Monthly Archives: March 2018

Poetry Shelf interviews Anna Jackson


On my way elsewhere. 


My shoulders are sore, and my feet.  But I have my vision.

I will look past the old man whose beard drips

down like a stalactite, to the light

at the end of the tunnel – it isn’t a cave

he sits in, but a tunnel, and out

the other side there is a path as white

as sand.  There is a break in the clouds to the East,

but the light falls from the West – it is later

than I thought.  I should have gone home long ago

and he, no doubt, has come a long way himself,

is no doubt just resting a moment, not living in a cave. 

Though it isn’t a cave, but the mouth of a tunnel, and I 

should be getting home, though I have no family

to go home to and the fireworks can be seen

from here, through the tunnel, which could

be seen as a frame, almost.  Would you rather

have twenty-twenty vision of the fireworks or be blind

with five children around you, five children

clamouring for fireworks that you cannot light? 

I would ask the old man this question, if

he were close enough to hear me – I don’t know

how well he can hear.  But what I thought

was the sound of the fireworks I think is the old man, light

catching his eyes suddenly so they shine in the dimness,

calling out from inside the tunnel to me:

“even if you lit them, you wouldn’t be able to see.”  


©Anna Jackson in Pasture and Flock




Anna Jackson debuted in AUP New Poets 1 and has subsequently published 6 poetry collections with Auckland University Press. She has a DPhil from Oxford, and is an Associate Professor of English at Victoria University. She has organised several poetry related conferences with Helen Rickerby (most recently Poetry & the Essay) along with the Ruapehu Writers Festival (much loved by participants). In 2009, with Charles Ferrall, she published  British Juvenile Fiction 1850 – 1950: The Age of Adolescence, and in the following year, Diary Poetics: Form and Style in Writers’ Diaries 1915 -1962.

When Anna Jackson’s Pasture and Flock: New & selected poems arrived in my reading lap, I stalled on the perfect cover and the perfect title for curated travels across 25 years of poetry. There is new growth, myriad viewpoints, shelter and flight. My relationship with the poetry extends back to the first publication as does my friendship with Anna. Opening this book is like opening a poetry album where the ghosts above the line are our shared conversations, celebrations and confessions. Yet when I enter the poem, our interlinked history dissolves, and it is just the poem flaring and gliding in my mind.


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An unfolding email conversation with Anna

Paula: Right from the start your poetry has touched a chord with me. I am reading the early poems, and the litheness on the line, the measured wit, the roving curiosity are as captivating as when your debut poems appeared in AUP New Poets 1 and The Long Road to Teatime. Reading the poems from the early collections, I wondered what it is like musing back on the young woman who wrote them. Are you startled to see what you wrote? What do you love about these first outings? Was there difficulty?

Anna: It is more startling finding unpublished things I wrote at the time, when I really don’t know where they are going to go or what I was thinking.  Because these poems were published I have never forgotten them so completely, but I like returning to that sense of who I was, and who we were, when I was writing poetry for my friends at the age of 23 (“looking as young as the teenagers at the bar” – well of course I did, I was only 23!).  I wasn’t writing for publication except we found we could use the old printing press at the university, so we wrote some things to play around with the letterpress with, and then we got more ambitious and made little chapbook anthologies of our writing, with a photocopier and woodcuts, or maybe they were linocuts.


Paula: I am really drawn to the ‘friendships’ you set up with other writers and the way the poem becomes conversation or story, surprising in the paths taken.


The sun has taken to me.

It rarely comes out now

without stopping to talk.

I am expected to drop everything.


from ‘My friendship with Mayakovsky’


Often your family and friends are drawn into the other scenes. I especially love the Dante poems where you are all lost in a thicket of autobiography, musings and literary engagements.


In the middle of the journey

we found ourselves lost.

‘This is the jungle,’ said Johnny.

Roe asked if we had a map.

‘Not a road map,’ said Simon.

‘So what sort do you have?’

We looked for a life map.


from ‘The road to Karekare’ in ‘The long road to teatime’



Were these early literary friendships like a support crew as you started out, or a way to take risks and refresh the inherited page, or something in between or altogether different?

