Monthly Archives: November 2015

New Executive Director for The Michael King Writers Centre brings a wealth of experience

New Executive Director brings a wealth of experience

The Michael King Writers’ Studio trust is very happy to announce the appointment of Ka Meechan as the new Executive Director of the Writers’ Centre.

Ka has comprehensive knowledge of the international book trade from over 30 years of experience working in New Zealand, the UK and Australia. She has travelled extensively during her career working with clients and partners across the globe.

In August 2013 Ka left her role as Managing Director, Asia Pacific with Nielsen Book Services where she was responsible for revenue and client management across the range of  bibliographic information and retail sales monitoring services  in the Asia Pacific region encompassing Australia, New Zealand and the Asian countries bordering the Pacific.

For the past two years Ka has worked with the Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ). Most recently she organized the PANZ International Summit in May and the PANZ Book Design Awards in July. She also project managed the Visiting Author component of New Zealand’s Guest of Honour programme at the Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE) in February 2015.

Ka says:  I am very much looking forward to working with the Michael King Writers’ Studio Trust to build on the successes achieved over the last ten years.

Catriona Ferguson, Chair of the Trust says “Ka will bring energy and enthusiasm along with vast experience of the literature sector to the Trust. We are thrilled that she has accepted the role of Executive Director”.

As the first national writers’ centre in Aotearoa New Zealand, the Trust’s mission is to support quality New Zealand writing and the development of New Zealand writers. The centre is based in the old Signalman’s House on Takarunga Mt Victoria, Devonport, Auckland.


Ka will take up her appointment on Tuesday 01 December 2015.

Damien Wilkin’s launch speech for Bill Manhire’s short story collection: ‘I think of these stories as ludic on the outside but ferocious in their hidden centres.’

Great launch speech!

It’s not a bad way to approach this book – to listen for the tune as much anything. Because while it’s true that these beguiling, discomforting stories take many strange and sudden turns, I was struck all over again by how hummable they are, how they stick to the ear and the mind.’

Launch speech here

Amy Brown’s Ekphrasis Lessons – this is really useful

Amy Brown has provided an easy, approachable introduction to ekphrasis for students, teachers and anyone who wants to do some creative writing but isn’t sure where to start.

The project was supported by the Ian Potter Museum of Art – all the images come from their wonderful Grimwade ‘Miegunyah’ Collection.

Here’s the link.

Poem Friday: Sue Wootton’s ‘Lingua incognita’ –



Lingua incognita


Some words dwell in the bone, as yet

unassembled. Like the word you want


for Weary Of The City, for Soul Tired; the word

you seek for Confusion Where Affection Once Existed


or the single vowel-filled syllable which would accurately render

Sensation of Freefall Generated by Receipt of Terrifying Information.


Down in the bone the word-strands glimmer and ascend

often disordered, often in dreams,


bone-knowledge beating a path through the body to the throat

labouring to enter the alphabet.


Maybe the bones ache.

Maybe the throat.


Your cells your language, occasionally articulate

in a rush of ease, the body clear as wellspring saying this is


The Moment of Illumination When One Allows that Water Yields to Rock, and Always Flows


and sometimes the only word to assemble in the throat is Yes

and sometimes the only word to assemble in the throat is No.


© Sue Wootton 2015


Author bio:  Sue Wootton’s poetry and fiction has been widely published, anthologised and translated. Her most recent publication is Out of Shape, a letterpress portfolio of poems hand set and printed by Canberra letterpress artist Caren Florance. She was recently placed second for the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize, and longlisted for the 2015 Canberra University Vice Chancellor’s Poetry Prize. A former physiotherapist, Sue has a special interest in the practice of the creative arts in healthcare. She holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Massey University, awarded with distinction, on the subject of creative fiction and the phenomenology of illness. She lives in Dunedin and is the current selecting editor for the Otago Daily Times Monday Poem column. Her novel, Strip, is forthcoming next year from Mākaro Press.

Sue’s website

Paula’s note: I love the way this poem grapples with the elusiveness of words, building in momentum from that point in the bone to that point in the throat. Inventive. Surprising. The elusive moments/notions/images glint as they escape. The ending shifts the pitch of the poem and delivers, for me, a moment of poignancy. I love this.



Six artists respond to the poetry of Joanna Margaret Paul


Thursday 26 November, 6.30pm
Six artists respond to the poetry of Joanna Margaret Paul
Light House Cuba

Fresh from the recent screening at Experimenta 2015, the BFI London Film Festival, the programme features short moving image works by Nova Paul, Rachel Shearer, Sonya Lacey, Miranda Parkes, Shannon Te Ao and the collective Popular Productions.

