Monthly Archives: May 2016

On editing – Sarah Jane Barnett interviews Ashleigh Young

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A new post at The Red Room:


I like to read and review New Zealand poetry, and because I live in Wellington quite a few of these collections come from Victoria University Press. When Ashleigh Young began working as their editor, I began to notice her careful hand on the collections. I asked Ashleigh a few questions about being an editor.

Sarah Jane Barnett: I was watching the show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and Jerry Seinfeld asked Barack Obama, ‘If politics was a sport, what sport would it be?’ So, if editing was a sport, what sport would it be?

Ashleigh Young: I was about to say cricket – long bouts of brooding interrupted by sudden bouts of high-speed action and head-clutching – but you can say that about almost anything. About life. I wonder if maybe editing is a bit like tenpin bowling. Every bit of editorial interference is a small act of violence, essentially trying to knock things down – but there’s this attempt at elegance, at the graceful flourish. And then there’s the stubborn beauty of the pins that remain standing. Also, tenpin bowling is the sport of grudging office team-building that ends up being quite fun.

Just contradicting myself, though, I think there’s something intrinsically un-sporty about editing. The writer and the editor shouldn’t feel like they’re adversaries grappling for ultimate power. No one should be spraying champagne around if they ‘win’. They can do that at the book launch.


For the rest of the interview go to Sarah’s blog: here

The Divine Muses Poetry Reading & Unity Books Auckland – 2016 EMERGING POETS COMPETITION



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Entry now open for: New Voices – Emerging Poets Competition

Judge – poet and teacher Vana Manasiadis


Results announced at Divine Muses Poetry Reading on National Poetry Day, 26th August 2016

First Prize: $200 in Unity Book’s book tokens Second Prize: $100 in Unity Book’s book tokens


Closing Date: 1st  August 2016


The competition is open only to writers considered ‘emerging’

i.e. have not published one or more books (fiction, poetry, nonfiction) with a New Zealand or overseas publisher,


is a current or former undergraduate (BA, Hons, BSc, BComm etc) or Masters student attending The University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology, Manukau Institute of Technology and Massey University (Albany Campus, Auckland only)


Poetry Shelf Poem – Heidi North-Bailey’s ‘The Women’ is like a delicious sweet almond with a bitter sweet kernel

Mary McCallum from Mākaro Press and Heidi North-Bailey have given me permission to post this marvelous mother poem from Heidi’s debut poetry collection.  The poem is so beautifully lyrical, exquisitely layered, the gaps large and resonant, the line of women vital; the hidden stories pull you back for another look, and then another. This is one of my favourite poems of the year to date.

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The Women - North Bailey2.jpg


©Heidi North-Bailey 2015


Possibility of Flight cover WEB


Submissions open for Sweet Mammalian


Send us your writing, be it a roar, purr, or pip-squeak.

Sweet Mammalian aims for diversity and inclusiveness—we want all different kinds of poetry, from all different kinds of writers. In order to make this possible we need your submissions, so send us your thrilling writing!

Submit up to 5 poems of any length. Please send your work in a word doc attachment to and include a short bio note in the body of the email.

Submissions for Issue Four are open now. We’ll be accepting submissions until the end of August.

Go here

Poetry Shelf Poem: ‘Listening In’ by Lynley Edmeades

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Listening In


The mere presence of her was the necessary part.

Over-hearers, their little coves of ears

were, of course, listening in.

Together, we could hear history

painting a diagram of itself, and things began

to form layers. My mother’s hand

upon the pillow, the pillow soft upon the bed.


©Lynley Edmeades from  As the Verb Tenses Otago University Press 2016



This mother poem is a perfect advertisement for a collection that shows how real life can give poetry a vital tang; that poems excised from who you, where you and where you are from sometimes lack the power to kick start your heart from daily routine. The gaps are resplendent. The detail: lyrical, tender, uplifting, deliciously layered.

Everything slows down to a leisurely pace.

Elsewhere in the book: ‘You’re wondering what to do with this, this slowness.’

Absorb and connect. Absorb and connect. This is a terrific debut (oh! and a stand-out cover).




Cyphers – Irish J0urnal has a NZ poetry feature



Last night I dreamed I was heading to Europe (only way I will be doing this is in a poem!) but the airplane was more like a truck so I pulled out at the last moment. Much better to open a parcel this morning and find a cluster of NZ poems in an Irish setting.

Plus Roger Hickin from Cold Hub Press shares some thoughts on NZ poetry.



Very excited to spend time with Janet Frame






Just got a copy! This book looks like a treasure trove.

