Slea Head: Dingle Peninsula Michael Hight, 2020
Poetry is a way of bridging the faraway and the close at hand. A poem can make the achingly distant comfortingly close. Poetry can be a satisfying form of travel, whether to the other side of the world, to the past or to imagined realms. Reading poems that offer the faraway as some kind of presence, I feel such a range of emotions. Moved, yes. Goose bumps on the skin, yes. Boosted, yes. This is such a fertile theme, I keep picturing a whole book moving in marvellous directions.
I am grateful to all the poets and publishers who continue to support my season of themes.
if you can you can try to recall
the sun across the roof and you
knee-deep in childhood playing
near the fence with the storm
of daisies still impressionable
in the way of dreams still
believing leaves had voices
and you might then remember
curtains drowned in burnished light
how at night the sky emptied
into a field of stars leaching out
the guilt you’d soon forget unlike
the woman you called Nana who kept
knitting you hats while you kept not
writing back and maybe then you’d know
the injustices you had no part in
the lady who bought your house how
she ravaged your kingdom while
you were away oh these memories
spiralling into memories into
nothing this helter skelter art of
remembering this bending
over backwards running out of light
from Mayhem Literary Journal, Issue 6 (2018)
Acknowledgement to David Eggleton
She said we discussed post
structuralism in a post modern
context. She said in order
to remember such crucial
poetic phrases she had bought
a small exercise book in which
to record them.
It was, she said, a book
of semantic importance.
She said we considered
the deception of disjointed
parody and the fragmentation
of shallow consumer culture.
I can only remember
in her pale blue cardigan
in a zither of light.
from Four French Horns, HeadworX, 2004
I want to paint my nails apricot
as an homage to call me by your name
and the fake italian summer I had last year —
I didn’t cycle beside slow streams or
in slow towns
Instead I lay on a 70 euro pinstripe lounger
and couldn’t see the water
only other tourists
And the apricots I ate
came from peach spritzes at sea salt restaurants
and clouded supermarket jars
But all the shops are shut
and the closest nail colour I have
is dark red
I want to be somewhere in northern italy
with light green water and
deep green conversations
I want to pick fresh apricots from drooping branches
and kiss a boy I shouldn’t
on cobblestone paths against cobblestone walls
I want to lick a love heart on to his shoulder
so that when he gets on a train
my hands shake like a thunderstorm
and I can’t cycle home past
the fields we held each other in
and mum has to pick me up from the station
I want to walk down a staircase
with winter at the bottom
waiting to sweep me into snow
I want the phone to ring when the sky is white
and hear an apricot voice
ripe and ready to be plucked from the tree
he’ll say how are you
and I’ll slowly leak
from Stasis 5 May 2020, picked by Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor
Wearing Katherine Mansfield’s Shawl
Seventy years on, shut
in a cardboard box in the basement
of City Hall, you might think
the shawl would have lost
its force to charm, the airy fragrance
of its wearer departed, threads
stripped bare as bones,
yet here it is, another short story:
it felt like love at the Hôtel
d’Adhémar the moment you placed
the silk skein around my shoulders,
the dim red and rusty green fabric
and a fringe gliding like fingertips
over my arm, a draught of bitter
scent – Katherine’s illness,
Virginia’s sarcasm – and
yes, a trace of wild gorse
flowers and New Zealand, not
to mention the drift of her skin
and yours during the photograph,
the stately walk through the town.
from Where Your Left Hand Rests, Godwit, Random House, 2010
On the occasion of the Sew Hoy 150th Year Family Reunion, September 2019
Here in this earth you once made a start
home treasure watered with sweat, new seeds
a fire you can light and which gives off sparks
the gleam of gold glowing in darkness
an open door, warm tea, friendships in need
here on this earth you once made a start
sometimes you imagined you left your heart
elsewhere, a woman’s voice and paddies of green
a fire which was lit, remembering its sparks
but even halfway round the world, shoots start
old songs grow distant, sink into bones unseen
here in this earth you can make a new start
with stone and wood you made your mark
built houses of diplomacy and meaning
a new fire was lit, with many sparks
flame to flame, hand to hand, heart to heart
150 years, sixteen harvests of seed
here, in this earth, you once made a start
A fire was once lit. We all are its sparks.
Once, I climbed a tree
too tall for climbing
and threw my voice out
into the world. I screamed.
I hollered. I snapped
innocent branches. i took the view
as a vivid but painful truth gifted
to me, but did not think to lay down
my own sight in recompense.
