Author Archives: Paula Green

Poetry Shelf Spring season: Claire Mabey picks poems

In a book-club meet up recently I was reminded that lots of people, even extremely well read and clever people, feel like they need some kind of special knowledge or language to be able to talk about poetry. But I think what I love about poetry (and all art basically) is that you don’t have to have special anything for a poem to say something wonderful to you (or confronting, or funny, or unexpected, or thrilling). I chose these particular poems because they simply stuck with me for reasons I’m not sure of. They all contain certain images that attached themselves to the walls of my internal world and now I stroll past them on my daily rounds and they make me pause and think. I like that about poetry. Poems are like the tequila shots of the literary world: potent, dizzying, give you a buzz. And the good stuff is head and shoulders above most of the other options on the shelf.


‘Feagaiga/ Covenant’, Tusiata Avia
I chose this poem because I heard Tusiata read it (I can’t remember where) and the image of siblings knitting themselves together, interlocking their pyjamas, just, I can’t explain it, it nailed me. It made me want to cry and be joyously grateful at the same time. Something about it spoke to what being a sibling is and it made me feel pain and happiness simultaneously.


‘For a Five Year Old’, Fleur Adcock
This poem is one of the first I remember having to learn for Speech and Drama. S & D seems like a weird old fashioned thing these days but, actually on reflection, I think that the early lessons on poetry and making images, and appreciating words, were foundational for me. And I’ve never lost the love for this poem and its gentle severity. Of course I understand it completely differently now I am a mother. 


‘The feijoas are falling from the trees’, Louise Wallace
I love this poem because I love feijoas and also inherited my grandmother’s anxiety about not wasting fallen fruit. I heard Louise recite this at the Festival of Colour in Wanaka years ago and loved its domesticity and its vividenss and its humour. Like lots of Louise’s work it is plump with the understanding that the human condition is inextricable from the small comic drudgeries of daily life.          

‘Spent’, Sugar Magnolia Wilson
I love this poem because it feels dark and dangerous and beautiful. Sugar Magnolia Wilson’s work appeals to a certain aesthetic, and thematics, that I love to read. There is something of the fairytale, of the supernatural lurking in every line. I love the sense of the night sky mirroring the dark face full of teeth, and the rustle of the ‘wide-mouthed egg-swallowers’. Thrilling.

The poems

For a Five-Year-Old

A snail is climbing up the window-sill
into your room, after a night of rain.
You call me in to see, and I explain
that it would be unkind to leave it there:
it might crawl to the floor; we must take care
that no one squashes it. You understand,
and carry it outside, with careful hand,
to eat a daffodil.

I see, then, that a kind of faith prevails:
your gentleness is moulded still be words
from me, who have trapped mice and shot wild birds,
from me, who drowned your kittens, who betrayed
your closest relatives, and who purveyed
the harshest kind of truth to many another.
But that is how things are: I am your mother,
and we are kind to snails.

Fleur Adcock

from The Eye of the Hurricane, Reed, 1964. Also published in Fleur Adcock: Collected Poems, Victoria University Press, 2019.

The feijoas are falling from the trees

The feijoas are falling from the trees –
a fresh bag-load every day.

Winter is on its way.
I am in the kitchen
shucking feijoas like oysters –
filling ice-cream containers to freeze.

Won’t it be nice to eat them in July?
Rory is a good man, who hates feijoas.

I see a strong gust outside
and I imagine the sound of a feijoa falling.
Crashing into branches on its way down,
waiting to be plucked
from the leaves and soil.

Winter is on its way.
I try to think of how I could earn
more money; work harder, get ahead.
There is never enough
and it would be nice to get ahead.

I write a list of all the things
I need to make –
stewed feijoas, feijoa crumble –
another gust: feijoa cake.

Louise Wallace

from Enough, Victoria University Press, 2013

Feagaiga/ Covenant                     

I tell my brother about the boy at school


I make him tickle my back
and every time he stops
I tell him about the boy at school
who can do it
The Best In The World.
My brother and I are Siamese twins
I graft him to me
his pyjama holes to my buttons
and we sleep face to face.
When they try to lift me out
I keep my eyes shut
my mother has to call for help
the surgeon is delayed till morning.

Dad’s Army

Grandpa comes on Thursdays
when they are at counselling
he watches Dad’s Army.
My brother and I eat pancakes
I tell him how stupid he is
how much I hate him
and how I have hollowed out little caverns
in the pancakes and filled them with ants.

Love Boat

At 7pm on Wednesday night
when the Love Boat is on
they ask me who I think should get the house.
I make my brother an ice-cream sundae
with secret passages for the Resistance to hide in
I fill them with curry and chilli and shoe polish.

