Category Archives: Poetry Events

Louise Wallace launches Bad Things and is at an excellent Writers on Mondays – on Monday!



Victoria University Press warmly invites you to the launch of

Bad Things
by Louise Wallace

With readings from Lynley Edmeades, Bill Manhire, Tayi Tibble and Chris Tse. All welcome.

6pm–7.30pm on Thursday 10 August,
at Vic Books, Rutherford House, Pipitea
27 Lambton Quay, Wellington

Books by all authors available for purchase on the night, along with prints of the cover illustration by Kimberly Andrews.


Poetry Quartet: Louise Wallace, Hannah Mettner, Maria McMillan & Airini Beautrais

These poets write works of boldness and acute observation. Louise Wallace’s Bad Things, Hannah Mettner’s Fully Clothed and So Forgetful, Maria McMillan’s The Ski Flier and Flow by Airini Beautrais are diverse and exciting books of poetry. Each writer engages with language in innovative ways to explore and reimagine history, commerce, science, love and the things people do. Come and hear the latest New Zealand poetry in a reading and discussion chaired by poet and novelist Anna Smaill.

DATE: Monday 7 August
TIME: 12.15-1.15pm
VENUE: Te Papa Marae

From Claire O’Loughlin: Writers on Mondays with Marianne Boruch


It is midday on Monday 31 July, and I am one of around a hundred people who have gathered in Te Marae at Te Papa to hear visiting American writer Marianne Boruch in discussion with Chris Price. On the way in I meet up with my friend and fellow IIML student Mia. We’re both elated and windswept from our brisk bicycle rides through the city to get here. Outside the wind is ferocious, making a high-pitched whistling sound against the building and pushing clouds out of the sky, letting multi-coloured sunlight to pour in through the stained-glass windows in the marae. After an introduction from Chris, Marianne steps up to the lectern and says she thinks the whistling is a good spirit. Te Marae is peaceful, warm and light. It does feel full of good spirits.

Opening with an acknowledgement of spirits is appropriate at a marae, and even if Marianne doesn’t know that, I feel immediately that she is, for all her international success, an utterly humble writer. She wants first and foremost to let us know that even though it seems we are here to talk about her, she is putting herself aside.

Today’s talk is called The Little Death of Self, which is the title of her new collection of essays published by The University of Michigan Press earlier this year. But this notion, the death of the self, relates to all her writing, and today she continually comes back to the idea of removing the self/the writer/the personality from the writing, and allowing its own life, or spirit, to come through.

She talks about her poetry collection, Cadaver, Speak, in which the poems are in the voice of a cadaver. In 2008, as part of a faculty fellowship at Purdue University in Indiana where she is Professor of English, Marianne took an anatomy class in the medical school studying corpses. She was drawn to one cadaver in particular, the body of a 99-year old woman. The result of her study was the collection of poetry, published in 2014 by Copper Canyon Press.

At first, she tells us, she struggled with voice in the Cadaver poems, which were all in third person pronoun. It felt wrong, she said, like she the writer was speaking for someone, rather than letting them to speak for themselves. She wanted a ‘self’ there, but it was the wrong one. A simple but profound switch solved the problem: she changed the poems to first-person pronoun. Suddenly it was like the real cadaver’s voice coming out, and the poems seemed to live on their own.

She reads us three poems from Cadaver, Speak; an essay on audibility; and a hilarious section from her memoir The Glimpse Traveller (Indiana University Press 2011), in which a high school nun gives her and her friends dating advice for keeping boys “at bay.” The advice that is so absurdly unique it is almost surreal, such as carrying around a little bag of stones to drop in any puddles one has to step over, in order to break the reflection.

She tells us that her memoir is really a “we-oir,” because it’s not just her story, it’s the story of a generation in 1970s America. Here again she’s putting the ‘me’ aside. She talks about the idea of intention as almost worthless in writing – intention can get you started, she says, but the work has to be allowed to be what it wants to be. Get the self out of the way. Let the spirit of it out.

It strikes me that this idea of intention as inherently selfish, and the idea removing the self, are both about allowing for empathy. They are both about putting yourself, whether you are the reader or writer, through feeling and imagination, into another’s shoes.

