Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Verb Events in May


We have top international authors visiting Wellington with us in May: Take time to come along and listen live to conversations and performances that will inspire and buoy you, the perfect antidote for Autumn …

Luke Wright (UK): Monday 13 May, 7.30pm
Funny, erudite and inventive poet Luke Wright performs a best-of set.
Information and tickets on our website here.
Presented in association with Auckland Writers Festival
“One of the funniest and most brilliant poets of his generation” – The Independent
“Cool poems.” – Patti Smith

John Boyne (Ireland): Tuesday 14 May, 7.30pm
Internationally acclaimed Irish novelist (Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Ladder to the Sky) is speaking with our own acclaimed writer Pip Adam. Information and tickets on our website here.
Presented in association with Dunedin Writers Festival with the support of Culture Ireland
“…one of the most assured writers of his generation.” – The Guardian

Graeme Simsion (Australia): Monday 23 May, 7.30pm
Acclaimed author of The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect and the latest, The Rosie Result speaks about this phenomenally successful series with a profound message at its heart.
Information and tickets on our website here.
“Incredibly funny, life-affirming and warm-hearted” Heat






Poetry Shelf audio spot: Hinemoana Baker reads ‘Aunties’





Hinemoana reads ‘Aunties’




Hinemoana Baker, of Ngāti Tahu, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa and Te Āti Awa along with English and Bavarian heritage, currently lives in Berlin. A poet, musician and playwright, she graduated with an MA in creative writing from Victoria University of Wellington in 2002. She was the 2009 Arts Queensland Poet in Residence, a writer in residence at the University of Iowa International Writing Program (2010), Victoria University Writer in Residence (2014) and held the Creative New Zealand Berlin Writer’s Residency (2015–16). She has published three poetry collections and several CDs of sonic poems.






Poetry Shelf noticeboard: a reading with Jo Thorpe, Reihana Robinson and Elizabeth Welsh


Jo Thorpe, Reihana Robinson and Elizabeth Welsh are reading at The Fringe in Wellington (26 AllenStreet) this Sunday 14 April from 4-6pm. They would love to see you all there! — with Mākaro Press.

I love the books these three poets published last year in the HoopLa series.


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Poetry Shelf classic poem: Vana Manasiadis picks J. C. Sturm’s ‘The last night at Collingwood’


The last night at Collingwood


No moon and a black sea,

The daytime birds have flown

To their night time places,

The incoming tide creeps


Over Farewell Spit.

Soon waves will wash the rocks

Outside our windows,

Spraying the glass with salt.


Twenty-four hours from now

Birds, land and sea

Will repeat it all again

We’ll be gone by then


Back to that northern

Beach across the Strait

With far fewer sea birds

But Kapiti close at hand.


There we watch the sun go down

Where the Spit lies out of sight,

Believing love, like them

Returns again and again.


J C Sturm  from Postscripts, Steele Roberts, 2000

(posted with kind permission from J C Sturm estate)



From Vana Manasiadis:

Dear Jacquie

Postscripts was the first poetry collection I cared enough about to steal from my sister and stash in a ring-binder. It was the first poetry collection I read and reread until I could say aloud the lines that made me cry. Repeat it all again, Beach across the Strait: I pinned your ‘The last night at Collingwood’ over Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’ once I got over men with rights and titles; once I was on the other side of the Entitled Man, the White Supremacist man, the Drunken Father-Husband man. Jacquie, there’s been a lot of pain. Jacquie, we really need the sea. Island Bay, Gouves-Crete, Piraeus, Collingwood followed all these peak-and-trough waves meeting; immigrating. So thank you for not bordering up the sea. Thank you for your black sea (our big fish tīpuna), your Farewell Spit-salt-glass sea (our headings off and back), your Kāpiti close at hand (where Alia lives, who healed our sudden schisms, and Nadine and Alex, their mana wāhine seeing).   I believe you Jacquie. I believe that there are shared ways and still ways and noticing ways.  I believe you Jacquie that there’s a clear and certain way to wash the rocks.



Vana Manasiadis has published two collections of poetry, with a third, The Grief Almanac: A Sequel, to be published by Seraph Press in 2019. She co-edited Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Women Poets in Translation (2018) in the Seraph Press Translation Series, and edited and translated from Greek Ναυάγια/Καταφύγια: Shipwrecks/Shelters: Six Contemporary Greek Poets (Seraph Press, 2016).