My brother goes missing

I check back-yard, front-yard, park, neighbours’
wardrobes, bathroom, toilet, wash house
I know deep down he is dead
and I am a bad person
I even ring my mother at Weight Watchers –
he turns up in the warming cupboard.

My brother doesn’t know what a magistrate is

We go to The Muppet Movie
and then Ice Castles
and then Bambi (again)
my brother eats too many ice castles
and falls asleep.
We walk back to the courthouse
which is by the tearooms
and I eat a custard square.

My brother goes next door

The girlfriend comes round
and won’t go away
and threatens to cut her wrists
with the windows or mayonnaise jars.
I tell my brother to go next door and stay there
I tell the girlfriend to go ahead and kill herself
but first , Get in the taxi, just get in the taxi.

The day we meet our other brother

At Bishopdale shopping mall
we all look the same
but he looks more like our father
and tells us his life is fine
as if we might be robbers
who will break into his house
and remove everything he has.

I take my friend round to my brother’s

I’m nervous about seeing him on my own
but he’s hungover and gentle
and shows us the tiny box of ashes.
His wife gets home with a new jacket
she puts the box back on its stand
So you’ve shown them our son? she says
and rips off all the buttons.

Tusiata Avia

first appeared at The Spinoff Review of Books 2016

Spent

The night sky is full of
  stars but

we are more clever than
most – we know
they are just
         burned bones.

Nothing beautiful –

not space sailors blown
from their ships – the light from
treasure quickly grasped
in their fists

only reaching us now.

It’s a useless kind of light –
     unspendable.

The palm of your hand lies
on my knee
                     like a gold coin
           donation

trying to free up my joints

but I don’t feel like
      moving
            or shining.

And your voice has had
its heartwood cut out

a woodpecker taps a hollow
sound against
the bark casing where

other things dwell
now – rats and
stoats, wide-mouthed
egg-swallers too.

In the dark your face
is different – you have more
teeth than normal and
                              your mouth

looks expensive.

Sugar Magnolia Wilson

from Because a Woman’s Heart is Like a Needle at the Bottom of the Ocean, Auckland University Press, 2019

Claire Mabey is founder of Verb Wellington which is an organisation dedicated to supporting Aotearoa writers and readers. Verb has a Readers & Writers Festival this year between 3 – 7 November and the programme is out now. She is also curator for the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts’ writers programme 2022 and is mum to Charlie.

Fleur Adcock, born in Auckland in 1934, is a highly acclaimed New Zealand poet, editor and translator who resides in Britain. She has published many collections of poems, most recently Glass Wings (2013), The Land Ballot (2014), Hoard (2017) and The Mermaid’s Purse (2021). Her awards include the 1961 Festival of Wellington Poetry Award, the Jessie Mackay Prize in 1968 and 1972, the Buckland Award in 1968 and 1979, the New Zealand National Book Award in 1984, an OBE in 1986, the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2006, and a CNZM for services to literature in 2008. In 2019 she was the recipient of a Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement.

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 was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to poetry and the arts.

Louise Wallace is the author of three collections of poetry published by Victoria University Press, most recently Bad Things. She is the founder and editor of Starling, and is currently working on a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Otago.

Sugar Magnolia Wilson is from the Far North of New Zealand. She completed her MA in creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington in 2012. Her book Because a Woman’s Heart is like a Needle at the Bottom of the Ocean was longlisted for the 2020 Ockham book awards. Her work has been published in most of the usual NZ literary journals.  

Poetry Shelf Spring Season

Tara Black picks poems

Victor Rodger picks poems

Peter Ireland picks poems

Emma Espiner picks poems

Poetry Shelf reviews YA fiction: Eileen Merriman’s Black Wolf

Black Wolf, Eileen Merriman, Penguin Books, 2021

I gobbled up the first book, Violet Black, in Eileen Merriman’s The Black Spiral Trilogy, in two greedy sittings. The book has suspense, gritty characters, vital borders between good and evil, porous ethics, romance. When I closed it I felt bereft – knowing how long I had to wait to read the next volume.

Aotearoa is rich in YA writers, writers who delve into the point of view of teenagers, and who navigate contemporary circumstances that challenge both at the level of the personal and an onslaught of ideas and decision making. NZ Bookshop day is coming up this Saturday and I am dreaming that everyone who can afford it will order a local book. Wishing for this. More than ever publishers and booksellers need our support. Let’s celebrate YA fiction, such a magnificent genre.

I recommend getting hooked into Eileen’s gripping trilogy. I read the second book, Black Wolf, in two days. And again I felt bereft when it ended and, in the same breath, utterly satisfied with the rollercoaster, heart-pounding story arc. Phoenix and Violet have become experimental subjects of The Foundation after having caught a mysterious virus, M-fever. They are under the control of The Foundation because they acquired super gifts, the key one being able to communicate telepathically. The rest of the world thinks they are dead. Other subjects die or are decommissioned. They resolve to fight for what is right.