Anna: Yes and yes…In Dunedin, writing and publishing poetry was a way of taking part in an arts scene I wanted to be a part of.  There were empty warehouse buildings, scavenged equipment, all sorts of projects people were trying out, some of which never amounted to anything, some which were just one-off experiences.  One evening Alastair Galbraith, a musician, writer and artist, read through a Marguerite Duras script with me, I can’t remember why, but it was an extraordinarily powerful theatrical experience for me, except more intimate than theatrical because we were performing for no one.  And making friends with Mayakovsky, travelling with Dante, was part of this way of living in connection with other writers and artists, on and off the page.


Paula: Were there losses in not including the whole sequences? From my point of view there is a greater economy of travel, yet the underlying pulse of intersections is not diminished. So the family refreshes Dante and Dante refreshes the family—and that ‘would of selves’ hungry for ‘hot buttered toast’.

Anna: The collection includes six sequences, two from my first book, and I only edited them a little, for “economy of travel” as you say and also to cut out some lines or stanzas that still embarrass me.  I selected six whole sequences rather than fragments from more sequences, to tell whole stories as much as I could, and I think another story tells itself through the sequence of sequences too maybe.


Paula: I have edited earlier poems when performing them in public on the spot! There is the little nag hovering above a word or a line that I finally pay attention to. When an editor coincides with that nag, I sit up and listen.

It is fascinating how this new version of sequences retains the original chords yet makes the synchronicities between books sing with different intensities. I am thinking of the voice of the child (Johnny, Elvira, Rufus), relations with writing, the imagined and longed for, the lived.

With The Gas Leak you step into narrative, but family is still in acute focus. There is a humaneness at work, little wisdoms, a playful yet serious pushing at familial boundaries. What freedoms and advantages did you find in writing this book? How did the sonnet help?


Has someone broken in?

I wouldn’t know what was missing.

For years I have left

the door open

thinking even mud

from the break-in would be

a gain


from ‘A master key is easy to procure’



The family in acute focus, I like that.  The sonnet form allowed for a very taut story-telling voice, the sonnets in the book being reduced sonnets, with fourteen lines but very short lines.  I would put as much as I could in each poem and then cut it back, and when I couldn’t cut it back any further, I would add an additional element and then cut again.  Perhaps I was doing something like that with the narrative too, with the rearrangement and fictionalization of elements of autobiography and elements of narrative I’d taken from Gerrit Achterberg’s Ballade of a Gas-fitter – a “ballad” that is also written in sonnet form.  It is a heightened, fraught version of a family that only incidentally resembles, sometimes, my own.  I wrote it very quickly, between classes, making use of whatever material was to hand, a discussion of Xeno’s arrow with a colleague, an attempt to use the barre around our office lifts for leg stretches, the children’s soccer game in the weekend, a song on the radio.  There isn’t a word I would change, but I’ve already found changes I would make to two of the poems in the new selection at the end of Pasture and Flock.



Paula: What draws you to poetry rather than narrative?

Anna: I went to a novel-writing workshop run by Curtis Sittenfeld once, and she said writers reveal a lot about themselves in fiction in details they don’t think are giving anything away – how much characters drink, or what they worry about, or how they respond to a telephone ringing.  I think poetry offers more secrecy, but maybe I am giving away more than I mean to.  I do think I am writing narrative though – sometimes little narratives in individual poems, sometimes a narrative sequence across a series of poems.  I like the possibility for different forms of narrative, shorter stories, or stories that leap across gaps and shifts in perspective.



Paula: Catullus is your point of return. What attracts you to his poetry? In meshing your voice and his, your preoccupations and his, again you freshen poetic possibilities. There is daring and there is conversation, particularly when you turn your attention to Clodia. The I, Clodia poems have always resonated for me.


I might cry over your verses –

tears of laughter

but these are real tears,

I’m grieving.

Look at what wax my little bird,

yesterday – this was

somebody, closer to me than …

you had better be leaving.


from ‘Pipiabat’


Anna: Yes, the Catullus for Children poems were a kind of translation game, domesticating Catullus not just into a contemporary New Zealand setting but revisiting his poetry in terms of the preoccupations of a seven-year-old child.  I liked how the excess and passion of his poetry translated into the different kinds of excesses of the playground, and also was interested to see what was left with the very adult themes of his poems taken away.  I, Clodia is a more serious engagement with the poetry, putting the love affair with Clodia (or Lesbia as he calls her), that several of his poems return to, right at the centre of a narrative I construct through a series of poems in her voice.  I was drawn to the narrative possibilities that the Catullus poems suggest but do not resolve, and I was also drawn to the romantic intensity of the poetry, and wondered what it would be like to be on the receiving end of it, and perhaps to match it.


