Category Archives: Poetry Awards

Congratulations to Alice Glenny; winner of the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award

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Kāpiti poet Alison Glenny has won the 2017 Kathleen Grattan Award with ‘The Farewell Tourist’, a poetry collection inspired by a visit to Antarctica.

She receives a $10,000 prize and a year’s subscription to Landfall, and Otago University Press will publish her collection in 2018.

Glenny says she wrote an initial draft while completing a postgraduate certificate in Antarctic Studies last summer at the University of Canterbury.

“One of the amazing things about the course is it includes a short residency in Antarctica, and the early parts of the book were written either in the library at Scott Base (the library with the best view in the world!), or in a tent on the Ross Ice Shelf.”

Other influences include the “endless light of the Antarctic summer”, and the writings of explorers from Antarctica’s so-called Heroic Age, and scientific writing about human-driven climate change.

“Are we really willing to resign ourselves to saying farewell to Antarctica’s unique ecosystems? I truly hope not.”

The judge of the 2017 Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award was prize-winning New Zealand poet and fiction writer Bill Manhire who says the collection “pushes against the boundaries of what poetry might be”.

“The Farewell Tourist was the manuscript I wanted to reread most often, each time getting refreshed pleasure from what was already familiar, and also finding new things to enjoy and admire.”

The biennial poetry award from Landfall and the Kathleen Grattan Trust is for an original collection of poems, or one long poem, by a New Zealand or Pacific permanent resident or citizen.

Landfall is published by Otago University Press.

 

About Alison Glenny

Glenny was born in Ōtautahi/Christchurch, and currently live in Paekākāriki, on the Kāpiti Coast. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University Wellington, and a postgraduate certificate in Antarctic Studies from the University of Canterbury.

She has taught creative writing at Whitireia Polytechnic, and published short fiction and creative nonfiction. She currently works in the area of public housing.

Further details here.

Congratulations Rhian Gallagher: Robert Burns Fellow 2018

Robert Burns Fellow 2018

Rhian Gallagher

Rhian Gallagher

Rhian Gallagher’s work is a moving blend of unique perspectives and poetic craft that creates subtly haunting effects.

Her first book of poems Salt Water Creek, published in London, was shortlisted for the 2003 Forward Prize for First Collection.  In New Zealand, she won a Canterbury History Foundation Award in 2007, and wrote Feeling for Daylight: The Photographs of Jack Adamson, a non-fiction biography published by the South Canterbury Museum.  She won the New Zealand Post Book Award for Poetry in 2012 for her second poetry collection, Shift.

In 2016, Gallagher collaborated with artist Lynn Taylor and Otakou Press printer-in-residence Sarah Smith to publish poems on the life and activities of Freda Du Faur (1882–1935), the first woman to climb Aoraki/Mount Cook.

She described the Burns Fellowship as an expansive, generous opportunity and a real honour. “In terms of creative space it is like moving from the backyard to a wide open plateau. Anything could happen! The Fellowship is also an opportunity for conversation and exchange within the humanities and, in this, it exudes possibility. It doesn’t involve a relocation for me but it is a completely new mindset.”

She will primarily be writing poetry. “One aspect of the work is focussed on the early history of the Seacliff Asylum in relation to Irish migrants. I’m looking to develop a series of letter poems.”

 

Full list of University of Otago recipients here

The winners of Dunedin’s 2017 WriteNow poetry competition & winning poem

We’re thrilled to announce the winners of the 2017 WriteNow poetry competition. This annual competition for Dunedin secondary school students was judged this year by Lynley Edmeades. First place in the senior section went to Molly Crighton (Year 12, Columba College), for her poem “Headlights”, and the winner in the junior section is Mia Parsons (Year 9, Otago Girls High School), for “Morning”. Full results, winning poems, judge’s report and prizegiving details are here: http://writenow.nz/

From Lynley Edmeades’ judges report:

I was really intrigued to read what teenagers are writing about today. Whichever direction the poems took, I found myself being invited into the minds of these young people and was often impressed with the treatment of the subject matter. I don’t know what it is like being a teenager today, but I do know that the modern world is, for many of us, a difficult place to understand at the best of times. Some of these poems remind me that poetry offers us navigational skills for the complexities of life. That these young minds are turning to poetry in times like these gives me solace and optimism: solace that they are looking to the written word as a medium of expression, and optimism for a future that has the humanities at its core.

