On discovering Amy Leigh Wicks




I got to introduce Amy Leigh Wicks at the Rupaehu Writers Festival, but I had barely sighted her poetry. What a discovery! Like most people in the audience, she blew my socks off. Amy is an American from New York City whose debut collection is Orange Juice and Rooftops. She is currently enrolled in the PhD programme at IIML and will write the critical component of her thesis on the poetry of James K Baxter.

Listening to her read as opposing to reading her for the first time on the page offers quite a different poetry experience. I cheekily asked if could take away the printouts so I could write about the poems. Usually I just depend upon my scrawlings but as chair I tempered my notebook entries. Amy is one of those poets who really knows how to bring a poem to life in the air (she has a background as a slam poet). And in fact won the slam competition at Ruapehu.

This is what linked the the words in the air to the words on the page: space, silence,  pause, what is not said, mysterious bits, strangeness, poetic tilts.

What struck me on the page: these poems feed on questions, curiosity fizzes both above and below the surface. Alongside the the room to breathe, I rediscovered a clarity of voice, sometimes conversational, sometimes lyrical, always fluent. And then the effervescent detail that forms a little uplift in a line.


Here is an Amy Leigh Wicks poetry sampler:


from Honey Moon

The first time we climbed into bed

it seemed like there was no one


else in the world. Then we left New York

and by the time we reached California


we noticed an army of ghosts floating

like balloons above us each night


The word honeymoon is fractured in two  because although you might think this poem is about bed, love, marriage and travelling, those ghosts bust it apart so you shift a little. Often I enjoy strange presences without analysing their status as tropes in a poem. The ghosts float like balloons above the bed. Beautiful. Strange. They don’t need to mean anything. Yet the balloon-ghosts (or ghost-balloons) keep tugging me back to the poem as though I want to make a story for them and give them a part to play beyond the unsettled sleep of a honeymoon couple. This poem, excuse the pun, haunts me. Read the full poem here.


from Learning to Swim

When ____________happened it made me feel …

This is the first rule. It’s like swimming, our new game –

The facts are false, the world inside is real.


Am I still in Vienna, floating from Klimt’s kiss to Schiele?

No.We are at our dining room table, I am learning how not to blame.

When ____________happened it made me feel …


Usually the repetitive lure of a villanelle is like free flowing honey, and the sweetness of repetition infuses fluency. But here the repetition is like a set of judder bars that shakes you out of easy coasting.


from First Night in Aotearoa

I was sitting at a stone table

there was a fire behind me

and a candle before me and

it was raining all around and the papers

on the table were soaking wet

with black ink bleeding through


A few poems are part of a sequence entitled ‘Kiwi Dairy’ and touch upon Amy’s experience of New Zealand (she is from New York). With this poem, again you get the white space, the shiny detail, the strangeness and the multiple questions. It is addictive listening/reading.


Keep an eye out for Amy’s poetry. You will find some poems on Turbine.


2 thoughts on “On discovering Amy Leigh Wicks

  1. Robin Cutler Calkins

    to my beautiful niece so so proud of you but I was since the day you were born you are beautiful inside and out and I know what ever you do you will be the best and you are PRINCESS.Imiss and love you with all my heart . XXXXOOOOO



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