Category Archives: NZ poetry journal

Poetry Shelf fascinations: MIMICRY 5

Screen Shot 2019-10-03 at 11.47.52 AM.png

 

 

I have been musing on the variety of journals we have, both in print and on line, that are publishing poetry, various fictions, essays, images. Each issue feels like a one-off gathering that provokes, surprises, consoles and delights. I sometimes feel I have wandered into someone’s front lounge and am eavesdropping on the conversation currents of a mix of house guests. Sometimes it feels like family – kindred poets – other times it is altogether different. Nobody is afraid to say what they feel. Or get political. I like that.

MIMICRY 5 is edited by Holly Hunter and Ollie Hutton (Mouthfull Productions); the contributors epitomise a cool new wave of writers – some barely published, some gaining recognition in the performance / slam / spoken word scenes. The images are excellent plus you get a Mimicry mixtape.

Eliana Gray‘s terrific debut collection Eager to Break is recently published – so how very fitting to have their poem ‘Sometimes I wonder if my salt water mouth / should be allowed to speak at all’ open the gathering. The first line sets up the poem: Sometimes I wonder if my poems should have been tweets’. Each line shimmies as both poetry and as potential tweet and the effect is glorious – I am swung and I slide and the effect is mood and it is dark and it is burning.

Alisdair Armstrong is studying at Victoria University and loves rock climbing which makes sense when you read ‘Sitting in a blast crater’. This is his first published piece of writing and it is wry and deft and I am loving the image of the speaker sitting ‘at the bottom of a blast crater in a puddle’. This is the line I love: ‘I introspect for awhile.’  The scene would be enough to delight but other people turn up and then it is just exquisitely funny.

We’re lying down in this crater, we tell him.

He asks why we haven’t got out.

We tell him we’re introspecting.

 

Molly Robson‘s three photographs are eye-popping (‘Tongariro’ is B & W but the others use a palette of surreal orange-reds with distancing and estranging grey /blacks. The empty rooftop chair is unbearably uncanny. I want to sit in it. I want to sit in it and read a novel until the sun comes up. The tilts will be numerous.

Rhys Feeney‘s ‘current mood’ is genius in the way it catches the overwhelming anxiety we feel as we face climate change and the loathsome mountain of products that will outlast us.

 

there’s a feeling in your chest

& it’s not going anywhere

it has the permanence

of a pile of used plastic

floating around

on the oil-slick surface

 

Erik Kennedy follows suit with ‘Microplastics in Antarctica’. This is poetry at its most vital – making connections with a groundswell of global protest; poetry is linking ideas and anxious voices and I applaud it.

 

The snow contains a finer snow.

That’s how it gets there, this plastic

that maybe one kept a lettuce green

or packaged another plastic package.

 

Scratch the scalp of civilisation

and bits of it go all over the place.

Concerned about those embarrassing flakes?

You should be.

 

Enter this lounge and you will find the miniature scenes of Rebecca Hawkes, rich in physical detail, feeling and sonic surprises along with Jordan Hamel‘s genius found mash-up that evokes a ‘Regular Kiwi Bloke’.

What I love about these literary lounge gatherings is meeting new voices. Sometimes it is like an electric shock upon skin – like how good can poetry get? Michaela Keeble is an Australian writer living with her family just north of Wellington. She writes climate-change press releases and has published fiction and poetry in various places. Her poem ‘Bob Marley was a poet’ had me listening hard because it feels so fresh and surprising and full of invigorating movement. The poem sets your attention in myriad directions, leaves gaps for you to traverse, gathering together politics, intimate thoughts, the beauty of the moon and the river, the joy of contemplation.

 

a few days after Waitangi Day

Bob Marley’s birthday

a Thursday

 

I sit down at the side of the river

 

the river is an estuary

is homemade paper

 

Rose Peoples brings an equally satisfying moment of attentiveness to ‘Hoots’. But here the poet/storyteller pivots and leaps off from the hooting ruru; and poetry becomes a form of storytelling that is to be savoured. Slowly. Sweetly. You need to read the whole poem but here is the opening stanza:

 

The ruru hoots each night

with a regularity which rivals the

tinny beeps of the digital watch.

The sound is directionless

it simply sits in the air,

surrounding us.

In this version of the story,

it s the glow of the streetlights

that makes its way through

the gaps in the blinds.

 

The final charismatic poem, Jane Arthur’s ‘Snowglobe’, showcases the addictive mix of verve and imagination that you find in her poetry. Watch this space for my musings on her new collection Craven.

 

I have just realised

I have just now realised

 

I am in a snowglobe! and that is why

leaves blow around and around but never away

 

and that is why I feel shook up

amazingly shook up so often.

 

MIMICRY probably features more artwork than any other local literary journal – and again features excellent lounge guests. For me MIMICRY 5 was like a well-needed retreat from routine and requests. I loved it. Such invigoration. I look forward to the next one!

 

MIMICRY page

 

Poetry Shelf review: Landfall 237

otago708667.jpg

Landfall 237 edited by Emma Neale

 

Landfall 237 offers rich pickings for the poetry fans: familiar names (Peter Bland, David Eggleton, Elizabeth Smither, Ria Masae, Lynley Edmeades and Cilla McQueen) to emerging poets (Rebecca Hawkes, Claudia Jardine, essa may ranapiri) and those I am reading for the first time (Robynanne Milford, Jeremy Roberts, Catherine Trundle to name a few). The reading experience is kaleidoscopic, pulling you in different directions, towards both lightness and darkness, risk and comfort. And that is exactly what a literary journal can do. I was tempted to say should, but literary journals can do anything.

Landfall has a history of showcasing quirky artwork – and this issue is no exception. Sharon Singer’s sequence, “Everyday Calamities’ with its potent colour, surreal juxtapositions, strange and estranging narratives, and thematic bridges, is an addictive puzzle for heart and mind. I am circling humanity, the power of connection, the individual both tenacious and frail, the state of the planet. Paintings whirling and tipping you into moments that soothe, bewilder and provoke. I adore these.

I turned from these to Rachel O’Neill’s prose poem ‘The Supernatural Frame’ and get goosebumps:

You may look upon the painting through these special

foiled binoculars. We are at a safe distance. Afterwards you

may feel a chill or a fever linger for two days and a night,

accompanied by an infernal cough.

 

 

On the centennial of the birth of Ruth Dallas in Invercargill, I am also delighted to see John Geraets spotlight her poetry. Certain Dallas poems have always had a place in NZ literary anthologies (think ‘Milking Before Dawn’) but as readers we may less familiar with the wider expanse of her work. Like so many women poets of the twentieth century she is in the shadows. In his intro John suggests it is not clear how to include her ‘within more recent nexus based on gender, ethnicity, ecology, avant-gardism, faith or political affiliation’. He responds by assembling her words – culled from Landfall editor-contributor responses and her autobiography Curved Horizon – on the left-hand pages and his words on the right. He first sees in her poetry – compared with contemporary writing choices – predictability, regularity, un-excitement, regionalism; and then, by paying attention and refreshing his routes, he opens up poems to different movements. He moves in close to the poem. I love that. Much I could say on how we approach the women from the past! Expect 568 pages soon.

 

I absolutely love the poetry in this issue; it is both fresh and vital! I see neither formula nor dominating style but shifting stories, musicality, feeling, political bite, muted shades, bright tones.

 

Here are some highlights:

 

Joanna Preston’s poem ‘Allegrophobia’ carries you from birth to tardiness to spring in a layered on punctuality – a perfect little package.

Jasmine Gallagher’s ‘Be Still’ sent me to her bio because I want to read more by her. She is a doctoral student at the University of Otago and has previously been published in brief. Her poem is poetry as brocade – glinting for the eye and chiming for the ear.

 

Slattern: a

hoar frost:

a rime

Cold seed bed

Rot and slime

 

Another poet, Catherine Trundle, also sent me scavenging for more. She writes poetry, flash fiction and experimental ethnography. Her poem ‘The Caravan behind the Plum Tree’ is also an exquisite brocade.

 

This lush cusp of spring rides

pinkish, amoebic, wilding

the inside, every flesh ’n’ cranny

while the sunlight lunges in

through winter tidelines

of curtain rot

 

Tam Vosper’s ‘Ailurophilia’ was an equal hook for me. He is working on a PhD at Canterbury University that considers Allen Curnow and the poetics of place. Again this is brocade poetry: so rich in effect.

 

All Gallic pluck

and casual loft

you claim a suntrap,

slump sidewise down,

and unhinge your barbed yawn:

           a shark to shoaling mice.

 

And I want to add Medb Charleton’s ‘I think I Saw You Dreaming’, Rebecca Hawkes’s ‘If I could breed your cultivar / I’d have you in my garden’ and Gail Ingram’s ‘The Kitchen’ to my list of brocade poetry. Glorious.

In contrast you have the spare deliciousness of Ariha Latham’s ‘Waitangi’. Another poet whose work I want to track down.

 

When I read Ria Masae’s “Jack Didn’t Build Here’ I can hear her performing its sharp mix of personal and politics  – and it cuts into my skin. Six houses built. She carries us from the father’s house full of stories to David Lange’s Mangere home open to the locals: he ‘understood the pressures of fa’alavelave,/ cos he brown on the inside like that’. She bears us from the house her mum built with its’ celebration tables’ to the house Key built with its ‘security code gate’. She ends with a question (the house to be built?):

 

What house will Jacinda build?

Will it enable my daughters to build their own homes

of tangata whenua foundations and fa’a Samoa roofs

in this palagified City of Sales?

 

You can move from political bite to the glorious wit you often find in an Erik Kennedy poem. His ‘All Holidays Are Made-Up Holidays’ is no exception. Meet Cabinet Day – ‘we went along/ from house to house hanging little doors / around each other’s necks to hide our secrets’. Or the Feast of Holy Indifference. Genius!

Claire Orchard’s poem, ‘Breakages’, swivels on a set of shelves, on the objects that they hold, and in that satisfying movement speaks of so much more; the poem resembles a shelf of family history with peaks and troughs.

 

I enjoyed the way it had begun to display time

in the style of tottering, elderly people

 

I heard Joan Fleming talk about new poetry she was writing at the Poetry & Essay conference at Victoria University in 2017. The poems came out of her experience of camp life in Nyrripi and surrounding areas in Australia’s Central Desert. I was moved by her discussions of collaboration and consent, her attentiveness to the local. Two poems here – ‘Alterations’ and ‘Papunya is Gorgeous Dirty and I Second-guess my Purposes’ – come out of this experience. I can’t wait to see this in book form.

 

Finally a treat from Cilla McQueen. She has written ‘Poem for my Tokotoko’; it is personal, physical and abundant with the possibilities of poetry. Pure pleasure.

 

Sometimes I see you as an enchanter’s staff,

scattering poems like leaves to the west wind;

at others you’re practical, a trusty pole

by means of which, through quarrelling

undercurrents, I can ford turbulent water.

By means of which I put myself across.

 

This is such good issue – there are reviews and fiction I haven’t read yet, and the announcement of the Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Essay Competition 2019 – but on the poems only, it warrants a subscription. Yep – Landfall has its finger on the pulse of NZ poetry.

 

Landfall 237 page

 

 

Poetry Shelf New Poetry: Landfall 236 is a beauty

 

otago699462.jpg    otago699462.jpg    otago699462.jpg

 

We have a wealth of literary journals (online and hard copy) at the moment that draw upon diverse communities and regions and that underline the fact poetry is currently piping hot in Aotearoa. Pick up a journal and you will find emerging voices, our poetry elders and everything in between – and that is as it should be. Loud quiet political personal inventive funny heartbreaking groundbreaking traditional mesmerising …. the list is endless when it comes to local poetry.

Landfall offers poetry, prose, reviews and artwork and comes out of Otago University Press with Emma Neale the current editor. It  boosts its poetry review section by posting a bunch on line at the beginning of every month, and hosts the annual Landfall essay competition and the Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize.

The latest issue is a hit with me on the poetry front because there is a pleasing diversity of voice and style, and a number of poems that have stuck to me like glue, and that I have shared with others.

 

But first the essays. The Landfall Essay competition is always on my annual must-read list. Emma selected the 2019 winning entries. In her introduction she talked about the way the best essays might be self-essays but also move beyond that to the gritty or glittery challenges of the world. I always think of an essay as a testing ground for ideas and at times a testing ground for how you convey those ideas which is why I love to read them. Essays can generate contagious feelings; but again, how that feeling is stitched into the writing gets tested. Emma’s introduction made me want to get back to an essay I have been working on for a year or so but, more importantly, read the winning entries.

Alice Miller’s winning essay, ‘The Great Ending’, closes in on the year 1918, on a false armistice and on Armistice Day. She juxtaposes events and anecdotes gleaned from newspaper cuttings and books and produces one of the best end paragraphs I have read in ages. A glorious read. I mused upon a future little handbook of essays that offer a selection of collaged years and a re-invigoration of history.  Susan Wardell’s runner-up essay, ‘Shining Through the Skull’, is equally captivating. After reading Emma’s notes I was really keen to read the other placed essays.

Landfall has always promoted local poetry. Emma has selected an exquisitely contoured mix. On this occasion I find I am drawn to poems featuring various kinds of migration, movement  and intimacies.

In Harry Rickett’s standout poem, ‘Pink Blanket’, the poet greets his 92-year-old mother and tries to tell her of his trip to India but she only (seemingly?) pays attention to her bared knee. This is the power of poetry – it takes you to a moment and makes you feel its intimacy. It felt like age as a form of migration.

 

I replace the blanket, try camels,

horses, donkeys, dogs, finally

an old photo of my long-dead father,

taken by her. ‘Do you know who

this is?’ She shakes her head.

She refolds the pink blanket,

exposes her bare left knee,

gives me a nose-crinkling grin.

 

Aiwa Pooamorn’s ‘A Thai-Chinese Stay-at-Home Mother gets Political’ gets both political,  personal and utterly topical in a must-read kind of way. Home is both movement and necessary anchor.

I’m as Thai as Pad Thai noodles

invented to be the national dish

by military dictator Phibun

when actually it’s quite Chinese

all to create the myth

of a homogeneous monoculture

Thailand the land of smiles

pledge allegiance to

chaat (the Thai nation state)

satsana (the Buddhist religion)

phramahakesat (the demi-god King)

 

Siobhan Harvey’s ‘Someone Other than Yourself’ moves out from the sharp point of her migration from the UK, in a poem that completely unsettled me with its slender but potent admissions and wavery pronoun. The writing is sure-footed, the images clear, and the overall effect strange, intimate, puzzling. This is the kind of poem that adheres. I tried to select a piece to quote but the poem needs to stay together as if taking a bit out is a form of damage.

Landfall issue is rich in poetry that leaves its traces upon you in diverse ways: poems by essa may ranapiri, Tusiata Avia, Jodie Dalgleish, Elizabeth Kirkby-McLeod, Trevor Hayes, Helen Yong, Jane Arthur, Michael Mintrom, Jessica Le Bas, Richard Reeve do just that.

A bonus: In June 2017 a poem, ‘StreetNOISE’, attached to a building in Moray Place, closed down Dunedin’s central business district. The bomb squad was called, a court case ensure but charges were dropped. Justin Spiers offers seven images of the poet, artist and musician, L.$.D. Fascinating.

Plus David Eggleton’s picks for the Caselberg Trust prize, loads of fiction and reviews to get your reading teeth or heart into (so to speak).

 

Well worth a subscription I reckon.

 

 

Reading ‘brief 56’

 

Issue56.png

 

After all manner of ‘changes, transformations, alterations, mutations, re-orderings, transfigurations, conversions, variations, reorganisations, evolutions, metamorphoses, modifications and reconstructions’ Brief has re-emerged.

Olivia Macassey remains editor and  the issue is dedicated to Jill Chan, poet and writer (1973 – 2018).

This is a journal where writers play with what words on the page do but not to the point they are denied heart, art or musical impact. The reading effects are multiple. Take essa may ranapiri – with their spiky yet lyrical movements from body to more body (desirable?) to falling lark to unsated tabby.

In Brief‘s pages words are inclined to go bold, stretch out or drift and float on the white space of reading. Loren Thomas’s ‘Wrists’ ( I have not read her before!) offers friendship links, bracelets and then pulls that into question with the white-space hiccups in the middle.

Then again you might delight in John Downie’s poetry sequence; it’s built along a time line in stanzas hugging the left-hand margin and a strong sense of narrative. It may be autobiography or invention but I look forward to the forthcoming book with accompanying images it is taken from: The Only Time: an autobiography in twelve pictures.

The mark of a good journal is that it keeps you moving through diverse and distinctive fascinations. I move from the single breath piece by Carin Smeaton (‘what to do with them all’) that I just want to hear read aloud to the agile wit of Nick Ascroft’s ‘Bring Me a Pie’ (just love this couplet: ‘pull itself through the spitty drizzle,/ the rice pudding of town’).

I delight in the tropical heat of Lisa Samuels where words block out the immediate world because it is just you and the poem and you want to set up residence. I am thinking tropical because her writing shimmers in ways that are both intensely real and satisfyingly unreal.

Then again there is the audacious imagination of Chris Stewart’s ‘My father is an elephant’ that reads like a strange and wonderful children’s story written for adults:

 

I have a grey memory

of my father the elephant.

His ears brushed the dust

on my mother, but I never

heard his trumpet fountain

any water when her skin was dry.

 

I checked his bio and he won The Margaret Mahy Prize at the Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch. I can see why. His poems have appeared in multiple journals but it is clearly now time for a collection!

I have barely scratched the surface because my fascinations include writing by Iain Britton, John Adams, Vaughan Rapatahana, Jack Ross, Erik Kennedy, Bronwyn Lloyd.  I am super conscious that the issue is so varied in direction and intent that a reader will find quite different points to linger over with heart and intellect on diverse settings.

I am a fan of literary journals because at their best they reacquaint  me with old favourites, introduce new voices, make me hungry for more and most importantly, make me want to write. brief 56 is no exception.

 

Dust to Dust

 

Five hundred years from now,

we’ll, of course, be dead.

Perhaps archaeologists

will unearth our bodies

and miss our minds.

How they will dare to think.

What will they find of us ?

What does the heart leave behind

that is not buried,

that is not saved?

 

Jill Chan

 

 

 

 

 

Brief 56 page

John Dwnie’s poem and colour reproductions

 

Deadline for Starling 7 is Oct 20th

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 9.36.41 AM.png

 

STARLING CONSIDERS WORK FROM NEW ZEALAND WRITERS UNDER 25 YEARS OLD AT TIME OF SUBMISSION.

Material must not have been published elsewhere in any form previously, and please do not send us simultaneous submissions (material you have submitted or intend to submit to more than one journal/competition at the same time).

Starling is published twice yearly. Submissions may be made at any time to be considered for the next issue, so the best time to send your work is when you feel it is ready. The editors will read and respond to all submissions as soon as possible, and in any event no later than 8 weeks following the cut-off date for the issue. The editors are unable to enter into correspondence regarding individual submissions or selections.

Cut-off dates for work to be considered for each issue are 20 April for the July issue and 20 October for the January issue.

 

Full details here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the hammock: min-a-rets issue 9 spring 2018

 

Minarets9_webcover.png

 

Min-a-rets is published by Compound Press and Issue 9 is edited by Craig Foltz

The editor’s motive was ‘to create a forum for an absurdist, collaborative experiment, roughly based on the surrealist Exquisite Corpse experiments from the 1920s’. In the collective approach to writing the second writer only sees the last line of the first writer.

 

In this instance:

28 writers got a line of text, a specific form and 7 days to produce a piece. The last line was handed onto the next writer. There were four groups each starting with the same first line: Among clouds of dust, only mountains – a garden

The writers come from New Zealand, USA, Taiwan, Australia and Sweden and include Joan Fleming, Nina Powels, Ya-Wen Ho, Steph Burt, Airini Beautrais, Lisa Samuels, Anna Jackson, Amy Brown, Sarah Jane Barnettt, Essa Ranapiri, Rebecca Hawkes.

Names were put in a hat to assign group and order.

Four poems, without attribution to individual writers, achieve a sweet and surprising fluency. It is like picking up a stitch from the previous writer and taking  it wherever you fancy. Sometimes it is a shift in pattern, sometimes repetition.

Four distinctive poems like a game of whispers in the ear or the game where you draw a head, fold the paper over and let the next person continue with a modicum of clues. I was hungry to keep reading, motivated by the bridge between stanzas.

What a delight to read the hooked stitches: the surprising links and the wayward disconnections. I utterly adore this issue, both startling and sumptuous.

 

DSCN9583.jpg

 

Compound Press page