 

Headlights

We travel parallel to a queue of cars –
That sting-bright shine of a string of pearls
Around anonymity’s urban neck.
Waiting tastes like suet
And rush hour a fatty feast
For clogged one-ways
And no-exits like the fence at a football game.
In between each bracket of streetlight the stars open and close
As though they are some bioluminescent tropical flower
Releasing headlight spores
To scatter white hot and sting-bright
On the bone-stark road below.

Molly Crighton: First place, senior section, 2017 WriteNow poetry competition

 

The WriteNow prize ceremony will be held on Friday 25 August as part of the National Poetry Day public event:

When: 25 August 2017, 5:30pm-8:00pm
Where: Dunningham Suite, Dunedin City Library
Price: Tickets $5 (bookable in person, at your local library)

Special thanks to WriteNow sponsors: University Book Shop; University of Otago Department of English and Linguistics; Otago University Press.

2017 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement announced

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Paula Green, Peter Simpson (photo: Marti Friedlander), Witi Ihimaera.

 

 

Creative New Zealand has announced the winners of the 2017 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement. They are internationally renowned Māori novelist Witi Ihimaera, literary historian and fine arts writer Peter Simpson and popular poet and children’s author Paula Green.

Each will be awarded $60,000 in recognition of their outstanding contribution to New Zealand literature. Witi Ihimaera will be honoured for fiction, Dr Peter Simpson for non-fiction, and Dr Paula Green for poetry.

Arts Council Chair Michael Moynahan said, “Our congratulations to this year’s recipients who are being recognised for their extraordinary legacy of literary achievement. As leaders in their respective crafts, they have engaged New Zealand readers with their story telling and have inspired other New Zealand writers to build on their literary legacy.”

The awards will be presented at a ceremony at Premier House in Wellington, on Wednesday 9 August. The 2017 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship winner, Dr Philip Norman, will also be honoured at the ceremony.

The Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement were established in 2003. Every year New Zealanders are invited to nominate their choice of a writer who has made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature in the genres of non-fiction, poetry and fiction. New Zealand writers are also able to nominate themselves for these awards.

Nominations are assessed by an expert literary panel and recommendations forwarded to the Arts Council of Creative New Zealand for approval.  This year’s selection panel was Rachael King, Nicola Legat, David Eggleton and Briar Grace-Smith.

A full list of previous recipients can be found on the Creative New Zealand website.

The Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship is open to established writers of any literary genre who have already published a significant body of work. Valued at $100,000, it is awarded annually for a project that will take two or more years to complete.

 

Creative New Zealand and Unity Books invite you to a free literary event

The recipients of the 2017 Prime Ministers Awards for Literary Achievement will read and discuss their work with author Kate De Goldi.

This is a free event at Unity Books, 57 Willis Street, Wellington on Thursday 10 August, 12.30-1.15pm. All welcome. More info: http://bit.ly/2uD2ATe

 

For media enquiries, please contact:

Jasmyne Chung
Senior Communications & Advocacy Adviser
Creative New Zealand
jasmyne.chung@creativenz.govt.nz
M: 027 838 8868 | DDI: (04) 498 0727

 

 

2017 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – Fiction

Witi Tame Ihimaera-Smiler, DCNZM, QSM (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Auckland, born Gisborne)

Born in Gisborne, Witi Ihimaera is a novelist, short story writer, filmmaker, anthologist, librettist and playwright. He is of Te Whānau a Kai, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou and Tūhoe descent. He has the distinction of being the first Māori writer, in 1972, to publish both a book of short stories and a novel. His novel, The Whale Rider, became an internationally successful feature film and Māori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood won the General Non-Fiction Award at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. His most recent books are Black Marks on the White Page, co-edited with Tina Makereti, and Sleeps Standing, with te reo translation by Hemi Kelly, about the Battle of Orakau.

Regarded as one of the world’s leading indigenous writers, Witi has held numerous writing residencies and fellowships. He holds an Honorary Doctorate from Victoria University of Wellington, and in 2009 he was honoured as an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate as well as the supreme Māori arts award Te Tohu mō Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu at the Creative New Zealand Te Waka Toi Awards. He was named a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004. Last month the French Government appointed him a French Knight of the order of arts and letters (Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres) for his contribution to literature.

The selection panel described Witi as one of New Zealand’s most important post-colonial writers, who has consistently proved to be an outstanding storyteller, celebrated as a voice for Māoritanga and a literary leader.

 

2017 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – Poetry

Dr Paula Green, MNZM (Auckland)

Paula Green is a poet, reviewer, anthologist, children’s author, book awards judge and blogger. She has published ten poetry collections, including several for children. In 2017, she was admitted to The New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to poetry and literature.

Paula has also co-edited a number of highly regarded anthologies, including 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry, with Dr Harry Ricketts, which was short-listed for the 2010 NZ Post Book Awards. She runs two influential poetry blogs, NZ Poetry Box and NZ Poetry Shelf, and has been a judge for the NZ Post Book Awards, the NZ Post Secondary School Poetry Competition, and the inaugural Sarah Broom Poetry Prize in 2014.

Her recent publications include a collection of her own poems for children, The Letterbox Cat and Other Poems, which won Children’s Choice at the 2015 NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and an anthology of children’s verse, A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. Her latest adult collection, New York Pocket Book, was published in 2016.

Paula has a Doctorate in Italian and was Literary Fellow at The University of Auckland (2005). She is a regular guest in New Zealand literary festivals and frequently performs and undertakes workshops in schools from Year 0 to 13.

The selection panel said Paula stood out amongst the nominees for this year’s Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Excellence in Poetry as an accomplished all-rounder, with special distinction as an author of children’s poetry. They described her as “a significant figure in New Zealand poetry as an anthologist and commentator” and as a leading poet.

 

2017 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – Non-fiction

 

Dr Peter Simpson (Auckland, born Takaka)

Peter Simpson is a writer, editor, critic, curator and academic who has been writing about New Zealand literature, art and culture for more than 50 years. His first book, on Ronald Hugh Morrieson, was published in 1982; since then he has published eight sole-authored books, edited 12 other books, made substantial contributions to 25 other titles, published more than 100 articles in journals in New Zealand and overseas, and scores of reviews in newspapers, periodicals, scholarly journals and online.

He has taught at several universities in New Zealand and Canada between 1964 and 2008. Peter was co-founder and director of Holloway Press, 1993 -2013, publishing some 40 books. He has curated six exhibitions on Leo Bensemann and Colin McCahon for Hocken Collections, Auckland Art Gallery, Christchurch Art Gallery, Lopdell House Gallery and New Zealand Portrait Gallery.

Peter was awarded the 2012 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship. The book written during that Fellowship, Bloomsbury South: The Arts in Christchurch 1933-1953, was shortlisted for the illustrated non-fiction category of the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards.

The selection panel said Peter’s many books and other writing attest to his ability – both as a literary historian and as a writer on the fine arts – and that he has contributed significantly to the nation’s literary culture over many years.

2017 Michael King Writer’s Fellowship

 

Dr Philip Norman, CNZM (Christchurch)

Award-winning author and composer Dr Philip Norman has compiled three editions of the Bibliography of New Zealand Compositions, including biographies of some 120 New Zealand composers and descriptions of 4,000 of their works.

He has co-authored, edited or contributed to numerous other books and publications on New Zealand music. From 1980-1991 he was the principal music reviewer for The Press in Christchurch, writing more than 700 reviews.

In addition to being a writer Philip has composed more than 250 works, from orchestral, chamber music and opera through to choral works, musicals and ballet. He composed music for Footrot Flats, New Zealand’s best-selling musical, and for the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s successful Peter Pan, which is shortly to receive a repeat season in Perth, Australia.

About the Michael King Fellowship 2017:

The $100,000 Michael King Fellowship has been awarded to Dr Phillip Norman to create a history of New Zealand composers and their work from the start of European settlement to present day. Philip will use the fellowship to complete a lifetime of work studying New Zealand classical music identifying influential composers, works and performances, and tracing key developments through the decades.

