Category Archives: NZ author

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Simone Kaho’s ‘Tour’

 

Tour

The crows will be her friends.
They are waiting on powerlines in the rain.
It’s exciting to be in another country with different birds even if they’re black and mawkish, and it’s only England, so kind of coming home.
‘Do they think dark thoughts?’
He comes back from training and through unspoken agreement she holds him at bay, at first.
Later, he says – ‘You held me off just the right amount’.
It’s the only kind thing he says all day.
She watches British bunnies run across the green British lawn in the British mist, into a British hedge.
That evening New Zealand loses.
Someone has scrawled a rude note for him on a napkin, he sees her looking and says
‘You’re laughing’.
She’s not.
She wishes she could.
I don’t wonder how he is doing she thinks ‘Now’.
It doesn’t even creak.
Her heart pulp; memories.
The overwhelming smell of little old ladies’ heads at mass at the Vatican.
Crouching down between acres of knees.
Him lifting her onto his shoulders, in fresh air above the churchgoers, with her battered face and oversized sunglasses.
Pope John Paul passing so close in his glass cartoon car, she could have reached out and left a fingerprint.
Her queen wave.
The ornate courtesy of him helping little old ladies over the barricades.
His beaming, bashful, face, which had gotten battered too.
Him walking straight into the Vatican while a two-mile line formed behind.
Both kneeling before the Michelangelo, not noticing marble Mary was the same age as Jesus.
Noticing nothing but the stillness of her chest
until he shifts beside her
and she wants to take it all back,
the gravel in her face,
the gravel in his.
The bottles she threw at the hostel, his blazed green eyes on the bottom bunk as the cops knocked.
The contrite blowjob in the church graveyard behind the homestay.
I can’t help being helpless, your contempt is not helping me.
She rolls her eyes as he slaps her.
That vein in his forehead is pulsing again and in a way, it has something to say and no one knows any better and
she wishes he hadn’t thrown stones at her window
and she hadn’t opened it
and he hadn’t climbed in
and she wishes she had knees instead of jelly and
she wishes she could put her heart out of her body and
let it live wild in the bush

 

Simone Kaho

 

 

 

 

Simone Kaho is a New Zealand poet of Tongan descent. She was born in Auckland and received an MA in creative writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington.

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Gregory O’Brien’s launch speech for Richard von Sturmer’s Postcard Stories

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POSTCARD STORIES…a launching speech, VicBooks, Wellington, 12 April 2019

 

It’s over thirty years ago since Richard von Sturmer appeared on the cover of Robert Cross’s and my book about New Zealand writers Moments of Invention. Back in 1987 I remember Richard suggesting that Robert photograph him in his ‘most natural habitat’. So we went to Smales Quarry, near Lake Pupuke—a flooded, desolate, you could almost say post-apocalyptic zone—a lunar landscape with the occasional sprig of kowhai. After spending quality time in a trench-coat and mask (as the ‘Neanderthal businessman’ character, Mr Chipden), Richard donned striped overalls and a papier mache zebra-head.

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Was the zebra outfit a uniform or a disguise—an act of self-expression of concealment? Either way, the photo on the book’s cover raised the question, for me, of how it might be that writers, more generally, fit into this world. Richard was, and still is, proposing we should all look, listen and think beyond the obvious. Maybe the lesson of Smales Quarry is that we should look for answers in the direction of archaeology or possibly the analysis of dreams, rather than in the realms of sociology, cultural history or literary theory. The cover photo of Richard, zebra-headed and humanimal (in the adjectival sense), begged the question whether the life of the writer is ultimately an absurdity, a theatrical production or maybe even an inexplicable folly. More than anything else, the image reminds me of one characteristic of all good writers: they are up to something. They ask that we follow them somewhere new and surprising. ‘I think we should go into the jungle,’ as Barbara Anderson would have put it. Their jungle.

The cover photo was taken shortly after the appearance of Richard’s We Xerox Your Zebras appeared—a book which has long been something of a cult classic and which, infamously, upon publication prompted threats of legal action from Rank Xerox Corporation, on account of copyright infringement. Still in his twenties, Richard’s creative trajectory as a genre-bending, world-expanding writer was set, as was his now longstanding allegiance with, and commitment to, the unexpected, the odd and the illuminating. He struck me then, as he strikes me now, as an improving influence not only on the world of letters but on the world itself.

Over the three decades since then, there have been collections of poems from Richard and –to much-deserved acclaim upon its publication three years ago–a memoir about his father and grandfather, This Explains Everything. Yet, as the new book reiterates, nothing is ever really explained. Explanation is too often simply a misreading, simplification or a reduction of the matter at hand. Reality is full of live circuitry and ongoingness and expansiveness. We reach conclusions at our peril.

Richard’s books are working documents of a life-in-progress, a sensibility in the making and constant remaking. Reality is put, much of the time, through a Zen Buddhist filter, yet his writing can be as rowdy and colourful as the line-dancing Filipino women on the cover of Postcard Stories. Such a paradoxical, contrary state remains at the heart of his creative project. Also worth noting is a curious propensity for the transmutation or transubstantiation of the mundane or the misguided into a state of meaningful joyfulness.

What sort of narratives are on offer in Postcard Stories? Are these stories about postcards or inspired by postcards—or are these the stories the postcards themselves might have told, if they could speak. Through the first half of the book, Richard performs a visual/verbal two-step, offering short sequences of text—a hybrid of short story and  haiku—to enhance, elaborate upon, subvert and embrace the images which they accompany.

 

Quickly enough, the book gets one thinking about the nature of postcards. It becomes a protracted meditation on that endangered if not dying species. In the era of the jpeg and digital file, postcard stands are becoming fewer and further between. Postcard Stories offers the gentlest of interrogations, a backward glance at these printed images, their industry and their format. It asks questions, but without, of course, requiring any kind of answer.

Most of the time, postcards relate to a specific location yet, as this book manifests, they often reflect a certain lostness, aimlessness, waywardness. You would not want to use them to get your bearings in the physical world. I remember, years ago when Jen and I were spending six months in the South of France courtesy of the Katherine Mansfield fellowship, Richard sent us—in Menton—an antique Greetings from Menton postcard which he had procured from a South Auckland second hand shop.  As Richard’s new book attests, postcards, like the rest of us, lead paradoxical, complex and unreliable lives. In his bright and user-friendly introduction, he goes so far as to describe postcards as ‘cells in a giant, universal brain’ then adds, instructively: ’I like to dream with postcards’.

Traversing such inner and outer realities, the texts in Postcard Stories feature a surprising number of flowers. Ditto monuments, towers, clocks and water features. In deep amidst the imagistic ebb and flow, we are asked to consider how flowers flower differently in words than they do in pictures. We are back in the quarry. We are back at the beginning of the world, and the beginning of the word. We are once again keeping company with a zebra-headed youth in his wasteland-quarry. Yet we are also in the world of a film-maker, one half of the Humanimals who is now one half of a group called the Floral Clocks (greetings to the other half, Gabriel White, here with us tonight)… We are in the world of a man- or person-of-letters, an exemplary citizen of Aotearoa, a Buddhist, activist, free radical and traveller in the universe of postcards; a surveyor also of the lives contained in these most wistful of images and of the lives that continue to swirl around them long after they have been posted, received and put to one side.

 

Gregory O’Brien

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Poetry Shelf noticeboard: David Howard awarded UNESCO Ulyanovsk residency

Writers from Slovenia and New Zealand to be the first participants of the Ulyanovsk UNESCO City of Literature Residency Programme

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In September, David Howard from Dunedin (New Zealand) will visit Ulyanovsk. The author is going to develop a poetic sequence set in Ulyanovsk, as well as to collaborate with a local composer on a musical setting for his texts. Howard is the author of six books, a participant of several international residencies, was awarded several literary awards, was a participant of exhibitions and performances, an editor of several books, including the book, devoted to Russian authors. His works were translated into European languages; the book «The Ones Who Keep Quiet» (Otago University Press, 2017) featured in the New Zealand Listener’s Books of the Year. David received the New Zealand Society of Authors Mid-Career Writers’ Award (2009), the University of South Pacific Poetry Prize (2011), and the University of Otago Robert Burns Fellowship (2013).

Full details here

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Jack Ross’s ‘What do you want?’

 

 

What do you want?

 

 

said the librarian

in Friendly Feilding

to come in from the cold

was my reply

 

we’re closing an hour early

for a function

the function I’d driven down for

I walked away

 

he’s crying

but he doesn’t know

why he’s crying

said my sister

 

to the primer one teacher

who wanted to know why

I guess I do too

I guess I do

 

I was small and afraid

of a brand-new place

so many people

but what remains

 

is kindness

my sister

trying to help

unavailingly

 

Jack Ross

 

 

Jack Ross’s novel The Annotated Tree Worship was highly commended in the 2018 NZ Heritage Book Awards. He has written five poetry collections and six other volumes of fiction. He works at Massey University, and is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand. His blogs here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Gail Ingram launches new collection

Contents Under Pressure a new poetry collection by Gail Ingram illustrated by Rata Ingram published by Pūkeko Publications 5.30-7.00pm Spark Room, Ground Floor at Tūranga New Central Library, Christchurch.