A prolific film-maker, poet, photographer and painter, Joanna Paul (1955-2003) quietly observed the intimate poetics of the domestic and the modest grace of her immediate surroundings. This programme presents an ambitious range of new moving image commissions shot in various spaces, including out of doors and within an artificial building complex made from salt. Each film has been inspired by a selection of Paul’s poetry, proving the resonance of her work in 2015.

According to a recent review in Frieze magazine: “New Zealander Joanna Margaret Paul’s films were made in relative artistic isolation from avant-garde film discourse in the mid-1970s, but are rooted in an acute feminist politics that focuses on concerns of shared female social spaces and everyday domestic situations.”

This screening of Six artists respond to the poetry of Joanna Margaret Paul is presented by CIRCUIT in association with the Adam Art Gallery’s current exhibition Fragments of a World: Artists Working in Film and Photography 1973–1987 (3 October – 18 December 2015) which features moving image and photographic works by Popular Productions, Joanna Paul and a number of her contemporaries.

$10 adults, $8 students/Adam Art Gallery Friends and Supporters
Seating is limited – to book email

Poetry Shelf review — Emma Neale’s Tender Machines takes you into a deep private space in her writing; in ways that sing and challenge, that move and muster every poetic muscle and tendon as you read

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Emma Neale Tender Machines Otago University Press 2015

Emma Neale’s new poetry collection features a striking drawing by her son, Abe. Surprising, inventive, poetic even. The poetry is Emma’s best yet, dare I say it. To step off from the title, tenderness meets sharp edges meets exquisite moving parts, small yet perfectly formed. The collection holds you in the intimate embrace of home, yet takes you out into the wider allure of the wider world. Issues, ideas, preoccupations.

The first section, ‘Bad Housekeeping,’ is where poet tends hearth. Mostly, and movingly, Emma navigates her relations with her young son.  She is up against the elbows of insistence, demands, resistance. The mind of the mother is anchoring, roving, admitting. She is in the heart of a toddler tantrum and in the palm of world issues. These poems affect you. You can savour the poetic craft that is honey for the ear. Such musical harmonies and schisms. That is one joy of reading. You can enter the toughness and rewards of motherhood. It is as though maternal experience is the stock pot that is simmered and concentrated to a syrup that is both sweet and tart on the tongue.  The poems become the kind of poems you can hang stories upon; of this child and that child, of this moment of mothering and that. Poetry has the ability to bear story, experience, imaginings, ideas, music — all in its one tender machine (oxymoron and all). These remarkable poems do this. ‘Hard Task, Master’ is a miniature snapshot of the child — its ending breathtaking:


as he tries

to build and build

the deck of himself

against the hard, tall wall

of the world.


At times it is the concatenation of verb or noun on the line that catches you in a knot of maternal thought — son glued to mother, mother glued to son. As in ‘Towards a Theory of Aggression in Early Childhood Development’:


Hit, push, lash, scratch,

these cheeks, this jaw, this shoulder,

are these in truth our edges, outlines, will we cry

as he does, daily, nightly, sky-wrenching as sunrise

yet still hold him in our arms


There is poetic braveness here that doesn’t loiter in conventional maternal paradigms. This is a poet opening layers of skin to get to where it hurts, confuses, demands, yet never loses sight of the enduring bond. The love. This is from ‘Domestic’:


you’re our darling our treasure.


You fling a tea cup at the cat,

plump up her spine like a goose-down pillow,


jab your thumbs at your father’s face

as if to pull out its two blue plums


but ah, little fisty-kins, honeyghoul, thorny-pie,

grapple hook of your daddy’s flooded eye,


stitch by stitch hope’s small black sutures

sew love’s shadow behind you.


The rest of the collection represents a mind engaged with the world at large. There is a strong political vein that never relinquishes the notion that the personal is political and that, importantly, the political is personal. Big issues such as consumerism, the compromised state of the planet, greed, waste are there potency ingredient in the ink of the pen, yet Emma’s ideas find poetic life in a variety of ways. Always there is an attentiveness to sound, to the way the poems hit the ear before the eye/mind drifts elsewhere. Assonance is plentiful. Delicious. The musicality is a first port of admiration that sends you back to reread with ears on alert. One poem, overtly and self-reflexively, plays with musical effects, yet delivers a subterranean plea for the earth (‘”Properly Protecting the Most Pure Marine Ecosystem Left on Earth Was Not Consistent with the Government’s Economic Growth Objective”‘. Here is a sample:


The spring tries to write

its long lyric poem again:

grass blade rhymes wing tip;

leaf rim, gull keen;

salt foam, thought arc;

surf break, line break;

historical break, heart break;

riven river, toxic stream;

smoked ozone, glacial melt.


