Monthly Archives: September 2016

Starling now open for submission for writers under 25


Material must not have been published elsewhere in any form previously, and please do not send us simultaneous submissions (material you have submitted or intend to submit to more than one journal/competition at the same time).

Starling is published twice yearly. Submissions may be made at any time to be considered for the next issue, so the best time to send your work is when you feel it is ready. The editors will read and respond to all submissions as soon as possible, and in any event no later than 8 weeks following the cut-off date for the issue. The editors are unable to enter into correspondence regarding individual submissions or selections.

Cut-off dates for work to be considered for each issue are 20 April for the July issue and 20 October for the January issue.

Poetry: send up to six poems.

Prose: Send up to two pieces, each up to a 5,000 word maximum. Prose may include short stories, creative non-fiction, personal essays or anything else you can surprise us with.

Please send all work as a single document. Pages should be numbered with your name on each page, and work set out at 1.5 line spacing.

Email submissions to as Microsoft Word or PDF attachments, and include the phrase “Submission for Starling” in the subject line followed by your name. Please do not use unusual formats or paste your submission into the body of your email.

In the body of your email please include your full name, date of birth, place of residence, email address and phone number. Please also include a short bio of no more than three sentences.

Starling is unable to offer payment to contributors. Copyright remains with the author. By submitting to Starling you also agree to be added to our mailing list, so that we may inform you of deadlines for future issues.

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Nick Ascroft and VUP launching Back with the Human Condition – dips so far, very tasty!


Victoria University Press warmly invite you to the launch of

Back with the Human Condition

by Nick Ascroft

on Monday 10 October, 6pm–7.30pm
at The Guest Room, Southern Cross Bar
39 Abel Smith St, Te Aro, Wellington.

Books will be available for purchase courtesy of Vic Books. p/b, $25.

Michael Harlow’s Nothing for it but to Sing – This is poetry of the unlived as much as it is of the lived



‘Sometimes there is nothing for it but to sing;

to discover what there is in you to attain, when the light

comes stealing in’


from ‘Nothing but for it Sing’


Nothing for it but to Sing, Michael Harlow, Otago University Press, 2016



Michael Harlow has published ten poetry collections, one of which, The Tram Conductor’s Blue Hat, was a finalist in the New Zealand Book Awards. He has held numerous fellowships and residencies and his latest collection, Nothing for it but to Sing, won the Kathleen Grattan Award for an unpublished manuscript.

This shiny, ethereal collection, full of paradox and light, follows curved lines, follows song. The poems are written out of being and unbeing, out of the unconscious and the dreamed world, out of lived experience. More than anything, it almost seems like there are no things but in ideas, because this is poetry of an itinerant mind, of a heart absorbing a world that is hypothesis, abstract thought, love, attachment and continuity.

This is poetry of the unlived as much as it is of the lived.

The poetry is of strangeness to the point it delivers philosophical relations to the oxymoron: ‘What it was he saw ‘beyond’/ where his looking had gone, there’s no telling.’ ‘I’m looking for nothing/ you could put a name to right now.’ ‘[M]y mother died before she was born.’

Some of the poems are like songs for the departed:

‘And you know,

drawing the ‘short straw, you are finally

going to have a crack at the silky darkness.’


‘Until one morning when no birds sang,

emptied of all that can be said,

soul-window open—he woke up dead.’


More than anything, Michael sings his poetry into being. Song is there, steering the line, but it is also there as an echoey and insistent motif:


‘All his life

he kept looking for the one song

to sing him. A high-wire troubadour

on air, he said that writing

is the painting of the voice.

His wish that not one word be unsung.’


Elizabeth Smither writes on the blurb: ‘His poems ask the hardest questions we are capable of and answer them in fables, discourses and unquenchable curiosity.’

The book did set me thinking about my attachment to things in poetry. Is it necessary? Do I want the grit and the everyday settling along with the mind daydreaming along the course of a line? This collection overturns our contemporary insistence on locating feelings, ideas and human activity in the world of physical things. It is what I am so often pulled towards as I write. It is what I am drawn to as I read.