Paula: I enthused wildly on the blog about your chapbook with Seraph Press (Dear Tombs, Dear Horizon). Much of these poems were written when you had the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship in Menton. You have included ‘Dear Tombs’ that comes out of that cluster of experience. On my blog I wrote:

The poem steps off from graffiti witnessed on rocks: ‘You are my most lovely horizon’. Each experience, thought, recalled page or vista steps off into the mysterious elsewhere of thinking, and from the elsewhere of thinking into the paradoxical here yet elsewhere of writing. The horizon is the translucent line where Mediterranean sky meets Mediterranean sea, a sensual hook of beauty that stalls the walker, but it is also the indefinable lure that poses a need to write, to think, to experience. It is Katherine Mansfield, the other authors, the conversations that stick, the not-home-ness that becomes a home-ness. (see here for review)

What prompted the ‘Dear Tombs’ narrative? I do think these poems lift from the page in glorious ways. Did your French writing sojourn make a difference?


Dear Tombs, I do not see anything here but dust.

Dust, dust, dust and beyond your hollows

and pillars, some trees still clinging to the dust

that gives them nothing, not a swallow

of water in it, a good winter one with rain,

a bad winter the one they have just had, and the one to follow.


from ‘Dear Tombs’


Anna: Yes, I was wonderfully home and not-home in France, and at home and not-at-home in my own writing as well.  Poetry is something I can write in between what I ought to be doing, as a form of procrastination or resistance, so it was both liberating and unnerving to feel an obligation to write, and to write something I couldn’t otherwise have written.  The Dear Tombs, Dear Horizon chapbook was made up of notes I wrote to myself, work towards writing rather than writing itself, not a way I usually work, but a way of writing I could do every day.  It did come to take on a kind of life and rhythm of its own and I was really pleased Helen Rickerby would publish it as a Seraph Press chapbook.  I feel it has a lightness and spaciousness like our life in France.  It wouldn’t really have worked to work up the notes into a different kind of poetry, except I did work up the dream at the very end of the chapbook about the tombs, exactly as I half-jokingly planned in those notes, in terza rima.  And then that set me off writing a few other poems in terza rima – but none of the others have the depth and glittery darkness of Dear Tombs.


Paula: The new poems continue this uplift. I love all of them, but especially ‘Flammable’, ‘On my way elsewhere’, ‘Bees, so many bees’, ‘Pasture and flock’. Really any page I land on becomes a favourite. There is a pulse of love that is always surprising and that is steered by shifting melodies. Which poems have particularly fallen into place for you? What mattered as you wrote these?


The world was flammable, we knew it was.

Our hair lit up with candle-light, we peeled off

the wax from the table and made it into

something beautiful, tender as the high voices

of the castrati, fine as smoke through the grain

of an old LP, a radiance through their song

like the flame of a wick slowly burning,

burning in its casing of wax. We all felt it.


from ‘Flammable’


Anna: ‘Flammable’ and ‘On my way elsewhere’ I think have something of that glittery darkness of Dear Tombs.  They both, in fact, have darkening skies and glittering lights, candlelight again in ‘Flammable’, and fireworks in ‘On my way elsewhere’, but I also mean a kind of coming from elsewhere, a sort of charged darkness.  They are about what we can’t see, can’t have, don’t know about ourselves, and I think they have something of an oracular quality about them, represented in ‘On my way elsewhere’ by the old man in the tunnel.  Maybe they are also a bit silly, a bit absurd, or at least a bit comic.  Most of the poems have been published in journals and I sent “On my way elsewhere” out to a few in turn but couldn’t place it anywhere, but it is one of my favourites.


Paula: I like the idea of glitter and darkness in a poem. You often draw real people into your poems, as we have already discussed. Does this ever make you uncomfortable?

Anna: I have written some I won’t publish because they draw too closely on real life, in ways that might be uncomfortable for the people I’ve written about. To make a poem work, often you want to push it as far as you can into discomfort.  And sometimes you will take risks for the work, at the risk of other people as well as yourself.  I mean, I have.  It is the same in fiction and essays – Brian Blanchfield’s brilliant, compelling book of essays, Proxies, was written with the method of keeping going from any starting point until he reached a point of personal discomfort or shame.  It makes for brilliant reading but it is very exposing, for himself and sometimes for other people he writes about.  I think he is extraordinarily brave.


