Author Archives: Paula Green

Poetry Shelf Spring Season: Peter Ireland picks poems

‘Otherwhere’

To choose a small selection of New Zealand poems you like? This sounds straightforward, but I didn’t find it so. There is no shortage of poems in that category, plenty of poetry books to take from my shelves, and abundant resources to refer to, but I found no easy way in. It felt as though poems attach to particular moments, have a context which resist relocation. Where to begin then?

Sarah Broom’s collections Tigers at Awhitu and Gleam came to mind, as they often do, and so that’s where I started from. I chose ‘tender’ from Gleam; a spare, delicate filament of feeling and pain to represent both books. Broom heads the poem, ‘Cohen,’ in Gleam with the L.C. line – ‘there is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in.’ To this light I would add a description of the value of poetry by Anna Jackson, ‘to hold open a space for feeling.’ Sarah Broom’s poetry certainly revealed both.

The heading for my selection, however, comes from the title poem of Michele Leggott’s Mirabile Dictu. A book of fifty-six poems written during the time she was the first New Zealand Poet Laureate and, in a period, when her world became progressively dark; became an ‘otherwhere.’ But that is neither a remote nor dark place, rather, full of light and glowing with a love for life.

The otherwhere of Hilaire Kirkland’s ‘Observations ii’ is a starker landscape, an unflinching confession of feeling and desire. Poetry still hot to the touch. Childhood is the otherwhere of Iain Lonie in his poem and as I read it, it’s the poet on the beach returning to his childhood home; while the poet remains watching him go. Sad.

Otherwhere is the point and place of Michael Jackson’s poetry. A traveller at home where he finds himself – and to quote the poet, there writing poems that ‘are like windows that give us a glimpse of a world we travel through all too quickly.’

Peter Olds is not facing blindness or death, nor coming to terms with place, rather he is looking for something in the otherwhere of a second-hand shop. He is not sure of what but returns home with a wetsuit to hang up in the cupboard behind the vacuum cleaner.  


the poems

tender

when I look around me
the world is very bright

it is so light and shiny
that my long bones shiver

I am not quite sure
I have what it takes
to stay alive in the world

I need to stay very still
and let the air move past
and through me

I am tired and tender

when my limbs meet each other
crossing on my lap
I want to cry
with the pleasure
of resting them

when tears come
my bones turn to water

and I sleep

Sarah Broom

from Gleam, Auckland University Press, 2013. Published with kind permission from the Sarah Broom estate.

Mirabile dictu

imagine    the world goes dark
a bowl of granite or a stone bird
incised by tools the nature of which
is unknown  just that they are metal
and therefore from otherwhere
just that the weight of the bowl
precludes light and lightness
of thought    my feet take a path
I can no longer see  my eyes
won’t bring me the bird  only now
has my hand found the stones
I could add to the smooth interior
of my despair  the world goes dark
I look into the eyes of my stone bird
hammers before memory
silence and the world is not

that is no country
for the unassigned  smell of sunlight
on skin in a darkened room   cabbage tree
shadows dancing in the hologram
on the ceiling     not here
and not there   an in-box the size
of a house    I bury my face
in his neck  breathe in
butter taste of summer corn
sweet plums an apricot almost
perfect in its remembrance
I took the road to anhedonia
forgetting the child on my hip
burying his face in my shoulder
I am that child only that child
looking into the eyes of stone

she flinches
because my hands surprise her
feeling for the soft coat the place to clip
lead to collar     she doesn’t see too well
an old dog going deaf but selectively
the nose now only nine thousand times
more acute than mine    the back legs
beginning to fold but still good
for a tip toe raid on the cat’s plate
look at her  black pearl an old lady
out for a walk in the sunshine   slow
and we go into the shadows   stumbling
sometimes on a stone step   the footing
problematic but the maps still delivering
coordinates and forecasts    little dog
black weight on the bed at midnight
love uncloses your eyes   the stone bird
is blind and something I must face
sits behind it making a noise like water

descant on the other madrigal
power tools shaping wood and stone
machining a filigree that falls like moonlight
on the workshop floor    did I dream this
or did I walk out of the house
asking forgiveness and unable to see
anything but my feet entering the shadow
hearing small waves fall over themselves
at the water’s edge    now my hand
finds the bird and my fingers trace
the incisions in fantastica replica
not here and not there     an otherwhere
pouring itself through the gap    

Michele Leggott

from Mirabile Dictu, Auckland University Press, 2009

Observations ii

daily the neighbour’s dog is withdrawn to the park
ignores his mistress and courts her
the mongrel in a canine pas-de-deux
I have a dog most like to this which bites the heels of men

I must subdue it then.

my old dog blindly whimpers in the dark
hunts for its bounding hare in dreams
through my thorned channels and deep streams
and twitches bloodwet at my feet till I am rudely woken

so I shall whip it then.

I have a hound too weak and too afraid to bark
which cringes for the flesh that I withhold
and aching nuzzles me when nights are cold
till I allow my animal to feed and thrive again

it will devour me then.

Hilaire Kirkland

from Blood Clear & Apple Red, Wai-te-ata Press, 1981, also in An Anthology Of New Zealand Poetry in English, eds Jenny Bornholdt, Gregory O’Brien, Mark Willliams, Oxford University Press, 1997

The house of childhood

I watched you walk along that mile of beach
to the house at the end of the beach

the home I’d pointed out, the house of childhood.
How well I remembered the garden, its grey stone wall
the stone rest in the garden, overlooking the sea.

And so you set off bravely, to walk that mile
staggering now and then in the sand that ran to you until
the sun blazed overhead, to the right the sea shimmered
I watched you walking that mile, your figure grew smaller and smaller.

Out of the sea’s shimmer came the faint crying
of voices subdued by the sea and the view.
I remembered the stone rest, the thyme scent of the garden
and beyond the stone wall, the sea splashing in the evening.

I pointed all this out to you, this house of my childhood
and watched you set off towards it, staggering slightly
not looking back, growing smaller and smaller
until you passed into the sand, into the stone wall

and under the garden, the earth of the garden, under the sea.

