Monthly Archives: January 2023

Poetry Shelf celebrates Katherine Mansfield with ‘Pic-Nic’ (1918)


When the two women in white
Came down to the lonely beach
She threw away her paintbox
And she threw away her note book
And down they sat on the sand
The tide was low
Before them the weedy rocks
Were like some herd of shabby beasts
Come down to the pool to drink
And staying there – in a kind of stupor
Then she went off and dabbled her legs in a pool
Thinking about the colour of flesh under water
And she crawled into a dark cave
And sat there thinking about her childhood
Then they came back to the beach
And flung themselves down on their bellies
Hiding their heads in their arms
They looked like two swans.

Katherine Mansfield (1918)

“Mansfield’s poetry is unlike other local poetry of the time, in its distilled clarity, its intimate self revelations, its occasional child-like playfulness, its vivacious tones that at times seem conversational. In that sense, she was foreshadowing the writing contours to come.” Paula Green, Wild Honey: Reading NZ Women’s Poetry

Poems of Katherine Mansfield Vincent O’Sullivan, ed. and intro. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988)

The Collected Poems of Katherine Mansfield, Gerri Kimber and Claire Davison (eds) (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2016)

Katherine Mansfield (Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp, 1888-1923) was born in Wellington and educated at Wellington Girls’ High School, and then at Fitzherbert Terrace School, Wellington. After a seven-year relationship, she married John Middleton Murray, and they moved between the literary circles of England and Europe. In 1917 she developed tuberculosis and eventually died in a sanatorium in Switzerland. Her literary reputation grew with the publication of In a German Pension (Stephen Swift, 1911), her collection of short stories. She published a number of short-story collections in her lifetime and, after her death, her husband published her letters, journals and poetry. In 1988 Vincent O’Sullivan edited an anthology of her poetry, and Gerri Kimber and Claire Davison edited a more comprehensive collection, including newly discovered poems, in 2016.

Poetry Shelf welcomes 2023 with a poem by our poet Laureate, Chris Tse

Hearts unfold

there is plenty to come
plenty that awaits us
plenty of reasons to
slow down
be here


crisp days clear the mind
for reflection      time lingers
on the tip of the tongue
trees store what they need
swap out their wardrobes
let the months play out their nature
after the harvest 
we light a fire to stir anticipation
brace for transformation
and fortify ourselves with shades from
the deepest water            the forests
the sun’s prismatic clockwork


coastline        salt spit        churned foam
             tickled tongues
siren songs and tides
                        sluice the shore
when you’re pummelled by the roar
of the ocean         you forget
that you have no sway over its force
      isn’t there a moon for that?


during the day we tend to earth
that both feeds and rages
at night we fold our comfort 
closer around us
find a line to our ancestors
in our steaming bowls
embrace what settles in our bones
on these slow nights


it must be the closeness of breath
that keeps us lingering at the table
to share words we’ve saved for one another
they bind the sweetness of our time together
and open us up to tenderness
escort us into the soft parts of the night
every sense is catalogued for good measure
what will you remember about this year?


when we named the stars
we placed faith in their brilliance
even when we think our hearts
are full         we look up and see
there is still so much more
               to embrace

Chris Tse

Chris Tse is New Zealand’s Poet Laureate for 2022-24. He is the author of three collections of poetry published by Auckland University Press: How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (winner of the 2016 Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry), HE’S SO MASC, and Super Model Minority. He and Emma Barnes edited Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers from Aotearoa (AUP, 2021).