Monthly Archives: January 2021

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Call for submissions for Fresh Ink: A Collection of Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand 2021

Call for submissions for Fresh Ink A Collection of Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand 2021

Cloud Ink is publishing a new edition of the Fresh Ink Anthology in 2021 and is now calling for submissions.

Deadline: 28th February 2021
Word limit: 3,000

Eligibility: open to all New Zealand citizens and permanent residents
This year the anthology will be themed around the Covid 19 experience in New Zealand.
What are we as both individuals and as collective society to make of the wider and deeper effects, beyond the health crisis itself? How can writers and storytellers, across multiple forms, address the human aspects of the Covid-19 crisis, its effects, both personal and societal, and its legacy? Can we make sense of this traumatic experience through the creative use of language, characterization, and images?

We are looking for pieces of new writing – short fiction, novel extracts, poetry and art work – themed in response to the pandemic that has touched us all in some way. The pieces may be personal writing from life, memoir, prose fiction or poetry, an essay or personal reflection, or a mix of media forms including graphic writing and visual arts.

Please send your submissions to Please submit your entry in a Word document (for stories and poetry) using 12 point Times New Roman, 1.5 spacing. Artwork needs to be black and white and sent on a jpg or pdf. Please include your name, email and contact details. You may send more than one submission but we are unlikely to publish more than one work from each writer/artist.

When we receive your submission you will be automatically added to our newsletter mailing list. You will be able to unsubscribe.
We look forward to reading your work.

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Ruby Solly book launch

When you first told me
that you gave me the name of our tupuna
so that I would be strong enough
to hold our family inside my ribcage,
I believed you.
Here you are.
Here is how I saw you,
trapped in your own amber.
Now it’s time
for you to believe me.

Please join us for the launch of

Tōku Pāpā
by Ruby Solly

Thursday 11 February 6pm
Unity Books Wellington, 57 Willis Street

Ruby will read from her debut collection, launched by Tina Makereti.

All Welcome

Poetry Shelf summer reading: Pip William’s The Dictionary of Lost Words

The Dictionary of Lost Words Pip Williams, Affirm Press, 2020

Carole Beu recommended Pip William’s The Dictionary of Lost Words. I hardly ever go into the city so I tend to order from various bookshops and get the bookseller to add a few extra books to my list. I started doing this when we were going into lockdown and have a few favourite shops around the country I continue to visit online or by phone.

The Dictionary of Lost Words is a little beauty (well 400 pages or so) and I read it in a day. It is set in the time of the suffragette momentum with WWI looming. I loved the premise: when the team of lexicographers were gathering words that would make it into the first Oxford Dictionary, motherless Esme spends most of her childhood beneath the sorting table. One day a slip of paper flutters to the floor beside her, she claims it (with the word bondmaid) and hides it in Lizzie’s (her friend and servant) old wooden trunk. Esme develops a hunger for words – those misplaced, overlooked or abandoned – by the men in the Scriptorium. Over time, as she becomes a young woman hungry for knowledge and important things to do, she understands that some words are valued more than others. Women’s words and words of lower classes were highly unlikely to make the dictionary cut. She begins to assemble her own version: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

The curiosity of Esme is infectious.

The novel is based on intensive research and includes the men who were involved in compiling the dictionary; the whole process and setting is fascinating in itself if you love words, language, linguistics. But what strikes me deeply about this novel are the layers upon layers of missing things. Women’s words are missing from the dictionary which means women’s experience and opinions are devalued and missing. I am reminded of the multiple ways women have been missing, invisible, muted across past centuries and I am wondering whether we still endure such travesties. Have we got it right yet?

The curiosity of the author is infectious.

The novel navigates the power of words to shape us, manipulate us, exclude us, embolden and liberate us. So many overlocking threads: the suffragette movements, a cruel school, an unconventional father, a covered market where Esme never covers her ears, class differences, a theatre troupe and a fleeting love affair, an unplanned pregnancy, an aversion to violent protest but commitment to necessary change. Friendship, love, reconciliation, loss.

The book hit several unexpected personal cords – maybe that is why I have loved it so much. Curiosity as reader bumped into pain which provoked little epiphanies. I loved that. But I also loved the lyricism, the complexity of ideas and characters, the empathy that infuses every inch of the narrative. As much as this is a novel of missing things, this is a novel of extraordinary presence. It was the perfect addition to my book-retreat holiday. So thank you Carole and the Women’s Bookshop. Yes – it has earned the word GLORIOUS!

Affirm Press author page

Pip Williams was born in London, grew up in Sydney and now calls the Adelaide Hills home. She is co-author of the book Time Bomb: Work Rest and Play in Australia Today (New South Press, 2012) and in 2017 she wrote One Italian Summer, a memoir of her family’s travels in search of the good life, which was published with Affirm Press to wide acclaim. Pip has also published travel articles, book reviews, flash fiction and poetry.

Poetry Shelf summer reading: Simon Sweetman’s The Death of Music Journalism

Simon Sweetman The Death of Music Journalism The Cuba Press, 2020

Music was such a booster shot in 2020. So many occasions where I had an album on constant replay or, when all else failed, music provided the escape hatch, the hammock swing, the blue skies and the goosebump skin. This Christmas eight of us went on a music loop picking favourite tracks in turn as we played a Norse throwing game outside. It was music warmth and chill and delight.

