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Time to nominate writers for PM Literary Awards

Kia ora koutou

Don’t miss your opportunity to nominate your pick of our finest writers for the 2018 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement.

Every year New Zealanders are invited to nominate writers who have made a notable contribution to New Zealand literature in the categories of non-fiction, poetry or fiction. $60,000 is awarded in each genre.

New Zealand writers are also able to nominate themselves for the awards.

The nominations (submitted by email to ) are assessed by an expert literary panel and recommendations forwarded to the Arts Council of Creative New Zealand for approval, with the awards presented in a formal ceremony.

In 2017, Witi Ihimaera received the award for Fiction, Paula Green for Poetry and Peter Simpson for Non-Fiction.

See the full list of winners

Nominations close on Friday, 6 April at 5pm.

Nominate a writer now

Nice one! Much poetry to be had at Wellington’s Writers & Readers

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Go here for the programme. I am delighted to be reading at and chairing Selina Tusitala Marsh’s Call Me Royal event at the National Library as well as chairing Bill Manhire and Mike Ladd in conversation. I will be on the bus to Poetry at the Prison event, dashing to hear The Starling Poets, celebrating the launch of new books by Chris Tse and Anna Jackson and the new Seraph Press translation book, and hearing a cluster of poetry from offshore. Way more poetry here than last time – and a decent local presence! Always a treat to catch Hera Lindsay Bird read. And of course Tusiata Avia is a must. Check out the poetry reading list above to get in the mood.

Joan Fleming surveys NZ’s small presses for Cordite

Image courtesy of Limbo Agency.


Full piece here

There is a preconception that small presses, existing as they do outside the mainstream, publish poetry that is wilder, stranger, more political, and more ethnically diverse. Poetry that the university publishers have turned away, or whose genius such presses have failed to recognise. Poetry that bucks the mannered, nostalgic style that monopolizes the prizes and the media. Poetry that takes risks. No safety, no submission.

Certain small presses do, indeed, follow this brief. Anahera Press, for example, publishes Māori and Pasifika writers. Their books ‘give voice to … the intersections and spaces between cultures’ or champion writers who are ‘walking between worlds.’ A press that publishes culturally self-aware poetry, by Tangata Whenua and ethnically diverse poets, is much-needed in an environment that is still overwhelmingly white. In 2015, 91% of poetry books published in New Zealand were authored by Pakeha / Europeans; a dispiriting figure, when you consider that Pakeha make up only 74% of the population. Have a look at Janis Freegard’s ‘sad little pie chart.‘

Of course, Māori and Pasifika writers still publish within the mainstream, and are even fed into the dreaded mouths of university presses via the creative writing industrial complex. Tusiata Avia, for example, came up under the ‘straightening‘ tutelage of Bill Manhire’s International Institute of Modern Letters, so-named by the Vegas cowboy billionaire who funded its establishment. In 2016, she published her awards-shortlisted startling third collection, Fale Aitu | Spirit House, with Victoria University Press.

Still a few places in Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat

The 2018 Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat

Immerse yourself in writing and conversation this summer. There’s something for everyone–whether you’re new to writing, an established writer, or somewhere in-between.

Dates: 23-25 February 2018
Location: El Rancho, Kāpiti Coast, New Zealand
Registration:  Register securely online or contact with any questions or for additional information.

Join us for the Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat and renew and recharge your writing and your life. The Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat is an immersive, two-day gathering for writers, happening on the Kāpiti Coast. The retreat includes intensive morning workshops, lively afternoon discussions and space to write, relax and engage with topics critical to your work. Read about last year’s event here.

Kahini is delighted to host six established New Zealand writers–Airini Beautrais, Anahera Gildea, Pip Adam, Rajorshi Chakraborti, Queenie Rikihana-Hyland and Victor Rodger–at the 2018 Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat. Each writer will teach morning workshops: in fiction, poetry, memoir writing and mixed genre. In the afternoons they will lead discussions on topics pertinent to craft and literature in Aotearoa. (Read descriptions of the workshops, afternoon discussions and teachers below.)Talking

All writers are welcome, at whatever stage you are in your writing life. You’ll find community, encouragement, and a safe place in which to take artistic risks. Please contact Kirsten at for more information. Register for the Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat!




