A suite of poems from Northland/ Te Tai Tokerau poets



Poetry Posse: Northland’s only performance poetry troupe.


Michael Botur has curated a suite of poems from Northland/ Te Tai Tokerau poets to showcase on Poetry Shelf. There are four here – but there easily could have been ten representing a vibrant and vital poetry scene. I grew up in Northland – its soil is in my blood and bones and every time I hit the top of the Brynderwyn Range I feel home and at home. This is where I first started writing poems, where James K Baxter stood on the Kamo High School stage a week or so before he died, where I discovered Hone Tuwhare in the school library. To get a poetry line to what is happening now, so many decades later, gave me goosebumps. Kia ora.



Two poems from Vivian Thonger


Gardening with grandmother

for Elizabeth Bishop


Child, stove in


in bed, secretly:

stove in her bed,

her teacup, her almanac.     Bed


the tears, black the stove,

brown the bread.

Man the kettle,

iron the buttons.     Time

the clever dark tea,


marvel with crayons

on the pathway.

House old jokes,

fall between

winding moons.     Dance


like rain on another

hot old, failing old roof.     Carefully

open half-rigid

grandmother, string

her up, birdlike.


Plant her out

in chilly September.


©Vivian Thonger



Stop hey what’s that sound? (Haruru sonnet)

An engine throbs over hills to the north.

I expect the farmer in his 4×4

to crest in silhouette, cattle cantering ahead,

dog barks and bull bellows trailing

the procession of cutesy cutouts.


The hill is still. The engine revs. Perhaps

a ‘copter’s hurtling to the beach,

to hoist aboard a battered kayaker

coughed up onshore, his empty craft bobbing

off among the rocks, hijacked by dolphins.


Wrong. A plane emerges, shades of WW2,

twin vapour plumes expand and blanket

gorseflower culverts full of yellow cheer.

Roundup, not romance. I’m new here.

©Vivian Thonger


Vivian Thonger is a Kerikeri poet, writer, performer, actor and musician with degrees in psychology and creative writing. Member of Northland’s Poetry Posse; regular participant at Whangarei’s monthly Dirty Word event. Poetry published in Offshoots 13+14Fast Fibres 2,3,4+5. See here.


Two poems from Piet Nieuwland



Walking to the sea to breathe

We go at dusk, dark

Waves coloured copper, emerald

Take refuge in the night, your voice

Between the mirror and the mirror

Stars taught me to write

A new semantic in light playing on the warp

And abra cloud silk wind weft

Its dialect, weightless as

Oceanic neutrinos and spring jasmines on

A path to nowhere that overflows

With kisses and bejewelled aureoles

Laughing a luminescent charm

Those kaleidoscope eyes, chocolate

In a garden of pomegranate and orange

Tulips and amaranth, blood

In the clay of our flesh

© Piet Nieuwland


An Indium Morning

Between Te Whara and Paepae o Tū

Pohutukawa elbows knotted

With an asymptotic curve of fine holocene sands

Taonga islands drifting through a sifting, shifting lens

Where we landed,

Cloud caverns of frontal activity loom

A spring tide in spring pulls the dunes down

Ice plants melt in the white sun

In a season of fires

A red kete, red tee shirt

Ebony bikini, blushing cheeks

Red billed gull quartet

He korero[1], plays the ivory surf

The fertile ocean carved whakairo

Into literatures of foam and air

A pizzicato for children

Ngaruaroha, her cello, violins

Trembling like the toiling clouds

Haere mai te kara

Ka nuku nuku

Ka neke neke

© Piet Nieuwland


Piet Nieuwland has poems and flash fiction appear in numerous print and online journals published in New Zealand, Australia, United States of America, and Canada. He is a performance poet, book reviewer, edits Fast Fibres Poetry and lives near Whangarei.



Two poems from Vaughan Gunson


Right now

This won’t be news to you,

but it’s always worth noting, scribbling on a tablet

those times when you’re snug

with the world, like an Avocado stone

inside the pale green oily flesh of the fruit


and I don’t know

whether to extend this idea into a neat

or twisted metaphor about life

and the tree with an egg-shaped fruit

with skin like an Armadillo’s shell, even though

I’ve never touched an Armadillo, being

just the first thing that came to me, and maybe

I’m starting at the beginning of the alphabet



are often just the start of something,

like that philosophical treatise you’re confident

will be the last word on Schopenhauer.