All I wanted was someone to say
they could hear me, but the tree said
that in order to be heard I must
first let silence do the heavy lifting
and clear my mind of any
questions and anxieties
such as contemplating whether
I am the favourite son. If I am not,
I am open to being a favourite uncle
or an ex-lover whose hands still cover
the former half’s eyes. I’ll probably never
have children of my own to disappoint
so I’ll settle for being famous instead
with my mouth forced open on TV like
a Venus fly-trap lip-synching for its life.
The first and last of everything
are always connected by
the dotted line of choice.
If there is an order to such things,
then surely I should resist it.
from he’s so MASC, Auckland University Press, 2018
drawing blank amber cartridges in windows
from which we see children hanging, high fires
of warehouse colours, a reimagining, my city fluttering
far and further away with flags netted
and ziplining west to east, knotted
and raining sunshine,
paving cinder-block-lit-tinder music in alleys
where we visit for the first time, signal murals
to leapfrog smoke, a wandering, my city gathering
close and closer together a wilderness
of voices shifting over each other
and the orchestra,
constructing silver half-heresies in storefronts
to catch seconds of ourselves, herald nighttimes
from singing corners, a remembering, my city resounding
in and out the shout of light on water
and people on water, the work of day
and each other,
my city in the near distance fooling me
into letting my words down, my city visible
a hundred years from tomorrow,
coming out of my ears and
until i am disappeared someways and no longer
finding me to you
I call it my looming
dread, like the mornings I wake
crying quietly at the grey
in my room, like whispering to my sleeping
mother – do I have to
like the short cuts I can’t take
like the standing outside not breathing
like my hand on the doorknob
counting to twenty and twenty
from Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, Victoria University Press, 2004
I am coming home to myself
my mother going away from herself.
Every move you make
so much slower now, mother
like your body is trying to keep pace
with your mind
everything about you reads as
but sometimes I read as
FUCK THIS! silently salts my tongue
a tight fist slamming the steering wheel
gas under my foot
tears choking my ears
smoke swallowing my chest.
I am a mother:
Mothering her son,
a motherless daughter mothering her mother.
It’s hard somedays not to be swallowed.
from full broken bloom, ala press, 2017
Preparing for death is a wicker basket.
Elderly women know the road.
One grandmother worked in munitions, brown
bonnet, red stripe rampant. the other, a washerwoman:
letters from the Front would surface, tattered.
You must take the journey, ready or not.
The old, old stream of refugees: prams
of books and carts with parrots.
Meanwhile the speeches, speeches: interminable.
When the blood in your ears has time to dry: silence.
The angel will tie a golden ribbon to the basket’s rim.
You will disappear, then reappear, quite weightless.
Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
from Blood Ties: New and Selected Poems 1963- 2016, Canterbury University Press, 2017
moving away from the orchard plots,
laundry lines that sag under the macrocarpa.
moving away from the crystalline skies,
the salt-struck grasses, the train carts
and the underpasses. i astral travel
with a flannel on my head, drink litres
of holy water, chicken broth. i vomit
words into the plastic bucket, brush
the acid from my teeth. i move away,
over tussock country, along the desert
road. i chew the pillowcase. i cling
my body to the bunk. the streets
unfurl. slick with gum and cigarettes.
somebody is yelling my name. i quiver
like a sparrow. hello hello, says the
paramedic. but i am moving away from
the city lights, the steel towers.
and i shed my skin on a motorway
and i float up into the sky.
from This Is Your Real Name, Otago University Press, 2019
Black Stump Story
After a number of numberless days
we took the wrong turning
and so began a slow descent
past churches and farmhouses
past mortgages and maraes
only our dust followed us
the thin cabbage trees were standing
in the swamp like illustrations
brown cows and black and white and red
the concrete pub the carved virgin
road like a beach and beach like a road
two toothless tokers in a windowless Toyota
nice of you to come no one comes
down here bro – so near and
yet so far – it takes hours
not worth your while –
turned the car and headed back
shaggy dogs with shaggy tales
from Fool Moon, Auckland University Press, 2004
Tusiata Avia is an internationally acclaimed poet, performer and children’s author. She has published 4 collections of poetry, 3 children’s books and her play ‘Wild Dogs Under My Skirt’ had its off-Broadway debut in NYC, where it took out The Fringe Encore Series 2019 Outstanding Production of the Year. Most recently Tusiata was awarded a 2020 Arts Foundation Laureate and a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to poetry and the arts. Tusiata’s most recent collection The Savage Coloniser Book won The Ockham NZ Book Award for Best Poetry Book 2021.