This is a very lovely, overturning, uplifting collection.








Extraordinary Anywhere: Essays on Place from Aotearoa New Zealand – a vibrant, heart-boosting, head -juddering collection




‘To investigate something properly we need all three: archives, dreams, memories …”

Martin Edmond


Extraordinary Anywhere: Essays on Place from Aotearoa New Zealand (VUP, 2016), edited by Ingrid Horrocks and Cherie Lacey, is a collection to linger over. That the essays are in debt to the personal heightens the effect on the reader because place matters to all of us. One reviewer suggested that New Zealanders are obsessed with place to an unusual degree. I find that hard to believe. We may all have different relations with place whether shaped by cultural, familial or historical factors. We may talk about place in different ways and how it shapes who we are as both as individuals and nations. But place matters.

What I love about this vibrant, heart-boosting, head-juddering collection is that it heads off in a thousand directions—both in view of what is said and how it is said. The recent (and not so recent trend) to filter scholarly thinking through the personal tethers abstract thought to the gritty real world we inhabit on a daily basis, and intellectual thought is all the better for it (although the sublime joy of following abstract argument is still an appealing option).

I love the feel of the book in my hand, the shape and internal design.


Ashleigh Young’s opening essay, ‘The Te Kuiti Underground’ revisits a place from her past and it is like refreshing a home page in your head. When she was young, Ashleigh thought, despite her father’s forensic knowledge, that this home place was vacant. The essay opens on a gravel road with a view of paddocks, a sewage pond and the airport. Ashleigh bumps into Paul McCartney, a mutable figure who morphed into George and then later Beck. This warm, wry account of teenage yearnings and adult returns finds effervescent detail to make the threads between home, place and people glow. Yes, the writing is lucid, and that is a certain kind of glow, but the essay delivers such an open and moving insight into familial roots, I got a readerly glow. And that’s gold, if you will forgive the pun.

Other writers take different tacks. Sally Blundell uses quotes from children’s books and characters (Alice, AA Milne, Dr Seuss, the Mock Turtle, Where the Wild Things Are) to structure a moving account of the revival of Christchurch, post-earthquakes: ‘There should be a place where only things you want to happen, happen’ (Sendak). Place and space are questioned and are participants in processes, proposals and discussions that both disconnect and connect the city. This essay is an essential reminder that this place is rebuilding and the grassroots activity is extraordinary. The gap between blueprints and the people is equally so.

Lydia Wevers approaches the Brancepeth Library archives through dirt (they arrived at Victoria University Library in a filthy state!). Much to think about. That image sent me reeling upon the purity of the archives and our relationship with what we read. Lydia sees the drive to find ‘original archival truth’ as somewhat deluded (she borrows this notion), but underlines the way the archival dirt of the Brancepeth collection established a flash of overlap between past and present. This essay was compulsive reading with my current status as researcher. I loved her admissions. This is the final sentence: ‘At some points of recognition, it would be untruthful to remove yourself from the narrative you are trying to make.’

Ingrid Horrocks goes out walking with Creative Writing students on campus and near campus  as part of a research project set up by Massey University ‘in response to a perceived “thinness” of place within the 21st-century multi-campus university.’ The project asks ‘how experience in a particular place might be “thickened” by making connections to that place’s contested histories, its topographies, its inhabitants and uses, its origins.’ Fascinating.

Cherie Lacey was a discovery and I can’t wait to read her memoir (of a failed psychoanalysis). She takes us to reclaimed land behind her dad’s place in Napier. She had been studying psychoanalysis in Melbourne and felt a real aversion to key underpinnings. Chiefly, that ‘we are not the authors of our own texts.’ She ached to be poet rather than poem. The essay, in the spirit of what essays ought to do, puts things on the line in a risky way:

‘This text-that-was-not-my-own didn’t work when it was overlaid on this place. It demanded a different story be made, one that included dog’s brains and a taniwha and a buried lagoon, an earthquake, shards of ceramic and the complicated life of a family.’

Glorious!  ‘This place only exists for me, as me.’


