Monthly Archives: December 2019

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: ‘School House Bay’


School House Bay


I am wearing poetry

like an overcoat. No a thermal singlet.

I am wearing the wind off the uppity

waves and the green leaves that skim

and the black-barked beech

and the cobbled light.


You can’t see the poem.

I can see the new generation bush

and a single fantail that flits

like a dandelion wish.


My thermal singlet is heavy with ghosts.

It is only the start.

I am picnicking in the thought

of a young girl and her skipping rope.

She looks through the high window.

She draws a tōtara with her sharp pencil.

The grey sky is out of reach.


Does she know the Queens of England?

Does she wear a velvet dress to match the inkwell?

Does she hear the raucous tūī?

Can she pick Istanbul on a map and draw a rectangle?


The porthole slams shut in the wind.



Paula Green

from The Track, Seraph Press, 2019




Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Maeve Hughes’s ‘Understanding Transactions’


Understanding Transactions



Heat comes from hot things like

potatoes come from the earth

and gurgles come from babies

like birds come from trees

and I came from you

and your smiles

so many of them

came from me

and, mother, I know it.



Maeve Hughes from Horsepower




Maeve Hughes lives in a tall house in Wellington. She has studied Fine Arts and Creative Writing. Her first publication horse power won the 2018 Story Inc Prize for poetry and was launched in October of this year.


Read my review of horse power







Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Vaughan Rapatahana on Poems from the Edge of Extinction

P from EE.jpg


Read full article here

The anthology Poems from the Edge of Extinction (Chambers, UK, 2019) edited by well-known English poet, Chris McCabe, was launched at Poetry International, The Southbank Centre, London  in mid-October, 2019. He was the MC on this occasion, as well as for several other events during the festival. It is an important collection of poetry written in indigenous languages — including my own, te reo Māori — which are being threatened by dominant Hydra-like languages — like English and to a lesser extent others, such as Mandarin.

My perspective on why languages are under threat:

I have written extensively previously as regards the several agencies pushing English language Hydra-like dominion over indigenous languages across the globe, for primarily cultural-power and pecuniary reasons. Agencies such as the British Council, which continue to press for a worldwide spread of the language into traditionally non-English as a first language communities — so as to seek financial and cultural benefits for Britain. An approach as exemplified in their own words from their December 2019 Request for Proposal

‘… the organisation is seeking to investigate not merely the direct benefits of the spread of English (in terms of the direct financial benefit to the UK of the provision of English services and the improved skills and life chances of those learning it, both of which are relatively well known and have been widely explored in the past), but in particular the indirect benefits — in terms of greater knowledge of English driving the UK’s influence and attractiveness for trade, and improving the access of those learning English to opportunities, information and culture.’



Poetry Shelf fascinations: Anne Kennedy’s Moth Hour






Anne Kennedy, Moth Hour, Auckland University Press, 2019




The thing in the jar

always dies!

The rice cooker steams

so the sun goes down

Deep in the house

sepia gathers

The pencil has eaten

the fragile book


from ‘Thirty-Three Transformations on a Theme of Philip’




I first read Anne Kennedy’s new collection Moth Hour as a piece of music that traces the contours of grief. Words form little melodies, solo instruments sound out, there is echo, overlap, loop and patterning. Above all there is a syncopated beat that leaves room for breath, an intake of pain, an out-sigh of grief, an intake of observation, an out-breath of recognition. There is the fragile word-dance to the light.

Moth Hour responds to a family tragedy; in 1973, at the age of twenty-two, Anne’s brother, Philip, accidentally fell to his death. Anne, her seven siblings (she was the youngest and aged fourteen) and parents now lived with unbearable grief and loss, separately, diversely, as a family.

The book is in three parts: the long sequence ‘Thirty-Three Transformations on a Theme of Philip’,  a coda poem ‘The Thé’ and an essay (‘Pattern/Chaos: Afterword’).

Over time Anne had read Philip’s book collection (think a 1970s gathering of books ) along with his poetry. She begins Moth Hour with one of his poems, an affecting piece that forms both the bony skeleton of her book and a fragile yet insistent pattern of echos. A voice calling out over the crevice, a voice that keeps returning. In Philip’s poem a speaker imagines being caught by a child and placed in a jar on a windowsill along with edible leaves, The Book of Tea, paper and a pen. The power of imagination is evoked.