I am one of this year’s Masters students at Victoria’s IIML. My background is all in theatre, which I’ve studied and worked in for the past decade, and this year I suddenly find myself trying to be a non-fiction writer. At first it felt alien, but more and more I’m struck by the core values that cover all art forms. For me, theatre is also all about empathy. Marianne is a poet, essayist and memoirist, all seemly different forms. I’m beginning to see that you can switch between forms and mediums and be effective in them, but only if in every instance, you get rid of the ego and let the self die.

The wind is still whistling when we finish, blowing in from the harbour. I hop on my bicycle and the gusts push me all the way home, back to my desk and the spirits waiting there.


Claire O’Loughlin, August 2017




Poetry & Essay conference attracts more headline poets – submission deadline today

Full details here.

I am booking my ticket! Brava Anna Jackson and Helen Rickerby.


We’re very pleased to announce a few more speakers who will be participating in the Poetry and Essay conference, which will be held at Victoria University of Wellington, 6–8 December 2017.

US poet and essayist Brian Blanchfield’s Proxies: Essays Near Knowing (Nightboat Books, 2016; Picador UK, 2017),have been one of our discoveries of the year, and we have been enjoying the wide-ranging rich, intimate, sometimes uncomfortable gems that are each subtitled ‘Permitting Shame, Error and Guilt, Myself the Single Source’. His second book, the collection of poetry A Several World (Nightboat Books, 2014), was James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets and was a longlist finalist for The National Book Award. He is Assistant Professor of Literary Nonfiction at the University of Idaho.

Canadian poet Christian Bök is perhaps best known for Eunoia (2001), a bestselling work of experimental literature, which won the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence. He is currently working on The Xenotext – a project that requires him to encipher a poem into the genome of a bacterium capable of surviving in any inhospitable environment. You can watch a video of him talking about this fascinating project on the CBC website. Bök is a Fellow in the Royal Society of Canada, and he teaches at Charles Darwin University.

Amy Brown, a New Zealand poet now living and working in Melbourne, wrote the ambitious and impressive collection The Odour of Sanctity (Victoria University Press, 2013) as part of her PhD in creative writing, in which she examined contemporary epic poetry. She is currently an English and Philosophy teacher at the Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School.

Te Papa Poetry Reading: Luci Tapahonos – the first Poet Laureate of the Navajo Nation



A special opportunity to hear poems by Professor Luci Tapahonos, the first Poet Laureate of the Navajo Nation. The reading is followed by a Q&A session.


  • When Thu 24 Nov 2016, 1:00–2:00pm
  • Where
    Te Marae
  • Cost Free



Professor Luci Tapahonos is the inaugural Wai-te-ata Press Creator in Residence at Victoria University of Welllington.

Tapahonos was born in 1953 in Shiprock, New Mexico, where she grew up on a farm, immersed in the Navajo culture. She is the author of six books of poetry and three books for children. Tapahonos has received many awards, including the 2006 Lifetime Achievement award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas.

This event is brought to you by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, in association with Wai-te-ata Press, Victoria University, and the Embassy of the United States of America.


Poetry critic Stephen Burt gives public masterclass in Wellington with Bill Manhire


Contemporary poetry has plenty to offer new readers, and plenty more for those who already follow it. Yet its difficulty—and sheer variety—leaves many readers puzzled and overwhelmed. The critic, scholar and poet Stephen Burt sets out to help.

In Close Calls with Nonsense: How to Read New Poetry, Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) presents a public masterclass on poetry. Steered by Victoria University Emeritus Professor Bill Manhire, Burt will guide the audience through a number of contemporary poems by writers from the United Kingdom, United States and New Zealand, illuminating their methods and unfolding their pleasures. This event aims to introduce both tentative and long-time poetry readers to the rewards of reading new poetry. Burt will also give a reading of their poems.

Burt is Professor of Poetry at Harvard University. Their influential reviews and books have made them one of the leading critics of their generation, and their enthusiasm for new writing has helped to establish the careers of younger poets, and helped audiences to appreciate their work.

Burt’s 1998 essay ‘The Elliptical Poets’ is widely credited with identifying a new school of poetry. The book that followed, Close Calls With Nonsense (2009), includes an essay on James K. Baxter among those on more recent poets.

In their new book, The Poem is You, Burt explores 60 American poems. Publisher’s Weekly wrote that: “Burt’s many ways of looking at a poem will inspire new students and accomplished poets, especially as many of his meditations circle the question of what poetry does or should do: making readers pay attention, ask questions, and experience new things.”

In 2012 a NY Times interview hailed Burt as ‘Poetry’s Cross-Dressing Kingmaker’. Burt identifies as transgender, and their poetry chapbook All-Season Stephanie (2015) explores coming of age as it might have happened for their female alter-ego. Burt prefers to use the gender-neutral pronoun ‘they’.

Close Calls With Nonsense is presented by the IIML in partnership with City Gallery Wellington. Admission is free, with all welcome. The gallery will be open prior to the event for visitors to view the exhibition Cindy Sherman (exhibition entry charges apply).

What: Close Calls With Nonsense, with Stephen Burt and Bill Manhire
When: 5.30–7pm, Monday 12 December
Where: City Gallery, Wellington

For more information contact Chris Price on

Sarah Jane Barnett interviews Steph Burt for Pantograph Punch

How We Are: A Conversation with Steph Burt

On the occasion of Steph Burt’s visit to New Zealand, Sarah Jane Barnett talks to the American writer and critic about living as two genders, poetry, criticism and the body.

Poet and critic Stephen Burt has been described as ‘one of the most influential poetry critics of his generation’ (NY Times). Burt is a professor at Harvard University and has published three full-length collections of poems – Popular Music (1999), Parallel Play (2006), and Belmont (2013) – along with several chapbooks, most recently All-Season Stephanie (2015). Burt is also well known for criticism, most recently, The Poem is You: 60 Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them (2016).

In 2012 the New York Times Magazine ran a profile on Burt with the headline ‘Poetry’s Cross-Dressing Kingmaker,’ identifing the poet and critic for the first time in public as transgender. Burt – who answers to Stephen, Steph, and Stephanie – has since written about having two genders in poetry and in essays such as ‘My Life as a Girl’ and ‘The Body of the Poem.’ Photo of Steph by Alex Dakoulas.

Sarah Jane Barnett: First, would you like me to call you Stephanie or Stephen, or simply Steph? In December you’re giving a public masterclass in Wellington called, ‘Close calls with nonsense, or how to read new poetry’ (the class sporting the same name as your book which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award). What has brought you to New Zealand?

Steph Burt: Steph or Stephanie in person; Stephen is the name on the books. This summer I’m an Erskine Scholar at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch; they’ve brought me over – and by they I mean the university, but also the wonderful critic and Baxter scholar Paul Millar – so that I can teach a summer course in modern poetry. Of course I’ll be doing some readings and public events, in addition to traveling around both islands with our family, while I’m here.

SJB: You have such enthusiasm for helping people read poetry. Did you grow up with this love of language and literature? You’ve said, ‘I understand the world best, most fully, in words’; can you talk about what happens when you read a poem? I often think that poetry moves through the mind to create an experience in the body – that reading is performative and the poem is created new each time. What do you think about that idea?

SB: I think it’s correct. My colleague Helen Vendler (echoing a letter of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s) has described lyric poetry as a score for performance by the speaking voice: the poem becomes yours when you take it into yourself, which also means taking it into your body, your voice: both the body you have, and the body you wish or imagine that you ought to have.

That’s a general model for what happens when we read lyric poems. When I myself read a poem I also feel like I’m testing out the sonic and the semantic relations among all the words, to see whether I’ll want to come back to them. A good poem is a poem that I want to come back to, again and again.



Full interview here

Sarah Jane Barnett is launching Work at Vic Books soon



You are warmly invited to join Hue & Cry Press and Sarah Jane Barnett in launching WORK at Vic Books, Victoria University. All welcome.

In these six long poems Sarah Jane Barnett explores how people fight for a normal life. Set in Ethiopia, Paris, Norway, and New Zealand these astonishing poems take you into the lives of others—a grieving man leaves Ethiopia at the end of the civil war; a polyamorous couple have a child; a woman hunts a black bear on a New Zealand sheep station. Original and spellbinding, these poems walk the line between poetry and fiction.

WORK will be launched at Vic Books, Wellington. Sarah will read from ‘Ghosts,’ a speculative poem set in Norway’s northernmost town, Svalbard. The poem includes dialogue between the characters Diane and Fowler, who will be read by Wellington writers Therese Lloyd and Matt Bialostocki. Get ready for a performance!


where: Vic Books, 1 Kelburn Parade, Wellington

when: Thursday 22nd October, 5.30pm start with the reading 6-6.15pm.

Hue & Cry Press
Vic Books

If you can’t make the launch, WORK can be pre-ordered from Hue & Cry Press store: