Poetry Shelf noticeboard: LAUNCH FOR Rachel O’Neill’s Requiem for a Fruit

Event description

We Are Babies and Jhana Millers Gallery would like to welcome you to the launch of Rachel O’Neill’s second poetry collection, Requiem for a Fruit.

Requiem for a Fruit continues Rachel’s exploration of the form of prose poetry, to astonishing results. The poems in this book cast a slant lens on the everyday, opening up a world of possibilities and curious characters. With imagined and real dialogue, these characters converse and live as fully on the page as they would in the known world. O’Neill covers topics from love to interstellar travel, from the domestic to the absurd. Here are dowagers and dogs, a robot mother, husbands hiding behind fire trucks, and families made of stone. The landscape they populate is without reason, yet full of fruit.

Registration for this event is required so please register here for a free ticket. Our capacity for safe distancing is 40 people. Vaccine passes will be required. You can enter from 6pm, we will check your ticket at the gallery entrance and you will be asked to sanitize your hands and scan the QR code. Manual contact tracing also available. There will be copies for sale before and after the speeches and Rachel will be happy to sign them for you. There will be no food or drinks available under current alert level restrictions.

Poetry Shelf Noticeboard: The 2022 Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat

The 2022 Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat

25 – 27 February 2022

Waikanae, New Zealand

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.

The Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat is happening from 25 -27 February 2022 on the beautiful Kāpiti Coast north of Wellington. This three-day gathering for writers encompasses intensive morning workshops, lively discussions and space to write, relax and engage with topics critical to your work.

Writers Practice is delighted to host leading writers from across Aotearoa – Chloe Lane, Gem Wilder, Helen Lehndorf, Nic Lowe, Rebecca Priestley, Sinead Overbye and Therese Lloyd – at the 2022 Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat. Each writer will teach morning workshops: in fiction, poetry, essay and responding to our current reality. In the afternoons, they will lead discussions on topics pertinent to craft and literature in Aotearoa.

You’ll find community, encouragement, and a safe place in which to take artistic risks.

Find out more here

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Kate Camp’s ‘What I would give away’

What I would give away

This pill
little light blue moon
tasting of rosewater

the night
in lines
through black dust
of the blind

pines
manuscript
architecture
smashed and torn off
places

morning light
when orange falls
six weeks a year
that way.

But the darkness?
The one behind my eyes?
In the cavities
of this responsible body? No.

When I saw the tow truck
I thought it was carrying
a crucifix.

Let’s start with that.

Kate Camp

Kate Camp’s most recent book is How To Be Happy Though Human, published by Victoria University Press and in Canada by House of Anansi Press. Her memoir, You probably thing this song is about you, will be published by Victoria University Press in 2022. 

Poetry Shelf review: Janet Newman’s Unseasoned Campaigner

Unseasoned Campaigner, Janet Newman, Otago University Press, 2021

Poet Janet Newman lives at Koputaroa in Horowhenua, where she farms beef. Her debut collection, Unseasoned Campaigner, is nourished beyond description of scenic beauty to a deep love and engagement with the land and farming. Women writing the land is not without precedent. Ruth Dallas comes to mind initially. She spent time as a Herd Recording Officer during WWII and found cities restrictive and dull afterwards. When she was living in Dunedin in later years, writing enabled returns to her beloved rural settings. Janet dedicates several poems to her. The second poet that springs to mind is Marty Smith, whose rural background has featured in her poetry, and who is also unafraid of over and underlaying an idyllic landscape with the grit and reality of farming life.

Janet’s first section, ‘How now?’, places the reader one hundred percent in rural experience: managing livestock, a diarrhea-soaked calf that doesn’t make it, drenching, the slaughter house in graphic detail, blood and sweat. There are water restrictions, water anxiety, drought. A dead river. More dead stock. Horses led to shade and grass. Scenic routes and beauty spots are off the menu.

I applaud this revised view but it is the people who hold my attention to a significant degree. While farmers are currently under scrutiny for diverse reasons, particularly climate change, some are speaking out about how tough it is. Listening to RNZ National’s excellent Country Life, it is clear there is no hold-all definition for the contemporary farmer and their diverse practices. In the book’s middle and final sections, Janet also opens up what “farmer” means, and that adds significant and poignant layers to the first poems.

In the second section, ‘Tender’, Janet draws us to close to a father, and I am assuming her father. He was a complicated, multifaceted human being: a farmer, father, husband, war veteran. He was a man of few words and myriad actions, toil and more toil. He cursed war on television and kept a belt by the door. He is memory, because he has passed, and he fills the speaker with mourning. The poems are vividly detailed with the physicality of daily life, and it is through his presence farming is made prismatic, beyond stereotype. When I pivot on the word “tender”, I see the poems as an offering to both mother and father, to us as readers. I see too the tenderness in the care of animals, and tender as the sore spot that is parental absence, maternal and paternal memory.

His language is electric rhythm of pump and wire,
gush of couplets from the artesian bore,

a flighty heifer enjambed
with a low rail,

stanza of cloud over the back paddock
threatening rain,

the fuck, fuck, fuck
of a dead bull in the drain.

from ‘Man of few words’

The mother is an equally haunting presence with her preserves, her baking and her plums. She too is drawn close through a focus on the physical detail of everyday actions. She is mourned and, in dying first, is an unbearable hole in the father’s life. The parental poems scratch the surface of my skin. Preserving, for example, brings back my own pungent memories. And preserving is also the tool of the poet, poems are stored in sweet and salty brine, held out to be savoured by both poet and reader.

Preserving

Red plums give up
round plump bodies
when I cut out their stones.
I hear my mother’s long-ago voice:
‘Don’t overdo it.’ The boiling
and much else. In the photograph
she is smiling behind glass, my memory
of her steeped in absence. Now,
even that faithless call sounds sweet
as in preserving jars sour plums
surrender to sugar syrup.

The third section, “Ruahine”, moves and adjusts to loss. It also finds footing on scenic routes. In the final poems, the poet is out driving and absorbing the birds and trees, mesmerising hills, the land bereft of vegetation. The landscapes have widened further to carry farm practices, daily challenges, connections to the land and to making a living. But of course it is not as though the farmer is blind to beauty. The final cluster of poems become song, act as sweet refrain, where upon in each return to a view, the view shifts in nuance. Just like poetry. Just like the way life is nuanced and resists deadening dichotomies. ‘Beach’ catches the elusiveness of what we sometimes see and feel so exquisitely:

Some days the clouds disappear
on the drive to the coast

the way the things you wanted to say
evaporate when you get there.

Sentences float to the pencil-line horizon
between sky that is nothing but blue

and sea that is as blue as …
but words fail you,

smudge like fishing boats
in the distance without your binoculars

from ‘Beach’

Janet writes with poise, each line fluent in rhythm and accent, and in doing so achieves a collection that matches heart with sharp and bold eye. Her collection belongs alongside the very best of Marty Smith and Ruth Dallas, a fine addition to how we write the land, whoever and wherever we are.

Janet Newman was born in Levin. She won the 2015 New Zealand Poetry Society International Competition, the 2017 Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems and was a runner-up in the 2019 Kathleen Grattan Awards. Her essays about the sonnets of Michele Leggott and the ecopoetry of Dinah Hawken won the Journal of New Zealand Literature Prize for New Zealand Literary Studies in 2014 and 2016. She has worked as a journalist in New Zealand and Australia, and a bicycle courier in London. She has three adult children and lives with her partner at Koputaroa in Horowhenua, where she farms beef cattle.

Otago University Press page

Review: Siobhan Harvey for The NZ Herald

Interview: Standing Room Only, RNZ

Feature: Koputaroa farmer and poet Janet Newman writes thesis on ecopoetry

Interview: Janet Newman discusses ecopoetry, RNZ

Interview: The Big Idea

Poetry Shelf celebrates Jeffrey Paparoa Holman’s After Hours Trading & The Flying Squad with a reading and a poem

enter the silence

entering the silence that is not a silence
remains of a shoe by the mouth of a shaft
rusted boiler at a fork in the creek
pond of eels where the dredge dismantled
ended its song in a valley of tailings
entering the silence that is not a silence

enter a silence that never was
the wheels of a lokie sprouting fern
a railway signpost clothed in lichen
the sign to a mine where the dead
still linger lost to lovers dear to mothers
enter a silence that never was

enter then the world without knocking
digging drilling sluicing felling
fishing farming ploughing a dream
hauling an island from the constellations
into the glare of an alien reign
enter then the world without knocking

enter the silence enter the dark enter
the hive of the invitation   enter
the majesty   enter the wine   enter
the wilderness while you may   enter
with flags and enter with instruments
enter the silence   enter   enter

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman

Paula: I recently reviewed Jeffrey’s new poetry collection for Kete Books. In conclusion I wrote: “Holman writes with a measured step, with distinctive and diverse musical keys, with an ear attuned to the everyday and to a refreshing uplift of language. Repetition is a useful device, appearing like a refrain in a book of song, as a subterranean reminder that history repeats itself. Death, ruination, love, joy. This is a collection of poetry that will echo and nourish as we move through uncertain days.”

You can read the review here.

The reading

After Hours Trading & The Flying Squad, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Carbide Press, 2021

“The handpiece” for Jack Gilbert


“when the mobile library comes”

“Grinding the gear, 1969”

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman is a Christchurch poet and non-fiction writer. His collection, Blood Ties: selected poems, 1963-2016 was published by Canterbury University Press in 2017. A memoir, Now When It Rains came out from Steele Roberts in 2018. The most recent collection – After Hours Trading & The Flying Squad – has just been released by Carbide Press, his own imprint (29 October 2021).

Recent work has also appeared in Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021, an essay on prison reform, and poetry; his work has also been included in The Cuba Press anthology, More Favourable Waters – Aotearoa Poets respond to Dante’s Purgatory (2021).

He makes his living as a stay-at-home puppy wrangler for Hari, a Jack Russell-Fox Terrier cross. Hari ensures that little writing takes place, while psychogeography and excavating parks happens daily.

After Hours Trading & The Flying Squad, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Carbide Press, 2021, ISBN 9780473584047

Jeffrey in conversation with Lynn Freeman Standing Room Only RNZ National

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Amber Esau’s ‘Liminal’

Liminal

Parted down the middle, his sharpened cuerpo
struts out of a waspish cave in the dark

harakeke, strands bowing under a nosey Tūī
eyeing the red beaned flower that’s claw-like

in lazy light. We lock eyes in glass. Feathers
and flax. He stares from corners acting coy

but this is k’rd, bruh, a Queen will call you
out for not looking long enough. I ruffle

the curls searching silences in the glare
knowing? Not quite slow moving but watchful

the manu drops a beak at onyx arrowhead
eyes forgetting forward. Down the vague grey

he walks the tui across the winking glass
into a powdery afternoon, kicking up silent

dust behind them on the street. They swoop to the top
of St. Kevin’s perched for a second before flying off

into the blue thin as the moon of pulotu
dragging nails across the fog and Paz.

Amber Esau

Amber Esau is a Sā-māo-rish writer (Ngāpuhi / Manase) born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau. She is a poet, storyteller, and amateur astrologer. Her work has been published both in print and online. 

Hear Amber read

 

Poetry Shelf celebrates Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems

Robyn Maree Pickens

Robyn Maree Pickens is the 2021 winner of the Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems. The annual competition is organised by Auckland based writing group, International Writers Workshop (also known as IWW.)

Vana Manasiadis judged the competition and described Robyn Maree Pickens’ winning entry, a sequence entitled “High clouds”, as “a supple, intimate, fragile and extremely powerful work. I went to places in each of the poems that I couldn’t have guessed at from the beginning, the work stranges expectation – and this is what the sublime in poetry should do, and in this case does”.

Robyn kindly gave me permission to post a poem from her winning sequence.

That gasp in your teeth

Where would we have gone with all this jää?

I learnt jää after lumi

When we crossed the bridge
you pointed at the frozen river
& said jää but I heard yar

I mean there is too much jää to press you
against a tree in the forest
spruce, larch, birch

Too much jää to unwrap
the scarf from your neck

Jää ruched around a wave particle

Pack ice jää sharded along the shore

& when we speak we say virvonta ystävä fainting willow

but we mean
you are new to me

& we ransack google / follow / request / heart

Robyn Maree Pickens

There were two runners-up: Kerrin Sharpe for her sequence, ‘Te hau o te atua/The breath of heaven, and Marie McGuigan for her hybrid sequence, “The Goose Wing”. 

Vana described Kerrin Sharpe’s sequence as “an incredible work which has continued to generate multiple layers and emotional landscapes with every read; the sculpting of its physical geography is stunning and palpable”.    

