Monthly Archives: January 2021

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Brilliant longlist of Ockam New Zealand Book Awards just announced

Poetry Shelf has reviewed

The Savage Coloniser Book Tuisata Avia, Victoria University Press

Far Flung Rhian Gallagher Auckland University Press

National Anthem National Anthem, Dead Bird Books

Wow Bill Manhire, Victoria University Press

Pins Natalie Morrison, Victoria University Press (an interview)

This is Your Real Name, Elizabeth Morton, Otago University Press

I Am a Human Being Jackson Nieuwland, Compound Press

Magnolia, NIna Mingya Powles, Seraph Press

CONGRATULATIONS to all the poets. This is the best longlist I have seen in years. I have loved all these books to a sublime degree. I am also delighted to see a mix of university presses and smaller publishers, and those inbetween. I plan to review Hinemoana and Karlo’s books over the coming weeks (Goddess Muscle, Karlo Mila, Huia Press and Funkhaus, Hinemoana Baker, Victoria University Press).

Ockham New Zealand Book Award page

Poetry Shelf review: Paula Morris and Haru Sameshima’s Shining Land: Looking for Robin Hyde

Shining Land: Looking for Robin Hyde, Paula Morris and Haru Sameshima,

Massey University Press, 2020

In 2020 Massey University Press initiated the kōrero project, a collaboration between ‘two different kinds of artistic intelligence to work at a shared topic’. As I underlined in my review, the first book – High Wire, by Lloyd Jones and Euan Macleod – was stunning. The kōrero project seems necessarily open with no prescriptive views on how each collaboration ought to proceed. I like that. The second book, Shining Land: Looking for Robin Hyde by writer Paula Morris and photographer Haru Sameshima, offers a different approach and is equally satisfying. Both hardbacks are gorgeously produced by Massey University Press.

Perhaps I am drawn to Shining Land because it returned me to my own search for women poets in the archives and their poetry as I wrote Wild Honey. Paula and Haru went looking for Robin Hyde in her books and in the archives, but equally significantly in the physical places where she had lived in Aotearoa. Individual ‘storm chasers’ who met and planned and then took to their own roads of creating. The photographs and the text offer separate narrative threads, but also establish electric connections between image and word, between what is imagined and what is read, the elusive past and a personal present. I see this ground-breaking book as an invigoration of genre. It is memoir, biography, artwork, road trip, narrative, collaboration. It does not contextualise a subject in academic theory or adhere to biography paradigms or offer sustained close readings. If the authors are in search of their subject so too are the readers. I like that. In fact I love peering between the lines and the shadows, so to speak.

Consider this book as you might consider a poem where the poet offers stepping stones without filling in the whole river scene. It is over to us to choose how we navigate the electric currents, cross the bridges, absorb the biographical details, the self exposures of author and photographer. We can track Robin’s difficult life: her incessant pain after a knee injury, numerous lovers but no long term attachments, the death of a lover overseas, a stillborn baby, a secret baby placed in foster care, the scorn of men including local literary power brokers, the censure of family, the mental fragility, breakdowns even, the prolonged time in ‘mental hospitals’. The incessant need to earn money to pay for the care of her son, Derek Challis. The departure from New Zealand, with her fraught stopover in war-torn China and Japan. Her premature and tragic death in London. The books published in her lifetime; the articles, the fiction, the poetry written. Such layers of challenge when unendurable pain (eased by morphine) was spiked by the pain of losing her babies, her lover, her family’s respect, a place to call home, to be home.

In the Alexander Turnbull Library I held a sticker scrapbook that Robin had made for Derek, little stickers pasted alongside little stories she wrote for him. The stories petered out, and then the stickers petered out, and I felt the pain of the loss deeply. I carried a phantom presence as a throbbing ache back to my hotel room.

As I try to write about Shining Land my words keep breaking its incandescent magic (shining), its accumulating moods. The photographs are uncanny, eerie, both empty and full, empty of human presence because Robin is missing and missed. The storm chasers outside the frame. I keep imagining Robin entering the scene. I like that. When I look at the shot of Rangitoto ki te Tonga D’Urville Island and Te Aumiti French Pass from French Pass Road with gloomy skies and greys I become grey state. I like this so much. How can I speak? This is where pregnant Robin posed as a married woman, before moving to Picton and then back to Wellington with her secret baby and and her secret heartache. I am on the pass looking down at the grey isolation. I will never know Robin, I will never be in Robin’s shoes, but I feel. And that is what Paula and Haru do. They feel Robin in the depths of their looking and their making. It is contagious.

For Paula, it has much to do with feeling home and unhome and being on the move. Nomadic. Paula has lived in many cities, both in Aotearoa and overseas. Robin too was always on the move, from this house to that, to psychiatric institutions, from her city of birth to a city in the provinces to a city offshore, far removed from loved ones. Haru’s photographs offer footbridges to states of minds and to author phantoms. Transcendental. Movement rich. Still. So too does Paula’s writing. Together Paula and Haru visited the Grey Lodge that is now part of Unitec Institute of Technology, but was part of Avondale Mental Hospital. Robin admitted herself after a nervous breakdown. Unlike other guests she had a private room in the lodge and patch of garden, a table and a typewriter, and took up her doctor’s suggestion to write a memoir. The photographs are eerie, thick with mood and absence that translates into an uncanny and heart-beating-faster presence. Paula’s paragraph sets my hairs on end. Place becomes heartbeat.

The door to the attic is green, tattooed with graffiti, and Haru warns me about the steps: they’re alarmingly narrow and tall, and must have been difficult for Hyde to negotiate with her limp. The attic view now is of tree tops and the city, with glimpses of the harbour. The room is dusty and bare, humming with a central air unit. Something about the attic excites us both: it seems alive with Hyde, or perhaps we feel close to her in this plain space; the shape would have been familiar to her, the quiet.

After I edge back down, my feet too big for the steps, I leave Haru alone in the house – apart from the ghosts – waiting for the light to turn.

Shining Land makes me feel closer to Robin, perhaps more than any other book has done, apart from her poetry. Paula and Haru have built a space for her, a plain space, with pathways and rooms and gaps between the lines. And so more than before, I am feeling the pain of losing babies, of needing to write, of translating experience into prose and poetry, of persisting on through crippling pain. Of not saying everything out loud, so the rooms of a life fill, so we may eavesdrop all this time later.

Paula offers felicitous quotations, along with nuanced comments. Empathetic. Insightful. Spare. For example: The building where Robin roomed in Whanganui – after she had fostered Derek out – now houses a children’s clothing shop: ‘I’m glad she never had to look at those tiny rompers and bonnets.’

On one page, one sentence only: ‘Gwen Metcalfe, her closest friend: “It is a lot to happen to a girl before she is twenty.”’

When I was writing Wild Honey, I mourned the way some writers of the past and the present have rendered our early women poets missing, lost in the service of academic theory, in the privileged views and yardsticks of men. I wanted to hold these fierce and insistent women close, and feel their poetry, feel their circumstances and their ideas, their refusal to vanish. Shining Land is a form of embrace. It offers significant facts, personal connections, an astute selection of Robin’s words, and from friends and enemies. The book is restrained and vulnerable and probing. On this occasion and in this way, it holds Robin. In the gaps, the empty rooms, the medicine bottles, the window views. It makes me want to pick up my favourite Hyde collection Houses by the Sea and catch glimpses of an elsewhere time and place, a woman finding life so heartbreakingly difficult. I feel Shining Land to my core.

Paula Morris MNZM, Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Manuhiri, Ngāti Whātua, is an award-winning novelist, short-story writer and essayist. A frequent book reviewer, interviewer and festival chair, she is an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland, where she convenes the Master in Creative Writing programme, and is the founder of the Academy of New Zealand Literature.

Haru Sameshima was born in Shizuoka City, Japan, and immigrated to New Zealand in 1973. He completed an MFA (1995) at Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland. Sameshima has exhibited and published widely in New Zealand, and his images illustrate some of New Zealand’s most significant art and craft publications. He has his own publishing imprint, Rim Books, and runs his Auckland studio, Studio La Gonda, in partnership with Mark Adams.

Massey University Press page

Poetry Shelf review: Fiona Farrell’s Nouns, verbs, etc

Nouns, verbs, etc. Fiona Farrell, Otago University Press, 2020

Once upon a time there was

a story.

It lived in the mouth of an

old woman.

It was a bad-tempered story

that kicked the door in and

threw plates. It did not behave


But she gave it shelter.

She had made it herself.

She had fed it with her own

blood. She had spat her own

stomach into its straining

beak. She knew why it cried.

from ‘The old woman’s story’

Fiona Farrell, much loved poet, novelist and nonfiction author, began writing poems in childhood, at times in ‘wonky capitals’ with the delicious ‘thump’ of end rhyme. She discusses her evolution as poet in the terrific preface to her selected poems published last year. There were comic poems that made her class laugh, the earnest poems of high school with elevated expectations of what a poem ought to be, and the kick in the gut when, at 19, a young man laughed at the poem she showed him. She stopped writing.

It’s so difficult in 2020 to convey just how it felt to be in this world where men, past and present, stood about booming to one another like so many kākāpō on a steep hillside.

from ‘Preface’

So many other women in the 1960s through to the 1970s were writing on scraps of paper in scraps of time getting scraps of attention and rarely making it onto the hallowed ground of men, their journals, their university course material, their poetry gigs.

Today I’ve embroidered relativity

polished the Acropolis

knitted Ulysses

and baked two trayloads of cantatas

for the kindy.

Now, if the baby sleeps another hour

I’ll just about have time

to whip up some of that

Instant Immortality.

from ‘Preface’

Fiona’s ‘Preface’ echoes so many women’s voices I read in my Wild Honey travels. I think of how long it took me, along with other women, to move from hidden notebooks to going public and getting published. For Fiona it was the death of her father, and his complicated presence in her life, that started her poetry pen moving again: ‘The way the simple act of choosing words can give the illusion, however temporary, of control when emotion threatens to overwhelm’ (‘Preface’). She showed the poem to someone she shared a teacher’s college office with and took up the suggestion to get it published.

Fiona’s Nouns, verbs, etc. (selected poems) includes extracts from her four collections: Cutting Out (1987), The Inhabited Initial (1999), The Pop-Up Book of Invasions (2007) and The Broken Book (2011). Interspersed between the extracts are clusters of uncollected poems and, at the end, my favourite endnotes ever, a suite of fascinations that complement the joys of reading the poems, unexpectedly, beautifully. Fiona said she heeded the positive response to the endnotes in The PopUp Book of Invasions.

Nouns, verbs, etc. is a Poetry Treasure House. Across decades of writing, the poems are guided by inquisitiveness, linguistic nimbleness, a freshness of voice that survives over time, an exposed heart, the presence of I and we, political undercurrents. There are human and humane attachments because the recurring revelation is that this poet cares. Poetry stands as a means of care: for self, for loved ones, for the world, for the present and the past, for the stretch and possibilities of languages. In particular Fiona has cared about women; in their daily lives, in a history of writing, in genealogies, in other places and other times, in the need to resist subjugation and erasure.

She sits in the dark

on the rough side of

Sunday. The wood is

bare down here, torn

from a tree. She gets

her woolly hat. The

table is saw scrawl

screw and scratch.

She brings a cushion

and some crackers.

The table is a bare

bivvy. Brace and

bruised knuckle.

She flings a sheet

over. She will

live here

for ever.

from ‘The table’ – The Broken Book

The poem Fiona wrote upon the death of her father signalled the way poetry can be a necessary part of our lives as both readers and writers. I know through the extraordinary number of letters and poetry I received during our various lockdowns how vital poems were, whether we were writing or reading.

Each of Fiona’s books, both poetry or prose, has been necessary reading for me, right from the goosebump discovery of The Skinny Louie Book in 1992 to a suite of books responding to the earthquakes in Christchurch. The Broken Book transmuted from a book of walking essays to an earthquake book where the essays were interrupted by poems like quake jolts. It was written because of the Christchurch quake, and it makes the everyday voices away-from-the-cameras visible, the living with damage and daily fear and little blessings palpable. Again poetry becomes necessary.