Paula: Writing is the most important thing, but there are so many other aspects to a poet’s life: public readings, festivals, reviews, interviews, book awards, teaching. How do you feel about these extra demands?

Anna: I think most poets probably write because it is such a secret art, no one watches you do it.  You can be very controlled about what you release, no one has to see the early drafts or the work that goes nowhere, or goes somewhere you don’t want anyone to know about.  So public events are everything the poet has chosen against.  I love teaching and I have really brilliant, engaged students this year who constantly surprise me with new insights, but it is always still a little frightening standing at the front of the lecture hall, hoping the hour will go well.  There is a poem in Pasture and Flock, ‘The Cooking Show’, about the dread of lecturing, wishing I could lecture in secret, under a blanket with a torch.   You want people to read your work, and so the invitations to take part in events are very welcome, but I always wish I didn’t have to do them.  I don’t want to put people off inviting me by saying this, I’m grateful too to be asked.  I think it is the same for most writers.  And it isn’t as if publishing the work isn’t also an act of exposure you sometimes dread.  You still want to do it.


Paula: Why write poetry? Why read it?

 Anna: I read poetry almost every day.  It allows for a different kind of thinking and seeing.  I love fiction too and the way you can be immersed in a whole other world, but poetry allows for micro-immersions, intense unfinished experiences like dreams, that can have that same urgent resonance a dream can have.  Some poems I have held in my head for years, a poem is very portable.  I would like to think a poem of mine could have that kind of resonance for another reader.  Writing poetry is itself a micro-immersion in a developing dream, a dream you can partly control, even as it takes control of you.  It is like a more active form of reading.  And then you have written a poem, that wouldn’t be in the world if you hadn’t written it.


Pasture and flock


Staring up into the sky my feet

anchor me to the ground so hard

I’m almost drowning, drowning

in air, my hair falling upwards

around my shoulders, I think I’ll hug

my coat closer.  I’m standing

on hundreds of blades of grass, and 

still there are so many more

untrodden on.  Last night, in bed,

you said, “you are the sheet

of linen and I am the threads,” and

I wanted to know what you meant

but you wouldn’t wake up to tell me

and in the morning you didn’t

remember, and I had forgotten

till now when I think, who is

the blades of grass, who is the pasture?

It is awfully cold, and my coat

smells of something unusual.

It almost seems as if it is the stars

smelling, as if there were

an electrical fault in the sky,

and though it is almost too dark

to see I can see the sheep

moving closer, and the stars

falling. I feel like we are all

going to plunge into the sky

at once, the sheep and I,

and I am the sheep and I am

the flock, and you are the pasture

I fall from, the stars and the sky.


©Anna Jackson


Auckland University Press author page

‘Meet Viva la Novella shortlistee Anna Jackson’ – interview with Seizure Press includes her new project!

‘What are you working on now?

I am writing a book about poetry and at the moment I am finishing a chapter on sprawl in poetry, while thinking about a chapter on dead poets and what it means to write in anticipation of being dead.’








Today in 1941, Virginia Woolf dies: my two poems from 1997




afternoon tea with Virginia Woolf


over the flower beds

over the fumes and steams

over the neck of a horse

over the same broad leaves

over the limb

over the pastry and fruit

over the mass and edge

over the shell against stone

over the one bright feather

over the sharp wedges

over the pressure of the morning

over the swift scales

over the glaze of china

over the bulk of a cupboard



afternoon tea with Virginia Woolf: 2

the curtain quivers

‘I am a poet, yes’


©Paula Green (Cookhouse, Auckland University Press, 1997)


Auckland University Press page



RIP: Poet Jill Chan


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I was very sad to discover this news last week – and could not quite believe it. But I want to raise a toast to a wonderful poet and much loved woman.

When I first discovered Jill’s debut collection, The Smell of Oranges’, I was drawn to her freshness of voice, the vital human core, the open windows of the poems. Her writing continued to move in distinctive directions but she never lost her poetic freshness or her finger on the pulse of the world. That combination produced poetry that mattered.

My thoughts go out to friends, family and poetry fans at this sad time.

One poem, in particular, I have kept in a room in my head for those poems that never leave.


The Smell of Oranges

My mother would ask

if I wanted them cut or peeled.

I’d answer that I wanted them peeled

if only to see her fingers hold them

like clay to be molded.

After peeling their husk,

she would put her thumbs in the centre

and break each into halves;

later separate the slices, one by one.

I marvel at the flexible skins

pulling away,

not ever breaking at the pressure.

Jill Chan


A letter from Jill’s family


Dear All,

The family of Jill Chan would like to offer our heartfelt gratitude for your kind expressions of sympathy during our time of grief. We find comfort in knowing that Jill is now with God in Heaven.

Jill very much appreciated your firm support of her poetry and fiction writings. We hope you’ll continue to enjoy reading and revisiting Jill’s work, long into the future.

Jill Chan was a poet, fiction writer and editor. Her work has been published in various New Zealand and international literary magazines both in print and online. She was one of the poets featured in the New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive.

Jill authored four books of prose: Alone and Other Flash Fiction (2017); What We Give: a novella (2017); Phone Call and Other Prose Writings (2017); The Art of It: Three Novellas (2011); and six books of poetry: What To Believe (2017); On Love: a poem sequence (2011); Early Work: Poems 2000-2007 (2011); These Hands Are Not Ours (ESAW, 2009), winner of the Earl of Seacliff Poetry Prize; Becoming Someone Who Isn’t (ESAW, 2007); and The Smell of Oranges (ESAW, 2003).

Jill was the editor of Subtle Fiction at the time of her passing.

Jill Chan passed away on February 28, 2018 after a 9-month illness. She was 45 years old.

Official website

Aotearoa NZ sound archive

Thank you very much.


You can read a recent poem, ‘Poetry’, published in latest Poetry NZ here





Poetry Review: Heather McPherson’s This Joyous, Chaotic Place

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This Joyous, Chaotic Place, Heather McPherson, Spiral, 2018

(cover image by Joanna Margaret Paul with a portrait of Heather on the back by Allie Eagle)



Heather McPherson (1942 – 2017) published 4 poetry collections in her lifetime, with her first, A Figurehead: A Face, paving the way for future poets. It was the first poetry book by an out lesbian in Aotearoa/ New Zealand.  In 1974 she founded both the Christchurch Women Artists group and Spiral, a women’s literary and arts journal.

Before her death, Heather asked poet Janet Charman to edit her garden poems while Lynne Ciochetto and Marian Evans formed a Spiral collective to publish the volume.

When I think of garden poems, I think of Ursula Bethell and the decade she devoted to writing and gardening when she lived with her beloved companion, Effie Pollen. I have thought about these intensities a lot, and write about them in my forthcoming book.

To enter the glades of Heather’s final collection, lovingly tended by Janet, is to enter a garden rich in aroma, with diverse plantings and seasonal changes. As with Ursula, to view Heather’s writing through a garden lens is extremely productive.


This graveyard’s a bit like the one

where we buried my mum and dad. Oldish,

a small town Anglian acreage


from ‘At Rangiora’s Ashley Street Cemetery’


We begin at Ursula’s grave, and while the poem draws us in close, it also generates little waves that connect admired poet – mentor almost – to Heather’s parents: one grave seeking pilgrimage as much as the next. And herein lies the delight of the poetry, the way the visual piquancy (‘the bird droppings// and twigs’) interweaves with the many selves: daughter, poet, companion, political attendee.

Attendance is vital because this is a poet who paid attention to things, small and large, the one nestled in the other, crafted within the reflective surface of poems. At times it is the joy of the thing itself that matters:


but this shape-shifter tree blossoms

tight thick-skinned buds like thrusting rose-hips


from ‘fragment’


On other occasions the poem is a vehicle for story or anecdote, and a way of tending vital bonds, personal experience, inner movement. Age is a preoccupation as is the necessity of companionship.


No. No. See, it’s like old age, he says, eyeing my face.

Goes slack and perishes. Soon as I touched it, it gave way.

Dangerous. Gone holey. I’ll get you a tow.


from ‘Waiting for the breakdown truck’


I spend time in Heather’s poetic glades, because the senses are on alert, the description compounding, and it imbues my own contemplative state. I like that. I like the way my mind wanders through my open window to the kereru plundering the cabbage tree, and then I am back within an intensity of poppies:


Poppies poppies poppies … red-headed

black-bellied upright masses on light green

sea-milk stalks – surely such riotously

frilly leaves can’t be edible – can’t be

blanched – baked – boiled – toast …


from ‘Poppies’


In a poem for Fran, Heather responds to her friend’s paintings, and it seems to me, the astute observation might also be applied to the poems.


