Monthly Archives: April 2021

Poetry Shelf review: Hana Pera Aoake’s A bathful of kawakawa and hot water

A bathful of kawakawa and hot water, Hana Pera Aoake, Compound Press, 2020 (reprinted 2021)

The opening poem, ‘Perhaps we should have stayed’, in Hana Pera Aoake’s collection of poetry and prose is like a chant, like a manifesto for self, like a list to pin to a fridge or a heart, to keep you moving and remembering, and thinking and feeling, and the title keeps repeating like an insistent beat, and it is political and it is personal, and it is sideways and direct, and it is searing and it is balm, and I can’t stop reading it, and I have read it five times in a bath with mānuka leaves that drift in on the wind.












Hana is writing this book from Lisboa, from that far away point, where writing becomes the connective bridge to the land that they holds dear, and as you read you move across the memory bridge, from the waterfront there to the water here, from the Portuguese river to the line of police removing Ihumaato protestors. The prose piece is rich in direction, building in momentum like the Pacific ocean flowing and the voices of the protestors, never ever losing sight of the sea, and it is an umbilical chord and it is a cry, an insistent poetic cry to do better.

Elsewhere there is a yoga teacher that reminds the writer of a vegan flatmate ‘who didn’t clean and was really racist and ate all my food, and had a trust fund’. There is puking and there are drugs. There is a cameo in Sex and the City. There is a Lisboa square where the Jewish were once slaughtered. There are emails to write and fliers to be designed. There is an empty womb. There is all this and there is so much more. Hana’s language is the most super-charged gloriously exhilarating uplift of words you can hope to meet, that draw in Te Reo Maaori and Portuguese, and pay attention to rhythm, so that you are itching to hear it read aloud, because this is prose and this is poetry, and yes this is song. Song from the heart, from the whole body, moving and yearning and finding a way to be.

Yet if this collection is song, it is also an incisive and vital probe, drawing on reading, ideas, history, the present and the future, challenging Western discourse, asking questions, musing on what ‘constitutes a common’, on the co-option of Maaori concepts by Paakeha, on the inseparability of body and mauri, on the damaged world, on the power of myth.

As a Maaori I feel death all around; not just because fantails follow me most days, but because I carry dead bodies inside me. I name them as I name myself, my rivers and my mountains. I ache at night thinking of my grandmother dying alone in a rest home during this pandemic.

from ‘We were like stones like weeds in  the road’

Chris Holdaway (Compound Press) has produced an exquisite book, using mid-20th Century typefaces designed by Samoan New Zealander Joseph Churchward. Hana has produced a collection of writings that within 83 pages take you out of yourself into a state of wider contemplation and deeper mourning and intricate learning and necessary action. This book I hold to my heart.

Hana Pera Aoake (Ngaati Mahuta, Tainui/Waikato, Ngaati Hinerangi) is an artist and writer based in Waikouaiti on stolen Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe and Waitaha lands. They are keen to restart the land wars and love eating kaimoana and defacing colonial property.

Compound Press page

A poem on Poetry Shelf, ‘Going on Strike’

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Iona Winter launches Gaps in the Light in Wellington

Gaps in the Light uses form in innovative ways to express deeply the experience of loss and joy in ways I can’t remember reading anywhere else. Nothing is binary here – everything feels multidimensional, so perfectly complicated, like echoes off multiple surfaces. It’s simply astounding!
~ Pip Adam, author of Nothing to See, The New Animals, I’m Working on a Building, and Everything We Hoped For

To read this work is to enter the forest as an elemental being, and then feel the loss of that forest. The lover, the bereft and the broken are here. It’s a journey of close attention, pain, rage and truth revealed as the path is taken. Gaps in the Light is compassionate, deeply chanted music.
~ Kirstie McKinnon, author of Songs from the Water

Gaps in the Light burns with fierce emotion; multiple voices float in and out until the whole text becomes hypnotic and taut … revealing the depths, nuances and complexities of love in all its forms with an utterly-earned intensity. Iona Winter asks you to stare directly into her eyes … be warned, she won’t blink first.
~ Helen Lehndorf, author of The Comforter and Write to the Centre

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Serie Barford video in Going West’s Different Out Loud series

The next film in our Different Out Loud series is Te Ara Kanohi, an understated and emotionally powerful piece from poet Serie Barford. In her poem Te Ara Kanohi, she explores the emotional terrain of love and loss, in the geographical context of the west Auckland beaches and forests she and her late partner explored together. The second film in our Different Out Loud film series, filmed by Anna Marbrook, Te Ara Kanohi is a nuanced and powerful emotional discourse by one of New Zealand’s strongest poets at the top of her game.

Watch here

Poetry Shelf celebrates new books: Ash Davida Jane reads from How to Live with Mammals

How to Live with Mammals, Ash Davida Jane, Victoria University Press, 2021

Ash reads ‘water levels’

Ash reads ‘mating in suburbia’

Ash reads ‘transplanting’

Ash reads ‘carrying capacity’

Ash Davida Jane’s poetry has appeared in MimicrySweet MammalianStarlingThe Spinoff and elsewhere. Her second book, How to Live With Mammals, was published by Victoria University Press in April 2021. She lives and works in Wellington.

Victoria University Press page

Poetry Shelf Ash’s poem ‘undergrowth

Poetry Shelf Ash muses on ecopoetics

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Claudia Jardine’s ‘Rural Activites’

Rural Activities

which one was my favourite?

there was kickback from the rifle aimed at cans of spaghetti

which set my last good ear reluctantly ringing, but organs

grumbled on, oblivious, dedicated to their business

then, a bowstring chipped along a forearm, the obvious

smarting blush of focus lost – that’s all – just a rash

to impress upon oneself the importance of accuracy

how about the satisfaction of bowling

straight and spinning, after three wides?

even the llamas seemed to sense that

otherwise, catching the hawk

making hot circles in the haze before braking hard

in the macrocarpa – the host will copy her later and almost

clip a concrete wall, prompting a brief vision of a herniated

ute smoking in the darkness – but we kept

to our seats and let him turn up his dust – no, hey, I know

the sheep started to seem familiar – pumping

panic, split up, sorted, all of us

watching the same pink pair of shorts

thinking the shade had lost its cool and comfort

wondering how high one would jump

and if the gate could be cleared

Claudia Jardine

Claudia Jardine is a poet and musician who has recently returned to Ōtautahi. A selection of her poetry was published in AUP’s New Poets 7 alongside the work of Rhys Feeney and Ria Masae. More of her work can be found in Starling, Sport, Stasis and on her bandcamp webpage.

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Poetry at Featherston’s Booktown

Full programme here

I am looking forward to heading to Featherston’s Booktown at the beginning of May. I am doing several events with children and several adult ones, including a two-hour poetry workshop with children (if you know any that might like to come to that!).

A poetry feast on offering too! There are short popUP poetry readings in the hall – I am reading about 11 am.

Here are a few poetry highlights (there are more):

Listen to Selina Tusitala Marsh at the Fish’n’Chip Supper

Catch the fabulous energy of the Show Ponies crew with MC Jordan Hamel

My poetry workshop for children

Catch up with Rose Lu (ok not poetry but this will be great!)

More poetry! Get ready for a little truth-telling from Caro DeCarlo, Emma Barnes, Vana Manasiadis, Rachel McAlpine and Helen Rickerby.

Continuing our series of Late Nite Lit events, emerging poets Mike Fitzsimons, Tim Grgec, Tayi Tibble and Sam Duckor-Jones will square off against more established Aotearoa poets Paula Green; New Zealand’s first Pasifika Poet Laureate, Selina Tusitala Marsh; and Rachel McAlpine in a poetry collision. If the event runs to schedule and there aren’t prone bodies all over the stage, MC Mary McCallum will invite members of the audience to take the mic. Poetry Collision is supported by Creative New Zealand.

I get to make my poetry picks for the Book Awards!