Category Archives: NZ poetry book

a poem from Nicola Easthope’s new collection – Working the Tang

 

 

Working the tang, Birsay

 

These women are wrapped for the weather.

The fleece of long-nosed black sheep

so knitted into their skin, when their men

undress them there is often a little blood.

 

The weather wraps in gales of Arctic ice.

They gather seaweed: tremendous heaps

of tang and ware, dragged up the sloping beach

to the dry. These women burn

 

it steadily, crackling heather and hay in great pits

of stone until the white powder

of potash and soda is all that remains.

The men pound and pound,

 

cover with stones and turf. Leave overnight.

The ash shifts, cools, and lumps of toil

settle on their backs. They sleep with

the weight of a body on the chest.

 

Ghost dust drifts into livestock,

limpets. Fish are driven away.

The women are wrapped in the drapery

of ash, the cloak of salt, the taste of tang.

 

Their kelp-making for the laird’s gain.

Their backs spent for soap and glass.

 

©Nicola Easthope, from Working the Tang  The Cuba Press 2018

 

 

 

Nicola Easthope is a teacher and poet from the Kāpiti Coast. Her first book of poems, leaving my arms free to fly around you, was published by Steele Roberts Aotearoa in 2011. ‘Working the tang, Birsay’ is inspired by her Orcadian roots and the etymologies and experiences of the Norse word for seaweed (among other things). She was a guest poet at the Queensland Poetry Festival in 2012, and last month, the Tasmanian Poetry Festival.

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Poetry Shelf audio spot: Saradha Koirala reads ‘Snapshot’

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Saradha Koirala reads ‘Snapshot’  from Photos from the Sky (Cuba Press, 2018)

 

 

Saradha Koirala is a writer and teacher living in Melbourne. Her book Lonesome When You Go won a Storylines Notable Book Award. She has published two previous poetry collections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 readings from VUP’s Short Poems of New Zealand

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Short Poems of New Zealand, edited by Jenny Bornholdt, Victoria University Press, 2018

 

 

 

Angela Andrews reads ‘Grandparents’

 

 

 

Tusiata Avia reads  ‘Waiting for my  brother’

 

 

 

Lynley Edmeades reads ‘The Order of Things’

 

 

 

Brian Turner reads ‘Sky’

 

 

 

 

Albert Wendt reads ‘Night’

 

 

 

VUP page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A poem from Pat White’s Watching for the Wingbeat: new and selected poems

 

There’s much more going on here

for Hone Tuwhare

 

From where we sat talking the hills take on a painter’s

tone, light and dark, valley and ridge, bush at night

with the small owl sounding far enough away. Both of us

a bit deaf, we shout observations across the back porch

 

two old gramophones not quite used to listening. Today

stumbling across that ridge, half-lit seen at dusk last night

it’s different, each step testing mud-slide sheep track

fallen trees, such subtle geomorphology, rough slopes facing

 

north, telling how little distant perspective gets to know

of that hare bursting from beside your foot, fooling

with your sharp-eyed observations about literature

of landscape borrowed from an unpaid library book.

 

Old Bess the bitch would have given chase once, but today

she thinks better of activities meant for puppied bounce

the silliness of charging off up hill when there’s perfectly

good bones back home rotting under the macrocarpa

 

it’s enough to be out there, reading the breeze. I watch

you stop, lay a flat hand against grass bruised and bent

by the hare’s body warmth, her form hid beside dead thistle

stalks, dry and buff coloured in winter, it is still warm.

 

This hare has learned to be elusive, still, till instinctive

urge to flight has her bursting away, past the skylark’s nest

through the rusting fence, pushing the heart’s capacity

to run. We romance the hills from our chairs, our beer

 

out of the sun’s heat, the rain’s beat, knowing

next to nothing. The risk of leaving our bones out there.

 

©Pat White  Watching for the Wing Beat: new and selected poems Cold Hub Press, 2018)

 

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Pat White is a writer and artist living near Fairlie. He has an MFA from Massey University, and an MA in Creative Writing from IIML Victoria University. In August 2018 Roger Hickin’s Cold Hub Press published Watching for the Wingbeat; new & selected poems. In 2017 his biography/memoir of the teacher, author, environmentalist, Notes from the margins, the West Coast’s Peter Hooper, was published. An exhibition Gallipoli; in search of family story has been shown in museums and art galleries a number of times in recent years.

 

Cold Hub Press page

Reading CK Stead’s That Derrida Whom I Derided Died: Poems 2013 – 2017

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CK Stead, That Derrida Whom I Derided Died  Auckland University Press  2018

 

 

Frank and Allen, Robin, Ron and Rex

rode the North Shore ferries, while Rangitoto

pictured itself sunk in a stone composure.

