In the hamock: reading Ila Selwyn’s dancing with dragons


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Ila Selwyn, dancing with dragons, Westridge Publishing, 2018


Ila Selwyn has published a previous poetry collection, two sisters, two chapbooks and a number of handmade books. She was an MC at Auckand’s Poetry Live, ran Rhythm & Verse at Titirangi’s Lopdell House and has run National Poetry Day events.

Ila’s new collection is as much a performance piece as it is an aural and visual symphony for the page. The book tips you as reader. It is in landscape format turning on a vertical rather than horizontal axis. The poems hug the right-hand margin. Quirky black and white drawings are scattered throughout. Lines in italics are mashed from songs or dead poets, so as you read, familiar melodies cut into the poems.

The word at the start of a line has a big role to play. It is the bridge between two thoughts (‘you be piggy in the/ Middlemarch‘).  This is the joy of reading a collection that keeps you on your toes; that startles with its jumpcuts, its playful wit and willingness to rove and risk in myriad directions. The poems move through the personal, politics, popular culture, books, people, cities, geography, history, the weather.

dancing with dragons is an exuberant explosion of words on the page, beautifully crafted and a joy to read. It is like catching the radio static of the world.



walking, poems pop into my mind, but when i get home they vanish from my

HeadworX is a select publishing house in

Wellington won The Battle of Waterloo and gave his name to a pair of gum

Boots was my darling dog that i carried over a mile from primary school to escape the dog

Catcher in the Rye is an American classic i adore, so taught it at sixth

form the clay into balls, pressing out the air, before you

throw me the ball Doug, and Ann, you be piggy in the

Middlemarch is not a novel about a March Hare, nor is it set in the middle of

March in NZ is the beginning of our

autumn leaves float by my window / and how i wish that you were

here, hear and hair are pronounced the same way by many

kiwis are a protected species of


from ‘pickled impressions’




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