Monthly Archives: November 2018

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Heidi North’s ‘Piha Beach, Winter’

 

Piha Beach, Winter 

 

My feet punch bruises in the black sand

and I am back in the burn of childhood summers

 

the circle of sentinel gulls

their grey wings tipped to catch the light

 

warn me back

but I go down to the white foam edge

 

bluebottles boated with their pretty poison

yield to the sharp edge of my stick

 

I go down to the place

where the wind kicks holes through my heart

 

and there is a child down there

too close to the ribbony horizon line

 

holding his blue kite

towards the updraft

 

still smiling as it lurches

against the wide white blaze of sky –

 

and I smile and laugh and I run with him because how can I tell him

all the brutal things are yet to come

 

©Heidi North

 

Heidi’s poem was written during her Nancy King Foundation residency in Piha in 2017.

Heidi North’s first poetry book Possibility of Flight was published by Mākaro Press in 2015. Her poetry and short stories have been published in New Zealand, Australia, the US and the UK. She won an international Irish award for her poetry in 2007, and has won New Zealand awards for her short fiction. She joined the Shanghai International Writers Programme in 2016 as the NZ fellow. She was awarded the Hachette/NZSA mentorship for 2017 to work on her first novel. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from The University of Auckland and lives in Auckland with her partner and their two children.

 

 

 

In the hammock: reading Fiona Kidman’s This Mortal Boy

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Fiona Kidman This Mortal Boy Vintage, 2018

 

Fiona Kidman’s marvelous new novel features Albert Black – the ‘jukebox killer’ – the second-to-last person to be hanged in New Zealand. He had left his impoverished but loving family in Northern Ireland in the 1950s to seek a better life. He was barely an adult.

Having read extensive research material, Fiona recreated the events and relationships that led to Albert’s controversial execution. I knew the ending but I kept hoping the Irish mother or the anti-hanging supporters would change the outcome. Not possible. So I read the novel – so beautifully detailed, so alive in rendition – in  a state of sadness at human behaviour. I am not talking about what seems to be murder in the heat of the moment after physical attacks.

I am talking about the way we treat people – who are claimed as different – as inferior: those from other countries, with different coloured skin, different accents, who make sexual choices other than heterosexual. Albert Black loses his name and becomes ‘Paddy’ because his Irish identity is not worthy of attention. It seems like the legal system, the judges, the media and general public were swayed by cultural scorn.

I might have had ongoing heartache as I read but I also absorbed the pulsating life Fiona created. The dialogue, the characters, the locations, the signs of the times – these all work to make a sumptuous depiction of a particular place in a particular time. I just loved it. I was born in June in Auckland one month before the jukebox event took place on 26 July 1955. Were my parents talking about it in their rented Point Chevalier bungalow?  What did they make of the case?

The execution bothered Mt Eden’s Prison Superintendent, the defence lawyer, friends Albert had made, to the extent public disgust at the death penalty saw the campaign against it work towards change. The new Labour Government of 1957 -1960  (in contrast to the fierce support of previous PM Sydney Holland) commuted death sentences to life imprisonment. In 1961 a National Government introduced legislation to abolish the law and allowed non-party voting. With ten National Party members, and those from Labour, the law was changed.

This is the kind of book that makes you reflect deeply upon how we do things today – how our prison system works to advantage or disadvantage, how difference still contributes to a lack of societal or cultural privilege.

Some books stick to you. This compelling novel is one of them. Beautifully crafted, meticulously researched, with ample attention to the grittiness of life and both the kindness and cruelty of people. I adored it.

 

Vintage author page

Video clip: Fiona talks about the novel

Poetry Shelf audio spot: Saradha Koirala reads ‘Snapshot’

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Saradha Koirala reads ‘Snapshot’  from Photos from the Sky (Cuba Press, 2018)

 

 

Saradha Koirala is a writer and teacher living in Melbourne. Her book Lonesome When You Go won a Storylines Notable Book Award. She has published two previous poetry collections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maitreyabandhu in conversation with Jenny Bornholdt and Bill Manhire

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Maitreyabandhu, from the London Buddhist Centre, will be in conversation with Jenny Bornholdt and Bill Manhire about their life and work, New Zealand and the purpose of poetry.

City Gallery Wellington, Te Ngākau Civic Square
Tuesday 18 December, 6pm-7.30pm

All welcome. Donation entry to help cover venue costs.

Books will be for sale courtesy of Vic Books.

A poem from Leonard Lambert’s new collection: Winter Waves

 

The Dolphin Badge

 

In a carton in a corner of a drawer

I came across a badge, sky-blue, the size of a coin:

for proficiency in the pool,

the Dolphin Badge, the dream of years, the grail . . .

