Category Archives: NZ Poets

Poetry Shelf New Poetry: Landfall 236 is a beauty

 

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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.

 

 

At The Hook: Nafanua Kersel’s breathtaking review of Tusiata Avia’s breathtaking Wild Dogs Under My Skirt

22 October, Blyth, HBAF18
Written by Tusiata Avia
Directed by Anapela Polata’ivao
Review by Nafanua Kersel

‘I’m starting at The End.  The End, with standing ovation done, when lights return to remind us of where we are in time and space.  When patrons look around them for reconnection with belongings, or companions. It’s the space where some leave quickly, while others are left sitting with questions.  Where I see strained faces, some with eyes that shuffle more than the feet of their owners. There is a sense of “what did we just see”. I turn to a friend, a wahine Māori, we talk, smile and cry. I hear someone say “well, that was eye-opening”. Yes, for some it was. For others it was heart-expanding.  For me there was also gut-wrenching where I felt exposed down to the bone, to the guts, with the intricacies of my inner make-up being inspected and clucked over, deemed too complex to put away. My heart is racing, my spine and scalp tingling.’

Find The Hook review  here

 

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Dunedin writer Sue Wootton is the recipient of the NZSA Peter & Dianne Beatson Fellowship 2018

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Sue Wootton will use the fellowship to work on an historical novel. She says: ‘I’m proud and delighted to be the recipient of the 2018 Peter and Dianne Beatson Fellowship. It’s really invigorating to receive this vote of confidence in my project, and wonderful to know that I can now dedicate a sustained stretch of time to work on my second novel, which begins during the 1948 polio epidemic and explores the effects of this on one NZ family’.

Sue Wootton’s poetry, fiction and essays are widely published in New Zealand and internationally, and her work has been recognised in a number of awards and competitions, including the International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, the Caselberg Poetry Prize, the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize, the University of Canberra Vice Chancellor’s Prize, the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Short Story Competition and the NZ Poetry Society International Competition. Her debut novel, Strip (Mākaro Press), was longlisted for the fiction prize in the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards, and her fifth poetry collection, The Yield (Otago University Press) was a finalist in the 2018 poetry category of these prestigious national awards.

Selection panel convener David Hill commented: ‘Sue Wootton is a versatile and much-admired writer, with a growing track record in both poetry and prose. Her sample of work is distinguished by writing that is both adventurous and accessible.’

 

Full details here

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Poem: Anahera Gildea’s ‘Ahi kā’

 

 

Ahi kā

 

At the top of the road

there is wind,

railways crossing at the corner,

of an old wooden prefab where

wine gums and popsicles, and

our feet in jandals fill

the one room dairy that is decades gone

 

toward the motorway

past the tree where Uncle hung himself,

is the highway

the marae-way.

Eels peg the line, and

Chip-dog is lazy barking.

Over the split verandah, you cross

the musty lounge, dark with the 70’s

squeeze down the hall past rooms so

clumsy you can smell the cob

 

out the window, into the land

blazing beneath this ancient copper;

we scrub on the washboard

of someone else’s clothes,

the broken down wringer where

this Auntie’s house is on the left,

that Auntie’s house is on the right;

 

the whole damn road is a gauntlet of aunties.

 

©Anahera Gildea
Anahera Gildea (Ngāti Raukawa-ki-te-tonga) has worked extensively as a visual and performing artist, a writer, and a teacher. She has had her poems and short stories published in multiple journals and anthologies, and her first book ‘Poroporoaki to the Lord My God: Weaving the Via Dolorosa’ was published by Seraph Press in 2016. She holds a BA in Art Theory, Graduate Diplomas in Psychology, Teaching, and Performing Arts, and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Victoria University.

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Gregory O’Brien’s ‘On drinking water’

 

On drinking water

 

What besides

pure water a glass

of water contains:

 

of the sky nothing

necessarily, but always

something

 

of the cavernous

substratum

calcium, potassium

 

the wooden ladder we climb

down into the chasm

to swim.

 

©Gregory O’Brien

 

This poem was included in a painting of mine in the Water Project exhibition, curated by Shirin Khosraviani  at the Ashburton Art Gallery. The exhibition has just come down–but will be touring the nation over the next year or two. Pic of the painting, ‘Ode to a South Island water molecule’:

 

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Gregory O’Brien is currently living in Alexandra, Central Otago, where he is working on a new collection of poems and finishing Always song in the water, a book of travels in Northland and aquatic regions north of there.

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf audio spot: Serie Barford’s Tapa Talk

 

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‘Tapa Talk’ was published in Tapa Talk by Huia Press in 2007.

 

 

Serie was born in Aotearoa to a migrant German-Samoan mother and a Palagi father. Her latest collection, Entangled Islands (Anahera Press 2015), is a mixture of poetry and prose. Serie’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She was awarded the Seresin Landfall Residency in 2011 and is a recipient of the Michael King Writers’ Centre 2018 Pasifika residency. Some of Serie’s stories for children and adults have aired on RNZ National. She is currently working on a manuscript entitled Piula Blue.

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Elizabeth Smither’s ‘The joke of the Sapeurs-Pompiers’

 

 

The joke of the Sapeurs-Pompiers

 

A lady hoping to hire a van for her family

phoned the wrong  number and got the fire station

but so intent on speaking French and impressing

her daughters who were hovering…’Monsieur

I need a vehicle that can seat six

with room for quantities of luggage’

 

The voice that answered was deep and masculine

and full of concern and savoir-faire.

‘We could send one of our smaller fire engines

but perhaps the ladder truck would be more suitable.

Now if you’ll give me your street and arrondissement…’

 

The phone fell shaking into the cradle. A fire engine

might be coming at any moment. Sirens blazing

handsome pompiers and even a fire dog

roaring past, laughing and barking.

‘Run,’ she said to her daughters and they fled

around the corner and into a café.

Next day she went to a car hire company.

 

©Elizabeth Smither

 

 

Elizabeth Smither’s latest collection, Night Horse, won the poetry award at the Ockham Book Awards 2018.