Author Archives: Paula Green

Vana Manasiadis book launch: my speech and a photo gallery

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Wednesday  evening saw the launch of Vana Manasiadis’s new collection: The Grief Almanac: A Sequel published by Seraph Press. The guest poets were Jo Thorpe, Vivienne Plumb and Anna Livesey. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it so my launch speech stood in for me – special thanks to Ockham-award winning poet, Helen Heath, for reading it. From all accounts she did a great job and it was a gorgeous poetry occasion. A book well launched, I’d say!

Photographs courtesy of Mary McCallum.

 

 

 

Kia ora Vana, Helen, guest poets and poetry fans

I am so sorry I couldn’t make the launch as I very much wanted to be part of the celebration – but I have send some words to stand in for me.

Vana’s debut collection, Ithaca Island Bay Leaves, with its intricate and gleaming maternal threads, its use of myth and personal experience, struck a chord with me. This was poetry that sang its way into storytelling and into mother bloodlines. Vana produced poetry that demanded second and third readings.

Vana’s second collection, The Grief Alamanac: A Sequel, the one we are launching tonight, steps off from the navigations and musings of the first. There is a similar attention to poetic craft, to shaping and refreshing form, to making poetry vessels that set sail and then converse with one another across the ocean of their making. Because yes, The Grief Alamanac is both voyage and conversation.

 

But let me start again. Let me draw you into this glorious reading experience without spelling everything out –without ruining the delight in you making your own discoveries.

I am holding a handbook, a guide, a mapping, a maze, a labyrinth. We enter by way of a pronoun, the ambiguous ‘you’ in the first poem, ‘These are the places I’ve looked for you’:are you there / and where and where under the stones and the granite down the misjudged / under alleys the thick coating of your hiding behind time zones

 

‘You’ might be the longed for mother, the missing city, the arm’s length country, the evasive memory, the drifting taste, the jittery feeling.

I am reading the first poems and I am following the tracks of a searching poet-daughter and it is like a world in pieces. This is archaeology, composition, fracture, connection. In ‘Strata of Invincible Bodies’ a letter to Natalie is intercut with found material from newspapers and other sources. I am reminded that poetry never stands still, that a poem sends you to and fro, inside a poem, between poems. And that is what is happening here. I am on the move. I cannot settle. I am finding the home anchor, the slow build of physical detail, the way Wellington comes into vital view. Vana leads us in multiple directions. This from ‘Strata of Invincible Bodies’:

 

Wiring, re-wiring: can you please tell me why I’ve been

going over the vintage details of your flats? Because

from this northern end, where the rooms for rent

are boarded up and the pizzeria’s been demolished, the

way forwards more like back: and I’m thinking of the

park at the end of Holloway Road, in the crease of Aro

Valley, the hiding place of the Waimapihi Stream

 

Yet for all this movement, for all this electric searching, The Grief Alamac has a white hot core, a fiercely beating heart – and the poems up to page 60, up to ‘Catalogue of 40 Days’, are its embrace. I see movement between New Zealand and Greece, the floating anecdotes, the tethered scene, the appearance of friends, family, characters and much loved poets, such as Anne Carson and Louise Glück, as a way of clasping the intense core: that is, the mother.

At page 60 we are drawn into the maternal core and it is intense and it is surprising and it is heartfelt. There is a compulsion to keep reading, to not stop, and then again to pause on the caps, to admire the intricate thought and the visible feeling, to cross the bridges between mother and daughter, daughter and mother, between this place and that place, between this memory and that forgetting. And this is where I don’t want to ruin your reading experience by telling you how the last section unfolds. This is for you. But I will give you a taste from ‘Catalogue of 40 Days’.

 

I can’t stop thinking now: were you reaching for my

hand? I was on the other side of you and didn’t take a

hold, thought that you were feeling for the light I’d read

about and swallowed. But what if you weren’t, and I didn’t

reach to pull you back?

 

 

Congratulations Vana – The Grief Almanac is both breathtaking and animated; it digs down into life and loss, into human conditions, pains and epiphanies. The reading pathways are manifold. You will lose yourself in this book. You will find so much more. Brava Vana! I love this book so much. Please raise your glasses as I declare this almanac launched.