On the one hand this is a struggle of good versus evil, but even more compelling, it is the interior struggle of two teenagers wanting to make good choices, wanting to care for fellow human beings, to work for the good of the whole rather than the benefit of the greedy individual. This is not easy. Being a teenager is not always easy. There is unbearable kindness. There is sex, there are drugs, there is romance. Relationships to unravel. There is mystery. The medical issues and implications.

Eileen’s sentences flow like honey. The dialogue is pitch perfect. I care so much about the characters I woke at 2 am, after the first day’s reading, plotting what might happen next. Worried for everyone!

Reading this book lifted me out of the black hole that keeps dragging me down. So sweetly. So rewardingly. I don’t want to go giving everything away – you just need to find a comfort corner and board the exhilarating ride with its spiky twists and turns, gathering in strength, kindness, empathy. Three qualities we need in our collective response devices, in our own challenging virus-stoked times.

I toast this glorious book. It was just what I needed. Oh and the final volume is out 1 March 2022.

Eileen Merriman’s first young adult novel, Pieces of You, was published in 2017, and was a finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and a Storylines Notable Book. Since then, she has published another nine novels for adults and young adults and received huge critical praise, with one reviewer saying: ‘Merriman is an instinctive storyteller with an innate sense of timing.’ In addition to being a regular finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, Merriman was a finalist in the 2021 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and Moonlight Sonata was longlisted for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction 2020. Editions of some of her young adult novels have been released in Germany, Turkey and the UK and three have been optioned for film or TV, including the Black Spiral Trilogy.

Her other awards include runner-up in the 2018 Sunday Star-Times Short Story Award and third in the same award for three consecutive years previously. She works as a consultant haematologist at North Shore Hospital.

Penguin page

Eileen’s website

Poetry Shelf review: Anne Noble’s Conversātiō – in the company of bees

Conversātiō – in the company of bees, Anne Noble with Zara Stanhope and Anna Brown, Massey University Press, 2021

each morning in the bright window she’s there

on the tip of your tongue her bees working

the red flowers that take you from vine to fire

as she contemplates another shift in the pronouns

Michele Leggott

from ‘Blue Irises’, from DIA, Auckland University Press, 1994

Anne Noble’s Conversātiō – in the company of bees is a precious object with its luxurious velveteen cover, generous serving of images, handbound look, luxuriant paper stock. The book as art work. An artwork as book. There are conversations, essays and a smattering of bee-related writings from Xenophon of Athens (c. 430 – 350 BCE) through to Emily Dickinson (1830 -1886), Carl Jung (1875 – 1961), Karl Marx (1818 – 1883), Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321), Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963), and many more.

I was drawn to this book because for over 35 years I have lived with an artist known for his beehive paintings, who views the hive on the landscape as a found object, as a site of transformation, as a sublime interplay of light and dark. As a family we have travelled the South Island roads taking photographs. We have smelt linseed oil and paint for decades, even watched a honeybee land on a painted hive. We have a beehive work hanging on the lounge wall that is my point of uplift, my transcendental device, my place to restore balance. Outside, honeybees dart in the manukā, land on flowers in the vegetable patches. The bees, and the beehive paintings, are a source of interior glow as I sit still and watch and reboot. The bees are doing what bees do, and it feels good. It is of the greatest comfort.

Anne’s bee-thicket book (it is of course a collective project) will offer the reader many sidetrack diversions, parallel lines of thought and feeling. I am catapaulted back into the honey-rich poetry of Michele Leggott, the dulcet threads and motifs. Find me a collection of hers where the honeybee does not make an appearance, and I will be surprised. Across centuries the bee has pollinated the poetic line with sweetness, fostering a delight in connectivity, awe, the miraculous. As a motif it fertilises a poem with the visual, the sensual, the unsayable, with patterns, transformations. This is what Michele’s poetry does for me.

Looking at one of Michael’s paintings, reading Michele’s poems or glimpsing the bee in our vegetable gardens, I am filled with life-sustaining joy. And how that matters. This is what the bee does for me.

Pick up Conversātiō, this sumptuous book, with its title demanding attentiveness, and you will fall into Anne’s close-up photographs of bees at work, how the collective labour is paramount. You will read of the mystery of the bee’s flight patterns and interpretations of their dances. You will read of the miracle of survival, the need for bee survival, the tending of hives, the harvesting of honey.

How you travel through this book is open. It is over to you. It feels like a thicket with interlocking paths, rich in images and ideas, possibilities. It is a beauty of a book. It is a book of beauty.

