Monthly Archives: November 2016

Catherine Vidler’s Chaingrass poems – skeletal like a leaf-haul in autumn


Catherine Vidler has used Bill Manhire’s poem ‘Falseweed’ as the starting point for a series of poems. I am hesitant to name this endeavour concrete poetry. I am not sure why. Perhaps because although the poems plant a visual imprint on the page, a tangible icon to lock eyes upon, the effect is more like a kinetic web, an ethereal tissue that evokes memory, anecdote, fleeting sensations. I have seen these poems referred to as visual poetry.




The cover of the paperback (SoD)


Bill’s lines haunt – a kind of causeway to daydreams. Catherine has set up camp on the causeway and in an almost stream-of-conscious way lets Bill’s words float and tumble and take shape. Sometimes I see the visual imprint but I can no longer read the words with my myopia. That doesn’t matter to me. I know the words are there. Sometimes they are lost in smudged grey blocks of once-were-words. I get the nostalgic kick of cross stitch – me at school in the sixties making thread patterns on linen like generations of women before me. I was never very good and found my mind wandering to patterns in the sky.

Then again it is like trying to catch a dandelion kiss and blow it to your grandmother. The tissue poems are like a map of a mind wandering from the poetic line. At times a molecular snapshot, at times the pattern of a choreographer, at times the movement of the wind. Accepting the book on these terms, my terms really, no page is static.

I am reminded of the utter of joy of abstract art. In Paris I sat in front of Gerhard Richter’s mound of yellow pollen for an hour, sitting and looking at the yellow. It began to move and hum – just as yellow on a canvas can move and hum – and lift you beyond colour, can sink and submerge you in colour. It’s not like I entered a Zen-like space – I instead entered a fullness, a richness of experience that braided physical images with deep feeling.


If you are going to read this book the verb ‘to read’ acquires new dimensions.


Catherine’s chaingrass poems also appear in a smaller chapbook. There is a sense (sensation) of leafing through the long grass because it is the long-grass poems that have made it here. Shuffle too and fro, your eye catches glints of wordchains and you are caught  in the long grass. The white space renders the word stamp elegant, skeletal like a leaf-haul in autumn; altogether beautiful and mesmerising. Yet there is change, transformation, a magnetic pull of letters to displace and connect the word fragments. The grass is memory. By this point the visual dance, almost molecular, shifts to a new key, and yes, it becomes music.



The cover of the chapbook (zimZalla)


For the big, Stale Objects dePress book:

chaingrass, SOd press 2016

The book can be purchased online through Lulu here.



For the zimZalla book:

Chaingrass, zimZalla obect 039, 2016,

The book can be purchased online at zimZalla’s object page


Catherine Vidler‘s collection Furious Triangle was published by Puncher & Wattmann in 2011. She is the editor of trans-Tasman literary magazine Snorkel.



from chaingrass the chapbook



Seraph Press Translation Series launches in Auckland: with Manasiadis, Colquhoun, Harvey, Poole, Ross, Green, Kelly & Thompson




Series launch Auckland v2.jpg


Please join us for a multilingual poetry reading to celebrate the launch of the first the first two chapbooks in the Seraph Press Translation Series:

Shipwrecks/Shelters: Six Contemporary Greek Poets, edited and translated by Vana Manasiadis
Observations: Poems by Claudio Pasi, translated by Tim Smith with Marco Sonzogni

6.00pm Wednesday 14 December
ST PAUL St Gallery
40 St Paul Street, Auckland
All welcome

For more information about the books, or to buy them online visit.

and for more about the Seraph Press Translation Series, visit.

From The Guardian: Verse goes viral: how young feminist writers are reclaiming poetry for the digital age


from The Guardian. Full article by Rebecca Slate  here. Includes video clips.


If you’re not an Instagrammer you may never have heard of Rupi Kaur. In fact, if you’re not a young female Instagrammer, then your chances are probably even slimmer.

And yet, with almost 750,000 Instagram followers and more than half a million copies of her debut poetry collection, Milk and Honey, sold worldwide, Kaur is one of the biggest names on the literary scene right now.

Dubbed the queen of an emerging trend of “Instapoets”, this 24-year-old Indian-Canadian writer is leading the charge in an exciting new movement of young writers reclaiming poetry for the digital age.

[… and …]

And in New Zealand, poetry’s latest “it girl”, Hera Lindsay Bird, is amassing a semi-cult online following for her smart, sassy and explicit takes on everything from female sexuality to Friends.

On Pantograph Punch: ‘In the Meantime: Shipwrecks of the Self’ by Ingrid Horrocks


In the Meantime: Shipwrecks of the Self

Ingrid Horrocks considers her time at Princeton during 9/11, how the public and private selves combine, how the last decade and a half of world events make the future seem uncertain, but how we can begin again.

In the summer of 2001 I looked after a large sunny house on the edge of the Princeton campus. The house had a small neat garden with pink and yellow roses in beds between gravelled pathways. The summer began quietly but by its end everything felt different. I was a year into a doctorate, and for reasons I still find hard to explain, I keep returning to this period when the world seems at its most intense and precarious: when I have moved between cities and when my daughters were born; but also, when world news seems too terrible to hear, when I heard of the Paris terrorist attacks, and over the week when Donald Trump was elected U.S. president.

On the evening before the house owners, Bridget and Jonathan, went away for the summer they invited me around for dinner. Bridget was editing her new book at the kitchen table when I arrived, while outside the early summer evening gradually honeyed into a deep scented yellow around the trimmed roses. Roxy, their cat, moved from one bench to the next to lap up the last warmth, and upstairs their new baby slept. I remember sitting in the dining room in a quiet, wine-softened state, for once released from the crippling sense of homesickness that had suffused the past year.

