If you were to map your poetry reading history, what books would act as key co-ordinates?
– James K. Baxter Pig Island Letters
– Allen Curnow Continuum
– Robert Creeley For Love
– Robert Lowell Life Studies; For The Union Dead
– Elizabeth Bishop The Complete Poems
– Cesare Pavese Selected Poems, Penguin Modern Poets
– Richard Hugo Making Certain It Goes On
– August Kleinzahler Sleeping It Off In Rapid City
– Denis Johnson The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millenium General Assesmbly
– Fanny Howe Selected Poems
– Philip Levine The Simple Truth
– William Bronk Collected Poems
What do you want your poems to do?
I hope something of our beautiful and difficult world’s damaged rapture remains in my poems, long after the impetus or occasion for their being written has passed.
Which poem in your selection particularly falls into place. Why?
I’m still a poor judge of a poem’s strengths, and perhaps an even poorer judge of its weaknesses, but of my entry poems ‘Summer/Haszard Road’ is the one I have the most love for. (This poem will appear on the Sarah Broom website)
There is no blueprint for writing poems. What might act as a poem trigger for you?
Here are some memorable triggers:
Cooking and drinking with Malcolm Deans. Spring drives through the Lower Kaipara. Jewel heists in Dubai. Hawkers markets. The Proustian memory avalanches set off by listening to certain records. Flying from Auckland to Dunedin. Driving from Auckland to Dunedin. The spice merchants of Kochi. The industrial plains of Penrose. Tank farms. Musty churches. Junk stores. Museums. Dusk in Taupaki. Coffee and indica. My son.
If you were reviewing your entry poems, what three words would characterise their allure?
Embodied. Emboldening. Empathetic.
You are going to read together at the Auckland Writers Festival. If you could pick a dream team of poets to read – who would we see?
John Forbes. Ed Dorn. Anne Sexton. Seamus Heaney. Elizabeth Bishop. Ishion Hutchinson.
Dropped Pin: Three Lamps, Ponsonby
– for Ryan Moroney, poet of Papamoa –
This poem I started writing ten years ago
to say thanks for buying me breakfast
after a night of rough red and hydro.
Waiting for coffee, outside Cezanne,
the heat climbing high into the twenties,
our brains were slow rebooting that morning.
You’ll remember we shared a table with Monica.
Unduly caged by dubious DSM definitions,
by a psychiatrist’s repeat prescriptions,
she gulped cans of cola through a white straw,
gut-dragged on John Player Specials,
and muttered “Yes, dear,” to our questions.
Ryan, I like to think she was healed a little
every lunchtime in All Saints church,
when the minister threw open the doors
and she shuffled inside the chapel
lumping her cache of shopping bags
stuffed with paperbacks, woollen jumpers,
fortnight-old copies of The Herald
along the aisle and on to the transept
to her daily appointment in the organist’s seat.
I remember one of her small communions,
how the delicate first notes of a minor adagio
by Schubert were held in the humid air
by a common and accessible grace
on a lost afternoon, outside the chapel.
In that district of ghosts we once knew,
Monica is long gone; the minister, too.
Her playing stopped time but was heard by few.
You said goodbye, and went south again.
Her last recital you missed by twenty minutes.
Michael Steven was born in 1977. He is the author of four chapbooks and the acclaimed full-length collection Walking to Jutland Street which was longlisted for the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards (Otago University Press, 2018.) He was recipient of the 2018 Todd New Writer’s Bursary. His writing has been described as “expansive and earthed and spirited.” He lives in West Auckland.
at Jacket2 Catherine Dale, Orchid Tierney and David Howard write on Michael Steven (with poems)
Otago University Press Page
The Sarah Broom Prize session: Michael appears at the Auckland Writers Festival with the other finalists where Anne Michaels will announce the winner. Saturday May 18th, 1pm, Waitākere Room, Aotea Centre