Massey University Press page

‘A journey of discovery into the life of bees’ — John Daly-Peoples, New Zealand Arts Review
‘A remarkable and beautifully produced book’ — Peter Simpson, Kete
‘Another sumptuous book from Massey University Press’ — David Hill, RNZ
‘A fascinating hybrid work, formed by the streams of art, science, poetry and philosophical thinking that flow into it’ — Landfall Review Online
Anne Noble talks to Lynn Freeman on RNZ
Anne Noble is interviewed by Woman magazine
Anne Noble talks to Stuff

‘Crown Range’, Michael Hight, 2017

Poetry Shelf celebrates new books: AUP New Poets 8

AUP New Poets 8: Lily Holloway, Tru Paraha, Modi Deng, Auckland University Press, 2021

I am loving the AUP New Poets series under the astute editorship of Anna Jackson. Each volume draws new voices into compelling view, each volume sparks essential poetry conversations. How we write. Why we write. What we write. How we write ourselves and how we write the imagined.

This on AUP New Poets 8, from my Kete Books review appearing shortly: ‘Editor Anna Jackson has selected three distinctive poets for AUP New Poets 8 and has placed them in the perfect tonal order. The title of Lily Holloway’s suite, ‘a child in that alcove’, reminds me of poetry’s alcove-like features. Poems can be miniature shelters, places of refuge, an interplay of dark and light, secret, mysterious, challenging, bulging with nooks and crannies. Reading the work is to read across myriad directions, to peer into captivating cubbyholes and, as Anna writes in her terrific foreword, to read distance and depth.’

This is an arrival to celebrate – and how better than with a suite of readings – not as good as book launch for sure – but online readings offer a lounge of returns. Make a coffee, a cup of tea, pour a glass of wine, you choose, find a sweet spot and have a listen. I raise my glass to Anna, Lily, Tru, Modi and AUP. This is essential listening (and reading!).

The readings

Lily Holloway

Photo credit: Angela Zhang

Lily Holloway reads ‘Reverb or Aftermath’

Lily Holloway reads ‘return again’

Tru Paraha

Tru Paraha reads ‘Paradox’

Tru Paraha reads ‘Postcard from Israel’

Modi Deng

Photo credit: Mikayla Bollen

Modi Deng reads ‘field notes on Lewis Hyde’s ‘The Gift’’

Modi Deng reads ‘unrest • an wei’

Modi Deng reads ‘now and then things come in tandem’

The poets

Lily Holloway (born in 1998, she / they) is a queer writer and postgraduate English student. While she mostly writes poetry, she has also tried her hand at non-fiction, fiction and playwriting. You can find her work in places like Starling, Midway Journal, Scum, The Pantograph Punch and The Spinoff amongst various other literary nooks and crannies. In 2020 she was honoured to receive the Shimon Weinroth Prize in Poetry, the Kendrick Smithyman Scholarship in Poetry and second place in the Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Essay Competition. In her spare time she enjoys op-shopping, letter writing, visiting small towns and collecting vintage Teletubbies paraphernalia. She is passionate about survivor advocacy and taking up space. You can find a list of her writing at lilyholloway.co.nz.

Tru Paraha resides in Tāmaki Makaurau in the suburb of Tukituki Muka (aka Herne Bay). She works as a choreographer and director, having enjoyed an extensive career in experimental dance, theatre and audio-visual arts. She is currently in the final year of a postdoctoral research fellowship in the English and Drama department at the University of Auckland. Moving between choreography, philosophy and creative writing, Tru produces live performances, artists’ pages and poems drawing on materials from deep space. She is a member of the International Dark-Sky Association and advocate for the preservation of the night sky as a world cultural heritage.

Modi Deng is a pianist based in London, currently pursuing postgraduate performance studies on a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. Her Chinese name 默笛 means ‘silent flute’, which her father drew from a poem by Tagore. Performances with her ensemble, the Korimako Trio, have taken her throughout the UK and her concerts have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and RNZ Concert. After growing up in Dunedin, she went on to complete a Master of Music with First Class Honours on a Marsden research scholarship, while completing a Bachelor of English at the University of Auckland. Modi cares deeply about literature (diaspora and poetry), music, psychology and her family.

Auckland University Press page

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Carolyn DeCarlo’s ‘The Opposite of Animal’

The Opposite of Animal

It takes a fine level of awareness,
pulling one’s weight from the house
to the car, from the car to the supermarket
then back inside the car, down the street
to the hair salon, back into the car.
Down the motorway to the Kmart,
the car dealership, the brunch on the waterfront,
across town back to the movie theatre,
back home to dinner,
heating soup and toast on the stove,
climbing the stairs one by one,
being pushed aside by pets
passing one by one on the stairs,
dragging wet noses across
the chairs, the duvet cover,
inserting themselves into windows,
under carpets, inside closets,
and springing, always springing out
in varying levels of attack,
grins on their faces for the joy of it,
the sheer high of overturning the master,
if only to shift the balance for a second.