After Bridget and Jonathan left, the house became the centre of my new social group. One night we all arrived back from a party and I found I’d locked myself out. Two of the physics boys, Joel and Jeff, all of us a little in love with each other, helped break a window so we could get in, the shattering glass somehow thrilling in the warm night.


Full article here. It is so good!

To journal or not to journal: Helen Lehndorf’s Write to the Centre


Write to the Centre, Helen Lehndorf, HauNui Press, 2016

Poet and teacher, Helen Lehndorf has kept journals for several decades. Journal keeping is essentially and at the outset an intimate and secret undertaking but then, at some point, some journals enter the public arena, raising all manner of questions about the ethics of what we share. Many writers publish journals within their lifetime; others appear posthumously. A journal is the place where you can remove the filters that work in varying degrees when you write poetry, fiction, memoir and so on.

Is a journal then writing with your greatest freedom?

What changes when you publish it?

I haven’t kept a journal since my twenties and can scarcely bear to encounter that feisty vulnerable young woman trying to live her way into the world. Altogether a writing basket that is too hard and fraught with curved balls and slippery slopes along with bursts of sweet-smelling roses.

The journals of Virginia Woolf have had a pivotal effect at different points in my life. I have always carried her mantra as a writer beholden to neither rule nor regulation: not for the sake of breaking but for the sake of creating.

Helen, however, with caution and daring, has returned to her journals to cut and paste a new version that shines bright. It is like a patchwork sample that functions as a patchwork memoir with its lift of colour and brave admissions. She is cutting open herself and we benefit. Cutting is a sharp word but a book like this represents self exposure – wounds, sutures and all. Reading it, it got me cutting into my own memories as points of recognition flashed.

Helen’s book, though, is also like a guide to journal writing because she stitches challenges for the budding writer into her patchwork. You meet the sticky questions and the practical suggestions that will set you on a writing path or help you refine and rattle the one you are already on.

There is a delicious vitality at work here – a sumptuous engagement with words and images and scraps of living that boost the writing craft. A journal, with its gorgeous hungry white space pulling you in, allows you to take risks not only in what you write but how you write. This is the private space, like a surrogate secret head that nobody gets to see, where you can make sense of things and then make nonsense of things. It might be therapy – the way every time you pick up a pen and start linking words you get a boost to  hemoglobin carrying oxygen to both brain and heart. It might be practice – like jamming with chords and scales, off-key and in harmony – in order to test what writing can do.

I love the way Write to the Centre takes you to the sensual pleasure of paper and pen held in hand. Strangely I was thinking about Poetry Box today and what I could do for children next year. I had the brain wave of gifting cool notebooks and pens to budding poets and doing a series of Notebook Challenges.

HauNui Press have excelled in their production values as this is a book clamouring to be picked up and read.

Haunui Press page

Sarah Laing blogs on Write to the Centre


My review of The Wish Child in SST: I love this book with its subterranean mysteries and spiky issues.



The Wish Child
Catherine Chidgey
Victoria University Press, $30

Catherine Chidgey has a terrific writing pedigree. Her debut novel, In a Fishbone Church, won Best First Book at The New Zealand Book Awards along with the South-East Asia/South Pacific section of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. She has since received numerous honours and fellowships, and glowing accolades from home and abroad.

Chidgey’s latest and fourth novel, The Wish Child, was more than a decade in the making. Right from the first sentences I was caught up in the exquisite lure of the writing: musical, clear, lovingly tended. Nothing seems forced.


Full review here

Reviews of Tusiata Avia and Anne Kennedy in Geo-Lit (USA)

full review here

GEO-LIT 101: New Zealand Poets: Fale Aitu | Spirit House & The Darling North
by Tusiata Avia and Anne Kennedy

reviewed by Terese Svoboda

November 19, 2016


I first encountered Tusiata Avia’s work at the Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia just after she published her first book, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt. Her mocking voice, sometimes full of mimicry, sometimes searingly sarcastic, often aims at neocolonialism and globalization. Samoan/Palagi, Avia’s mother is descended from the Europeans who first colonized New Zealand and her father, a stunt man, was among the first wave of Samoan immigrants to New Zealand in the 1950s. For seven years before Avia’s second book arrived—Bloodclot, about Nafanua, the Samoan goddess of war, who leaves the underworld to wander the earth as a half-caste girl—she traveled from Siberia to Sudan and read or performed her work in places like Moscow, Jerusalem and Vienna. Last year Avia was poet-in-residence with Simon Armitage at the International Poetry Studies Institute in Australia. This year Wild Dogs Under My Skin was adapted as a theater event for six women and received rave reviews. The recipient of a Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer’s Residency, the Ursula Bethel Writer in Residence at University of Canterbury, a residency at the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies in Christchurch, she won the 2013 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award. Truly an international poet with an indigenous Pacifika frame of reference, in Fale Aitu | Spirit House, Avia writes with a visceral, political, spare and passionate authority of someone who has seen the world.

Te Papa Poetry Reading: Luci Tapahonos – the first Poet Laureate of the Navajo Nation



A special opportunity to hear poems by Professor Luci Tapahonos, the first Poet Laureate of the Navajo Nation. The reading is followed by a Q&A session.


  • When Thu 24 Nov 2016, 1:00–2:00pm
  • Where
    Te Marae
  • Cost Free



Professor Luci Tapahonos is the inaugural Wai-te-ata Press Creator in Residence at Victoria University of Welllington.

Tapahonos was born in 1953 in Shiprock, New Mexico, where she grew up on a farm, immersed in the Navajo culture. She is the author of six books of poetry and three books for children. Tapahonos has received many awards, including the 2006 Lifetime Achievement award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas.

This event is brought to you by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, in association with Wai-te-ata Press, Victoria University, and the Embassy of the United States of America.