Monthly Archives: September 2019

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Claire Orchard’s ‘Vacancy’



The chair – beige linen, wingback,

a little light wear where the head rests

and along the arms – sits next to the unmade

bed – rumpled white sheets, cream wool

blanket with a charcoal double stripe.


The lamp – switched on, small, round, bright

orange glass shade – glows on the desk

in the corner where there is another chair – oak,

straight-backed, ladder-backed, pushed in.


The morning sunlight slanting through

the open French windows is touching

all of this but especially highlighting

the filmy white curtains, the thin layer

of dust on the polished floorboards.


Outside, the climber scaling the balcony railings

is mostly thin, leggy stalks now, having lost

almost all its leaves. The open door,

barely visible to one side, is in fact

just the suggestion of an exit.


Claire Orchard


Claire Orchard was born in Wainuiomata, grew up in the Hutt Valley and now lives in Wellington where she completed an MA in Creative Writing at the IIML in 2013. Her first book of poems, Cold Water Cure, was published by VUP in 2016.








Poetry Shelf talk spot: On writing out of fascinations



I have talked so much over the past month about poetry, about writing and researching a big book on women’s poetry in Aotearoa, about writing my own poems, writing for children and about championing local poetry. I have talked about the way I constructed a provisional house for women with rooms and open windows. I mourned the fact I could not bring all the poets I love with me as I wrote – that I had built a selective version and that I refused to be an authority or to create hierarchies.

I have talked about the way I write out of love, and I have used the word kindness, yet this is only one facet of my writing prism. Wild Honey is also written out of inquiry. My doctoral thesis considered the pen held by Italian women novelists and whether it made a difference that she was a woman writing. I read copious theoretical texts alongside the novels but I could never drift far from the word ‘connection’. I was fascinated and compelled by hinges, constructive tools, abstract and physical links.


Poetry Shelf aims to make connections and to make local poetry visible; to provide a forum for voices, to develop a small sound archive, to draw bridges across generations, cultures, styles, voices and to host interviews and reviews. I decided a long time ago to only review books I love (knowing I wouldn’t have enough time to review all the poetry books that have given me pleasure as it is). The more I think about it, the more the word ‘review’ feels like the wrong word. I am currently drawn to the word ‘fascinations’. To review is to re-see as much it is to build opinions, but when I write about poetry I am hooked on fascinations rather than failures and failings. Both are utterly subjective and both have a different effect upon me as reader and writer.

I have loved reading and writing since I was a young child. I was an awkward misfit at school as I confessed to Wallace Chapman on Radio NZ Afternoons and that state of being has endured. I feel like an awkward misfit of an adult, an outsider most of the time. Reading and writing are my form of nourishment, survival even – of boosting energy and a gaining sense of well being as if writing is a miracle vitamin pack. Writing can be challenging and painful and fierce but that sense of body enhancement never leaves me.

Perhaps having a cancer history has affected my trajectory as a reader and writer. Does the production and consumption of words affect the reader/writer on a cellular level? I don’t know but I do know cancer changes everything. It places what is important in view. It changes your relationship with the world and the choices you make.

And this includes reading and writing. When I navigate someone’s poem I want to discover what a poem is doing – to follow pathways both above ground and below. I want to open windows and doors for other readers to pursue rather than cast judgement upon how a poem might fall over through its alleged weak points. Perhaps this is not the norm. We are trained in school and at university to balance the good with the bad: to critique rigorously. But at times the identification of flaws represents an impoverished imagination on the part of the critic. I am immensely irritated by this and it puts me off reading reviews. Or the way there is an investment in models and inherited expectations: a poem ought to do this, a poem ought not do that. I have cited this before. Poetry can do anything.

That said not all poetry hooks me, not all poetry gives me goosebumps. I could analyse why I fail to engage with such books but if I find such reviews loathsome to read (this is just me!) I find them equally loathsome to write.

In contrast I get so much pleasure reading a review that opens a book for me – that shows movement and new lights I had not considered. I am loving all the reviews of Elizabeth Knox’s extraordinary The Absolute Book. I am invigorated by these reviews!


I said at the start of Wild Honey I wanted to draw closer to the woman writing because she is so often dissolved in theory. Who is she? Where is she? How is she? Do such questions still matter when we urgently need to expand the scope and function of our pronouns.

When I write I will always remember there is real-life person with both heart and mind who produced the book that I am writing about. But I am not censoring what I say because I am not critiquing the person. I am puzzling and musing and riffing on what poetry can do. I am not filtering my writing out of fear that my position in the writing world will be damaged. When AUP published the be-all-and-end-all volume of New Zealand literature I wrote a hard-hitting review for Metro because I felt the anthology let down our writing communities. Yes there was a  toxic back lash against me on social media. Perhaps it affected my writing career. I don’t know. And I don’t care. Writing is what matters -more than getting published or appearing at festivals or winning things.