Vana described Marie McGuigan’s sequence as “an extremely rich work with breath-taking images that come together to move in all senses – into and out of form, the past, the air, language, and always deep love and leaving”.

Marie kindly gave me permission to post a poem from her winning sequence.

She is riding on a goose wing

a birdboned scapula that supports her hollow frame. Ease of
wind, rush of flight, she is empty and opened out

She has no wish
to land – to be part
of the sour land
the milk swill the
pile of piss soaked
sheets a mouse in
the knife drawer and
the fur flaked black
rim around the bath

No wish to fall
on a plate of
broken teeth
split lips and wide
shining Chevs

Stay high on the goose wing, she says and calls to her sisters. The goose will gather ganders. The sisters will emerge, shoulders clenched, skin prickled, from deep within the rock.

They will fly with her on goose wings too towards the crystal east.

Marie McGuigan

Robyn Maree Pickens is rarely seen IRL or URL as s/he is in the final stages of finishing he/r critical-creative PhD on reparative ecopoetics. That gasp in your teeth was written in early 2020 when Robyn was on a writer’s residency at Saari, in Finland.  Robyn’s website
Photos, interview and poems from Finland residency.

Marie McGuigan is a teacher, a traveller, a parent and poet. Her words are taking more space in her life now and she is beginning to value their power. A graduate of Hagley Writers Institute, she is honoured to share joint runner up of the Kathleen Gratton Sequence of Poems with her tutor Kerrin P Sharpe.

Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems page

Poetry Shelf review: Liz Breslin’s in bed with the feminists

in bed with the feminists, Liz Breslin, Dead Bird Books, 2021

I prefer barefoot
I prefer paper maps
I prefer flowers in the ground
but first, I prefer coffee

I prefer lunch
I prefer savoury conversation
I prefer to sit at the children’s table
I prefer time off without good behaviour

from ‘Possibilities’

Liz Brezlin’s debut poetry collection Alzheimer’s and a Spoon hooked me on so many levels. Her second collection, in bed with the feminists, is politically, poetically and personally active. I love that. The stellar opening poem, ‘the things she carries’ (you can read a version here), is like a mini performance of the book. The things a book carries. The things a poem carries. Everything from lightness to weight. Hidden and on view. The poems carry you along everyday tracks, with myriad opinions and musical riffs, routine and reverie, complaint and consternation. Love.

it’s not just the rain keeping me awake
its insistent game of getting in the cracks

it’s the drip drip down
of can’t change that

it’s the drip drip down
of can’t change that

 

from ‘out of bed with the feminists’

There is the steady beat of the word feminism, a wide-reaching fuel of a word that refuses to be pinned down to single options or compartments. The speaker is in bed with the feminists, going to museums, on a road trip, stepping off from power-struggle sites, marching. There are maternal poems, colours running in the wash, the negotiation of waste in supermarket aisles. There are sturdy threads leading to a matrix of other women writing: Hélène Cixous, Virginia Woolf, Anne Kennedy. The body, the maternal ink, the writing both inside and outside a room of one’s own, perceptions under question, rampant consumerism. I particularly love a poem that steps off from Anne Kennedy’s ‘I was a feminist in the eighties’, with a nod to Helen Reddy (you can read Anne’s poem and Liz’s appraisal of it here).

I was a feminist, trapped in a lion
gutted and ruined, I had a good cry

buttoned my coat way up to my chin
wanted the me back who started this game

thought I could escape through the jaws of the beast
starved myself pretty, slipped through his teeth

 

from Liz’s ‘Then a lion came prowling out of the jungle and ate the feminist all up’

 

 

Liz’s poetry collection offers a rewarding language experience: lines where words get fractured, dashed apart, piled up one against the other, as though we can’t take meaning and fluency for granted. There are honey currents and there are judder bars in the roads and sidetracks of reading. This is life. This is thinking. This is critiquing. This is poetry.

