Tag Archives: Airini Beautrais

Poetry Shelf Spring Season: Sally Blundell picks poems

These are poems chosen in lockdown. Perhaps it shows. They are rooted in one place, with an eye on a flickering, shifting other. Ruth France, who died in 1968, finds herself between ‘headlands we did not know were headlands’ – France mastered the art of dislocation, her experience never quite fitted the map. Bernadette Hall’s twist in the tale, her superb tripwire, gives the land the upper hand, puts us in our place. Simone Kaho’s Blues holds the dream of music success just beyond the horizon of island time and an alcohol-fuelled bender. Rhian Gallagher is in that other place, of foreign sounds and welcome anonymity. Selina Tusitala Marsh’s perfunctory dismissal of ‘Jimmy’ Cook from his step on the podium of our history; Richard Langston’s gentle last rites for a roadkill seabird; the charged adolescent hopes in Airini Beautrais’ The Library – from our masked up, emptied spaces, these are Apirana Taylor’s reasons for writing: the richness of the land given to the poor.

Sally Blundell

The Poems

Near Hurunui

It is surprising, not far from home, to discover
An unknown, a shy bay where the water is very blue.


Where the road comes in through the bush
Casually, and arrives with no rush

But just comes there, beside the beach.
Where the headlands we did not know were headlands reach

Blue-shadowed into the the blue sea, stealing
Each from the other as an old remembered song


Of Greek islands lost, a long time ago.
There is a a feeling here of sleep, too

Many completed times we did not have part in,
And a strangeness as of other gods than our own

Walking among these hills. It is good in some ways
To come at evening back over the high ranges

Towards our own land, to leave such shadows behind us,
And feel tired, as though we have been a long way.

Ruth France

from No Traveller Returns: The selected poems of Ruth France, ed. Robert McLean, Cold Hub Press, 2020

The River Whau

for Linda

 

she tells me how her big desire
is to capture the River Whau

every day she sends me another photo

here is the river in gold dust
here is the river in ice        here is the river in mist
as it twists the sweet daily bread of language

who can explain the mystery of desire?

now, we’ve both been captured by the River Whau

Bernadette Hall

from The Ponies (Victoria University Press, 2007).

Poem note:  The Whau estuary is in Kelston. Auckland. The quotation is from Janet Frame’s poem, ‘I Write Surrounded by Poets’, from The Goose Bath (Random House, 2006)   

Blues

Andy Blues, man, soul man
let’s jam to the view
Do you want a cup of tea brother?
How did we get home last night?

Nah – good call good call.
Things have moved on man
it’s another day.
I’d give you that cat if it was mine
I swear sister.
Nah I’m Sāmoan, mainly Sāmoan.
My woman – she saved me
I like to think of her as an angel
I haven’t seen her all weekend

she doesn’t like to see me when I am on a bender.
Don’t you know who I am?
I’m Andy Blues
I’m gonna make it big in the UK
and come back and buy this street.
Yeah that’s what I said on Police Ten 7
haha cos they said You’ve got to turn it down sir
but here drink this sis

you gotta hydrate all the time
on the island.
That’s it
have a big long drink.

Simone Kaho

from Lucky Punch, Anahera Press, 2016

Abroad

I

Your own voice comes back at you
accentuating the rise
as if scaling a staircase of sound,
and everything here goes the other way round.
Everything you say is in question.

II

For the first time in your life
you feel free of your story,
walking street after street
in a city that is layered with history.
You are alone; you are in a zone of millions.
Anonymity shines down on you
from a sky so unclear
after years you will still not know
its true colour.

III

The islands shimmer against damp red brick,
flaunting their best appearances:
wild mountains & rivers & sea.
A tape in your head
plays the earliest memories. That girl,
you mother says, where she has gone?

Rhian Gallagher

from Shift, Auckland University Press, 2011

Breaking Up With Captain Cook on Our 250th Anniversary

Dear Jimmy,

It’s not you, it’s me.

Well,
maybe it is you.

We’ve both changed.

When I first met you
you were my change.

Well, your ride
the Endeavour
was anyway
on my 50-cent coin.

Your handsome face
was plastered everywhere.

On money
on stamps
on all my world maps.

You were so Christian
you were second to Jesus
and both of you
came to save us.

But I’ve changed.

We need to see other people
other perspectives
other world views.

We’ve grown apart.

I need space.

We’re just at different points
in our lives —

compass points

that is.

I need to find myself
and I can’t do that with you
hanging around all the time.

Posters, book covers, tea cozies
every year, every anniversary.

You’re a legend.

I don’t know the real you
(your wife did burn all your personal papers
but that’s beside the point.)

I don’t think you’ve ever really seen me.

You’re too wrapped up in discovery.

I’m sorry
but there just isn’t room
in my life
for the two of you right now:

you and your drama
your possessive colonising Empire.

We’re worlds apart.

I just don’t want to be in a thing right now.

Besides, my friends don’t like you.

And I can’t break up with my them so …

Selina Tusitala Marsh

from Ko Aotearoa Tātou: We Are New Zealand An Anthology, eds Michelle Elvy, Paula Morris & James Norcliffe, Otago University Press, 2020

Seabird

I have not forgotten that seabird,
the one I saw with its wings
stretched across the hard road.

One eye open,
one closed.
I wanted to walk past,

but the road is no place
for a burial –
I picked it up by the wings

took it to the
water & floated it
out to sea,

which was of no use
to the bird. It had ceased.
I like to think someone

was coaching me in the small,
never futile art,
of gentleness.

Richard Langston

from Five O’Clock Shadows, The Cuba Press, 2020

The library


The library is full of people looking for love. At the
sound of footsteps approaching, a boy turns around with
a meaningful glance, and casually slips a pencil behind his
ear. Girls pause on the landings, clutching armfuls of books
to their breasts. Sometimes, you feel sorry for these people.
You wish this wasn’t happening. All you want is a book,
and all the shelves are filled with eyes of longing.

Airini Beautrais

from Secret Heart, Victoria University Press, 2006

To write

to write of the mountains
to write of the rivers
to write of the lakes
to write of the seas
to write of the land
to write for the poor
that is the dream

Apirana Taylor

from Ko Aotearoa Tātou: We Are New Zealand An Anthology, eds Michelle Elvy, Paula Morris & James Norcliffe, Otago University Press, 2020

Sally Blundell is a freelance journalist and writer in Ōtautahi Christchurch. She holds a PhD from the University of Canterbury. She was books and culture editor for the NZ Listener and a judge (fiction) in the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She was awarded MPA journalist of the year in 2020 and was runner up as reviewer of the year in this year’s Voyager Media Awards.

Airini Beautrais lives in Whanganui and is the author of four poetry collections and a collection of short fiction. Her most recent poetry collection is Flow: Whanganui River Poems (VUP 2017). Bug Week and Other Stories recently won the Ockham NZ Book Fiction Award 2021.

Ruth France (1913–68) published two novels: The Race (1958), which won the New Zealand Literary Fund’s Award for Achievement, and Ice Cold River (1961); and two volumes of poetry: Unwilling Pilgrim (1955) and The Halting Place (1961), under the pseudonym Paul Henderson. Poems from a third collection, which remained in manuscript at the time of her death, are published as No Traveller Returns: The Selected poems of Ruth France (Cold Hub Press, 2020).

Rhian Gallagher’s first poetry collection Salt Water Creek (Enitharmon Press, 2003) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for First Collection. In 2008 she received the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award. Her second poetry collection Shift, (Auckland University Press 2011, Enitharmon Press, UK, 2012) won the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Award for Poetry. A collaborative work, Freda: Freda Du Faur, Southern Alps, 1909-1913, was produced with printer Sarah M. Smith and printmaker Lynn Taylor in 2016 (Otakou Press). Rhian was the Robert Burns Fellow in 2018. Her most recent poetry collection Far-Flung was published by Auckland University Press in 2020.

Bernadette Hall lives in the Hurunui, North Canterbury. She retired from high-school teaching in 2005 in order to embrace a writing life. Fancy Dancing is her eleventh collection of poetry (VUP, 2020). In 2015 she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for literary achievement in poetry and in 2017 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Richard Langston is a poet, television director, and writer. Five O’Clock Shadows is his sixth book of poems. His previous books are Things Lay in Pieces (2012), The Trouble Lamp (2009), The Newspaper Poems (2007), Henry, Come See the Blue (2005), and Boy (2003). He also writes about NZ music and posts interviews with musicians on the Phantom Billstickers website.

Simone Kaho is a digital strategist, author, performance poet and director. Her debut poetry collection Lucky Punch was published in 2016. She has a master’s degree in poetry from Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML). She’s the Director of the E-Tangata web series ‘Conversations’ and a journalist for Tagata Pasifika. In 2021 Simone was awarded the Emerging Pasifika Writer residency at the IIML.

Selina Tusitala Marsh (ONZM, FRSNZ) is the former New Zealand Poet Laureate and  has performed poetry for primary schoolers and presidents (Obama), queers and Queens (HRH Elizabeth II). She has published three critically acclaimed collections of poetry, Fast Talking PI (2009), Dark Sparring (2013), Tightrope (2017) and an award-winning graphic memoir, Mophead (Auckland University Press, 2019) followed by Mophead TU (2020), dubbed as ‘colonialism 101 for kids’.

Apirana Taylor, Ngati Porou, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngati Ruanui, Te Ati Awa, is a nationally and internationally published poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, actor, painter and musician. He has been Writer in Residence at Canterbury and Massey Universities. He frequently tours nationally and internationally visiting schools, tertiary institutions and prisons reading his poetry, storytelling and taking creative writing workshops. He has written six collections of poetry, a book of plays, three collections of short stories, and two novels. His work has been included in many national and international anthologies.

Poetry Shelf Spring Season

Tara Black picks poems
Victor Rodger picks poems
Peter Ireland picks poems
Emma Espiner picks poems
Claire Mabey picks poems

Poetry Shelf Theme Season: Eighteen poems about love

Ah. Love is my final theme. My seventeenth gathering. I chose love because love is the ink in my pen, it drives the pencil filling my notebooks. It’s the reason I keep two blogs running when, at times, it seems impossible. There is the love of reading and writing stretching back to childhood. Love poetry can embrace many subjects, moods, objects, experiences, relationships. So many poetry books in Aotearoa are steeped in love. In what is written and, just as importantly, in the infectious love poets feel for the power of words. For the possibility of the line, silence, music, physical detail. As readers, writers, publishers, reviewers, booksellers of poetry, we are connected through a shared and invigorating love of poetry. Ah.

To celebrate the end of my theme season I have ten copies of Wild Honey: Reading New Zealand Women’s Poetry to give away. I will sign one for you or for a friend. You can leave a comment on the blog, on FB or Twitter: Which theme resonated for you? What theme do you suggest if I should ever do this again? Or just email me if you have my address.

Grateful thanks and aroha to all the poets, publishers and readers who have supported my season of themes. I so loved doing this!

The poems

Poem

So far
it has worked
by imagining you
in all the places I would
like you to be

*

this is the one I love.
he is not here
but the air is still warm
from where he
might have been

*

we have spent hours
circling each other
with words-thinly
vowelled embraces

*

how to translate these
words into silences
or the silences
into words

*

when I cannot fix you
behind my eyes
I carry your absence
like stars
on the blue roof

Jenny Bornholdt

from Selected Poems, Victoria University Press, 2016

Catch

Two sitting at a table
two at a table sitting
two and two
a table in the grass
in the grass a table
and on the table
empty almost with a little
a little empty almost but
with a little water
there sits a jar for love
on the table a jar for love
not a fresh jar every day
fresh every day
nothing in the jar that lasts
always fresh they are sitting
sitting at the table
looking they are looking
at the jar at the table
at each other they are
sitting looking sitting
at the table at the jar
looking looking sitting
now is nearly the day
the day is nearly now now
go to sleep go to love
go to jar go to look
look looking look
sit sitting catch that catch
two sitting at a table
two at table sitting
two and two and two
a table in the grass

Murray Edmond

from Fool Moon, Auckland University Press, 2004

Because of you

(for Darae)

My Son,

in you I see the shape of the heart
all poets try to explain

you, the greatest poem
I could never pen

how blessed I am
to mother a son
to exercise hope and love
when everything else is absent

Son,
your are a gift to men
because of you
I pray for men
still love men
hold hope for me,
for you.


Grace Iwashita-Taylor

from Full Broken Bloom, Ala Press, 2017

The wind has shaken everything out of the quince tree.
Behold the bony gullets of fledglings
as yellow as the towers of rock that arise in Wyoming.
‘Stop blocking the gangway,’ the old woman
used to say, cutting away long roils
of yellow clay with her spade, hell bent on re-configuring
a brand new version of genetically modified
melancholy. ‘Never forget how the old ones
arrived from Dubh Linn, the Place of the Dark Pool,
formed from the union of the River Liffey
and the River Poddle. Never forget
that we are arisen from a line of proud people.’
And here I am, holding onto my end of the string
and I know, my love, that you are holding onto the other.     

Bernadette Hall

Aroha Mai

Aroha mai
I was trying to get to you
but the wind kept changing direction

Aroha atu
she hates it when institutions use Te Reo in their signatures
she hates it when my wet hair drips all over the bedsheets

Aroha mai
I couldn’t see you this time
I was down a rabbit hole
along the coast beside the point

Aroha atu
love given love received
there isn’t enough room in this house to house our love
the brick square flat beneath a rectangle sky

Aroha mai
your baby finally came
the angels found your address submerged in yesterday’s current
and she’s clapping in every photo

Aroha atu
my feet don’t touch the ground these days
take the stairs to stay fit
I keep my car full of gas
it is easy to recycle the past 

Aroha mai
my ghost is in town
and I don’t know if I should email her back

Aroha atu
already the skeleton wings of this year are casting long shadows
we don’t know what’s for dinner but next door’s
Tui keeps singing all the buried bones to life

and you’re opening every can of beans in the cupboard
to feed the tired warrior in my arms 

Courtney Sina Meredith

from Burnt Kisses on the Actual Wind, Beatnik Publishing, 2021

Helping my father remember

My father
is in the business
of transmissions.
A radio technician,
the basic premise being
that a message is sent out,
then received. Except something’s
gone wrong with the wiring,
and he didn’t teach me
how to fix it. I see him, standing
at the kitchen bench,
his hand hovering
over an orange and paring knife;
trying to think
what he had planned.

*

There is evidence that sound
helps restore memory:
the sound
of a cricket ball colliding
with tin fence; lemonade
meeting beer
in a shandy;
sticks smouldering
in the air, when pulled
from a camp fire.
The doctor says
depression, my sister says
stress, my father says
stop being
so bloody dramatic.

*

They say
I am the most like you,
and that we
are like your mother.
I am following you through
tall grasses, as high
as my head. You’re in
your angling gear.
It’s summer, I can hear
the cicadas.
There’s a wind up,
but its warm.
We’re heading
to the river.
You find Nana,
and I’ll find you.
We won’t be lost
if we’re together.

Louise Wallace

from Bad Things, Victoria University Press, 2017

The love poem

I haven’t read a single
new book since I’ve been
with you. I’ve been so busy
peering into your eyes
where I can see dark
passages & feinting
canaries & gold &
mine
mine
mine
mine

Plus I’ve been preoccupied
with the joy of sex
the science of living
the interpretation of dreams
& my undiscovered self.

So today I read
a love poem.

But when I looked
at it, it just said
your name.

It was very repetitive.
It just kept skipping
over itself. Skipping
to the important bits.
Slipping into something
more comfortable.

I looked away for a second
& when I looked back the
love poem had filled the
whole room. It was thrusting
against the ceiling & had
burst through the open window
pushing the vase of sunflowers
right out.

I tried to call to you to come
& look but the love poem
was so big that it caught
in my throat. There were fainting
canaries everywhere like the
fallen petals of sunflowers
gasping
yours
yours
yours
yours

Hannah Mettner

from Fully Clothed and So Forgetful, Victoria University Press, 2017

Strummer Summer

All that summer we kissed outside 
because we had nowhere inside 
to be alone. We had matching Clash t-shirts
and black outlooks. After my shifts 
at Seafood Sam’s I would pick you up 
in my Dad’s ute and we’d drive to the river

so I could swim off the chip grease. I’d 
light a fire while you showed me the riffs
you’d learned that day on your unplugged
Fender. /I’ve been beat up, I’ve been thrown out,/
/But I’m not down, No I’m not down./
 I requested 
Blondie but you said it was chick-music. 

Poking the fire with a stick, the tinny twang 
of your dead strings. We thought we had it 
pretty bad. Your Dad didn’t like me because
I was “the wrong flavour”. I craved city life. 
Packed my army bag and left home, but not before 
I withdrew half my chip money and bought you an amp.

Helen Lehndorf

from The Comforter, Seraph Press, 2011

The library


The library is full of people looking for love. At the
sound of footsteps approaching, a boy turns around with
a meaningful glance, and casually slips a pencil behind his
ear. Girls pause on the landings, clutching armfuls of books
to their breasts. Sometimes, you feel sorry for these people.
You wish this wasn’t happening. All you want is a book,
and all the shelves are filled with eyes of longing.

Airini Beautrais

from Secret Heart, Victoria University Press, 2006

Always on Waking

Always, on waking, I look out into treetops:
I lie beside you in the shimmering room
Where, whether summer morning, shell of dawn
Or dazed moonlight patterns leaves on walls
I wake to wide sky and the movement of treetops.

As the leaves flicker (thin scimitars of opaque
Dull green the eucalyptus bundles over her bark strips)
They become lucent; leaves lined with sunlight
With moonlight are no longer drab
But seem scimitars shining, are not now opaque.


While you are there I am nested among leaves;
As sparrows come each morning for breadcrumbs
So I look for your still face beside me;
Without your calm in the face of what wild storm
I am no longer nested, but desolate among these leaves.

Ruth France

from No Traveller Returns: The poems of Ruth France, Cold Hub Press, 2020

Honey

It was manuka honey, the best kind,
in a big, white plastic bucket, given to you
by someone with bees, because you’d been helpful,
so much honey, it looked like it might last a lifetime
and you being you, and maybe why I love you,
you spooned it out into carefully washed jars
and gave it to your uncle, your mother, your brothers,
our friend with the little boy, your mother’s neighbour
who had the birthday, so much honey, and after
all that you gave away, there was still so much left for us.

Janis Freegard

from Meowing Part 1 (the Meow Gurrrls zine).

Is It Hard to Follow Your Heart When You Have Three?

(on the story of the giant octopus from Aelian’s De Natura Animalium)

is it hard to follow your heart when you have three?

one for circulation
two for breathing

i am the stone jar of pickled fish
you are the giant octopus

i wait in the dark for you
you crawl up the sewer for me

we cast our votes
two are for breathing

Claudia Jardine

from The Starling 9

Toikupu aroha 1

I waited all night for you to come home
to plant kihikihi into your cupped palms

now as you sleep I glide my fingers
memorising the tracks that led me here

to this chest – arms – manawa
with such vastness and proximity

I lean down taking in the entirety
of your pulse and there my hā quickens

above lifelines grooved
with spacious and honest certainty.

Iona Winter

from Gaps in the Light, Ad Hoc Fiction, 2021

For Baukis

There are four extant poems written by the ancient Greek poet Erinna. Three of these concern the death of her childhood friend, Baukis.

you lost her, didn’t you?
the one that made it worthwhile
to be underneath the sun and breathing

you remembered her, didn’t you?
the days you played 
chasing the tortoise topsy turvy,
falling from all the white horses

you missed her, didn’t you?
when marriage came like a thief
and snatched her away 
the ribbon of your world

you mourned her, didn’t you?
when the ribbon was torn
the bright eyes empty,
the breath stilled

you cried for her, didn’t you?
raw, with it heaving out 
the wet thick language 
of snot and tears

you loved her, didn’t you?
even more than a friend, 
the closest companion 
the only one

you wrote for her, didn’t you?
wove her memory through hexameters 
to stave off oblivion 

and, now, 
for her
we read.

Hebe Kearney

When the Person You Love Leaves You in the Night


When the person you love leaves you in the night, it is only natural to get out of bed and follow them. It is also only natural for your pyjamas to be all crumpled and your hair sticking up at the back. It is only natural to feel confused, and alone.

Nine times out of ten, a light will be on and you will walk into the living room, squinting. The person you love will probably be making human body parts out of plasticine, or playing video games. They will look up and say ‘Hello’ and smile at you like you’re some kind of lost baby animal. You will feel a little bit found.

If there is no light on in the house, it is important that you check the garden. If there is no garden, check the balcony. The person you love will be out there, staring at the moon and not crying. You are the one who cries. Except that one time… and the other. Don’t ask them if they’re okay because they will just say ‘Yeah’. Besides, you are the one who was left alone in the night.

Just look at them in the moonlight, and let them look at you. Stay very still. Then take their hand in slow motion and walk to the kitchen. The person you love will follow you, and so will the moon. Pour some milk into a pan and simmer gently. You will see a quivering white circle. The moon will be in there somewhere. Slice cheese onto bread and turn on the grill.

When you have two pieces of cheese-on-toast, put them on a plate. Pour half the milk into the mug with Peter Rabbit on it and half into the souvenir mug from Sweden. There will be sugar on the floor and it will stick to your feet. Swing yourself up onto the kitchen bench. You and the person you love will sit with your feet dangling side by side. The sugar will fall without a sound. You will drink your milk. The person you love will eat their grilled cheese, with sips of milk in-between. Peter Rabbit will eat his radishes.

Congratulate yourselves for drinking calcium. Sit at opposite ends of the couch with your legs tossed over their legs. Talk until you wake up the birds.

It is important that at some point during the night the person you love reminds you that you are the person they love. It is also important that they thank you for the grilled cheese. If they don’t, give them a pen and a piece of cardboard. Drop them on the side of the road. Tell them, ‘You can hitchhike from here.’

Joy Holley

from Starling 4

Love Poem with Seagull

I wish I’d seen it from your side of the table
when the horrid gull attacked my fish and chips,
the springy baton of haddock in my hand
a signal for the post-saurian psycho
to swoop at my talon-less fingers as they moved toward my mouth
in their classically dithering mammalian way,
because if I’d had the privilege to see
the stress-warped, flexuous face behind
my bat-like ultrasonic shrieks of shock
as I fought off the bird unsuccessfully
then I’d have some idea of what it means
for you to love me, the sort of person who manages
to always look like this or feel like this
regardless of how much easier being normal is.

Erik Kennedy

from There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime, Victoria University Press, 2018

Found Again

our love is a tracking device
more sure than any global
positioning system

just carve us into wooden tablets
then imprint us on opposite corners
of a mighty length of siapo
and watch tusili’i spring forth

making bridges to connect us
over rock-bound starfish
scampering centipedes and
the footprints of bemused birds

we have many stories of
losing and finding each orther

of getting lost
and losing others

but today all is well

I lie beneath the old mango tree
smothered with coconut oil
embellished with wild flowers
and droplets of your sweat

your aging shoulders
still fling back proud

and I still arch towards you
like a young sweetheart

you have whispered in my hair

found again

and we both know
this is our final harbour

Serie Barford

from Tapa Talk, Huia Press, 2007

Everything

This morning when I looked out my window
they were the first thing I noticed.
I saw them flocking outside my house.
I like to look at them from my window.
I get the sun there. I’ll go out and stroke them.
I wonder what they think of me.
Some people don’t have anything much
but if you put a hen on their knee they start looking.
I’m not fast on my feet. I have bother with my eyes.
I’ve got friends that can’t get out.
Everything goes downhill.
I would go back to when I was younger.
I love the first things.
When you’re young you’ve only a future.
I’ve made no plans for dying. I haven’t paid for anything.
I’d be terrified if they made a mistake.
I do love everything about living though.
I love being able to see.
I like to look out my windows and see the leaves
like a blanket on the ground. I love the autumn.
I love the hens in the autumn.
They’re beautiful.
I couldn’t imagine my life without them.
They’re everything to me.

Ashleigh Young

from How I get Ready, Victoria University Press, 2019

The poets

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.  She collaborated with filmmaker Anna Marbrook to produce a short film, Te Ara Kanohi, for Going West 2021. Her latest poetry collection, Sleeping With Stones, will be launched during Matariki 2021.

Airini Beautrais lives in Whanganui and is the author of four poetry collections and a collection of short fiction. Her most recent poetry collection is Flow: Whanganui River Poems (VUP 2017). Bug Week and Other Stories recently won the Ockham NZ Book Fiction Award 2021.

Jenny Bornholdt is the author of many celebrated collections of poems, including The Rocky Shore (Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry, 2009) and Selected Poems (2016), and editor of several notable anthologies, including Short Poems of New Zealand (2018). In 2005 she became the fifth Te Mata Estate Poet Laureate, during which time she wrote Mrs Winter’s Jump (2007). In 2010 she was the Creative New Zealand Victoria University Writer in Residence. In 2013 she was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature. In 2016 she edited the online anthology Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems. Jenny’s most recent collection is Lost and Somewhere Else (2019). 

Murray Edmond, b. Kirikiriroa 1949, lives in Glen Eden. 14 books of poetry (Shaggy Magpie Songs, 2015, and Back Before You Know, 2019 most recent); book of novellas (Strait Men and Other Tales, 2015); Then It Was Now Again: Selected Critical Writing (2014); editor, Ka Mate Ka Ora (http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/kmko/);  dramaturge for Indian Ink Theatre. Forthcoming: Time to Make a Song and Dance: Cultural Revolt in Auckland in the 1960s, from Atuanui Press in May, 2021.

Ruth France (1913–68) published two novels: The Race (1958), which won the New Zealand Literary Fund’s Award for Achievement, and Ice Cold River (1961); and two volumes of poetry: Unwilling Pilgrim (1955) and The Halting Place (1961), under the pseudonym Paul Henderson. Poems from a third collection, which remained in manuscript at the time of her death, are published as No Traveller Returns: The Selected poems of Ruth France (Cold Hub Press, 2020).

