Tag Archives: Airini Beautrais

Poetry Shelf Lounge: A National Poetry Day gathering

Kia ora poets and poetry fans

Welcome to the Poetry Shelf gathering on National Poetry Day. One of my favourite Poetry Days was in Wellington when I jumped in a taxi and went from one event to the next: Vic Books, the National Library, Unity Books, the Book Hound, Miaow. Listening to others read, reading a snippet myself or mc-ing, it felt like the best thing in the world (well right up there with early morning beach walks, and cooking meals, writing secret things, reading books for hours on end).

These days it feels good to count blessings because there is so much toxic stuff out there. I feel utterly privileged to get sent loads of poetry books published in Aotearoa, and to celebrate some of them on the blog. So many times this year I have picked up a new book and felt goosebumps as I settled into the poem thickets and clearings. You know the feeling – when the music and the mystery and the freshness, the challenges and the sensualness and the connective currents – make you feel so darn good.

I invited a handful of poets to send me an audio or video to celebrate National Poetry Day – it was over to them what they did: read their own poems, read the poems of others, share a favourite book or poet, muse on poetry. Bernadette Hall drove 30 km to hook up with Doc Drumheller and Rangiora Library staff at the band rotunda to create her video. Amy Brown did two versions, one with interruptions and a wee poem from her son Robin. I posted both for you! Student E Wen Wong recorded a poem by Cilla McQueen.

I have been getting these files as Auckland is in level 3 – and everyone else level 2 – and what a treat to listen to them. Poetry can do so much! The past few months it has been of immense comfort, and the way so many of you say yes to my requests.

As some of you know I had a melt down yesterday as WordPress has put us onto a new system that I find hard to manage yet. My daughter helped me a bit, but I had to make a few compromises, and one poet will make a future appearance. Thank you for the boosts on social media.

Happy National Poetry Day everyone. Dip and delve into this glorious and utterly special poetry gathering.

IMG-8587.JPG

Amy Brown reads two poems of her own: ’16 August 2016′ and ‘Pacing Poem’ from Neon Daze Victoria University Press, 2019. She also reads Airini Beautrais’s ‘Flow’ from Victoria University Press, 2017. Amy sent me two versions, one with interruptions by her son Robin (he does a poem at the end) and one without Robin present. I couldn’t pick as I loved so both, so you get to choose which one to listen to. I think the Robin one is rather special.

Amy Brown reads two poems with the help of Robin

Amy Brown reads the two poems without help

David Eggleton reads ‘The Sound and the Fury’ filmed by Richard C. Wallis in Waikouaiti, North Otago, on Wednesday 19.08.20. Not his tokotoko but a walking stick. Still waiting for the tokotoko ceremony at Matahiwi marae.

Erik Kennedy reads ‘There Is a Man Dancing on the Rudder of an Enormous Cargo Ship’

Bernadette Hall reads two sonnets, one published in Aotearotica and the other in Landfall 239. Her guest Doc Drumheller reads his haiku in Landfall 239. Bernadette had travelled 30 kms to the band rotunda in Rangiora to film this reading with the help of Paula and Daniel from Rangiora Library.

You can listen to Bill read here

You can find texts of the original poem and Bill’s translation here

Emma Neale reads ‘Polemic’ from Tender Machines Otago University Press, 2015

Cart+&+Horse.JPG

You can listen to Marty read here

Marty Smith reads ‘Agnus Dei’ from Horse with Hat, Victoria University Press, 2013

Ruby Solly reads two poems, a very early one and a very new one

Chris Tse reads ‘(Green-Nature)’

Louise Wallace 1.JPG

Louise Wallace reads three poems on a women/mother/daughter theme: by herself, (from Bad Things Victoria University Press, 2017), and by Naomii Seah and Modi Deng (from the latest issue of Starling).