 

Paula Green    15 May 2019

 

Seraph Press author page

 

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Poetry Shelf audio spot: Grace Teuila Taylor performs ‘I am a slow rising of my mother’s baking’

 

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Grace Teuila Taylor is of Samoan, English, Japanese heritage born and raised in South Auckland. Mother, Poet, Daughter, Theatre Maker, Performer and advocate for families affected by dementia. Grace has two published works with ala press (Hawaii), Afakasi Speaks (2013), and Full Broken Bloom (2017). Writer of Auckland Theatre Company commissioned poetic theatre show My Own Darling (2015 & 2017). Director of Auckland Theatre Company shows SKIN (2014) & MOUTH: TEETH: TONGUE (2016) and Hawaiian based poetry theatre show OUR WOMEN BODIES (2016). She won the CNZ Emerging Pacific Artist Award (2014) and the Auckland Mayoral Writers Grant (2016). Grace has been part of the leadership for the spoken word poetry movement in Aotearoa: co-founder of South Auckland Poets Collective and the first youth poetry slam in Aotearoa RISING VOICES. She held the International Writer in Residence at the University of Hawaii, Manoa in Spring 2018.

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf classic poem: Robyn Maree Pickens picks Joanna Margaret Paul’s ‘For Felix’

 

for Felix (1981)

 

a black shawl over a chair

& the corner

composed itself.

the light came from outside

& delayed/on the

delphinium

& behind the oak trees

1 2 3

a grey stripe

is a tennis court

& men have

white shirts only

& sometimes

arms

while the ball

flying/occasionally

thru trees

keeps the moon

in motion.

 

Joanna Margaret Paul

 

from like love poems: selected poems (Victoria University Press, 2006)

Posted with kind permission from JM Paul estate

 

 

Robyn Maree Pickens:

Recently I had the opportunity to write a review of Louise Menzies’ exhibition In an orange my mother was eating at Hocken Collections, Dunedin for The Pantograph Punch. Menzies, the 2018 Frances Hodgkins Fellow, produced an exhibition that foregrounded overlooked works by three artists, Frances Hodgkins, M.C Richards, and Joanna Margaret Paul. Of the three artists Paul seems to have been the most influential. This is evident in the enigmatic exhibition title In an orange my mother was eating, which is itself the title of a poem by artist and poet Joanna Margaret Paul (1945-2003). Published in 1981 on the occasion of the exhibition Mothers at the Women’s Gallery in Wellington, the poem records a dialogue between Paul’s daughter Maggie, and her friend Charles when they were five years old. In this poem Maggie and Charles spark off each other all the possible places they could have been born, including: “in a mirror / in a hot fire / in my gym / in my brain / in your hat.”[i] As engaging as this poem is—showing Paul’s attunement to and valorisation of her children’s world—I want to discuss another poem by Paul, one that invokes her interdisciplinary practice that included poetry, drawing, painting, photography, and film. The poem I have chosen is called for Felix and is published in like love poems edited by Bernadette Hall (Wellington: VUP. 2006, 99).

I chose for Felix because this poem has an extraordinary poetic breadth. While it is decidedly and primarily a poem, for Felix could also be a cinematic vignette, a black and white photograph, a series of graphite drawings, and a loosely gestural painting.

The corner is agentive; it has composed itself with a black shawl over a chair. In contrast to the black shawl, daylight is introduced and delayed on the slender stems of blue flowers and oak trees. From inside, the poem looks out to a tennis court in the distance (a grey stripe). The sport evokes male tennis players who again are viewed from a distance (& sometimes / arms). This distance, and the object and arc of the tennis ball lend their likeness to the moon, which Paul figures as batted between spheres, or tennis players. Paul charts this course from corner to cosmos with incredible lightness, a few sure brushstrokes, a gently panning shot. This lightness is accented formally with the short lines, lower caps throughout, ampersand symbol, forward slash, numbers, and a casually abbreviated word, “thru.”

I chose this poem partly in sympathetic response to a comment by arts writer Eleanor Woodhouse, who in a recent article primarily on Paul’s experimental film wrote, “yet the effect of dispersed critical attention—a little within the field of literature, a little within art, a little within film—isn’t additive; perversely, the effect is even subtractive.”[ii] Woodhouse’s observation—that writing done in silos on an interdisciplinary artist can be diminishing—has stayed with me. And I am conscious that writing about Paul’s poetry in a poetry forum could also be problematic. That is why I chose for Felix for its potentially “interdisciplinary” qualities, and gestured towards other possible resonances of this poem in other mediums. But it is only a gesture.

Paul was an interdisciplinary artist from the early 1970s to her premature death in 2003. In the early decades of her career she was “interdisciplinary,” or postmodern, before such a position was recognised and understood in New Zealand. This is partly why her presence is under-recognised in all the disciplines she worked in and across. Also she was a woman. In her introduction to Paul’s poems (to return to this particular discipline), editor Bernadette Hall writes:

 

The academic and literary worlds of the 70s were dominated by brilliant young men for

whom women might well be the Other, the Lover, the Muse. But not the Poet. Attempts

to express real womanly experience or the domestic were most likely to be sidelined as

trivial, hysterical or hormonal.[iii]

 

Paul was triply marginalised, as a woman, a boundary-crosser, and for her predominately everyday subject matter. This short piece introduces one of her poems and makes an attempt to validate a multi-disciplinary artist who has been neglected from several canons because she didn’t fit the circumscribed model. Call it another (small) effort towards feminist retrieval and recirculation.

 

 

[i] From In an orange my mother was eating, a digital video work by Louise Menzies in an exhibition of the same name. Hocken Collections, 16 February – 30 March 2019.

[ii] Eleanor Woodhouse. “The Transcendent and Domestic in Joanna Margaret Paul’s Films.” Contemporary Hum 19.04.18. https://www.contemporaryhum.com/joanna-margaret-paul-film-programme

[iii] Bernadette Hall. like love poems. Wellington: VUP (2006): 10.

 

 

Robyn Maree Pickens is a PhD candidate in ecological aesthetics at the University of Otago. Her poetry is forthcoming in Peach Magazine and has appeared in SAND, Cordite, Plumwood Mountain, Matador Review, Jacket 2, and at ARTSPACE. Her poetry criticism is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal and has appeared in Rain Taxi and Jacket 2. She was a finalist of the 2018 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize judged by Eileen Myles, and winner of the takahē Monica Taylor Poetry Prize 2018.

Joanna Margaret Paul (1945-2003), poet, painter and experimental filmmaker, was born in Hamilton. She graduated from the University of Auckland with a BA in Philosophy and English, and Elam School of Fine Arts. She was awarded the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship (1983) and the Rita Angus Residency (1993). During her lifetime she published several poetry collections while a range of her poems were showcased in the posthumous like love poems, edited by Bernadette Hall. Her debut collection Imogen was awarded the PEN Best First Book Award for Poetry. (1978). After her death the Wellington City Gallery exhibited her artwork in Beauty, even 1945-2003 with an accompanying book of poems.

 

Victoria University Press author page

 

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Poetry Shelf congratulates the Ockham New Zealand Book Award poetry winners: the interviews and an audio

Full book award results here

So delighted to see two excellent poetry books receive awards.

 

Helen Heath reads two poems from Are Friends Electric

Poetry Shelf in conversation with Helen Heath

Poetry Shelf interviews Tayi Tibble

 

Best Poetry book:

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Helen Heath won the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry for her collection Are Friends Electric? (Victoria University Press).

“By turns thoughtful and moving, Are Friends Electric? asks how the material world might mediate—or replace—human relationships.

“Helen Heath’s collection impressed the judging panel with its broad thematic reach, its willingness to tackle complex issues, and its poetic risk-taking,” said the judges.

 

Best First Poetry book:

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Poetry Shelf interviews More of Us contributors

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More of Us, edited by Adrienne Jansen with Clare Arnot, Danushka Devinda and Wesley Hollis, Landing Press 2019

 

In New Zealand, it’s the weekend.

The streets are very quiet.

 

Anni Pinedo Bone  from ‘The weekend and the carnival’

 

More of Us was launched shortly after the Christchurch mosque attacks. When many of us were unable to speak – as we sought ways to come together, to listen, to show kindness, unity, solidarity, empathy – the book became even more important.  The editors have assembled a terrific range of poetry that navigates loss, dislocation, home, families, food, place. It includes 46 writers from 29 countries, from award-winning poets to high school students, all now living in New Zealand. I am moved by this book. I cry at the unspeakable wounds, I rejoice at the moments of joy.  I would love to see this book in every secondary school. I would love to see this book in every lounge because it is an aid to appreciating difference as much it is an aid to forging connections. It is a gift. Thank you.

I sent a list of questions to a group of the contributors and let them choose what they wanted to answer – grateful thanks to Adrienne Jansen for helping me do this.

 

Why do you write poetry?

Nicky Subono: I write poetry as a way to express what is in my mind and heart. It helps me process and accept things in life and also hope that my writing can inspire or help others in tough times.

Yazan El Fares: I write because writing is often the best way to express things that a person may feel or want to tell. So I chose poetry to express what I feel and share it with other people.

Sevgi Ikinci: I love all the strands of poetry, it focuses on what wanted to be said, it’s sharp and concise. It has sound which can be delivered by writing. It can be romantic or rebellious. Also, I find poetry so delightful due to its ability to deliver different meanings for different people. When my emotions came out in a form of poetry the first time, I was thrilled. It became the way how I express my deep emotions and thoughts.

Reza Zareianjahromi: For a long while now I’ve wanted to find the perfect combination of words to describe some visceral sensation deep inside – I’ve so far failed. But the closest I’ve ever gotten to it is through poetry.

 

 

My uncle switches to a music channel.

The music is fire!

My uncles stand up, and my aunties –

they’re all ready to start that dabke,

Syria’s best dance, where people stand,

shoulder to shoulder, holding hands.

 

Yazan El Fares     from ‘My dance story’

 

 

Like music, the poems in this anthology sound good, they make me feel the world, they make me think the world, they make my senses spark, they take me into scenes outside my knowing and I am grateful. What do you like your poems to do?

Nicky Subono:I would like my poem to communicate to individuals / be relatable to those who are struggling to find their identity/ coming to terms with living in different worlds and also help them realize and appreciate the place where they can call home.

I would like my poem to highlight diversity and embrace inclusivity.

Tofig Dankalay: Change others’ views and perception of the world and prejudice of people and places that they have never met or seen.

Yazan El Fares:  I like my poems to make others feel what we feel and try to think of other people and how do they live. I also want to send a message to people through my poems that each one of us has their own culture and beliefs but we all are human being.

Sevgi Ikinci: Additionally, poetry is a peacemaker. It tells people from different parts of the world, you feel so similar, you are so similar.

Also, I love that the poetry can be read so many times and it gets even tastier.

Reza Zareianjahromi: I like my poems to make you think of dreaming. I want the dimly lit visuals of a dream to come through, the half-lucid state of your mind that produces not necessarily very fantastic and wild imagery, but instead images that are strange enough to be believable and at the same time completely alien. I want readers to get a sense of that familiarity we have with the things we see in our dreams – and I want them to realise that even though they sense this familiarity, the experience is a wholly new one each time.

 

Was I like this?

No, I wasn’t, but I was

just a bit quieter, reserved and afraid.

I couldn’t tell anyone who I really was!

 

Sevgi Ikinci   from ‘Was I like this back in my home country?’

 

 

Are you drawn to certain subjects or feelings when you write?

Nicky Subono: yes, personally, I tend to write more when I feel like there is a message I wanted to express and in hope to reach out to people. It is my own way of communicating my feelings and thoughts.

Tofig Dankalay: My own constantly and forever changing views of the world as part of the universe: Where New Zealand we’re at the end of the world at sometime and at the centre of it right now…

Yazan El Fares: Yes, most of my writing revolves around my mother country and the memories always drawn me.

Sevgi Ikinci: Not objects so much, I think my drive is intense emotions.

Reza Zareianjahromi: I write quite a lot about people’s suffering. I feel a lot of people are dangerously indifferent to it. I also draw quite a lot of inspiration from my dreams, as evident from my previous answer. A good amount of the poetry I write is connected to my Iranian roots.

 

 

I remember how my first experience of lettuce

prepared me to compile a recipe book for salads

 

 

Sudha Rao  from ‘Making a salad’

 

Do you find certain motifs or symbols keep appearing in your poems?

 

Tofig Dankalay: The nature, the universe, the different species, objects, that abide by the same physical and universal forces and laws.The engineering species poet within me.

Sevgi Ikinci: I am not sure. Maybe not.

Reza Zareianjahromi: A lot of my poetry is quite personal. I write quite a lot of things for myself, and never intend to share it with others. So, I guess most of my poetry has a very personal motif and intention behind. I’d like to think of them as fragments of how I felt about a certain thing the exact moment I sat down to write, and that feeling can change rather quickly or take on an almost absurd form in my writing.

 

 

I became a stranger to my own identity,

an Indonesian who never felt

she belonged in her own land.

I was a blooming flower

surrounded by poison ivy.

 

Now I am a bird

flying towards the clouds.

 

Nicky Subono from  ‘Overboard’

 

This anthology reflects diverse migrant and refugee experience. Has your migrant or refugee experience affected the way you write? Did you write poetry in your first home country in your first language?

Nicky Subono: Yes, my life experiences has played many parts of what I write, and because English has become my first language, I tend to think and write in English.

Tofig Dankalay: Of course, it’s a huge part of it. I was born in a war zone. I have no birth certificate, I was a UN refugee at age of 5 in SudanThen, I moved with my family to Middle East. I got my Bachelor degree in Engineering in Jordan. Moved to New Zealand in a Skilled Migrant Category Visa (SMC). I am a refugee, expat, migrant, and a resident. I am all of that.

Yazan El Fares: Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to write in my country. All my writings are coming from my migrant background and they all talking about a child who was 10 years old when he left his own country, relatives and friends. This is because of the war which doesn’t have mercy on anyone.

Sevgi Ikinci: My migrant experience affected my writing but I don’t think it affected the way. And yes, I’ve been writing poetry for a long time. I started writing in my language and after a few years living in New Zealand, first my poetry started appearing in English.

 

Reza Zareianjahromi: My parents are both scientists. Because of their careers, I’ve moved around the globe a fair amount. Therefore, my migration experience is not only an experience but also a fundamental part of who I am as a person. Without it, I wouldn’t be me. So yes, the fact of my moving to new places constantly has shaped a great deal of my writing. I never wrote poetry in Persian, but I have always enjoyed reading Persian poetry.

 

 

We be pack of crow. Black bird perched upon scorched

branch. Perched upon broken building. Perched upon

snapped wire. Perched upon this doomscape.

 

Reza Zareianjahromi from ‘What we be?’

 

 

Was there a poet or poets that affected you in your first home country? Has a poet from Aotearoa caught your attention?

 

Sevgi Ikinci: Yes, possibly a few of them affected my writing from my home country.

Reza Zareianjahromi:  Saadi, Hafez, Rumi, and Ferdowsi are all great Iranian poets. I can’t say any poets from Aotearoa have caught my eye (other than the really great ones is the collection!), but then that’s my own fault since I have not yet read much New Zealand Poetry. Other influences on my work are Charles Bukowski and Leonard Cohen.

 

I am an alien.

Call me names.

You called me all names.

Why not human?

Call me human.

 

Tofig Dankalay   from ‘Call me human’

 

Which poem in the anthology really got under your skin, or moved your heart, or challenged your ideas, or gave you goosebumps? I would find it impossible to pick one so do mention others.

Nicky Subono: I loved reading ‘Call me Human’ by Tofig Dankalay because it is very raw and amazingly heartfelt… I can feel the pain within the words and it is very moving to me because I always believe that we are all belong to one race, which is humanity.

 

Reza Zareianjahromi: ‘The Imprisonment of Ap-Kain’ by Laurens Ikinia. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something tremendous about that poem. I don’t know why. (Note from Paula: I agree!)

 

1.Stone

 

I would stand by you,

if there was no stone.

There is no sound,

that would awaken me.

I would have tasted how you felt,

if I were there.

There is only one chance

to be away from the stone.

Laurens Ikinia    from ‘The Imprisonment of Ap Kain’

 

The interviewees

Tofig Dankalay: I was born in Eritrea in 1974, but I grew up in the Middle East. I speak Arabic and love Arabic poetry, which has influenced me. I have lived in Auckland, New Zealand since 2016. I have an engineering degree and am currently studying towards a Masters in artificial intelligence (AI) at Unitec University while working full time.

Yazan El Fares: I am Mana College in Porirua. I have been a part of the student council in 2018, and I enjoy playing football. I am interested in going to university in the future to do dentistry. I am from Syria and have been in New Zealand for two years.

My name is Sevgi Ikinci. I’m originally from Turkey and have been living in New Zealand nearly eight years now. I work as a finance professional, though writing is my passion. I’ve been writing mainly poetry and short stories. I took creative writing courses from AUT in 2018.

Nicky Subono: I am a writer and a beauty entrepreneur. I am a New Zealand permanent resident, originally from Indonesia. I first moved to New Zealand and became a kiwi at the age of ten. After being abroad for eight years, I have returned to live in Wellington. I obtained my Diploma in Creative Writing from Whitireia Polytechnic in 2009.

Reza Zareianjahromi: I was born in Iran, a country torn to shreds by a botched Islamic revolution. I am angry. I am sad. Confused. I miss my home and want it to be free from the bickering crows ripping it to pieces. I look forward to the day when I have children of my own, and they do not have to witness their country in ruins. My love for poetry stems from classical Persian poetry – especially the work of Rumi, Hafez and Saadi.

 

Landing press page

RNZ National interview

Two poems from the anthology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Ashleigh Young’s ‘If So How’

 

 

If So How

 

Opportunity I love you

Windows and watermelons march down the street

—Robert Winner, ‘Opportunity’

 

 

Please detail any future opportunities

you secured as a direct result of the project

 

oooOOOooo

 

I have a feeling I will be stabbed

and I wanted to tell someone.

 

Sometimes my neighbour’s crying

sounds like music and sometimes it sounds like confession.

 

At eel o’clock

the air fills with ferns and gelatinous dark . . .

 

I get opportunities

and release them back into the water,

their colours autocorrecting to grey . . .

 

Sometimes my crying feels like paperwork and

sometimes it feels like an argument

bleeding through my earplugs.

 

The opportunity never to do this again;

the opportunity never to be this again.

 

oooOOOooo

 

Did you meet with any people

(including festival directors)

who could have an impact

on future

opportunities for you

 

oooOOOooo

 

I was walking on the street one morning

and, yes, festival directors were winking in the snow.

One of the festival directors hid under a car

when a group of school children approached,

and I crouched down to see if he would come out,

and I saw that the festival director had lifted his body

right up into the undercarriage of the car, as if possessed.

 

oooOOOooo

 

Did the event help to increase

your long-term international

market profile

If so how

 

oooOOOooo

 

You leave the room for a moment

and when you come back, not only

 

has the jug come to the boil

but someone has died.

 

The lesser greens start to fray as

a new jag of green comes out of the soil.

 

I’m in over my head.

I remember praying

 

because I dreaded school

and the future

 

and I prayed to be hit in the head by a cricket ball

and to spend my last days alive hurtling

 

back through all of the profiles of my life. How? as if pushing

into a row of warm office shirts on the line

 

helplessly ensnarled

and some part of me (neck?) increasing within them,

 

their tiny frayed parts,

and all the workplaces they might represent.

 

oooOOOooo

 

Have you identified

any further markets

or future audience development

opportunities

as a result of this tour/event

 

oooOOOooo

 

I will go on a tour

of my future

 

I will identify

which of my selves

 

to plant in the cool damp soil

and which of my selves

 

to boil alive

and which of my audiences

 

to take down with me.

 

Ashleigh Young   (from How I get Ready, Victoria University Press, 2019)

 

 

Ashleigh Young lives in Wellington and works as an editor at Victoria University Press. She is the author of Magnificent Moon (poems), Can You Tolerate This? (essays), and How I Get Ready (poems). She writes a fortnightly column in Canvas magazine and is the poetry editor at The Spinoff.