 

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Poetry Shelf Friday talk spot: Jeffrey Paparoa Holman and ‘Normal Service’

 

Normal Service

It feels like months since I’ve come near to anything like writing poetry. Sometimes it just happens like that: there’s a season, not that the well is dry, just that the bucket hasn’t been lowered. The first few months of this year have been taken up with getting myself ready to leave my position at the University of Canterbury, deciding not to re-apply for another three years as an adjunct. Time to go, after nine productive and stable years.

I tell people, “I’m not retiring, just moving offices”, which is true, but it is a major change. Every weekday morning, Jeanette and I have cycled out to the Ilam Campus, stopping off for a coffee most days near Hagley Park. Now, I don’t have to go anywhere, which is different from having nowhere to go, but it will take some getting used to.

What I won’t forget is that in the last two weeks of my tenure, all has been overtaken and devoured by what happened on the afternoon of the fifteenth of March when the whole campus was locked down as a result of what we were first told was, “ a firearms incident at the Al Noor Mosque”. It soon became obvious it was a fatal shooting, there had been many casualties, that some were dead, and as the afternoon wore on, the numbers climbed as the scale of the tragedy was revealed.

So much has happened in this city since that day, on a public stage and in private places, that don’t need any reminders here. The stories, the narratives of grief, shock, anger and even a kind of numbness are all being woven together, in a community that knows disaster, that must now confront terrorism and its aftermath at our very heart – a place of worship.

I had no intention, no inclination, to write anything resembling a poem. It was enough just to try and get my head around what was happening and as well, carry on clearing my desk, saving files, changing email addresses and saying goodbye to good friends on the staff of Canterbury.

Jeanette and I sometimes go for breakfast at Under The Red Verandah, a famous city eatery reborn after the poet and publisher Roger Hickin’s original establishment was wrecked in the earthquakes. While we were there on Thursday morning, my wife asked me if any poetry was there in the wake of what had happened, and I recall saying, no, I couldn’t even contemplate writing a poem.

But as I walked around afterwards, I heard a line, an insistent phrase, quite clearly: “Normal service will not be resumed”. It just sat there. Then another: “There has been a slaying”.  It isn’t often I feel I must obey an instinct as strong as this, but started to write what was really a form of litany, compressing the underlying horror I felt. The poem came in couplets that began with what sounds like a public service announcement, which the next line undermines. At least I hope that is the effect.

I worked on it during the day, and on Friday I took it out to Christchurch Mens’ Prison, Paparua, where every week, three Christchurch poets – Bernadette Hall, Jeni Curtis and I – run a book group in the library overseen by Susan, our wonderful librarian.

There was a security lockdown that day and we had no prisoners turn up. We all sat around and shared our lives, and the poem was read. Susan took a copy for the prison’s monthly library magazine. Whatever it is worth, a silence for me was broken and some of the men in that jail will get to read it, maybe even give a response at a later group.

W. B. Yeats once wrote, “…but all that is personal soon rots; it must be packed in ice or salt”. For Yeats, style, form – made new – was vital in preventing the poet from lapsing into subjective egotism. A disaster like this is not about me, but the victims.

 

Normal service

 

mō ngā mate Mahometa e rima tekau i hinga ki Ōtautahi 15 Māehe 2019

Normal service will not be resumed
There has been a slaying

Normal service is impossible
Children executed

Normal service disconnected
Mothers slaughtered

Normal service is terminated
Elders eliminated

Normal service makes no sense
Terror is walking

Normal service is banned for life
Blood on the welcome

Normal service is now shut down
Thank you for weeping

 

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
4 April 2019

 

 

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman writes poetry, memoir and history. His most recent work is Now When It Rains: a writer’s memoir, published by Steele Roberts (Aotearoa) in 2018.

 

 

Rob Stowell, the videographer at Canterbury had recorded this reading of the poemW

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf audio spot: Hinemoana Baker reads ‘Aunties’

 

 

 

 

Hinemoana reads ‘Aunties’

 

 

 

Hinemoana Baker, of Ngāti Tahu, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa and Te Āti Awa along with English and Bavarian heritage, currently lives in Berlin. A poet, musician and playwright, she graduated with an MA in creative writing from Victoria University of Wellington in 2002. She was the 2009 Arts Queensland Poet in Residence, a writer in residence at the University of Iowa International Writing Program (2010), Victoria University Writer in Residence (2014) and held the Creative New Zealand Berlin Writer’s Residency (2015–16). She has published three poetry collections and several CDs of sonic poems.