 

Hera Lindsay Bird wins Sarah Broom Poetry Award to an audience whoop

 

Carol Ann Duffy was the guest judge for the 4th annual Sarah Broom Poetry Award announced today at the Auckland Writers Festival. There is a generous monetary gift for the winner but the event also showcases the work of three New Zealand poets.

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Carol Ann read a selection of Sarah’s poems after underlining ‘the vital sense of importance of poetry to Sarah’s wellbeing.’ It was the best reading of Sarah’s work I have heard and I felt with each poem I was in a chamber of return. I returned to the exquisite craft of Sarah as a wordsmith, to our conversations, to the effect her writing has upon me.

We got to hear the three poets read before the winner was announced. I would have liked the judge to comment upon the entries as a whole, the posts she selected and the winner but for some reason she refrained from doing so. Is this the way it is done overseas?

 

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Hearing the three read, however was a highlight. Hera was up first and I started firing words in my notebook: anarchic, surreal, funny, acutely funny, cranky, provocative, sharp, torrent-of-consciousness-like in a finely crafted way which seems like an oxymoron, personal, confessional, sweetly fluent, spikey-fluent. I could have listened to her for hours.

 

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Cliff Fell was a marked shift in register and preoccupation. I was hooked on the rhythms to begin with, undulations of words like tidal flows; the detail accruing and dilating. There was an infectious quiet energy that drew me in – I wanted to sit down and reread the sumptuous poems on a page at a dawdle pace. I loved ‘The Pin Cushion,’ ‘The Song of a Pebble.’ And the sonnets with their random rhymes.

 

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Finally Sandi King read. I wasn’t familiar with her work but her poems drew upon love and memory with reverence and reverberations. Lines stood out and marked the writing as both personal and reflective. ‘Words are flutter boards beneath the surface.’ ‘It has taken a lifetime of tides to accept yourself.’

 

Hera admitted she had entered the competition as she wanted Carol Ann Duffy to read her work. This is indeed a special thing for those who enter each year: the chance to have an offshore judge spend time with our local poetry.

Grateful thanks to Michael and Sarah, and the AWF, for showcasing New Zealand poetry at this event. The Award is a vital part of and for our writing communities. Good to see the VUP folk in the crowd backing their authors.

Hats off to The Ockham NZ Book Award Winners

Congratulations to the winners, commiserations to those who missed out and hats off to Victoria University Press for an extraordinary showing. VUP is a strong supporter of local writing, publishing more poetry that anyone else without compromising on quality. Three cheers VUP! Hats off to all NZ publishers, large and small, who back local writers and books. We are in debt to you. Away from the glitz and flare of an awards ceremony, there is an active terrain of writing and writers. Hats off to that too!

And hats off to the winners! Enjoy this moment of well-deserved recognition by your peers.

This year’s four category award winners will appear at a free event at the Auckland Writers Festival: The State We’re In on Friday 19 May at 5.30pm in the Heartland Festival Room, Aotea Square.

 

 

Fiction: Catherine Chidgey

Internationally renowned Ngāruawāhia resident Catherine Chidgey has won New Zealand’s richest writing award, the $50,000 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, for her novel The Wish Child. The award was announced this evening at the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

The panel of judges — Bronwyn Wylie Gibb, Peter Wells, Jill Rawnsley and inaugural international judge the Canadian writer Madeleine Thien — said  “The Wish Child exposes and celebrates the power of words – so dangerous they must be cut out or shredded, so magical they can be wondered at and conjured with – Chidgey also exposes the fragility and strength of humanity … Compelling and memorable, you’ll be caught by surprise by its plumbing of depths and sudden moments of grace, beauty and light.”

The Wish Child, Chidgey’s fourth novel, comes 13 years after her last work, The Transformation, was published to critical acclaim. Chidgey’s previous novel Golden Deeds was chosen as a Book of the Year by Time Out (London), a Best Book by the LA Times Book Review and a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times. Her debut novel, In a Fishbone Church, won a Commonwealth Writers Prize (South East Asia and South Pacific).

Her latest novel, published by Victoria University Press, is one of four Ockham New Zealand Book Awards category winners, selected by four panels of specialist judges out of a shortlist of 16, which were in turn drawn from 40 longlisted titles from 150 entries.

 

Poetry: Andrew Johnston

Paris-based Andrew Johnston won the Poetry category for his collection Fits & Starts (Victoria University Press), a book described by the category’s judges’ convenor, Harry Ricketts, as a slow-burning tour de force.

“The judges’ admiration for Andrew Johnston’s remarkable collection grew with each rereading, as its rich intellectual and emotional layers continued to reveal themselves … Using a minimalist couplet-form, the collection is at once philosophical and political, witty and moving, risky and grounded, while maintaining a marvellously varied singing line.

“To reward Fits & Starts with the overall poetry prize is to reward New Zealand poetry at its most impressive and its most promising.”

 

Nonfiction: Ashleigh Young

Ashleigh Young (Wellington) took the Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction for her collection of personal essays Can You Tolerate This? (Victoria University Press).

The category’s judges’ convenor, Susanna Andrew, says Young’s work sets a high bar for style and originality in a form that has very little precedent in this country. “Always an acute observer, it is in Young’s commitment to writing as an art that the true miracle occurs; she tells us her story and somehow we get our own.”

Young catapulted to international recognition earlier this year when she won the Yale University US$165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize for the collection.

 

Illustrated Non-Fiction: Barbara Brookes

Dunedin writer and historian Barbara Brookes won the Illustrated Non-Fiction category for her meticulously documented work A History of New Zealand Women (Bridget Williams Books).

The category’s judges’ convenor, Linda Tyler, says Brookes’ work combines deep research, an immensely readable narrative, superbly well-integrated images and is distinguished by close attention to both Māori and Pakehā women.

“Putting women at the centre of our history, this sweeping survey shows exactly when, how and why gender mattered. General changes in each period are combined effortlessly with the particular, local stories of individual women, many not well-known. A wider sense of women’s experiences is beautifully conveyed by the many well-captioned artworks, photographs, texts and objects.”

 

Best First Books:

The Judith Binney Best First Book Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction: Ngarino Ellis for A Whakapapa of Tradition: 100 Years of Ngāti Porou Carving, 1830-1930, with new photography by Natalie Robertson (Auckland University Press).

The Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry: Hera Lindsay Bird for Hera Lindsay Bird (Victoria University Press).

The E.H. McCormick Best First Book Award for General Non-Fiction: Adam Dudding for My Father’s Island: A Memoir (Victoria University Press).

The Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction: Gina Cole for Black Ice Matter (Huia Publishers).

The Sarah Broom Poetry Award finalists: an interview, some poems

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This world is only ever

water, rock and black air.

It cannot accommodate us;

we cannot, will not complain

when the water deafens and knocks us.

We shut our eyes

and meet its volleyed blackness.

 

©Sarah Broom, from ‘Caving,’  in Tigers at Awhitu (Auckland University Press, 2010)

 

 

 

 

The Sarah Broom Poetry Award supports New Zealand writers through an annual poetry competition. The finalists are invited to read their work at an Auckland Writers Festival event and the winner gets a substantial cash prize. This award matters not only because it offers a financial reprieve for a poet, but because it showcases our poetry. We are an eclectic bunch writing in diverse ways with diverse preoccupations within diverse communities. The award also returns me to Sarah’s poetry; an annual pilgrimage for which I am grateful. Her work continues to resonate on a personal level and along the fertile line, ever revealing, ever fresh and vital. I applaud Michael Gleissner and Sarah Ross for all the hard, behind-the scenes the work they undertake to make this award happen. Thank you.

This year’s judge is Carol Ann Duffy who will also appear at the Auckland Writers Festival.

The finalists: Sandi King, Cliff Fell, Hera Lindsay Bird

 

 

The Poems

 

 

Where the World Looks In

 

It’s true that everything’s always moving:

The way a sunbeam glances off the corner of the fridge

Or the shadows turn from violet to indigo.

 

Or the way your voice will slip a semi-tone

When you’re talking on the phone

And you think someone else is listening.

 

So I’ll wait for you under the first arch of the bridge

Where the river longs to persist,

To abide beyond its turbulence and flow

And all the other laws that words will not obey.

 

And I want the words to say

Something else again

Or just to be there when the river is blessed

Like a mirror where the world looks in.

 

© Cliff Fell

 

 

 

The Way Home

 

Flamboyant: noun

  1. The condition of being flamboyant
  2. A group of flamingos

http://www.yourdictionary.com/flamboyance

 

 

The lush wetland

of my unconscious mind is squawking

in the same way I formed thoughts

before I was old enough to know words.

Just out of sight I hear

wildlife, and the shore

bright with the colours of sunset

discarded in the morning

grass.

 

I reach through the wire fence

and grasp the legacy left to me,

orange/pink

and fragile. Thousands

of flamingo feathers

 

which I scoop secretly into a bag

and carry back to the motel

to admire the fluffy whiteness

of the tiniest feathers. I lay

the long ones in a row

to assess

their intensity of pigment,

their readiness for flight.

 

Sometimes I dream that my body

is wrapped in a bolt of organza.

It’s orange/pink,

a hood-to-ankle garment.

In the mirror, behind my reflection

I can see the Manawatu Estuary

coloured in with my childhood

dreams. I lift primary flight feathers

to the sky, soar

over road and cars and houses

all the way back to Nana and Grandad’s lawn.

 

In Nana’s flowerbed I find

two ornamental flamingos, pink

so pink. She bends as if to feed

from the shallows, he waits

fondly beside her.

They are translating the garden

into bird

of paradise.

 

I shelter with these two as long as I can hold

then wade on home, finally

orange/pink,

into the flamboyance of flamingos.

 

© Sandi King

 

 

 

 

The Questions

 

 

The Sarah Broom Poetry Award is a terrific supporter of New Zealand poets and poetry. Can you name a New Zealand poetry book that has resonated with you in the past few years. What do you love about it?

 

Sandi: Bill Nelson’s collection Memorandum of Understanding is stuffed with the kind of poetry I love to read. There is variety in the content that sparks my imagination. Some of the poems have an ambiguity, but of a giving nature. If the poem could talk to the reader it might say ‘I have more. Come back tomorrow and read me again.’  His clutch of poems titled ’How to do just about anything’ feature a liberal use of the second person that I enjoy.

Cliff: There are quite a few, but I particularly admired Dinah Hawken’s Ocean and Stone and recently enjoyed reading Hannah Mettner’s Fully Clothed and So Forgetful. But the book that resonated most with me in recent years is Rachel Bush’s Thought Horses, published shortly after she died in March 2016. It’s not only that she lived in Nelson and that I’d read some of the poems as they came into being, but the way the collection finds her – particularly in poems I hadn’t seen before – facing her death with such fortitude, wit and wisdom. Rachel has always had this wonderfully elastic syntax, and a giddy playfulness to the way she can shift focus in a poem. All of that is heightened in this collection. It’s a book that’s marvellously re-readable. I discover little gems I hadn’t noticed before, nuances and images, every time I enter its lost domain, its domain of loss.

Hera: I try not to talk about why I like certain books because I always end up lying by accident, but I always like reading Geoff Cochrane. Can everyone just take my word for it? It’s better this way.

 

 

What are some of the strengths or weaknesses of New Zealand poetry and its communities?

 

Sandi: I have found a lot of generosity. Writing groups meet together to nuture each other, and develop their work into the best it can be. We have organisers like Bill Sutton who organise events where poets can come together and hear each other. We have poetry competitions which offer hope to everyone who enters. There are still opportunities to be published thanks to the commitment of small publishers, plus a variety of journals and websites, and there are excellent educational opportunities available. New Zealand has talented mentors too – I have been extremely fortunate to be mentored by Renée.

Cliff: There’s so much going on in New Zealand poetry, you would have to be very dedicated to keep up with it all. Its strengths are its poets, of course. They’re probably its weaknesses, too. But I’d imagine that New Zealand poetry is generally thriving, gaining greater recognition overseas. Cheers to all responsible for that! As for its communities, apart from the point that individuals can create their own community, their following, these days, I’ve had a notion for a while that in the arts, in poetry in particular, in its real nose-to-the-grindstone communities, New Zealand resembles the city-states of late medieval, Renaissance Italy, with their arts flowering in different styles. There are similar alliances and rivalries and moments of cross-pollination, as there were then, and distinct local sounds or voices or concerns are beginning to develop, the way the Dunedin sound developed in music. The rivalries in poetry have been going on for generations, as we all know. All of this is, obviously, down to our demographics – relatively small population – and our geography, our topography, in that it means journeying between centres is bound to be epic, on some level. Who would the Papal State be in such an analogy? CNZ, I suppose, with the patronage it confers. Of course, this is a notion – and in some ways a ridiculous one – that I would favour, indulge in, due to my interests. Also, I’m an outsider, so that probably colours the way I see things. But I think there’s a kernel of truth to it. We may not exactly have to learn the taste of other people’s bread, but it’s not a bad trope for how things are.

 

Hera:

 

con: poor overall fighting technique, weak in physical combat department

pro: lots of wine

con: nobody to talk to at parties about Survivor

pro: except Louise Wallace and Holly Hunter

con: small population size leading to difficulty maintaining rigorous critical culture, ancient confusing unexplained feuds going back decades, lack of money, too many poems about mountains, easily hurt feelings

pro: if people hate you they have the decency to do it in private, to their friends and loved ones

con: James K Baxter

pro: oh relax, I’m only joking

 

 

 

Do you see your shortlisted collection as a surprising departure from your previous poetry, a continuation and deepening engagement with your poetic concerns, or something altogether different?

 

Sandi: To be honest, I was excited by the opportunity to have my work read by Carol Ann Duffy and looked through everything I have written for poems I thought she might like to read.

Cliff: More a continuation probably, though I’m not sure – and either way, hopefully some kind of a deepening engagement. To be honest I was amazed that my entry came together at all, as I hadn’t really been writing for a while. I wrote two new poems on the deadline day and heavily revised four others. When I looked at the collection again, on learning that I’d been shortlisted, one thing that did surprise me was to discover that three of the poems were ekphrastic in nature. How that came about, I really don’t know.

Hera: Some are following on from my first book, others are a little looser. I’m trying as hard as possible not to think about it while I write. The phrase poetic concerns is such a great one. It always makes me think of Byron having trouble with his swans.

 


I am putting you on the spot here, but if you were reviewing your collection, what three words would characterise its allure?  

 

Sandi: Sensual, adventurous, satisfying

Cliff: Yes, horribly on the spot, as I would hate to review my own collection. It would be a public self-mauling that no one would want to witness. Flawed. Flibbertigibbet. Fatal. Will they do? Oh, and Astronomy. That’s four words, but there are plenty of stones and stars, and also caves, in my poems. Too many probably.

Hera: Silly, unsettling, imagistic

 

 

When you write a poem, what talismans or cornerstones or spark plugs or jump leads or release pads do you favour? I am thinking, for example, of the way some poets are drawn to musicality, storytelling or the element of surprise.

 

Sandi: Many of my poems are portrait poems or persona poems. The beginning of a poem can sometimes be the sound of the character’s voice, and trying to thread that into the poem

so that maybe the reader can imagine the character speak when she reads the poem. Often a segment of story develops from the portrait as I write. Otherwise a poem will begin from a little stub – something I have seen, heard or felt. When I discover a stub, I write it down. Months later, I’ll look at that stub again, and sometimes it will be the start of a poem. It’s like taking cuttings from people’s gardens – you achieve variety without having to try too hard for it.

 

Cliff: Yes, I certainly believe in talismans and little rituals. I once knew a builder in Scotland who wouldn’t go up on a roof without a kilt pin in his trouser pocket. It’s easy enough to understand why, when you think about it. In my case, well, first up I consume a quantity of petrol. That’s for the spark plugs. Then I get into some kind of trance-like fire-eating routine, blowing flames around the room, hoping the poem and all my electric guitars will spontaneously combust. Or I imagine I’m being carried in a coffin into what has been billed on the invitation as an ‘outrageous’ party. This is in fact a gate-crasher’s ploy, as the hosts have notably declined to invite me. I only learned about this exclusive mother of all parties when I saw an invitation a so-called friend taunted me with. So when the night-watchmen I’ve hired as coffin-bearers carry me through the door, we thump into the hubbub, noise of glasses being smashed, voices, music, people banging on the lid and so on. I think they must have set me down in the middle of the dance floor, because when I emerge, naked as the day I was born, there she is, Topsie-Terpsichore, spinning and pirouetting and doing the scorpion in my arms. And we dance all night. Maybe it’s West Coast swing, on the track to begin with, but then it gets crazy, circle dancing around the coffin, big bass lines pumping out of the PA and deep into your rib-cage, and a frenzy of many arms and legs. Later, there will be sweaty, abandoned sex on the grassy shores of a lake. Moonlight and embarrassment, of course.  A boat, though perhaps it’s just the coffin floating away. I seem to remember there was a high wire-mesh fence we had to clamber over. Stuff like that. It all helps.

 

Hera: Everything at once. I like poetry pushed to its stylistic limits. For instance, take a poem about a swan in the moonlight. That might be a good poem. But what if…… instead of one swan you had a thousand swans? And what if instead of moonlight……the moon had never existed & instead there was a giant neon exit sign, hanging in the sky? I’m just being indirect because I don’t want to write a manifesto too early. I think one of the tasks of poetry is to teach yourself to write as many different ways as possible, and then to trick yourself into never thinking about them in the moment. Like mixed martial arts, if people used mixed martial arts to express their feelings about autumn.

 

 

 

 

 

The Finalists

 

 

Hera Lindsay Bird is a poet from Wellington. Her debut self-titled collection Hera Lindsay Bird was published in 2016 with Victoria University Press; it has been reprinted many times, and is currently on the shortlist for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She has an MA in poetry from the International Institute of Modern Letters where she won the 2011 Adam Prize in Creative Writing. She works as a bookseller at Unity Books Wellington.

Bird’s work has been featured in The Guardian and Vice Magazine. She has been published in a number of journals and publications including Best New Zealand Poems, The Spinoff, The Listener, The Hairpin, Hue & Cry and Sport. In 2016 she ran a free, ten-week creative nonfiction class called TMI. She likes watching the figure skating at the winter Olympics and murder mysteries set on trains.

 

 

Cliff Fell is the author of three books of poems, The Good Husbandwoman’s Alphabet (illustrated by Fiona Johnstone, Last Leaf Press, 2014), Beauty of the Badlands (Victoria University Press, 2008) and The Adulterer’s Bible (Victoria University Press, 2003). The Adulterer’s Bible was awarded the 2002 Adam Prize in Creative Writing and the 2004 Jessie Mackay Prize for Best First Book of Poetry. Other poems have appeared in the online anthology Best New Zealand Poems and in various New Zealand and overseas publications. He has been a regular contributor to the RNZ National Nights programme, talking about poetry.

Born in London to an English mother and New Zealand father, he has lived in New Zealand since 1997 and worked, sometimes very briefly – and tenuously – as a roadie, musician, bank clerk, bar-tender and also in farming, forestry, and film-making. He studied History and Archaeology at Exeter University, received an MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University and currently lives in the Motueka river catchment. He is a tutor of creative writing in the Arts programme at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.

 

 

Sandi King (previously known as Sandi Sartorelli) is a New Zealander of English, Irish, Danish and Moravian descent. She currently lives in the Hutt Valley with her youngest son Guy. She has a degree in Creative Writing from Whitireia New Zealand. Her work has been published in a number of journals and websites including 4th Floor, Blackmail Press, JAAM, Renée’s Wednesday Busk, Snorkel and takahē.

In 2013 three of King’s poems were highly commended in the Caselberg Trust Prize, the New Zealand Poetry Society Competition and takahē Poetry Competition. In 2015 her poem ‘Timing’ took first place in the Upper Hutt Poetry Competition. The most recent publication to include her work is the book Poetical Bridges/Poduri Lirice (2017), a collection of New Zealand poetry translated into Romanian, and Romanian poetry translated into English, created by Valentina Teclici.

 

 

Hera Lindsay Bird, Cliff Fell, and Sandi King will read poems from their submissions at the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize event at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday 21 May 4.30-5.30pm.

This is a free event. Guest judge Carol Ann Duffy will introduce the finalists and announce the winner of this year’s prize.