Steve Braunias on Gloria Rawlinson at The Spin Off gave me goosebumps


Gloria Rawlinson. New Zealand Free Lance : Photographic prints and negatives. Ref: PAColl-6388-16. Alexander Turnbull Library


A postscript by Spinoff Review of Books literary editor, Steve Braunias

I asked Paula for her expert assessment of Gloria Rawlinson after I went to a book fair in Kumeu and picked up a copy of Rawlinson’s 1935 book The Perfume Vendor for 50 cents. It stated on the cover: “The famous young New Zealand poet.” Later, I read that her weekly mail averaged 300 letters from all over the world, including one from US President and fellow polio sufferer Franklin D Roosevelt. English poet Walter de la Mare corresponded with her and read her poetry aloud in London poetry circles; in New Zealand, her work was praised by author Jane Mander. Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage made a surprise visit to see her one New Year’s Eve. She was a local celebrity. But when I stared at the book, I thought: who?

The cover featured a photo of a beautiful, dark-haired child who looked strangely modern, someone vibrant and alive. It said on the inside cover, “Gloria was born on an island in the Tonga group [Ha’apai] and came to New Zealand at the age of six, speaking other languages better than English. After a year at a small private school [the Melmerly Collegiate boarding school for girls, at 40 St George’s Bay Rd, in Parnell; pupils included aviatrix Jean Batten] she fell victim to a serious illness, and out of the years in hospital and lonely bedroom these verses have been penned.” The blurbology later referred to the author as “a velvet-eyed and thoughtful little occupant of a wheel-chair.”

The whole thing felt as frail and delicate as a pressed flower. Inside, the verses were brittle, full of loss and solitude and dead animals. There were fairies. There were angels. But there wasn’t anything remotely innocent or magical about them; they were more like little occupants of Hell, fragments of death, creepy shadows cast by moonlight in a graveyard. Her poem “Moths” sets it out in plain English.


For the complete postscript and my short piece on Gloria go here.

I love the attention Steve has paid to Gloria’s poetry. Having spent three years paying attention to women’s poetry that was blindsided by the canon in earlier decades and by academics using women’s poetry to support theory rather than open up poems (oh in that old fashioned sense of exploring what a poem does), the postscript gave me goosebumps.



Listen to Dora Malech read poems


from Princeton University Press blog:


In celebration of National Poetry Month, Dora Malech writes about the unique pleasure of using words to express yourself. Included below are recordings of her reading poems from her collection in the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets series: Stet: Poems

While writing Stet, I was drawn to the work of other poets using idiosyncratic constraints to shape and speak to their materials, whether as an ongoing generative device like the anagrammatic poetry of Surrealist Unica Zürn, or as occasioned by the urgencies of a particular poem, in the case of Sylvia Plath. Stet foregrounds its formal elements, particularly the heuristic possibilities of, as Zürn called it, “the old dangerous fever of the anagram.”


Full article and recordings here

Poems from the Ockham NZ Book Award poetry shortlist: Tony Beyer’s ‘The Characters’


The Characters


a comfort to think

that in Nagano where


typewriters used to be made

they still remember


Bashō’s visit and the long-

expired snow he came to view


each snow flake

then as now unique each


fluent stroke of the brush

comprehensible but singular


© Tony Beyer from Anchor Stone




Tony Beyer was born and grew up in Auckland, and now lives in Taranaki after a career as a secondary school teacher in several parts of the North Island. His seventeen poetry titles include Jesus Hobo (Caveman Press, 1971), The Singing Ground (The Caxton Press, 1986), The Century (HeadworX, 1998), Electric Yachts (Puriri Press, 2003), Dream Boat: selected poems (HeadworX, 2007) and Anchor Stone (Cold Hub Press, 2017). His work has been widely published, anthologised and reviewed in New Zealand and elsewhere.

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook student poetry competition for National Poetry Day

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The warm up to Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day 2018 begins:

Calling all young poets! Entries are now open in the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook student poetry competition.*

Send us your previously unpublished original poem and be in to win a copy of the 2018 Poetry New Zealand Yearbook for your school library and the 2017 edition for yourself.
Entries will be judged by Poetry New Zealand Yearbook editor Jack Ross. Entries close May 31 2018. The 12 winners will be announced on Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day August 24 2018.

* Poems can be of any length, any style and about any subject
• When you enter please indicate whether you are a Year 11, Year 12, or year 13 student at a New Zealand school and please name your school
• Four prizes will be given in each of these three age-group categories
• Successful entrants must agree to their names and schools appearing in media and publicity for the award
• Please send your entry to





Monday Poem: Emer Lyons’s ‘Poison’



After Gwendolyn Brooks and Terrance Hayes



take to the drink, wanting real

life to dampen our tongues, cool

the shame we are forced to we-

ar with guilt built in, all left

to us from him. Dul ar scoil

to learn the church’s rules, we

learn to shut mouths, minds, legs, lurk

close to home, wait until late

in life to start living. We

protest against them. We strike

them down like they do us, straight




up get wasted. Hear our we-

ary mothers try to sing

songs that might free us from sin –

A-ma-zee-ing Grace. They we-

ep for us their kin grown thin

from not giving a shite, gin

our favourite perfume. We

think to join in, feel that jazz

of life again but them June

days are made for drinking, we

mute their sound, they turn to die-

ts of rosaries, T.V. Soon




we join the rest like us, we-

lcomed we are into the real

darkness of the pub, scrubbed cool

colours paint the walls, but we

don’t look at the walls, eyes left

downcast for fear that some school

friend’s dad be holding up we-

t edges of a stool, lurk-

ing for some young wan’s time. Late-

r when we’ve spent our lot, we

goes to the likes a him, strike

up some talk with tits out straight




under their noses, they we-

ak them eejits, we be sing-

le, we’re not patrolling sin-

‘s committed by men, we

too busy with our own thin-

clad secrets, like how the gin

at home is watered down – we-

eks of stealing dat took! Jazz

oozes from the jukebox, June

fades outside the window, we

stay until it starts to die

down, already Sunday, soon




Mass be starting, not that we

bother anymore, found real

religion that don’t play cool –

you’ll get what you’re given. We

grab the bottle’s neck, get left

in pools of our own sick, school-

ed to mind ourselves – coz we-

‘ve no time for all dat! Lurk-

ing Larry’s hide in the late

afternoon shadows to we-

t us between the legs – strike

all ya want girls! We walk straight




passed them, they keep trying. We

see some other girls get sing-

led out, get pregnant, the sin

dripping off them, we look we-

ll away when they be thin-

king to look at us. Begin

to think about things that we-

‘ve been told, listen to jazz

music in our rooms with June

next door shouting how we owe

her some peace – go way and die!

Her gob shuts as the bassoon




roars the devil’s music. We

develop our taste buds, real-

ise wine looks classy, the cool

kids be drinking it, so we

form fists around the stems, cleft

our insides, move like a school

of fish, joined at the hip we

be, until we go home, lurk

through our own front doors, dilate-

d pupils in heads, too we-

ak to take d’mother’s strike

against our faces, lie straight




down on the carpet. There we

sleep dreamless until the sing-

ing birds move our bleary sin-

ged bodies to mirrors. We-

igh ourselves (no shoes on) – thin

girls don’t hang onto virgin-

ity long. The fella’s we-

dge between us, shove their jazz-

ing hands down our skirts, the June

heat hot against our heads we-

lded to the wall, us die-

hards wanting it over soon-




er rather than later, we

don’t look into their eyes, real-

ly we’d rather catch the cool

stares of other girls, a we-

llspring of poker faces left

to drown outside of the school

system, taught us nothing we

could use against filthy lurk-

ers, or what to do with late

periods, or how come we-

‘d never be wealthy – strike

us down for we have strayed straight




off the path most chosen. We

won’t marry any man, sing

children to sleep or get sin-

gled out for promotion. We

will live backed against walls, thin-

king of dreams we had of begin-

ning again, all along we

knew we’d never see a jazz

band, another clear blue June

sky or hear our mother’s we-

ak, how sweet the sound. We die



©Emer Lyons



Emer Lyons is an Irish writer who has had poetry and fiction published in journals such as TurbineLondon GripThe New Zealand Poetry Society AnthologySouthwordThe Spinoff and Queen Mob’s Tea House. She has appeared on shortlists for the Fish Poetry Competition, the Bridport Poetry Prize, the takahé short story competition, The Collinson’s short story prize and her chapbook Throwing Shapes was long-listed for the Munster Literature Fool For Poetry competition in 2017. Last year she was the recipient of the inaugural University of Otago City of Literature scholarship and is a creative/critical PhD candidate in contemporary queer poetry.







Poems from the Ockham NZ Book Award poetry shortlist: Elizabeth Smither’s ‘Tenderness’








A tree in the centre of a corn field

the corn rising in its ranks like braided hair

to meet the lowest branches


a tree that has replaced at least twenty

corn stalks with their divided leaves

twenty golden cobs sweetly surrendered


for this lovely grace: leaf sweep touching

leaf sweep, the whole field given by

this rising trunk, a focus


the pattern drawn from the edge of the field

to the centre where the tree

delivers a blessing.




The forest planation blankets hills.

Neat-ankled, swift-running

the dark pines descend


except on one little hilltop a ride

of grass begins and runs

with the trees which seem to bend


tenderly towards it: a bed from which

a child has risen and begun walking

the solicitousness of pine branches over grass.


©Elizabeth Smither from Night Horse


Elizabeth Smither’s most recent poetry collection, Night Horse, was published by Auckland University Press in 2017. She also writes novels and short stories.