Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Canterbury Poets Collective Spring poetry reading series

Reading Series organised each Spring by the Canterbury Poets Collective.

Wednesday 6th October: Claire Beynon, John Allison and Catherine Fitchett

The open mic session begins at 6.30pm, with the featured poets on from 7.30,

Imagitech Theatre, ARA, 130 Madras Street Christchurch

$6.00 entry or you can buy a concession season pass.

Poetry Shelf Spring Season: Emma Espiner picks poems

Photo credit: Jenna Todd Photography

I had two introductions to poetry. The first was through my husband who insisted that my apathy towards the form was because I was going about it all wrong. Poetry had to be read aloud to be understood, he told me. He read Cassandra’s Daughter and As big as a father in the living room of our home on a hill on the south coast of Wellington and I conceded, he was right. 


The second introduction was through the arrival of Tayi Tibble. Tayi is a gateway drug, and once I’d read In the 1960s An Influx of Māori Women I read everything else she had written and, still hungry, found Hera Lindsay Bird and Nicole Titihuia Hawkins. Type Cast and Monica sit together, a matched set of sitcoms from the 90s, deconstructed and devastated, repurposed. 


These young women brought me home to J.C. Sturm, a writer whose collection of short stories I stole from my university’s library as a graduation gift to myself last year. Her poem Coming Home reaches across the years since her death into the heart of our collective ache for identity and belonging. Sturm writes with clarity and prescience and her work sits comfortably alongside the best of Aotearoa’s contemporary poets.

Emma Espiner

The poems

In the 1960s an Influx of Māori Women

Move to Tinakori Road in their printed mini dresses
Grow flowers on white stone rooftops to put in their honeycomb vases.
Dust the pussy-shaped ashtray their husbands bought on vacation in Sydney.
Walk to Kirkcaldie and Stains while their husbands are at work.
Spend their monthly allowance on a mint-green margarita mixer.
Buy makeup at Elizabeth Arden in the shade too-pale-pink.
Buy vodka and dirty magazines on the way home from the chemist.
Hide the vodka and dirty magazines in the spare refrigerator in the basement.
Telephone their favourite sister in Gisborne.
Go out to dinner with their husbands and dance with his friends.
Smile at the wives who refuse to kiss their ghost-pink cheeks.
Order dessert like pecan pie but never eat it.
Eat two pieces of white bread in the kitchen with the light off.
Slip into the apricot nylon nightgown freshly ordered off the catalogue.
Keep quiet with their husbands’ blue-veined arms corseting their waists.
Remember the appointment they made to get their hair fixed on Lambton Quay.
Think about drowning themselves in the bathtub instead.
Resurface with clean skin, then rinse and repeat.

Tayi Tibble

from Poūkahangatus, Victoria University Press, 2018

As big as a father      

I lost him the first time
before I could grasp
who he was, what he did, where
he fitted with her

and it’s always seemed so dumb:
how to lose something
as big as a father.

I lost him the next time
to the rum-running Navy
who took him and took him
and kept right on taking

and it wasn’t my mistake
losing a vessel
as big as a father.

I lost him a third time
to a ship in a bottle
that rocked him and rocked him
and shook out his pockets

and no kind of magic
could slip me inside
with my father.

I lost him at home
when floorboards subsided
as he said and she said
went this way and that way

and dead in the water
I couldn’t hang on
to my father.

The last time I lost him
I lost him for good:
the night and the day
the breath he was breathing

 and death’s head torpedoes
blew out of the water
the skiff of my father.

  Jeffrey Paparoa Holman

    from As big as a father, Steele Roberts, 2002

Cassandra’s Daughter

Cassy for short.
We’re discussing the colour green
and why.  And how last night
in her dreamtime a wooden-horse
appeared.  And look–how the wind
puts shivers in the water, shaking
the keys in their locks.
Only five years old, she is
already in love with how
one word wants another
with astonishing ease.
Inside the alphabet now,
inside the lining of a word
she asks me as we sit
on the garden wall under
plum-coloured sun: why
were you born at seven o’clock
that night?  I was a morning baby
my mum says, the best kind.
I was born with my eyes open,
you see?  Would you like to
hear me sing?  I can almost dance,
too.  Would you?  I can hear
that she knows, Priam’s daughter,
all her years to heaven–
that every word was once
a poem, isn’t it?

Michael Harlow

from Cassandra’s Daughter, Auckland University Press, 2005

                


Typecast 

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a fat brown woman
with a pretty face, wild hair
& an ass that could
clap back against the haters
when she plays T.K, Vinnie & Maxwell
sleeping with them all at the same time. 

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a girl gang of Māori women
who eat the weight 
of their feelings in cheese 
at wainanga & help each other
craft responses to
cultural appropriation, Govt. Depts & fuckbois.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us an exhausted junior Dr.
tall & thin, newly-vegan 
who still eats hāngī on the marae
Waka Blonde Ngāti Kahu Khaleesi 
fangirling over Lance O’Sullivan
addicted to kawakawa ointment.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a fair-skinned Kāi Tahu Boss Lady
an expert in her field
who gets nominated for awards 
invited home to speak on panels
who snapchats her friends from the wharepaku 
saying she feels like a fraud on her own whenua. 

I want Shortland Street
to cast us an overworked
social science teacher
wearing Hine & Whitewood to work
teaching Harry, Ula & Jasmine
Whare Tapa Whā & The Native Schools Act
her passionate tangents hashtagged #WhaeasRants.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a solo Mum in her 40’s
whose babies are to different men
rose quartz, ratchet 90’s home done
tā moko on her big boobs
spilling from a pilling lace bra from Kmart
as she rushes late from school gate to mahi.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a long-grey-haired Kui
with a moko kauae 
who talks to our tīpuna 
in her dreams, by night
kaumātua kapa haka, 
rewana bug feeding, by day. 

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a Ngāti Porou Aunty
who sets Marge, Kirsty & Leanne straight 
when they mispronounce her reo 
takes her own time to teach them
then vents to Vasa at Box Fit
that they complained to the boss she was telling them off.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a co-sleeping
breast-feeding Māmā
who laughs at the Plunket nurse
when she tells her to leave her 
baby to cry in a cot
calling it sleep training.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a young emerging talent
raising eyebrows even higher than her skirt hems
rubbing shoulders with the 
top surgeon’s fathers
Chris Warner wrapped around
her dusky middle finger.

Nicole Titihuia Hawkins

from Sport 47, 2019



Monica

Monica
Monica
Monica

Monica Geller off popular sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S
Is one of the worst characters in the history of television
She makes me want to wash my hands with hand sanitizer
She makes me want to stand in an abandoned Ukrainian parking lot
And scream her name at a bunch of dead crows
Nobody liked her, except for Chandler
He married her, and that brings me to my second point
What kind of a name for a show was F.R.I.E.N.D.S
When two of them were related
And the rest of them just fucked for ten seasons?
Maybe their fucking was secondary to their friendship
Or they all had enough emotional equilibrium
To be able to maintain a constant state of mutual-respect
Despite the fucking
Or conspicuous nonfucking
That was occurring in their lives
But I have to say
It just doesn’t seem emotionally realistic
Especially considering that
They were not the most self-aware of people
And to be able to maintain a friendship
Through the various complications of heterosexual monogamy
Is enormously difficult
Especially when you take into consideration
What cunts they all were

I fell in love with a friend once
And we liked to congratulate each other what good friends we were
And how it was great that we could be such good friends, and still fuck
Until we stopped fucking
And then we weren’t such good friends anymore

I had a dream the other night
About this friend, and how we were walking
Through sunlight, many years ago
Dragged up from the vaults, like
Old military propaganda
You know the kind; young women leaving a factory
Arm in arm, while their fiancées
Are being handsomely shot to death in Prague
And even though this friend doesn’t love me anymore
And I don’t love them
At least, not in a romantic sense
The memory of what it had been like not to want
To strap concrete blocks to my head
And drown myself in a public fountain rather than spend another day
With them not talking to me
Came back, and I remembered the world
For a moment, as it had been
When we had just met, and love seemed possible
And neither of us resented the other one
And it made me sad
Not just because things ended badly
But more broadly
Because my sadness had less to do with the emotional specifics of that situation
And more to do with the transitory nature of romantic love
Which is becoming relevant to me once again
Because I just met someone new
And this dream reminded me
That, although I believe that there are ways that love can endure
It’s just that statistically, or
Based on personal experience
It’s unlikely that things are going to go well for long
There is such a narrow window
For happiness in this life
And if the past is anything to go by
Everything is about to go slowly but inevitably wrong
In a non-confrontational, but ultimately disappointing way

Monica
Monica
Monica
Monica Geller from popular sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S
Was the favourite character of the Uber driver
Who drove me home the other day
And is the main reason for this poem
Because I remember thinking Monica???
Maybe he doesn’t remember who she is
Because when I asked him specifically
Which character he liked best off F.R.I.E.N.D.S
He said ‘the woman’
And when I listed their names for him
Phoebe, Rachel and Monica
He said Monica
But he said it with a kind of question mark at the end
Like……. Monica?
Which led me to believe
Either, he was ashamed of liking her
Or he didn’t know who he was talking about
And had got her confused with one of the other
Less objectively terrible characters.
I think the driver meant to say Phoebe
Because Phoebe is everyone’s favourite
She once stabbed a police officer
She once gave birth to her brother’s triplets
She doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks about her
Monica gives a shit what everyone thinks about her
Monica’s parents didn’t treat her very well
And that’s probably where a lot of her underlying insecurities come from
That have since manifested themselves in controlling
And manipulative behaviour
It’s not that I think Monica is unredeemable
I can recognize that her personality has been shaped
By a desire to succeed
And that even when she did succeed, it was never enough
Particularly for her mother, who made her feel like her dreams were stupid
And a waste of time
And that kind of constant belittlement can do fucked up things to a person
So maybe, getting really upset when people don’t use coasters
Is an understandable, or at least comparatively sane response
To the psychic baggage
Of your parents never having believed in you
Often I look at the world
And I am dumbfounded that anyone can function at all
Given the kind of violence that
So many people have inherited from the past
But that’s still no excuse to throw
A dinner plate at your friends, during a quiet game of Pictionary
And even if that was an isolated incident
And she was able to move on from it
It still doesn’t make me want to watch her on TV
I am falling in love and I don’t know what to do about it
Throw me in a haunted wheelbarrow and set me on fire
And don’t even get me started on Ross

Hera Lindsay Bird

from Hera Lindsay Bird, Victoria University Press, 2016

Coming home

for Peter

The bones of my tupuna
Safe in secret places up north
Must wait a little longer
Before they claim me for good
             The love of my second parents
             Unconditional from the beginning
              Unrelenting to the end
              Never quite made me theirs
That tormented paradoxical man
Father of my children
Convinced me we belonged together
But then moved on.
               The young ones (our young) he left behind
                Claimed my castle as their own
                Being themselves a part of me
                Always, bone of my bone
Years earlier, a much younger self
Lay face down in the hot dry sand –
                 Salt on her skin, the smell
                 Of green flax pungent in the heat,
                 Summer a korowai
                 Around bare shoulders –
And felt in her bones
Without knowing why
She belonged to that place.
Nearly a life-time later
On another beach –
                                             the sea
           A blinding shield at our feet,
           Behind us a dark hill fortress
           With sentinel sea birds
           Circling and calling –
I lay down beside you in tussock
And felt without warning
I had come home.                  

J. C. Sturm

from Dedications, Steele Roberts, 1996, published courtesy of J. C. Sturm estate

Emma Espiner (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Porou) is a doctor at Middlemore Hospital. Emma hosts the RNZ podcast on Māori health equity, Getting Better which won best podcast at the Voyager media awards in 2021. She won Voyager Opinion Writer of the Year in 2020. Emma’s writing has been published at The Spinoff, Newsroom.co.nz, Stuff.co.nz, The Guardian, and in academic and literary journals.

Hera Lindsay Bird was a poet from Wellington. She hasn’t written a poem in a long time, and no longer lives in Wellington. 