The PopUp Book of Invasions was prompted by Fiona’s writing residency in Donoughmore, Ireland, the manuscripts her book borrows its title from, and the layering of contemporary invasions along with those in her whakapapa and Aotearoa. She wrote: ‘It was a strange feeling, being there. I wrote to express that’ (from ‘Endnotes’).  Again the book becomes necessary reading.

I love the insertion of the unpublished poems in thematic clusters. There are a handful of love poems – so you get to enter a poetry love glade and imbibe the heat and shimmer and connectivity of love. I have no idea when the poems were written, but they feel so vital and fresh. Original. I want to quote from all of them but here is a taster:

They tied the knot.

It was a knot of their

own devising. They

went over and under,

over and under many

times, and it held. So

they could fly, tied

to earth by the knots

around their ties.

So they could always

find their way home.

from ‘Knot-tying for beginners’

Another cluster centres upon travel, upon home and not home, upon hills and mountains, lakes and harbours that anchor you into the guts and grit of the land, and then sets you drifting through place to people and back to the way place shapes and nourishes us. I especially love ‘Our trip to Tākaka’. I want to hear this poem read aloud, to hear the mood ripple through the understated repetitions and motion, the effect travel has upon us, the surprises that become part of our luggage, as we move along, and as we arrive back home.

Some poems carry whiffs of fable – I am picturing the poet blowing on the white page as though it were glass, with a fable presence making its subtle mark. There is always the everyday commonplace experience, relationships or objects in Fiona’s poetry, but there is also the way the poem transcends the realism and makes the ordinary glow.

The fathers swayed beneath us

walking like mountains on

their big legs. We looked

about, seeing the way ahead.

The fathers said hang on!

They held us by the ankles

lest we fall. And sometimes,

they flung us out into empty

air, and we were lost. We

squealed, flailed, knowing

already the pain of solid

ground. But the fathers

caught us on the downward

flight. Gathered us to the

knotting of old jerseys

smelling of fish and vege

gardens and Best Bets and

the whole wide place we’d

glimpsed from their tops.

from ‘The fathers’

Fiona Farrell’s poetry sparks language into dynamic combinations because, as the title of the book suggests, words have mattered to her – from the origins of words, to ancient languages, to codes and punctuation. In The Inhabited Initial endnotes – a collection that celebrates the organic states of words and languages – I discover the origin of the question mark and the punctuation mark. The original exclamation mark was a word that monastic monks inserted to denote moments of joy. I love this! Little glades of joy in the flow of a text. Nowadays the exclamation mark can be a form of shout and exhibitionism. Equally fascinating: Roman scribes used full stops to mark rest bays for breath in the flow of a text. I am thinking poets have a more open relationship with punctuation and how it adds to the reading of poetry.

Nouns, Verbs etc is a reading delight. It offers distinctive travel itineraries that set you drifting in unfamiliar skies, lingering in some poems as though you stall in the familiar rooms of your house, daydreaming between the lines, wondering at the power of nouns and verbs to provoke such intense feelings and connections. Let me raise my poetry glass and toast this glorious book (and loving Otago University Press production). Thank you Fiona, this necessary book is a gift.

FIONA FARRELL has published poetry, fiction, drama and non-fiction. Uniquely among New Zealand writers, she has received awards in all genres. Her poetry has been shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards and has been widely anthologised. Her first novel, The Skinny Louie Book, won the New Zealand Book Award for Fiction. Three later novels have been shortlisted for that award, and five have been longlisted for the prestigious International Dublin IMPAC Award. In 2013 she received the Michael King Award to write twinned books prompted by the Christchurch earthquakes and the city’s reconstruction. The non-fiction work, The Villa at the Edge of the Empire, was shortlisted for the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards. In 2018 she edited Best New Zealand Poems for the International Institute of Modern Letters. Farrell has received numerous awards, including the Prime Minister’s Award for Fiction and the ONZM for Services to Literature. She made Dunedin home in 2018.

Otago University Press page

Kete Books review by Renee Liang

ANZL review by Stephanie Johnson

Fiona Farrell: interview with Robert Kelly, Standing Room Only, Radio NZ

Readings and interview with Morrin Rout, Bookenz, Plains FM

Poetry Shelf interviews Fiona Farrell

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