These elements keep returning and if there is syncopation, a form of stutter, a difficulty of transmission, of speaking and retrieving, there is also fluency. The way both music and poetry can pull you into an utterly absorbing connective movement.


The second time I read Moth Hour I listened to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Thirty-Three Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli because Anne had listened to this as she wrote the book. She had first listened to it over and over after Philip’s death.



Catch me little child and put me in a jar.

Ajar is small and a view of everything.

Hopefully we will always want and want for nothing.

Shall I seize you? Yes, I mean no. Please seizure.

We will live in a jar.

I will live in a jar. And the jar is a house.

Place inside a place inside.

That is how we will look out. Look out.

I am being very straight with you.

Look no hands.

In the language.


from ’19’ Thirty-Three Transformations on a theme of Philip’



The poetic fluency of Moth Hour carries so much in its momentum. There are detailed locations: a Wellington family home, the contemporary Auckland of the poet. Signs of the times (the 1970s). Surreal intrusions. Politics (again think the 1970s). There are contrasts: new / dead / breath; some / any. There are the rebounding questions. Ideas, feelings, words waver as though nothing can be fixed and certain. Such movement evokes a sense of linguistic play but it also performs the difficulty of the subject matter. Death is impossible to pin down. Grief equally so.

Such a symphonic effect means the reader participates in dis-equilibrium – the unease of unknowing along with the whoosh of connection.

If there are no air holes in the jar we cannot breathe but this book is all about breath. Breath is life sustaining and freedom. And yet this breath, this sustained breath of writing and recall, comes in gasps and puffs.

The second poem, ‘The thé’, reflects the concerns of the first  – the reverberating motifs appear in a present tense of grief and observation – but now the short lines float apart on the page. A pattern of drift; the white space fractured like hicccupy breaths. Yet each line (melody) offers a moment of certainty. I am back to the music pooling inside me.


The poem burns off an hour.

We walk along the street many times.

The street is practice for death.

The chairs are aching in and out.

He staggers to his feet.

The the is ready to go through.

Ritual finally occupies the body.

Thoughts burst the shelter of the room.

The people swarm into the streets.


from ‘The Thé’


Like a mesmerising, lung-like piece of music, Moth Hour is a book of return-listening. Every time you place the poetry on the turntable of your reading you will hear something different. It blisters your skin. It touches you. But above all Moth Hour fills you with the variation and joy of what a lithe poet can do.




Anne Kennedy is a writer of fiction, film scripts and poetry. Her debut poetry collection Sing-song was named Poetry Book of the Year at the 2004 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. The Time of the Giants was shortlisted for the same award in 2006, and The Darling North won the 2013 NZ Post Book Award for Poetry. Her novles include The Last Days of the National Costume, shortlisted for the NZ Post Book Award for Fiction in 2014, and The ice Shelf was longlisted in the 2019 Ockham NZ Book Awards. She lives in Auckland.

Auckland University Press author page





Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Six-Pack Sound #8 is live at nzepc


Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 8.37.32 AM.png


Six-Pack Sound #8 is live at nzepc

16 December 2019

nzepc presents Six-Pack Sound #8. Poets Jacqueline Carter, Tim Heath, Joshua Hetherington, Cilla McQueen, Richard Pamatatau and Melanie Rands contribute dazzling audio recordings of recent work and comment on their Six Pack selections. They join a gallery of recorded performances by poets working in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific region. Click, listen and browse Six-Pack Sound’s growing sampler of remarkable poetic voices.





Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Michaela Keeble’s ‘the ocean’


the ocean



the ocean faces us


he stands

with his back to us


he’s not interested

he’s interested

only in his own




he watches his belly

begin to swell


he wonders

what will come of it


he cradles the feeling

and controls it


he’s not interested in us

perhaps he is interested


in our children


we step back



we feel his rash



we track his fish



we test

his acid reflux


we ask


is this sickness

or birth


it’s impossible to know

how he will handle this



i have no right

to call him by his name


but i can’t pretend

he doesn’t exist


i’m scared of him

i’m scared for him


i can’t conceive

of the harm we plan


and still we must think

about our children


we have to show them

how to greet him


even if it looks

like nursery rhyme


even if we don’t know

how to pray


even if we don’t know

how to change


Michaela Keeble




Michaela Keeble is an Australian writer living in Aotearoa with her partner and kids. For a living she writes about climate change but her poems (still evidence-based) are published fairly widely, including in Pantograph Punch, Westerly, Plumwood Mountain, Southerly, Not Very Quiet, Cicerone and Mimicry. She’s currently taking part in a climate science+art collaboration facilitated by TrackZero and spends a lot of time making books with a coven of women poets who live mainly in Porirua.