E Wen Wong reads ‘Vegetable Garden Poem iv’ by Cilla McQueen from Axis: Poems and drawings Otago University Press 2001

The Poets

Amy Brown is a New Zealand poet, novelist and teacher, living in Melbourne. In 2012 she completed a PhD in creative writing at the University of Melbourne. She is the author of The Propaganda Poster Girl (VUP, 2008), which was shortlisted at the 2009 New Zealand Book Awards, The Odour of Sanctity (VUP, 2013), a contemporary epic poem, and Neon Daze (VUP, 2019), a verse journal of the first four months of motherhood. She is also the author of Pony Tales, a series of children’s novels.

Doc Drumheller was born in South Carolina and has lived in NZ for more than half his life. He has worked in award-winning groups for theatre and music and has published 10 collections of poetry. His poems have been translated into more than 20 languages. He lives in Oxford, where he edits and publishes the literary journal, Catalyst.

David Eggleton is a Dunedin-based poet and writer. He is the current Aotearoa New Zealand Poet Laureate. His Selected Poems is forthcoming.

Bernadette Hall is Otago born and bred. Following a long career as a high school teacher in Dunedin and Christchurch, she has now lived 17 years in a renovated bach at Amberley Beach in the Hurunui, North Canterbury where she has built up a beautiful garden. Her 12th collection of poetry, Fancy Dancing (VUP), will be launched at the WORD festival in Christchurch in November. ‘It’s as close as I’ll ever get to writing an autobiography,’ she says, laughing. And as for the wilful sonnets that explode in the final pages of this book, she wonders where on earth they came from. ‘It was such fun writing them,’ she says, ‘as if I‘d kicked down the stable doors and taken to the hills.’ In 2015 she collaborated with Robyn Webster on Matakaea, Shag Point, an art /text installation exhibited at the Ashburton ArGallery. In the same year she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for outstanding achievement in Poetry. In 2017 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to New Zealand literature.

Erik Kennedy is the author of There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime (Victoria University Press, 2018), and he is co-editing a book of climate change poetry from Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific forthcoming from Auckland University Press in 2021. His poems and criticism have recently been published in places like FENCE, Landfall, Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, the TLS, and Western Humanities Review. Originally from New Jersey, he lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Bill Manhire Aside from publishing his own widely acclaimed poetry, Bill Manhire has edited a number of anthologies and written extensively on New Zealand literature. He was New Zealand’s first Poet Laureate. His most recent collections include Tell Me My Name and Things to Place in a Coffin.  Victoria University Press are publishing his new collection Wow November 2020.

Emma Neale is the author of six novels and six collections of poetry. Her most recent novel, Billy Bird (2016) was short-listed for the Acorn Prize at the Ockham NZ Book Awards and long-listed for the Dublin International Literary Award. Emma has received a number of literary fellowships, residencies and awards, the most recent of which is the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for 2020. Her first collection of short stories, Party Games, is due out late 2020/early 2021. Emma lives and works in Ōtepoti/Dunedin, and she is the current editor of Landfall, New Zealand’s longest-running literary journal.

Marty Smith’s Horse with hat won the 2014 Jesse Mackay award for Best First Book of Poetry. Some of the book looks at the cost to her father of not talking about the war. ‘Agnus Dei’ is a poem that crosses religion over into war, although it looks like farming. She grew up riding beside her father, hence the horse strand in Horse with hat, hence the book she is writing about the obsession of people who risk their lives to ride racehorses. She would risk her life right now to ride a racehorse, if she were allowed.