J. C. Sturm (Jacqueline Cecilia) (1927–2009), of Taranaki iwi, Parihaka and Whakatōhea descent, was born in Opunake and is thought to be the first Māori woman to graduate with an MA from a New Zealand university (First Class Hons, Philosophy, Victoria University of Wellington). She initially wrote short fiction, and her work was the first by a Māori to appear in an anthology. Her debut poetry collection, Dedications (Steele Roberts, 1996), received an Honour Award at the 1997 Montana New Zealand Book Awards and she published further collections of poetry and short stories. Her poetry appeared in a number of anthologies and journals. Her collection, Postscripts (Steele Roberts, 2000), includes images by her son John Baxter. She received an honorary doctorate from Victoria University of Wellington, worked as a librarian, was married to James K Baxter and had two children.


Te Ara page on J. C. Sturm by Paul Millar

NZ Book Council page








Poetry Shelf review: John-Paul Powley’s Kaitiaki o te Pō: Essays




John-Paul Powley,  Kaitiaki o te Pō: Essays,  Seraph Press, 2018


John-Paul Powley writes with ease and grace in essays that present entwined threads. Simplicity and richness coexist as he reaches down into the truth (his truth) of his experience. This is what draws me into his collection: the need to explore the personal truth of both past and present. It feels utterly explorative, vulnerable, testing, mobile. It feels humble.

The opening essay resembles a reflective walk, a sequence of interconnected musings, particularly on grief. John-Paul is watching Brideshead Revisited, he is walking through the grounds of Victoria University on his way to a History Conference that starts off tediously with an Education Minister who speaks of herself rather than from an accumulation of listening and then, when Justice Joe Williams suggests the role of the historian is as kaitiaki o te pō (caretaker of the night), includes moments of epiphany. John-Paul is walking through the past as he walks to the conference, retrieving his younger self and more importantly a university friend who had recently died in London. The essay is a deft weave of experience, ideas and feelings: of moving with the past into the future, of processing loss and carrying that loss forward, of shifting the way he carries the dead within him. Reading the essay is akin to taking a walk. I stop by certain vistas and objects and let the embedded ideas reverberate. A plaque, for example, unnoticed by the young John-Paul, now resonates. An old oak tree had been axed by bureaucracy to make room for a single car park.

The second essay also drew me in to close attention as John-Paul navigated his masculinity, his femininity, his gender identity – however we might define such concepts and ways of being. The fact others thought he was gay when he was not gay challenged him as both child and adult. We travel through his school-boy choices that threaten to put him at the bottom of the social ladder. He loathed the misogynistic lyrics of Guns N Roses, he picked leg warmers as his favourite item of clothing and pictured a leg-warmer dance scene when the class sniggered at him, he fell in love with Marlon Brando and cried when Marlon died. He got to shave before his Y8 peers did and it felt like a badge of masculinity. He wondered when he would ever be at the arrival point of himself. When as an adult he became Dean, at the high school where he taught, he wanted to protect the bullied and ended up being called a ‘faggot’. The layerings of confession and experience are deeply affecting. John-Paul asserts this is not a coming-out essay – I see the essay as an opening up of gender experience that resists location within either/or.

If the essays are deeply personal they are also political. One essay considers why Anzac Day irks him: he pinpoints our blind spots (indifference? ignorance? need to ignore? to privilege white narratives?): the New Zealand wars and the Boer war in the claim ‘we’ lost our innocence in Gallipoli. The notion of noble sacrifice. The whole business of remembering ‘them’ when who exactly was ‘them’. The way remembering begins at WWI.

John-Paul teaches (or has taught) history and social studies and that occupation strongly influences the weave of writing. When he visits a beach and the adjacent town with his children, he reflects upon the grave of Parnell but he also reflects upon the graves of Te Puni and his family. The dampened down stories, in the master narratives, are drawn to the light. It feels so important to be reading these essays, to be acknowledging the unspeakable violence and theft and wrongs done to Māori, to be widening our view of history. It feels so right that his students will not be limited to a Pākehā-centric view of the past.

This book feels like part of our coming together; of the contemporary call to reconsider who and how we are at both a personal level and within our communities, both past and present. It is essential reading.


Seraph Press author page