Michael Harlow has written 13 books of poetry, and was awarded the prestigous Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement for Poetry in 2018.  A collection of his poems, Nothing For It But To Sing was the Kathleen GrattanAaward forPoetry, and in 2014 he was awarded the Lauris Edmond Memorial prize for Distinguished Contribution to New Zealand poetry.  He has been awarded a number of Writers’ Residences including the Robert Burns Fellowship, the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship to France.  This past year The Moon in a Bowl of Water was published by Otago University Press.He lives and works in Central Otago as a writer, editor, essayist and Jungian Psychotherapist.

Nicole Titihuia Hawkins (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa, Ngāti Pāhauwera) is an emerging writer, avid home-baker and pro-level aunt. She lives in Te Awakairangi, hosts Poetry with Brownies and runs side hustles with her besties. She is most commonly found teaching English, Social Studies & Māori Activism at a local High School. Her debut poetry collection will be published by We Are Babies Press in 2021.

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman is a poet and non-fiction writer, most recently, Blood Ties: selected poems, 1963-2016, Canterbury University Press (2017); a memoir, Now When It Rains, Steele Roberts (2018); Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021, an essay on prison reform; poetry in More Favourable Waters – Aotearoa Poets respond to Dante’s Purgatory, (The Cuba Press, 2021).

J. C. Sturm (1927 -2009), of Taranaki iwi, Parihaka and Whakātoa descent, is thought to be the first Māori woman to graduate from a New Zealand university (First Class Hons, Philosophy, Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka). She initially wrote short fiction, and her work was the first to appear by a Māori in an anthology. Her debut collection, Dedications (Steele Roberts, 1997), received an Honour Award at the 1997 Montana NZ Book Awards. She published further collections of poetry, and received an honorary doctorate from Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka.

Tayi Tibble (Te Whānau ā Apanui/Ngāti Porou) was born in 1995 and lives in Wellington. In 2017 she completed a Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington, where she was the recipient of the Adam Foundation Prize. Her first book, Poūkahangatus (VUP, 2018), won the Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award. Her second collection, Rangikura, was published in 2021 (VUP).

Spring Season

Tara Black picks poems
Victor Rodger picks poems
Peter Ireland picks poems

Poetry Shelf poems: a poem for a cold day, Frankie McMillan’s ‘Five ways of looking at a hot water bottle’   

Tamaki Mākaurau is a mix of freezing and blue sky and thumping rain, and here I am wondering if my second batch of seeds will survive (the first got blasted by a gale all over the show), and I am falling into little black holes, and then scaling the sides by diversion writing for the love of writing, and cooking meals for the love of cooking, and reading books with the the tūī outside pitching in, and avoiding news reports, and then feeling bad because I need to know what’s happening, and to keep up with numbers and strategies, and then I am slumping back down the black hole with the constant reminder of how unkind we can be to each other, and yes, miraculously I am scaling back up the slippery sides with Jon McGregor’s luminous fiction, and turning the daily batch of sour dough,

and yes, replying to a hundred children who have sent me lockdown poems, and then there it is, the thumping rain and the politicians who need to be muted, and me worrying that Ashley and Jacinda might not get enough sleep, and then heck, here I am reading the introduction Emma Espiner has written for her Poem Picks this Friday, and I am back in the light, back in the comfort zone, remembering the hottie poem Frankie McMillan sent me, me the eternal hottie lover, me with my snake hottie wrapped about me, as our icy house waits for the fire to be lit, and the sun starts to shard through the black clouds, and Odetta sings the blues, like her voice is part saxophone, part honey, part feet travelling over the corrugated tracks

Five ways of looking at a hot water bottle   

i

Dearest rubber hottie
you can be as wicked as I, you spring
holes in your back, drench the bed
you smell of the sulphur fields
of the Ukraine

ii

I carry you round the cold house
wrapped in your woollen cover    
slip my hands under, just for the thrill
of your boiled rubber bite

iii

I have to say the braille
of your ribbed back speaks
to my fingers
more than your gobbly mouth
that tends to splutter and steam and scald
and though we both get over it, I suspect
resentment might corrode in there                                    

iv

We always wreck the things we love— 
like trees. like dirt. like certain birds 
not to mention the slow perish
of various plantations

v

Dearest rubber hottie 
please know if the bed is ever drenched again
it’s not the worst thing in the world
just one of them

Frankie McMillan

Frankie McMillan is a poet and short story writer who spends her time between Ōtautahi/ Christchurch and Golden Bay. Her poetry collection, There are no horses in heaven, was published by Canterbury University Press.  Recent work appears in Best Microfictions 2021 (Pelekinesis) Best Small Fictions 2021 (Sonder Press), the New Zealand Year Book of Poetry ( Massey University), New World Writing and Atticus Review.

Frankie’s Monday Poem: ‘Girls raised by swans’

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Johanna Aitchison’s ‘WHO DOES ANNA THINK SHE IS?’

WHO DOES ANNA THINK SHE IS?

Anna walks with wire
in her spine.

No one mentions the spine
wire, they just say,

“We call her Porcupine;”
or “You talking about Spiny?”

Overhead, cut-out birds
turn to ash

on powerlines. No one suspects
hidden spines are the cause of

Anna’s Olympic-
level ungratefulness. Perhaps

it’s because she’s a palindrome
that she gets away with fire.

A reversible jacket
has an unfair red side. Anna is unfair

in the forest. She requests a
thousand pines for her

red birds. She asks that her birds
sleep on needles.

Johanna Aitchison

Johanna Aitchison has just finished her PhD thesis “Asserting and Locating Value in Contemporary Elliptical-Style Poetry” at Massey University. She was the Mark Strand Scholar at the 2019 Sewanee Conference in Tennessee and a 2015 Fellow at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. She has published three volumes of poetry in New Zealand.

Poetry Shelf Spring Season: Peter Ireland picks poems

‘Otherwhere’

To choose a small selection of New Zealand poems you like? This sounds straightforward, but I didn’t find it so. There is no shortage of poems in that category, plenty of poetry books to take from my shelves, and abundant resources to refer to, but I found no easy way in. It felt as though poems attach to particular moments, have a context which resist relocation. Where to begin then?