It takes awareness to centre one’s life
around the less fortunate,
those with fur and claws and wet mouths
whose daily glory revolves around the master.
Measuring food into small bowls like party snacks,
placing them at acceptable heights
around the kitchen and the bedroom,
vacuuming up crystals and muddy paw prints,
sweeping fur across the linoleum
and out the door, with the dog, ready for walkies.
In a moment of trauma, the pet will hide
behind the figure of the master.

A knock at the door or a dropped teacup
sends the whole house scurrying
back, folding in, listening in anticipation
of the master’s reaction. 
The reality of being called the master
implies an innate sense of false equality –
a lack of awareness of power bordering on
ignorance – an alternative so denigrating
one might forget one’s own competence
and begin to seek the pet for protection.

Carolyn DeCarlo

Carolyn DeCarlo is a queer writer living in Aro Valley, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, with seven other mammals. She runs Food Court Books and We Are Babies Press with her partner Jackson Nieuwland. Her chapbook-length collection ‘Winter Swimmers’ was featured in AUP New Poets 5. She also co-wrote the chapbook BOUND: an ode to falling in love (Compound Press 2014).

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Canterbury Poets Collective Spring poetry reading series

Reading Series organised each Spring by the Canterbury Poets Collective.

Wednesday 6th October: Claire Beynon, John Allison and Catherine Fitchett

The open mic session begins at 6.30pm, with the featured poets on from 7.30,

Imagitech Theatre, ARA, 130 Madras Street Christchurch

$6.00 entry or you can buy a concession season pass.

Poetry Shelf Spring Season: Emma Espiner picks poems

Photo credit: Jenna Todd Photography

I had two introductions to poetry. The first was through my husband who insisted that my apathy towards the form was because I was going about it all wrong. Poetry had to be read aloud to be understood, he told me. He read Cassandra’s Daughter and As big as a father in the living room of our home on a hill on the south coast of Wellington and I conceded, he was right. 


The second introduction was through the arrival of Tayi Tibble. Tayi is a gateway drug, and once I’d read In the 1960s An Influx of Māori Women I read everything else she had written and, still hungry, found Hera Lindsay Bird and Nicole Titihuia Hawkins. Type Cast and Monica sit together, a matched set of sitcoms from the 90s, deconstructed and devastated, repurposed. 


These young women brought me home to J.C. Sturm, a writer whose collection of short stories I stole from my university’s library as a graduation gift to myself last year. Her poem Coming Home reaches across the years since her death into the heart of our collective ache for identity and belonging. Sturm writes with clarity and prescience and her work sits comfortably alongside the best of Aotearoa’s contemporary poets.

Emma Espiner

The poems

In the 1960s an Influx of Māori Women

Move to Tinakori Road in their printed mini dresses
Grow flowers on white stone rooftops to put in their honeycomb vases.
Dust the pussy-shaped ashtray their husbands bought on vacation in Sydney.
Walk to Kirkcaldie and Stains while their husbands are at work.
Spend their monthly allowance on a mint-green margarita mixer.
Buy makeup at Elizabeth Arden in the shade too-pale-pink.
Buy vodka and dirty magazines on the way home from the chemist.
Hide the vodka and dirty magazines in the spare refrigerator in the basement.
Telephone their favourite sister in Gisborne.
Go out to dinner with their husbands and dance with his friends.
Smile at the wives who refuse to kiss their ghost-pink cheeks.
Order dessert like pecan pie but never eat it.
Eat two pieces of white bread in the kitchen with the light off.
Slip into the apricot nylon nightgown freshly ordered off the catalogue.
Keep quiet with their husbands’ blue-veined arms corseting their waists.
Remember the appointment they made to get their hair fixed on Lambton Quay.
Think about drowning themselves in the bathtub instead.
Resurface with clean skin, then rinse and repeat.

Tayi Tibble

from Poūkahangatus, Victoria University Press, 2018

As big as a father      

I lost him the first time
before I could grasp
who he was, what he did, where
he fitted with her

and it’s always seemed so dumb:
how to lose something
as big as a father.

I lost him the next time
to the rum-running Navy
who took him and took him
and kept right on taking

and it wasn’t my mistake
losing a vessel
as big as a father.

I lost him a third time
to a ship in a bottle
that rocked him and rocked him
and shook out his pockets

and no kind of magic
could slip me inside
with my father.

I lost him at home
when floorboards subsided
as he said and she said
went this way and that way

and dead in the water
I couldn’t hang on
to my father.

The last time I lost him
I lost him for good:
the night and the day
the breath he was breathing

 and death’s head torpedoes
blew out of the water
the skiff of my father.

  Jeffrey Paparoa Holman

    from As big as a father, Steele Roberts, 2002

Cassandra’s Daughter

Cassy for short.
We’re discussing the colour green
and why.  And how last night
in her dreamtime a wooden-horse
appeared.  And look–how the wind
puts shivers in the water, shaking
the keys in their locks.
Only five years old, she is
already in love with how
one word wants another
with astonishing ease.
Inside the alphabet now,
inside the lining of a word
she asks me as we sit
on the garden wall under
plum-coloured sun: why
were you born at seven o’clock
that night?  I was a morning baby
my mum says, the best kind.
I was born with my eyes open,
you see?  Would you like to
hear me sing?  I can almost dance,
too.  Would you?  I can hear
that she knows, Priam’s daughter,
all her years to heaven–
that every word was once
a poem, isn’t it?

Michael Harlow

from Cassandra’s Daughter, Auckland University Press, 2005

                


Typecast 

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a fat brown woman
with a pretty face, wild hair
& an ass that could
clap back against the haters
when she plays T.K, Vinnie & Maxwell
sleeping with them all at the same time. 

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a girl gang of Māori women
who eat the weight 
of their feelings in cheese 
at wainanga & help each other
craft responses to
cultural appropriation, Govt. Depts & fuckbois.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us an exhausted junior Dr.
tall & thin, newly-vegan 
who still eats hāngī on the marae
Waka Blonde Ngāti Kahu Khaleesi 
fangirling over Lance O’Sullivan
addicted to kawakawa ointment.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a fair-skinned Kāi Tahu Boss Lady
an expert in her field
who gets nominated for awards 
invited home to speak on panels
who snapchats her friends from the wharepaku 
saying she feels like a fraud on her own whenua. 

I want Shortland Street
to cast us an overworked
social science teacher
wearing Hine & Whitewood to work
teaching Harry, Ula & Jasmine
Whare Tapa Whā & The Native Schools Act
her passionate tangents hashtagged #WhaeasRants.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a solo Mum in her 40’s
whose babies are to different men
rose quartz, ratchet 90’s home done
tā moko on her big boobs
spilling from a pilling lace bra from Kmart
as she rushes late from school gate to mahi.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a long-grey-haired Kui
with a moko kauae 
who talks to our tīpuna 
in her dreams, by night
kaumātua kapa haka, 
rewana bug feeding, by day. 

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a Ngāti Porou Aunty
who sets Marge, Kirsty & Leanne straight 
when they mispronounce her reo 
takes her own time to teach them
then vents to Vasa at Box Fit
that they complained to the boss she was telling them off.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a co-sleeping
breast-feeding Māmā
who laughs at the Plunket nurse
when she tells her to leave her 
baby to cry in a cot
calling it sleep training.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a young emerging talent
raising eyebrows even higher than her skirt hems
rubbing shoulders with the 
top surgeon’s fathers
Chris Warner wrapped around
her dusky middle finger.

Nicole Titihuia Hawkins

from Sport 47, 2019



Monica

Monica
Monica
Monica

Monica Geller off popular sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S
Is one of the worst characters in the history of television
She makes me want to wash my hands with hand sanitizer
She makes me want to stand in an abandoned Ukrainian parking lot
And scream her name at a bunch of dead crows
Nobody liked her, except for Chandler
He married her, and that brings me to my second point
What kind of a name for a show was F.R.I.E.N.D.S
When two of them were related
And the rest of them just fucked for ten seasons?
Maybe their fucking was secondary to their friendship
Or they all had enough emotional equilibrium
To be able to maintain a constant state of mutual-respect
Despite the fucking
Or conspicuous nonfucking
That was occurring in their lives
But I have to say
It just doesn’t seem emotionally realistic
Especially considering that
They were not the most self-aware of people
And to be able to maintain a friendship
Through the various complications of heterosexual monogamy
Is enormously difficult
Especially when you take into consideration
What cunts they all were

I fell in love with a friend once
And we liked to congratulate each other what good friends we were
And how it was great that we could be such good friends, and still fuck
Until we stopped fucking
And then we weren’t such good friends anymore

I had a dream the other night
About this friend, and how we were walking
Through sunlight, many years ago
Dragged up from the vaults, like
Old military propaganda
You know the kind; young women leaving a factory
Arm in arm, while their fiancées
Are being handsomely shot to death in Prague
And even though this friend doesn’t love me anymore
And I don’t love them
At least, not in a romantic sense
The memory of what it had been like not to want
To strap concrete blocks to my head
And drown myself in a public fountain rather than spend another day
With them not talking to me
Came back, and I remembered the world
For a moment, as it had been
When we had just met, and love seemed possible
And neither of us resented the other one
And it made me sad
Not just because things ended badly
But more broadly
Because my sadness had less to do with the emotional specifics of that situation
And more to do with the transitory nature of romantic love
Which is becoming relevant to me once again
Because I just met someone new
And this dream reminded me
That, although I believe that there are ways that love can endure
It’s just that statistically, or
Based on personal experience
It’s unlikely that things are going to go well for long
There is such a narrow window
For happiness in this life
And if the past is anything to go by
Everything is about to go slowly but inevitably wrong
In a non-confrontational, but ultimately disappointing way

Monica
Monica
Monica
Monica Geller from popular sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S
Was the favourite character of the Uber driver
Who drove me home the other day
And is the main reason for this poem
Because I remember thinking Monica???
Maybe he doesn’t remember who she is
Because when I asked him specifically
Which character he liked best off F.R.I.E.N.D.S
He said ‘the woman’
And when I listed their names for him
Phoebe, Rachel and Monica
He said Monica
But he said it with a kind of question mark at the end
Like……. Monica?
Which led me to believe
Either, he was ashamed of liking her
Or he didn’t know who he was talking about
And had got her confused with one of the other
Less objectively terrible characters.
I think the driver meant to say Phoebe
Because Phoebe is everyone’s favourite
She once stabbed a police officer
She once gave birth to her brother’s triplets
She doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks about her
Monica gives a shit what everyone thinks about her
Monica’s parents didn’t treat her very well
And that’s probably where a lot of her underlying insecurities come from
That have since manifested themselves in controlling
And manipulative behaviour
It’s not that I think Monica is unredeemable
I can recognize that her personality has been shaped
By a desire to succeed
And that even when she did succeed, it was never enough
Particularly for her mother, who made her feel like her dreams were stupid
And a waste of time
And that kind of constant belittlement can do fucked up things to a person
So maybe, getting really upset when people don’t use coasters
Is an understandable, or at least comparatively sane response
To the psychic baggage
Of your parents never having believed in you
Often I look at the world
And I am dumbfounded that anyone can function at all
Given the kind of violence that
So many people have inherited from the past
But that’s still no excuse to throw
A dinner plate at your friends, during a quiet game of Pictionary
And even if that was an isolated incident
And she was able to move on from it
It still doesn’t make me want to watch her on TV
I am falling in love and I don’t know what to do about it
Throw me in a haunted wheelbarrow and set me on fire
And don’t even get me started on Ross

Hera Lindsay Bird

from Hera Lindsay Bird, Victoria University Press, 2016

Coming home

for Peter

The bones of my tupuna
Safe in secret places up north
Must wait a little longer
Before they claim me for good
             The love of my second parents
             Unconditional from the beginning
              Unrelenting to the end
              Never quite made me theirs
That tormented paradoxical man
Father of my children
Convinced me we belonged together
But then moved on.
               The young ones (our young) he left behind
                Claimed my castle as their own
                Being themselves a part of me
                Always, bone of my bone
Years earlier, a much younger self
Lay face down in the hot dry sand –
                 Salt on her skin, the smell
                 Of green flax pungent in the heat,
                 Summer a korowai
                 Around bare shoulders –
And felt in her bones
Without knowing why
She belonged to that place.
Nearly a life-time later
On another beach –
                                             the sea
           A blinding shield at our feet,
           Behind us a dark hill fortress
           With sentinel sea birds
           Circling and calling –
I lay down beside you in tussock
And felt without warning
I had come home.                  

J. C. Sturm

from Dedications, Steele Roberts, 1996, published courtesy of J. C. Sturm estate

Emma Espiner (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Porou) is a doctor at Middlemore Hospital. Emma hosts the RNZ podcast on Māori health equity, Getting Better which won best podcast at the Voyager media awards in 2021. She won Voyager Opinion Writer of the Year in 2020. Emma’s writing has been published at The Spinoff, Newsroom.co.nz, Stuff.co.nz, The Guardian, and in academic and literary journals.

Hera Lindsay Bird was a poet from Wellington. She hasn’t written a poem in a long time, and no longer lives in Wellington. 

Michael Harlow has written 13 books of poetry, and was awarded the prestigous Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement for Poetry in 2018.  A collection of his poems, Nothing For It But To Sing was the Kathleen GrattanAaward forPoetry, and in 2014 he was awarded the Lauris Edmond Memorial prize for Distinguished Contribution to New Zealand poetry.  He has been awarded a number of Writers’ Residences including the Robert Burns Fellowship, the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship to France.  This past year The Moon in a Bowl of Water was published by Otago University Press.He lives and works in Central Otago as a writer, editor, essayist and Jungian Psychotherapist.

Nicole Titihuia Hawkins (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa, Ngāti Pāhauwera) is an emerging writer, avid home-baker and pro-level aunt. She lives in Te Awakairangi, hosts Poetry with Brownies and runs side hustles with her besties. She is most commonly found teaching English, Social Studies & Māori Activism at a local High School. Her debut poetry collection will be published by We Are Babies Press in 2021.

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman is a poet and non-fiction writer, most recently, Blood Ties: selected poems, 1963-2016, Canterbury University Press (2017); a memoir, Now When It Rains, Steele Roberts (2018); Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021, an essay on prison reform; poetry in More Favourable Waters – Aotearoa Poets respond to Dante’s Purgatory, (The Cuba Press, 2021).

J. C. Sturm (1927 -2009), of Taranaki iwi, Parihaka and Whakātoa descent, is thought to be the first Māori woman to graduate from a New Zealand university (First Class Hons, Philosophy, Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka). She initially wrote short fiction, and her work was the first to appear by a Māori in an anthology. Her debut collection, Dedications (Steele Roberts, 1997), received an Honour Award at the 1997 Montana NZ Book Awards. She published further collections of poetry, and received an honorary doctorate from Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka.

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, was published in 2021 (VUP).

Spring Season

Tara Black picks poems
Victor Rodger picks poems
Peter Ireland picks poems

Poetry Shelf poems: a poem for a cold day, Frankie McMillan’s ‘Five ways of looking at a hot water bottle’   

Tamaki Mākaurau is a mix of freezing and blue sky and thumping rain, and here I am wondering if my second batch of seeds will survive (the first got blasted by a gale all over the show), and I am falling into little black holes, and then scaling the sides by diversion writing for the love of writing, and cooking meals for the love of cooking, and reading books with the the tūī outside pitching in, and avoiding news reports, and then feeling bad because I need to know what’s happening, and to keep up with numbers and strategies, and then I am slumping back down the black hole with the constant reminder of how unkind we can be to each other, and yes, miraculously I am scaling back up the slippery sides with Jon McGregor’s luminous fiction, and turning the daily batch of sour dough,

and yes, replying to a hundred children who have sent me lockdown poems, and then there it is, the thumping rain and the politicians who need to be muted, and me worrying that Ashley and Jacinda might not get enough sleep, and then heck, here I am reading the introduction Emma Espiner has written for her Poem Picks this Friday, and I am back in the light, back in the comfort zone, remembering the hottie poem Frankie McMillan sent me, me the eternal hottie lover, me with my snake hottie wrapped about me, as our icy house waits for the fire to be lit, and the sun starts to shard through the black clouds, and Odetta sings the blues, like her voice is part saxophone, part honey, part feet travelling over the corrugated tracks

Five ways of looking at a hot water bottle   

i

Dearest rubber hottie
you can be as wicked as I, you spring
holes in your back, drench the bed
you smell of the sulphur fields
of the Ukraine

ii

I carry you round the cold house
wrapped in your woollen cover    
slip my hands under, just for the thrill
of your boiled rubber bite

iii

I have to say the braille
of your ribbed back speaks
to my fingers
more than your gobbly mouth
that tends to splutter and steam and scald
and though we both get over it, I suspect
resentment might corrode in there                                    

iv

We always wreck the things we love— 
like trees. like dirt. like certain birds 
not to mention the slow perish
of various plantations

v

Dearest rubber hottie 
please know if the bed is ever drenched again
it’s not the worst thing in the world
just one of them

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.

Frankie’s Monday Poem: ‘Girls raised by swans’

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Johanna Aitchison’s ‘WHO DOES ANNA THINK SHE IS?’

WHO DOES ANNA THINK SHE IS?

Anna walks with wire
in her spine.

No one mentions the spine
wire, they just say,

“We call her Porcupine;”
or “You talking about Spiny?”

Overhead, cut-out birds
turn to ash

on powerlines. No one suspects
hidden spines are the cause of

Anna’s Olympic-
level ungratefulness. Perhaps

it’s because she’s a palindrome
that she gets away with fire.

A reversible jacket
has an unfair red side. Anna is unfair

in the forest. She requests a
thousand pines for her

red birds. She asks that her birds
sleep on needles.

Johanna Aitchison

Johanna Aitchison has just finished her PhD thesis “Asserting and Locating Value in Contemporary Elliptical-Style Poetry” at Massey University. She was the Mark Strand Scholar at the 2019 Sewanee Conference in Tennessee and a 2015 Fellow at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. She has published three volumes of poetry in New Zealand.