 

And so, or so it seems to me,

the odd dishonour of discarded things, their sad dismay,

is maybe telling us life is too fast

for the right living of it;

and maybe too in some scrambled dawn

the notion might come

of a press of tiny judgements,

some essential fabric torn.

 

©Leonard Lambert from Winter Waves (Cold Hub Press, 2018)

 

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Leonard Lambert is a long-established NZ poet with a publication history stretching from A Washday Romance (John McIndoe, 1980) to Somewhere in August: Selected Poems 1969-2016 (Steele Roberts, 2016). He is represented in Essential NZ Poems (2003 and 2014), Swings & Roundabouts (2008), and Poems from the Pantry (2017). Between poems he paints beautiful and mysterious works which he exhibits regularly in Hastings and in his home town of Napier.

 

Reading ‘brief 56’

 

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After all manner of ‘changes, transformations, alterations, mutations, re-orderings, transfigurations, conversions, variations, reorganisations, evolutions, metamorphoses, modifications and reconstructions’ Brief has re-emerged.

Olivia Macassey remains editor and  the issue is dedicated to Jill Chan, poet and writer (1973 – 2018).

This is a journal where writers play with what words on the page do but not to the point they are denied heart, art or musical impact. The reading effects are multiple. Take essa may ranapiri – with their spiky yet lyrical movements from body to more body (desirable?) to falling lark to unsated tabby.

In Brief‘s pages words are inclined to go bold, stretch out or drift and float on the white space of reading. Loren Thomas’s ‘Wrists’ ( I have not read her before!) offers friendship links, bracelets and then pulls that into question with the white-space hiccups in the middle.

Then again you might delight in John Downie’s poetry sequence; it’s built along a time line in stanzas hugging the left-hand margin and a strong sense of narrative. It may be autobiography or invention but I look forward to the forthcoming book with accompanying images it is taken from: The Only Time: an autobiography in twelve pictures.

The mark of a good journal is that it keeps you moving through diverse and distinctive fascinations. I move from the single breath piece by Carin Smeaton (‘what to do with them all’) that I just want to hear read aloud to the agile wit of Nick Ascroft’s ‘Bring Me a Pie’ (just love this couplet: ‘pull itself through the spitty drizzle,/ the rice pudding of town’).

I delight in the tropical heat of Lisa Samuels where words block out the immediate world because it is just you and the poem and you want to set up residence. I am thinking tropical because her writing shimmers in ways that are both intensely real and satisfyingly unreal.

Then again there is the audacious imagination of Chris Stewart’s ‘My father is an elephant’ that reads like a strange and wonderful children’s story written for adults:

 

I have a grey memory

of my father the elephant.

His ears brushed the dust

on my mother, but I never

heard his trumpet fountain

any water when her skin was dry.

 

I checked his bio and he won The Margaret Mahy Prize at the Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch. I can see why. His poems have appeared in multiple journals but it is clearly now time for a collection!

I have barely scratched the surface because my fascinations include writing by Iain Britton, John Adams, Vaughan Rapatahana, Jack Ross, Erik Kennedy, Bronwyn Lloyd.  I am super conscious that the issue is so varied in direction and intent that a reader will find quite different points to linger over with heart and intellect on diverse settings.

I am a fan of literary journals because at their best they reacquaint  me with old favourites, introduce new voices, make me hungry for more and most importantly, make me want to write. brief 56 is no exception.

 

Dust to Dust

 

Five hundred years from now,

we’ll, of course, be dead.

Perhaps archaeologists

will unearth our bodies

and miss our minds.

How they will dare to think.

What will they find of us ?

What does the heart leave behind

that is not buried,

that is not saved?

 

Jill Chan

 

 

 

 

 

Brief 56 page

John Dwnie’s poem and colour reproductions

 

2019 Peter Porter Poetry Prize now open for entries

Australian Book Review welcomes entries in the fifteenth Peter Porter Poetry Prize. The Porter Prize, which is worth a total of AU$8,500, is open until 3 December 2018.

The Porter Prize is one of Australia’s most lucrative and respected awards for poetry. It honours the life and work of the great Australian poet Peter Porter (1929–2010), an honoured contributor to ABR for many years. All poets writing in English are eligible to enter.

First Prize: AU$5,000 and Arthur Boyd’s etching and aquatint The lady and the unicorn, 1975
Second Prize: AU$2,000
Three other shortlisted poets: AU$500 each

Judges: Judith Bishop, John Hawke, Paul Kane.

Entries close at midnight 3 December 2018

Entries must be an original single-authored poem of not more than 75 lines written in English. Poems must not have been previously published or on offer to other prizes or publications for the duration of the Porter Prize. The five shortlisted poems will be published in the March 2019 issue and the winner will be announced at a ceremony later that month.

Click here for more information about past winners and to read their poems.

More details here