Sarah Broom’s collections Tigers at Awhitu and Gleam came to mind, as they often do, and so that’s where I started from. I chose ‘tender’ from Gleam; a spare, delicate filament of feeling and pain to represent both books. Broom heads the poem, ‘Cohen,’ in Gleam with the L.C. line – ‘there is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in.’ To this light I would add a description of the value of poetry by Anna Jackson, ‘to hold open a space for feeling.’ Sarah Broom’s poetry certainly revealed both.

The heading for my selection, however, comes from the title poem of Michele Leggott’s Mirabile Dictu. A book of fifty-six poems written during the time she was the first New Zealand Poet Laureate and, in a period, when her world became progressively dark; became an ‘otherwhere.’ But that is neither a remote nor dark place, rather, full of light and glowing with a love for life.

The otherwhere of Hilaire Kirkland’s ‘Observations ii’ is a starker landscape, an unflinching confession of feeling and desire. Poetry still hot to the touch. Childhood is the otherwhere of Iain Lonie in his poem and as I read it, it’s the poet on the beach returning to his childhood home; while the poet remains watching him go. Sad.

Otherwhere is the point and place of Michael Jackson’s poetry. A traveller at home where he finds himself – and to quote the poet, there writing poems that ‘are like windows that give us a glimpse of a world we travel through all too quickly.’

Peter Olds is not facing blindness or death, nor coming to terms with place, rather he is looking for something in the otherwhere of a second-hand shop. He is not sure of what but returns home with a wetsuit to hang up in the cupboard behind the vacuum cleaner.  


the poems

tender

when I look around me
the world is very bright

it is so light and shiny
that my long bones shiver

I am not quite sure
I have what it takes
to stay alive in the world

I need to stay very still
and let the air move past
and through me

I am tired and tender

when my limbs meet each other
crossing on my lap
I want to cry
with the pleasure
of resting them

when tears come
my bones turn to water

and I sleep

Sarah Broom

from Gleam, Auckland University Press, 2013. Published with kind permission from the Sarah Broom estate.

Mirabile dictu

imagine    the world goes dark
a bowl of granite or a stone bird
incised by tools the nature of which
is unknown  just that they are metal
and therefore from otherwhere
just that the weight of the bowl
precludes light and lightness
of thought    my feet take a path
I can no longer see  my eyes
won’t bring me the bird  only now
has my hand found the stones
I could add to the smooth interior
of my despair  the world goes dark
I look into the eyes of my stone bird
hammers before memory
silence and the world is not

that is no country
for the unassigned  smell of sunlight
on skin in a darkened room   cabbage tree
shadows dancing in the hologram
on the ceiling     not here
and not there   an in-box the size
of a house    I bury my face
in his neck  breathe in
butter taste of summer corn
sweet plums an apricot almost
perfect in its remembrance
I took the road to anhedonia
forgetting the child on my hip
burying his face in my shoulder
I am that child only that child
looking into the eyes of stone

she flinches
because my hands surprise her
feeling for the soft coat the place to clip
lead to collar     she doesn’t see too well
an old dog going deaf but selectively
the nose now only nine thousand times
more acute than mine    the back legs
beginning to fold but still good
for a tip toe raid on the cat’s plate
look at her  black pearl an old lady
out for a walk in the sunshine   slow
and we go into the shadows   stumbling
sometimes on a stone step   the footing
problematic but the maps still delivering
coordinates and forecasts    little dog
black weight on the bed at midnight
love uncloses your eyes   the stone bird
is blind and something I must face
sits behind it making a noise like water

descant on the other madrigal
power tools shaping wood and stone
machining a filigree that falls like moonlight
on the workshop floor    did I dream this
or did I walk out of the house
asking forgiveness and unable to see
anything but my feet entering the shadow
hearing small waves fall over themselves
at the water’s edge    now my hand
finds the bird and my fingers trace
the incisions in fantastica replica
not here and not there     an otherwhere
pouring itself through the gap    

Michele Leggott

from Mirabile Dictu, Auckland University Press, 2009

Observations ii

daily the neighbour’s dog is withdrawn to the park
ignores his mistress and courts her
the mongrel in a canine pas-de-deux
I have a dog most like to this which bites the heels of men

I must subdue it then.

my old dog blindly whimpers in the dark
hunts for its bounding hare in dreams
through my thorned channels and deep streams
and twitches bloodwet at my feet till I am rudely woken

so I shall whip it then.

I have a hound too weak and too afraid to bark
which cringes for the flesh that I withhold
and aching nuzzles me when nights are cold
till I allow my animal to feed and thrive again

it will devour me then.

Hilaire Kirkland

from Blood Clear & Apple Red, Wai-te-ata Press, 1981, also in An Anthology Of New Zealand Poetry in English, eds Jenny Bornholdt, Gregory O’Brien, Mark Willliams, Oxford University Press, 1997

The house of childhood

I watched you walk along that mile of beach
to the house at the end of the beach

the home I’d pointed out, the house of childhood.
How well I remembered the garden, its grey stone wall
the stone rest in the garden, overlooking the sea.

And so you set off bravely, to walk that mile
staggering now and then in the sand that ran to you until
the sun blazed overhead, to the right the sea shimmered
I watched you walking that mile, your figure grew smaller and smaller.

Out of the sea’s shimmer came the faint crying
of voices subdued by the sea and the view.
I remembered the stone rest, the thyme scent of the garden
and beyond the stone wall, the sea splashing in the evening.

I pointed all this out to you, this house of my childhood
and watched you set off towards it, staggering slightly
not looking back, growing smaller and smaller
until you passed into the sand, into the stone wall

and under the garden, the earth of the garden, under the sea.

Iain Lonie

from A Place to Go on from: The Collected Poems of Iain Lonie, ed. David Howard, Otago University Press, 2015. Published with kind permission from the Iain Lonie estate.

Three Key West Poems

Between the satisfaction of frivolity
and the austerity of exile, I had to choose
and it has cost me my life’s happiness

– José Martí

1: Hemingway House

He had everything, or so it seemed,
the biggest house, the largest
swimming pool, one best seller
after another, money no object,
a writing room above the Carriage House
in which a lesser writer
might aspire to genius,
heads of trophy animals,
shelves of books,
backpack and barometer,
a table for his portable Remington,
and ever the lighthouse in his line of sight.

But the photos of the old man reeling in
500-pound sailfish or marlin from Pilar,
his custom-built fishing-boat, belie
the hazardous currents
and heavy seas he could not quell,
the one opponent he could not KO
in his backyard boxing ring
or drown in his blue pool,
something impervious to drink
and fame, that it would take a shotgun
in Idaho to kill.

What demonic ripples cross
our minds as we drift through his house,
now a national monument,
peering at photographs of his four wives
and his aging face,
the carved bedstead he bought from Spain,
the six-toed cats whose lineage
thrives beneath the Christmas and Traveler’s palms,
the banyan and flamboyants
on Whitehead Street, where after the tour
we walk to where a bollard
marks the southernmost point in the United States
and across the water, embargoed
and invisible, the island that Cuban exiles
once waited to reclaim.

2: The Idea of Wallace Stevens at Key West

I am walking beside the sea that fluttered its
empty sleeves and whose dark voice spoke
to one who made it an image of inconstancy.

On a coral key you cannot dig a grave,
therefore these whitewashed, stacked
sarcophagi.  A tour bus passes as I try to read

the names through black iron railings, urns
with artificial flowers, decaying foliage;
a breath of wind in the bedraggled palms

like incessant rumor-mongering.  Most
are Cuban names, names of those who
never made it back, but sat on wooden porches

in Olivia Street as roosters crowed,
chickens scratched, and the click and clack of dominoes
presaged their sepulchers,

bookending birth and death with a woman’s name –
Mary Louise Baez (“the sunshine of our home”)
or Angelina P. Oropeza (“No greater mother ever lived”),

sentiments echoing in my head when I stop
at the Dollar Store on Truman Street for water,
glimpse the strip club opposite

called Bare Assets, and push on
to Reynolds Street where Wallace Stevens
wintered.

Only the sea remains the same,
its answering yet unavailing constancy
at the end of a nondescript suburban street,

no hint of money as “a kind of poetry,”
and the Casa Marina across from the tennis courts
like a prison for white collar criminals.

The same black wrought iron railing
that surrounds the cemetery encloses a white sand
private beach, but there’s no Pale Ramon,

accompanying a businessman in a Panama,
finding order in the ocean’s ambiguity,
only a freshening wind

and a shrimp boat on the Gulf
as full throttle, jet skis buck the broken waves
and thunderclouds like anvils

build toward evening when they may
or may not break, and the man in espadrilles
and his ghostly companion pad back to their hotel

with an image in mind that will
in another generation overwhelm
a poet in the antipodes

inhaling the smell of kelp
and facing the same reality
of which direct knowledge is impossible.

3: The Waterfront Playhouse

There remained
the question of how you were to find your way between
the house with Italian chandeliers and the grand hotel
with its hymns and prayers.
Was it our task to reconcile
the view across the Gulf
with that weed-choked, plastic-littered sea within a sea
or integrate the two, discovering ourselves
reborn in palm-laced shadows and splintered light,
between what did not eventuate and what befell
when the sea’s cross currents were too dangerous –
the fringing reef and its lagoon,
the raked sand, the decomposing wrack,
the drunken bar,
the garden by the pool
the rainy night the poet and the novelist
came to blows, one breaking his hand
on the other’s jaw, their lame apologies?

Will we say on leaving Florida
that this was where we were happiest,
preparing our packed lunch of salad greens,
French bread, and pitted olives from Kalamata
whose groves I knew by heart?
that we discerned the difference
between desire and what we simply need,
slaking our thirst with water,
making love in an air-conditioned room
Bolero playing on the radio
and no question of life or death,
not even when we had to leave
the place they advertised as Paradise?

Michael Jackson

from Walking to Pencarrow: Selected Poems, Cold Hub Press, 2016

The wetsuit

I go into a second-hand shop:
there’s something I want to buy
I don’t know what.
CDs, surfboards, stuffed guitars,
something that talks?
not a phone
not a TV,
a radio, perhaps? —
something small & shiny
you can tuck in your pocket
hide in your hand,
something that has a tongue in it
something that talks?
not a couch,
not a sandwich-maker that’s been through
a Castle Street fire.

I wade through the usual crap:
stuffed cameras, mouth organs,
music posters, ski boots, dark glasses
I don’t want —
a 12-bar heater, a wedding dress,
a mountain bike I don’t want …
Is it sex?
Is it sex I want? —
I’m in the wrong shop.

A man in a bright blue shirt approaches,
“Can I help?” he asks politely.
“I’m looking for something — I don’t know what.”
He shows me a PC, a DVD, a TV LCD, a car stereo,
a cellphone you can photograph yourself on
& send the picture to your friends, hands free —
I reject them all …
“You’re out of date,” the man says
after I tell him I still use a typewriter.
“What you need is a computer: email,
on-line, text, photo i.d.,
Trade Me.” (Woe is me!)

I buy a wetsuit & head home.
“And what do you think you’re going to
do with that?” my partner asks sarcastically
as I hang it in the cupboard behind the
vacuum cleaner — “You can’t even swim!”
“Oh, I thought it would come in handy
in the garden when it’s raining,” I reply —
“& I’ll be ready if Maori Hill ever gets
hit by a tsunami.”

Peter Olds

from Under the Dundas Street Bridge, Steele Roberts, 2012 and in You Fit The Description: The Selected Poems of Peter Olds, Cold Hub Press, 2014

Peter Ireland works for the National Library. He has worked on exhibitions for forty years or more, and has also had the good fortune of helping to look after our Poets Laureate since 2007.

Sarah Broom (1972 – 2013) was born in Dunedin and grew up in Christchurch before completing an MA at the University of Leeds and a doctorate in modern poetry at Oxford University. She subsequently published Contemporary British and Irish Poetry (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). Sarah lectured at Somerville College, Oxford, at the University of Otago and held a postdoctoral fellowship at Massey University (2000). When she was pregnant with her third child she was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. She published her debut collection Tigers at Awhitu in 2009 and Gleam, a posthumous collection, was published in 2013 (both AUP). Her husband Michael Gleissner established the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize in her honour in 2014.