Iain Lonie

from A Place to Go on from: The Collected Poems of Iain Lonie, ed. David Howard, Otago University Press, 2015. Published with kind permission from the Iain Lonie estate.

Three Key West Poems

Between the satisfaction of frivolity
and the austerity of exile, I had to choose
and it has cost me my life’s happiness

– José Martí

1: Hemingway House

He had everything, or so it seemed,
the biggest house, the largest
swimming pool, one best seller
after another, money no object,
a writing room above the Carriage House
in which a lesser writer
might aspire to genius,
heads of trophy animals,
shelves of books,
backpack and barometer,
a table for his portable Remington,
and ever the lighthouse in his line of sight.

But the photos of the old man reeling in
500-pound sailfish or marlin from Pilar,
his custom-built fishing-boat, belie
the hazardous currents
and heavy seas he could not quell,
the one opponent he could not KO
in his backyard boxing ring
or drown in his blue pool,
something impervious to drink
and fame, that it would take a shotgun
in Idaho to kill.

What demonic ripples cross
our minds as we drift through his house,
now a national monument,
peering at photographs of his four wives
and his aging face,
the carved bedstead he bought from Spain,
the six-toed cats whose lineage
thrives beneath the Christmas and Traveler’s palms,
the banyan and flamboyants
on Whitehead Street, where after the tour
we walk to where a bollard
marks the southernmost point in the United States
and across the water, embargoed
and invisible, the island that Cuban exiles
once waited to reclaim.

2: The Idea of Wallace Stevens at Key West

I am walking beside the sea that fluttered its
empty sleeves and whose dark voice spoke
to one who made it an image of inconstancy.

On a coral key you cannot dig a grave,
therefore these whitewashed, stacked
sarcophagi.  A tour bus passes as I try to read

the names through black iron railings, urns
with artificial flowers, decaying foliage;
a breath of wind in the bedraggled palms

like incessant rumor-mongering.  Most
are Cuban names, names of those who
never made it back, but sat on wooden porches

in Olivia Street as roosters crowed,
chickens scratched, and the click and clack of dominoes
presaged their sepulchers,

bookending birth and death with a woman’s name –
Mary Louise Baez (“the sunshine of our home”)
or Angelina P. Oropeza (“No greater mother ever lived”),

sentiments echoing in my head when I stop
at the Dollar Store on Truman Street for water,
glimpse the strip club opposite

called Bare Assets, and push on
to Reynolds Street where Wallace Stevens
wintered.

Only the sea remains the same,
its answering yet unavailing constancy
at the end of a nondescript suburban street,

no hint of money as “a kind of poetry,”
and the Casa Marina across from the tennis courts
like a prison for white collar criminals.

The same black wrought iron railing
that surrounds the cemetery encloses a white sand
private beach, but there’s no Pale Ramon,

accompanying a businessman in a Panama,
finding order in the ocean’s ambiguity,
only a freshening wind

and a shrimp boat on the Gulf
as full throttle, jet skis buck the broken waves
and thunderclouds like anvils

build toward evening when they may
or may not break, and the man in espadrilles
and his ghostly companion pad back to their hotel

with an image in mind that will
in another generation overwhelm
a poet in the antipodes

inhaling the smell of kelp
and facing the same reality
of which direct knowledge is impossible.

3: The Waterfront Playhouse

There remained
the question of how you were to find your way between
the house with Italian chandeliers and the grand hotel
with its hymns and prayers.
Was it our task to reconcile
the view across the Gulf
with that weed-choked, plastic-littered sea within a sea
or integrate the two, discovering ourselves
reborn in palm-laced shadows and splintered light,
between what did not eventuate and what befell
when the sea’s cross currents were too dangerous –
the fringing reef and its lagoon,
the raked sand, the decomposing wrack,
the drunken bar,
the garden by the pool
the rainy night the poet and the novelist
came to blows, one breaking his hand
on the other’s jaw, their lame apologies?

Will we say on leaving Florida
that this was where we were happiest,
preparing our packed lunch of salad greens,
French bread, and pitted olives from Kalamata
whose groves I knew by heart?
that we discerned the difference
between desire and what we simply need,
slaking our thirst with water,
making love in an air-conditioned room
Bolero playing on the radio
and no question of life or death,
not even when we had to leave
the place they advertised as Paradise?

Michael Jackson

from Walking to Pencarrow: Selected Poems, Cold Hub Press, 2016

The wetsuit

I go into a second-hand shop:
there’s something I want to buy
I don’t know what.
CDs, surfboards, stuffed guitars,
something that talks?
not a phone
not a TV,
a radio, perhaps? —
something small & shiny
you can tuck in your pocket
hide in your hand,
something that has a tongue in it
something that talks?
not a couch,
not a sandwich-maker that’s been through
a Castle Street fire.

I wade through the usual crap:
stuffed cameras, mouth organs,
music posters, ski boots, dark glasses
I don’t want —
a 12-bar heater, a wedding dress,
a mountain bike I don’t want …
Is it sex?
Is it sex I want? —
I’m in the wrong shop.

A man in a bright blue shirt approaches,
“Can I help?” he asks politely.
“I’m looking for something — I don’t know what.”
He shows me a PC, a DVD, a TV LCD, a car stereo,
a cellphone you can photograph yourself on
& send the picture to your friends, hands free —
I reject them all …
“You’re out of date,” the man says
after I tell him I still use a typewriter.
“What you need is a computer: email,
on-line, text, photo i.d.,
Trade Me.” (Woe is me!)

I buy a wetsuit & head home.
“And what do you think you’re going to
do with that?” my partner asks sarcastically
as I hang it in the cupboard behind the
vacuum cleaner — “You can’t even swim!”
“Oh, I thought it would come in handy
in the garden when it’s raining,” I reply —
“& I’ll be ready if Maori Hill ever gets
hit by a tsunami.”

Peter Olds

from Under the Dundas Street Bridge, Steele Roberts, 2012 and in You Fit The Description: The Selected Poems of Peter Olds, Cold Hub Press, 2014

Peter Ireland works for the National Library. He has worked on exhibitions for forty years or more, and has also had the good fortune of helping to look after our Poets Laureate since 2007.

Sarah Broom (1972 – 2013) was born in Dunedin and grew up in Christchurch before completing an MA at the University of Leeds and a doctorate in modern poetry at Oxford University. She subsequently published Contemporary British and Irish Poetry (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). Sarah lectured at Somerville College, Oxford, at the University of Otago and held a postdoctoral fellowship at Massey University (2000). When she was pregnant with her third child she was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. She published her debut collection Tigers at Awhitu in 2009 and Gleam, a posthumous collection, was published in 2013 (both AUP). Her husband Michael Gleissner established the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize in her honour in 2014.

Michael Jackson is internationally renowned for his work in the field of existential anthropology and has been widely praised for his innovations in ethnographic writing. Jackson has done extensive fieldwork in Sierra Leone since 1969, and also carried out anthropological research in Aboriginal Australia, Europe, and New Zealand. He has taught in universities in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and is currently Distinguished Professor of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. His most recent books include The Varieties of Temporal Experience (2018), Selected Poems (2017), and The Paper Nautilus: A Trilogy (2019). Cold Hub Press author page.

Hilaire Kirkland (1941 – 1975) attended the University of Otago in the 1960s and travelled through Europe in the early 1970s, teaching English in Portugal. She published a poetry chapbook and poems in journals, and frequently performed her work. Her poems appeared in several anthologies posthumously, and a collection of poems, Blood Clear & Apple Red, was published by Wai-te-ata Press in 1981. She was awarded an aegrotat BA at National Women’s Hospital shortly before her death.

Michele Leggott was the inaugural New Zealand Poet Laureate 2007–09 under the administration of the National Library. She received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry in 2013. Her collections include Mirabile Dictu (2009), Heartland (2014), and Vanishing Points (2017), all from Auckland University Press. In 2020 Mezzaluna: Selected Poems was published (also by AUP). She coordinates the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc) with Brian Flaherty at the University of Auckland.

Peter Olds was born in Christchurch in 1944, he left school at sixteen and after meeting James K. Baxter in Dunedin in the 1960s, began writing poetry. He was a Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago in 1978. In 2005 he was an inaugural recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry. He lives in Dunedin. His previously published collections include Lady Moss Revived (1972), Freeway (1974), Beethoven’s Guitar (1980), It Was a Tuesday Morning: Selected Poems 1972-2001 (2004), Poetry Reading at Kaka Point (2006), Under the Dundas Street Bridge (2012), and You fit the description: The Selected Poems of Peter Olds, with an introduction by Ian Wedde (2014, Cold Hub Press). His most recent collection is Taking My Jacket for a Walk (2017, Cold Hub Press).

Poetry Shelf Spring Season

Tara Black picks poems

Victor Rodger picks poems

Poetry Shelf Celebrates: Winners of Given Words 2021 read their poems

The winners of the Given Words competition for Phantom National Poetry Day were announced last Friday 17 September. The director of Given Words, Charles Olsen, invited poets Pat White, Savarna Yang and Aine Whelan-Kopa, to read their poems for NZ Poetry Shelf.

All entries had to include five words chosen from the te reo poetry film Noho Mai, which features a poem by Peta-Maria Tunui. The poems could be written in English or te reo Māori or a mix of the two, with the five words being: pō/duskhau/breathtūpuna/ancestorshiki/raise, and karoro/black-backed gull.

The winners and one special mention were selected by Mikaela Nyman, Michael Todd and Charles Olsen. Their comments on some of the poems along with a selection of 45 poems by both adults and under-16s can be read on Given Words, along with a reflection on the use of te reo in many of the poems by Peta-Maria Tunui.

Pat White was the winner of ‘Best Poem’ for his poem ‘After visiting the IC ward.

After visiting the IC ward

You might think at dusk
that a black-backed gull, and the terns
would be flying for the rookery.
The fishing folk with an empty basket
might trudge homeward, instead of
standing longer on those moving dunes
dividing shore between offshore tūpuna
and inland ancestors, here sea birds
just like words tie the waves’ surge
to lives between two worlds.

Another chance to keep going as if
every breath matters, coming to
rattling rest, as waves do over shell
and pebbles shifting over and over
the planet’s body, one grain of sand
at a time. Your bed occupying
a place between light and dark
the soul poised to raise a voice
in praise of one more day
giving thanks, flying in the mind
to where uplift drafts will raise
pin feathers of an albatross wing
tipped slightly to infinite nautical miles
over the breaker’s lip, reflecting
water movement into light carrying
driftwood to be dragged home.
for burning like the flicker of
life burning in your chest.

Pat White

Savarna Yang, aged 13, won ‘Best Poem by Under-16s’ for her poem ‘Eventide’.

Eventide

alabaster moths flutter
on indigo shadows of dusk
I press my toes into cold sand,
listen to the inbreath and outbreath of sea
and I remember my tupuna tāne,
how he died moored to a ventilator,
breaths drowned in risen tides
far from his whānau

the moon spills silver over ocean ripples
I raise my face to the sky
through a blur of tears
the first stars form an outline of wings,
tips of white against the black
I imagine my tupuna
flies free as a karoro

Savarna Yang

Aine Whelan-Kopa received a Special Mention for her poem ‘Hiki te hoe’.

Hiki te hoe

I got goosebumps today
When Tāwhiri breathed
And I heard the words
When I opened my heart
To tūpuna
They whispered
Hoea te waka
Hoea te waka
Hoea te waka
Like a chorus
And on the beat
It hurt like hope
But felt like home
I’m sorry I ever told them to go
Hoea te waka
Their words sing on
In my puku-heart
As wiriwiri
In my head-heart
Sways the pūriri
In my heart-heart
There’s aroha
And that’s everything
It pumps my veins
Out of and into
The pull
The row
The drag
The flow
Hiki te hoe
Hoea te waka
I’m moving on
Out of te pō
Upon
Cool waters misty
Like a lake before dawn
Hoea te waka
To where karoro flies
Hoea te waka
To where the green flash glows
Hoea te waka
To where the four winds blow
Ngā hau
Hoea te waka
Along the long awa
Guided by whispers
And one hundred tuna
Black and blue
Hoea te waka
By starlight
To sunlight
With Hine ā Maru
And you

Aine Whelan-Kopa

About the Poets

Pat White lives just out of Fairlie in the South Island of Aotearoa/New Zealand. There he works as a writer and painter, with his wife Catherine, a musician and painter. He has published a number of volumes of prose and poetry since the 1970s, including; How the Land Lies, (VUP 2010) prose memoir essays, Watching for the wingbeat; new and selected poems (Cold Hub Press 2018). He was editor of Rejoice Instead: Collected poems of Peter Hooper (Cold Hub Press, 2021).