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: concerning review of the copyright act

You might like to check this out!

Some of you may be aware that The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment has released a review of the copyright act.

You can have a look here

I received the email below from Donovan Bixley – you might like to consider his concerns (which a number of other authors are endorsing):

1. Artists automatically own 100% of their copyright, so any review of changes to the act implies a reduction – in fact this has been being pushed by certain groups for years, unfortunately including The Green Party whom I’ve voted for for years!

2. The review consistently makes comments about how the majority of artists don’t earn a full living from copyright and instead get ‘non-monetary’ rewards – and therefore, earning from copyright is not a major concern for artists.

3. The review insulting claims that copyright creates an artistic culture of bland ‘popular’ ‘winners’ — therefore change is needed to create a superior arts community?!?? what the… by taking away our intellectual property rights?

4. It uses human rights access to arts and culture as an excuse to reduce copyright, when our work is already freely available in libraries.

… and heaps of other annoying statements that obviously don’t understand at all how the creative industries operate.

I’ve been informed that this review has been written by a 27 year old policy analyst in Wellington with support from Internet New Zealand. Through Copyright Licensing NZ I’ve been aware for at least 4 years, there has been strong government lobbying from Internet NZ and NZ Universities to reduce copyright protections. This seems basically a euphemism to provide endless free content on Google for some imagined public cultural benefit – and the Universities have been pushing an economic benefit of around $18 million to NZ as a whole if no one pays any copyright. Nice for them!

There’s no time to muck about – this is happening now, because MBIE has just short circuited a discussion process which has underway for years, and they’ve just released this Copyright Review paper.

So … I’m writing to all the MPs loudly voicing my concerns – it’s free and you can send 121 letters in one envelope and have the Beehive distribute them. You probably already knew all that!

Address your envelope:

All members of Parliament
Care of Distribution Services
Freepost Parliament
Private Bag 18 888
Parliament Buildings
Wellington 6160

But even if you just send a short note or email urging MPs not to reduce artists’ copyright.

Poetry Shelf fascinations: M Hughes’s horse power





The End


I look at the clock and expect to see something fantastic like a

man in a hat yelling “Great job!”



A slender chapbook arrived in my mail box – the cover is printed by Brendan O’Brien at the Fernbank Studio, Wellington. An object of beauty. Ah I treasure these arrivals.

The poetry is by M. Hughes and was launched at Book Hound in Wellington in October.

First I pivot on the title – I can’t help myself. I am thinking of movement and momentum and energy and then horse play and then poetry power and then horse poetry and then poetry play and then a poetry horse and then I am ready to start reading.

I adore this book.

horse power is lace-like, textured, tactile. The poetry surprises you with its abundance of strangeness and plethora of heart. You move through an empty house, into a kitchen or bathroom, elsewhere there is an abandoned hat and a fur coat, there are tigers and possums. Poems address a mother, a father and enter childhood. You move through glorious thickets of fiction, fable and real-life with the light spiking though.


Dad was always making toast, a tea towel

slapped over his shoulder. My mum spent

fourteen years trying to plug the holes

with her fingers, her toes, her tongue, her

nose. (…)


from ‘My Childhood in a Leaky Boat’


horse power is also the body: lungs, mouth, flesh, breath, illness, recovery, scars, sex, desire. Words become warmer, heated by breath. Flowers are carried down the street to be held aloft and then to wait ‘for when I open my nose from sleep’. The poet muses that everywhere she goes her vagina goes: ‘Most of the time in disguise / listening, breathing, waiting.’ The exquisitely sensual tactile surface of the poems gives me goosebumps.


You follow your breath through the house

to the bathroom.

You have come to close the window.

But the window has other ideas.

You reach your hand out

onto the black coat

of the night and stroke it.


from ‘sehctiW’


horse power blows a warm poetry breath on my skin. It feels strange and surprising and uplifting. This poetry glows.





PS: Only thing at my age I am squinting at the small font through my reading glasses and it is like I am chasing print confetti.