Murray Edmond, b. Kirikiriroa 1949, lives in Glen Eden. 14 books of poetry (Shaggy Magpie Songs, 2015, and Back Before You Know, 2019 most recent); book of novellas (Strait Men and Other Tales, 2015); Then It Was Now Again: Selected Critical Writing (2014); editor, Ka Mate Ka Ora; dramaturge for Indian Ink Theatre. Forthcoming: Time to Make a Song and Dance: Cultural Revolt in Auckland in the 1960s, from Atuanui Press in May, 2021.
Jeffrey Paparoa Holman is a Christchurch poet and non-fiction writer. A poetry collection, Blood Ties: selected poems, 1963-2016 was published by Canterbury University Press in 2017. A memoir, Now When It Rains came out from Steele Roberts in 2018. He makes his living as a stay-at-home puppy wrangler for Hari, a Jack Russell-Fox Terrier cross. Hari ensures that little writing takes place, while psychogeography and excavating parks happen daily. Recent work has appeared in Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021, an essay on prison reform, and poetry; also, an inclusion in The Cuba Press anthology, More Favourable Waters – Aotearoa Poets respond to Dante’s Purgatory.
Grace Iwashita-Taylor, breathing bloodlines of Samoa, England and Japan. An artist of upu/words led her to the world of performing arts. Dedicated to carving, elevating and holding spaces for storytellers of Te Moana nui a Kiwa. Recipient of the CNZ Emerging Pacific Artist 2014 and the Auckland Mayoral Writers Grant 2016. Highlights include holding the visiting international writer in residence at the University of Hawaii 2018, Co-Founder of the first youth poetry slam in Aoteroa, Rising Voices (2011 – 2016) and the South Auckland Poets Collective and published collections Afakasi Speaks (2013) & Full Broken Bloom (2017) with ala press. Writer of MY OWN DARLING commissioned by Auckland Theatre Company (2015, 2017, 2019) and Curator of UPU (Auckland Arts Festival 2020).
Pippi Jean is eighteen and just moved to Wellington for her first year at Victoria University. Her most recent works can be found in Landfall, Starling, Takahe, Mayhem, and Poetry New Zealand Yearbook among others.
Fiona Kidman has written more than 30 books and won a number of prizes, including the Jann Medlicott Acorn Fiction Prize for This Mortal Boy. Her most recent book is All the way to summer:stories of love and longing. She has published six books of poems.In 2006, she was the Katherine Mansfield Fellow in Menton. The poem ‘Wearing Katherine Mansfield’s shawl ‘is based on an event during that time. Her home is in Wellington, overlooking Cook Strait.
Renee Liang is a second-generation Chinese New Zealander whose parents immigrated in the 1970s from Hong Kong. Renee explores the migrant experience; she wrote, produced and nationally toured eight plays; made operas, musicals and community arts programmes; her poems, essays and short stories are studied from primary to tertiary level. In recent years she has been reclaiming her proud Cantonese heritage in her work. Renee was made MNZM in 2018 for Services to the Arts.
Anuja Mitra lives in Auckland. Her writing has appeared in Takahe, Mayhem, Cordite Poetry Review, Starling, Sweet Mammalian, Poetry Shelf and The Three Lamps, and will appear in the AUP anthology A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand. She has also written theatre and poetry reviews for Tearaway, Theatre Scenes, Minarets and the New Zealand Poetry Society. She is co-founder of the online arts magazine Oscen.
Elizabeth Morton is a teller of poems and tall tales. She has two collections of poetry – Wolf (Mākaro Press, 2017) and This is your real name (Otago University Press, 2020). She has an MLitt in creative writing from the University of Glasgow, and is completing an MSc in applied neuroscience at King’s College London. She likes to write about broken things, and things with teeth.
Jenny Powell is a Dunedin poet and performer. Her work has been part of various journals and collaborations. She has a deep interest in music and used to be a french horn player.
Chris Tse is the author of two poetry collections published by Auckland University Press – How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (winner of Best First Book of Poetry at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards) and HE’S SO MASC – and is co-editor of the forthcoming Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers From Aotearoa.
Rhegan Tu‘akoi is a Tongan/Pākehā living in Pōneke. She is a Master’s student at Victoria and her words have appeared in Turbine | Kapohau, Mayhem and Sweet Mammalian. She has also been published in the first issue of Tupuranga Journal
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