So many standout poems. I especially loved the way ‘Suburban Story’ moves. It begins with a ‘shopkeeper at my old corner store’ and then travels through a poignant catalogue of losses, minor and major. Again the exquisite ear at work, again the pulsating detail.

This is a collection of reflection, revelation, absorption. Emma wrote many of these poems during her tenure as The NZSA/Beaton Fellow, The Otago Robert Burns Fellow and The University of Otago/ Sir James Wallace Pah Homestead Writer in Residence. Such awards benefit the poet immeasurably with the gift of writing space and time. You can see it in the gold nuggets of this book. In another favourite poem, ‘Sleep-talking,’ the clogged channels of thought become poetry. Emma takes you into a deep private space in her writing; in ways that sing and challenge, that move and muster every poetic muscle and tendon as you read — in this poem and in the book as a whole.


Perhaps for the self to hold its own air

it must be played in the key of sleep:

the body an instrument that over time

we must keep pitched, soaked in night like a reed softened in water,

while dreams tune the mind’s strings with a touch that seems

as precise as if the musician’s ear cranes deep



Otago University Press page

RNZ review

Emma Neale on her title

From the book: ‘Origins‘ posted on Poetry Shelf

Ah poem bliss: Summer Noelle is giving poetry a little spot in the sun

Summer Noelle has invited a number of New Zealand poets to talk about and read a poem they wish they had written.

I have just pre-recorded my choice with Noelle (you will have to wait until summer to find out which poem!)

What a treat to have a conversation with someone who has read and loved the poem too with such enthusiasm. After I finished, I realised I spend a lot of my time writing poems, and writing abut poems, but very rarely having conversations about poems. Ha! It is such a pleasure.

Maybe I need to invent a poetry book club.

Bravo Summer Noelle and RNZ!


A taster of what’s to come:

Bill Manhire’s kicking us off plus Paula Green, Michele Leggot, Ashleigh Young, Joan Fleming, Airini Beautrais, Elizabeth Smither.  Plus many more to come.

Just out: Landfall 230 is a strongly multicultural issue – includes Grattan Awards poems

Landfall 230


Press release:


Landfall 230 is a strongly multicultural issue, reflecting the diversity and energy of contemporary New Zealand writing, with contributions by, among others, writers of Mexican, Samoan, Rotuman, Chinese, Irish and Indian backgrounds.

A significant series of just-completed small oil paintings by Jeffrey Harris make up the first stunning art portfolio in this issue, followed by a series of 2015 paintings by Emily Karaka.


Featuring new poems by Riemke Ensing, Michael Harlow, Fiona Kidman, Cilla McQueen, Robert Sullivan, Peter Olds, Bernadette Hall, Airini Beautrais, Olivia Macassey, Kay McKenzie Cooke, Carolyn McCurdie, Hannah Mettner, Joanna Preston and Rogelio Guedea (translated by Roger Hickin) — Landfall 230 demonstrates the vitality and range of current poetic practice in New Zealand.

The Landfall Review includes, among other reviews, William Dart’s commentary on a recently published collection of writings by composer Douglas Lilburn; Peter Simpson’s review of Charles Brasch: Selected Poems; David Herkt writing about novelist James Courage; and Paul Moon’s review of Tony Ballantyne’s Entanglements of Empire: Missionaries, Māori and the question of the body.

Emma Neale, judge of the 2015 Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award, takes us through the difficult process of choosing a winner; and there is a showcase selection of the four best essays from the 2015 Landfall Essay Competition – eloquent, passionate, exhilarating non-fiction delivered by Tracey Slaughter, Philip Braithwaite, Louise Wallace and Therese Lloyd.

Celebrating the power of the literary imagination with inside stories and true confessions, short fictions and thoughtful critiques, Landfall 230 is testament to the rich variety and dynamism of the current state of New Zealand culture.



Landfall 230

Edited by David Eggleton

Release Date: November 2015

ISBN 978-1-877578-91-5, $30