That’s what it feels like when you begin writing,

thinking you have all the answers.

Or maybe it’s like having the very best sex

after the very best conversation

when you ascend into each other


and then it’s over,

that philosophical treatise didn’t even last a page,

and no comparison was made

between loving life     right now

and a fruit or animal starting with the letter ‘B’.


© Vaughan Gunson



Detouring, if on hunch, taken perhaps by a message imbedded on a faded sign,

which invites you, in an old fashioned way,

to leave the criss-crossed tourist route


to sail along a wide street, used once

by carriages and proper women in white

embroidered dresses, and barefooted kids

in collars; a temporary stretch of bitumen


and stone, before the mud and puddles

return, that our quiet ancestors knew

in their distant photos, who looked down

more often to the unevenness of ground


we’ve strived to flatten. Look both ways

at the easy floating trees and timbered walls―

you won’t see our rough desires and coarse

pleasures; the blistering from all we polish.


© Vaughan Gunson


Vaughan Gunson lives in Hikurangi, north of Whangarei. He’s an occasional writer of poems and a regular columnist on light and heavy matters for the Northern Advocate newspaper. A small selection of poems and columns can be found here.



Two poems from Michael Botur


Don’t Look Down

Don’t look down, maintain your tightrope traipse

Ignore that you’re a blob on a rock in space

And a slim Darwinian coinflip made you exist in the first place.

This race of ruthless apes frustrates, so keep the faith.


Don’t look down when you can’t keep chill about the daycare and doctor’s bills

When all your friends seem to be on Bondi Beach holidays, eating Instragram canapes

When prices rise like a flooding tide and your income ain’t gone up since two thousand five

A millennial, with fuck-all, everything seems to scream without a home loan for property that’s overpriced you won’t survive.


Don’t look down and doubt your little miracles. They’ll light your day with rainbow fingerpaint

Then go from gleeful squeals to meningococcal in the brain whether or not you pray

But don’t conclude the earth’s a black and unforgiving place

With earthquakes and fates undeserved; it worsens if you look down and lose faith.


Some days nice guys finish thousandth place while snakes get to golden parachute away

Other days you wake and the news is nothing but nooses, another Robin Williams gone,

another Bourdain, Cornell or Chester Bennington.

Water and air are free but there’s no land left to live on.


Survive your tightrope life. Don’t let malice upset your balance.

Leave imposter syndrome at home. Pour your hearts out on Wednesdays to strangers on a stage.

Recycle. Exercise. Admire the skyline. Be grateful for rain.

Don’t let WINZ get under your skin. Don’t scream at redneck Letters to the Editor in vain

Balance pride in the left hand, regrets on the right

Good times behind, and eyes on the other side.

© Michael Botur


Somebody To Smoke With

I sat the Friday night in a Subaru

in a car park with male ape mates in oversized

XL white

t-shirts sucking on pipes

Just for somebody to smoke with


Did three weeks sweaty sunburned work

pushing a post hole borer in the dirt

with an ex-con who shared his pipe,

wet with spit from our lips.

At knock-off we said Fuck it, wiped ourselves down

with a paint-stiffened towel,


shared a bucket of crunchy KFC motivated by munchies,

washed it down with cans of bourbon cola Cody’s

pleased to have a bro to share a cone and a Family Feast. We


grown men make out like we are staunch, strong, chill, unafraid

like we ain’t at pains to get laid and praised

cause we could get hit by a bus any day

Men in their 30s, 40s, 50s. Men in matching patches, hoodies,


Men in rugby stubbies. Men in cycle-lycra.

Men having mid-life crises.

Men ram-raiding Unichem pharmacies

at 4.15 on a Thursday morning, squealing tyres and guilty pleas

And getting bulldogs and BPs tattooed on our cheeks


Consigning us to a life we can’t come back from,

like tryina climb a hydroslide

All cause we wanted somebody to be a bloke with

To feel less alone, somebody to smoke with.

© Michael Botur


Michael Botur, born 1984, is of Polish and British ancestry, hails from Christchurch and lives in Whangarei. He has published one novel, five short story collections and tonnes of journalism.





Michael Botur best author photo 4 cropped.jpg





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