Author Archives: Paula Green

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Liz Breslin wins Kathleen Grattan Poetry Prize for a Sequence of Poems

road trip with the feminists

rage at mapgirl for being in Imperial

ignore her directions at the lights

the fastest way out of Christchurch

is/ is not \ is just through / fuck it 

mapgirl’s right 

stop for coffee \ wash out the keepcup

stand in line for a soy flat white

order cheese rolls / a rhubarb muffin

ginger slice \ it’s nearly lunch / it’s

roughly time

the baby blue nail varnish stuck

behind the seat \ the car fills up

with local rags / napkins \ op shop

treasures ticked off the manifestation list

it’s the trick

of attraction / at least one of the feminists

has a hangover that another drink

will fix \ the plains go on as long / long

long as the conversation \ ranging

outside, the rain

the wipers don’t have the right speed set

slow / the screen splotches opaque \quick

sweep / \ / \ / crank the tunes

no rhythm is for keeps but we’ll always

have the road

Liz Breslin

“Her-storical” sequence of poems wins national award

Liz Breslin from Wanaka has been announced as the 2020 winner of the Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems, in a prize-giving ceremony on Auckland’s North Shore.

The competition is organised annually by writing group, International Writers Workshop (also known as IWW.)

Breslin has won the $1,000 prize for her sequence of poems, entitled: “In bed with the feminists.”

The competition was judged by 2019’s award winner, well-known Auckland poet, writer and lecturer at Auckland University of Technology, Siobhan Harvey.

Harvey read two of the poems from Breslin’s sequence at the award ceremony.

On receiving her award Breslin said: “I was so surprised and delighted to get the call to say I’m this year’s winner. I worked on these poems during a period on my own in lockdown, so it’s really affirming to see them recognised outside my head and my house.”

Harvey judged the competition commended Breslin’s winning entry… “for its unapologetic voice, clear vision and assured awareness.”

Harvey continued: “The her-storical narratives and creativity make this a compelling lyrical analysis of feminism both in the contemporary age and in the past.”

The runner-up was announced as Sophia Wilson from Dunedin for her sequence of poems titled “Attempting to Land.” In judging Wilson’s piece, Harvey described the sequence as “a stunningly beautiful ode to migration.”

The Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems competition has been run by IWW for twelve years and Breslin joins a list of winners including Siobhan Harvey, Maris O’Rourke and Michael Giacon.

In addition to the prize given to Breslin, IWW presented awards to the winners of its other 2020 writing competitions. The breadth of competitions the writing group organises is very wide as evidenced by awards for Crime Writing, Flash Fiction and Play writing.

At the conclusion of the formal prize giving, the winning play – “Text or Subtext” written by Auckland member John Leyland – was performed by members of the group.

About the Prize

The Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems has been made possible by a bequest from the Jocelyn Grattan Charitable Trust. It was a specific request of the late Jocelyn Grattan that her mother be recognised through an annual competition in recognition of her love for poetry and that the competition be for a sequence or cycle of poems with no limit on the length of the poems.

This is the eleventh year IWW has had the honour of organising the Prize.

Previous winners are Siobhan Harvey (2019), Heather Bauchop (2018), Janet Newman (2017), Michael Giacon (2016) Maris O’Rourke (2015), Julie Ryan (2014), Belinda Diepenheim (2013), James Norcliffe (2012), Jillian Sullivan (2011) Janet Charman and Rosetta Allan (joint winners 2010) and Alice Hooton (2009).

The Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems is sometimes referred to as the ‘Little Grattan’ as the Jocelyn Grattan Charitable Trust also funds the biennial Kathleen Grattan Award, run by Landfall / Otago University Press.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Sue Wootton’s ‘At Moeraki’

At Moeraki

Midweek. Midwinter. The village

is pared back. At dusk

the houses on the hill go black.

Only here and there a window shines

and a slippered lighthouse keeper shuffles

between chair and cupboard, bath and bed.

In the bay the fishing boats lilt at anchor.

Beneath their hulls the ocean shifts in sleep.

Ale-bellied, full, we take our tavern talk outside,

searching for it on the stone stoop beneath the stars.

Still they are lost, the words we want

for that thing on the wall inside and what it did

although they knock and knock, these words,

behind the tongue. The boat ramp stinks of brine.

The moon rises slow and golden from the headland.

Old eye. The dock is matted with weed and slime. 

 

Queen’s shilling. Shanghai. Press gang. Cosh.

The words we’ve been casting for are caught.

Deckloads of the disappeared come up now on the hook.

The bay’s awash with them, awash.

Sue Wootton

Sue Wootton ( suewootton.com ) lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin. Her debut novel, Strip (Mākaro Press), was longlisted in the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards, and the following year her poetry collection The Yield (Otago University Press) was a finalist in the poetry category of these awards. She is co-editor of the e-zine Corpus: Conversations about Medicine and Life, found at corpus.nz


The poem ‘At Moeraki’ was shortlisted for the 2019 University of Canberra Vice Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize.

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Peta-Maria Tunui and Charles Olsen’s collaborative te reo Māori poetry film, Noho Mai

Te reo Māori poetry film ‘Noho Mai’ has been nominated for the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin – 19 to 22 November 2020. It has been nominated as one of 34 films chosen from around 2,000 entries from more than 100 countries.

The Opening and Awards Ceremonies will be streamed live on Facebook, YouTube and the Haus für poesie website on 19 November at 8pm and 22 November at 8pm respectively (times in Berlin). The full programme will be available for four weeks for €7.99 (NZ$13) from 20 November via Vimeo-on-Demand. NOHO MAI is included in the programme ‘International Competition I: Precious Souvenirs’. The full programme is on Haus für poesie: ZEBRA Poetry Film Festval Programme 2020

During lockdown at the beginning of the year Charles Olsen ran a te reo Māori poetry film workshop online with young creatives in NZ. The collaborative film ‘Noho Mai’ which came out of the workshop, is one of 34 films selected from around 2000 entries for the competition section of the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin, 19-22 Nov.

The festival will be available on Vimeo-on-demand for four weeks. Here is the trailer:

As Peta-Maria Tunui, who wrote the poem and is one of the co-directors, says in the current world situation, ‘the poem has become our koha aroha to people all around the world who are longing for their home and are unable to return.’

Peta-Maria Tunui and Charles Olsen in a kōrero with Dale Husband on Radio Waatea about the film.

Still from Noho Mai

NOHO MAI CREDITS

DIRECTORS Peta-Maria Tunui, Waitahi Aniwaniwa McGee, Shania Bailey-Edmonds, Jesse-Ana Harris, Lilián Pallares, Charles Olsen  POEM Peta-Maria Tunui  VOICE Shania Bailey-Edmonds  ACTORS Shania Bailey-Edmonds, Peta-Maria Tunui, Jesse-Ana Harris, Charles Olsen  EDITOR Charles Olsen  PRODUCER Antenablue  FIELD CAMERAS Waitahi Aniwaniwa McGee, Ikey Ihaka Tunui, Charles Olsen  AERIAL CAMERA Ash Robinson  TAONGA PUORO Salvador Brown  COLOMBIAN GAITA Charles Olsen  KARANGA Peta-Maria Tunui  SOUND MIX Charles Olsen  ENGLISH TRANSLATION Peta-Maria Tunui  FILMED IN Aotearoa–New Zealand: Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Waitaha, Te Tai Rāwhiti, and Spain: Madrid, Soria

Links: 

ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival Programme 2020

Haus für poesie

Facebook @ZEBRAPoetryFilmFestival

Ó Bhéal Poetry Film Competition Shortlist 2020

Wairoa Māori Film Festival

VII Festival Cinemística, Spain

Love in the Time of Covid

Poetry Shelf review: Bill Manhire’s Wow

Bill Manhire, Wow, Victoria University Press, 2020

Excuse me if I laugh.

The roads are dark and large books block our path.

The air we breathe is made of evening air.

The world is longer than the road that brings us here.

from ‘The Armchair Traveller’

Over my decades of reading New Zealand poetry, some poets stand out. To my discovery of Hone Tuwhare in my secondary-school library in the early 1970s, I add the joy of reading Jenny Bornholdt, Bernadette Hall, JC Sturm, Michele Leggott, Emma Neale, Tusiata Avia, Cilla McQueen, Anna jackson, Bill Manhire. So many other poets have given me goosebumps across the decades, poets who have made me pick up a pen and write, who have hooked my attention and then kept me listening. What is it that makes a particular poet, such as Bill Manhire, our first national poet laureate, a favoured return over years? For me it starts with music, moves through heart, silence, mystery, ideas, wit. I seem to favour bridges into poetry thickets, and these thickets might appear within a handful of words or a book-long sequence.

At WORD Christchurch a few weeks ago, I went to some excellent sessions. I have already written about the miracle of being there in the time of Covid, along with my festival highlights – but how fitting one favourite was the Bill Manhire / John Campbell conversation celebrating Bill’s new collection, Wow. John discussed the lasting effect of being in a Bill Manhire class at university and reading his poetry. I carried away such warmth and enthusiasm for poems and what poetry can do. John launched the conversation by explaining Bill’s impact on him: ‘A light went on in my head and heart which has never gone out’. This line has stuck with me. Poetry turns on internal lights. Gifts us an internal galaxy system. Coincidentally the house lights are always up in WORD sessions so it felt like a living-room or café conversation without the usual audience / speaker barrier at work. I kept wanting to join in! Afterwards fans lined up with the book to get signed and I pictured the queue of people racing home to find their own Wow enthusiasms. I will barely scrape the surface of how many paths through the collection.

Wow, co-published by Carcanet in the UK and Victoria University Press here, is one of four winter recommendations by the Poetry Book Society, an organisation TS Eliot and friends founded in 1953.

I begin with Wow’s preface: ‘they’ve cleared away / the clearings’.

The mystery is potent. The image haunting. I was sitting in my Ōtautahi hotel room, looking out at the parking-lot clearings, with Wow in hand, and I couldn’t stop leapfrogging from city clearings to bush clearings to mental clearings to poem clearings. And I couldn’t stop wondering what replaces the clearing, and the word bounced about in my head so much it lost sense. And then it became vital: we need clearings. We need clearings in the city, and the bush, and in our heads. Maybe we need clearings in poems, where the the light and dark intermingle, and the glints sit next to the ominous.

Thickets and clearings. The first poem is a song of the extinct huia, a fitting call onto the book’s musical terrain, and to uncertain and unsettling presents and futures. Such a poignant note to enter a collection with:

I lived among you once

and now I can’t be found

I’m made of things that vanish

a feather on the ground

from ‘Huia’

Turn the page and ‘Untitled’, a short poem, is an altogether different form of song. The dark edges are prominent, the silence (the unspoken, the withheld) a hook. This poem is the complete Manhire package: you get music, silence, mystery, dark edges, light turns.

Untitled

This book about extinct birds is heavier than any bird:

heavier than the dark bird eating my heart,

page after page of abandoned wings.

I lift it up and sit it on my lap

and listen to it purring.

Bill Manhire

John invited Bill to read the four-lined ‘A Really Nice Trip’, where the speaker visits several ‘Pleasant’ places: ‘Then we went all the way out to Pleasant Point.’ The audience laughed and loved it, and I pictured everyone picturing a mindstream of pleasant places. The poem is a wee joke. The poem turns up in reviews and on festival stages. The poem is also like a clearing for our own pleasant places, in my case, reeking of summer and green tea in a flask. Ah such a tongue-in-cheek, underrated word that scoots over how a Valley or a Flat or a Point can be satisfying, pleasing, a downright pleasure.

Yes! Bill is the maestro of ordinariness (a bit like Jenny Bornholdt is too) where an economy of words releases any number of treats. There is comfort in the ordinary – that pleasant place – that is sometimes so ordinary it becomes unreal, super-real. This kind of poetic ordinariness makes pinpricks on your eyelids, and you settle back in your chair or hammock as the armchair traveller, the poetry traveller, and it is altogether wonderful. I quoted the first stanza from ‘The Armchair Traveller’ at the start of this review, because it is this one of those classic Manhire poems that is going to haunt like ‘Kevin’ haunts you, or ‘The Ladder’ or ‘Erebus Voices’ or ‘Hotel Emergencies’ or ‘The Victims of Lightning’. Here is the last verse:

Time now to let the story take its course,

just settle back and let the driver drive.

Bliss is it late at night to be alive,

learning to yield, and not to strive.

from ‘The Armchair Traveller’

‘The Armchair Traveller’ is a poetry thicket at its very best – you get the light and dark, the mystery, the silence and the exquisite music. There is comfort but there is also discomfort. Perhaps the comfort –for me even in the darkest threats – is expanded by Bill’s fondness for rhyme and repetition. At times the rhyme resembles an incantation, a list, or repeating sounds, an insistent beat, but at other times, rhyme feeds the mysterious business of being human. ‘Warm Ocean’ is full of repetition and rhyme, assonance and alliteration, a sweet concatenation of musical effects and human connections, both within hearing and at a whisper.

Don’t play the music don’t play the music

says the man

who walks around town saying

over and over don’t play the music

all songs being made

as we know from things that hurt

ice that melts flames that fall from the sky

yes all of that and more

and the father goes on singing

long after his daughter leaves the church

from ‘Warm Ocean’

Yes! Wow offers multiple impacts as you read. Three poems in a row are heart catchers: ‘Knots’, ‘Our Teacher’, ‘The Sky’. Things are missed and missing. So poignant. Such treasures. How to tear yourself apart from the magical movement of ‘The Sky’? Impossible:

A man comes by with coal in a wheelbarrow,

muttering, muttering. He wants

to sell us warmth, his feet don’t leave the ground.

We think that we will always miss the sky.

It says look up whenever we look down.

from ‘The Sky’

Read Wow and you get story and song, light and dark, the surreal, constant surprise, but there is also always wit and humour. I laughed out loud at the indignant woman who thought she had phoned the cattery to get her vegetarian cat named Coleslaw back, and the bemused listener couldn’t get a word in edgeways. ‘The Lazy Poet’ is hilarious as it overlays cricket and poetry (‘He wonders about the word “thicket” …/ then turns on the cricket’) until ‘rain stops play’. I also laughed out loud at ‘The Deerculler’s Wife’, as it signals a poem that might be drowning, or yelling to get attention, or even blowing a yellow whistle.

Like many poets, Bill uses a roving speaker, who may or may not be autobiographical, invented, borrowed, an amalgamation of voices, experiences, imaginings. In a blog he wrote for Carcanet, he talks about the action between the speaker in the poem and the person who writes, and the way characters, one in particular, who keep turning up in his poetry. This nimble voice keeps us on our reading toes. Bill’s vagabond ‘I’ is best friends with an inquisitive and acquisitive eye and ear as it gathers in the world, real or imagined.

Wow will haunt you – so many of these poems have joined my list of memorable poetry encounters (see my list above to add to). The baby in the title poem says ‘wow’ while the big brother says ‘also’. This new collection sparks both the ‘wow’ moments and the ‘also’ moments. Get lost in its glorious thickets and then find your way out to take stock of the ordinary (and out-of-the-ordinary) world about you.

Bill closed his WORD session by reading ‘Little Prayers’, written in response to the Christchurch terrorist attack, 15 March 2019. This is a poem to hold in your heart. I will leave you with the opening verse, in the hope you will open the book, in your armchair or hammock, and begin reading:

Let the closing line be the opening line

Let us open ourselves to grief and shame

Let pain be felt and be felt again

May our eyes see when they cease crying

Let the closing line be the opening line

from ‘Little Prayers’

Bill Manhire’s most recent books include Some Things to Place in a Coffin (2017), Tell Me My Name (with Hannah Griffin and Norman Meehan, 2017) and The Stories of Bill Manhire (2015). He was New Zealand’s inaugural poet laureate, and founded and until recently directed the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. He has edited major anthologies, including, with Marion McLeod, the now classic Some Other Country: New Zealand’s Best Short Stories (1984).

Victoria University Press page

Poetry Shelf plays favourites: Freya Daly Sadgrove’s ‘THIN AIR’

Freya Daly Sadgrove (Head Girl, Victoria University Press, 2020)

Freya Daly Sadgrove’s debut collection, Head Girl, arrived in the world in February, and like a number of local poetry books missed a featured spot on Poetry Shelf as Covid affected my concentration and ability to write. I read Head Girl when it came out and was in the grip of its searing self exposures, the cracking lines, the glints, the lightning, the darknesses, the dread, the anger. This is poetry that tears, that is torn apart, that is so utterly alive it hurts. Freya was part of my Wild Honey session at Christchurch’s WORD festival and unsurprisingly was an audience hit.

During one of Auckland’s Covid lockdowns, I decided to share poems that have haunted me from new books – the kind of poem that pulls you back because on each reading it grips. I am thinking of how I play a new album I love over and over – thinking of the way Reb Fountain and Nadia Reid’s new music has been on repeat this year.

Freya’s ‘THIN AIR’ has got under my skin, oxygenating my blood with its surprising skids and smashes. Like the skid and smash from ‘stillness’ to ‘barb’. Like the terror of asthmatic ways and the stench of papier-mâchéing. Like the word ‘breathe’ and the word ‘survived’. But I find I don’t want to dissect these poems for you. These welcome poem hauntings. They just are. Little poem magnets. Little vitamin shots. Little head trips. Nebuliser albums.

Freya Daly Sadgrove is a writer, performer and theatre maker from Pōneke. She has a Master of Arts from the International Institute of Modern Letters, and her work has appeared in various publications in Aotearoa, Australia and the US. Head Girl is her first book. She is also the architect of Show Ponies, an ongoing poetry extravaganza that appeared at both VERB literary festivals in Pōneke this year.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Lynn Davidson’s ‘They don’t know what is coming’

They don’t know what is coming

for the women of North Berwick 1589

 

Their tongues are behind their teeth.

Their thoughts are not elaborate.

Evening has come and they are in their gardens.

 

One is pulling carrots

Another stands between her arms

And still another adjusts her waistband.

 

They are in the ordinary evening

The way a cup is under a tap,

To catch ordinary water.

 

It feels good to be free of the house

Now that the storm has passed.

 

The women are in their gardens.

The women are in their gardens.

The women are in their gardens

 

And evening is a weightless place

Where anything can happen.

 

A three-days moon

Nicks the sky.

 

Lynn Davidson

Writer Lynn Davidson, after living in Edinburgh for the past four years, has returned home to New Zealand. Her latest poetry collection Islander is published by Shearsman Books in the UK and Victoria University Press in New Zealand. She had a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2013 and a Bothy Project Residency at Inshriach Bothy in the Cairngorms in 2016. Lynn has a doctorate in creative writing, teaches creative writing, and is a member of 12, an Edinburgh-based feminist poetry collective. Her website

Poetry Shelf Lounge: Alison Wong reads and discusses her poem ‘Earth’

Alison Wong reads and discusses ‘Earth’ (published in Ko Aotearoa Tātou | We Are New Zealand edited by Paula Morris, Michelle Elvy and James Norcliffe, with art editor David Eggleton (Otago University Press, 2020)

A fourth generation New Zealander, Alison Wong grew up in Hawke’s Bay and has lived most of her life in Wellington. She now lives in Geelong, Australia and goes back and forth across the Tasman. Her poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction are translated and published internationally. Her poetry collection, Cup (Steele Roberts), was shortlisted for Best First Book for Poetry at the 2007 NZ Book Awards. Her novel, As the Earth Turns Silver (Penguin NZ; Picador Australia/UK), won the Fiction Award at the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards and was shortlisted for the 2010 Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. In 2018 Booksellers NZ voted the novel one of the twenty bestsellers of the decade. She held the 2002 Robert Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago, the 2014 Shanghai International Writers’ Residency and the 2016 Sun Yat Sen University International Writers’ Residency. An NZ Society of Authors mentor, she was a poetry judge at the 2018 Ockham NZ Book Awards and in 2020 a consulting editor for the Asian NZ arts and cultural site Hainamana. She is co-editor with Paula Morris of the first anthology of Asian NZ creative writing, A Clear Dawn: Asian NZ New Voices (AUP), which will be launched at the Auckland Writers’ Festival in May 2021.

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievements 2020 announced

Winners of the 2020 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement (L-R) Tessa Duder, Sir Tīmoti Kāretu and Jenny Bornholdt

‘Each poem is different, but there’s always a feeling, a kind of charge, when a poem is making itself known. It’s a matter of trusting yourself and following the direction of the poem.’ Jenny Bornholdt – Poetry Shelf interview

Poetry Shelf congratulates three deserving recipients.

A lifetime of insights on Māori dance arts told in te reo Māori, a comprehensive anthology of New Zealand poetry in English, and an illustrated story of how James Cook charted Aotearoa New Zealand are just some of the many achievements of those being honoured with the 2020 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement:

  • Non-Fiction: Sir Tīmoti Kāretu KNZM QSO (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu) – a leading New Zealand academic of Māori language and the performing arts, a translator and author, and a key driver of the revitalisation of te reo.
  • Poetry: Jenny Bornholdt MNZM – an award-winning poet, anthologist, Arts Foundation Laureate and former NZ Poet Laureate.
  • Fiction: Tessa Duder CNZM, OBE – critically acclaimed children and young adult writer.

The Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister and Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, says, “It’s a real privilege to support these special, annual awards that celebrate the value our writers bring to Aotearoa. It was wonderful to see such a high volume of nominations this year – this just demonstrates New Zealanders’ appreciation and appetite for literature. Congratulations to Tessa Duder, Sir Tīmoti Kāretu and Jenny Bornholdt. Thank you for your significant contribution to New Zealand literature, your storytelling, and the legacy you’ve created.” 

Full details here

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Jenny Bornholdt’s ‘Crossing

Poetry Shelf review – From the Henderson House: eight poems by Jenny Bornholdt and Gregory O’Brien

Poetry Shelf interviews Jenny Bornholdt: ‘There’s always a feeling, a kind of charge, when a poem is making itself known’