Monthly Archives: February 2016

A new writers festival like no other: Ruapehu Writers Festival, Ōhakune, 17–20 March 2016


Ruapehu image with logo low-res


Tickets are on sale now for the country’s newest, and quirkiest, writers festival, to be held in Ōhakune in March. And even if you can’t make it, you can still be involved by donating to its crowdfunding campaign.


A pony ride with a popular children’s author, a literary waterfall walk, poets on bikes and a venue like something out of Twin Peaks: this doesn’t sound like the average writers festival. But then the first ever Ruapehu Writers Festival, which will be held in Ōhakune on 17–20 March, is not an average writers festival.

Locals and visitors alike will be able to enjoy a long weekend of events – including readings, panel discussions, workshops, sessions for children and a poetry slam – featuring 40 New Zealand writers, from the well-known to the up-and-coming. Tickets and season passes are on sale now, and a Boosted crowdfunding campaign to support the festival is running until the end of February.

Festival sessions include a Friday night lecture by award-winning novelist Elizabeth Knox, a fiction-writing workshop with Auckland writer Sue Orr and the pony ride with Stacy Gregg, the author of the popular Pony Club Secrets series. The setting will be acknowledged in a session about local history with leading non-fiction writer Martin Edmond, who grew up in Ōhakune, and local historian Merrilyn George, and another on the Desert Road.

Other well-known writers who can be heard at the festival include novelists Emily Perkins, Fiona Farrell, Nicky Pellegrino, Jenny Pattrick and Fiona Kidman and poets Paula Green, Harry Ricketts, Tusiata Avia and James Brown. Local writers are also being included, such as novelist and Taumarunui High School teacher Antony Millen, and editors from four of New Zealand’s literary presses will talk about what they look for in new writing. The complete programme is available on the festival website.


The festival is the brainchild of poet, lecturer in English literature at Victoria University, and 2016 Katherine Mansfield Fellow Anna Jackson . She and her husband Simon Edmonds, owner of Tuatua café, have a house at Rangataua, next door to Ōhakune. “We realised that Ōhakune, half way between Auckland and Wellington, is the perfect place to hold a writers festival. While many people visit during winter for skiing, it’s at its most beautiful in summer. And the local community has been so enthusiastic about having this event in their town.”

Joining Jackson and Edmonds on the organising committee is poet and Seraph Press publisher Helen Rickerby. She says, “This is going to be an informal and fun festival, and I think the fact that it’s being organised by writers has given it a different approach.” Jackson says she expects readers and writers involved to come out of the session still talking about some of the ideas and books discussed. Readers and writers will also have chances to meet each other and keep talking about ideas on the waterfall walk – free for anyone to come along.


The festival will be based at the Powderhorn Chateau, right next to the Ōkahune railway station. “It is a fantastic venue, with large spaces and two decks to relax on in between sessions. Being in an alpine forestry town, the hotel has log walls, which reminds me of the hotel in Twin Peaks – but less creepy,” Rickerby laughs.

Tickets are on sale now, with earlybird season passes at just $90 (until 6 February) and individual sessions at $14, with concessions also available.


Edmonds says, “It was important for us to keep prices low, so as many people as possible could afford to come. We have some funding from Creative NZ, but we hope people will support our crowdfunding campaign so we can pay for accommodation and travel for the guest writers, who are generously donating their time.” Because Boosted contributions are eligible for a tax credit, donors will get 33 cents back from every dollar they donate.


  • Donate to the Boosted crowdfunding campaign.
  • Find out more about the Ruapehu Writers Festival and buy tickets here.



  • For more information contact Chris Wilson on 04-463 9498, 021 0525 300 or, or Anna Jackson at
  • To interview the organisers or any of the participating writers, email
  • Profiles and photos of participating writers are available on the festival website.
  • A media kit, including downloadable logos and images, is available the festival website.

Starling goes live at Wellington’s Meow Cafe

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STARLING: A new online literary journal publishing poetry and prose by New Zealand writers under 25 years old. Founded by Louise Wallace & co-edited with Francis Cooke.

