Author Archives: Paula Green

Poetry Shelf celebrates Ockham NZ Book Awards Poetry shortlist: Tusiata Avia – Ten things I love

Ten things I love

1. A photograph: The photo is of Sepela – exactly 10 years ago, a week after the big earthquake when we escaped to Hinemoana’s who lived in Kapiti then.

2. A poem by someone else: All they want is my money my pussy my blood by Morgan Parker (and pretty much anything from her book, There are more beautiful things than Beyonce.

3. A song: Back to Life by Soul II Soul

4. A book: Hurricane Season, Fernando Melchor, trans. Sophie Hughes, New Directions, 2020 (my favourite book of 2020)

5. A movie: My Neighbour Totoro

6. A place: South Sinai coast, Egypt

7. A meal: taro (cooked in the umu) and palusamu

8. A poetic motif: Can’t think of one, but I can think of a form I love – the pantoum.

9.  A place to write: Where ever the ‘thing’ is happening (see Five questions below)

10. A poem from my book:

250th anniversary of James Cook’s arrival in New Zealand

Hey James,

yeah, you

in the white wig

in that big Endeavour

sailing the blue, blue water

like a big arsehole



I heard someone

shoved a knife

right up

into the gap between

your white ribs

at Kealakekua Bay.

I’m gonna go there

make a big Makahiki luau

cook a white pig

feed it to the dogs


Hey James,

it’s us.

These days

we’re driving round

in SUVs

looking for ya

or white men like you

who might be thieves

or rapists

or kidnappers

or murderers

yeah, or any of your descendants

or any of your incarnations

cos, you know

ay, bitch?

We’re gonna FUCK YOU UP.

Tonight, James,

it’s me

Lani, Danielle

and a car full of brown girls

we find you

on the corner

of the Justice Precinct.

You’ve got another woman

in a headlock

and I’ve got my father’s

pig-hunting knife

in my fist

and we’re coming to get you

sailing round

in your Resolution

your Friendship

your Discovery

and your fucking Freelove.

Watch your ribs, James

cos, I’m coming with






who is a god

and Nua‘a

who is king with a knife.

And then



we’re gonna







Tusiata Avia

Five questions

Is writing a pain or a joy, a mix of both, or something altogether different for you?

A mix, for sure. Often, I don’t feel like writing – unless I have an experience (internal or out in the world) that I feel the need to write about immediately. At times like that, I feel a sense of urgency, sometimes verging on desperation, to stop whatever I’m doing and write. I have pulled the car over on a busy motorway and searched for a piece of paper to scribble it down . I’m not great at the discipline of writing every day.

Name a poet who has particularly influenced your writing or who supports you.

I don’t read her so much these days, but I love Sharon Olds. She helped me to write more openly – to be honest and vulnerable.

Was your shortlisted collection shaped by particular experiences or feelings?

Colonisation, racism, illness, a bit of Covid – all the relaxing stuff.

Did you make any unexpected discoveries as you wrote?

The whole book was unexpected. I was writing another book called Giving Birth To My Father, which took ages. After a while (quite close to my deadline) I realised it wasn’t ready for the outside world. The Savage Coloniser Book had to come together really quickly, if I wanted it published for 2020. I knew I had a few poems that were very ‘2020’ lying about. I wrote to those poems in a short amount of time.

Do you like to talk about your poems or would you rather let them speak for themselves? Is there one poem where an introduction (say at a poetry reading) would fascinate the audience/ reader? Offer different pathways through the poem?

During poetry readings/ performances I used to think the poem should speak for itself but many poems really need an introduction, particularly when people are not experiencing them on the page.

Tusiata Avia, The Savagae Coloniser Book, Victoria University Press, 2020

Tusiata Avia is an acclaimed poet, performer and children’s writer. Her previous poetry collections are Wild Dogs Under My Skirt (2004; also staged as a theatre show, most recently Off-Broadway, winning the 2019 Outstanding Production of the Year), Bloodclot (2009) and the Ockham-shortlisted Fale Aitu | Spirit House (2016). Tusiata has held the Fulbright Pacific Writer’s Fellowship at the University of Hawai‘i in 2005 and the Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence at University of Canterbury in 2010. She was the 2013 recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award, and in 2020 was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to poetry and the arts.

Poetry Shelf review

Selina Tusitala Marsh’s review at ANZL

Poetry Shelf: Tusiata‘s ‘Love in the Time of Primeminiscinda’ (The Savage Coloniser Book)

Tusiata reads ‘Massacre’ (The Savage Coloniser Book)

Leilani Tamu review at KeteBooks

Faith Wilson review at RNZ National

Victoria University Press page

Ockham NZ Book Awards 2021shortlists here

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Warm congratulations to the Ockham NZ Book Awards shortlisted poets

The finalists in the 2021 Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry are:

Funkhaus by Hinemoana Baker (Victoria University Press)

Magnolia 木蘭by Nina Mingya Powles (Seraph Press)

National Anthem by Mohamed Hassan (Dead Bird Books)

The Savage Coloniser Book by Tusiata Avia (Victoria University Press)

Full shortlist and judges’ comments here.

“Poetry collections published in Aotearoa in 2020 show a wealth of exceptional and original work.  It’s an exciting situation for New Zealand poetry. The four shortlisted collections are striking, all exhibiting an acute global consciousness in difficult times,” says Poetry category convenor of judges Dr Briar Wood.

I was so excited about the poetry longlist, I spent the last few months celebrating each poet on the blog. What sublime books – I knew I would have a flood of sad glad feelings this morning (more than on other occasions) because books that I have adored were always going to miss out. I simply adored the longlist. So I am sending a big poetry toast to the six that didn’t make it – your books will have life beyond awards.

I am also sending a big poetry toast to the four finalists: your books have touched me deeply. Each collection comes from the heart, from your personal experience, from your imaginings and your reckonings, from your musical fluencies. The Poetry Shelf reviews are testimony to my profound engagement with your poems and how they have stuck with me.

Over the next weeks I am posting features on the poets: first up, later this morning, Tusiata Avia.

Mary and Peter Biggs CNZM are long-time arts advocates and patrons – particularly of literature, theatre and music. They have funded the Biggs Family Prize in Poetry at Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters since 2006, along with the Alex Scobie Research Prize in Classical Studies, Latin and Greek. They have been consistent supporters of the International Festival of the Arts, the Auckland Writers Festival, Wellington’s Circa Theatre, the New Zealand Arts Foundation, Featherston Booktown, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura (formerly the New Zealand Book Council), the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Featherston Sculpture Trust and the Kokomai Arts Festival in the Wairarapa. Peter was Chair of Creative New Zealand from 1999 to 2006. He led the Cultural Philanthropy Taskforce in 2010 and the New Zealand Professional Orchestra Sector Review in 2012. Peter was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for arts governance and philanthropy in 2013.


Poetry Shelf celebrates the Ockham NZ Book Awards Poetry Longlist: Nina Mingya Powles reads from MAGNOLIA 木蘭

Nina Mingya Powles, MAGNOLIA 木蘭, Seraph Press, 2020

NIna reads ‘Faraway love’ from MAGNOLIA 木蘭

鸣 (míng), the cry of animals and insects, rhymes with tooth, which rhymes with precipice, which rhymes with the first part of my Chinese name.

I am full of nouns and verbs; I don’t know how to live any other way. I am a tooth-like thing. I am half sun half moon, and the scissors used to cut away the steamed lotus leaves. I am honey strokes spreading over the tiles.

Certain languages contain more kinds of rain than others, and I have eaten them all.


from ‘Fieldnotes on a downpour’


Review on Poetry Shelf here

Seraph Press page

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Nina Mingya Powles launches Magnolia at Food Court Books

Seraph Press and Food Court Books invite you to come and celebrate the launch of Magnolia 木蘭 by Nina Mingya Powles.

When: Saturday 13 March, 3 pm
Where: Food Court Books, 84 Constable Street, Newtown, Wellington

Nina will read from Magnolia 木蘭 and copies will be for sale.

For every copy of Magnolia 木蘭 you buy at the launch you’ll also receive an extra special gift (while stock lasts): a gorgeous risograph print of ‘Last eclipse’, one of the poems in the collection, which Nina has printed herself.

About the book:

Shanghai, Aotearoa, Malaysia, London—all are places poet Nina Mingya Powles calls home and not-home; from each she can be homesick for another. A gorgeous bittersweet longing and hunger runs through the poems in this new collection from one of our most exciting poetic voices.

In Magnolia 木蘭 Powles explores her experience of being mixed-race and trying to find her way through multiple languages: English, Mandarin, Hakka, Māori. Powles uses every sense to take us on a journey through cities, food and even time, weaving her story with the stories of women from history, myth and film.

The gorgeous cover features an artwork by Kerry Ann Lee.

Magnolia 木蘭 is longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry, and the UK edition was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best first collection.

About the author:

Nina Mingya Powles is a poet, zinemaker and non-fiction writer of Malaysian-Chinese and Pākehā heritage, currently living in London. She is the author of a food memoir, Tiny Moons: A Year of Eating in Shanghai (The Emma Press, 2020), poetry box-set Luminescent (Seraph Press, 2017), and several poetry chapbooks and zines, including Girls of the Drift (Seraph Press, 2014). In 2018 she was one of three winners of the inaugural Women Poets’ Prize, and in 2019 won the Nan Shepherd Prize for Nature Writing. Nina has an MA in creative writing from Victoria University of Wellington and won the 2015 Biggs Family Prize for Poetry. She is the founding editor of Bitter Melon 苦瓜, a risograph press that publishes limited-edition poetry pamphlets by Asian writers. Her collection of essays, Small Bodies of Water, is forthcoming from Canongate Books in 2021.

For more information

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Titus Books crowdfunding invitation

Titus Books is pre-selling three new poetry collections, by Richard
von Sturmer, Chris Holdaway and Scott Hamilton, to help cover the
costs involved in producing them.

This is in a sense a traditional subscription style of publishing,
advance selling the books, and also a new crowdfunding style, we will
send out to contributors copies of the books when they are published
and thank people inside the books by printing their names (if they
would like that). We will also include a gift publication made
especially to accompany this series.

If you would like to be involved – all contributions gratefully
received – please follow this link

There is more information about the books on the page, including the
book titles (as of yet without covers), and some options to get

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: ‘Libraries like icebergs’ by a Wellington poet and librarian

Libraries like icebergs

Proximity to the library is having one’s hand on the pulse of the universe. It’s turning to see a dear friend in a room absolutely rotten with strangers. It’s looking down on a familiar city from a great height, sweat cooling on your back, and it’s still, so still, that you think you’ve missed the apocalypse. It’s the streetlight blinking when you walk below it, a small owl calling from the bush beyond the fence. It’s that barometric lift of understanding when thoughts move like weather, like an emotion. It’s the feeling of extreme up-closeness that comes from finding out more, and then more again, about the person you love. The secret dimness of the backstage. The treasure at the core of the cave. It’s the feeling I had as a child reading The Borrowers, imagining the whole world in cross-sectioned miniature—that’s how I see the library—like a dollhouse, hinged open at its heart, tiny readers bent over tiny books. Being inside the library is like flying inside a cloud—shut off from the outside, riding out its knocks and bumps. Libraries feel magical, like mushrooms all connected underground, like hibernation, like glimpsing the glittering elbow of a gem poking out of dark rock. Libraries, like icebergs, balancing out the seen with the great unseen—all that knowledge tucked below the surface, keeping us all afloat. Libraries, like icebergs, disappearing.

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: The John McGivering Poetry Prize (judge Harry Ricketts)



Registered Charity No.278885

Hon Secretary: Michael Kipling

Bay Tree House, Doomsday Garden, Horsham, W. Sussex, RH13 6LB


Echoes of ‘The Long Trail’:  The John McGivering Poetry Prize

The Kipling Society is hosting a competition for poems inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s writings, on the theme of travel. The judge is Harry Ricketts, poet, critic, anthologist and biographer of Kipling.

Kipling was a magical phrase maker, who has contributed more expressions to our language than anyone since Shakespeare.   He wrote in many voices,  which remain a pleasure to read aloud, as the Kipling Society has found in our world-wide Zoom members’ readings  during the pandemic, with readers from Britain, Europe, America, India, and New Zealand. The bard of the ‘Seven Seas’,  whose finest poems voice the desire for ‘the long trail – the trail that is always new’ was all his life in love with global travel: ‘What should they know of England who only England know?’ He wrote of the delights of Australia, where ‘Through the great South Otway gums sings the great South Main’ (‘The Flowers’), of the dangerous ‘Rio run’, skirting icebergs that groan and shift, ‘Whaur, grindin’ like the Mills o’ God, goes by the big South Drift’ (‘McAndrew’s Hymn’) – and of course his beloved North India:

            Parrots very busy in the trellised paper-vine,

And a high sun over Asia shouting “Rise and shine!”  (“Jobson’s Amen”)

In this prize competition, enabled by the generosity of the late John McGivering, whose love and knowledge of Kipling have enriched our online New Reader’s Guide,  we ask poets to draw inspiration from Kipling, not necessarily in imitation, but with something of his colour and rhythm and his fascination with people and places, as we travel  this great and wonderful world.

First Prize £350, Second Prize £100, Third Prize £50. Entry fee £5. For the competition rules or enquiries, email or visit here

Poetry Shelf celebrates the Ockham NZ Book Awards Poetry longlist: Karlo Mila reads from Goddess Muscle

Karlo Mila reads ‘Letter to JC Sturm’, from Goddess Muscle Huia Publishers, 2020

Dr Karlo Mila is a New Zealand-born poet of Tongan and Pākehā descent with ancestral connections to Samoa. She is currently Programme Director of Mana Moana, Leadership New Zealand. This leadership programme is based on her postdoctoral research on harnessing indigenous language and ancestral knowledge from the Pacific to use in contemporary leadership contexts. Karlo received an MNZM in 2019 for services to the Pacific community and as a poet, received a Creative New Zealand Contemporary Pacific Artist Award in 2016, and was selected for a Creative New Zealand Fulbright Pacific Writer’s Residency in Hawaii in 2015.

Goddess Muscle is Karlo’s third book of poetry. Her first, Dream Fish Floating, won NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2006. In 2008, Karlo collaborated with German-born artist Delicia Sampero to produce A Well Written Body. Karlo’s poetry has been published in in many anthologies, in a variety of journals and online. 

Huia Publishers author page

Poetry Shelf review

NZAL review (Lana Lopesi)

@RNZ Karlo talks with Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon