Author Archives: Paula Green

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Warm congratulations to the winner of The National Schools Poetry Award

I am so delighted to see that E Wen Wong from Burnside High School in Christchurch has won the National Schools Poetry Award. I have had poetry communications with E Wen since she first began writing poetry as a child, so this is a very good news indeed. Warm congratulations E Wen – may your days continue to shine with poems and poetry.

You can read E Wen’s poem Catalyst in the Monday poem spot.

Aotearoa’s poets of the future feature in National Schools Poetry Awards


E Wen Wong, a Year 13 student from Burnside High School in Christchurch, has won the 2020 International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) National Schools Poetry Award.

Her poem titled ‘The house that Saturn built,’ was described by judge Airini Beautrais, as “powerful and beautiful”, “full of surprising language and with a strong sense of place and the interaction between the human built environment and the natural environment”.

E Wen Wong receives a prize of $500 and her school library receives a book grant of $500. She also receives a package of literary prizes provided by Read NZ Te Pou Muramura, Victoria University Press, Sport, Landfall and the New Zealand Society of Authors. As part of the prize, Wong will attend an online poetry masterclass with Airini Beautrais, along with nine other poets shortlisted for their entries.

Director of the IIML at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington Professor Damien Wilkins, says, “Over the years this competition has featured many writers who have gone on to publish widely and have careers in the arts. We view it as one way of encouraging young writers and their teachers to see imaginative writing as legitimate, valued, and important.”

E Wen Wong says, “Receiving this award was unexpected, yet exciting and uplifting. ‘The house that Saturn built’ gave me a platform to channel my passion for the environment in a way that was distinctly positioned in Aotearoa. It allowed me to comment on climate change from a new perspective—to communicate what science cannot.”

There were more than 250 entries this year from senior high school students, with a wide range of styles and subjects represented, including personal events, politics, history, humour, and current events such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms Beautrais notes, “I’m impressed at anyone being able to write a poem (or anything at all) during the months of lockdown and accompanying stress. There are poems that give vent to big and terrifying feelings, and poems that take a comical slant.”

Nine students were finalists: Campbell Wilson, Abraham Hix, and Marijke Hinton (all from St Andrew’s College, Christchurch); Arwyn Cranston (Wakatipu High School, Queenstown), Isabella Lane (Rangitoto College, Auckland), Xavier Hayward (Marist College, Auckland), Allegra Wilson (Diocesan School for Girls, Auckland), Robin Kunwar (Burnside High, Christchurch), and Victoria Sun (Epsom Girls’ Grammar, Auckland). Each will receive prizes from Read NZ Te Pou Muramura and Sport, as well as $100 cash.

This was also the first year the Award was able to receive entries in te reo Māori. While there were fewer such entries than the IIML had hoped, Māori language judge Anahera Gildea (Ngāti Tokorehe) was excited about the potential of te reo Māori poetry.

The 2020 National Schools Poetry Award is organised by the IIML with the support of Creative New Zealand and advertising agency Ogilvy (formerly Ogilvy & Mather), with sponsorship and promotional support from Wonderlab.

The winning poem, the complete judges’ report and all the shortlisted poems are available on the National Schools Poetry Award website.

Poetry Shelf poets on poems: Rachel Lockwood on essa may ranapiri’s ‘she cut her face shaving’

                             ‘She Cut Her Face Shaving’ essa may ranapiri

(from ransack, Victoria University Press, 2019)

essa may ranapiri’s work frequently explores the uncomfortable boundaries that exist in binary gender, and uses form and technique to push readers away from conventional approaches to both gender and poetry.  Everything in their piece ‘she cut her face shaving’ works to push the reader towards a new space, from the vocabulary and imagery to the way the lines are arranged on the page.

The arrangement of the work on the page exemplifies the subtle ways that ranapiri affects the reader. Rather than proceeding straight down the page, ‘she cut her face shaving’ begins to drift right from the second line. The final shape evokes images that reflect those in the poem – the drip of blood, the curve of a neck- but also reflect a preoccupation with resisting convention.  Throughout their collection ransack, words drift and explode across the page in varying arrangements. The visual aspect connects to the subject matter, which centres on ranapiri’s identity as a takatapui and non-binary individual. This poem is a microcosm of an effect found throughout this work- the reader’s eye is physically drawn away from conventional pattern, into a new space and shape that ranapiri has created.

Form and content collide again in the fifth line. Ending this line with the word testosterone is a confirmation of a non-cis experience that is only hinted at the beginning of the poem. Positioned at half-way, this line offers an opportunity to the reader to consider the first section in a new light, and prepares them for the impact of the second section. The deliberate use of pronoun  immediately afterwards reinforces this transitionary moment. The pronoun use is sparing throughout this work, but rich with meaning, drawing connection between ownership and the body. The title itself gives context to the poem, ‘her chin’ positions the reader as an outsider in this situation. Garments and body parts that could be ascribed ownership are not, instead they become ‘the pencil skirt’, ‘the hair’, ‘the jaw’. Ownership appears again in this vital fifth line- ‘that testosterone/ bought her’. After this moment, both the Adam’s apple and the ‘lateness’ become hers again. The pronouns here own this experience, and are unafraid to do so. 

The slash is a dominant feature of this poem, and serves multiple purposes. One that immediately pushes itself forward is the echo, again,  of the ink on the page and the action of the work. Lines that are not broken up by the slash are broken up instead by the line break. Nothing goes on for longer than four words. These short, sharp lines, remind the reader of the pattern of shaving, the short strokes, and in one particularly poignant use – the ‘/cut/’ of hair seems at once to reference the ‘cut’ of the title. Additionally, it breaks the flow of the reader. There appears to be no particular rhythm to the slashes or line breaks, simply a disruption. The disruption to the face by the cut, perhaps, or the disruption to the presumed reader represented by a non-binary figure.

Another strong use of the slash is the way it abstracts the body. Every part of the body, down to the clothes being worn, have their own line. Here the body is represented not as a whole, but as separate pieces. The reader is invited to consider the way we read these pieces as masculine or feminine within the context of the poem and its title. The limited pronoun use works in conjunction with this, separating the pieces not only from each other, but also from a singular ownership of this body. Once this space between body and self is established, ranapiri jams the masculine and feminine together, setting the reader off balance. Gender has remained ambiguous before this moment, and could be intentionally misread to provide a more cis-normative view. ranapiri quashes this in the seventh line, bringing that all important ‘her adam’s apple’ into play. Immediately the subject of the poem comes into view, shedding new light on to the readers experience, and preparing us for the final two lines.

What all of these techniques have in common are the spaces both literal and figurative in the story. ranapiri seems to be again referencing the final part of their work. What is missed out, what we are ‘late’ to, preoccupies this poem, haunting every line and every sparing word. ranapiri creates in this work a space where identity can be celebrated and mourned in the same breath, the past and present as well as hopes for the future tumbled up together.

Rachel Lockwood

Rachel Lockwood is Hawke’s Bay born and bred but now living in Wellington and studying a BA at VUW. She was a 2019 National Schools Poetry Award finalist, and has previously been published in Starling.

You can hear Rachel read her poem in Starling 10 here

essa may ranapiri (Ngāti Raukawa/Tainui/Ngāti Takatāpui/Clan Gunn/Highgate) is a person or some shit / or whatever / they wrote a book of poems called ransack / it’s still in th world / the only time they use they/them pronouns for themselves is in these bios / isn’t that funny / thx goes out to their ancestors / who are as big as everything / just wow / just everything / they will write until they’re dead

Monday Poem: You can read essa’s poem ‘when i was born i didn’t say anything’ here

Poetry Shelf podcast: Erena Shingade interviews Murray Edmond

Photos credits: Bala Murali Shingade and Joanna Forsberg

Erena Shingade in conversation with Murray Edmond — the podcast-style interview is about 1 hour long and takes Murray’s unpublished memoir as the base from which to cover some big-picture questions about him and his creative practice.

Murray Edmond: Born Kirikiriroa 1949, lives in Glen Eden, Auckland. Poet (14 books, Shaggy Magpie Songs, 2015, Back Before You Know, 2019); critic (Then It Was Now Again: Selected Critical Writing, 2014); fiction-writer (Strait Men and Other Tales, 2015); editor, Ka Mate Ka Ora; dramaturge for Indian Ink Theatre. Forthcoming: from Indian Ink, Paradise or the Impermanence of Ice Cream, Q Theatre, October 2020. Ka Mate Ka Ora #18, October 2020. Time to Make a Song and Dance: Cultural Revolt in Auckland in the 1960s, from Atuanui Press in 2021.

Erena Shingade writes poetry and essays from Tāmaki Makaurau. Her most recent long form project contemplates neoliberal workplace psychology and the promise of spiritual salvation offered through self-help literature. Previously she completed an MA thesis on the Zen Buddhist poetry of Richard von Sturmer, whose practice confronts language at the moment of perception. Erena’s writing can be found on platforms such as The Spinoff, Art + Australia, Landfall, Mimicry, Blackmail Press, Atlanta Review, Ka Mate Ka Ora, and the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre. During the day she works as a publicist for Allen & Unwin book publishers.

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Wellington Festival of Slam

Poetry alive and kicking in the capital

Sold out events, packed open mics and searing hot verse screams out that poetry is alive and kicking in the capital.

The winners will get the chance to compete for the title of New Zealand Slam Champ!

Be quick, this event always sells out!

Come prepared for a CASH ONLY bar.

Part of the Festival of Slam Wellington. A handful of spoken word and poetry groups in Wellington have banded together to create a day of poetry facilitation, workshops and events.

More details at Motif Poetry website

The National Library is fully wheelchair accessible. Download an accessibility map for the venue.

Check before you come

Due to COVID-19 some of our events can be cancelled or postponed at very short notice. Please check the website for updated information about individual events before you come.

For more general information about National Library services and exhibitions have look at our COVID-19 page.

Poetry Shelf review: Elizabeth Brooke-Carr’s Wanting to tell you everything

Wanting to tell you everything Elizabeth Brooke-Carr, Caselberg Press, 2020

Upright

 

Our kitchen table was perfect for a family of four with Protestant

leanings. Solid and square, legs sturdy as posts, set between window

and woodstove, it kept the faith, never moved, wore no adornments

except for a gingham cloth laid before a meal, on the diagonal,

 

triangles of polished wood showing bare at the corners like our

father’s elbows through the worn wool of his gardening jersey.

Afterwards the cloth was shaken out over the back lawn, and if

unspotted, folded away on the same crease lines for next time,

 

chairs slid in, chaste, ribs against the unyielding edge so they

scarcely dared breathe. But if you sat there alone at night with your

homework, undisciplined thoughts wandering through your verbs,

there might be a sudden creak, a sly shift in the air around the table,

 

a loosening of values as chair legs brushed against each other and

laughter scraped the linoleum. And if you shut your eyes you might

hear flakes of gossip peeling off the cracked cream paint, history

you thought forever sealed in grainy wood, being whispered low like

 

bedtime prayers destined to be heard in heaven; a pair of Edwardian

spindlebacks, gifted from a well-married aunt careful with vowels,

exchanging memories of refinement and silver service in a designated

dining room, a ladderback, in darker patois, telling tales of neglect

 

in the cellar of a second-hand shop, and the bentwood, rescued

from the tip, singing our father’s praises for the number eight wire

he’d twisted around its legs to keep them from growing crooked,

as sure as God’s grace and the metal brace on my teeth.

 

Elizabeth Brooke-Carr

Elizabeth Brooke-Carr (1940 – 2019) was a Dunedin poet, essayist, short story writer, teacher, counseller. Her writing appeared in newspapers, online journals and anthologies. She was awarded the New Zealand Society of Authors’ 75th Anniversary Cmpetition and the Dunedin Public Libraries competition Changing Minds: Memories Lost and Found. She received a PhD from the University of Otago.

Elizabeth’s posthumous debut collection has arrived in the world thanks to friends and her writing group,: Maxine Alterio, Claire Beynon, Martha Morseth, Carolyn McCurdie and Jenny Powell. The cover features Claire Beynon’s painting of Elizabeth’s favourite necklace. Mary McCallum provided editorial assistance, Paul McCallum production assistance. The book itself is published by the staunch supporter of poetry, Dunedin’s Caselberg Press. It is so heartwarming to see this group of poets and poetry fans bringing this book, and thus Elizabeth’s poetry, to our attention.

Last year, when I hosted my Wild Honey event in Dunedin, Elizabeth had just passed, and as much as the event was a celebration of women writing poetry in Aotearoa, it was the celebration of a particular woman. It felt both special and fitting. The more we shine the light on women writing, and the women who have written, the more we enrich our poetry communities, as both readers and writers.

The collection’s opening poem ‘Upright’ holds a kitchen table for our close attention. It is the place of family experience, a repository of history and anecdote, celebration and loss. The table is so present I want to reach out and stroke it. Maybe because the details are nostalgic; the gingham cloth set on the diagonal leaves wood patches reminiscent of ‘our / father’s elbows through the worn wool of his gardening jersey’. The table, like family history, is lacework in its prolific gaps. The speaker was once at the table with homework dreaming, and from that moment, I am carried across decades of secret musings that filled the writer holding the pen.

The joy in reading Elizabeth’s poetry is in part the way the poetry gifts you a joy in life: the joy you find in moments from the past, your kin, beloved places, friendship. More than anything her writing ink is fuelled with love. To read these poems, at this particular time, with such uncertainty and global loss, both global and local, is of the greatest comfort.

The poems are light-footed, with honey currents and patches of shade. I am reminded that close friends arranged the collection’s order. They have done a good job; we move from the kitchen-table hub through various scenes and connections to perhaps the last poems she wrote before she died. People and places are paramount: this is poetry that gathers together life, from the speckled past to the endangered present:

We arrived in the future, unpacked, folded the years

away into our own small histories. Now, my family

gone, I look back on the life-stained map

 

with the rusty pins that marked our meanderings,

my finger trails over mountaintop folds,

into valley creases, tracing the journey home

 

from ‘A spot on the map’

The movement that shapes the poems is so appealing; it builds mood, presence, absence, surprise. I find myself constantly moved as I read, drawn into the surprising notes that ring out in the endings. Moments are recovered and translated into poetry. I adore these. In ‘Out of the glare’, a couple go for a drive in the countryside and eat at the Wobbly Goat. The ending catches so exquisitely:

Dazzled by a low ray of sunshine on silver,

he slid the spoon sideways out of the glare,

laid it in the curve of hers.

Over the page a poem deposits me in the sensual shimmer of Bannockburn, and again it is the poem’s ending that grips:

At the base of the hill you leap from the stile

arms thrown wide like ropes tossed to my bollard.

Your mouth tastes of sunshine.

Your palms smell of bruised thyme.

 

from ‘Bannockburn sluicings’

Mood is such a potent ingredient – mood that is subtle and steady in growth. Poems reach towards beloved family and friends who have departed. Like a deep kernel, like an origami bud, this skillful handling of feeling is why I keep reading and why I will read this book again. The poem, ‘Gardening in the rain’, is a way of remembering, of recalling a goodbye kiss to a brow. In the opening lines the speaker is ‘digging deep / for the sound of your voice’, while in the last lines ‘My claggy spade / sticks to the soil’. So much unsaid. So much felt. The image of the claggy soil and the effort to dig so heart-breakingly sharp.

Love is equally significant in poetry that embraces both the economy and richness of everyday life, and why the personal can be so resonant. ‘Poolburn’ is written in old age (‘All the days of our youth are behind us / dust spiralling back along old roads traversed’) and again the couple is driving though beloved southern countryside. It is as though people don’t exist without place, and place is made vibrant and vital through the eyes of those in the scene. This is a love poem. A beautiful, slow pitched, breathtaking love poem. Again the layers, the scent, the texture is resonant. Like a piece of music, like a song perhaps by Nadia Reid or Reb Fountain you want on replay, this is a poem to read at intervals throughout the day. Here is the ending:

When the sun sinks and the light fades

purple shifts among the rocks, wild geese arc

in an amethyst sky, ruby veins line the face

of the lake. You come indoors, sit by the window.

Dusk has gathered you in.

The final section of poems were written from Elizabeth’s death bed. She is writing from terminal illness, nearby death, with her small revelations, her rage and her equilibrium. Perhaps writing is a way of living, of bearing treatment, a changing body, the changing future, a way of sharing what is difficult to decode. The final poem, ‘Wanting to tell you everything’, presents a phone call to a beloved, another moment, larger than life, urgent with feeling, subtle with the unsaid, using a moment of physical beauty (a rainbow stretching across the sky ’embracing everything that soars – light and sound and thistledown’) to summon so much more than the words on the page. The final lines – of the poem, of the book, of a life – unfold and refold, unfold and refold, and poetry is a way of breathing. Necessary. Exquisite. Blood boosting.