His entry in Given Words honours the experience of a son who was in an Intensive Care Ward four years ago. ‘Such events hone our appreciation of every breath, and the need of each of us to give thanks for the miracle of ordinariness that is daily life. This afternoon the sun is shining, soon it will be time for a glass of red wine while sitting looking at the mountains to the west. Who knows a poem may be gifted on a gust of wind … if we sit quietly enough?’

Savarna Yang is thirteen years old, home-schools, and lives near Ōtepoti, Dunedin. You can often find her spinning and weaving wool from her pet sheep or baking mountains of cookies (especially over lockdown). She plays football for her local team but unfortunately they have lost every single game this season… She loves writing short stories and reviews.


Of the inspiration for her poem she says, ‘My grandparents live overseas, in Australia and China. I haven’t seen them for a long time and maybe I won’t get to see them again. In Aotearoa, we had an elderly friend nearby we loved like a grandparent. They died in hospital during lockdown when we could not visit to say goodbye.’

Aine Whelan-Kopa lives in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and grew up in very small rural, coastal towns in the Hokianga and Taranaki. She is of Ngāti Hine, Te Hikutu o Hokianga, Ngāpuhi and Irish descent. Being bi-racial has been challenging and impactful, writing and art are ways for Aine to express herself and explore her identity. The mix of te reo Māori and English in her poetry is a natural extension of the way she talks.
Aine is a student majoring in psychology and aims to use art therapy to help children affected by trauma. Whānau, whenua, atua and taiao are the cornerstones of her connection to Te Ao.


Hiki Te Hoe was written as a note to self that in order to get to where you want to go you need to pick up the paddle and start to row. Aine loves running and chocolate equally, because life is about balance.

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Collapsing the Conventional – NZ Young Writers Festival 2021

Festival dates: Thursday 28 October– Sunday 31 October

Full Programme

Now in its seventh year, the New Zealand Young Writers is itching to get started, with a four-day packed programme delving into poetry, playwriting, performance and more.

The free to attend festival opens with a bang on Thursday 28 October at our cool new Writers Block venue at 53 Castle Street, Dunedin, hosted by the incomparable Marea Colombo (Improsaurus). We’ll be celebrating the launch of the festival with live music, tasty refreshments and even tastier performances. The event will also showcase the work of St Hilda’s students from their Creative in Schools programme, exploring poetry through sculpture, dance, drama, painting, and collage.

On Saturday, lit-enthusiasts can sharpen up their own poetry skills with How to Speak Words and Influence People, a spoken word workshop led by National Slam Champion, poet, and toast enthusiast Jordan Hamel. No experience is required for this fun and friendly spoken word how-to that explores different ways of performing your words.

Breaking boundaries is a mission statement for the festival and this year is no different with a programme full of workshops that explore the limitations society places on our bodies and how to overcome them through literature.

Playwright Dan Goodwin will deconstruct what it means to weave accessibility into narrative and ground our stories in the communities they emerge in with their workshop and writing mental health and disability theatre; and will join Jackson NieuwlandWhina Pomana and Hana Pera Aoake, in Playing with the Trouble: Writing Gender and the Body, a conversation/performance about fluidity, gender, the body and how to write about it.

The programme continues to blur the lines between genres with events that celebrate artistic expression in all forms. In Put Your Body Into It: Somatic Writing Rituals, poet Rushi Vyas will lead participants on a short walk where they will enact a somatic ritual before writing a response to the experience; researcher Zoë Heine will be joined by Hana Pera AoakeJordan HamelRobyn Maree Pickens and Lily Holloway for a hybrid conversation/workshop on writing about climate change in Getting Our Feet Wet: Storytelling for Sea-Level Rise; and Dunedin’s celebrated Ōtepoti Writers Lab will be celebrating its second birthday with a showcase of writing in all forms.
PaulaPaula

Taking creativity out of traditional spaces, two yet to be announced writers will be taking up micro-residencies in the Dunedin Botanic Garden for the duration of the festival, sponsored by online literary magazine Starling. Join the two writers, Starling editor Louise Wallace, Starling writer Lily Holloway and Jackson Nieuwland and Carolyn DeCarlo (Starling interview subjects) in a conversation/performance at the Writers Block on Saturday for a micro-residency wrap-up and celebration of the newest issue of Starling.

Festival Director Gareth McMillan said the festival was excited to inspire young writers and to encourage them to see the power in their words, whatever form they take, and to experiment with style.

“We’re really passionate about removing the boxes from the creative arts and this programme aims to show young people that it’s not about format, it’s about authenticity,” McMillan said.

“Whether you see yourself as a poet or a novelist, or neither, or a mix, it is about using your words to express what is important to you and we hope our events and workshops will provide people with the tools to do just that.”

Brand new for 2021, test your literary knowledge at the taskmaster-style Wordmaster: Festival Smackdown. Come along with a team, or make new mates on the night, to take on every literary challenge comedy legend Reuben Crisp can throw at you, from a spelling bee to charades and more.

And not forgetting our festival favourites, the Otago Poetry Slam returns this year MCd by Jordan Hamel with calibration poet Emer Lyons. Open to all ages, this fast-paced war of words will select a champion to represent Otago at this year’s nationals.

The last day of the festival will once again host Dunedin Zinefest offering a cornucopia of DIY wares from the city’s best poets, illustrators, artists, designers, and zinesters. With live entertainment, the event offers the opportunity to browse and buy – and be inspired to make your own zines at the Wake ‘n’ Make from 12pm-2pm.

A few of the people involved include:

 Dan Goodwin (they/them), a Scottish-Pākeha performance poet, actor and writer, and winner of the Harold and Jean Brooks award. Dan is hosting an event called Accessible and Authentic. Having written about experiencing psychosis and in a world full of lockdowns, they want to help people work through their unexamined mental health in a safe way.

