Category Archives: NZ poetry

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






Congratulations to the Ockham Book Award Poetry Longlisters

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Congratulations poets – this is a strong showing.


Here is my conversation with NZ Poet Laureate, Selina Tusitala Marsh.

My conversation with Airini Beautrais.

My conversation with Hannah Mettner.

My conversation with Elizabeth Smither.

My conversation with Sue Wootton.

Two poems and my response to Kate Camp’s collection

Two poems and my response to Briar Wood’s collection.


I haven’t yet read the other  collections – but I loved these enough to have showcased them on the blog. I would sing the praises of them anywhere.


The Poetry Award will be judged by poet, novelist and creative non-fiction writer Alison Wong; poet and deputy chief executive, Māori, at Manukau Institute of Technology Robert Sullivan; and Otago poet, publisher, editor and librettist Michael Harlow.

My commiserations to those who missed the list. This year has produced an extraordinary array of poetry books from main and boutique presses. And yes, very good books are missing (it’s like trying to squeeze your books in your holiday bag and the bag just won’t shut) so I am going to flag just a few.

The glorious books of Bill Manhire (there are two!), Michele Leggott and Nina Powles.  I would add Louise Wallace, Maria McMillan, James Brown, Caron Smeaton, Reuben Todd. .


Congratulations to those on the longlist.  A toast to you, to your publishers and booksellers and to those who spread its joy far and wide.


Rest of award results and details of poetry books 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