Monthly Archives: August 2018

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’




National Poetry Day 2018: We are the persistance


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Christchurch Feminist Poets presents an evening of spoken word poetry that will move you, inspire you and make you think about society today and the ongoing struggle for equality. Bringing together a stellar group of Christchurch’s most powerful and thought provoking poets, this event is a unique opportunity to hear a cross section of voices, all driven to make the world a better place. Featuring Tusiata Avia, Ray Shipley, Alice Anderson, Rebecca Nash and Isla Martin, this event will immerse the audience in poetry that is as diverse as it is uplifting.



Judges for Ockham National Book Awards

Here are the three poet judges judging the poetry section:

Finalists and the ultimate winner in the Poetry category will be selected by three acclaimed poets: creative writing teacher Airini Beautrais; Massey University Associate Professor Bryan Walpert; and Karlo Mila, who runs an indigenous leadership programme and whose collection Dream Fish Floating won the Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry in 2015.

Full details here

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2018 WriteNow poetry competition results

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read winning entries here


Judge’s report, 2018 WriteNow poetry competition.

“Alive here and now”


Voice is like a muscle: it can lift and move and touch. A powerful voice need not be loud (although it may be loud); it may be quiet and gentle. A powerful voice comes from a listening place, which also tends to be a compassionate place. A powerful voice chooses words carefully, understanding that language represents our deepest humanity, that what we say and how we say it shapes everything we are, and creates all that we can be.

I said, when this year’s competition opened, that I’d be looking for poems that connect me to the poet’s vision of what it means to be alive, here and now, in Ōtepoti/Dunedin. It’s been my privilege to read the response to that call-out in so many strong, vivid and well-made poems.

The overall standard of writing was high. These young poets clearly respect the power of poetry. They understand that a poem is made, and they know the importance of the work that goes into binding together the poem’s component parts and polishing every line until the whole poem pleases eye, ear, mind and heart. I want to congratulate everyone who entered and encourage you to continue to hone your writing talents. It was great to have entries from several schools new to the competition, and exciting to find students from two of these schools – Queens High School and Kaikorai College – named in the results.

Special congratulations now to the poets who have been commended or placed. Your work was tightly crafted and distilled; your lines carry exactly what they need to bear – no more and no less. Because of this, they did that extra thing I was looking for, used the amazing energy of language to “make a poem that rings true, and keeps on getting truer with each reading”.  In the senior section, I could not separate two poems that stood out as particularly strongly realised visions of being “alive, here and now”, and so have awarded equal first place to Jacob Cone (Kaikorai College) and Molly Crighton (Columba College).

Molly Crighton deserves extra-special mention – her poetry has been placed and commended in every WriteNow competition since she first entered as a year 9 student in 2014, the inaugural year the of the competition. Hats off to you Molly!

Thank you all for writing these poems. Write more, weave the world with words. Power to your pens.                                                                               

Sue Wootton, August 2018



Junior section:

First: ‘Dysfunctional Placentae’ by Poppy Magdalena Hayward, Year 10 Logan Park High School.

Second: ‘A Blank Canvas’ by Megan Macdiarmid, Year 10 Logan Park High School.

Third: ‘Time’ by Chloe E. Heineke, Year 10, Columba College.



‘St Clair’ by Billie Allan, Year 9, Queens High School

‘Dunedin’ by Billie Allan, Year 9, Queens High School

‘The Esplanade’ by Lydia Butler, Year 9, Queens High School



Senior section: 

First equal: ‘Chrysalis ‘by Jacob Cone, Year 13 Kaikorai Valley College.

First equal: ‘The Innernet’ by Molly Crighton, Year 13 Columba College.

Third: ‘A story for you, love’ by Oscar Tobeck, Year 11, Kaikorai Valley College



‘to the spider on my ceiling’ by Molly Crighton

‘Triple-sunned sky’ by Molly Crighton

‘Holey’ by Lucy Liebergreen, Year 13, Columba College

‘A stardust puzzle’ by Jacob Cone



Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Tracey Slaughter’s ‘it was the seventies when me & Karen Carpenter hung out’



it was the seventies when me & Karen Carpenter hung out




me & Karen Carpenter

blu-tacked heartthrobs

to the hangout

wall & laid down

under our own gatefold

smiles. The ridges of our mouths

tasted like corduroy & the hangout

door was a polygon of un-hinged

ultra-violet. We stole lines from stones

& rolled them like acid

checkers on each

other’s tongues, testing

the discs of our tucked spines as we

swallowed. We rippled all through

the magazines: there were morsels of cosmetic

Top Tip to live on. We loaded our skin

& rubbed in the limits like cream, microscoped

for layouts of handbag & muscle. We could

not switch off the mirrors: it turned out

since me & Karen C

were kids we’d sucked on dolls cross

legged & shaved their limbs

to size with the

zip of our teeth. Somewhere

our mothers had bleach

dreams. We lay & grinned

on the oblong of leftover

shagpile. The seventies tasted

like orangeade, like groovy wars & honeybrown

explosions in the wallpaper. Karen

Carpenter held my hand & walked me

through the detonating spirals.

She showed me where

we could feast

on tangerine horizons


©Tracey Slaughter


Tracey Slaughter is the author of deleted scenes for lovers an acclaimed collection of short stories (VUP, 2016). Her poetry and prose have received many awards including the international Bridport Prize (2014), two BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards, and the Landfall Essay Prize 2015. Her poetry cycle ‘it was the seventies when me & Karen Carpenter hung out’ was shortlisted in the Manchester Poetry Prize 2014, and her poem ‘breather’ won Second Place in the ABR Peter Porter Poetry Prize 2018. She teaches at Waikato University where she edits the journal Mayhem.




Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship now open for applications

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The Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship Advisory Committee is looking for an established creative writer to spend three months or more in Menton in southern France to work on a project or projects.


Tihe Mauriora, e nga iwi o te motu, anei he karahipi whakaharahara. Ko te Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship tenei karahipi. Kia kaha koutou ki te tonohia mo tenei putea tautoko. Mena he tangata angitu koe i tenei karahipi, ka taea e koe haere ki te Whenua Wiwi ki te whakamahi to kaupapa, kei te mohio koe, ko te manu i kai i te matauranga nona te ao. Ko koe tena?

Details here