To begin 2021 talking about poetry that has music as its spark plugs, its honeyed fuel, seems perfect (goodness knows where this car talk came from, maybe because my car died yesterday, and I live miles from anywhere). Simon Sweetman’s The Death of Music Journalism is so good; so full of music life and verve and fascinations. I read it on the last day of 2020 and finished it on the first day of 2021. A bridge-between-years book. A book of poems that takes you behind the scenes in the life and musings of a music critic; in the scenes, between the scenes – you take your pick. It is funny and moving and immensely diverting. You get nostalgia and you get riveting anecdotes. You get family and you get confessions. I reckon you have to read the whole thing in one or two sittings because it works so well as a complete package.

The Death of Music Journalism is another one of those poetry books where I either want to sit in a cafe and discuss it with you and use music as our own personal hooks, or go to a poetry gig where Simon reads a good chunk of the poems. Safe bets that this would be a very cool occasion. Some of us will be taken back to the times we played Lou Reed, Prince, Talking Heads or Bob Dylan. Remember when. Remember how. Remember who.

In the longish opening poem, ‘Simon Sweetman, this is your life’, the speaker (well let’s say Simon) has to sell CDs to pay the flat electricity bill so he can keep playing CDS, and then later when he is a father he sells LPs, which gets him wondering how it will work for a streaming generation.

I thought you had to have it all, every

album – the good and the bad. The terrible,

the silly, the magical, the miserable.

And then a guy in a shop told me that

a collection was like a garden, it would

only bloom after a good prune.


I am thinking I have rarely pruned my album or CD collections.

Part of the magic of Simon’s poems is in the shifting notes, like he’s putting a new album on the turntable. In one poem we are reading about his connection with a Sam Hunt poetry performance (and a shared love of Lou Reed). Simon later gets to be Sam’s opening act, swap poems and drink wine together. There is an underlying story of fanship but it is all in the telling. The story twists include crosswords and cross words, Wordsworth, and Sam avoiding the fans and showing Simon his son’s photo, and Simon with his signed book lost but the coveted snapshot still looked at, stepping up to be a poet too.

A year after taking this photograph of

Sam shaking the poems from his shoulders

I was his opening act. Nervously I read a

poem about how ‘history’ and ‘opinion’

were both seven-letter words, but only

one fits correctly into the crossword- and

this was inspired by the cross words

me and my wife had been having

as she focused on completing

the newspaper puzzle, and I

became Sermon Sweetman –

going on about how Elvis really

was the best, the greatest, the first, the one.


from ‘I took a photo of Sam Hunt in Upper Hutt / 20 years ago’

Simon highlights his favourite album (Prince’s Batman soundtrack), a favourite Bob Dylan album, the time he saw two Simon & Garfunkel concerts in a row, had a dreadful phone interview with Mark Knopfler, mused on antipathy towards the Beatles, and how great the Beatles are, on getting nervous before talking about a book with Kim Hill, or the time his bad review of a Robbie Williams concert went viral and got Robbie tweeting and apologising and putting it in his biography. It’s poetry as story, as music anecdote, as free-flowing lyric. Feels like this is performance gold.

But The Death of Music Journalism also goes behind the family scenes – usually with a music hook. His mother, father, grandparents, wife and son make appearances, sometimes centre stage, often reached by way of particular music. I especially love the layered and somewhat moving ‘Father and Son’. Music binds a relationship, it can carry multiple messages that alter depending upon the listener. The dad plays Cat Stevens constantly. The son says he likes ‘Father and Son.’ The dad looks for the hidden message. The son no longer likes ‘Father and Son’. Families, hey.

The 13-year-old Me struggled

to convince him it was just a

good song. And in the process of

doing that I fell instantly out of

love with it. Never to have

any interest in it ever again.


The curse being I would play in

a covers band on and off for

about three years – that song

was part of the nightly repertoire.


My mum told me that

the reason I got out of the

car and Dad stayed in the

car that night was because

he sat and listened to

the song three times to

try to understand what he

thought was being said

to him.


This is poetry that will divert you on so many levels: get you trawling through your own music archives, your memory banks, and simply loving the behind-the-scenes tour. Stories unfold unpredictably, relationships will move you, acerbic comments satisfy. With this book and with music, I toast the year to come. Glorious!

Simon Sweetman is a blogger, reviewer, podcaster, and author of On Song: Stories Behind New Zealand’s Pop Classics. The Death of Music Journalism is his first poetry collection. Simon has been writing poems since he was first listening to bands on his Walkman, but then began sharing them via social media and open mic nights. Word got around and he was a sleeper hit at LitCrawl’s Lit-Sync For Your Life and the 2020 Variety for Fierys. He blogs at Off the Tracks, and lives in Wellington with his wife, Katy, and his son, Oscar.

The Cuba Press page

Simon talks with Jesse Mulligan @RNZAfternoons

Poetry Shelf audio: Simon reads from Death of Music Journalism