Alex Calder stayed in a small Southland lodge, miles from anywhere. He wanted to work on a piece on classic new Zealand fiction of the 1930s and 1940s. Harry Ricketts, having lived in numerous places, admits he doesn’t have a standing place of his own. He has imaginary places (borrowed from Rushdie) and reminds us of the ‘here’ hidden in elsewhere. Lynn Jenner places two texts side by side, in pieces, with dialogue and sideways tracks, in  a way that feels like poetry, uncertain, drawing on the past, with a taniwha hovering. This: ‘I think the place and time of one’s birth act like anchovies in a sauce; not discernible as themselves but present as a salty essence, deep and influential.’

For Alice Te Punga Somerville, place ‘folds and unfolds dynamically.’ The essay is both personal and political as it keenly draws close to the names of places, and then to Māori writers, not just where they come from but where they have gone. This essay is essential in the way it mourns the lack of visibility of Māori writers in all our media and publishing platforms.

Annabel Cooper looks at childhood haunts and lives that lived and loved them: ‘In all these lives, places were “passings that haunted” leaving their imprints in the adults who were one children there.’ Annabel makes the vital point that places are impermanent yet conversely act as anchors.

Tina Makereti responds to the insistent question: ‘Where do you come from?’ Tina cannot give ‘a direct or simple answer’ to the query so the essay, in its pathways through, is fascinating, moving, vital. She returns to a place where her tupuna are. ‘I can’t remember who said it first. We could live here. We should live here. Look at the hills. Look at the sea.’


I haven’t finished the book. I have still to read Giovanni Tiso, Martin Edmond, Ian Wedde, Jack Ross, Tim Corballis and Tony Ballantyne. Ha! Looks like I picked out all the women first reflecting my current focus on women’s writing.

This is a terrific collection of essays and I cannot recommend it highly enough. An absolutely productive reading experience for me. Bravo Victoria University Press for publishing it.

A must-go book launch: Sarah Laing’s Mansfield and Me



Victoria University Press warmly invites you to the launch of
Sarah Laing’s new graphic memoir

Mansfield and Me

on Thursday 6 October, 6pm–7.30pm
at Unity Books, 57 Willis St, Wellington

All welcome!
About Mansfield and Me

From Better Off Read – Episode 36: Nick Ascroft and Pip Adam talk about Throwback 2007



From Pip Adam’s excellent podcast series:

‘Nick is an amazing poet and he has a new poetry book, Back with the Human Condition coming out on October 13 this year.

However, what 2016 is proving is that Nick can also tell you How to Win at 5-a-Side and that he is pretty awesome to talk to and read about music.

Throwback 2007 comes out later this year and is the first in series which celebrates the yearly mix tapes and play lists Nick has been making for ages.’

You can listen to the playlist for 2007 here


Here’s the podcast and more links

Announcing Ka Mate Ka Ora Issue #14

Ka Mate Ka Ora: A New Zealand Journal of Poetry and Poetics issue #14 is now live.

This issue features:

John Newton on Allen Curnow: ‘Running with the Fast Pack.’

Michele Leggott on soldier poet Matthew Fitzpatrick: ‘Touching the Taranaki Campaign: The Poems of Matthew Pitzpatrick August-November 1860.’

Makyla Curtis on bilanguaging in poetry: ‘Ngā Toikupu o Ngā Reo Taharua: e Tākiri ana te Aroā Pānui/The Poetics of Bilanguaging: an Unfurling Legacy.’

Vaughan Rapatahana discusses his theory and practice: ‘Writing Back (to the centre): practicing my theory.’

Ricci van Elburg on Second World War poets in Holland: ‘Pekelkist: some poets’ responses to war.’

Brian Pōtiki remembers Rowley Habib/Rore Hapipi: ‘The Raw Man’ and also provides an account of Rowley’s tangi.


Issue #15 of Ka Mate Ka Ora will be devoted to work by postgraduate student writers and scholars. This is a first call for essays, discussions, theory and polemic from postgraduate students. Please send contributions to:

Murray Edmond, Editor, Ka Mate Ka Ora: