Category Archives: NZ poetry

Poetry Shelf video: Vaughan Rapatahana reads at Medellin Columbia Poetry Festival

Vaughan Rapatahana begins many of his poems with a whakataukī. He is reading English versions of his poems that are then read in Spanish, but I love the way he brings in te reo Māori. Words say so much that are lost in translation, especially in poetry where each word is a rich vessel – words such as karakia and whanaunga. Vaughan’s poems consider death, place, whānau, significant issues such as global warming, the treatment of Māori. One poem particularly moved me: ‘Talking to my son in a funeral home’. Vaughan wondered why he keeps writing poems about and for his son who committed suicide 16 years ago. He shares his recent epiphany: that he writes of his son to keep his son alive. Later he reads a second poem, ‘The Zephyr’, a list poem, that is equally compelling (‘The zephyr that is my lost son still frisks me’). Ah. Ah. Ah. He reads a love poem he has written in te reo Māori to his wife, because he says he finds it easier to write how he feels in his first language.

To hear this coming together of te reo Māori, English and Spanish – a poetry meeting where words are held across distance to draw upon depth and intimacy – is a rare and glorious treat. Thank you.

Vaughan Rapatahana (Te Ātiawa) commutes between homes in Hong Kong, Philippines, and Aotearoa New Zealand. He is widely published across several genre in both his main languages, te reo Māori and English and his work has been translated into Bahasa Malaysia, Italian, French, Mandarin, Romanian, Spanish. Additionally, he has lived and worked for several years in the Republic of Nauru, PR China, Brunei Darussalam, and the Middle East.

You can read Vaughan’s knitting (love) poem here.

Vaughan Rapatahana reads and responds to ‘tahi kupu anake’

Poem: kia atawhai – te huaketo 2020 / be kind – the virus 2020

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Vana Manasiadis ‘Skylla draws the planet as three lippy women’

from one spark:
Skylla draws the planet as three lippy women



the planet as Klytaemnestra

 don’t shove you everywhere the tail yours        don’t
sear you the fish to the lips my                like the fish out
 of water                               δεν τρέμω         the fish stinks
 from the head             like the fish     σαν     out of water                
won’t cut I the throat my            το ψάρι     won’t lower
I the tail my           won’t shake like the fish I    


the planet as Medea

              show I the teeth my               
 squeeze I the teeth my
armed until the teeth  fight I
       with nails and with teeth   
 talk I inside from the teeth
talk I outside from
                                    the teeth                                   
  if don’t you have teeth
                   can’t you to bite
you can’t dodge this
    δράκου δόντι να’χεις δεν γλιτώνεις
not even with a dragon’s tooth


the planet as Antigone

from one spark grows a bushfire
 put I the hand           to the fire
     from one spark
είμαι                grows a bushfire
am I lava                     and fire
 the eyes my         throw sparks
                      fall I        
                  φωτιά     to the fire
the eyes                   my
                                     throw sparks
grab I the fire              και
                              put I the hand
   λάβρα                   to the fire
grab I the fire                  am I lava             
 lava                           am I and fire
and fire                   

Vana Manasiadis

Vana Manasiadis is a Greek-New Zealand poet and translator born in Te Whanganui-a-Tara and based in Tāmaki Makaurau after many years living in Kirihi Greece.  She is 2021 Ursula Bethell Writer-in-Residence at Te Whare Wanaga o Waitaha Canterbury University. Her most recent book was The Grief Almanac: A Sequel (Seraph Press).

Poetry Shelf audio: Tim Grgec reads from All Tito’s Children

All Tito’s Children, Tim Grgec, Victoria University Press, 2021

An intro:

Tim reads ‘Infectious Divides’:

Tim reads ‘Lost Tendencies’:

Tim Grgec was the 2018 recipient of the Biggs Family Prize for Poetry. Having failed to achieve his childhood dream of playing for the Black Caps, he now has delusions of becoming a great writer. His first book, All Tito’s Children, is out now with Victoria University Press.

Victoria University Press page

Poetry Shelf review: David Eggleton’s Throw Net | Upena Ho’olei

Throw Net | Upena Ho’olei, David Eggleton, artwork by Tonu Shane Eggleton, National Library / Fernbank Studios, 2021




I’m mesmerised by the sunshine’s sheen,
and every minute particular feels mine.

The sea disgorges its catalogue of shells
on the white page of sand for no-one.

On my hotel bed, I dream and sail.


from ‘Tourist Island’

Our current Poet Laureate, David Eggleton, has published a handset, hand-bound collection of poetry with artwork (woodblock prints) by his brother Tonu Shane Eggleton. Brendan O’Brien, beautiful-book craftsman extraordinaire, has produced an edition of 100 at his Fernbank Studios. The book is exquisite. I run my hand over the rough edged paper (Kerkall, plus Stonehenge for the covers). It is book joy. Holding this book. Holding this beauty. The artwork is an evocative sheen on the page.

The National Library, which has administered the New Zealand Poet Laureate Award since 2007, published the book. The award was established by Bill Manhire and winemaker John Buck as the Te Mata Poet Laureate Award n 1996. Throw Net | Upena Ho’olei is fittingly dedicated to John.

In 2018 David spent three months at the University of Hawai’i’s Moana Campus, as the Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer Resident. The poems began in notebooks while he was there, and were completed upon his return.

Throw Net | Upena Ho’olei, with nine poems and a scattering of artworks, is the perfect place to sojourn.

This is poetry that celebrates the moment. It feels like the poet is inhabiting a particular place, at a particular time, and slowly breathes in the experience. The poem establishes a heightened relationship with place, a translation of experience within measure poetic form. The treasured details offer sound and visual explosions to the point I am imbibing a poetry feast, a delectable banquet. I am unashamedly drawn to food metaphors because poetry is a form of nourishment on the tongue, in the heart, in the lungs. This is poetry that is so very nourishing.

There is quietness, there is melody, there are shifting keys and multiple forms. I am breathing in salt and ocean, and undulating voyage. I am lingering over vignette and anecdote. In this time of limited travel and strict local borders, poetry is a travel plan, an itinerary of respite and joy. You might swim with turtles and hear the church bells ring out. There is ‘the chop of waves’ and ‘ukelele strums’. Expect mountains and lava and sun, much much sun. I am feeling skin glazed as I spend a whole Saturday drifting in and out of these poems. Pleasure crafts. Such honeyed vessels.

I love this lovingly crafted chapbook. Such economy, such fluidity, such reach. I dream and I set sail.


The snores of a sleeper on a beach towel
recite genealogy under volcano’s glow.
A sunken raft of manta rays stirs after dark.

Hands hula-hula, shaping sandwiches
into islands; mechanically, a shark
takes a bite out of the moonlight.

Someone slings a hammock between trees.
Each wave is a line; each line is breaking;
and even the mountains are setting sail.


from ‘Throw Net’

David Eggleton NZ Poet Laureate blog

You can order a copy at the Library Store at $70 per copy. email:

NZ Poetry Shelf interview

Otago University Press page

NZEPC page with poems

Poetry Shelf poems: Amy Marguerite’s ‘Locations of Interest’


       Locations of Interest

       I am beginning the current lockdown with a reflection.

       Since last lockdown I’ve

  • Acquired my full drivers license
  • Chipped my two front teeth in Ponsonby
  • Learned how to bottle-feed a newborn
  • Lived in four different houses
  • Cried myself to sleep in four different beds
  • Experienced my first optical migraine
  • Wondered why age is more salient than a person’s humanity
  • Bonded with two new felines
  • Decided that emotional pain does have a location
  • Apologised for being an absent friend
  • Used the word ‘sorry’ unnecessarily/too many times
  • Stopped going to the gym
  • Slept for an entire day
  • Fallen out of & back in love with my body
  • Consumed copious amounts of cheese & wine
  • Dismantled my obsession with the Virginia-Vita romance
  • Had poetry published in literary magazines
  • Swum with phosphorescent plankton at Campbells Beach
  • Almost set fire to my diary collection
  • Taken the ECP (x2)
  • Sung lullabies to my plants in the morning
  • Left people before they could leave me
  • Read the Psalms
  • Taught myself how to play the acoustic guitar
  • Started back on antidepressants
  • Accidentally/intentionally continued my streak of not speaking in lectures
  • Developed a particular fondness for the Tūī bird
  • Developed a severe hatred for money
  • Tried tart cherry juice to aid sleep
  • Redefined sex
  • Learned how to use MYOB (business software)
  • Made a new best friend
  • Dropped the same university paper twice
  • Been somebody I’m not
  • Chopped open a kina on the ocean floor
  • Taken a liking to capers
  • Convinced myself into & out of heterosexual preference (laughable)
  • Had an article published in the paper
  • Continued to be hopelessly in love with a person
  • Been trapped in an elevator for an hour
  • Stopped starving myself (hurrah)
  • Realised all my prayers are pleas
  • Become a better (more present/attentive/responsive) listener
  • Come to terms with my idiosyncrasies
  • Read Romantic poetry in the Mount Street Cemetery
  • Trained myself to lucid dream
  • Drawn dead hydrangeas all over my exercise book
  • Relished walks in the rain
  • Immediately & overly attached to affection
  • Regularly flossed my teeth
  • Signed up to Twitter
  • Endured the worst acute gastroenteritis ever
  • Compulsively kept a blog & dream journal
  • Watched my little sister fight her eating disorder
  • Slept overnight on a boat (x2)
  • Experienced Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (x2) 
  • Composed a song about bathtubs & windows
  • Dined & dialogued with accomplished authors
  • Worn in two pairs of blister-conducive leather shoes
  • Decided I like the colour orange

Amy Marguerite

Amy Marguerite (she/her) is a 23 year old writer and student based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Her work has featured in WORD – The Front Line, Salient, Salty Magazine, NZ Herald, Milly Magazine, and the New Zealand Young Writers Festival. Amy’s blog.

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Elizabeth Welsh’s ‘all the intertidal meadows’

all the intertidal meadows


my therapist casually suggested that I embody seagrass; this seemed dangerously close to social prescribing, but I had been reading Fontaine with its daymares repeatedly that autumn, together with articles on forest bathing, which seemed earthy, hungry, darkly prescient, so I experienced the briefest of pauses before I embraced it, placing a dark halo over a quivering body evolved from terrestrial plants, returning to the wide-open space of underwater hollows, to silence, to quaking, glittering light. they have flowers and seeds and roots and leaves and connective tissues; they have ribboning foliage, holding firm in built-up silt on tidal flats.

when we found the audio recorder we wanted to buy, the sales assistant outlined the different ways I could record conversations, as if this was the object’s sole purpose. I thought about the taking of another’s voice, the permission we were granting ourselves to grasp the sung shrieks of grass, and I turned to look at your mended lips, reading their unhurried movement. we took the handheld recorders into the soft carpet marsh of the wetlands, stopped our footfalls and created slight archives of our meagre silence, our scant pause. you were annoyed when I interrupted to ask how we define aural stimulus; but what is noise and what is sound? is there a moment – a blurred boundary? is a sound always so fitfully tender and sinking?

your lungs of clay heaved with the cold and unsympathetic air, my tendons stretched, elastic over our loud together loneliness. if you took a diecut mould and used it on me, you’d find: there’s your body and hers and safe and hard and compost and squeaking tedium and peaty soil; there’s microbes and knuckles and luminescence and practice and precarity and crushing blends of all this. we sign up for a noxious plant maintenance scheme when we leave via the ranger’s hut, and she informs us that it is mainly cordgrasses that we will be tackling. they strangle the groundcover, she murmurs earnestly, and we know to nod many times and make appropriate noises. all the intertidal meadows are swollen, she grows tiny as she talks, and I struggle to lip-read what she’s saying as she moves closer and closer to the compressed, rising earth

Elizabeth Welsh

Elizabeth Welsh is a poet, papermaker and academic editor. She is the author of Over There a Mountain, published by Mākaro Press in 2018. Her poetry has been published in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and she is Auckland Council’s Artist in Residence for 2021, creating site-specific poetry and handmade paper on/from the wetlands at Āwhitu Regional Park. She lives in Titirangi with her husband and daughter.

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Siobhan Harvey receives 2021 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry

Photo Credit: Liz March


Gift for Auckland Poet on Janet Frame’s Birthday (28 August)

2021 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry goes to Siobhan Harvey

The Janet Frame Literary Trust is delighted to announce the recipient
of the 2021 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry.  Auckland
poet Siobhan Harvey will receive $5,000 from a fund set up by Janet
Frame for the purpose of encouraging New Zealand authors “of poetry
and imaginative prose”. The biennial award is timed to commemorate
Janet Frame’s birth date on the 28th of August. Janet Frame was
famously saved from an imminent lobotomy when a doctor noticed that
she had won a literary prize. She received many grants and prizes over
her long career and wanted to give back to her fellow writers.

Siobhan Harvey is originally from England and made New Zealand her
home 20 years ago. She is the author of eight books of poetry and non-fiction.
Her latest volume of poetry and creative non-fiction, ‘Ghosts’ (Otago
University Press 2021), explores themes of migration, homelessness and
family trauma. The UK Poetry Archive describes her poetry as “that of
a quester – a voyager — meditating on separation and discovery, on
time lost and time regained, on the tug of distant familial
connections, and the new global connectivity which means never being
out-of-touch.” Harvey is a lecturer in creative writing at the
Auckland University of Technology and her work is published widely in
New Zealand and international journals and anthologies.

Siobhan Harvey said that she was humbled “to be honoured in a legacy
left by New Zealand’s foremost author” as well as finding herself the
recipient of an award given previously to writers whose work she
admires, such as Peter Olds, Tusiata Avia, David Eggleton, Catherine
Chidgey and Alison Wong.

 “In this fraught time of a global pandemic and in an era in which the
financial earnings of writers in New Zealand are below the minimumwage, this bequest allows me to fund writing time I would not have been able to afford otherwise.”

Siobhan Harvey is the author of eight books, including Ghosts (Otago University Press, 2021) and 2013 Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award-winning Cloudboy (OUP, 2014). She received the 2020 NZSA Peter & Dianne Beatson Fellowship, and won the 2020 Robert Burns Poetry Award and the 2019 Kathleen Grattan Award for a Sequence of Poems. Her work appears in recent anthologies: Arcadian Rustbelt: Poets Emerging 1980–-1995 (University of Liverpool Press, 2021), Feminist Divine: Voices of Power and Invisibility (Cyren US, 2019) and, translated into Italian, in Alessandra Bava (ed.), HerKind: Anthology of Contemporary New Zealand Poets (Editione Ensemble, 2021).

Janet Frame site

Award Page

Siobhan Harvey reads from her new book Ghosts

The Friday Poem: ‘If befriending Ghosts’ from Ghosts

ANZL page

Poetry Shelf review: Jack Ross’s The Oceanic Feeling

The Oceanic Feeling, Jack Ross, Salt and Greyboy Press, 2021

Here I go reviewing a book again with the subterranean feeling I experienced last March, barely articulated, drenched in uncertainty, fearing for the well being of Aotearoa, fearing for the well being of our frontline workers, fearing for our understaffed hospitals, fearing that supermarkets will deal with aggressive behaviour from some shoppers, yet full of gratitude for our Government’s swift response, for everyone choosing to stay at home and wear a mask. The subterranean Covid effect saw me drifting around the house yesterday with Jack Ross’s new poetry collection, The Oceanic Feeling, in my hand. Not writing a word. Word-drifitng in and out of countless books. Worrying about Afghanistan. Listening to Reb Fountain. Worrying about Haiti. Sydney. All the people living alone. The homeless.

The title is so fitting. The oceanic feeling.

Layer it up. Stand by the ocean and get an intake of ocean beauty. Sit at my kitchen table looking onto the tail end of the Waitākere ranges and my potential for worry is oceanic. Below the surface in my blood and bones. Above the surface in those intruding thoughts that I try not to let settle at the station.

I love this title. This beautifully produced book with its white cover and striking image holds an ocean of feeling. Add in the white space, the unsaid. Add in the physical, the images that glint and hold your attention.

The cover drawing is by Swiss-New Zealand artist Katharina Jaeger, and is part of the suite of images included in the collection. Bronwyn Lloyd’s afterword explores the connections between the drawings and the poetry. Katharina was inspired by her father’s manic pruning, and rather than use the the pile of clippings as prunings, drew them instead. Bronwyn makes a vital link between prunings and the skeletons in the artist’s closets, in the poet’s closet, and by extension in our closets.

Poetry is both pruning and planting and, at times, opening the closet door is to shine a light on the tough, the difficult, the surprising.

Jack’s terrific new collection does just this. The poetry seeks perspective in the corrugations and felicities of the everyday. In the little and larger events that shape and have shaped life. That nurture love, that spark a sense of humour, that trigger contemplation. The poems occupy the present but they also recuperate the past. I am moved by this.

The book is essentially in two sections, like two halves of a heart, with ‘Family Plot’ alongside ‘Ice Road Trucker’. Family poems alongside poems that consider the academy, poetry journals, travel, public art, reading, thinking. There is also a tiny cluster of small poems and of translations.

The poetry peers into the mist, and swivels to embrace the clearly sighted.

A sublime example is ‘What to do till the sentinels come’. The poet’s mother (I am making this assumption) has forgotten to feed Zero the cat when they are away. The cat hides in the garden shed, unfed. Here is the mist and the close at hand. The poem as the pruned twig.

it’s not that my mother
neglected her task
on purpose
she’d written in her diary

it’s just that her mind
now fills in blanks
with certainties

not doubts
there was a slight pause
before that “fine”
all I know is our cat

left alone
in the storm
my mother alone
in the fog of her brain

In the opening poem, ‘Lone Pine’, a tree crew are pruning the pines. The physical scene unfolds, and in reaching the visual impact of the tallest tree with its branches stripped bare, the loss doubles back. This is the pruned branch laid on the page: ‘standing bare / just like my father at the end’.

2021 is the season of memoirs. Long form and all revealing.

And yes, The Oceanic Feeling is a form of memoir. Fragmented. Selective. Revealing. It is also a form of engagement with both ideas and feelings. Poetry as a way of discovering chords between here and there, this and that, now and then. So many layers. So many connections. ‘Family skeletons’ does this. The sister with her suicidal thoughts, witnessed throwing a rope over a tree, who later succeeds with pills, is both presence and absence. Again I am picking up a branch laid upon the page and I am feeling it deeply.

Ah, I am moving in so many directions, as I read Jack’s collection, from the cars loved and then replaced, to bookshelves and superstitions, to wrangling over the colours of a graduation hood, to a university department lovingly built up over time, to be faced with cutbacks.

What makes this book resonate so deeply with me is movement. Physical and emotional movement. Not on a grand over-the-top flare of sentimentality but in small measured steps that favour contiguity. I relish the shift between what is easily witnessed in the everyday and what is much harder to fathom, what is retrieved in glimmers and shards across time. it is a collection that warrants a prolonged sojourn. Glorious.

I am going to leave you with ‘What do you want?’. The poet is in a Feilding library, having driven down for a function. The poem swerves and I am utterly affected.

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

Jack Ross

Jack Ross works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University. He is the author of five poetry collections and eight works of fiction, most recently Ghost Stories (Lasavia Publishing, 2019) and The Oceanic Feeling (Salt & Greyboy Press, 2021). He blogs here

Jack reads from The Oceanic Feeling

Notes to The Oceanic Feeling

Jack reads and comments on ‘1942’

Poetry Shelf celebrates new books: Dinah Hawken reads from Sea-light

Sea-light, Dinah Hawken, Victoria University Press, 2021

Cover: Breaker Bay, Looking South, Gerda Leenards, 2007

Dinah Hawken reads ‘Haze’, ‘The sea’ and ‘Faith’ from Sea-light

Dinah Hawken is one of New Zealand’s most celebrated poets. She was born in Hāwera in 1943 and now lives in Paekākāriki. Sea-light is her ninth collection of poetry.

Few writers have the skill to return to the land and the sea with such originality and genuine knowing as Hawken.’ —Sarah Jane Barnett, NZ Booksellers

‘As a poet she utilises economy on the line to build richness above, between and beyond. That plainness of talking makes the impact even stronger, deeper, wider.’ —Paula Green, NZ Poetry Shelf

Victoria University Press page

Poetry Shelf review: Courtney Sina Meredith’s Burst Kisses on the Actual Wind

Burst Kisses on the Actual Wind, Courtney Sina Meredith, Beatnik Books, 2021

Courtney Sina Meredith’s mother, poet Kim Meredith, has edited Courtney’s new collection and has written a moving introduction. I love this. And I love the gratitude list at the back, where thanks is offered to her editor, publisher, true love, village and children. It infuses the book with love.

This is a book of love.

The opening poem is like a staircase, with the opening line (‘I am aware of my privilege. Could you connect me to my community?’) dropping a word, one by one, to become ‘community’. For me this collection is the incandescent, life-affirming bridge between ‘I’ and ‘community’.

And if the collection is a poem bridge, it is built with diverse material, every time you shift your eye it shifts form, becomes visually distinct. The love and themes that hold the collection together are a constant; think love, travel, dailiness, mother, daughter, lover. Self and community. I adore this fluctuation between constancy and a mobility of form. The mind and heart go flying. The mind and heart are grounded.

This is a book of self.

One poem resembles a vessel, a mouth, a self container. The opening and closing lines (‘How about being a woman?’) move, one extra word at a time, to the fullness of the middle line (‘How about being a young brown queer single educated professional creative woman?’). It is a song, a chant, a plea, a mantra. It resonates thorough the connection as a whole.

A second poem, ‘eye’, removes the letter ‘i’, and enacts missing self, elusiveness, restless, regret, arrival, departure. The peppery gaps are signposting the vagabond ‘I’, so full of possibilities.

This is a book of travel.

Foreign cities, physical travel away from home, charting the distractions and attractions of elsewhere (New York, London, Mexico City, Iowa, maybe Chicago). Yet the travel is also internal, inscribing the pathways home, to an interior home. Coming home to self. Poetry is most definitely a sublime means of travel.

This is a book of the matter of fact and this is a book of the intensely moving.

I made a big curry for all of my friends.
One of them gave me Twenty Love Poems and a Song of

My cousin went to see another friend at a bar. A guy
asked them for a threesome. They said no.

I read about Nelson when everybody left.


from ‘Aso fanau’

I have stolen away into the secret room

mothers build inside their daughters

I am feeding on a dowry centuries old

the bones sucked dry

a feast of bright quiet.


My mother’s dreams are here

beside the red gold river

born of shame and laughter

the shifting bank won’t hold.


from ‘I have stolen away into the secret room’


Courtney’s poetry is so lovingly crafted, the silence as potent as the kinetic line, the evocation of the physical, the need to feel the word and the day and the vital connections. In Burst Kisses on the Actual Wind, the poems open out, gloriously, and as readers we are invited to step in. My only misgiving is the smaller font is a challenge for the visually impaired. But this is a joy to read. A beautiful object thanks to Beatnik. In the final poem, ‘Avondale Heights’, the poet is home, and in the final line, ‘The horizon is vast’, the possibilities of life stretch wide. And that includes poetry. Sublime.

Courtney Sina Meredith is a distinguished poet, playwright, fiction writer, performer, children’s author and essayist, with her works being translated and published around the world. A leading figure in the New Zealand arts sector, Courtney is the Director of Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust, an organisation committed to championing Oceanic arts and artists. Courtney’s award-winning works include her play Rushing Dolls, poetry Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick, short stories Tail of the Taniwha and children’s book The Adventures of Tupaia. Burst Kisses On The Actual Wind is Courtney’s new collection of poetry, the book was released in 2021 by Beatnik Books. 

Beatnik Books page

Courtney reads from Burnt Kisses on the Wind