Category Archives: NZ author

Karlo Mila’s ‘Moemoea (Composed for Poets for Ihumātao)’


Moemoea (Composed for Poets for Ihumātao)

I have a dream….
Not a Martin Luther King dream
more of a waking life dream
where you’re in a parallel universe movie of your own making.

In my dream,
Jacinda is walking in knee high gumboots
the tall, skinny, expensive kind
you used to have to order from Great Britain
and that I could never pull over my big Tongan calves.

She is wearing a red, red raincoat,
not like a Kathmandu one with a zip.
It’s more of a cape,
fire-truck red, lipstick red, Labour party red.
More of a red-riding hood cape
and it is billowing in the whipping wind.

And the way she struts it could be a Horse Polo ad
but it’s not, cos she and her gumboots
are on the whenua at Ihumātao
and she’s not walking alone,
flanked, either side is Nanaia, Kiritapu, Willow-Jean
and Louisa who has the reddest lipstick of them all.
They all have knee high boots and red jackets
and there is Carmel, taller than the rest,
even though her boots are flat,
who used to rent our family home.
And there is Jenny, with a red flower behind her ear,
who used to be married to my ex-husband.
And there is ‘Anahila, my mate,
with her righteous Tongan afro, and Poto too.
And in my dream the soundtrack is Beyonce playing
“Who rules the world? Girls!”
And behind them is Jacinda’s baby-daddy
pushing Neve Te Aroha in an expensive water proof pram
which is just as well, cos there is thunder and lightning
as these women walk.
And it strikes me that he is the perfect,
mana-ful, woke male.
The lips of all these women are pursed.
Not like in selfies, but like they are purposeful.
And in my dream they are walking in slow mo
and Marama is there in her reggae beanie, laughing,
saying, what took you fellas so long.

In my dream,
Jacinda has read Dr Rawiri Taonui’s article
and as her plane landed on the Auckland tarmac
she thought for the first time
about all the bodies, all the bones, the koiwi
the ancestors who had to give up everything,
a clean awa, their land, kai moana, unpolluted ocean,
who had to give too much to the city of Auckland,
even their graves.

I dream Jacinda truly felt
that this history stinks like sewage
as she drove into the shit-show
that has been the water treatment plant.
And she visibly flinched when she saw the Proclamation
issued by corrupt Governor Grey
with his fake news about dangerous attacking natives
as he coveted Waikato-Tainui having the best land, flour mills, most fertile export businesses,
and imported and gathered 16,000 British imperial and colonial troops
telling the natives to surrender,
or they’d be ejected.

I hope she knows
the archeologists say
this is an OG settlement place
Where to quote Alice Te Punga Somerville
where Māori
“Once were Pacific”
and evolved, over centuries,
Right here,
from us
into them.
And I’m waving a Tongan flag
at this small way that we are connected
and in my dream
Pita Turei is not comparing me to Captain Cook
for doing this, but he’s down there on the atea
saying ‘haere mai’ Jacinda,
and he looks so beautiful,
with his feathers in his hair.

And in my dream, at this very moment
he turns into a bird
and then he is joined by an army of kahu
from Okahu Bay
a whole field full of black hawks
with surveyors pegs in their beaks
and a burning papa kainga in their eyes.
And yeah, maybe, a park for all New Zealanders
is not enough, although it was gifted generously after the occupation of Bastion Point.
And there are overlapping interests here
not just the fact that blood joins
in so many mokopuna,
but cos the kaupapa of Tino Rangatiratanga
is an overlapping interest.
And even Paul Majurey says, tautoko.

And then all the maunga are there,
cos Pihanga led the way
and just like Pania
she’s quite the mountain.
It’s Mana Wāhine on display
and there’s the red line up of women
walking in the mud
and I don’t know where Willie, Kelvin and Peeni are
but it’s my dream and I don’t need to know.
Willie is def not doing the fingers at the crowd
behind the glass doors at Parliament, like I saw him do last week.
Just cos men who have had their children taken by the state heckled him.
And to be honest
I’m sure uplift kaupapa is over,
it’s time for uplifting.

And in my dream, all the boots on those women
are now thigh high and they are all wearing
ei katu of red flowers
made by my friend Ta’i,
cos it’s Cook Islands language week
and cos every woman looks more beautiful in an ei. Everyone.
And they are saying Kia Ora, Kia Orana.
And I am looking at Pania, Qiane, Amiria and the cousins.
Rihanna is singing, shining bright, bright like a diamond,
but not a blood diamond.
And Qiane says: “We don’t speak on behalf of Mana Whenua. We are Mana Whenua.”
And there is a sign in the sky,
not a tōhu but a billboard
and it says,
“Aotearoa, New Zealand. This LEADERSHIP is in dispute.”
And there are one hundred thousand likes on Facebook
and laughing, dancing GIFS and
emoji’s with love hearts in their eyes.

And then suddenly it is silent
and in my dream Jacinda stops
and takes off her gumboots
and is barefoot, skin to land,
and tears stream down her face
and she says, I can hear it,
I can feel the whenua singing.

Once you know it,
you cannot unknow it.

We do not hurt the things we love.

And in amidst that magic,
somewhere online
a give-a-little page
has gone viral
and people are buying back
Ihumātao, square metre by square metre,
and the soundtrack is playing Midnight Oil
and the donations pour in
Asians for Tino Rangatiratanga
the Muslim community
the Tongan church congregations
who give more than they can afford
because that’s how we roll
and the amounts are printed online
and even Don Brash donates because,
no he doesn’t, because not even in a dream!
But nobody cares,
because he is old news
and now girls rule the world.
And Jacinda stands up and says
to the international community
This is a win for climate change.
This is a win for indigenous people everywhere.
This is a win for community.
This is a win for New Zealand.
This is a win for Auckland.
This is a win for the whenua.
The soundtrack is playing ”We are the people”
by Louis Baker.
And even Tina Ngata says,
she did better than Helen Clark.
And on TV
beautiful Kanoa Lloyd
rapturous in red
sits there
queen of the prime time universe
and with a smug side-eye at her colleagues
she interviews Joe Blogs
from the heart of Remuera
about why he gave a little
and then he explains
that after coming to the whenua himself
and taking the tour with Pania
and reading about the history
he finally understood
that the people of Ihumātao
had given enough
to make Auckland great.

And it was time to stop taking.

Or living off the back of benefits
Of unjustly taken land.

It was time to give a little back.
He said. Actually, it was time
to give a lot.

And somewhere,
in Tāmaki
all the birds waiting
with surveyor pegs
in their mouths,
both extinct and living,
spat them from the
choke in their throats
and the black hawks
began to sing.

And all the people everywhere,
who can hear the dawn chorus of the dead,
locked in psychatric wards and prisons cells,
began to hum a happier tune
instead of feeling lament.

And somewhere,
Te Whiti, Tōhu, Te Kooti, Rua, Rewi, Tāwhiao,
Eva, Whina, Ngāneko and all the ancestors,
began to sing.
Knowing now,
the tongues of birds.

And us ordinary ones,
without the gifts of sight or sound,
if you listen carefully
you can catch a fragment
of that waiata,
you can hear it
in the refrain of
Rob Ruha’s new song,
and it
sounds like


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Karlo read this poem last night at Poets for Ihumātao – on the whenua.

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Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Jess Fiebig’s ‘Summer’


Summer 2016


that summer was heavy, thick

I felt myself weighted,

struggling to move through air

it was underwater with open eyes

breathless and pressurised

seeing everything through

the blur and sting

of sea water


my new breasts were tight and hard in my chest,

and I had to sleep on my back for the first time;

my body was an unfamiliar collection of bones,

brittle as shells, and freshly bleached hair.


it was an achingly empty summer,

it was bitten, itchy skin,

damp thighs rubbing on denim,

it was bare chested and freckled,

salt licking new scars


it was the season of lemons

softening in the bowl,

damp fur, and fingernails bitter and green

from tearing and linking

daisy stems


it was clotted black blood, sprinklers,

strawberries and razorblades,

it was warm, long nights alone


it was the summer of the 6 am hate poem,

the first summer the soles of my feet

grew thick and hard

and as I watched shadows stretch

and felt cool wind come off the water,

it was the summer

I fell in love with



Jess Fiebig



Jess Fiebig is a nationally-recognised poet, educator and performer living in Otautahi/Christchurch, New Zealand. Her writing has featured in journals such as Aotearotica, Catalyst, Landfall, takahē, Turbine, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook and Best New Zealand Poems 2018. Jess was commended in the 2017 and 2018 New Zealand Poetry Society International Poetry Competitions and was highly commended in 2019 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize. Her poetry explores themes such as madness, sex, love, family violence, friendship, drugs and dislocation. Jess teaches creative writing and is a tutor at the Christchurch School for Young Writers.  Jess’s website.





Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Sudha Rao’s ‘Manuhiri’

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Her grandmother told her she was a child of Manu,

manushi, daughter of humanity, blessed

to be a visitor when she crossed the sea.


The wooden gate is a threshold with arms outstretched

in protection, the slow wash of green waters rhythm.

Rising notes of another tongue is the wailing of her mother tongue.


Her back, a billowing canvas is taking shape –

her grandmother’s tapping, tapping the geo-graphy of her

in colours of the monsoon rain.


She is dusk, light with all the distance around her.

She crosses the threshold and offers her grandmother’s verses,

a garland of old earth sounds for the new.






Blissful waters surround pain washed up over and over again.

She sits among silent voices, bodies twitching to utter

shame for carrying skin, coloured by others.

What’s a brown skinned woman to do

at the gates of a marae? The solidarity of colour

bears differentiation.

He opened to a stance defying rule, he said I am

connected to islands by water, I am connected to you

by colonisation.

The gates opened enough for her to raise her head.





Nga Mihi

Korihi Te manu, takiri mai i Te ata 

Ka ao, ka ao, ka awatea

Tihei Mauri ora

Kua tau tenei manu hei manu, hei manuhiri, hei manu hari 

Ko te takahanga waewae, ko te rere o te kupu

Ka tangi te ngakau, he roimata aroha

Ki te manawhenua, no koutou tonu te whenua nei.

He awe ko toku mama, he awe ko toku papa 

Ma te huruhuru te manu ka rere 

Ka rere i te ao, ka rere i te po, ka rere ki toku whenua ake 

Ma Te ahi ka te manu ka ora. 

Tena koutou katoa.



When the kuia holds her hand, a sacred place ignites.

You are a seed of the old banyan tree swept

from your grandmother’s lap.

Transplanted here, I see birds’ nests, singing insects and shoots bearing the weight

of you. I see strong branches making light of your path –

see how they are dropping roots –

she feels the earth quiver under her feet.



Across the table, she hears raging clouds roving

to make wave upon wave to become sea overhead. White peaks roughed up on waters

below are screeching

gulls. How can she say that she is a visitor

on a  warm beach with sand beads

sketching a canvas stretched in her head?





She is a mirror of herself.

She is not a mirror of herself.

She is a scooped grain of memory,

of a love-song for a life lived

between her worlds.






1  The mihi for Manuhiri was prepared for me by Matt Gifford. It is made of two parts – the first is Māori proverb, the second part of the speech is an introduction of me to the hosts at the marae. The translation is as follows:


Nga Mihi (speech)

Part One – Maori proverb

Korihi Te manu, takiri mai i Te ata

Ka ao, Ka ao, ka awatea

Tihei Mauri ora

The bird sings, the morning has dawned

The day has broken

Ah! There is life.

Part Two – my speech introducing myself Matt references me as bird

Kua tau tenei manu hei manu, hei manuhiri, hei manu hari

Ko te takahanga waewae, ko te rere o te kupu

Ka tangi te ngakau, he roimata aroha

Ki te manawhenua, no koutou tonu te whenua nei.

This manu (bird) has descended as a manu (bird), as a visitor, as a dancing visitor

Through its dancing feet and its flowing words

Its heart cries, the tears of love

For you the home people, this is your land.

He awe ko toku mama, He awe ko toku papa

Ma te huruhuru te manu ka rere

Ka rere i te ao, ka rere i te po, Ka rere ki toku whenua ake

Ma Te ahi ka te manu ka ora.

My mother is a feather, my father is a feather

And it’s by their feathers this manu (bird) takes flight

Taking flight to the day, and flight to the night, From its own home land

Where the home fire burns, and gives this manu (bird) life.



Originally from South India, Sudha Rao lives in Wellington and has had a long standing involvement with the arts, primarily as a dancer. In 2017, Sudha graduated with a Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University, Wellington. Since 2012, Sudha’s poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies. These include two editions of Blackmail Press (2012 and 2014); an anthology of New Zealand writing, Sunset at the Estuary (2015) and in the UK anthology Poets’ quest for God (2016);  Landfall, Otago University, Dunedin (2018),and an anthology of migrant voices called More of us published in March 2019. In 2014, one Sudha’s poems was on the Bridport Poetry Competition’s shortlist. Excerpts of her prose work, has appeared in Turbine (2018) which comprised part of her MA thesis Margam and other excerpts were read in two sessions on national radio RNZ (2018). Sudha is part of a collective of Wellington women poets called Meow Gurrrls, who regularly post poems on YouTube





Poetry Shelf review: Gail Ingram’s Contents Under Pressure


Gail Ingram, Contents Under Pressure, Pūkeko Publications, 2019


Gail Ingram has published poetry and flash fiction both in New Zealand and internationally. She lives in Christchurch where she is part of a writing/ critiquing group of poets. Contents Under Pressure is her debut poetry collection and includes illustrations by her daughter, Rata Ingram.

Contents Under Pressure is in debt to a city; the poems navigate post-earthquake Christchurch. When I first held the book and flicked through the pages, I was reminded of flicking through a book to watch the drawings on the bottom corners move. Flick the pages of this book and it is poetry in disrupted movement: you get spiky angles, walls of text, bold against light, steps against missing bits, changing fonts.

The title is perfect: everything is under pressure – the fractured city and the contents of the book. This is the story of a city filtered through that of a mother / graffiti artist and her son, and both have different ways of coping with a city in pieces.

The opening poem ‘Definition: mother / graffiti / artist’ introduces just that: a mother who goes tagging in the city that continues to break. At times the pages of the book stand in for the tagged walls:


she sprays

airport walls in zen

tangles so strangers

trace poke-leaves

in sesquipedalian mazes


from ‘From below, the graffiti artist is’


I love this book because it shakes up what poetry can do while simultaneously bringing us in close, so searingly close, to human trauma.

An early poem returns us to solid ground: the mother and her sons are looking at a photo of the family tobogganing at Round Hill. It is a white hot shard in the collection that makes the rest of the poetry even more poignant:


Mum took the photo. I’ve got this picture of Dad resting his

arm across her shoulders —

Yeah, like a security blanket.


But now when I look at it, I don’t see us. I don’t know who

that family is, but …

I know the mountains —

The mountains are capable of moving.


from ‘She overhears the boys talking about the photo in the hall’


The portrait of the woman feels like a woman behaving out of character in order to relocate herself (her new character) in the new and shattered terrain. She leaves her familiar/unfamiliar daylight routines. She becomes someone other in the pitch dark night. At times the writing is in shards and spiky while at times it is lyrical:


She hasn’t gone out into the ink

of the night street yet. Here,

she exists, safe as a thief

in the stoma of their sheets

before she will slink through the open window,

creep along the dark passages of local streets,

and tap her own tune

on the city’s leaping drum.


from ‘The graffiti artist waits for the world to sleep’


The graffiti artist shows us the power of art to make both public and personal both ideas and feelings. And we can engage with this. We can be moved and we can be challenged. In ‘The graffiti artist as a teenager’, her art teacher had showed the class the ‘Cubist strokes of “Guernica””. She is learning what art can do:


At fourteen she learned the power of dots. That a

cluster could create a river pebble’s shadow, a

crease in a smile or the trail of cupped hooves on

farm soil. Forty pencils pattering in the class, and

the hexagon-window left free, high in the streaked

pupil, made the picture come alive as if it was her

paper skin under the shrapnel of sharp lead. (…)


There are many threads to track through the book. Equally captivating is the thread of the son thrown off kilter, with drugs, anxiety, physic textbooks. In ‘Expedition to the New World’ the mother and son are traipsing through the vegetable aisles where the poem’s punning supermarket title confirms everything is made strange and off-centre:


(…)  She can’t find what they need. He

brushes past tins of spaghetti. Root-like tendrils on the

labels seem to take an interest in his passing, as though to

grasp for arm or ankle. He half-stumbles into the bags of

stalky cereal and utters a guttural sound, an earthquake

rumble that shudders up through his body to settle there.


On the back of the book Sue Wootton, Bernadette Hall and Bryan Walpert underline what a gift this book is. I agree. The poetry represents the way the shattering of familiar terrain shakes up everything: family, body, heart, faith, everyday routines, solid attachments. It shakes you as you read. It is intimate and it is wide reaching. It also shows the way art, language and a deep love of family carry you as you discover ways to resettle. A gift of a book.


Pūkeko Publications page










Poetry Shelf noticeboard: The Public History Talks – Fiona Kidman on This Mortal Boy

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The Public History Talks are hosted by the Ministry for Culture & Heritage History Group at the National Library of New Zealand. They are usually held on the first Wednesday of the month from March to November.

Talks in this series are usually recorded and available online

  • Date: Wednesday, 7 August, 2019
  • Time: 12:10pm to 1:00pm
  • Cost: Free. You don’t need to book.
  • Location: Taiwhanaga Kahau — Auditorium (lower ground floor), Corner Molesworth and Aitken Streets, Wellington. Entrance on Aitken Street.
  • Contact Details:

Please join us to hear Dame Fiona Kidman discuss the writing of her award-winning book ‘This Mortal Boy’.

Albert Black, born in Belfast, was eighteen when he arrived in New Zealand as an assisted work immigrant, in 1953. Although his life in New Zealand started well, he was found guilty of murder after an altercation in an Auckland cafe, two years later. He was hanged in December 1955.

In writing the novel ‘This Mortal Boy’ (Vintage, 2018), Fiona Kidman explores the story behind the headlines and asks whether Black might have been found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder.

The 1950s were a time of social upheaval in New Zealand, and form a background to the events she describes. Central to this talk will be the methods of research employed and the boundaries between fact and fiction.

These free public history talks are a collaboration between the National Library of New Zealand and Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage. They are usually held on the first Wednesday of the month March to November.

Most talks are recorded. You can listen to them at New Zealand History

About the speaker

Dame Fiona is a Wellington writer. Over the years she has been a librarian, radio producer and screenwriter.

She has written more than thirty books, including novels, short fiction, memoir and poetry. Her latest novel ‘This Mortal Boy’ was awarded the Acorn Foundation’s Prize for Fiction at the Ockham Book Awards 2019. She has a DNZM, OBE and two French honours, including the French Legion of Honour.




Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Fiona Farrell picks Paula Green’s ‘Glenburn’




Even in the face of an icy wind, the stillness

dazzles us, and we journey south to the dulcet honey.

He falls silent, the din left destitute, far

from the hive. The sound of his laugh, it rises

and becomes music, a vein of sun that is in him


like a mountain. Appearances remain objects of barter.

All the calm. All that fury. We cross a threshold

to witness the unbidden cloud. Our chamber of words

sweetened as if made of honey or beeswax,

for we arrive at last, the smell now in him of hive.


We will eat bread and cheese, forgetting the northern

city, the pull of the ocean. He moves with his sight

fixed on stillness, finding a fickle appearance

like a star behind slow speech. All that fury. All that calm.

Where will we find the scale of love? The journey south


undoes the mountain of cloud. His own incubus

the riddle that is land. We are certain that buildings

will appear in the stillness, kept alive by our eyes.


Paula Green

from Crosswind, Auckland University Press, 2004. Also published in Dear Heart: 150 NZ Love Poems, Random House, 2012.


Note from Fiona Farrell

My favourite poem? I had enough trouble selecting 25 recently for the IIML annual anthology.

So, a single poem? Should it be one that has repeatedly popped into my head at odd intervals over many years, a single line, a phrase, one of those little handgrips that keeps me from falling? Should it be a poem that belongs so strongly to a time I like going back to in my mind, that it arrives fully packed and tagged to memory? Or the one that touched me so much because it was a gift from a friend and unexpected and it said something I loved hearing? Or the one that was very old and strange? Or the one that made something I knew well gleam with newness so I noticed it again as if it was for the first time? Or the one I read this morning that has left the day feeling just great?

I’ll go with that: Paula Green’s ‘Glenburn’ because it speaks to the strangeness I feel moving to Otago again after many years absence. And to the feeling of discovering it – and it might as well be for the first time – in the company of someone I love who has other eyes to bring to the journey south. And to my knowledge of Michael Hight’s paintings of beehives, so there is an illustration – not any one painting, but many – lurking beside the words.

And it speaks too to a feeling that’s been growing steadily since I came here, that it’s all so fragile, this beautiful golden south. Last night I talked to a woman fighting subdivisions in Arrowtown. ‘It’s going,’ she said. ‘Queenstown, and Wanaka and Arrowtown and the lakes.’ Pockmarked with 400 house subdivisions, an airport proposal which could go anywhere, hotels and resorts and dairy conversions.

This poem of Paula’s makes me think about love: for people and for a landscape.



Fiona Farrell publishes fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama. She lived for many years at Otanerito on Banks Peninsula but has moved recently to Dunedin.

Paula Green has just published two new poetry collections (Groovy Fish, The Cuba Press) and (The Track, Seraph Press) with Wild Honey: Reading NZ Women’s Poetry (Massey University Press) out early August.