Monthly Archives: June 2016

Winter Readings pay tribute to The Bee Gees


This year’s Winter Readings celebrates the
return of Winter Readings itself, a popular event at
the City Gallery and other venues in Wellington
2003-2008. Each event featured a tribute to
an album or group.
This year’s readings form a tribute to the Bee Gees.

Sunday, 17 July 2016
Poets: MaryJane Thomson, Mark Pirie, Rob Hack,
Polina Kouzminova, Michael O’Leary and Jeanne
Bernhardt (Otago).

Venue: St Peter’s Hall, Beach Rd, Paekakariki.
Time: 2-4pm.

Admission to the reading is by koha. Books for
sale from 2.00pm. No refreshments will be served.
The Main Street houses cafes and a bar close by,
for those who arrive early.

All welcome.

Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop (ESAW) will publish
an anthology of poems by the readers featured to
celebrate the event.

Winter Readings are presented by:

HeadworX Publishers

Paekakariki Community Trust

Poetry Archive Trust

Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop

Poetry Shelf Review: Kerrin P Sharpe’s Rabbit Rabbit – There is a honeyed fluency that is downright enviable

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I fall with the rhythm of rowing

into long narrow light

bridges sigh like single oars


from ‘last supper in Venice’


Rabbit Rabbit Kerrin P Sharpe , Victoria University Press, 2016


Victoria University Press is publishing a heavenly suite of poetry books this year (actually all the presses are!). So many good poetry books I think I need a poetry book club where we can talk about poetry to our heart’s content with coffee and sweet little cakes. A once a month indulgence!

Kerrin P Sharpe is a very fine poet whose previous books hooked me with their agility, their lightness of touch, their grounding. She is currently the Writer-in-Residence at St Andrews College in Christchurch. In 2008, she was awarded the NZ Post Creative Writing Teacher’s Award by the International Institute of Modern Letters. She is a terrific mentor for young writers.

Kerrin’s latest book is an utter treat in the way things condense to the near point of evaporation and then unfold with such grace you get goosebumps. Bare threads shiver and shimmer as speech-bubble anecdotes hover above and below. There is necessary tenderness. Sometimes it is like looking into the mysterious dark of family archives where things or photographs or memories twitch in the patchy shadows. You move from smoky dream to real life to near fable.

If you think of poem writing as hitting the whirr and pace on a bike so the whole world feels perfect, then Kerrin is hitting that perfect whirr and pace as she writes. There is a honeyed fluency that is downright enviable (enhanced by the lack of capitals and full stops).

So many poems stand out, but I keep returning to the mother poems: the pitch of the line, the tilted head of the daughter looking, the inventive tropes, the extraordinary stories that resist mother frames. These poems belong in an anthology of mother poems because they are surprising in where they take you, the way they move you and the presence of things that do little cartwheels on the page.

I loved the way the mother’s Astrakhan coat prompts mystery that meets strange fable that meets down-to-earth pathos in ‘when a crayfish could feed 6 men‘:


yet though the coat

cracked the small change

it was when my mother’s money

stretched beyond the frontier towns


that she no longer wore

what after her funeral  seemed

little more than a fleece


There is a glorious and daring alignment of the mother’s belly and the ship she builds in ‘The mary blanche in situ.’ All poem borders slip and slide. Where does mother begin and ship end? Where does trope set sail and real life intrude?  Entering the poem is like entering a show, both magical and wondrous, and you just want to get another ticket and go through again.


my mother built her own ship

because she hated

the idea of drowning


In ‘the morning of my mother’s funeral her cup is sober minded,’ a single tea pot pours, in a little stream, like stream-of-conscious English Breakfast,the grief and thoughts of a key life moment. The poem catches the unrealness of losing a loved one; of life not stopping its circular routines and paying attention with you.


two plumbers install a shower

my mother will never use


they eat her peanut rockies

in the coronation tin


A delicious inventiveness drives the collection as a whole, as though reality is strained through kaleidoscopic filters to refurbish ordinary things with off kilter tints. There is the train that keeps a son breathing, there is the mouth of the sky that opens and drops bodies, the daughter that decides the bee sting is a butterfly kiss. In ‘a language goes silent,’ a Chinese fruit shop uses the bare threads, the strange tilts to move you:


Amy and Harry

lived in the fruit

of their shop

like mango stones


I adore this book. It shows just what things can do when you let them loose in a poem. Wonderful!

Poetry Shelf review – Bernadette Hall’s Maukatere: floating mountain – little dandelion kisses that hit the page and hook you



There are gauzy bandages of mist all down the East Cast as far as Bluff

Having to face our own despairs, we moved out onto the promontory

The ship was an illusion, a golden ship and a galleon,so high in the water

He may not be such a beautiful man when he is older, when the bones take over

I’m so glad we went to meet you, little darling, walking towards us through the tussock



Bernadette Hall has published numerous poetry collections with Victoria University Press – books that resonate so beautifully for both ear and heart. Her poems are like intricate lacework. Just gorgeous.

With her latest project, Bernadette was drawn to work with two younger women on a chapbook that drew inspiration from her local mountain, from the stories that have bedded down in the area and in her mind. Helen Rickerby from Seraph Press published the book and poet Rachel O’Neill did the illustrations. Three women walking round a mountain, as Bernadette says.