Hana Aoake (they/them), is an artist and writer who will be speaking at Playing with the Trouble: Writing Gender and the Body, where they bring their perspective on our flawed perspectives of gender. Their Māori ancestors talk about community living in pre-colonial times but today a pregnant Aoake faces daily reminders of society’s binary views when people ask the gender of their baby. They will also be part of Getting Our Feet Wet: Storytelling for Sea-Level Rise, talking about the human impact of climate change from an indigenous perspective (such as the returning of damaged resources to Māori) and a global perspective (climate change refugees).

Rushi Vyas (he/him) is the author and two-time finalist for the National Poetry Series (US). He will lead a workshop on somatic writing rituals, based on his research into how behavioural patterns set us up for certain activities, especially the creative. His work explores ritual in relation to colonialism and how to use it to decolonise arts.

Jordan Hamel (he/him) is a writer, poet and performer. He was the 2018 New Zealand Poetry Slam champion and represented NZ at the World Poetry Slam Champs in the US in 2019. He will be using his expertise to lead a workshop on spoken word and host festival favourite the Otago Poetry Slam. He is also coeditor of an upcoming poetry anthology on climate change will talk about the power of poetry in activism in Getting Our Feet Wet.

Poetry Shelf review: Ora Nui 4: Māori Literary Journal (New Zealand and Taiwan Special Edition)

Ora Nui 4: Māori Literary Journal (New Zealand and Taiwan Special Edition), published by Anton Blank, edited by Kiri Piahana-Wong and Shin Su. Cover image: Hongi 2012, Idas Losin, oil on canvas, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts Collection.

How to construct a piupiu for your Waitangi day celebrations

First the karakia to gather the family; the strength
of your fibre depends on them.
Next, measure the pattern and score with clear, even cuts—
if you don’t do this yourself, your enemy will do it for you
with year after year after year of protest.
Expose the muka, the soft threads that will be so pale, so raw,
that they will take on any colour they mix with.
Pliability and adaptability are a gift. Don’t let them use it against you.
Instead brace yourself, if your thighs can take it, and roll towards the knee.
Boil these family strands until buttery smooth
right down to the vein; the skin of nature.
Sit close to that pain. It can sing.
Then, by the threads of these taonga tuku iho,
hang them where they are visible, until dry.
They will curl in on themselves, shiny side hidden
and become hollow chambers in a flaxen silencer.
Finally, cold plunge them into dye.
Constant interaction may result in uneven colouring,
ignore this—do not cry for them here—
their warpaint will be revealed, their pattern set.
Those hardened tubes will have become whistle darts
capable of long distance warning
ki te ao whānui.
Let their percussion begin.
Let them whisper in the ears of your children.

Anahera Gildea

Anton Blank begins his introduction: ‘This issue of Ora Nui is a jewel; light dances across the words and images sparking joy and wonder. It is filled with contributions from my favourite Māori and Taiwanese writers and artists.’

Ora Nui 4 is indeed a vital gathering of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, essays and artwork, lovingly assembled by editors Kiri Piahana-Wong and Shin Su. When you bring together a range of voices in a literary journal – with distinctive melodies, admissions, experience, challenges, silences – conversations ensue. Electric and eclectic connections spark and inspire, both within the individual written and visual contributions, and across the volume as a whole. How much more heightened the connective tissues become when contributions are also drawn from Taiwan.

We are in a time when to slow down and listen, to linger and absorb, is the most satisfying advantage. This is, as Anton says, joy. Reading and viewing Ora Nui is to move between here and there, between love and longing, amidst myriad ideas, feelings, melodies. As Kiri underlines, Ora Nui is ‘all the richer for creative pieces spanning an incredible range of topics’. Shin astutely suggests that ‘when finished with this edition of Ora Nui, you the reader will be in possession of an empathetic understanding of the lives and histories of a great many people’.

Familiar names leap out at me: Aziembry Aolani, Marino Blank, Jacqueline Carter, Gina Cole, Amber Esau, Anahera Gildea, Arihia Latham, Kiri Piahana-Wong, Vaughan Rapatahana, Reihana Robinson, Apirana Taylor, Anne-Marie Te Whiu, Iona Winter, Briar Wood. And then – one of the reasons I am attracted to literary journals – the unfamiliar Aotearoa poets become the gold nuggets of my reading: Gerry Te Kapa Coates, Kirsty Dunn, Teoti Jardine, Hinemoana Jones, Michelle Rahurahu Scott, Jean Riki, kani te manukura. Add in the Taiwan voices, the fiction and the nonfiction, and this is a sumptuous reading experience. I am especially drawn to the mesmerising movement and harmonies in Etan Pavavalung’s artworks and poetry, that are internal as much as they are physical.

I travel from the spare and haunting heart of Jacqueline Carter’s ‘Picton to Wellington’ to the aural and visual richness of Amber Esau’s ‘Manaakitanga’. I want to hear them both read aloud, to be in a room with the voices of these poets, in fact all the poets, filling the air with spike and soothe and light. Anahera Gildea’s poems reach me in a ripple effect of sound and song, contemplation, challenge and sublime heart. Reading the collection, I draw in phrases, images and chords that boost a need to write and read and converse. To connect.

For example, this extract from Stacey Teague’s exquisite grandmother poem:

Every Christmas
She would knit me dolls
with yellow dresses,
bright like egg yolks.

She had budgies, chickens, a cat called Mopsy.

She liked the TV show, Pingu.

On her headstone, it says:
‘Ko tōna reo waiata tōna tohū whakamaharatanga’.

My Narn sang waiata with her guitar
until her voice stopped.
Traded her guitar for
a dialysis machine.

from ‘Kewpie’

 

The artwork is stunning. Take time out from daily routine and challenges, and sink into a double-page spread of art. I keep greturning to Nigel Borell’s Pirirakau: bush beautiful (2006) series. The artworks are an alluring and intricate mix of acrylic, beading and cotton in bush greens on canvas. Or his Hawaiki Hue (2010), an equally glorious mix of acrylic, dye and silk on paper.

This is an anthology to treasure.