Michael Jackson is internationally renowned for his work in the field of existential anthropology and has been widely praised for his innovations in ethnographic writing. Jackson has done extensive fieldwork in Sierra Leone since 1969, and also carried out anthropological research in Aboriginal Australia, Europe, and New Zealand. He has taught in universities in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and is currently Distinguished Professor of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. His most recent books include The Varieties of Temporal Experience (2018), Selected Poems (2017), and The Paper Nautilus: A Trilogy (2019). Cold Hub Press author page.

Hilaire Kirkland (1941 – 1975) attended the University of Otago in the 1960s and travelled through Europe in the early 1970s, teaching English in Portugal. She published a poetry chapbook and poems in journals, and frequently performed her work. Her poems appeared in several anthologies posthumously, and a collection of poems, Blood Clear & Apple Red, was published by Wai-te-ata Press in 1981. She was awarded an aegrotat BA at National Women’s Hospital shortly before her death.

Michele Leggott was the inaugural New Zealand Poet Laureate 2007–09 under the administration of the National Library. She received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry in 2013. Her collections include Mirabile Dictu (2009), Heartland (2014), and Vanishing Points (2017), all from Auckland University Press. In 2020 Mezzaluna: Selected Poems was published (also by AUP). She coordinates the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc) with Brian Flaherty at the University of Auckland.

Peter Olds was born in Christchurch in 1944, he left school at sixteen and after meeting James K. Baxter in Dunedin in the 1960s, began writing poetry. He was a Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago in 1978. In 2005 he was an inaugural recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry. He lives in Dunedin. His previously published collections include Lady Moss Revived (1972), Freeway (1974), Beethoven’s Guitar (1980), It Was a Tuesday Morning: Selected Poems 1972-2001 (2004), Poetry Reading at Kaka Point (2006), Under the Dundas Street Bridge (2012), and You fit the description: The Selected Poems of Peter Olds, with an introduction by Ian Wedde (2014, Cold Hub Press). His most recent collection is Taking My Jacket for a Walk (2017, Cold Hub Press).

Poetry Shelf Spring Season

Tara Black picks poems

Victor Rodger picks poems

Poetry Shelf Celebrates: Winners of Given Words 2021 read their poems

The winners of the Given Words competition for Phantom National Poetry Day were announced last Friday 17 September. The director of Given Words, Charles Olsen, invited poets Pat White, Savarna Yang and Aine Whelan-Kopa, to read their poems for NZ Poetry Shelf.

All entries had to include five words chosen from the te reo poetry film Noho Mai, which features a poem by Peta-Maria Tunui. The poems could be written in English or te reo Māori or a mix of the two, with the five words being: pō/duskhau/breathtūpuna/ancestorshiki/raise, and karoro/black-backed gull.

The winners and one special mention were selected by Mikaela Nyman, Michael Todd and Charles Olsen. Their comments on some of the poems along with a selection of 45 poems by both adults and under-16s can be read on Given Words, along with a reflection on the use of te reo in many of the poems by Peta-Maria Tunui.

Pat White was the winner of ‘Best Poem’ for his poem ‘After visiting the IC ward.

After visiting the IC ward

You might think at dusk
that a black-backed gull, and the terns
would be flying for the rookery.
The fishing folk with an empty basket
might trudge homeward, instead of
standing longer on those moving dunes
dividing shore between offshore tūpuna
and inland ancestors, here sea birds
just like words tie the waves’ surge
to lives between two worlds.

Another chance to keep going as if
every breath matters, coming to
rattling rest, as waves do over shell
and pebbles shifting over and over
the planet’s body, one grain of sand
at a time. Your bed occupying
a place between light and dark
the soul poised to raise a voice
in praise of one more day
giving thanks, flying in the mind
to where uplift drafts will raise
pin feathers of an albatross wing
tipped slightly to infinite nautical miles
over the breaker’s lip, reflecting
water movement into light carrying
driftwood to be dragged home.
for burning like the flicker of
life burning in your chest.

Pat White

Savarna Yang, aged 13, won ‘Best Poem by Under-16s’ for her poem ‘Eventide’.

Eventide

alabaster moths flutter
on indigo shadows of dusk
I press my toes into cold sand,
listen to the inbreath and outbreath of sea
and I remember my tupuna tāne,
how he died moored to a ventilator,
breaths drowned in risen tides
far from his whānau

the moon spills silver over ocean ripples
I raise my face to the sky
through a blur of tears
the first stars form an outline of wings,
tips of white against the black
I imagine my tupuna
flies free as a karoro

Savarna Yang

Aine Whelan-Kopa received a Special Mention for her poem ‘Hiki te hoe’.

Hiki te hoe

I got goosebumps today
When Tāwhiri breathed
And I heard the words
When I opened my heart
To tūpuna
They whispered
Hoea te waka
Hoea te waka
Hoea te waka
Like a chorus
And on the beat
It hurt like hope
But felt like home
I’m sorry I ever told them to go
Hoea te waka
Their words sing on
In my puku-heart
As wiriwiri
In my head-heart
Sways the pūriri
In my heart-heart
There’s aroha
And that’s everything
It pumps my veins
Out of and into
The pull
The row
The drag
The flow
Hiki te hoe
Hoea te waka
I’m moving on
Out of te pō
Upon
Cool waters misty
Like a lake before dawn
Hoea te waka
To where karoro flies
Hoea te waka
To where the green flash glows
Hoea te waka
To where the four winds blow
Ngā hau
Hoea te waka
Along the long awa
Guided by whispers
And one hundred tuna
Black and blue
Hoea te waka
By starlight
To sunlight
With Hine ā Maru
And you

Aine Whelan-Kopa

About the Poets

Pat White lives just out of Fairlie in the South Island of Aotearoa/New Zealand. There he works as a writer and painter, with his wife Catherine, a musician and painter. He has published a number of volumes of prose and poetry since the 1970s, including; How the Land Lies, (VUP 2010) prose memoir essays, Watching for the wingbeat; new and selected poems (Cold Hub Press 2018). He was editor of Rejoice Instead: Collected poems of Peter Hooper (Cold Hub Press, 2021).


His entry in Given Words honours the experience of a son who was in an Intensive Care Ward four years ago. ‘Such events hone our appreciation of every breath, and the need of each of us to give thanks for the miracle of ordinariness that is daily life. This afternoon the sun is shining, soon it will be time for a glass of red wine while sitting looking at the mountains to the west. Who knows a poem may be gifted on a gust of wind … if we sit quietly enough?’