Ruby Solly is a Kai Tahu / Waitaha writer and musician from Aotearoa, New Zealand. She has had poetry and creative non-fiction published in Landfall, Sport, Poetry NZ, Starling, Mimicry, Minarets, E-Tangata, The Spinoff, and Pantograph Punch amongst others. Victoria University Press will be publishing her debut book of poetry ‘Tōku Pāpā’ in 2021. Ruby is also a scriptwriter and her film ‘Super Special’ which aims to share knowledge around traditional Māori views and practices around menstruation has been featured in film festivals within New Zealand and the US. As a musician, she has played with artists such as Yo-yo Ma as part of his Bach Project, Trinity Roots, Whirimako Black, Rikki Gooch, and Ariana Tikao. Ruby is a taonga puoro (traditional Māori musical instruments) player and therapist with a first-class master’s in music therapy where she conducted kaupapa Māori research into the use of taonga puoro in acute mental health. As a taonga puoro player and therapist, she is privileged to work around Aotearoa with people from all walks of life sharing the taonga of her ancestors. She will be beginning a PhD to further her research this year. Her first album, ‘Pōneke’, which also features poetry, is available from rubysolly.bandcamp.cpm

Chris Tse is the author of How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes and HE’S SO MASC, both published by Auckland University Press. He is a regular book reviewer on Radio New Zealand and contributor to Capital’s Re-Verse column. He is currently co-editing an anthology of queer writers from Aotearoa.

Louise Wallace is the author of three collections of poetry published by Victoria University Press, most recently Bad Things. She is the founder and editor of Starling, and is currently working on a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Otago on women, [domestic] paralysis and poetic form.

E Wen Wong is in her final year at Burnside High School, where she is Head Girl for 2020. Last year, her poem Boston Building Blockswon first prize in the Year 12 category of the Poetry New Zealand Student Yearbook Competition.

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Airini Beautrais’s ‘Last days’

 

 

Last days

 

In the last days of the supermarket

I walked through the fresh section,

wet-stained bins where there used to be fruit.

 

In the bakery my son said ‘Can we have meringues?’

They looked dubious but I said OK.

The coffee was long gone, the only tea was herbal.

 

I had better leaves at home.

‘Can we have Fanta?’ the kids asked,

‘Yeah ok,’ I replied, no use worrying about teeth.

 

There weren’t many shoppers, and no one re-stacked shelves.

In the frozen aisle all I could hear

was the low growl of the freezer motors

 

and my son saying ‘Ice cream!’

Whaddya know, they still had his favourite.

We could eat it before it melted.

 

No such luck in the wine and beer.

I knew I had a bit of whiskey in the cupboard.

‘Can I have a Turkish?’ my son said

 

in the confectionery section, ‘Yeah, you can

have a Turkish,’ I said, and his eyes lit up.

It was still so good to see that.

 

When the internet went down there was half an hour

of screaming, and I said maybe we’ll try again later,

although I knew that was bullshit. Then the phone

 

network dissolved and we lost touch

with the grandparents.

When the power blackout came I said let’s pretend

 

we’re camping and we got out the gas stove

and made a fort out of blankets.

I made them each a milo.

 

No bath so we went straight to bed

and read Harry Potter seven with a candle

up to where Harry sees the silver doe in the forest.

 

Every time they said one more chapter I said OK.

When the candle burnt out I said snuggle up.

One head on each of my shoulders.

 

‘Tomorrow can we go to the pond?’ asked the eldest.

‘Sure,’ I said. I’d told him fantastical things

in the past, like that there really are fairies

 

inside trees, that willow is a magic wood,

and that crystals can calm us.

The sky seemed thicker than I’d ever seen it,

 

and I didn’t like the noise, or lack of noise maybe,

that hovered behind the car alarms and occasional dog.

I knew the streets were lined with rubbish,

 

I heard the wind breathing in the last leaves.

‘Sleepytime,’ I said, and the boys slowly went quiet.

I missed the cats, the way their feet would press into my back

 

as I lay in bed. My arms were going dead

from the weight of my children’s minds.

I lay there and breathed.

 

Airini Beautrais

 

 

 

Airini Beautrais is a writer and teacher based in Whanganui. She writes poetry, short fiction, essays and criticism. Her work has appeared in a range of journals and anthologies in NZ and elsewhere. Her first book Secret Heart was named Best First Book of Poetry in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2007; it was followed by Western Line (2001), Dear Neil Roberts (2013) and Flow: Whanganui River Poems (2017).