ISSUE 1 LIVE: Eight incredible young writers from our first issue will take to the stage to read their work:

Lily Ng / Georgie Johnson / Natalie Morrison / Rebecca Hawkes / Tayi Tibble / Sharon Lam / Phoebe Wright / Claudia Jardine

Come along to celebrate the arrival of Starling at this relaxed all-ages, free event. Bring your mates or bring your kids! Soak up some inspiration for the afternoon. Meow’s delicious coffee and food available for purchase, as well as beer and wine for those 18 and over if it happens to be one of those stellar sunny days Wellington is famous for.

Atlas is a new NZ medical journal seeking creative writing submissions

Atlas Journal - Connective Tissue, Verhoeff Stain


Atlas is a recently established medical literary journal, both online and in print, that hopes to encourage thought and open discussion on the ascientific and creative aspects of medicine and the human body.

The journal takes its name from the atlas, the first vertebra in the body. Supporting the skull, the atlas allows the head to nod yes.

We hope that Atlas will become a space to share questions, appreciation and respect for the body’s structure and complexity. We want to recognise that the body exists within a social and cultural context that differs for each individual. We believe that illness and suffering should be interpreted and treated within this context and it is through stories and metaphor that we can connect with these differences.

We hope to publish our first issue in print in mid 2016 and are currently open for submissions.
For our first issue, we are keeping contributions as open and wide-ranging as possible, accepting all forms of poetry, prose, short stories and non-fiction from writers, doctors, patients and artists.

We also want to provide a space for everyday New Zealanders to share their views on the current state of the health system, to provide a voice for those who feel their needs have fallen through the cracks and for those within the system to share their views.

Here are some topics that have been on our mind recently that we’d be interested in your thoughts on:

architecture, housing and health
the sociology of diagnosis
interactions between gender and the physical body
the emotional and philosophical aspects of surgical intervention
the healthcare needs of indigenous people
the meaning/meaninglessness of suffering and pain
Submissions close at 10pm on the 31st of May 2016. For more information please visit  here.

Poetry Shelf: Invitation Interviews – Mary McCallum interviews Jamie Trower

Trower Jamie WEB   Anatomy-front-cover-final-183x300

Mary McCallum of Mākaro Press interviews debut poet Jamie Trower about his collection Anatomy, which they published under their Submarine imprint in 2015.

(for my review of the book see here)


Mary McCallum: As a new poetry publisher we get a lot of emails from people wanting to submit their collections of poetry. Some of those emails are like explosive devices — as soon as you open them you know you’re in danger. All the tiny words on the screen shimmer with the excitement of being written by someone for whom words are not simply tools or exciting ways to evoke the world of experience or imagination, but tiny rockets that have changed or saved a life.

This was the case when I opened an email from Aucklander Jamie Trower – a young man in his early twenties who had only just discovered poetry, but who had nonetheless crafted a whole collection that he wanted me to read. A collection of poems that charted his recovery from a terrible childhood brain injury that could have killed him.

What a ride. It felt to me reading Anatomy for the first time – and I continue to feel this – that Jamie had given himself permission to write how he wanted to write, and discover what he wanted to discover using words in a way that he’d never thought possible. With obvious delight he raged on the page, and laughed at and interrogated it. Words came and he connected them and lit the fuse. Which is not to say Jamie wasn’t open to editing. He was. He loved the whole process … more of a chance to play with words, more connections to fire. We published it, dear reader, and this week I talked to Jamie about the book so close to his heart – how he wrote it and why, and where to now.


M: What made you start to write poetry?
J: In the months of rehab after I sustained a severe brain injury as a nine-year-old, I learned to use a typewriter. I wrote sporadic, jumbled notes of how I was feeling and the changes I noticed in my wheelchair-bound body. I really started writing poetry after taking a creative writing course at the University of Auckland two years ago. It was then that I went back to the notes that I wrote in rehab and found myself expanding and stretching the words into poetry.

M: What do you like about it?
J: The beauty and ease of poetry. How a single moment can be expanded on, heightened, strengthened, transformed, stretched, redefined and moulded in a couple of lines. How a writer can adapt a thought, a feeling or an event so easily through compressed, rhythmic language.

M: Who are your poetry heroes? Are there any poets you try and emulate?
J: I am in awe of Sam Hunt, Paul Muldoon, Ben Okri – the list goes on! I think their writings are compelling and eloquently formed. I draw on their poetry quite a bit – how they use simple thoughts and words to create a big impact.
M: Your poetry collection feels like one long narrative poem about what you went through when you had a brain injury as a child – rather than lots of separate poems – do you see it that way?
J: Anatomy is definitely narrative in its structure: a start, middle and end. I tried to separate the poetic canvas by titling the poems – making it feel like more of a collection rather than a narrative – and pairing it with a traditional form of storytelling. I decided in the editing process to parallel poetry with prose to guide the reader, and to allow the emotion I felt to show through more.
M: In Anatomy you indicate the typewriter was an important tool in your rehab – is poetry also important as a form of therapy in getting over what happened to you?
J: Poetry will always be my rehab, my therapy, my hospital, my home. This use of self-expression and self-examination helped me (and still does) realise that I needed to take control of my own body, my own disability. I hope to continue to use the lessons that poetry has taught me for many years to come.

M: What are you writing now?
J: I’m writing my next poetry collection, and I’m brainstorming a novel on the side. I’m excited to see what comes of it!

M: Who are you reading?
J: Right now I’m reading Michele Leggott’s Heartland (for the tenth time, it feels). She very kindly came to the launch of Anatomy, which was very, very cool.

Mākaro Press page

You are invited to the launch of Gregory Kan’s This Paper Boat

Kan_this-paper-boat   Kan_this-paper-boat

Auckland University Press and Gregory Kan warmly invite you to the launch of

This Paper Boat

6pm, Thursday 25 February
Time Out Bookstore
432 Mount Eden Road
Mount Eden Village

My mother used to make up stories in the darkness that no one knew the endings to. It was a kind of permission to have imperfect and beautiful plans.

Please join us in celebrating the publication of Gregory Kan’s debut poetry collection, launched by award-winning poet Michele Leggott.

6pm, Thursday 25 February 2016
Time Out Bookstore
432 Mount Eden Road
Mount Eden Village
Auckland, 1024

RSVP not essential but helpful for catering
Phone 09-373-7528 or email

Poetry Shelf review: Jamie Trower’s Anatomy – it is poetry as reboot

Anatomy-front-cover-final-183x300   Anatomy-front-cover-final-183x300

Jamie Trower  Anatomy   Mākaro Press 2015


At the age of nine, Jamie Trower suffered a traumatic head injury when skiing on the slopes of Ruapehu. After months in a coma, he spent two years at the Wilson Centre in Auckland. Jamie is currently based in Auckland where he is studying English and Drama at the University of Auckland. Anatomy is his debut poetry collection.

Anatomy rebuilds anatomy. The word ‘disability’ (disabled, disable, disablement) is like a shadow protagonist that Jamie pitches against and from. It felt like a physical presence, an entity to interrogate as Jamie navigates his recovery paths. To read our way into and out of ‘disability’ is to thwart ‘unable’ and latch upon ‘enable.’ It is to follow Jamie from the accident and rocks to his cloud nine.

I felt a little nervous opening the book, as in the middle of my PhD, I smashed into a glass door and suffered the effects of post-concussion syndrome for about a year. Everything was thrown in the air as I struggled to make sense of the world let alone my academic research. My ability to speak and write and c0mprehend (and hang out the washing, cook dinner) was utterly compromised. Once I started reading Anatomy, the twitchiness at revisiting the memory of my vulnerable head faded.

This book is poetry as record, it is poetry as reboot and poetry as rehabilitation. Writing becomes a way of refurbishing self and moving through. You are carried along by the fluency of the line, so lyrically, yet there is the white space of hiccup. Some words are stretched out as though we say them slowly ( d i s a b i l i t y,   t h i n g). Some words drop down the page like a teetering step ladder to cloud nine or back down to earth. The poetic choices heighten the struggle to recover, and to face what recovery means.

This is a poetry collection that moves and elevates you, that records a devastating experience at the most personal of levels, and that plays with what words can do (from the first clacks and clatters on the old typewriter he was given by his teacher). Wonderful!


from ‘( m a y b e ,   t o m o r r o w )’


m i g h t


from teenage boy


n a p p y      &      pacifier,


to a mighty sea bird –

to a juvenile juggernaut

– dancing

in the wild …


to whistle

in rainbows

of thistles,

(ocean spray) …


Mākaro Press page


Poetry Shelf: Stop Press – The Lives of Coat Hangers by Sudesh Mishra

otago291605   otago291605


Otago University Press recently released The Lives of Coat Hangers by Sudesh Mishra (January 2016).

Sudesh has previously published four books of poetry and is currently Professor of English at The University of the South Pacific in Suva. He has taught at universities in Scotland, Fiji and Australia.

Sudesh is flagged ‘as a philosophical poet, one preoccupied not only with how meaning is made, but with how meaning is manifested in the modern world.’

He is heralded as ‘a major poetic voice in the South Pacific.’

The cover features a striking image by John Pule.



from ‘A Rose is a Rose’


In the simple poem composed simply

The sun’s never likened to a brass gong.

Conceits fail to plunge from the sky. A song

Is sung for the joy of singing freely.

No noun strays into rouged avenues.





Poetry Shelf review: Carolyn McCurdie’s Bones in the Octogon – this is a gem of a book that relishes the mundane as much as it sets clouds dancing

Bones-in-the-octagon-front-cover-copy1   Bones-in-the-octagon-front-cover-copy1

Carolyn McCurdie Bones in the Octagon  Mākaro Press 2015


Reading Carolyn’s debut poetry collection is akin to opening a picnic hamper that is full of surprises. You sit back under a leafy tree and inhale a moment perfectly caught. You taste flavours both familiar and less so. You shut your eyes and absorb little anecdotes. You look at the clouds and let imagination drift in the form of story. You bite into little memories.

The poems that stand out for me are full of grace, canny detail, measured presence and a musical lift plucked on the line.

I particularly love the mysterious little stories that are in debt to myth or fable or an imagination wandering. The first poem, ‘Inside a story,’ takes you from a market stall with ‘fruit in brown paper bags’ to seashells (‘this is why we went under the sea’). The gaps are exquisite, the slow pace compelling. I loved, too, the inventive kick of ‘Making up the spare beds for the Brothers Grimm’ — not so much in the light of skewing form but in the kinetic detail:


What can she offer them? Not true love, though she’s heard

that a young man looking for love was given

a bowl of milk, a chunk of white bread

and a freshly minted coin that sparkled.

She has kneaded the bread, set it in the hot oven.


The poems that track paths from the plenitude of things are also a delight. In one poem, the poet imagines in luminous detail an existence as ‘hut’: ‘If I come back as a building/ it will be as a tramping hut.’ Detail meets economy so beautifully in ‘Dormant,’ a poem that liberates a baking hot cat on the page (‘on the red satin cushion’): ‘where she might ignite/ flare/ collapse into ash.’ A poem about potatoes, ‘A potato sonnet: Jersey Bennes for Christmas,’ celebrates the vegetable plucked from ‘the black/ crumbled earth’ but casts a warm glow that keyholes family as much as it does nourishment (I posted the whole poem here):


This is old, wondrous

as moonrise,



as the maternal voice


that calls, come in

to the table


More than anything, I love the way certain poems harness a moment and let it glint and reflect as you stall. ‘Memories of long grass’ invests in a moment and as you embrace that moment, poetic loveliness abounds: ‘The grass held us cupped; the sky bent down/ and sipped us up’. There is often loveliness and that loveliness sometimes couples with strangeness, sometimes personal revelation, sometimes a stockpot of detail. In ‘Invitation to dance,’ the poet takes a backward gaze to a younger self. The poem exudes tenderness, boldness, love.


While you wait, give her all that you have:

a largeness, the swirl of a cape or a skirt,

and balance at speed. Stand by her

as she pulls on her boots.


Not all poems held my attention, but this is a gem of a book that relishes the mundane as much as it sets clouds dancing. I enjoyed it very much indeed.


Carolyn McCurdie is a Dunedin writer who has worked as a teacher and librarian. She has won both The New Zealand Poetry Society’s International Poetry Competition and the Lilian Ida Smith Award. She is a member of the Octagon Poets Collective.

The book is one of the three books in Mākaro Press’s Hoopla series 2015. The other books were Jennifer Compton’s Mr Clean & the Junkie (currently longlisted for the NZ Book Awards and reviewed by me) and Bryan Walpert’s Native Bird (reviewed by me). Hoopla books are published annually in April in sets of three.


Mākaro Press page