Friday, 23 February
5:30 pm: Welcome
7 pm: Barbecue
8:30 pm: Freewrite with Helen Lehndorf (optional)

Saturday, 24 February
7 am: Gentle morning yoga with Helen Lehndorf (optional)
8 am: Breakfast
9 am–12:30 pm: Morning workshop (morning tea break included)
12:30 pm–1:30 pm: Lunch
2 pm–3 pm: Afternoon sessions: Moving at the Speed of Creativity & The Sum and its Parts
3 pm–4 pm: Afternoon sessions: Audio Storytelling & The Litmus Test
4 pm–5 pm: Workshop check-in
5:30 pm: Dinner
8 pm–9 pm: Open mike readings (optional)

Sunday, 25 February
7 am: Gentle morning yoga with Helen Lehndorf (optional)
8 am: Breakfast
9 am–12:30 pm: Morning workshop (morning tea break included)
12:30 pm–1:30 pm: Lunch
2 pm–3 pm: Afternoon sessions: The Poem Sequence & How Do We Tell Our Stories 
3 pm: Closing

Full details here

Anna Jackson’s Dear Tombs Dear Horizon




Dear Tombs, Dear Horizon, Anna Jackson, Seraph Press, 2017


Anna wrote this hand-stitched chapbook in Menton, France when she held the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship in 2016. The long poem savours time to write in the slow stretch of the present participle: walking, dreaming, seeing, reading, writing and more walking. Such leisurely engagement with books read, the world sighted and thoughts that appear like surprising musical notes renders the poem lento, adagio, largo.

For the reader to be caught in such a contemplative beat is immensely satisfying. The physical world simmers on the line while the abstract world, both dreamed and mused, shines below and above.


Sun on the coast, sun on my back, but

the mountains dark with cloud,

misty down to the ground, and higher

up, stormy. The shadow of my hand

on the page as I write, writing

inside my own shadow.


The poem steps off from graffiti witnessed on rocks: ‘You are my most lovely horizon’. Each experience, thought, recalled page or vista steps off into the mysterious elsewhere of thinking, and from the elsewhere of thinking into the paradoxical here yet elsewhere of writing. The  horizon is the translucent line where Mediterranean sky meets Mediterranean sea, a sensual hook of beauty that stalls the walker, but it is also the indefinable lure that poses a need to write, to think, to experience. It is Katherine Mansfield, the other authors, the conversations that stick, the not-home-ness that becomes a home-ness.

I am thinking of the way the doorstep at Villa Isola Bella leads to the corner of a Vermeer painting and the poem produces a mise en abyme of looking. Stillness matters: the long pleasurable look into the corner of a painting becomes the long pleasurable look into the corner of a poem where detail stockpiles and sparks daydream.


At the Villa Isola Bella, my favourite place

is the doorstep, on the corner where a spider

grooms itself on the mottled buttery

yellow stone, beside the eggshell blue

door frame, and the terracotta tiles.

It is like finding myself in a corner

of a Vermeer interior, a detail

closer up than a Vermeer painting

has ever gone, so that with all the stillness

on the canvas, there is this corner

so close up, the spider moves.


Therein lies the beauty of this sequence: in stillness you find movement and in movement you find stillness.

I adore this poem because it takes me to an unfamiliar physical place, yet allows me to ride the coat tails of a roving, inquisitive mind. Such curiosity fires the writing process. I am reminded of the way Bill Manhire produced his astonishing collection, Lifted, after his Menton Fellowship with its gift of time. Anna has a new collection in the pipeline but, in the meantime, this is a must-read treasure, also in debt to the gift of time. I don’t want to unpick the curves, arcs and echoes in the poem, the illuminations and the epiphanies, because I want you to read it for yourself. I just love it.



A ticket simply to go, or to go and to return?

Oh, to return, to return, to return,

to return, to return. I walk once again

méthode flâneusoise around

the coast and the graffiti

reads, “Ma plus belle horizon, c’est toi.”

I wonder how to turn the dream about the

tombs into a poem. I think of

starting the poem “Dear Tombs,” and

wonder whether perhaps I should

try writing the poem

in terza rima. Really I just want

to pile into it everything I have got.





Seraph Press page