Victoria University page

Ashleigh appears at Auckland Writers Festival event Literally Lorne on Friday May 17th.

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Poetry Shelf interviews the 2019 Sarah Broom Prize finalists: Michael Steven

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If you were to map your poetry reading history, what books would act as key co-ordinates?

– James K. Baxter Pig Island Letters

– Allen Curnow Continuum

– Robert Creeley For Love

– Robert Lowell Life Studies; For The Union Dead

– Elizabeth Bishop The Complete Poems

– Cesare Pavese Selected Poems, Penguin Modern Poets

– Richard Hugo Making Certain It Goes On

– August Kleinzahler Sleeping It Off In Rapid City

– Denis Johnson The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millenium General Assesmbly

– Fanny Howe Selected Poems

– Philip Levine The Simple Truth

– William Bronk Collected Poems

 


What do you want your poems to do?

I hope something of our beautiful and difficult world’s damaged rapture remains in my poems, long after the impetus or occasion for their being written has passed.

 


Which poem in your selection particularly falls into place. Why?

I’m still a poor judge of a poem’s strengths, and perhaps an even poorer judge of its weaknesses, but of my entry poems ‘Summer/Haszard Road’ is the one I have the most love for.  (This poem will appear on the Sarah Broom website)

 

There is no blueprint for writing poems. What might act as a poem trigger for you?

Here are some memorable triggers:

Cooking and drinking with Malcolm Deans. Spring drives through the Lower Kaipara. Jewel heists in Dubai. Hawkers markets. The Proustian memory avalanches set off by listening to certain records. Flying from Auckland to Dunedin. Driving from Auckland to Dunedin. The spice merchants of Kochi. The industrial plains of Penrose. Tank farms. Musty churches. Junk stores. Museums. Dusk in Taupaki. Coffee and indica. My son.

 

If you were reviewing your entry poems, what three words would characterise their allure?

Embodied. Emboldening. Empathetic.

 

You are going to read together at the Auckland Writers Festival. If you could pick a dream team of poets to read – who would we see?

John Forbes. Ed Dorn. Anne Sexton. Seamus Heaney. Elizabeth Bishop. Ishion Hutchinson.

 

 

Dropped Pin: Three Lamps, Ponsonby

for Ryan Moroney, poet of Papamoa

This poem I started writing ten years ago
to say thanks for buying me breakfast
after a night of rough red and hydro.
Waiting for coffee, outside Cezanne,
the heat climbing high into the twenties,
our brains were slow rebooting that morning.
You’ll remember we shared a table with Monica.
Unduly caged by dubious DSM definitions,
by a psychiatrist’s repeat prescriptions,
she gulped cans of cola through a white straw,
gut-dragged on John Player Specials,
and muttered “Yes, dear,” to our questions.
Ryan, I like to think she was healed a little
every lunchtime in All Saints church,
when the minister threw open the doors
and she shuffled inside the chapel
lumping her cache of shopping bags
stuffed with paperbacks, woollen jumpers,
fortnight-old copies of The Herald
along the aisle and on to the transept
to her daily appointment in the organist’s seat.
I remember one of her small communions,
how the delicate first notes of a minor adagio
by Schubert were held in the humid air
by a common and accessible grace
on a lost afternoon, outside the chapel.
In that district of ghosts we once knew,
Monica is long gone; the minister, too.
Her playing stopped time but was heard by few.
You said goodbye, and went south again.
Her last recital you missed by twenty minutes.

 

 

Michael Steven was born in 1977. He is the author of four chapbooks and the acclaimed full-length collection Walking to Jutland Street which was longlisted for the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards (Otago University Press, 2018.) He was recipient of the 2018 Todd New Writer’s Bursary. His writing has been described as “expansive and earthed and spirited.” He lives in West Auckland.

 

at Jacket2 Catherine Dale, Orchid Tierney and David Howard write on Michael Steven (with poems)

Otago University Press Page

 

The Sarah Broom Prize session: Michael appears at the Auckland Writers Festival with the other finalists where Anne Michaels will announce the winner. Saturday May 18th, 1pm, Waitākere Room, Aotea Centre