Monthly Archives: February 2021

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Hana Pera Aoake’s ‘Going on strike’

Going on strike

Geographies 

of justice 

of gentrification 

of holiday destinations

of raupatu whenua 

of farmland stretching out and circling in 

of productivity

of 100% pure 

Fanon once wrote that “The Manichaeism of the colonist produces the Manichaeism of the colonised”

It means that we are conditioned to believe in 

categories

only ‘two’ genders 

capitalism with all the trimmings

that we have the right to speak for us all 

We are categorised and branded as one thing 

We cannot be another 

So we surrender to a position so futile in nature 

It cuts like obsidian 

It bleeds like the rata tree

While Taawhaki cries out 

In seeking vengeance we found only death 

Amongst other things we have forgotten

The numbing stench of rain 

The chance to listen

The gift of learning 

The ability to be humble 

The suffering of others 

The necessity of place 

We don’t know how to be complicated

We don’t know how to be nuanced 

We don’t know how to be wrong 

We don’t know that to be wrong is to be free

Freedom is conditional 

But it grows like Lichen 

It dries out in the summer 

And regenerates in the winter

We don’t see how we are the ones who perpetuate the violence 

We say I am right and you are wrong

It’s like George W Bush all over again

“Your either with us or against us”

I want to be the shoe that hits you in the face 

We run a gallery named after a slave ship 

But we want to give platforms to grave robbing as art 

But we don’t want to be told that we are the ones who need to do the work 

But we don’t realise that some of us never forget these things 

But we don’t realise memory is a stain that can only be undone through acknowledgement 

But we don’t realise we should heal ourselves first 

Here we are during this true blue kiwi summer  working our tan 

burning our skin 

not in communion with Tama nui te ra

while the world is dying 

while terrorists attempt a pathetic coup 

while prisoners drink brown water 

while the ice melts as we pillage 

Protecting our property we lock our car doors 

We accumulate and close ranks

We sell decolonize mugs for $70 

We sell decolonize earrings for $70

We sell and sell and sell and sell

We upset ourselves 

We upset each other

We doom scroll 

We don’t dream 

We don’t show tenderness 

We don’t take time be present

We don’t take time to be awake 

Under sheets of rain we watch the splitting of spaces into the interstices of empire 

Afraid of anything but especially ourselves 

But what other ways could they have possibly broken in two or is it that we broke into ourselves and revelled in the smell of salt that we can hear

Imagine just saying saying     no

I want it all to stop sometimes 

I think about the loops that the waves make as they lick the edges of the rocks 

I remember that plastic slowly disintegrates as it travels through the ocean’s currents 

Remember the Roman tar marking the roads across Europe 

Remember the asphalt on Jewish and Romani homes 

Remember Govenor Grey in the cape colony, south Australia and New Zealand 

Remember the gun holes in the wall on University property

Remember

Remember

Remember

The prisons on my ancestors stolen lands are of course deliberate 

The difference between protest and protector 

The difference between a riot and a protest 

The fall of empire 

The decline of the west

The beginning of the end 

Our lives are like raranga 

Rich fibres knotted together 

Through many bodies 

For which we must honour them 

We honour them through 

our complications

our flaws that we work to unlearn

our ability to show love even in the face of the wretched 

Hana Pera Aoake

Hana Pera Aoake (Ngaati Mahuta, Ngaati Hinerangi, Tainui/Waikato) is an artist and writer based in Te wai pounamu. Hana recently published their first book of essays and prose, A bathful of kawakawa and hot water with Compound Press. They currently co-organise Kei te pai press with Morgan Godfery.

Poetry Shelf celebrates the Ockham NZ Book Awards Poetry Longlist: Jackson Nieuwland reads from I Am a Human Being

Jackson Nieuwland, I Am a Human Being, Compound Press, 2020

Jackson reads from I Am a Human Being

Jackson Nieuwland is a human being, duh. They are a genderqueer writer, editor, librarian, and woo-girl, born and based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. They co-founded the reading/zine series Food Court. This isn’t even their final form.

Compound Press page

Poetry Shelf review (Paula Green)

Pantograph Punch review (Vanessa Crofskey)

Landfall on Line review (Erik Kennedy)

Chris Holdaway (Compound Press) celebrates Jackson’s place on the longlist with a poem

Poetry Shelf celebrates Ockham NZ Book Award Poetry Longlist: A Bill Manhire poem and audio link

Someone was Burning the Forest

We did not know why the child was crying,
nor why he stood bare-shouldered at the window.
How had he come by those skimpy feathers?
The mother had fallen from the tower
a moment after she began to answer. I looked around
and there were many towers, also other bodies.
Now I was on the ground myself. I could hear
the child but no longer see him. Perhaps
he was still aloft. The towers were dissolving
yet surely there were trees. It was dark now
but I knew there must be many bodies.
I would need to climb to see where we might go.

Bill Manhire, Wow Victoria University Press, 2020

Have a listen: For the first Stress Test of 2021, Rough Trade Books welcomed special guest Bill Manhire to join them for music and poems.

Bill Manhire’s most recent books include Some Things to Place in a Coffin (2017), Tell Me My Name (with Hannah Griffin and Norman Meehan, 2017) and The Stories of Bill Manhire (2015). He was New Zealand’s inaugural poet laureate, and founded and until recently directed the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. He has edited major anthologies, including, with Marion McLeod, the now classic Some Other Country: New Zealand’s Best Short Stories (1984).

Victoria University Press page

Poetry Shelf review

ANZL review (Anna Jackson)

Chris Tse reviews Wow on Nine to Noon, Radio NZ National

‘Huia’ Poem of the Week in the Guardian

Bill Wows the crowd at WORD

Poetry Shelf celebrates the Ockham NZ Book Awards Poetry Longlist: Natalie Morrison reads from Pins

Natalie Morrison reads from Pins, Victoria University Press, 2020

Natalie Morrison has an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, where she received the Biggs Family Prize for Poetry in 2016. She lives and works in Wellington. Pins is her first book and is on the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Poetry Category longlist. 

Victoria University Press page

Poetry Shelf launch of Pins

Poetry Shelf interviews Natalie

Poetry Shelf review: Hinemoana Baker’s funkhaus

Hinemoana Baker funkhaus Victoria University Press, 2020

A woman carries in her arms

a heavy rectangle of sky –

roofs and treetops.

She places it in the back seat

of her car to calm down.

You and I sit

like separate circles

of a Venn diagram

unaware of the fabled

tasting zones of the tongue.

from ‘flomarkt’

Hinemoana Baker’s new poetry collection is peppery, salty, sweet. The poems form a bridge between two homes, Aotearoa and Berlin, and the overall effect is a book you want to keep reading. Again and again and again. I have been reading funkhaus since it arrived in my postbox May last year. Some books are like this. The German word ‘funken’, we learn in the blurb, is ‘to send a radio signal’. I love the idea that poetry becomes a form of broadcast. I love being an antenna, picking up the static, the silences, the connections across eight months.

funkhaus is on the Poetry category longlist of the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. The shortlist will be announced on March 3rd.

Hinemoana has always achieved a stop-you-in-your-tracks fluency, maybe because she is a musician and her ear is attentive to the sound of the line, regardless of the subject matter, the personal admissions, the political acumen, the light along with the biting dark. I am listening to funkhaus and admiring the pared back melodies, both the acoustic and the electric.

Pepper blacks the pan so never

Shake it near me, wait

For the flagrant animation

In my bed base

In mountain situations

Sleep swaddled, wake ecstatic

from ‘Narcissist advice column’

What has gripped me more than anything – and maybe this particularly matters in these Covid times – is the way most poems are peopled. Yes there is a mesmerising view out the window where the birds are flying in formation. Yes there is a new vacuum cleaner. Yes there is the question of whether extinct species might be revived. But touch the beating pulse of this collection and you will feel people. Unlike the camera that gravitates towards the people-emptied landscape, Hinemoana draws people in close. Think loved ones, friends, family, passersby. Sometimes a poem is infused in the surreal and you imbibe a scene that tilts and sticks. This is is the start of ‘friday night’, a little beauty of a poem:

Way down south

in the south

of the  south island of himself

over greyscale trees.

Eagles and meteorites are not.

On other occasions the poem is grounded in the personal. There is always the gap, the quavery silence, the unnamed pronouns (I, we, you, he, she, they), the spiky detail that fascinates, the heart of experiencing, of imagining, of replaying. I especially love ‘aunties’, a poem Hinemoana read for Poetry Shelf (2019). This glorious tour de force of a poem makes people (aunties) utterly, movingly, wittily, wincingly, gorgeously present.

We had a marching auntie and an eyelash-curler aunty, a

headscarves one, a lavender talcum powder aunty and a satin

running shorts one. We had an aunty who was laid out on the

sheepskin rug by that uncle when she was six, and seven and

eight. These might be the same aunties. We had an aunty who

died on the same day as her own sister and turned into that

white horse on the green hill. A drawn-on-eyebrows aunty who

said I don’t care how good they are at yodelling they’re giving

country music a bad name those girls.

Ah but I also love ‘mother’, ‘waitangi day’, ‘if i had to sing’, waiata tangi’. Find the book. Find your own clearings.

Hinemoana crafts poetry as flourishing movement. In part as melodic flow but also in the way poems come into being in surprising ways. The unexpected paths and sideturns. The underlays and overlays. The semantic chords and the visual alerts. In ‘fox’, an animal is spotted outside in the snow (‘The most powerful things / are the ones we simply come across’). The poem entrances as you move from this sweet epiphany to loss of appetite, your own child dying, to the skin as kidney to:

Climbing into the air outside your door

a tufty plant grows from a cobblestone.

And there –

there is the sandwich board with pictures of fruit

and words you don’t understand

which make nothing happen.

Another sublime example is ‘flohmarkt’, the poem I quoted from at the start of the review. Here we move from the striking opening image of woman and sky to tongue myths to dog and bike owners, and then to chairs. This is how poetry can move. It is gap and it is breathtakingly resonant. Here is the end of the poem:

I live with a surplus

of chairs, mostly empty.

My one, with its smooth

wooden arms and your one

if you were here.

The kind of chair you never want

to get up out of

the kind of chair for which

prepositions were invented.

Maybe this sounds old-fashioned but for me Hinemoana’s poetry gets down to the essence of things. There is an addictive economy that opens out into lush and surprising fields of reading. Like a yin and yang effect. Like poetry as a basket of essential oils that you flick on your wrist and carry all day. That work for each of us differently. That sustain and delight, that get you moving and thinking. That change as you wear them over the course of eight months. Poetry as essential. Poetry as skin tingling essential. It feels essential to Hinemona – to be writing poems, to be travelling across the poetry bridge, that arc of static and connection between Berlin home and Aotearoa home, to be grounded in her friends and whānau, her writing support crew. She acknowledges the vital support of those who have offered aroha and wisdom, publication and recording opportunities, reviews, translations, festival invitations in her endnotes. I offer a small thank you to Hinemoana – each book is a gift and we are all the better for residing within your latest one.

HINEMOANA BAKER is a poet, musician and creative writing teacher. She traces her ancestry from Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Te Āti Awa and Ngāi Tahu, as well as from England and Germany (Oberammergau in Bayern). She is the author of the poetry collections Funkhaus (VUP, 2020), waha | mouth (VUP, 2014), kōiwi kōiwi (VUP, 2010), and mātuhi | needle (co-published in 2004 by Victoria University Press and Perceval Press).

Hinemoana has edited several online and print anthologies and released several albums of original music and more experimental sound art. She works in English, Māori and more recently German, the latter in collaboration with German poet and sound performer Ulrike Almut Sandig. She is currently living in Berlin, where she was 2016 Creative New Zealand Berlin Writer in Residence, and completing a PhD at Potsdam University.

Victoria University Press page

The Spin Off review (Elizabeth Heritage)

Pantograph Punch review (Arihia Latham)

NZLA review (Kiri Piahana-Wong)

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Paula Green’s Covid blues

Covid blues

It’s 4 am and Ella is singing

summertime on National Radio

and I could tell you about a broken

heart and our dead cat and body life

breaking down in pain

or the rain pounding on the roof

in the humid dark

or the way I am counting years

or last night’s birthday paella steeped in saffron and paprika

or the way loneliness can rise in gut-kicking waves

or you feel you have dissolved

in the water tank or an extravagant bath

lemongrass and majoram salted

or the plot of Rajorshi Chakraborti’s novel

or the nostalgic music we picked for the boom

as we birthday ate and sang and danced

but I want to tell you how I went

garden crazy in the first and second lockdowns

and how the garden is a gushing glut

of tomatoes beans zuchinis pumpkins herbs

the vines and tendrils knotting together

like wildfire like verbs nouns semicolons

in a poem because I never went to poetry school

and learnt straight lines and golden rules and

how yesterday I was piling warm earth on tomato roots

snipping off dead leaves feeling for the potatoes

but here I am listening to Eva Radich make her picks

wanting to pile steaming earth

on the exposed roots of this poem

because it’s 4 am and I keep repeating

myself and tying up in garden knots

It’s 4 am and the Cuban trumpet is knotting up

the Cuban piano and the Cuban trumpet is aching

for a world where we are all fed and we

are all warm and much loved and the tyrant is impeached

because crossing the party line is human good

and where we can pack the car and head north

to the booked bach for our first family holiday

in summers, and peace and kindness and wonder

are the words we picked as we passed

the birthday cake and candle glowing in the dark

Paula Green

Poetry Shelf celebrates Ockham NZ Book Award poetry long list: Rhian Gallagher reads from Far-Flung

Rhian Gallagher reads from Far-Flung (Auckland University Press, 2020)

Rhian Gallagher‘s first poetry book Salt Water Creek (Enitharmon Press, 2003) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for First Collection. In 2007 Gallagher won a Canterbury History Foundation Award, which led to the publication of her book Feeling for Daylight: The Photographs of Jack Adamson (South Canterbury Museum, 2010). She also received the 2008 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award. Gallagher’s Shift (AUP, 2011) won the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Award for Poetry. In 2018, she held the University of Otago Robert Burns Fellowship.

Auckland University Press page

Poetry Shelf review of Far-Flung

Poetry Shelf celebrates the Ockham NZ Book Awards poetry longlist: Chris Holdaway’s poem for Jackson Nieuwland

Greetings cards for Jackson Nieuwland

I light a candle and vines of blood

Run down in place of wax as if

The experience of transubstantiation

Were being drawn towards the grave

Centre of the earth by the weight of

Your own iron content. Ever found

Yourself on a throne whose arms

And legs are wired to crosses like

A marionette? You’re no puppet and

It’s all the universe in a pocketwatch

I’m afraid. My heart on fire under

A bell jar and that’s just how it’ll stay.

Getting into keeping fish as a hobby

Hoping to use my own body as a tank

Until so filled with water I gain imm-

Unity to drowning and companionship

All at once. The deeper I go the more I

Feel as though falling from great heights.

My open palm broad enough to form

Plains on which tornadoes arise like

Spring clockwork before the lines turn

To river deltas so blue I can’t imagine

Ever having had veins in my hand.

Amongst the sunflowers the scarecrow

Is king. I have the first successful mono

-culture fields of carnivorous plants

That eat every new seed right as you

Sow it. Knock off and pitch a ladder

Against the clouds to paint them like

A weatherboard house or chip away at

An ice sculpture. Lay down on the Gulf

Stream like Michelangelo on scaffolding

Painting the dogmatic ceiling. As if

The compass woven into paper maps

Could spring to life like a computer.

I woke inside a lightbulb holding

A candle slowly consuming all the air

Like the sweetest dream of being a star

Calculating orbits in the different twists

Of screw and bayonet fittings the kind

Of knowledge that can never survive

A trip to the store. An alley so dark I

Instantly become an orphan and have

The shadow of a wolf in passing head

-lights. Fallen leaves and playing cards

And receipts curl into being on the wind

And take a hike into rolling hills.

Chris Holdayway

Chris Holdaway’s Compound Press was established in 2013. It publishes poetry, other writings along with Minarets, a journal of poetry and poetics. The books are printed and bound in their Auckland workshop. Jackson Niuewland’s I am a human being (2020) is longlisted in the Poetry Category of the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. Last year they also published A bathful of kawakawa and hot water, a selection of writings by Hana Pera Aoake.