But I don’t have lots of things in

my work – like Anna does, you said;

ah, I said, but your painting traps

amazing movement in it – it moves,

it moves – whether or not your

subject does  – it moves internally

& moving, spills (…)


from ‘Things shift’


As much as stillness gifts Heather’s poetry a translucent layering, the internal movement – the links and arcs, the revelations, the richnesses and the reserve – offer an uplift along with countless movements. By paying attention to the garden in which she lived, and the people close to her, her poetry establishes contrasting intensities – from the joyful to the chaotic. It is a pleasure to read.



Until April 14th

‘This Joyous, Chaotic Place: He Waiata Tangi-ā-Tahu’ is a multi-media project to celebrate poet and lesbian activist Heather McPherson (1942-2017) and her peers in the Aotearoa New Zealand’s women’s art and literature movement of the 1970s and 1980s. It is a #suffrage125 project, funded by Creative New Zealand and includes an exhibition, a collection of Heather’s ‘garden poems’ and a shopfront cinema showing 70s and 80s short films and raw footage.

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In Jacket 2 – Vaughan Rapatahana on Bending the Genre: Flash fiction/prose poetry in Aotearoa New Zealand

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Full article here


‘The creation of flash fiction/prose poetry is increasing exponentially in Aotearoa, New Zealand. It has always been around, but nowadays there are more exponents, more outlets, more coverage, more academic ‘acceptance’ of the form. It is a significant presence and — to me — a very valuable and viable method to further  w  i  d  e  n  the horizons of poetry and literature in this country. Which has always been the focus of these commentaries.

What is this form and why have I written flash fiction/prose poetry as a Siamese twin? Well, that is a good question. There is often no clear-cut distinction between prose poetry and flash or short fiction, most especially as — obviously — both are economical in terms of the number of words used, given that prose poems can sometimes extend well beyond the word limits defining flash fiction.

However, given the amorphousness here between such subgenres, flash fiction does attempt to tell a story, to at least set up a narrative with some characterization; to plot a plot if you will. This does not occlude storytelling via prose poetry, but the tendency of the latter is to also concentrate on not only the ‘traditional’ poetic tropes of imagery, yet also wordplay, unusual discourse, novelty of effect; to
s  t  r  e  t  c  h  poetry beyond the staid, into freedom from constraint. If in so doing, a prose poem seems to replicate a slice of flash fiction, it is a happy coincidence. This is a very simplistic overview, however, because the more I delve into the difference, the more I discern that there is no clear difference! ‘

Vaughan Rapatahana


12 Questions for the Ockham NZ Book Awards poetry finalists: Briar Wood




Congratulations on your short-list placing!

Kia Ora.


What poetry books have you read in the past year?


Say Something Back – Denise Riley

The Bonniest Companie – Kathleen Jamie

Dark Sparring – Selina Tusitala Marsh

Citizen – Claudia Rankine

Deep River Talk Hone Tuwhare


What other reading attracts you?


Fiction – La Rose Louise Erdrich; Parable of the Sower Octavia Butler; A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing Eimear McBride; Sleeps Standing Moetu Witi Ihimaera with Hemi Kelly; Foreign Soil  Maxine Beneba Clarke

History  – Tuai Alison Jones and Kuni Kaa Jenkins; Inglorious Empire: What the British Did To India Shashi Tharoor

Journalism and Essays –   Feel Free Zadie Smith; False River Paula Morris; The Best and the Brightest David Halberstam


Name some key starting points (or themes) for your collection

wāhi, places, the ambience and etymology of words, kupu kōtuitui


Did anything surprise you as the poems come into being?

Yes, the thematic intensity and interconnections as the collection e-merged.


Find up to 5 individual words that pitch your book to a reader.

negotiating,  rerenga, ecoconscious, beò, karadow


Which poem particularly falls into place for you?



What matters most when you write a poem?

Aligning kupu


What do you loathe in poetry?

I don’t loathe anything or nothing in poetry.


Where do you like to write poems?

Near Maungatapere.


What are strengths and lacks in our poetry scenes?

Te reo writing and performance is a strength – there should be more promotion of it.

The performance and publishing scene is quite inclusive and can be more so.

More consistent newspaper reviews of poetry and media outlets paying to publish poems.


Have you seen a festival poetry session (anywhere) that has blown you off your seat (or had some other significant impact)?


Performances at hui for Te Hā ki Tāmaki – Contemporary Maori Writers by Whaitiri Mikaere and Te Kahu Rolleston pass on their energy and  aroha for te reo with an integrated intensity.


If you could curate a dream poetry session at The Auckland Writers Festival which poets would be there and who would mc or chair it?


Any of the poets could mc or chair it.

Kiri Piahana-Wong

Jacqs Carter

Te Kahu Rolleston

Paula Morris

David Eggleton

Brian Turner



Anahera press page

Monday Poem: Maraea Rakuraku’s ‘When does it start?’


When does it start?


It’s not waving a flag, holding a banner, knowing what postcolonial theory

means and when to use it, memorising quotes and lining them up like

soldiers that are sent out in waves of attacks,


It’s not being polite, remaining open, listening fairly, vigilantly assessing

your motivation, re-writing your carefully worded response, marvelling

how the person who has cornered you on-line, at a party, work do or

rugby game is not hearing how every word they are saying is offensive and

they may as well be slicing through your heart, with the intent-sity of a

scythe clearing long grass,


It isn’t realising dressing up racist rhetoric in flash language is still just

racist rhetoric in flash language and sniffing that out in the first, I’m not

racist … but,


It isn’t recognising white privilege and entitlement, functioning under white

privilege and entitlement, loving under white privilege and entitlement,


It doesn’t start with the huge fucking disappointment when a brown

brotha is worse than the worst redneck you’ve encountered in your life,


It doesn’t start by standing up for your iwi, people, culture, colleague,

son, daughter, lover, missus, Koro, Nan, cuzzie, animals, Papatūānuku, or

even yourself,

Mō āhea tīmata ai? ka tīmata āwhea?


Ehara i te whakakakapa i te haki, i te pupuri ki te kara, i te mōhio ki

te ariā pōhi koroniara me te wā e tika ana kia whakamahia, i te tuhi i

ngā whakataukī ki te rae ka whakarārangi ai anō nei he hōia e tukuna

putupututia ana ki te whawhai,


Ehara i te mānawanawa, i te noho areare, i te tōkeke o te whakarongo,

i te mātai i ākinga ōu, i te whatatika i tō whakahoki kua āta tuhia, i te

whakamīharo ki te tangata nāna koe i whakaiti i te ipurangi, i te pāti, i

te kaupapa ā-mahi, i te kēmu whutupōro rānei me tana kore i rongo ki te

hākiki o ia kupu āna, me e haehae ana i te ngākau, he rite tōna kaha ki te

kotinga o te haira e whakawātea ana i te pātītī roa,


Ehara i te kitenga o te kōrero kaikiri kua whakareia ki te kupu whakaniko,

me te mōhio tonu iho he kōrero kaikiri tonu kua whakareia ki te kupu

whakaniko, ehara au i te kaikiri … heoi anō,


Ehara i te whakamārama i te huanga me te āheinga kiritea, e mahi ana i

raro i te huanga me te āheinga kiritea, e aroha ana i raro i te huanga me te

āheinga kiritea,


Kāore e tīmata i te mutunga kē mai o te matekiri i te mea he kino noa ake

te tūngāne kiriparauri i te kakī whero tino kino rawa atu kua tūpono i

roto i ō rā,


Kāore e tīmata i tō tū tautoko i tō iwi, i ō tāngata, i tō ahurea, i tō

kaimahi, i tō tama, i tō kōtiro, i tō whaiāipo, i tō wahine, i tō koro, i tō

kuia, i tō whanaunga, i ō mōkai, i a Papatūānuku, i a koe anō hoki,

It starts,

with that first step from the margins into the glare of light





that started

when the idea of you was born and took seed

that started

when the idea of you was born and took seed

that started

when the idea of you was born

that started

with the idea of you.

Ka tīmata,

i te tapuwae tuatahi i te paenga ki te kōnakonako o te tūrama

me te


o tōu


i tīmata tērā

i te tinakutanga me te tupu o te whakaaro ki a koe

i tīmata

i te tinakutanga me te tupu o te whakaaro ki a koe

i tīmata

i te tinakutanga o te whakaaro ki a koe

i tīmata

i te whakaaro ki a koe.



©Maraea Rakuraku  Translated by Jamie Cowell, Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Poets in Translation, Seraph Press, 2018.



