Category Archives: Poetry Awards

Poetry Shelf celebrates Ockham NZ Book Awards Poetry shortlist: Nina Mingya Powles and ten things she loves

Ten things I love

  • A photograph

Me in Beijing, taken by my partner.

  • A poem by someone else

a dream of foxes



in the dream of foxes
there is a field
and a procession of women
clean as good children
no hollow in the world
surrounded by dogs
no fur clumped bloody
on the ground
only a lovely line
of honest women stepping
without fear or guilt or shame
safe through the generous fields.

Lucille Clifton

Full poem and video at poemhunter

  • A song

“First Love / Late Spring” by Mitski, from her album bury me at makeout creek.

A song I listened to while beginning to write the book in Shanghai.

  • A book

A bathful of kawakawa and hot water by Hana Pera Aoake (Compound Press).

  • A movie

Minari

  • A place

Five Mile Bay, Lake Taupō, my first swim after arriving back in Aotearoa.

  • A meal

Char kuay teow and sweet milk tea.

  • A poetic motif

A window.

  •  A place to write

Next to the windowsill where I’ve planted daffodils, in the sun, the cat perched next to me.

  • A poem from my book

Night train to Anyang

light changes as we cross into neon clouds

voices flicker through the moving dark

like dream murmurs moving through the body

red and silver 汉字 glow from building tops

floating words I can’t read rising into bluest air

they say there are mountains here but I can’t see them

there are only dream mountains high above the cloudline

I come from a place full of mountains and volcanoes

I often say when people ask about home

when I shut my eyes I see a ring of flames

and volcanoes erupting somewhere far away

when I open my eyes snow is falling like ash

Five questions

Is writing a pain or a joy, a mix of both, or something altogether different for you?

Writing gives me adrenaline, which is sometimes a kind of joy, or at least relief. Writing –when it’s going well –  gives me energy in the moment itself, but often leaves me utterly drained.

Name a poet who has particularly influenced your writing or who supports you.

There are so many poets who have supported me and deeply influenced me; it wouldn’t be fair to name just one. I am endlessly grateful to poets Alison Wong, Helen Rickerby, Anna Jackson, Bhanu Kapil, Sarah Howe and Jennifer Wong – I walk in their footsteps.

Was your shortlisted collection shaped by particular experiences or feelings?

The book is so distinctly shaped by a particular period in my life. Some poems feel ancient to me now, distant and far away –  but I don’t mind that. I was living in Shanghai, my first time living alone, feeling both brave and terrified at the same time. The poems are shaped by isolation, longing, aloneness (but not always loneliness) and in-betweenness.

Did you make any unexpected discoveries as you wrote?

Always –  I think this is how writing works for me. I have a loose outline in my mind of something I want to get down on the page, usually starting with a particular image, and then the writing itself reveals to me the place I want to go. I can’t quite explain how it happens, only that I’m following threads, making connections as I go. When something unexpected happens, I think that’s when I’ve written something good.

Do you like to talk about your poems or would you rather let them speak for themselves? Is there one poem where an introduction (say at a poetry reading) would fascinate the audience/ reader? Offer different pathways through the poem?

I prefer to let the poems do the work, although I enjoy giving some background details about some poems, such as “The First Wave”, which was written while listening to the online livestream of Radio NZ while I was in Shanghai at the time of the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016. Or, “The Great Wall”, which I affectionately call my Matt Damon poem, titled after the 2016 movie of the same name.

Nina Mingya Powles is a poet, zinemaker and non-fiction writer of Malaysian-Chinese and Pākehā heritage, currently living in London. She is the author of a food memoir, Tiny Moons: A Year of Eating in Shanghai (The Emma Press, 2020), poetry box-set Luminescent (Seraph Press, 2017), and several poetry chapbooks and zines, including Girls of the Drift (Seraph Press, 2014). In 2018 she was one of three winners of the inaugural Women Poets’ Prize, and in 2019 won the Nan Shepherd Prize for Nature Writing. Magnolia 木蘭 was shortlisted for the 2020 Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Nina has an MA in creative writing from Victoria University of Wellington and won the 2015 Biggs Family Prize for Poetry. She is the founding editor of Bitter Melon 苦瓜, a risograph press that publishes limited-edition poetry pamphlets by Asian writers. Her collection of essays, Small Bodies of Water, is forthcoming from Canongate Books in 2021. 

Nina reads ‘Faraway love’ from MAGNOLIA 木蘭

Review on Poetry Shelf here

Seraph Press page

Nina’s website

MAGNOLIA 木蘭, Nina Mingya Powles, Seraph Press, 2020

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Warm congratulations to the Ockham NZ Book Awards shortlisted poets

The finalists in the 2021 Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry are:

Funkhaus by Hinemoana Baker (Victoria University Press)

Magnolia 木蘭by Nina Mingya Powles (Seraph Press)

National Anthem by Mohamed Hassan (Dead Bird Books)

The Savage Coloniser Book by Tusiata Avia (Victoria University Press)

Full shortlist and judges’ comments here.

“Poetry collections published in Aotearoa in 2020 show a wealth of exceptional and original work.  It’s an exciting situation for New Zealand poetry. The four shortlisted collections are striking, all exhibiting an acute global consciousness in difficult times,” says Poetry category convenor of judges Dr Briar Wood.

I was so excited about the poetry longlist, I spent the last few months celebrating each poet on the blog. What sublime books – I knew I would have a flood of sad glad feelings this morning (more than on other occasions) because books that I have adored were always going to miss out. I simply adored the longlist. So I am sending a big poetry toast to the six that didn’t make it – your books will have life beyond awards.

I am also sending a big poetry toast to the four finalists: your books have touched me deeply. Each collection comes from the heart, from your personal experience, from your imaginings and your reckonings, from your musical fluencies. The Poetry Shelf reviews are testimony to my profound engagement with your poems and how they have stuck with me.

Over the next weeks I am posting features on the poets: first up, later this morning, Tusiata Avia.

Mary and Peter Biggs CNZM are long-time arts advocates and patrons – particularly of literature, theatre and music. They have funded the Biggs Family Prize in Poetry at Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters since 2006, along with the Alex Scobie Research Prize in Classical Studies, Latin and Greek. They have been consistent supporters of the International Festival of the Arts, the Auckland Writers Festival, Wellington’s Circa Theatre, the New Zealand Arts Foundation, Featherston Booktown, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura (formerly the New Zealand Book Council), the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Featherston Sculpture Trust and the Kokomai Arts Festival in the Wairarapa. Peter was Chair of Creative New Zealand from 1999 to 2006. He led the Cultural Philanthropy Taskforce in 2010 and the New Zealand Professional Orchestra Sector Review in 2012. Peter was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for arts governance and philanthropy in 2013.

 

Poetry Shelf celebrates the Ockham NZ Book Awards Poetry Longlist: Nina Mingya Powles reads from MAGNOLIA 木蘭

Nina Mingya Powles, MAGNOLIA 木蘭, Seraph Press, 2020

NIna reads ‘Faraway love’ from MAGNOLIA 木蘭

鸣 (míng), the cry of animals and insects, rhymes with tooth, which rhymes with precipice, which rhymes with the first part of my Chinese name.

I am full of nouns and verbs; I don’t know how to live any other way. I am a tooth-like thing. I am half sun half moon, and the scissors used to cut away the steamed lotus leaves. I am honey strokes spreading over the tiles.

Certain languages contain more kinds of rain than others, and I have eaten them all.

 

from ‘Fieldnotes on a downpour’

 

Review on Poetry Shelf here

Seraph Press page

Poetry Shelf celebrates the Ockham NZ Book Awards Poetry longlist: Karlo Mila reads from Goddess Muscle

Karlo Mila reads ‘Letter to JC Sturm’, from Goddess Muscle Huia Publishers, 2020

Dr Karlo Mila is a New Zealand-born poet of Tongan and Pākehā descent with ancestral connections to Samoa. She is currently Programme Director of Mana Moana, Leadership New Zealand. This leadership programme is based on her postdoctoral research on harnessing indigenous language and ancestral knowledge from the Pacific to use in contemporary leadership contexts. Karlo received an MNZM in 2019 for services to the Pacific community and as a poet, received a Creative New Zealand Contemporary Pacific Artist Award in 2016, and was selected for a Creative New Zealand Fulbright Pacific Writer’s Residency in Hawaii in 2015.

Goddess Muscle is Karlo’s third book of poetry. Her first, Dream Fish Floating, won NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2006. In 2008, Karlo collaborated with German-born artist Delicia Sampero to produce A Well Written Body. Karlo’s poetry has been published in in many anthologies, in a variety of journals and online. 

Huia Publishers author page

Poetry Shelf review

NZAL review (Lana Lopesi)

@RNZ Karlo talks with Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon

Poetry Shelf celebrates the Ockham NZ Book Awards Poetry longlist: Tusiata Avia reads from The Savage Coloniser Book

Tusiata Avia reads ‘Massacre’ from The Savage Coloniser Book (Victoria University Press, 2020)

Tusiata Avia is an acclaimed poet, performer and children’s writer. Her previous poetry collections are Wild Dogs Under My Skirt (2004; also staged as a theatre show, most recently Off-Broadway, winning the 2019 Outstanding Production of the Year), Bloodclot (2009) and the Ockham-shortlisted Fale Aitu | Spirit House (2016). Tusiata has held the Fulbright Pacific Writer’s Fellowship at the University of Hawai‘i in 2005 and the Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence at University of Canterbury in 2010. She was the 2013 recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award, and in 2020 was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to poetry and the arts.

Victoria University Press page

Poetry Shelf review

Poetry Shelf celebrates Ockham NZ Book Award poetry long list: Elizabeth Morton reads from This is your real name

Elizabeth Morton reads two poems from This is your real name (Otago University Press, 2020)

Elizabeth Morton is a poet and teller of yarns. She has two poetry collections – Wolf (Mākaro Press, 2017) and This is your real name (Otago, 2020). She is included in Best Small Fictions 2016, and was feature poet in the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017. She has an MLitt in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow, and is currently completing an MSc through King’s College London.

Otago University Press page

Poetry Shelf review

Poetry Shelf celebrates the Ockham NZ Book Awards Poetry Longlist: Jackson Nieuwland reads from I Am a Human Being

Jackson Nieuwland, I Am a Human Being, Compound Press, 2020

Jackson reads from I Am a Human Being

Jackson Nieuwland is a human being, duh. They are a genderqueer writer, editor, librarian, and woo-girl, born and based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. They co-founded the reading/zine series Food Court. This isn’t even their final form.

Compound Press page

Poetry Shelf review (Paula Green)

Pantograph Punch review (Vanessa Crofskey)

Landfall on Line review (Erik Kennedy)

Chris Holdaway (Compound Press) celebrates Jackson’s place on the longlist with a poem

Poetry Shelf celebrates Ockham NZ Book Award Poetry Longlist: A Bill Manhire poem and audio link

Someone was Burning the Forest

We did not know why the child was crying,
nor why he stood bare-shouldered at the window.
How had he come by those skimpy feathers?
The mother had fallen from the tower
a moment after she began to answer. I looked around
and there were many towers, also other bodies.
Now I was on the ground myself. I could hear
the child but no longer see him. Perhaps
he was still aloft. The towers were dissolving
yet surely there were trees. It was dark now
but I knew there must be many bodies.
I would need to climb to see where we might go.

Bill Manhire, Wow Victoria University Press, 2020

Have a listen: For the first Stress Test of 2021, Rough Trade Books welcomed special guest Bill Manhire to join them for music and poems.

Bill Manhire’s most recent books include Some Things to Place in a Coffin (2017), Tell Me My Name (with Hannah Griffin and Norman Meehan, 2017) and The Stories of Bill Manhire (2015). He was New Zealand’s inaugural poet laureate, and founded and until recently directed the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. He has edited major anthologies, including, with Marion McLeod, the now classic Some Other Country: New Zealand’s Best Short Stories (1984).

Victoria University Press page

Poetry Shelf review

ANZL review (Anna Jackson)

Chris Tse reviews Wow on Nine to Noon, Radio NZ National

‘Huia’ Poem of the Week in the Guardian

Bill Wows the crowd at WORD

Poetry Shelf celebrates the Ockham NZ Book Awards Poetry Longlist: Natalie Morrison reads from Pins

Natalie Morrison reads from Pins, Victoria University Press, 2020

Natalie Morrison has an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, where she received the Biggs Family Prize for Poetry in 2016. She lives and works in Wellington. Pins is her first book and is on the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Poetry Category longlist. 

Victoria University Press page

Poetry Shelf launch of Pins

Poetry Shelf interviews Natalie

Poetry Shelf celebrates Ockham NZ Book Award poetry long list: Rhian Gallagher reads from Far-Flung

Rhian Gallagher reads from Far-Flung (Auckland University Press, 2020)

Rhian Gallagher‘s first poetry book Salt Water Creek (Enitharmon Press, 2003) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for First Collection. In 2007 Gallagher won a Canterbury History Foundation Award, which led to the publication of her book Feeling for Daylight: The Photographs of Jack Adamson (South Canterbury Museum, 2010). She also received the 2008 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award. Gallagher’s Shift (AUP, 2011) won the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Award for Poetry. In 2018, she held the University of Otago Robert Burns Fellowship.

Auckland University Press page

Poetry Shelf review of Far-Flung