Read NZ Q & A with Anton Blank here

Oranui Publisher page

Poetry Shelf celebrates new books: Serie Barford reads from Sleeping with Stones

Sleeping with Stones, Serie Barford, Anahera Press, 2021

Serie reads ‘The midwife and the cello’

Serie reads ‘Piula blue’

Serie Barford was born in Aotearoa to a German-Samoan mother and a Palagi father. She was the recipient of a 2018 Pasifika Residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre. Serie  promoted her collections Tapa Talk and Entangled Islands at the 2019 International Arsenal Book Festival in Kiev. Her latest poetry collection, Sleeping With Stones, was launched during Matariki, 2021.

Anahera Press page

RNZ Standing Room Only interview

Kete Books Grace Iwashita-Taylor review

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Frankie McMillan’s ‘Girls Raised by Swans’

Girls Raised by Swans

We swim like foster children, our necks held high, we swim with open arms knowing water will always want us back, we swim like brides with beautiful feet, we swim like Russian thoughts.

We swim in caravans of water, we swim amongst floating chairs, a toaster, we swim with a lampshade on our heads and when the current surges west, we swim out into the open with the eels.

We swim like we are missed, we swim like we are bridled, we swim under bridges and when the boats come calling, we swim low, through scum, through ropes, we swim like rich people, always laughing.

Frankie McMillan

Frankie McMillan is a poet and short story writer who spends her time between Ōtautahi/ Christchurch and Golden Bay. Her poetry collection, There are no horses in heaven, was published by Canterbury University Press.  Recent work appears in Best Microfictions 2021 (Pelekinesis) Best Small Fictions 2021 (Sonder Press), the New Zealand Year Book of Poetry ( Massey University), New World Writing and Atticus Review.

Poetry Shelf Spring Season: Victor Rodger picks poems

A few years ago I bought Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry because of the title and because there is, indeed,  an awful lot of awful poetry that I have felt hatred towards.  However, despite the title, the book, is ultimately a celebration of poetry and these are six poems I certainly find worth celebrating.

Tusiata Avia’s ‘How to be in a room full of white people’:  I guarantee any person of colour who reads this poem will nod – if not cackle – with recognition at line after eviscerating line.  One of my favourite grenade lobs: “ Listen to what funding white people have applied for again, now they have whakapapa.”

Hone Tuwhare’s ‘Rain’: When one of my oldest friends asked me to do a reading at her wedding, I chose Rain because it’s such a beautiful piece.  The groom came up to me afterwards and was like: What the hell does that mean?  (FYI: they are still married).

Tayi Tibble’s ‘Homewreckers’:  The poem begins, amusingly, with a young Maori woman’s lament: “When I was a girl/God tested me with stepbrothers.” Samoan step-brothers, to be exact, who break shit and generally torment the narrator.   But as the poem unfolds it gets more melancholic as the narrator reflects on  truths about her own life.

Chris Tse’s ‘What’s Fun Until it Gets Weird‘:  This had me at “bukkake.”  Actually, it had me way before that as it recounts an excruciatingly awkward game of Crimes Against Humanity where the writer has to explain various sexual terms to his insatiably curious mother and aunties.

Talia Marshall’s ‘KIng of the Dive’: Talia’s essays always take me somewhere surprising, utilising language in a way that  never fails to fill me with a mixture of jealousy and awe. Her poems are no different.

Aziembry Aolani’s ‘Parking Warden’:  Aziembry wrote this when he was a student at the Maori and Pasifika creative writing workshop I convene at the International Institute of Modern Letters.  He actually works as a parking warden and I love that he represents his specific point of view here, throwing shit right back at the people who throw shit at him.

Victor Rodger, September 2021

The poems

How to be in a room full of white people

See         the huge room
Count     the brown and black people in the room
again
Count     to one or two or maybe three
again
Count     to only you
again
Breathe  in onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnine / hold /
Breathe  out onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnine

                                                      <>

Listen      to white people talk about_____________and___________
                 and________________________________
Listen      to white people talk about writing
Listen      to  white  people  who  are  writing  as  black men and
                 black women
Hush       for prize-winning white people talking
Listen      to white people who are painting dead,  black  bodies
                 with bullet holes
Listen      to  white  people  say  they  don’t  know why they are
                painting dead, black bodies with bullet holes, but their
                art-school tutors are encouraging them to keep going

                                                      <>

Hear       white  people  pause  before  they miss the word they
                used to use
Hear        the tiny-tiny pause
Hear       white people say diversity
again
Wonder  if you could unscrew that word  like a lid,   what might
                 be inside the jar

                                                     <>

Listen      to white people call you the name of the other brown
                  woman writer
again
Repeat     your name for white people who ask you to repeat your
                 name
again
Listen       to white people say: That’s such a beautiful name, what
                  does it mean?
again

                                                        <>

Listen        to  white  people  say:  I   went  to  Some-oh-wa  on   my
                   holiday,   I  didn’t  stay  in  Up-peer,  I stayed on  Siv-vie-
                   ee,  it’s  traditional,  they haven’t  lost  their  culture  like
                   the Mour-rees, I stayed in the  village,  everyone  was so
                   authentic
Listen         to white people say: What do your tattoos mean?
                    But do they have meaning?
                    But were they done in the traditional way?
                   We saw the proper ones – you have to be a chief  to have
                   them
Hear          white  people  say:  My  daughter  has  a  tribal  tattoo,  it
                   looks really similar. Celtic.
again

                                                           <>

Hear          white people say: I own a diary, the Hori kids steal the
                    blue lighters and the red lighters
Listen         to white people say: Crips and Bloods
Listen         to white people say Hori again and look at you
again
Listen         to white people say: Well, you’ll know what I mean?
Listen         to this in your head for weeks
Listen         to this in your head for weeks

                                                           <>

See             white people clasp a brown hand
Hear           white people mispronounce te reo
again
Listen         to white people talk about their roots and their discovery
Listen         to  white  people  talk   about  their   research   and  their
                    discovery and  the  discovery  of  their  great-great-great-
                    great
Listen         to  what  funding  white  people  have  applied  for  again,
                    now they have whakapapa

                                                            <>

Watch         white people watch you as you enter
Wonder      if you’ll have to empty your bag
again
again
again
Breathe      in / onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnine / hold /
Breathe      out / onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnine
Breathe      when you leave
                     and then feel so angry  that  you  walk  back  in and walk
                     around
again
Pretend       to white people that you’re not watching them watch you
again
Watch          white people’s eyes follow you when you leave
again
Watch          white people startle when you use the words white
                      people together
Listen           to white people tell you they don’t like  being  lumped
                      together like that
Watch          white people when black and brown people are  killed
                      again because they are black and brown people
Hear             white people say: It’s hard to be white too
Listen           to white people say: I feel culturally unsafe
Listen           to white people say: I’m a woman of colour,  white’s a
                     colour
Listen           to white people say: I don’t see colour
Listen           to white people say something about the human race
                      and  something  about  we’re all the same and that all
                      lives matter
again
again
again

                                                            <>

Try                 to reframe it
again
Try                  not to sound so negative
again
Try                 to stick your fingers down your throat and  vomit up
                       the poison pellet
again
again
again
Try                 to  say  something  positive at the  end of  this poem, so
                       you  don’t   come  across  as  the  angry  brown  woman
again
                        writing  about the things  that  white  people don’t want
                        to be true.

Tusiata Avia

from The Savage Coloniser Book, Victoria University Press, 2020

Rain

I hear you
making small holes
in the silence
rain

If I were deaf
the pores of my skin
would open to you
and shut

And I
should know you
by the lick of you
if I were blind

the something
special smell of you
when the sun cakes
the ground

the steady
drum-roll sound
you make
when the wind drops

But if I
should not hear
smell or feel or see
you

you would still
define me
disperse me
wash over me
rain

Hone Tuwhare

from Come Rain Hail, Bibliography Room, University of Otago Library, 1970. The poem also appears in Small Holes in the Silence: Collected Works, Hone Tuwhare, Godwit, Random House, 2011.

Homewrecker

When I was a girl
God tested me with stepbrothers.
I was eight years old.
I was thirteen.

They were mean.
I began to nurse
a few feminist embers
that they were happy to fan

with their grandmother’s
leaf-shaped ili slapped
on the back of my head or
the whip of wet tea towels
exposing the white in my legs.
I wondered if it was true
that you can grow too used to
the feeling of pink pain spraying?

On a good day
you might have called them spirited
the same way Satan is spirited,
all cigarette butts and stink bombs.
I was offended by the audacity
bleaching their bright Samoan smiles. Well,

I was soulful. Only used to
baby-soft sisters and playing the piano
and it physically hurt me.

Every wince seemed to shuck
my ribs from my spine as I witnessed them
pulling electronics apart like a carcass,
searching for the static in the back of the stereo.

Then one Christmas an uncle
whose actual relationship to anyone
we couldn’t quite place
gave the younger one
a mechanical Beavis or Butthead
I dunno which one
but you’d press the button
on his plasticated stomach
and he would say something
rude and crass and gross
but ultimately forgettable.

He unwrapped it,
studied it.
It seemed like for once
in his little brutal life
he was actually considering
his words, choosing tenderly
until finally he gave his reply
and his reply was
Should I break it?

And we all sighed and rolled our eyes
with the distinct feeling that life
was suspiciously too predictable
and already we knew everything
that we would ever be doing.
Well, I didn’t grow up wrecking things
but very often
the world wrecked itself around me.

Even if I was light
on the kitchen floorboards
the geraniums curtseyed,
fish threw themselves
from their fishbowls,
punks crumpled
on their skateboards
and I always won Jenga.

Even my mother said I had a talent
for extracting things from people
and so had to be careful.
No one was going to light up
violently and tell me
that I was taking something from them.
Life’s not a game of Operation.
Stop playing with people.
But I’m a lonely Mum. I’m a Libra
I’m a Libra just like you.

As a teenager,
a man whose opinion I truly trusted
said I was a dangerous girl
and this made me so afraid of myself.
I avoided being alone with her.
I never left her unattended.

I made sure she had someone
with her at all times.
Even if they belonged
to someone else, they were mine.

And pink pain became desirable.
As an adult, the sensation
found a home in my chest.
It reminded me of tea towels
and hidings and how
fresh to death and nervous
but alert, and alive I was then.

I can’t remember the last time
I ever saw my brothers but recall

Playing Jenga
and how long it would take
to stack the blocks
perfectly
only to take turns
trying to take
without destroying.
Which is where I learnt
to understand the risk
and do it anyway.
I just hold me breath.
Wait.

Tayi Tibble

from Rangikura, Victoria University Press, 2021

Chris Tse

Chris Tse reads ‘What’s Fun Until It Gets Weird’. Originally published in Aotearotica #4. Recorded at The Sex and Death Salon, WORD Christchurch, 1 September 2018. Thank you to Rachael King and WORD Christchurch.

King of the Dive

Lately, I have been feeling a little like the reaper
but I’m drinking again and this guy from Auckland
tries to tell me that when he walked into The Crown
it felt like he was home and there’s not much of a moon
but I still have to slay him, and I remind him that Friday
was mob night and Jones is a good cunt and boy is there
but I still tell the table he was conceived at The Crown Hotel
well not literally but his father was playing pool
and the other boys were noodles who fucked liked planks
and he had excellent posture and loved Johnny Marr
and Tuhoe Joe would jam up the jukebox with $2 coins to stop me
because I was the gold heron that was not there for the band
I wanted Prince, Dragon and George McCrae and Tuhoe Joe would put pies
in the warmer because I was the only bitch who ever asked for one at 2am

Talia Marshall

Parking Warden

My colleague says my skin colour shows that I like rugby.
I tell him, ‘I don’t follow rugby …’
He says, ‘Your skin tells me though …’
My skin has never spoken to anyone.

A man yells from a moving vehicle,
‘Get a fucking real job!’
He extends one of his fingers towards me.
That. Is. Talent.

A woman says the job I do is ridiculous.
Despite paying for the wrong space,
she continues to question my presence.
‘Like why do you even?’
Is that even a question?
‘I’m actually quite odd,’ I reply—
awkward and triumphant silence.

