Category Archives: NZ poems

A 2017 poem toast to you – from Mere Taito’s splendid debut



the sea
gate-crashes your lunch
through an opening
in the bus shelter wall

it salts your chips
makes you squeeze
the tomato sauce out of your words
onto the battered fish

the butcher’s paper
grabs the name of your crush
and coats it with the hot oil
before the wind blows it
through the door of the Metrolink bus

deliriously happy
you mouth feed the seagulls


©Mere Taito, The Light and dark in Our Stuff (2017)



Mere introduces herself at the start of her debut poetry book – a book that I like very much indeed.

‘The island of Rotuma is my ancestral-mapiga (grandmother) home. It looks like a whale on Google Earth. Fiji is my I-grew-up here-home and New Zealand, my right-now home. I moved to New Zealand in 2007 because my father ‘talked up’ this country – he said it was a great country to live in. Except for winter, I have no reason to believe otherwise.’

The book is a book of two halves; five dark poems and five light poems. I have read it twice, sitting on the beach at the end of my run, finding the shift from dark to  light sparking even sharper in a dramatic setting. Mere offers music, challenges, an attentive eye and heart, and it feels like a little guidebook to living. On this particular occasion, in this particular way. Wonderful.

So with this poem, and permission from Mere, a warm seasonal, poetry toast to you all!


Powerful poetry collection wins Adam Foundation Prize


A “powerful, restrained but unafraid” collection of poems that explore the lives of four generations of Māori women has been awarded the 2017 Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing by Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML).

Tayi Tibble, 22, wrote the winning work—In a Fish Tank Filled with Pink Light—as part of her 2017 Master of Arts (MA) at the IIML.

Tayi describes winning the Adam Foundation Prize as incredibly encouraging. “It was a privilege and a pleasure to have spent the year so deeply immersed in the world of writing with such talented, intelligent, and generous friends. I believe it was the high calibre of work from my peers that stimulated my growth as a writer, as well as the guidance and encouragement from Louise Wallace and Chris Price. Although I am sad to see the end of this invaluable year, winning the Adam Foundation Prize signals the beginning of a new chapter.”

Wellington-born Tayi (Te Whānau a Apanui/Ngāti Porou) went to school in Porirua and holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Social Policy from Victoria. She has regularly appeared in Wellington’s LitCrawl Festival, and her work has been published in Starling—the journal for writers under 25—and Landfall.

Supported by Wellingtonians Denis and Verna Adam through the Victoria University Foundation, the $3,000 Adam Foundation Prize is awarded annually to an outstanding student in the MA in Creative Writing programme at the IIML.

Chris Price, a senior lecturer at the IIML and co-convenor of this year’s Master’s programme, says it’s been a pleasure to read the poems as they have developed over the course of the year.

“Tayi is an ambitious writer who has seized every opportunity to extend her craft and her range of subject matter. Her poems speak to contemporary urban realities, and to the histories that created them. They are also charming, funny and on point.”

This is the second year running that the Adam Foundation Prize has gone to a 22-year-old writer, after Annaleese Jochems’ novel Baby received the prize in 2016.

“Tayi joins the incoming wave of young writers who are forging the future of literature in this country. We are confident she will make her mark,” says Chris.

Previous Adam Foundation Prize recipients include acclaimed authors Catherine Chidgey, Ashleigh Young, Hera Lindsay Bird and Eleanor Catton.

A new poem from Joan Fleming: ‘Was the night before’


Was the night before


[because fast and faster aren’t necessarily

[this lucky and the lights burning her feet like

[angry because people are saying “happy hols” and the jingling

[was the first sign the roast was too long in the

[wondering if burnt feet stay burnt like

[decorations and shoved them onto the coffee table like here

[dry streets don’t you remember how we always

[someone is always closing them again, “it’s the flies”

[her favourite, marshmallows liquefying into the mashed

[a skin on it because we left it too long or

[not the smell that sets the alarms off, it’s the smoke’s

[makes my soul slack out she said, those tunes you want to claw your

[“over here” said the Santa, because where were all the little

[crackling, that’s my favourite part even though my mouth can’t

[if I’m going to do it, I’m not going to do it wearing

[be always telling you shut the

[not the family I thought I

[happens when I lit the pine

[bauble just comes right apart in your hand


©Joan Fleming 2017


Joan was one of the highlights for me at the recent Poetry & the Essay conference at Victoria University. Her paper raised important questions on borrowing, acknowledging, taking risks, building conversations, processing different ways of doing and being, especially of being white woman alongside aborigine women. Having had a taste of the poems, I can’t wait for a book to emerge. And I just loved listening to her reading.

This poem, however, is a little – as Joan said – slightly prickly toast to Christmas.

Submissions open for next Sweet Mammalian



Send us your writing, be it a roar, purr, or pip-squeak.

Sweet Mammalian aims for diversity and inclusiveness—we want all different kinds of poetry, from all different kinds of writers. In order to make this possible we need your submissions, so send us your thrilling writing!

Submit up to 5 poems of any length. Please send your work in a single word doc attachment to , and include a short bio note and the titles of your poems in the body of the email.

We are now accepting submissions for Issue Five. The submission deadline is 31 December 2017.

Issue Five will be published in the early months of 2018.


See here






Reuben Todd’s The Poet Creep replays an unstable world, a flickering heart, an excavating mind





Reuben Todd, The Poet Creep, self published, 2017


I could eat you

with my bare feet.


Reuben Todd graduated from the Hagley Writers Institute and acknowledges the tutelage of Kerrin P. Sharpe and mentorship of Bernadette hall at the front of his new poetry collection, The Poet Creep. He works in multiple fields: writer, comic, director, actor and produces Christchurch’s live weekend sketch show, Skitch.

The poetry collection crept up on me slowly, and then picked up speed, like a wild wind gusting through my poetry-focused mind. Six distinctive sequences grasp the white space of the page and, using that as a key element, play with language to a point of  alluring freshness. Words hug the line,  dart above and below, congregate in prose-like flashes, are crossed out, repeat, splinter, break apart. The effect might induce poetry vertigo but instead I am pulled along a current of reading that replays an unstable world, a flickering heart, an excavating mind.

At times it feels like I have entered the realm of dystopian poetry where surreal channels bust the borders between the real, the longed for and the imagined.

‘IS?TANBUL’ is a surprising page turner – fidgety restless poetry – that responds to an unstable, immaterial world. Words repeat, letters float and drift or overlap (impossible to replicate on my staid blog).  In this sample note the ‘h’ and ‘f’ of ‘ashfelt are jammed tight as though intensifying the tension between heart and ruin:









Sometimes a single line floats like a guest lyric:


Snow is falling like fat wet kisses


Blank pages reinforce the primacy of white space, the fresh start, the need to pause, the silent beat, the tacit sidestep, the unsayable, if not the unthinkable.


A sequence of B/W images, ‘UNCOUPLED V GNETTE’,  with ‘i’ missing, like a motif of self erasure, like a hiccup or pause, a bridge to the white space, pulls me to concrete details. Close-up images of architectural features form the book’s core. Interpreting this choice – the intricate, hard and designed surfaces of built things  – I feel the physical core absorbs the knotted movements, the virtual scenarios, the upended semantics, the tilted ground we stand on.

The final sequences, if not all the sequences, present autobiography that refracts and reflects stutters and sings. Then again, every word might be a downright lie. This is not important. The need to break and link, overlap and disintegrate, produces poetry that fires both heart and mind. Language is always on the move, and it is an exhilarating experience following it. I loved this collection.


























from ‘Where we part.’


Reuben Todd web page