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Airini Beautrais’s ‘Soldier’s buttons’

 

 

Soldier’s buttons

 

Saw a man             supine on a bench

thought maybe needs help             recognised your shoes

thought maybe acute grief             or just resting

 

best left alone. Walked in the other direction.

How have I been so long out of sunlight,

how have I not known down here

 

there are these round yellow flowers

pushed up out of the river mud.

Or maybe I knew them and forgot.

 

Picked some, and daises, buttercups,

willow twigs, grass flowers, a madwoman’s posy.

So many ways to be out of one’s tree.

 

Walked back through the park. All year we’ve sat adjacent

in private losses                   individual lack of sleep

which has manifested as a shared engagement

 

in mutual insults                and off colour jokes

Oi what are these flowers               That’s no way to greet me

Like a common prostitute              (Me? Or you?)

 

You tell me soldier’s buttons. Makes sense,

dropped at the water’s edge. I look them up.

Cotula: little cup. Bachelor’s buttons, yellow buttons,

 

water buttons, brass buttons, buttonweed.

Gondwanan flower that’s scattered the world.

Makes sense, strewn                           like indiscriminate histories

 

coins shining on shut eyelids, minutes, millennia.

Anyway, we should treat sex workers with respect.

But don’t lift bullshit when under it’s

 

more shit and under that more painful

than can be looked at. Little cup, can’t fill it.

Goes on flowering like a useless need.

 

Airini Beautrais

 

 

Airini Beautrais is a writer and teacher based in Whanganui. She writes poetry, short fiction, essays and criticism. Her work has appeared in a range of journals and anthologies in NZ and elsewhere. Her first book Secret Heart was named Best First Book of Poetry in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2007; it was followed by Western Line (2001), Dear Neil Roberts (2013) and Flow: Whanganui River Poems (2017).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Friday words: Airini Beautrais on poems she’s found helpful

 

A few words about some poems I’ve found helpful

 

In dark times it seems inappropriate to make any claims for the efficacy of poetry, or any art form, in effecting social and political change. It might also seem too soon or too difficult, or impossible, to express an immediate response to violent and traumatic events through words. But there are also innumerable instances of poetry being a vehicle or outlet at times of heightened emotion: funerals, commemorations, public events, tragedies. The artwork, or the poem, is not a solution to a problem, or a proposal for a better world, but a way of comprehending or addressing an issue. Some of the poems by New Zealand poets I come back to time and time again were written in the twentieth century in response to the nuclear threat. Like Dinah Hawken’s sequence ‘Writing Home:’

 

. . . The U.S has gone obsessively

ahead with another nuclear test. Crudely, profanely

 

they gave it a name. ‘Mighty Oak.’ Do they truly believe

they are doing something beautiful?

 

Or Hone Tuwhare’s ‘No Ordinary Sun’:

 

Tree let your arms fall:

raise them not sharply in supplication

to the bright enhaloed cloud.

 

Over the last week I have been thinking a lot about the poems and the music I have found comfort in during times of deep distress. I have struggled to make it through, and make sense of, the entirety of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. However, during a period of trauma in my own life I read and re-read Canto 116. These lines in particular stand out:

 

I have brought the great ball of crystal;

Who can lift it?

Can you enter the great acorn of light?

But the beauty is not the madness

Tho’ my errors and wrecks lie about me.

And I am not a demigod,

I cannot make it cohere.

If love be not in the house there is nothing.

 

Why turn to such a complicated and politically conflicted poet as Pound, and why the Cantos, which has been described as a ‘fascist epic’, when looking for threads of humanity? Because there in those lines is the recognition of failure to comprehend or to put pieces together: ‘I cannot make it cohere.’ And the inescapable reminder ‘If love be not in the house there is nothing.’