So if the occasion demands it – if books maintain the hierarchies and omissions of the past in terms of gender, ethnicity, culture, sexuality and even age, in view of either selection or content – I will speak out. Fiercely. This is part of fighting for a better and more embracing world. A world more tolerant and attentive to the fact we are diverse in myriad ways.


Why do I feel so strongly about this? Why do I feel like the awkward misfit me is real and exists in secret at home in the wild of Auckland’s West Coast and a fictional version of me goes out in public, keeps a blog going, wants to champion Aotearoa poetry. I actually don’t know how to explain the way kindness is important as I write and listen. And to underline the need for connections, and an ongoing fascination with what poems can do and the diverse responses they provoke in readers.

Elizabeth Knox’s new novel underlines the power of words, language, stories and knowledge to sustain and connect us. Poetry is part of this vital experience. I can’t imagine not loving it.











Poetry Shelf audio spot – Medb Charleton reads ‘I Prefer Mornings’







‘I Prefer Mornings’ was published in Landfall 224: Home and Building,
November 2012 (Otago University Press).



Medb Charleton grew up in Sligo, Ireland. She did an MA in Creative writing at the IIML in Wellington and since has published poems in Landfall, Sport, JAAM and online.







Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Tony Beyer at Mudlark

Tony Beyer has a new long poem up at Mudlark.

Tony Beyer operates out of Taranaki, New Zealand. His work appears frequently online in Otoliths and his most recent collection, Anchor Stone (Cold Hub Press), was a finalist in the poetry category of the 2018 New Zealand Book Awards.


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Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Hebe Kearney picks Robynanne Milford’s ‘My name is Aurelia’

My name is Aurelia

An earthquake grew me up
I unhappened
was just a shoe size away from falling
into fissures, being pulverized by wall fall

While tsunamis practiced their warnings
bridges reared up, rupturing egress
land changed colour; there is no gold in sands

of liquefaction

Living in the white zone
is like diving the blue hole in the red sea
surviving broken perils of orientation
But here red was a cordon of the dead, and dying city;

We each knew a white chair on the edge of our busyness
our minds voices mutated hues
I became like Aurelia, a gunmetal moon orbiting red dwarf star

extra terrestrial.


Robynanne Milford



Robynanne Milford has published four collections; Finding Voice, Women on the Dunstan 2018 Aspiring Light, Grieve Hopefully & Songcatcher. Her poems are included in a number of anthologies including Leaving the Red Zone, Voice Print 3, Canterbury Poets Collective and Crest to Crest, and in journals including Landfall, Takahe and Poetry NZ. She is currently evolving a collection of women artists inspired by Central Otago; and whose work is lost to common knowledge or who enabled prominence of their spouses at the expense of their own careers.

Robynanne (aka Bella Boyd) lives in Christchurch where she worked as a GP with her late husband John. She was Founding President of DSAC and has co-authored books on Medical Management of Sexual Abuse. She is a guide at the Christchurch Art Gallery and her special interest is in Art and Alzheimers. She has three adult children.


Hebe Kearney is from Christchurch but now calls Auckland her home. She currently studying to complete her Honours in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Auckland. She couldn’t stop writing poems if she tried, and her work has appeared in Starling, The Three Lamps and Oscen.

Hebe is appearing at Titirangi Poets with Paula Green on Saturday October 12th at 2pm. Details here.



Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Given Poems for National Poetry Day 2019

Given Poems for National Poetry Day 2019

For this annual competition poems needed to include five words chosen by poets from the collection More of Us. A record 200 poems were received from which a selection was published on Given Words. The winning poems have been selected by Charles Olsen, Mikaela Nyman and Clare Arnot. (You can read about them here.)
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Lily Holloway – winner adult section
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Thalia Peterson winner youth section (under 16)
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Read NZ Te Pou Muramura’s article including the back story of how the competition came about

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: call for submissions for AUP anthology


Paula Morris and Alison Wong invite submissions of creative writing by new NZ writers of Asian heritage for an anthology to be published by Auckland University Press.

Submissions may be poetry, fiction or creative non-fiction. We’re not accepting scripts/plays, journalism, academic or other non-literary nonfiction.

Please submit up to five poems and/or two prose pieces. Fiction and creative nonfiction can be up to 6000 words per piece. Work may be published or unpublished, with or without Asian themes.

Writers should not have published more than two full-length books or be considered ‘established’ in any literary field.

Please email by Monday 30 September, including a short bio.

Attach submissions as Word documents, with your name on each page and as the first part of the document name.