Maraea Rakuraku is an award-winning playwright, poet, short story writer, critic, reviewer and broadcaster who lives in Wellington and the Bay of Plenty. She creates work that investigates, examines, calls out and celebrates Te Ao Māori and our navigation of 21st century Aotearoa New Zealand.

Her thoughtful, fierce intellectualism, and grounding in her Tūhoe and Ngāti Kahungunu identity, is matched only by her heart and commitment to giving voice.

With Vana  Manasiadis, Maraea is the co-editor of and contributor to Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Poets in Translation, which has just been published by Seraph Press.

In 2018 she started a PhD in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters, Wellington.

In the hammock: Martha Batalha’s The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao



The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao, Martha Batalha, One World, 2017 (originally published by Companhia das Letras, 2016)


After studying journalism and literature in Brazil, Marta Batalha moved into publishing, and to California. This is her first novel. It was translated form Portuguese by Eric M B Becker.

This was another book I discovered in authors’ picks in the Guardian for 2017. The binding of the novel made it one of the most difficult books I have read in an age – at times I got sick of  trying to bend back the book. Truly I found myself skimming the edges because it was such a pain holding the book wide open.

Maybe that fits a character who is invisible in the eyes of her husband because he decided she was not a virgin on her wedding night – I just upped the degrees of invisibility. To compensate for her housewife role and lack of status – this reads more like offbeat realism than kitchen sink grit – she invents intense projects for herself that always amplify neighbourhood suspicion. She cooks with flair and invention beyond the expected daily staple and assembles a cookbook that ends up in the trash. Cooking is replaced with sewing – she sews herself into visibility by making the best clothes for the neighbourhood. The sewing machine ends up in the trash.

Her sister had vanished and near the end she returns with her own complicated story and the sibling relationship becomes one of rescue, of finding a way to be visible in the world, to matter and be of worth. The issue of female invisibility has affected women for centuries, along with shaping self to suit oneself. How do we make ourselves beyond the stereotyped role of mother and wife? How do we speak ourselves and make choices the furnish presence, worth?

Writing also has a role to play in Euridice’s invisible life and quest for presence.

If I had not felt like throwing the novel in the trash half the time, because I couldn’t keep the book open, I might have loved it 100 percent – but something, perhaps the strangeness coupled with the acute reality, the caustic wit and the pulsing Rio, the intricate and subtle rebellions, still made this compulsive reading.

12 Questions for the Ockham NZ Book Awards poetry finalists: Elizabeth Smither





Congratulations on your short-list placing Elizabeth!


What poetry books have you read in the past year?

Everything by Wislawa Szymborska and the Penguin Modern Poets series (3 poets in each clutch purse-sized collection): Emily Berry/Anne Carson/Sophie Collins; Malika Booker/Sharon Olds/Warsan Shire etc.


What other reading attracts you?

Almost anything. At the moment I am re-reading Rex Stout and the yellow pyjama-wearing detective Nero Wolfe.


Name some key starting points (or themes) for your collection.

I never discover a theme until a collection is put together. The connections between individual poems can be as subtle and perverse as the most delicate rhyme or rhythm.


Did anything surprise you as the poems come into being?

Perhaps the secret life of animals?


Find up to 5 individual words that pitch your book to a reader.

‘The heart heals itself between beats’ because it was a commission with an extra scoop of fear attached.


What matters most when you write a poem?

Depth and uncertainty.


What do you loathe in poetry?

Nothing. It’s important not to loathe anything.


Where do you like to write poems?

Propped up on a bank of pillows in bed, with the concert programme on the radio and perhaps a glass of wine.


What are strengths and lacks in our poetry scenes?

The chutzpah of our independent publishers; a tendency for too much adulation.


Have you seen a festival poetry session (anywhere) that has blown you off your seat (or had some other significant impact)?

Margaret Atwood and Hans Magnus Enzensberger at the Aldeburgh festival. I read first and sat down between them, shivering.


If you could curate a dream poetry session at The Auckland Writers Festival which poets would be there and who would mc or chair it?

I think I’d do a Dead Poets session. Keats and Shelley, Robert Lowell, William Empson, John Crowe Ransom, Tomas Tranströmer, Szymborska, of course… the possibilities are endless. It might have something of the bitchy tone of ‘The Real Housewives of Melbourne’.  To chair it one of the Paulas: Green or Morris.


Night Horse AUP author page