The poem is like a long poem (around 14 pages) made of drifting pieces, like little dandelion kisses that hit the page and hook you. Settler stories, as Bernadette says. There is the Tangler drifting in at out; an Irish figure, both loner and trickster, who acted as a buyer-seller go-between at the fairs. The poems are the fidgety intermediary between light and dark; the glint of the present and the shadows of history.

‘and she repeats it/ like the blade of light/ that repeats itself’

Reading this is like entering the metaphorical woods, where you get whiffs of story and elsewhere and skimming voices. Mountain as woods. Standing alongside a mountain, walking around that mountain, can be a portal to voice. This is a collection of voice; think of the way you stand somewhere old and it is like you can hear the past.

And in that mysterious pull of voice, you get the hit of physical detail, earthy and grounding.

‘A day of patchy rain – another chink in things’

‘What joy in the new experimental poets – up early throwing stones into the lake’

‘There are gauzy bandages of mist all down the East Coast as far as Bluff’

‘the wounds in the marshland fill slowly with fresh water’


Reading this is magical. The woods are knotty. The mountain is. You can take so many paths, both illuminated and dark.

Helen Rickerby has produced a beautiful hand-bound book  with thick paper and an elegant design. The book is a labour of love; picture a sewing circle with stories shared. The limited, hand-numbered edition has virtually sold out but a second print run is in the pipeline.

Rachel O’Neill has produced the most exquisite sequence of drawings that carry their own narrative. Little cross-hatched beauties. Enigmatic. Labour intensive. The hooded-lamp figure connects us to the poems where the little glows are like a unifying thread. The lantern head pulses with meaning. The figure is defined and dependent upon both light and dark in order to exist, in order to comprehend. Again there is the subtle and beautiful link to the poems where the light references rebound. It is as though certain things, whether recalled or invented, are caught in the beam of poet.

This is a very special book.



Bernadette co-founded Hagley Writers’ Institute In Christchurch. She lives at Amberley Beach in the Hurinui in North Canterbury. Bernadette was awarded The Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry in 2015.

Rachel’s debut collection was One Human in Height (Hue & Cry Press). She is a filmmaker, writer and artist.

Seraph Press page

Thistle Hall, 14 poets and a bunch of photos

Friday was so wild in Wellington I thought the wind would scoop me up and toss me back home. Whoosh!  But I had a delicious lunch with some librarians and a terrific meeting with the archivists at the Alexander Turnbull Library. I am in love with the archives.

Ready for a bright blue Saturday and a book launch poetry reading (after a heavenly time at ATL!).

Thistle Hall is the perfect venue with late afternoon sun streaming through the windows. 14 poets read two city poems each with an eclectic mix of connections. Cities became suburbs and little villages.

There was a warmth in the room that was contagious. A good turnout. Poets I had never met came even though they weren’t reading! How lovely to meet Rachel McAlpine for the first time. In fact I knew very few people in the room – all these strangers with poetry connections.

It was a special way to launch a book. To get a taste of poets I have mostly known and loved on the page. Thank you!

Thank you Luke from Vic books. I am looking forward to our Poetry Day event!

And thank you Helen Rickerby for producing my gorgeous new book. And it was so good to hear you read my Rome poem from The Baker’s Thumbprint as I have never read it aloud. Very happy!













































a poetry-reading album for my new book



Last night we had a big poetry reading at Gow Langsford Gallery in the middle of Michael’s show to celebrate the arrival of New York Pocket Book. It was a really special occasion with 15 poets reading city poems by themselves and others. It felt like our art family (of Michael and I) was hosting my poetry family. Such warmth and empathy in the room. Such a good turn out (over 60 at one point), with poets not reading coming along too. So generous. The readings underlined why there is so much to love about poetry in NZ.

Helen Rickerby has done such a gorgeous job on the book – taking precious time out from her life as a poet. I can never overlook that.

No notes on the readings – I just wanted to savour a free ticket to the world courtesy of poems. And I loved it.

So thank you poets and thank you audience for making this occasion memorable.




Helen Rickerby, Seraph Press

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a clutch of poets to celebrate my new book tonight



Such nervous anticipation as poets wait to see poems become book object.

I am no exception. Finally I have a copy of New York Pocket Book and I so love what Helen Rickerby from Seraph Press has done. It is like a little guide book I could take to NYC in my purse. I picture myself writing a suite of city pocket books so I could have a little row of them on my shelf. What madness. Rome Pocket Book. London Pocket Book. Paris Pocket Book. But I have always wanted to go to Barcelona. If only.

Tonight , well at 5pm, I am looking forward to 15 poets taking us on a mini world trip with city poems. The links might be tenuous but that is part of the delight.

When: 5 until 7 pm

Where: Gow Langsford Gallery, Lorne Street (in Michael’s show)


Paula Green, Helen Rickerby, Angela Andrews, Sophie Van Waardenberg, Courtney Sina Meredith, Murray Edmond, Vana Manasiadis,  Sophia Johnson, Gregory Kan, Michele Leggott, Albert Wendt, Janet Charman, Steven Toussaint, CK Stead, Robert Sullivan.

You are most welcome!