Savarna Yang is thirteen years old, home-schools, and lives near Ōtepoti, Dunedin. You can often find her spinning and weaving wool from her pet sheep or baking mountains of cookies (especially over lockdown). She plays football for her local team but unfortunately they have lost every single game this season… She loves writing short stories and reviews.


Of the inspiration for her poem she says, ‘My grandparents live overseas, in Australia and China. I haven’t seen them for a long time and maybe I won’t get to see them again. In Aotearoa, we had an elderly friend nearby we loved like a grandparent. They died in hospital during lockdown when we could not visit to say goodbye.’

Aine Whelan-Kopa lives in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and grew up in very small rural, coastal towns in the Hokianga and Taranaki. She is of Ngāti Hine, Te Hikutu o Hokianga, Ngāpuhi and Irish descent. Being bi-racial has been challenging and impactful, writing and art are ways for Aine to express herself and explore her identity. The mix of te reo Māori and English in her poetry is a natural extension of the way she talks.
Aine is a student majoring in psychology and aims to use art therapy to help children affected by trauma. Whānau, whenua, atua and taiao are the cornerstones of her connection to Te Ao.


Hiki Te Hoe was written as a note to self that in order to get to where you want to go you need to pick up the paddle and start to row. Aine loves running and chocolate equally, because life is about balance.

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Collapsing the Conventional – NZ Young Writers Festival 2021

Festival dates: Thursday 28 October– Sunday 31 October

Full Programme

Now in its seventh year, the New Zealand Young Writers is itching to get started, with a four-day packed programme delving into poetry, playwriting, performance and more.

The free to attend festival opens with a bang on Thursday 28 October at our cool new Writers Block venue at 53 Castle Street, Dunedin, hosted by the incomparable Marea Colombo (Improsaurus). We’ll be celebrating the launch of the festival with live music, tasty refreshments and even tastier performances. The event will also showcase the work of St Hilda’s students from their Creative in Schools programme, exploring poetry through sculpture, dance, drama, painting, and collage.

On Saturday, lit-enthusiasts can sharpen up their own poetry skills with How to Speak Words and Influence People, a spoken word workshop led by National Slam Champion, poet, and toast enthusiast Jordan Hamel. No experience is required for this fun and friendly spoken word how-to that explores different ways of performing your words.

Breaking boundaries is a mission statement for the festival and this year is no different with a programme full of workshops that explore the limitations society places on our bodies and how to overcome them through literature.

Playwright Dan Goodwin will deconstruct what it means to weave accessibility into narrative and ground our stories in the communities they emerge in with their workshop and writing mental health and disability theatre; and will join Jackson NieuwlandWhina Pomana and Hana Pera Aoake, in Playing with the Trouble: Writing Gender and the Body, a conversation/performance about fluidity, gender, the body and how to write about it.

The programme continues to blur the lines between genres with events that celebrate artistic expression in all forms. In Put Your Body Into It: Somatic Writing Rituals, poet Rushi Vyas will lead participants on a short walk where they will enact a somatic ritual before writing a response to the experience; researcher Zoë Heine will be joined by Hana Pera AoakeJordan HamelRobyn Maree Pickens and Lily Holloway for a hybrid conversation/workshop on writing about climate change in Getting Our Feet Wet: Storytelling for Sea-Level Rise; and Dunedin’s celebrated Ōtepoti Writers Lab will be celebrating its second birthday with a showcase of writing in all forms.
PaulaPaula

Taking creativity out of traditional spaces, two yet to be announced writers will be taking up micro-residencies in the Dunedin Botanic Garden for the duration of the festival, sponsored by online literary magazine Starling. Join the two writers, Starling editor Louise Wallace, Starling writer Lily Holloway and Jackson Nieuwland and Carolyn DeCarlo (Starling interview subjects) in a conversation/performance at the Writers Block on Saturday for a micro-residency wrap-up and celebration of the newest issue of Starling.

Festival Director Gareth McMillan said the festival was excited to inspire young writers and to encourage them to see the power in their words, whatever form they take, and to experiment with style.

“We’re really passionate about removing the boxes from the creative arts and this programme aims to show young people that it’s not about format, it’s about authenticity,” McMillan said.

“Whether you see yourself as a poet or a novelist, or neither, or a mix, it is about using your words to express what is important to you and we hope our events and workshops will provide people with the tools to do just that.”

Brand new for 2021, test your literary knowledge at the taskmaster-style Wordmaster: Festival Smackdown. Come along with a team, or make new mates on the night, to take on every literary challenge comedy legend Reuben Crisp can throw at you, from a spelling bee to charades and more.

And not forgetting our festival favourites, the Otago Poetry Slam returns this year MCd by Jordan Hamel with calibration poet Emer Lyons. Open to all ages, this fast-paced war of words will select a champion to represent Otago at this year’s nationals.

The last day of the festival will once again host Dunedin Zinefest offering a cornucopia of DIY wares from the city’s best poets, illustrators, artists, designers, and zinesters. With live entertainment, the event offers the opportunity to browse and buy – and be inspired to make your own zines at the Wake ‘n’ Make from 12pm-2pm.

A few of the people involved include:

 Dan Goodwin (they/them), a Scottish-Pākeha performance poet, actor and writer, and winner of the Harold and Jean Brooks award. Dan is hosting an event called Accessible and Authentic. Having written about experiencing psychosis and in a world full of lockdowns, they want to help people work through their unexamined mental health in a safe way.

Hana Aoake (they/them), is an artist and writer who will be speaking at Playing with the Trouble: Writing Gender and the Body, where they bring their perspective on our flawed perspectives of gender. Their Māori ancestors talk about community living in pre-colonial times but today a pregnant Aoake faces daily reminders of society’s binary views when people ask the gender of their baby. They will also be part of Getting Our Feet Wet: Storytelling for Sea-Level Rise, talking about the human impact of climate change from an indigenous perspective (such as the returning of damaged resources to Māori) and a global perspective (climate change refugees).

