Monthly Archives: January 2017

Call for papers for a conference at Victoria University, December 2017: Poetry and the Essay

Helen Rickerby and Anna Jackson are organising another poetry-inspired conference!



6–8 December 2017, Victoria University of Wellington


‘They forsake narrative line, discursive logic, and the art of persuasion in favor of idiosyncratic meditation.’
John D’Agata on the lyric essay.


“…some people might think it’s not poetry.  Well…”

Jenny Bornholdt, from “Fitter Turner”


This three-day conference will bring together poets and scholars to explore the space where poetry intersects with the essay. Essay poetry has a long history, from classical poets, through Alexander Pope and Percy Bysshe Shelley, and in more recent years the lyric essay and other poems that explore ideas essayistically are pushing at the edges of the form. Some key contemporary practitioners include Anne Carson, Maggie Nelson, Eliot Weinberger, Alice Oswald, Claudia Rankine, Joshua Clover, Roger Horrocks, and Jenny Bornholdt.

We are seeking proposals for scholarly papers (20 minutes) and panel discussions. We are also seeking expressions of interest from poet-practitioners to read (and perhaps discuss) their own essay poems, either as a 10- minute reading or a 20-minute paper.

Topics and questions we would like to see addressed include:


  • Boundaries of form – what is an essay, what is a poem, what happens when the two meet?
  • Lyric theory and the essay: what does it mean to read the essay as lyric? Can lyric poetry approach the form of the essay?
  • Different types of essay poems: defining the sub-genres.
  • Forms used – prose poetry, found forms, tercets, couplets, quatrains; the place of rhyme and/or metre.
  • Language: polyvocality and code-switching, formal/informal language, voice.
  • Audience, in and out of the poem; the addressee and the reader.
  • Arguments and answers, questions and uncertainty. Logical and other modes of thinking, such as association, metaphor, lateral, subjective and experiential thinking.
  • The tensions arising from melding the forms – prose versus poetry, fact versus imagination, information versus art.
  • The lyric essay/essay poem as a literary tradition, from Horace to Pope to Shelley.


Abstracts should be sent to the organisers Helen Rickerby, Angelina Sbroma and Anna Jackson by 17 July, 2017. They can be emailed to


For more information visit here



Seraph Press launches its translation series: tiny comments on ‘shipwrecks / shelters’





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shipwrecks / shelters: six contemporary Greek poets edited and translated by Vana Manasiadis (No. 1) (includes a Greek title) Seraph Press, 2016

osservazioni observations: poesie poems   translated by Tim Smith with Marco Sonzogni with a foreword by Alessandro Fo (No. 2)  Seraph Press, 2016


Two beautiful handbound chapbooks featuring poems in translation came out towards the end of last year to launch Serpah Press’s new translation series.

Translation is such a fascinating thing to do and to contemplate. I spent a sizeable chunk of my life studying Italian within a university setting; the freight between English and Italian was glorious, mammoth, exhilarating. I remember meeting someone from the Italian consul in my first year of study and having to answer why I had picked Italian. Somehow I managed to find the words to say: ‘Because I want to read Italo Calvino in the original.’ That seemed like a bold and impossible quest at that point in time, but I did get to read him in Italian, along with countless other authors from Dante to Dario Fo to Renaissance poets to a century of women writing fiction.

From my point of view translation offers a ledger of gain and loss. The new version can never capture the aural complexities of the original, but it can offer something that moves the original in astonishing ways (or not!). New windows or booths or swing bridges or lily pads might emerge for the reader to explore.

For decades it has been quite the thing to translate poetry without knowing the original language (check out Anna Jackson’s terrific I, Clodia, and Other Portraits, AUP, 2014). This is where a poet goes freewheeling through available translations to come up with a version that sparks and connects in eclectic ways.

I am picturing all kinds of routes back to the original and what has been upheld – little kernels, chords, motifs, rhymes, feelings, fleeting truths, tiny anecdotes, drifting ideas, sidedrifts.


However, the two Seraph-Press books are translated by those fluent in both languages. Hearing them read (well I read the Italian) side by side at an event in Auckland, I was once again struck by the distinctive musicality. The way our own language works, makes it hard to break out of your mother-music-tongue when it comes to poetry. There is no way English catches the lyrical lilt and lift and rhyme of the Italian. You always get a different melody. Shut your eyes and listen. I felt like I was hearing four musical suites and became captivated by the effect upon my ear.

Musicality aside, it seems there is a vital political imperative to deliver these translations in this trembling world. Vana talked about how important poems are to Greeks at the moment – how there is a flourishing climate of poetry and that it is important to get the poems into the world.

These are poems of disruption, fragmentation, dystopia, departure, maternal folds. I am moved by them. I can’t make head nor tail of the Greek but the poems catch in my throat. Politics infuse each line, you have to look it straight in the eye, and yet there are other rewards. Each poem takes me by surprise. There is light and there is hope.

This is a very lovely book, essential.



This from Lena Kallergi from the ‘Flame Version’ where the dragon that slumbers in the familiar hills might wake, ‘and when she wakes, she’s a searing threat/ to the facts’:


Who said that hope is a bird

humble and small-bodied,

that it nests in hearts and sings sweetly

without asking for food?





From Vassilis Amanatidis’s ‘Mother Country’:


[blindness – homelessness]


To avoid being startled by sight,

the mother has transformed herself into a blind.





Again the maternal imprint that moves; from Phoebe Giannisi’s ‘Chimera’ extract:


I watered you with pomegranate juice

I reared you – with milk, my godly fire

I plunged you inside it

shield your body when you are away from me.








The 2017 National Flash Fiction Day competition opens February 15


The 2017 National Flash Fiction Day competition will open February 15, with entries accepted through April 30. Send your best 300-word story! Cash prizes equaling $1500!

First Prize: $1000

Second Prize: $400

Third Prize: $100

We are pleased to announce that the judges for this year’s competition are Michael Harlow and Emma Neale. Competition entry details will be posted in early February – watch this space.

And there are still a few days to submit to the February issue of Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction. The issue will feature stories up to 250 words with the theme remnants; guest edited by 2017 NFFD judge Michael Harlow. Submissions close January 31. Details here.

READING POETRY AROUND THE WORLD with Stephen Burt, Fergus Barrowman and Paul Millar






In 2012 The New York Times called poet, critic and Harvard Professor Stephen Burt “one of the most influential poetry critics of his generation.”

In 2014, Victoria University Press editor Fergus Barrowman was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his commitment to publishing original New Zealand writing.

In a conversation chaired by UC Professor of English Paul Millar, Burt and Barrowman will discuss work by a range of poets from New Zealand and elsewhere, look at ways to gain New Zealand poetry a greater international readership, and also think about how contemporary poetry travels—or does not travel—between nations and across oceans. Come and have a drink and listen in to what is sure to be a lively discussion for all poetry lovers.

6pm (Refreshments served from 5.30pm)