame strike up on the screen and I start sweat-shaking. I often panic, like a lot of people, about being too broke for everyone.

    Growing up in a house with no walls, sharing is expected and enforced by the way the air gels everything in place. The TV, the bodies, the sun slicing in through only the kitchen window at half past one; each finds themselves stretched amongst many hands. Everything is defined by relation. As the Samoan poet and novelist Albert Wendt writes: “We can only be ourselves linked to everyone and everything else in the Va, the Unity-that-is-All and Now.”

    This is a fabulous read. A timely read. Rest of essay at Horoeka Reading here 

Sarah Jane Barnett is launching Work at Vic Books soon



You are warmly invited to join Hue & Cry Press and Sarah Jane Barnett in launching WORK at Vic Books, Victoria University. All welcome.

In these six long poems Sarah Jane Barnett explores how people fight for a normal life. Set in Ethiopia, Paris, Norway, and New Zealand these astonishing poems take you into the lives of others—a grieving man leaves Ethiopia at the end of the civil war; a polyamorous couple have a child; a woman hunts a black bear on a New Zealand sheep station. Original and spellbinding, these poems walk the line between poetry and fiction.

WORK will be launched at Vic Books, Wellington. Sarah will read from ‘Ghosts,’ a speculative poem set in Norway’s northernmost town, Svalbard. The poem includes dialogue between the characters Diane and Fowler, who will be read by Wellington writers Therese Lloyd and Matt Bialostocki. Get ready for a performance!


where: Vic Books, 1 Kelburn Parade, Wellington

when: Thursday 22nd October, 5.30pm start with the reading 6-6.15pm.

Hue & Cry Press
Vic Books

If you can’t make the launch, WORK can be pre-ordered from Hue & Cry Press store:

the Women’s Bookshop is inviting you to select the Top 50 Women Writers of the past 50 years

….. I have made my 5 votes (with) difficulty! Decided to go kiwi all the way.


It’s 2015 and the Women’s Bookshop is inviting you to select the Top 50 Women Writers of the past 50 years

Margaret Atwood & Barbara Kingsolver were ‘neck ’n neck’ for the top two places on the list, with Janet Frame & Patricia Grace not far behind, in both of our nationwide surveys in 2005 and 2010. Five years later, with support from Harper Collins Publishers, we are organising our survey again, entirely online this time (much easier!)

Win the TOP 50 books!

Choose your top five women authors & then select your favourite book by that author. By voting, you will automatically go in the draw to win one of the five piles of the new Top 50 books.

The 50/50 LIST, and the prize winners, will be revealed at a celebration Champagne Party in the bookshop at 5pm on NZ BOOKSHOP DAY, Saturday 31 October – everyone welcome!

The survey opens on 1 September and closes on 9 October, giving individuals and book groups plenty of time to ponder and debate.


National Schools Poetry Award for 2015 – the results


I was delighted to see this award reinstated, and that some students would have a chance to do a workshop at IIML. Bravo! I was also delighted to see The NZ Herald do a decent feature on the result, with the winning poem posted in full. Bravo!

Congratulations to all those who were short listed and especially to Grace Lee.


Grace Lee, a Year 13 student at Auckland International College, has won the National Schools Poetry Award for 2015. Grace won the award for her poem ‘Eileithyia’, which she says was inspired by the timeless ritual of birth.

Cliff Fell—competition judge, poet and Victoria Teaching Fellow—says ‘Eileithyia’ is about the most universal of all things, being born. The title refers to the Greek goddess of childbirth and the poem renews the ancient rituals and rites relating to childbirth by seeing them through young, contemporary eyes. What drew Cliff to the poem was the gusto and exuberant music of its lines and imagery. “This is a poem that is unashamedly in love with the idea of life, and which conveys an emotion that is inevitably compelling.”

Grace was one of ten finalists in the poetry competition for Year 12 and 13 secondary school students. Entries came from senior secondary students all over New Zealand. Grace will receive $500 cash, as well as a $500 book grant for her school library. Her poem will be displayed on posters throughout New Zealand. In addition, Grace and the nine other finalists will attend a poetry masterclass at the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University’s creative writing hub, which takes place this weekend.

You can read the winning poem and those of the runners up here.