Rushi Vyas (he/him) is the author and two-time finalist for the National Poetry Series (US). He will lead a workshop on somatic writing rituals, based on his research into how behavioural patterns set us up for certain activities, especially the creative. His work explores ritual in relation to colonialism and how to use it to decolonise arts.

Jordan Hamel (he/him) is a writer, poet and performer. He was the 2018 New Zealand Poetry Slam champion and represented NZ at the World Poetry Slam Champs in the US in 2019. He will be using his expertise to lead a workshop on spoken word and host festival favourite the Otago Poetry Slam. He is also coeditor of an upcoming poetry anthology on climate change will talk about the power of poetry in activism in Getting Our Feet Wet.

Poetry Shelf review: Ora Nui 4: Māori Literary Journal (New Zealand and Taiwan Special Edition)

Ora Nui 4: Māori Literary Journal (New Zealand and Taiwan Special Edition), published by Anton Blank, edited by Kiri Piahana-Wong and Shin Su. Cover image: Hongi 2012, Idas Losin, oil on canvas, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts Collection.

How to construct a piupiu for your Waitangi day celebrations

First the karakia to gather the family; the strength
of your fibre depends on them.
Next, measure the pattern and score with clear, even cuts—
if you don’t do this yourself, your enemy will do it for you
with year after year after year of protest.
Expose the muka, the soft threads that will be so pale, so raw,
that they will take on any colour they mix with.
Pliability and adaptability are a gift. Don’t let them use it against you.
Instead brace yourself, if your thighs can take it, and roll towards the knee.
Boil these family strands until buttery smooth
right down to the vein; the skin of nature.
Sit close to that pain. It can sing.
Then, by the threads of these taonga tuku iho,
hang them where they are visible, until dry.
They will curl in on themselves, shiny side hidden
and become hollow chambers in a flaxen silencer.
Finally, cold plunge them into dye.
Constant interaction may result in uneven colouring,
ignore this—do not cry for them here—
their warpaint will be revealed, their pattern set.
Those hardened tubes will have become whistle darts
capable of long distance warning
ki te ao whānui.
Let their percussion begin.
Let them whisper in the ears of your children.

Anahera Gildea

Anton Blank begins his introduction: ‘This issue of Ora Nui is a jewel; light dances across the words and images sparking joy and wonder. It is filled with contributions from my favourite Māori and Taiwanese writers and artists.’

Ora Nui 4 is indeed a vital gathering of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, essays and artwork, lovingly assembled by editors Kiri Piahana-Wong and Shin Su. When you bring together a range of voices in a literary journal – with distinctive melodies, admissions, experience, challenges, silences – conversations ensue. Electric and eclectic connections spark and inspire, both within the individual written and visual contributions, and across the volume as a whole. How much more heightened the connective tissues become when contributions are also drawn from Taiwan.

We are in a time when to slow down and listen, to linger and absorb, is the most satisfying advantage. This is, as Anton says, joy. Reading and viewing Ora Nui is to move between here and there, between love and longing, amidst myriad ideas, feelings, melodies. As Kiri underlines, Ora Nui is ‘all the richer for creative pieces spanning an incredible range of topics’. Shin astutely suggests that ‘when finished with this edition of Ora Nui, you the reader will be in possession of an empathetic understanding of the lives and histories of a great many people’.

Familiar names leap out at me: Aziembry Aolani, Marino Blank, Jacqueline Carter, Gina Cole, Amber Esau, Anahera Gildea, Arihia Latham, Kiri Piahana-Wong, Vaughan Rapatahana, Reihana Robinson, Apirana Taylor, Anne-Marie Te Whiu, Iona Winter, Briar Wood. And then – one of the reasons I am attracted to literary journals – the unfamiliar Aotearoa poets become the gold nuggets of my reading: Gerry Te Kapa Coates, Kirsty Dunn, Teoti Jardine, Hinemoana Jones, Michelle Rahurahu Scott, Jean Riki, kani te manukura. Add in the Taiwan voices, the fiction and the nonfiction, and this is a sumptuous reading experience. I am especially drawn to the mesmerising movement and harmonies in Etan Pavavalung’s artworks and poetry, that are internal as much as they are physical.

I travel from the spare and haunting heart of Jacqueline Carter’s ‘Picton to Wellington’ to the aural and visual richness of Amber Esau’s ‘Manaakitanga’. I want to hear them both read aloud, to be in a room with the voices of these poets, in fact all the poets, filling the air with spike and soothe and light. Anahera Gildea’s poems reach me in a ripple effect of sound and song, contemplation, challenge and sublime heart. Reading the collection, I draw in phrases, images and chords that boost a need to write and read and converse. To connect.

For example, this extract from Stacey Teague’s exquisite grandmother poem:

Every Christmas
She would knit me dolls
with yellow dresses,
bright like egg yolks.

She had budgies, chickens, a cat called Mopsy.

She liked the TV show, Pingu.

On her headstone, it says:
‘Ko tōna reo waiata tōna tohū whakamaharatanga’.

My Narn sang waiata with her guitar
until her voice stopped.
Traded her guitar for
a dialysis machine.

from ‘Kewpie’

 

The artwork is stunning. Take time out from daily routine and challenges, and sink into a double-page spread of art. I keep greturning to Nigel Borell’s Pirirakau: bush beautiful (2006) series. The artworks are an alluring and intricate mix of acrylic, beading and cotton in bush greens on canvas. Or his Hawaiki Hue (2010), an equally glorious mix of acrylic, dye and silk on paper.

This is an anthology to treasure.

Read NZ Q & A with Anton Blank here

Oranui Publisher page

Poetry Shelf celebrates new books: Serie Barford reads from Sleeping with Stones

Sleeping with Stones, Serie Barford, Anahera Press, 2021

Serie reads ‘The midwife and the cello’

Serie reads ‘Piula blue’

Serie Barford was born in Aotearoa to a German-Samoan mother and a Palagi father. She was the recipient of a 2018 Pasifika Residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre. Serie  promoted her collections Tapa Talk and Entangled Islands at the 2019 International Arsenal Book Festival in Kiev. Her latest poetry collection, Sleeping With Stones, was launched during Matariki, 2021.

Anahera Press page

RNZ Standing Room Only interview

Kete Books Grace Iwashita-Taylor review