Eeven the Golden Weather would have to end

where a small room with large windows disclosed

geraniums wild in the wet and a gannet impacting.

 

from ‘That summer cento sonnet, 1950s’

 

In September I listened uncomfortably as Steve Braunias questioned CK Stead and Charlotte Grimshaw about the truth of happy childhoods in the Stead family. Steve insisted but Karl and Charlotte sidestepped with tact and grace. I have since read and loved Charlotte’s novel Mazarine – I was caught up in both the momentum of a thriller and entranced by the interior struggles of the main character. I savoured the novel for the novel’s sake rather than muse upon autobiographical tracings. In this world on edge the novel felt vulnerable, driven, humane. It was writing I felt as much as I thought.

Here I am writing about the daughter when I have just read the father (his novel waits me).

When I first picked up Karl’s new poetry collection, That Derrida Whom I Derided Died, the title catapulted me back into the gated community of literary theory.  I wanted to open the book and travel lightly but I was carrying the Going West session into the collection; that tension between what you write and what you live. I can’t think of a New Zealand literary figure who has courted greater controversy, maintained lifelong enemies along with lifelong friendships, and who has irked so many writing peers. I scarcely know the details of these relations or want to but I have had a long history of reading and admiring Karl’s poetry and fiction. Really I wanted to banish all this external hubbub from my reading and engage with the poetry on its own terms.

 

In the dark

of the 15th floor

Bill Manhire woke

thinking the building

had turned over in sleep

and groaned

or ground its teeth

 

from ‘Apprehension’ in ‘Christchurch Word Festival, 2016’

 

Karl’s collection is deeply personal; the poetry is a meeting ground for dream, memory, retrieval, old age. It is a book of friendships with the living, with ghosts of the past and with writers that attract such as Catallus. He obliquely and briefly returns to arguments and enmities that persisted but for me it is the love of poetry that is the greatest fuel.

The poetry is deftly crafted – like honey at perfect consumption – with shifting forms, syllabics, subject matter. You move from the exquisite opening poem ‘An Horatian ode to Fleur Adcock at eighty’ to the challenge of writing war poems to the final poem written at ‘ten to midnight’.

The 80 plus poems almost match Karl’s age (86) – and maybe that changes things for me as a reader. I am brought closer to death as I am reading, not because death is a protagonist, but because the long-ago past is returned to the frame. And I have had close shaves. What do we want to bring close and find poetic ways to make present? I am asking myself this as I read. Mysterious, dreamlike, moving; yet there is an intensity about these replayed moments. Perhaps luminosity is a better word for these poems that make things utterly present.

 

She was, she tells me

the one without a partner

until I came

with a bottle of bubbly and two plastic cups

and a small box of rose petals.

‘You realise my age?’ I ask

(uncertain what it is).

‘Of course,’ she says.

‘This was half a century ago.’

So we danced and danced

until just before midnight

when I walked out

into the Bavarian dark.

‘I’ve never forgiven you,’she says.

‘Where did you go? Where have you been?’

 

from ‘Ten minutes to midnight’

 

In one poem, ‘By the back door’, Karl responds to Damien Wilkin’s review that suggests Karl’s writing suffers from a glut of lucidity and that his novels yearn to be poems. I can’t say I have ever felt that but Karl suggests in his endnote he wrote this as a semi farewell to fiction. Ah the way we get thrown off kilter. This is what I mean by deeply personal. We are being brought in close to the man writing, the man living, the man and his little and larger anxieties, the man and his little and larger fascinations. And how this might shift and resettle at ten to midnight. In a footnote Karl tells us that he ended up writing at least one novel (The Necessary Angel – it’s on my pile) but maybe two (Risk) after writing the poem.

As I move through the book, lingering over poems with admiration and feeling uncomfortable at others, the outside stories come clamouring. But I hold them at arm’s length. Even when Karl is doing the signposting. Instead I relish the dreamlike moment that the writer, on this occasion, in this instant of almost urgent return, renders lucid, gleaming. This is a book to be celebrated.

 

I was the one who believed in poetry –

that it could capture the gull in flight

and the opening flower

and in the blink of an eye

a knock on the door of death.

I believed with Shakespeare

there was a trick that unlocked

the mystery of

the named stars.

 

from ‘I was the one …’

 

 

Auckland University Press page

CK Stead is an award-winning poet, literary critic, novelist, essayist and Emeritus Professor at The University of Auckland. He was the New Zealand Poet Laureate (2015 -2017), has received the Prime Minster’s Award for Literary Achievement in Fiction and is a member of the Order of New Zealand, the highest possible honour in New Zealand.

 

 

 

 

Reading The Friday Poems in a book

 

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Luncheon Sausage Books, 2018

 

A new poem. Wow just wow

A new poem that no one will forget any time soon.

A new poem. I think it’s important.

I wrote a new poem. You’ll be amazed at what happened next.

 

Bill Manhire from ‘Thread’

 

Steve Braunias kickstarted his Friday poem at the Spinoff four years ago – which prompted me to shift my Friday poems to Mondays! Decided to begin the week  with a poem in the ear and have since started an ongoing season of Thursday readings (I really like hearing other poets read, especially those I have never met). More importantly I also like the fact we have more than one online space dedicated to local poems. Steve tends to pick from new books which is great publicity for the poet. I tend to pick poems that have not yet been published in book form and find other ways to feature the new arrivals (interviews, reviews, popup poems on other days).

Steve’s anthology of picks from the Friday-Poem posts underlines our current passion for poetry. I don’t see him belonging to any one club (like a hub around a particular press or city) – unless he is inventing his own: Steve’s poetry club. And there is a big welcome mat out. You will find mainstream presses and boutique presses, established poets and hot-off-the-press brand new poets, a strong showing of Pasifika voices, outsiders, insiders. He is fired up by the charismatic lines of Hera Lindsay Bird and Tayi Tibble but he is equally swayed by the tones of Brian Turner, CK Stead, Elizabeth Smither, Fiona Kidman.

 

She cried wolf but she was the wolf

so she slit sad’s bellyskin

and stones of want rolled out.

 

Emma Neale from ‘Big Bad’

 

Who would he feature at a festival reading? At Unity Books on November 12th in Wellington he has picked: Dame Fiona Kidman, Bill Manhire, James Brown, Joy Holley, Tayi Tibble.

The anthology is worth buying for the introduction alone – expect someone writing over hot coals with an astute eye for what is happening now but also what has happened in the past (especially to women poets). And by hot coals I mean a mix of passionate and polemical. This person loves poetry and that is hot.

 

Where there’s a gate there’s a gatekeeper, I suppose, but I think of the past few years as an exercise in welcoming rather than turning away. Publishing works of art every week these past four years has been one of the most intoxicating pastimes of my writing life. But I came to a decision while I was writing the Introduction, and commenting on the work of women writers, and adding up the number of women writers: it’s time to step aside. An ageing white male just doesn’t seem the ideal person right now to act as the bouncer at this particular doorway to New Zealand poetry. Women are where the action is: the poetry editor at the Spinoff in 2019 will be Ashleigh Young.

Steve Braunias, from ‘Introduction’

 

I felt kind of sad reading that. I will miss Steve as our idiosyncratic poetry gate keeper.  Of course this book and the posts are unashamedly Steve’s taste, and there are a truckload of other excellent poets out there with new books, but his taste keeps you reading in multiple directions.

That said it’s a warm welcome to the exciting prospect of Ashleigh Young!

 

On most drives I like quiet because my mother

had a habit of appraising every passing scene, calling ordinary

things, especially any animal standing in a field, lovely

 

and this instilled in me a strong dislike for the world lovely

and for associated words of praise like wonderful and superb

but on our drive home tonight the sky is categorically lovely

 

Ashleigh Young from ‘Words of praise’

 

 

 

 

 

 

A book launch, a reading and a new poem: Saradha Koirala’s ‘Confession, confessed’

 

Confession, confessed

 

I’ve been the secret and the secret-keeper

the one from whom the secret is kept.

 

I’ve been a curiosity of connections that don’t concern me

the cause and effect of all that is curious.

 

I’ve been right and I’ve been wronged

I’ve been righteously wrong.

 

I’ve been a cut-out shape where I used to be seen

and I too have cut fleshy shapes from my life.

 

I’ve been the problem and the solution

the floating object of insomnia, rage

 

a presence off limits

that has in turn been there for me.

 

I’ve been the reason and I’ve been the excuse.

I’ve been falsely accused, rightly refused.

 

I’ve been the obsession

the obsessed.

 

I had an alibi.

I am the reason you needed an alibi.

 

©Saradha Koirala, from Photos from the Sky (Cuba Press, 2018)

 

November 5th Saradha is launching this new collection tonight at The Thistle Inn in Wellington at 5.30 pm (3 Mulgrave St, Thorndon, Wellington). Launched by the wonderful Tim Jones. Come early to the marquee area at Thistle Inn for a glass of bubbly and some vegetarian snacks, stay for the poetry.

Then on Wednesday 7th Nicola Easthope will join Saradha at Unity Books in Wellington at noon until 12.45 to celebrate their two new books with Cuba Press, Photos of the Sky and Working the Tang.

Saradha Koirala is a writer and teacher living in Melbourne. Her book Lonesome When You Go won a Storylines Notable Book Award. She has Published two previous pietry collections.

 

Cuba Press page

 

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