On music, silence and having guests:

‘How valuable my solitude & silence seem! My guest is very pleasant & more or less goes her own way but I am looking forward to her going & she is wise enough to know it & understand it. I have moved my record-player into the sitting-room so she can listen to it & my study is like death without it & I did not realise the music had been so absorbed into the very walls of the study. The room is alive with it, as a past experience, but while the phonograph is in the sittingroom it is death in here, the whole room so yearns for it. How pathetically fallacious one can be!’


Poetry Shelf Postcard: Landfall 231



We are well served by literary journals at the moment. Each delivers slightly different treats, biases, focuses but all offer high quality writing that resist any singular NZ model.

The latest Landfall (as you can see) has a stunning cover with its Peter Peryer photograph.

Inside: poetry (37 poets!), fiction, non-fiction, art and book reviews (including an excellent review of Anna Smaill’s The Chimes, one of my top fiction reads of the past year).

The poets range from the very familiar, whether young or old, to those new to me. And that is as it should be. David Eggleton is keeping the magazine fresh whilst giving vital space to our literary elders and maintaining a strong and welcome Pacific flavour.


A tasting plate of lines that got me (I seem to have been struck by mothers, fathers, surprising images, little twists):


from Brian Turner’s ‘Weekends’:

think of what a place could be

when it’s not what we possess

that counts most

but what we are possessed by


from CK Stead’s ‘One: Like a bird’ (for Kay):

You were beautiful, and I

sang, as I could in those days

all the way home—like a bird.


from Leilani Tamu’s ‘Researching Ali’i’:

I searched for you in boxes

the archivist muttered poison


from Rata Gordon’s ‘A Baby’:

I want to make a baby out of one peach and one prickle.

I want to use the kitchen sponge, sticky rice and a rubber band.

I want to use the coffee grinder.


from Siobhan Harvey’s ‘Spaceboy and the White Hole’:

he pictures matter barely visible, the light

of white holes as they transmit their secret

messages, sharp elegies, about letting go.


from Ruth Arnison’s ‘The Visit’:

Even from the road her house gave us the creeps.

Pale, communion wafer thin, and disapproving,

its severe windows three-quarter blinded.


from Heather McQuillan’s ‘In which I defend my father’s right to solitude’:

our father has a fine tooth way

of finding vulnerabilities

on the outward flanks

the wolf is always at his door


from Doc Drumheller’s ‘My Father’s Fingers’:

Days after my father died I felt a sense

of urgency to take care of his hot-house.


from Koenraad Kuiper’s ‘from Benedictine Sonnets’:

Mother always knitted particularly socks.

Knitting socks is a fine skill under the lamplight.


from Elizabeth Smither’s ‘Three “Willow” Pattern Bowls’:

My father thought I meant the plate

and wrapped one from the china cabinet

I carried it close to my heart

all the way back for a second reprimand.


from Bob Orr’s ‘Seven Haiku’:

I don’t care about


basho’s dead


from Will Leadbetter’s ‘Three Variations on “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams’:

Nothing depends upon

the green wheelbarrow


Great winter reading!





















Poetry Shelf Postcard: Anahera Gildea’s Poroporoaki


Poroporoaki to the Lord My God: Weaving the Via Dolorosa: Ekphrasis in Response to Walk (Series C) by Colin McCahon 

Anahera Gildea, Seraph Press, 2016

Designed and produced by Helen Rickerby of Seraph Press, this is the most exquisite chapbook imaginable. Add the gorgeous paper stock to the extra heavenly endpapers, the hand stitching and an internal design that is elegant and minimalist and you have a rare poetry treat. It is a work of beauty and all poets will be dreaming of their very own chap book. I for one!



Sometimes it is enough

to sit and look out.

Other times you have to walk

across bone, stone and shell.


Anahera Gildea’s poem is written in response to ‘Walk (Series C)‘ by Colin McCahon and is as much for James K Baxter as it is a response to the painting. It is an example of poetry as gift/taonga. Each line carefully stitched like the stitching in the kahu-kuri she makes for Baxter. This poet knows you don’t need many lines on the page to entice a reader to linger. You are walking alongside McCahon’s painting, you are walking along the wild and dark threat and wonder at Muriwai Beach, you are walking the Stations of the Cross and you are walking the poem. It is, for me, a very moving sequence.


Anahera (Ngāti Raukawa-ki-Te-Tonga, Kāi Tahu, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Toa, Ngāi Te Rangi) is a Wellington-based writer who has had her poems and short stories published in a variety of journals. She recently completed the Masters of Creative Writing at Victoria University of Wellington and is currently finishing her first novel.
Seraph Press page