Monthly Archives: December 2022

Poetry Shelf 2022

Poems are arriving like confetti
you sprinkle on poached egg
like salt but poached eggs
are off the menu
unless they are boiled like leather.

You light yourself up
like the Sky Tower,
all resplendent in blue
but you have no idea
what the occasion is,
so you invent
The day of Underwater Dreams.

You can feel happiness
as solid as a wooden
kitchen table with six chairs
and a bowl of ripe fruit.

Paula Green, Auckland Hospital, 2022

Poetry Shelf is taking a nap, not sure for how long, as I get through a bump on my long slow recovery road after my bone marrow transplant. When the blog and I wake up, I am hoping to post the clusters of town and city poems and a leisurely summer reading series celebrating local poetry, novels and nonfiction. Doing my blogs is neither work nor a chore but a crucial part of wellbeing. Writing has always been a process of love and happiness for me, since I was a wee tot.

I want to thank you for the care and kindness you have shown me this year: the cards and poems you sent me when I was in hospital, the warm emails, the willingness to join in my crazy blog ideas, the sharing of posts, the multiple engagements with poetry. It has felt like a vibrant and vital community that stretches and grows and connects.

I especially want to thank Catherine O’Loughlin at Penguin for guiding my two children’s books into the world so beautifully. They are special to me. And to Jenny Cooper and Kimberley Andrews for illustrating them so perfectly. I want to thank my health team at Auckland Hospital, the extraordinary doctors and nurses who work under such tough constraints but offer phenomenal care and attention, no matter what you are going through. Special thanks to Richard, Tom, Sarah, Rosie and Mia. My wonderful health psychologist Hannah has been equally important. A rejuvenating holiday bouquet for you all. To Linda Herrick for the thoughtful and empathetic interview she did with me for The Listener, to dear Anna Jackson for her love and friendship, to Eileen Merriman for our deep friendship and shared love of books and writing in every pocket of time, to Michele Leggott for understanding, to Carole Beu and the Women’s Bookshop and Jane Arthur and Good Books for keeping me supplied with my book and jigsaw orders. To my dear family, especially Michael, Georgia and Estelle, who have been my rocks.

I thank publishers in Aotearoa who enrich our lives with extraordinary books, who send me extraordinary books to read and review. And to the authors who write these extraordinary books, the booksellers that sell them and the reviewers that review them.

Finally I want to thank all the poets who have contributed poems to Poetry Shelf. My blog would be nothing without your sublime presence.

It’s been a tough year for so many of us. I have switched the news off for awhile so I fill with warmth and peace and all things good. Having a major health hurdle is tough but it is also a wonderful way of assessing what is important. I keep pathways to joy in my pocket for when I need one: my special notebook to write in, a jigsaw, a Spotify playlist especially Georgia’s, a children’s picture book, a fruit salad, a children’s poem idea, my hospital poem sequence, a blog post to write. I favour what I can do, not what I can’t do. I favour what is helpful. I learn to say no and ignore pushy demands. I breathe in the bush and birds and west coast air. I walk up the country lanes and feel such calm and gratitude.

Have safe and replenishing summer!

Aroha nui

Poetry Shelf occasional poems: Anuja Mitra’s ‘on hold’

on hold

spend long enough with static 
and it resembles the speech 
of dispirited bees:

a reminder of our erstwhile industry,
bright and abuzz in our work shirts,
our capitalist fatigue.

beehives and hold times
are two things you can’t kick.
a honeyed voice tells me

I’m twelfth in the queue;
their lines overwhelmed
by the tide of our need.

I set down the phone,
let it roll through 
its repertoire of 2000s hits.

the tinny music loops
back like memory, 
bearing our better days

the way a shell bears the sea 
like a trauma: give it your ear
and exhale.

Anuja Mitra

Anuja Mitra lives in Auckland. Her poetry has appeared in places like Landfall, Poetry NZ, takahē, Sweet Mammalian and Starling, with essays and fiction in Cordite and recent anthologies.

Poetry Shelf Occasional Poems: Amber Esau’s ‘Monopoly Poem’

Monopoly Poem

After her dice roll, she pushes her wheelbarrow across the stiff cardboard,
lands on an already owned street that’s as bare as a honey puff pussy.

At least she doesn’t have to pay double yet, she tells the banker and hands
rent over. In her peripheral, Queens, Explorers, Warriors all laugh like a stack

of Guess Who? faces but when she looks directly at the money it sits
in a static smirk. Not one to mix her games, she focuses hard. Every time

she tries to hook the $, she loses it, and to be honest, is sick of the arcade
crane game of it all. So, she’s drawing a metal cart around town, hungry

for a quick fix and follows the carrot ‘til she’s collected enough faces
to throw at the banker. Eventually, she’ll get to the red plastic tower

and walk up to the rooftop, screaming into a box of Roses filled with
scrunched foil wrappers; a city at night lit by mouths unable to stop.

She wheels her cart around the whole board, rolling back on the same
street where the landlord has already built a city that prices them out

of the neighbourhood and invites them over for dinner,
making them pay to use the cutlery.

Amber Esau

Amber Esau is a Sā-māo-rish (Ngāpuhi / Manase) writer of things from Tāmaki Makaurau, with a Gemini Sun / Virgo Moon. She is a poet, storyteller, Amateur Astrologer, and professional bots. Always vibing at a languid pace, her work has been published both in print and online.