 

Or there is another great American long poem, Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, which constantly reaches out to the community, nation and world around the speaker. What a weird, and nowadays odd-sounding, piece of writing Song of Myself is. And yet it’s full of passages that are profoundly comforting, like:

 

I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-wash’d babe, and am not contain’d      between my hat and boots,

And peruse manifold objects, no two alike and every one good,

The earth good and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.

 

How can we think of the earth and stars as ‘good’ in a time like this? But how useful, not to be contained between one’s hat and boots: to invoke the communal spirit.

 

Or, perhaps conceived more in reference to the natural environment, but also relevant to human concerns, is Gerald Manley Hopkins’s ‘God’s Grandeur’, which even in bouts of committed atheism I’ve deeply loved:

 

And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –

 

In similar vein is Philip Larkin’s poem ‘The Trees.’ I’ve been thinking of this one in particular this last week, because I saw it painted on a wall last time I was in Christchurch, in October of last year. Tim Upperton and I had gone to Christchurch for a poetry reading Tim was involved in. We walked around town and found Tim’s old house, and looked at all the pop-up gardens that people have planted in the spaces left by the quakes. There’s something about community gardens I find always raises my spirits. The idea of people growing something together goes against all antisocial tendencies. There’s also something subversive about planting shared, not-for-profit vegetables in an area traditionally kept aside for commerce. On a corrugated iron wall adjoining a plot of raised beds and worm farms somebody had painted, in big splashy letters, in test-pot colours, Larkin’s poem. Larkin is another poet it seems odd to turn to for solace. A lot of his poems have the opposite effect. Perhaps the simple force of ‘The Trees’ comes in part from a contrast with the poems that surround it. If Larkin’s collected poems were all about trees coming into leaf and other such subjects it might sound naff. But a darkness creeps into the poem in the first stanza:

 

The trees are coming into leaf

Like something almost being said;

The recent buds relax and spread,

Their greenness is a kind of grief.

 

And it goes on, and ends, and the poem painter’s letters got bigger and bigger towards the last line:

 

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

 

This must have seemed pertinent to the person who painted it, making a communal space in the wake of the earthquakes. Like the other poems I’ve quoted, it doesn’t give us an answer. It gives the reader a place to rest. In discussions of poetry and politics, people often quote W.H. Auden’s line from ‘In Memory of W.B. Yeats’, ‘For poetry makes nothing happen’. As is often the way with popular quotes, the next bit gets sidelined, but it’s the good bit:

 

. . . it survives

In the valley of its making where executives

Would never want to tamper, flows on south

From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,

Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,

A way of happening, a mouth.

 

 

 

Airini Beautrais grew up in Auckland and Whanganui. She studied ecological science and creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington, and worked for several years as a science teacher. Her first book Secret Heart (VUP, 2006) was named Best First Book of Poetry in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2007; it was followed by Western Line (VUP, 2011), Dear Neil Roberts (VUP, 2014) and Flow: Whanganui River Poems (VUP, 2017). She lives in Whanganui.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Airini Beautrais is reading at the Serjeant Gallery Whanganui

Screen Shot 2018-10-18 at 9.26.22 AM.png

 

 

‘I’m reading at the Sarjeant this Sunday, and talking about connections between artworks in the collection and the poems in my book. This event is in support of the Sarjeant redevelopment. If you’re nearby, please come along. We are so lucky to have such an amazing gallery in Whanganui. Also, we have a rich history of visual art here, and a lot of people have made work about the river. I’m quite excited about being able to show people a glimpse of what’s in the collection. I got to visit the collection store in the process of putting this event together and it’s mindblowing. Thanks Jaki, Jennifer, Raewyne and the Sarjeant team for bringing this together.’  Airini Beautrais

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-18 at 9.26.13 AM.png

 

 

Writers on Mondays at Te Papa: 4 poetry highlights

vic-university-wellington-logo_1.png

 

Mon 16 Jul – Mon 1 Oct 2018, 12.15pm–1.15pm

Poetry is at Te Marae, Level 4, Te Papa

 

Cost Free event, every Monday lunchtime

 

 

Full programme here

Winter Eyes: Harry Ricketts

July 30, 12.15–1.15pm

Harry Ricketts – a poet, editor, biographer, critic, and academic, is joined by editor and Victoria University Professor of English Jane Stafford to discuss his latest work.

Harry has published over thirty books, including the internationally acclaimed The Unforgiving Minute: A Life of Rudyard Kipling (1999), How to Catch a Cricket Match (2006), and Strange Meetings: The Lives of the Poets of the Great War (2010).

His eleventh and most recent collection of poetry is Winter Eyes (2018). Winter Eyes has been described as ‘Poetry as comfort, poetry as confrontation’.

These are elegiac and bittersweet poems of friendship, of love’s stranglehold, of the streets and buildings where history played out.

 

 

 

Poetry Quartet: Therese Lloyd, Tayi Tibble, Chris Tse and Sam Duckor-Jones

August 6, 12.15–1.15pm

Come and hear the new wave of New Zealand poets in a reading and discussion chaired by poet and essayist Chris Price.

These poets write works of boldness with an acute eye on relationships in the modern world. Therese Lloyd’s The Facts, Poūkahangatus by Tayi Tibble (Te Whānau ā Apanui/Ngāti Porou), He’s So MASC by Chris Tse, and People from the Pit Stand Up by Sam Duckor-Jones are diverse and exciting books of poetry.

Each writer engages with language in innovative ways to explore and reimagine love, trust, intimacy, and the politics of being.

 

 

 

Pasture and Flock: Anna Jackson

August 13, 12.15–1.15pm

Pastoral yet gritty, intellectual and witty, sweet but with stings in their tails, the poems and sequences collected in the career-spanning new book Pasture and Flock are essential reading for both long-term and new admirers of Anna Jackson’s slanted approach to lyric poetry.

Jackson made her debut in AUP New Poets 1 before publishing six collections with Auckland University Press, most recently I, Clodia, and Other Portraits (2014). Her collection Thicket (2011) was shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Book Awards in 2012. As an academic, Jackson has had an equally extensive career authoring and editing works of literary criticism. She is joined by poet and publisher Helen Rickerby for an exploration of her career as poet, essayist and critic.

 

 

 

Best New Zealand Poems 2017

August 20, 12.15–1.15pm

Best New Zealand Poems is published annually by Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters.

Get ready for Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day on 24 August by coming along to hear seven of the best read work selected for Best New Zealand Poems.

Poets Airini Beautrais, Chris Tse, Marty Smith, Liz Breslin, Greg Kan, Makyla Curtis, and Hannah Mettner are introduced by Best New Zealand Poems 2017 editor Selina Tusitala Marsh.

Visit the Best New Zealand Poems website (link is external) to view the full selection.

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf audio spot: AWF guest Airini Beautrais reads ‘Listening’

Airini reading.jpg

 

In case you don’t get to hear Airini Beautrais read at the Auckland Writers Festival this weekend – you can hear her reading a new poem.

 

 

 

Listening

Your love’s a country I will never see

again, a horse that will not take the bit,

a dusty dress I am too fat to fit,

(read: passionate – you’d bust too easily),

a box I’ve locked and then misplaced the key,

a post card I will never receive, a hit

I simply missed, a dog that will not sit,

a prize catch on the hook that wriggles free.

But still I am a wide receiving dish,

listening, listening to signals from the sky

until my ears are thrashed. The cries of birds,

the groans of growing trees, movements of fish,

the rumbling earth, crowd out the sounds that I

am searching for: mute thunder of your words.

© Airini Beautrais

 

 

Airini Beautrais lives in Whanganui. Her most recent book of poetry is Flow: Whanganui River Poems (Victoria University Press, 2017). ‘Listening’ is from a work in progress, a narrative sonnet sequence.

 

You can catch Airini at the Auckland Writers Festival:

Friday May 18th 5.30 until 6.30   Homage to the River   Upper NZI Room

Friday May 18th 6 until 7.30   Call on O’Connell    90 minutes literary mayhem on O’Connell Street

Sunday May 20  10.30 – 11.30 The Art of the Poem with James Brown, Choman Hardi and Terese Svoboda.  Upper NZI Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poets on Tour: Airini Beautrais and Maria McMillan take to the road, July 2017

Airini Beautrais and Maria McMillan have written up their poetry road trip. I am so hoping this becomes a thing – two poet friends on tour with new books.    

 

 

Flow_cover__41926.1492985261.jpg  The_Ski_Flier__98472.1493171166.jpg

both Victoria University Press, 2017

We’ve known each other since the early 2000s, and both of us have been writing poetry for even longer than that. Some common threads in our work include feminism, social justice, environmentalism, and an interest in the possibilities of form. Over a cup of tea one afternoon in Maria’s lounge we agreed that as we both had books coming out this year, we should go on tour. Maria had been working hard in non-poetry related paid gigs, Airini was battling some difficult personal circumstances, and some time on the road reading with other women poets seemed like just what the doctor (of creative writing) ordered.

Somehow the tour got planned amidst the mad mess of everyday life. Sarah Laing kindly agreed to let us use her drawings for promotional purposes. Airini made a DIY poster with the help of scissors, glue, wallpaper and blu-tack. The word went out. The car got packed.

 

On Friday 14 July Airini held a book launch for Flow: Whanganui River Poems, at the Whanganui regional museum. Maria was the main support act on the night, reading from her recently-released The Ski Flier (Airini had also read at Maria’s launch a month earlier). Jenny Bornholdt read a poem by Joanna Margaret Paul. Other local booklovers read some favourite Whanganui-linked poems. VUP publicist and talented novelist Kirsten McDougall gave a fantastic launch speech.

IMG_3930.JPG

Accidental ankh, Dannevirke

In the morning it was coffee, porridge and a quick trip to Whanganui’s famous SaveMart ‘The Mill’. Then onto the back roads of the Manawatu with a battered road atlas and smartphones which were largely ignored. We made it over the Pohangina Saddle, and lunched on launch leftovers in Dannevirke, where we discovered a church with a possibly accidental (we think maybe not) ankh – a perfect opportunity for posing with our books. On to Napier where it appeared we had entered a time warp. Airini’s dirty old Honda suddenly looked new alongside the vintage cars sweeping around the waterfront, driven by flappers and dapper gentlemen. The thought occurred to us that it was Deco weekend.

 

IMG_3937.JPG

Beattie and Forbes Booksellers with Marty and Emily

Beattie and Forbes Booksellers is a must-visit independent bookstore near the sea in Napier. They opened up on a Saturday evening so we could read, with Marty Smith and Emily Dobson. Old friends and new turned up, along with members of local poetry groups. It seems that anywhere you go in New Zealand, there’ll be a poetry group of some sort, and a reading will draw at least some of them out of the woodwork. A highlight of the evening was Emily reading a poem owing a debt to her young daughter, called ‘Thea’s ‘gina song,’ which ended ‘It’s a ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-BAGINA!’ Both Marty and Emily are accomplished poets and readers and it was a privilege to read alongside them.

 

IMG_3941.JPG

Maria at Waiomu Cafe

 

Sunday 16th we set off from Marty’s picturesque country house, on our big drive through to Thames. The roads had opened, but were still lined with snow.  We made it to our reading at Waiomu Beach Café with five minutes to spare. The café is in a beautiful spot and draws in regulars driving around the Coromandel coastal road. It’s run by Maria’s cousin Julie, who was an amazing host. Airini also met some extended family members at the reading. More FM were there, and interviewed us. We read in the outdoor courtyard, adjusting our volume according to the passing traffic. Over the road, a cop issued speeding tickets. A kereru landed in a tree alongside. We posed for more book photos under the pohutukawa, took Julie’s dog for a walk, and enjoyed the scenery.

 

IMG_3968.JPG

The Big House, Parnell with Tulia and Emma

Thames seems like the kind of place one could stay in forever, but on Monday morning we carried on to Auckland.  We parked the car and went to hear a reading at the Auckland Art Gallery with Steve Toussaint, Simone Kaho, Elizabeth Morton, Johanna Emeney and Michael Morrissey. Everyone read well, but a disgruntled audience member booed, hissed and heckled during question time at the end. Chair Siobhan Harvey did an excellent job of shouting him down. We looked at each other and wondered if this was how poetry readings always went in Auckland. But our reading that evening at the Big House in Parnell, with Simone Kaho and Tulia Thompson, was a very warm and homely affair. Many of the house’s 25 occupants joined us by the fire to listen and talk, and housemate Emma also read some of her poems with us.

 

FullSizeRender.jpg

Airini at Poetry Live, Auckland

 

Tuesday night’s gig was Poetry Live, at the Thirsty Dog on K Road. Like the Big House, Poetry Live is an institution that’s been going for decades. We were lucky to be there for the farewell to regular MC Kiri Piahana-Wong. There was a great turnout and the venue and audience were friendly and welcoming. We read by turns in our guest poet slot, feeling like proper rockstars against the backdrop of a drum kit and stage lighting.

By Wednesday we were tired, and ready to head home. We stopped for tea and toasted sandwiches in the Pink Cadillac diner in Turangi. We parted ways at the Desert Road, after which Maria had some variable hitchhiking experiences, and Airini zig-zagged back and forth around the mountains navigating road closures. We’d had a great time and were looking forward to the second leg.

IMG_3994.JPG

Vic Books in Wellington with Pip and Freya

 

The next leg kicked off on Friday 28 July with a lunchtime reading at Vic Books. We were joined by superstars Pip Adam, reading from her brand spanking new The New Animals, and Freya Daly Sadgrove, whose poetry is performative and highly entertaining. Maria read her poem, inspired by Pip, ‘In which I attain unimaginable greatness,’ in which the narrator attains superhero powers, achieves amazing feats, and at the end declares ‘This is how I begin. This is my first day.’

 

IMG_4001.JPG

Palmerston North with Helen and Jo

Palmerston North City Library on Saturday evening was possibly the highlight of the tour. The library is a great place to read, hosting numerous literary events throughout the year. The big windows feature poems by local Leonel Alvarado, and pedestrians have a way of peering in through the letters, wondering what’s going on in there. We’d decided on a dress up theme of ‘80s trash with our fabulous co-readers Helen Lehndorf and Jo Aitchison, which got us some funny looks in New World, but definitely improved our performances. Helen’s hair was particularly spectacular. We had a small crowd but a great vibe. A kebab and whisky party kept us awake until the wee small hours.

 

IMG_4009.JPG

Maria at Hightide Cafe

Helen’s chickens laid us our breakfast, and we revived ourselves with bottomless pots of tea. Maria’s superpowers became evident when she managed to drive us safely to our last gig, Poets to the People at Hightide Café in Paraparaumu. The sun was setting over Kāpiti as we drank coffee and listened to the open mike. Again, this is an event that’s been running for years, and there’s a sense the regulars know and love one another. We went home to a beautiful roast cooked by Maria’s partner Joe. The tour was over, but the fight continues! We had some great conversations in the car over those two weeks, and some good catch-ups with family and friends along the way. There was a lot of fighting talk, a lot of laughter and also a few tears. A big part of the tour was affirming ourselves as poets, mothers and radical women, and by the end of it, our unimaginable greatness was hard to deny.

 

Airini Beautrais and Maria McMillan, September 2017

 

 

my conversation with Airini

my review of The Ski Flier

VUP page for Airini

VUP page for Maria