The book took me back to my doctoral thesis where I spent a number of years considering what drove the ink in the pen of Italian women writing. The ink pot was full and unexpected as it brimmed over with a thousand things, until in the end, I decided the woman writing was opening up and out, and her ink was open, and and was the key word. A hinge, a connection. That’s how I feel about this book. It is alive with hinges and connections. I love the effect of in bed with the feminists, so full of complicated invigorating necessary life.

at the funeral
with the feminists

 

there are times not to think about sex
Catholic school will teach you this
although if in the middle of life there is death

today is far more than tears and shibboleths
desire is pulsing persisting lips
there are times it is hard not to think about sex

demure, buttoned, ruffled, pressed
lashes to lashes, busting tits
middle to middle, in life we are dead

already unless we remember, lest we forget
sadness, egg sandwiches, sniffling kids
yes, there are times not to think about sex

think sobering snowdrops on unfrozen earth
the priest, droning, the week’s shopping list
how always, in the middle of life, there is death

we are warm for such a short time at best
maybe the true crime is to try to resist
there’s no time like all time to think about sex
what else is life but sex and death?

 

 

In bed with the feminists is Liz Breslin’s second poem collection, part of which won the 2020 Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems. Her first collection, Alzheimer’s and a spoon, was listed as one in the NZ Listener’s Top 100 Books of 2017. Liz was a virtual resident at the National Centre for Writing, UK, in February 2021, where she documented life through the peregrine webcam on Norwich Cathedral in a collection called Nothing to see here. In April 2020 she co-created The Possibilities Project with Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature.

Liz’s website
Deadbird Books page
Liz reads from in bed with the feminists
Landfall Review Online by Jordan Hamel

PS For someone one with minor visual impairment and reading glasses that broke at start of lockdown the font was a struggle, pale and small.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Erik Kennedy’s ‘Lives of the Poets’

Lives of the Poets

There is the possible world in which,
having no safety net
to fall into, I killed myself.

There is the world in which
acclaim came early
with a book called something like
Sex Owls of the Sun,
and the effects of success jaded me,
so I stopped pursuing
the art that I loved.

And there is also the world that was
a succession of cool, forgettable evenings
spent among canapés and loud friends,
in which we aged so slowly
that we hardly noticed it,
until it blurred our vision
like damp creeping into a camera.

Erik Kennedy

Erik Kennedy is the author of the poetry collections There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime (2018) and Another Beautiful Day Indoors (2022), both with Victoria University Press, and he has co-edited No Other Place to Stand, a book of climate change poetry from Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific forthcoming from Auckland University Press in 2022. His poems, stories, and criticism have been published in places like FENCEHobartMaudlin HousePoetryPoetry Ireland Review, the TLS, and Western Humanities Review. Originally from New Jersey, he lives in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

Poetry Shelf says Wow: Kirsten McDougall’s She’s a Killer

She’s a Killer, Kirsten McDougall, Victoria University Press, 2021

My late Sunday afternoon plug: Kirsten McDougall’s She’s a Killer is an astonishing book. Daring, wise, jagged, smooth. I finished it this afternoon and felt bereft. Fell asleep and then woke up discombobulated. That where am I? Who am I? What I am doing on this godforsaken planet kind of feeling. Every note in Kirsten’s novel (part eco-thriller but so much more) is pitch perfect. Every turn surprising. Every character sharp and faceted and memorable. Don’t go reading reviews that spend most of the time plot and outcome and ideas summarising. Go in fresh. Go in with senses open. It’s the perfect book to read in the time of Covid when we are experiencing all manner of societal splinters and spikes, challenges and catastrophes, goodness and hope. Elizabeth Knox said the book will make you laugh and weep. Yes. It also made me feel self-awkward and despairing, grief-struck. But more than anything, it made me feel utterly alive, and it’s a long time since a book has made me feel this. Maybe since Elizabeth’s equally tremendous The Absolute Book. Genius!

A kind friend gave me She’s a Killer (thank you!) so I’d like to return the favour and gift a copy to someone else. Nominate someone who would love a copy (yourself included).

Victoria University Press page

Kirsten McDougall’s previous novels are Tess (2017), longlisted for the Ockham NZ Book Awards, and shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award, and The Invisible Rider (2012). Her stories and nonfiction have appeared in Landfall, Sport and Tell You What: Great New Zealand Non-fiction 2016, and her story ‘Walking Day’ won the 2021 Sunday Star-Times Short Story Competition. She was the recipient of the 2013 Creative New Zealand Louis Johnson New Writer’s Bursary, and a Michael King Writers Centre residency in 2019. She lives in Wellington.