I am called a fat shit.
The driver isn’t in the best shape himself.
‘Why don’t you go for a run, ya fat shit!’
He snatches the fresh white print.
I try to catch laughter in the middle of my throat.
I walk almost 30 kilometres a day,
and I’m Polynesian.

At a pedestrian crossing,
I overhear a woman tell her child,
‘You see, son. If you work hard at school, you won’t have to do a job like that.’
She points to me.
I turn to the child, ‘And I have a walkie-talkie!’
The child smiles.
To his mother’s evil eye,
I pull a thumbs up.

Two elderly ladies ask for directions.
One lady says, ‘Darling, you don’t speak the way you look …’
The other: ‘You’re a very polite young man … Good for you …’
I pity them.

I see taxis on broken yellow lines
double-parked on a one-way street.
A driver spots me and alerts his companions.
‘Go, go! The brown one is here!
The brown one is there!’
I see panic spilling out of their ears and exhaust pipes.

‘Does anyone give you shit, bro?’
asks a man gripping a can of beer.
‘Why would they? Look at you …’
I attach a printed headache to a vehicle.
‘You’re a big dark-skinned brother. No one will give you shit, my kill!’
I have a sudden vision of myself, as fresh kill, on the roof of a parked vehicle.

A mechanic spots me checking resident and coupon zones.
He screams,
‘Warden! Warden!’

Just another white jaw rattling to remind me of what I am.

Aziembry Aolani

from Turbine 2020

Victor Rodger is an award-winning writer and producer of Samoan (Iva) and Scottish (Dundee) descent. Best known for his internationally acclaimed play BLACK FAGGOT and for spear heading the revival of Tusiata Avia’s WILD DOGS UNDER MY SKIRT,  his works of fiction  have been included in the Maori/Pasifika anthology BLACK MARKS ON THE WHITE PAGE as well as the upcoming LGBTQIA+ anthology OUT HERE. His first published poem, SOLE TO SOLE, is also part of the upcoming Annual Ink poetry anthology, SKINNY DIP. Victor leads the Maori and Pasifika creative writing workshop at the International Institute of Modern Letters and was this year named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to theatre and Pacific Arts.

Tusiata Avia was born in Christchurch in 1966, of Samoan descent. She is an acclaimed poet, performer and children’s book writer. Her poetry collections are Wild Dogs Under My Skirt (2004; also staged as a one-woman theatre show around the world from 2002–2008), Bloodclot (2009), Fale Aitu | Spirit House (2016), shortlisted at the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, and The Savage Coloniser Book (2020), winner of the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry. 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 also the 2013 recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award. In the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Tusiata was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to poetry and the arts.

Hone Tuwhare, of Ngāpuhi descent, (1922 – 2008), was born in Kaikohe and moved to Dunedin in 1969 as the Robert Burns fellow. He spent the last years of his life at Kākā Point on the South Otago coast where his small crib has been renovated for an upcoming creative residency. He was a boiler maker, husband, father, and as one of Aotearoa’s most beloved poets received numerous awards and honours. His poetry has been gathered together in Small Holes in the Silence, a big anthology that contains many poems translated to Te Reo Maori (Random House).

Tayi Tibble (Te Whānau ā Apanui/Ngāti Porou) was born in 1995 and lives in Wellington. In 2017 she completed a Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington, where she was the recipient of the Adam Foundation Prize. Her first book, Poūkahangatus (VUP, 2018), won the Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award. Her second collection, Rangikura, is published in 2021.

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.


Talia Marshall (Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Rārua, Rangitāne ō Wairau, Ngāti Takihiku) is currently working on a creative non-fiction book which ranges from Ans Westra, the taniwha Kaikaiawaro to the musket wars. This project is an extension of her 2020 Emerging Māori Writers Residency at the IIML. Her poems from Sport and Landfall can be found on the Best New Zealand Poems website.

Aziembry Aolani (Ngāpuhi / Kanaka Maoli) is a poet with a sweet tooth and a love of animals, and he is a mad gamer. He has been studying at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington, and his work was recently published in Anton Blank’s Ora Nui Journal.

 

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: TURBINE | KAPOHAU – A NEW ZEALAND JOURNAL OF NEW WRITING is now accepting submissions

Writers, our online journal TURBINE | KAPOHAU – A NEW ZEALAND JOURNAL OF NEW WRITING is now accepting your submissions – poetry, creative nonfiction and fiction all welcome, but please read our submission guidelines first!

Go here for details

Poetry Shelf video: Vaughan Rapatahana reads at Medellin Columbia Poetry Festival

Vaughan Rapatahana begins many of his poems with a whakataukī. He is reading English versions of his poems that are then read in Spanish, but I love the way he brings in te reo Māori. Words say so much that are lost in translation, especially in poetry where each word is a rich vessel – words such as karakia and whanaunga. Vaughan’s poems consider death, place, whānau, significant issues such as global warming, the treatment of Māori. One poem particularly moved me: ‘Talking to my son in a funeral home’. Vaughan wondered why he keeps writing poems about and for his son who committed suicide 16 years ago. He shares his recent epiphany: that he writes of his son to keep his son alive. Later he reads a second poem, ‘The Zephyr’, a list poem, that is equally compelling (‘The zephyr that is my lost son still frisks me’). Ah. Ah. Ah. He reads a love poem he has written in te reo Māori to his wife, because he says he finds it easier to write how he feels in his first language.

To hear this coming together of te reo Māori, English and Spanish – a poetry meeting where words are held across distance to draw upon depth and intimacy – is a rare and glorious treat. Thank you.

Vaughan Rapatahana (Te Ātiawa) commutes between homes in Hong Kong, Philippines, and Aotearoa New Zealand. He is widely published across several genre in both his main languages, te reo Māori and English and his work has been translated into Bahasa Malaysia, Italian, French, Mandarin, Romanian, Spanish. Additionally, he has lived and worked for several years in the Republic of Nauru, PR China, Brunei Darussalam, and the Middle East.

You can read Vaughan’s knitting (love) poem here.

Vaughan Rapatahana reads and responds to ‘tahi kupu anake’

Poem: kia atawhai – te huaketo 2020 / be kind – the virus 2020