Your television in the background talks to itself.

While you turn the volume down, I wait.

 

Yes, I’m still here. I’m still here and wanting,

wanting to tell you everything.

Elizabeth’s poetry reminds me of the joy of reading Elizabeth Smither, Cilla McQueen, Ruth Dallas, Jenny Bornholdt, Bernadette Hall. I am drawing Elizabeth Brooke-Carr into the house of Wild Honey: she belongs there, with her honeyed currents, her uplifting translation of life into poetry, her wisdoms and her poetic finesse. Poetry can do so much. This book is a gift.

Caselberg page

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Cilla McQueen’s ‘Gossamer’

Gossamer

 

1

 

It’s muttonbird time, oyster time –

tītī      tio

autumn, amber sun, long shadows

 

Gazing for ever down the long main street

towards the Club Hotel, Sir Joseph Ward in white marble

whose mother, Mrs Hannah Ward Barron,

arrived from Melbourne in 1863.

Her business was shelter – she had a family to support –

first a store for gold miners at Greenhills,

then when the railway came through in 1867

to ‘the southernmost railway station in the British Empire’,

the Railway Hotel,

which after fires, rebuilds and renovations

became The Club.

 

What was your life in Bluff like, Mrs Ward Barron?

In your warm hotel of welcoming shelter

comfort and laughter

you were at the heart of the town.

 

2

 

It seems that History is full of holes –

flaws – moths’ jaws –

gaps

 

in the ruined building

might we find

a HOLE to let us in?

 

Not pretty – that’s neglect, but the old bones are there.

Additions and alterations, a united front.

 

Across the road the skate park, green space

where the Railway Station used to be – end of the line –

still is, but for the oysterbeds.

 

Demolition will leave a mighty gap, a gummy length, a tooth on either side,

new Post Shop at one end, old Post Office at the other

 

What of the authentic? What is it?

What has been lost,            is being lost               so easily

 

or do those      very Holes       Protect us?

 

3

 

Same place, a later time

1997

a wedding breakfast at the Club Hotel

where Mr Flynn the publican regales

Bluffies and bemused Dunedin guests

with oysters, crayfish, muttonbirds, paua,

alcohol of all varieties

alcohol of all varieties

a large pork roast on the festive table

seen legging it up Gore Street

before the speeches were over

music, dancing, shouting, laughter

alcohol of all varieties

all

night

long

 

4

 

Grey plaster, ornaments, architraves deep ochre.

Two-storeyed, across the top: CLUB HOTEL.

Sixteen arched windows, columns, balustrades,

(a seagull perching on the roof)

Behind the façade, an accommodation

of four old buildings joined by corridors and archways,

refurbished, renewed, enlarged

in all or in part –

 

four times up in flames – wrecked, blackened

empty window arches, sky

in 1903, among the losses, valuable manuscripts

in the possession of Mr Joostens;

in 1914, three fatalities,

a ship’s carpenter, found ‘in the tangled wreckage of his bedstead’

a hotel porter ‘who saw service against the slave traders of Madagascar’

a railway employee who hailed from Lumsden.

 

5

 

Layers of pearl inside a paua shell,

the past within the past.

 

Back and back in the timescale of Motupohue,

Time’s long warp              holds strands together

history going into holes         memories lost

naturally         it rots, frays       flaws in the weft

of language

heard and spoken.

Time stops, changes, wraps around

a cloak of old names, old blessings, curses,

for there would have been curses.

 

Silent now the ancient

voices

 

6

 

A force-field shimmers around the Club Hotel,

a lizards’ nest of histories,

tales still telling

in the empty building.

 

Spirits from the past still in the place.

(old gold light in the west)

 

All the years of language and laughter

still tucked behind cornices, wallboards,

in flakes and grains of dust.

A spectral sign in empty windows,

on dusty doors,

please do not disturb

 

*

 

 

Cilla McQueen

Motupōhue, Bluff

 

 

Cilla McQueen MNZM has lived in Bluff since 1996. During her life as a poet and artist she has published fifteen poetry collections, three of which have won the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry. She was the second National Library of New Zealand Poet Laureate, from 2009-2011. In 2010 she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry. Her latest book is Poeta (OUP 2018).

Poetry Shelf poets on poems: Anna Jackson on Bill Manhire’s ‘Across Brooklyn’

One of the things I like about what poetry can allow is the holding open of a sense of mystery even when there is nothing obvious that needs to be solved.  I find this in Bill Manhire’s elliptical “Across Brooklyn.”  That it is a poem about mortality is no mystery: the very first line places the speaker of the poem in “the street where they still make coffins.”  We are given, in fact, a very vividly realised scene, with concrete details we can visualise, and hear – planks and nails, darkening entrances, the sound of someone whistling.  Yet the significance of these details doesn’t seem quite limited to the literal meaning of them, though it is hard in this poem to point to any obvious symbolic meaning they might hold.  The mystery of the poem is, perhaps, simply the mystery of our unease about our own mortality, in this poem figured as a kind of uncanny tourism:

Across Brooklyn

This is the street where they still make coffins:

the little workshops, side by side.

I pass them with my daughter on our walk to the river.

Are we seeking the bridge itself,

Or the famous, much-reported view?

A few planks and nails lie around,

And each of the entrances seems to darken.

Far back, out of sight, someone is whistling.

Yes, I suppose we do walk a little faster.

There is a faint noise of hammering, too.

Bill Manhire 

from Lifted Victoria University Press, 2005, reissued as a VUP Classic in 2018

The first line of the poem introduces the coffins that the rest of the poem seems to try to run away from, passing the coffins by on the way to the bridge.  Brooklyn Bridge is well known for its view – these are tourists, looking for well-known sights – but this is a bridge well known in poetry too, so well known that I misremembered the title of the poem not as “Across Brooklyn” but as the more expected “Across Brooklyn Bridge.”  I might have been thinking of Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” or Hart Crane’s “To Brooklyn Bridge.”  Even reading poetry we can read like tourists, wanting to keep revisiting familiar or famous sites, seeing what we expect to find, getting ahead of ourselves.  But in our search for the already-famous, we might find something unexpected, something unsettling – though what could be more famous than death? 

The coupling together of tourism and mortality does something strange to the sense of audience, too, that this poem evokes.  Lyric poetry often involves a certain strangeness of address, so that reading a poem can be like eavesdropping on an improbable relationship, as a poet addresses a rose, or talks to themselves, or addresses a lover whose replies can only be imagined.  This poem seems to draw particular attention to the strangeness of lyric address, the last couplet in particular throwing a sense of address somehow off kilter.  The ending, with the introduction of “a faint noise of hammering, too,” is curiously inconclusive, bringing in one more additional detail, as if in a hurry to get it in before the poem ends.  It comes as the second line of a couplet that seems to have been already interrupted by its own first line, “Yes, I suppose we do walk a little faster.”  This seems to be a reply – but no one has asked a question.  Yet there is a sense, perhaps, of someone else present, someone this anecdote is being reported to.  Perhaps this sense of someone else there, but not there (are we, the readers, beginning to feel a little ghostly ourselves?) might add to the unease of the poem, a poem that seems to speed up as if hurrying past its own subject matter.  This is no ordinary tourism anecdote, that we might expect to be told in the past tense, perhaps with some pictures to accompany it.  If this is a tourism anecdote, why is it being told in the present tense?  Is it still happening?  Are we ever going to get across Brooklyn to the bridge, let alone to the other side?

Anna Jackson

Anna Jackson made her debut in AUP New Poets 1 before publishing six collections with Auckland University Press, including I, Clodia, and Other Portraits (2014). She has a DPhil from Oxford and is now an associate professor in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington. Jackson is the author of Diary Poetics: Form and Style in Writers’ Diaries 1915–1962 (Routledge, 2010) and, with Charles Ferrall, British Juvenile Fiction 1850–1950: The Age of Adolescence (Routledge, 2009).

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).

Poetry Shelf apologies

dear poetry fans

I am on a WordPress learning curve so my blog appearances are way down at the moment. Everything takes me ages but I am on track to be an active source of news, reviews, videos, audio and poetry connections in Aotearoa soon.

Thanks to everyone who got in touch with offers of help!

I have a swag of inviting local poetry books to share with you – yes there’s a mountain of fabulous books out and it feels like the new releases this year are missing out on both launches and threatened review pages. I want to help.

Good though to see new ventures taking off and stalwarts working hard to make our books visible. The Coalition of Books for one.

For the first time in my life I got enmeshed in politics to a heightened degree: I felt layers of anxiety about the covid world, about the despicable and untrustworthy behaviour of some politicians both here and abroad, about the destructive force of conspiracy theorists, about the hunger for power at the expense of communities, about ideology to which we become immune, about the challenge we face in putting the health of the planet and the people ahead of our individual desires …. all of this and so much more became a big soupy mess in my head and heart, and I felt obliged to keep saying NO to it all on social media.

Fermenting such a soupy mess has made me feel ill.

So although I want to stay informed about the state of things, from the local to the global, I need to focus on what keeps me well – celebrating our diverse and heart-feeding poetry communities.

Poetry is a way of challenging, connecting, singing, musing, contemplating, strolling.

No matter the personal challenges I face, poetry is a wellbeing kit – for me as reader, writer and blogger.

I hope Poetry Shelf will continue to offer you, the poetry fan, avenues to pursue and small additions to your own wellbeing kit.

kia kaha

keep safe

aroha nui

Paula Green

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: essa may ranapiri’s ‘when i was born i didn’t say anything’

 

 

 

 

when i was born i didn’t say anything

for Ellen van Neerven

 

When it came to gender or being gendered.

I knew as much about it as my lungs knew how
to breathe.

Like two thumbs cut off and pushed inside a
plush toy.

Blackened by the world.

Already.

Marked down in a book.

I had nothing to write with.

 

 

essa may ranapiri

 

 

essa may ranapiri (Ngāti Raukawa/Tainui/Ngāti Takatāpui/Clan Gunn/Highgate) is a person or some shit / or whatever / they wrote a book of poems called ransack / it’s still in th world / the only time they use they/them pronouns for themselves is in these bios / isn’t that funny / thx goes out to their ancestors / who are as big as everything / just wow / just everything / they will write until they’re dead

A Poetry Shelf gathering: A handful of Starlings read from the latest issue

Starling 10 is not long out so I decided to celebrate this fabulous issue with a wee poetry reading. Starling was founded by Louise Wallace and is co-edited by Francis Cooke. It is a meeting ground for writers in Aotearoa under 25. Long may it continue. I love the way we now have a community of Starlings bringing us poetry delight in all tones and hues. Bravissimo!

Read Starling 10 here, along with a feature on Selina Tusitala marsh and a cool interview with a bunch of Starlings.

The Starling Reading

Pippi Jean reads ‘Internet Friend’

Cerys Fletcher reads ‘I Am Scared Everyone Will Die’

Rachel Lockwood reads ‘Bish’

Caroline Shepherd reads ‘Crush Poem!’

Roman Sigley reads ‘horsegirl’

Joy Tong reads ‘My Sister Sent Me a Video About Wontons at 11pm’

The Poets

Pippi Jean is seventeen and has yet to decide on a music taste. Her work has appeared in Signals, Starling, Poetry NZ Yearbook, Overcommunicate and Toitoi. Last year she was a finalist in the National Schools Poetry Award.

Cerys Fletcher (she/her) is in her first year at Te Herenga Waka. She is in love. She can be found on instagram as @cerys_is_tired.

Rachel Lockwood is Hawke’s Bay born and bred but now living in Wellington and studying a BA at VUW. She was a 2019 National Schools Poetry Award finalist, and has previously been published in Starling.

Caroline Shepherd is a Victoria University student who has been published in Mimicry, Starling and Stasis. She studies English and Public Policy, has a really big voice, and wouldn’t go to the space even if you paid her.

Roman Sigley is non binary, a poet and honours student, an aspiring lesbian heartthrob, French-Kiwi, from Tāmaki-Makaurau. Changed their name this year. Just got published over lockdown in Stasis Journal and Starling Magazine. Finds being perceived a truly incomprehensible experience but is happy to be here.

Joy Tong is a student, writer, musician, professional cat-petter and basil plant enthusiast from Auckland. You can spot her work here and there, like in Signals, Starling and Flash Frontier. She was also the youth winner of the 2019 Sunday Star-Times short story award.