Janis Freegard is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Reading the Signs (The Cuba Press), and a novel, The Year of Falling. She lives in Wellington. website 

Bernadette Hall lives in the Hurunui, North Canterbury. She retired from high-school teaching in 2005 in order to embrace a writing life. Fancy Dancing is her eleventh collection of poetry (VUP, 2020). In 2015 she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for literary achievement in poetry and in 2017 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Joy Holley lives in Wellington and has recently completed her Masters in fiction at the International Institute of Modern Letters. Her writing has been published in Starling, Sport, Stasis and other journals.

Claudia Jardine (she/her) is a poet and musician based in Ōtautahi/Christchurch. In 2020 she published her first chapbook, The Temple of Your Girl, with Auckland University Press in AUP New Poets 7 alongside Rhys Feeney and Ria Masae. For the winter of 2021 Jardine will be one of the Arts Four Creative Residents in The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora, where she will be working on a collection of poems.

Hebe Kearney is a queer poet who lives in Tāmaki Makaurau. Their work has appeared in The Three Lamps, Starling, Oscen, Forest and Bird, a fine line, and Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021.

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 later in 2021. His second book of poems is due out 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 Christchurch, New Zealand.

Helen Lehndorf’s book, The Comforter, made the New Zealand Listener’s ‘Best 100 Books of 2012′ list. Her second book, Write to the Centre, is a nonfiction book about the practice of keeping a journal. She writes poetry and non-fiction, and has been published in Sport, Landfall, JAAM, and many other publications and anthologies. Recently, she co-created an performance piece The 4410 to the 4412 for the Papaoiea Festival of the Arts with fellow Manawatū writers Maroly Krasner and Charlie Pearson. A conversation between the artists and Pip Adam can be heard on the Better Off Read podcast here

Courtney Sina Meredith is a distinguished poet, playwright, fiction writer, performer, children’s author and essayist, with her works being translated and published around the world. A leading figure in the New Zealand arts sector, Courtney is the Director of Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust, an organisation committed to championing Oceanic arts and artists. Courtney’s award-winning works include her play Rushing Dolls, poetry Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick, short stories Tail of the Taniwha and children’s book The Adventures of Tupaia. Burst Kisses On The Actual Wind is Courtney’s new collection of poetry, the book was released just this month. 

Hannah Mettner (she/her) is a Wellington writer who still calls Tairāwhiti home. Her first collection of poetry, Fully Clothed and So Forgetful, was published by Victoria University Press in 2017, and won the Jessie Mackay Award for best first book of poetry at the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She is one of the founding editors of the online journal Sweet Mammalian, with Sugar Magnolia Wilson and Morgan Bach.

Grace Iwashita-Taylor, breathing bloodlines of Samoa, England and Japan. An artist of upu/words led her to the world of performing arts. Dedicated to carving, elevating and holding spaces for storytellers of Te Moana nui a Kiwa. Recipient of the CNZ Emerging Pacific Artist 2014 and the Auckland Mayoral Writers Grant 2016. Highlights include holding the visiting international writer in residence at the University of Hawaii 2018, Co-Founder of the first youth poetry slam in Aoteroa, Rising Voices (2011 – 2016) and the South Auckland Poets Collective and published collections Afakasi Speaks (2013) & Full Broken Bloom (2017) with ala press. Writer of MY OWN DARLING commissioned by Auckland Theatre Company (2015, 2017, 2019) and Curator of UPU (Auckland Arts Festival 2020 & Kia Mau Festival 2021). Currently working on next body of work WATER MEMORIES.

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.

Iona Winter (Waitaha/Kāi Tahu) lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin. Her hybrid work is widely published and anthologised in literary journals internationally. Iona creates work to be performed, relishing cross-modality collaboration, and holds a Master of Creative Writing. She has authored three collections, Gaps in the Light (2021), Te Hau Kāika (2019), and then the wind came (2018). Skilled at giving voice to difficult topics, she often draws on her deep connection to land, place and whenua.

Ashleigh Young is the author of Magnificent Moon, Can You Tolerate This?, and How I Get Ready (Victoria University Press). She works as an editor at VUP.

Ten poems about clouds

Twelve poems about ice

Ten poems about dreaming

Eleven poems about the moon

Twelve poems about knitting

Ten poems about water

Twelve poems about faraway

Fourteen poems about walking

Twelve poems about food

Thirteen poems about home

Ten poems about edge

Eleven poems about breakfast

Twelve poems about kindness

Thirteen poems about light

Thirteen poems about song

Sixteen poems of the land

Poetry Shelf Theme Season: Sixteen poems of land

the land. the contested land, the stolen land, the cherished land. the land with its regenerating bush. with a view out to the tail end of the Waitākere ranges. the feel the look the idea. the beauty. the unwavering beauty that holds you as you totter. as you stand. the kūmura to be harvested. the lettuces and herbs. the land as essential pulse in your veins. the sublime land. the broken land. the wounded land. the beloved land. we cycle the length and walk the breadth. we climb the heights and we join hands to protect. we will never stop singing the land. in poetry

The poems

Our tūpuna remain

Nothing like a lone-standing nīkau
in the middle of some paddock
owned by some Pākehā
to make you feel mamae

Surrounded by maunga
who serve to remind you
once that whole paddock
had that same sense of tapu

It’s a bit like that urupā
in the middle of that reserve
which used to be a papakāinga
till some Pākehā had it burned

So

consider yourselves warned:

It’ll take more than

a change of name
a chopping down of trees
a burning down of whare

to make us forget

our tūpuna remain

Jacq Carter

from Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English, Auckland University Press, 2014

Hone Said

chris abani
said
hone said
the only land I am
is that between my toes
but anne read
that hone said
the only land I have
is that between my toes
then michele said
selwyn said
hone had said

which is why
chris had written

it’s the difference between
being
and owning
surging
and standing
living
and landing
she said
she’d read
he said
have
not am

I keep
the am
anyway

then ken said
ron mason said
it first

Selina Tusitala Marsh

from Fast Talkin PI, Auckland University Press, 2009

Parihaka

we never knew
about Parihaka
it was never
taught anywhere
except maybe
around the fires
of Parihaka
itself at night
when stories
are told
of the soldiers
who came
with guns
to haul us up
by the roots
like trees
from our land
though the prophets
called peace peace
it was never
taught at school
it was all hushed up
how we listened
to the prophets
Tohu, Te Whiti
who called peace ‘Rire rire
Paimarire’
but the only
peace the soldiers
knew
spoke through
the barrels
of their guns
threatening
our women children
it was never
taught or spoken
how we
were shackled
led away to the caves
and imprisoned
for ploughing our land

Apirana Taylor

from A Canoe in Midstream: Poems new and old, Canterbury University Press, 2009 (2019)

Kauarapaoa

The road climbs up abruptly, here
beneath the cliff the water dark blue glass.
A peacock dives into the grass –
oh where oh where oh where oh where oh where?
Wet tang of sheep shit, mass of trees
releasing plant-scents in the angled sun,
those smells of summers been and gone,
bruised sap, ripe humus, rising to the nose.
The road bends with the deep-cut stream,
leaves fuzz the chasm to its brim,
and the stream slinks down towards the river
like a lover you’ll never get over.


All over, loose exotic scrub:
gum, willow, wattle, elder, poplar, broom
stitching the hillside like a seam
across the rends of
slip-soil dull and drab.
A man in white bends to his hives
below a face of mānuka sprayed dead.
Sheep crawl amongst the sticks to feed
on threads of green, wherever greenness lives.
Across the road, like greying bones
lie slash-piles of cut-over pines.
And the naked peaks
roll on forever
like a lover you’ll never get over.

A falcon calls above the rise:
Kek kek kek kek kek kek kek kek kek kek.
Far over farmland lies a break
of ocean, and the pale of western skies.
The white volcano points out north,
seeming steadfast, despite its restless sleep.
The road skirts, in a gravel loop
a drop so steep it catches in the breath.
The roadside bluffs divulge their shells,
reveal the ocean held these hills.
And water is as much a mover
as soil in softness is a giver.
And what can the land do but take cover?
Like a lover you’ll never get over.

Airini Berautrais

from Flow: Whanganui River Poems, Victoria University Press, 2017

Wild

Measure my wild. Down to my last leaf,
my furled, my desiccated. This deciduousness,
this bloom. Calculate my xylem levels.
My spore count, fungal, scarlet
in a bluebell glade. Whoosh,
where the foliage closes on a great cat.
Test me: how many tigers in my jungle,
how many lions at roam? Map my rivers,
deltas, estuaries. Mollusc, whelk, worm.
Monitor my silt. Do I have spoonbills, 
high-stepping and watchful over the darting fish?
Rainfall on pines. Dappled sunlight
in my dells. Under moss, the fallen log, under
the log the hibernating hedgehog. Late my dates,
or soon? Return of the albatross, godwits
gathering. What clouds me, shifts,
but: indigo thunder-stack, pink wisp. Count the mice.
What will survive me, O my cockroaches, O my lice?
Scaffold me with metal, cage me in glass, tube me,
needle me, fill me, flush me. Saline solution:
the ocean. Oxygen therapy: the sky.
Mineral deficiency: socks off. Soil. Dark
rot, eye-less wriggle, while the roots seek, seek.
Un-diagnosable, that ticklish insect.
Mountain peak speak only snow, and thus
I am diminished; thus I rest in my pulse. Sweet
heart. Monitor my yearn, and treat it with trees.
Un-pane me. Wilden my outlook.
Membrane animal, skin mammal under the osmosis moon.
Allow my tides. All this to say, in love we nest, and on Earth.

Sue Wootton

from The Yield, University of Otago Press, 2017

Tidelines

6am—

The sun rising behind me
The sea roaring at my feet
On the lip of the precipice

Everyone hunched in quiet
boxes, houses scattered to
the hills, precariously leaning
towards the sea, here we are
surrounded, ready to surrender
the day to the surf, dissolving
other imperatives into the
dust, into the black iron-laced
sand, tracing the time
against the rising breeze,
the tide ticking in, the river
in flood, swollen by rain

And still time passes
it washes away my footprints
Every day I make new marks
imprints on the beach
lines on the page

I walk and I string words in long lines in my head
I write and I skip words across the page like stones

I let them sink
I watch them slowly spiral down
through my mind
Down and down, until they reach the ocean
Deeper, into the abyss of collective dreaming

Until they are no longer my words
Just a passing thought you were having

Early one morning,
in your bed,
in your house,
in Piha,
waiting for the tide to come in. 

Kiri Piahana-Wong

from Night Swimming, Anahera Press, 2013

My Carbon Gaze

1.

Because there were hills to the east and hills to the west, there was a good chance that when you looked at something it would be a hill. Perhaps it would be a hill with a family member or a friend in the foreground. A family member or a friend might be called a loved one for short.

2.

With the hills and the loved ones far apart, your eyes would end up making so many trips back and forth that their orbit solidified into a sort of object. It was a wire model of an atom like they had in the museum. Or perhaps a model of the solar system. In any case, a round thing involving energy and with the potential to explode, but that would be in exceptional circumstances, probably never.

3.

I still have it in my natural history section, although sometimes I wish I didn’t. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have a natural history section. I wish I hadn’t looked up at those hills so often – willy-nilly – between 1960 and 1985, and looked back down at the loved ones, because now I am left with this wire model and it will never go away. In fact it will, because it is organic, but only after a very long time. Perhaps even after I am dead.

4.

Most summers there was a fire on one of the hills, the east or the west, the sun-coming-up hill or the sun-going-down hill. It would seem like the hill was burning, but it was only the gorse. Not so serious. But serious enough to prompt a teacher to set a Poem for homework.

5.

On the way home you could hear the black crackling and it seemed to have a personality, and not a very nice one.

6.

My mother wrote the poem quickly as she peeled the potatoes – in fact she only said it. I wrote it in my McCahon handwriting but much more neatly. Of English descent it crowds the hills, / Originally meant for hedges and sills. / A prickly maze, a funeral pyre, / a golden haze, a monstrous fire. 

7.

There was only ever one hill on fire at a time. The problem would be if both hills caught fire at the same time, and the fires might burn down into the valley, and the trees would burn, and the lawns, and all our houses and their contents. And our Prefaces and Introductions. Not to mention the people. But we would run down to the beach. That’s what we would do.

8.

There was an article in the paper about the possibility of a tidal wave sweeping up the bay and taking everything with it, and if you hadn’t gone in the earthquake that preceded the tidal wave, you would now be finished off altogether. This was the opposite of the fire. You would be washed the other way, all the way into town. How extreme the world was. Why not something in the middle?

9.

(Why not fear something in the middle? Earth, wind, a few other things.)

10.

And the hills were mostly benign anyway. They were just there, like your name. You might even get sick of them, of looking up at them and back again. Why don’t people get sick of their name? Maybe they do. Maybe they say, If I hear that name one more time I’ll scream.

11.

Sometimes you might look up at the hills and think, I am looking at the hills, and you might have some sort of reaction, e.g., They are dark against the white sky and are very beautiful. Or, They have a sun like a solitaire nestled into them, but no for long. See look – gone! Divorced. I told you so. These kinds of reactions were the first attempts to connect the hills and the people in the foreground. But it is probably impossible. Well nigh impossible.

12.

In spring they were brassy yellow with gorse flowers. In summer they were ‘tinder dry’ (a cliché) and ‘brown’ (not a cliché because the word brown doesn’t have much to it and people haven’t got sick of it yet). Okay, brown.

13.

When both sides of the hills were brown, to the east and to the west, in the ‘height of summer’, a fire might be lit by a boy letting off fire-crackers saved from Guy Fawkes, or by a girl letting off fire-crackers (svd fr. GF), or by a man going for a walk on the town belt and smoking a cigarette, or by a woman (gng fr wlk on TB w. cig.), and the fire brigade would be called out.

14.

But because there were two fires – one lit by the boy or the man, the other lit by the girl or the women – the fire brigade would have no chance of taking control, and the fire would burn down into the valley. And everyone, family members and friends (loved ones for short as there would not be much time), would run down the Parade to the beach and go and stand in the sea because there would be nowhere else to go. I am still out there. I am standing in the cold sea at Island Bay, and it is 2011, and it is freezing, and I am waiting for the fires on the hills to go out.

 Anne Kennedy

from The Darling North, Auckland University Press, 2012

                                            

Emotional geography

Look back, and forks
and crossroads soon appear.
Now you see, or think you do,

how that U-bend, that country
lane, which at the time seemed
less a turning than the leaning

of the moment, led on to this
and later this, as though there really is
a road-map of the heart

whose one-way system you have to follow
down Ego Street to Guilt Mews,
and the various alleys off Vanity Row.

Harry Ricketts

from Your Secret Life, HeadworX, 2005

More ancient than any of us

Birds swoop over the whenua. Reminders of you alight upon puku and manawa, and night-time channels thoughts unspoken in daylight. Lit fires smoulder upon open ground more ancient than any of us.

Desire grew in the air between us. Braided awa beneath rākau limbs came crashing earthward, into landscapes of enlivened senses. The gifts inside their ringed stumps spoke of ages and shadow tones, and graced our faces with crossed lattices.

Streams of consciousness — like gaps in the light.

Promises leaked from your eyes. They landed upon my soul etching deep chasms of aroha, before that mamae of yours disrupted the course and an undertow began to tear at the fabric of us, casting me out.

My ringaringa spread wide to expose secrets. And you owned none of the lies that spilled over to lap at my feet, where pūrerehua wings stroked my winnowed heart beating fast to the rhythm of our mother.

Streams of consciousness — like gaps in the light.

Birdsong emerged between pō and rā, to illuminate all the unnoticed seasons. But who can say whether we shifted and morphed with it, or remained stagnant puzzles of links scattered from root to tip, our enacted patterns alive.

Wind blows the tussocks in this unfamiliar place. Yet the longing for you dissipates with each luminous marama cycle, and recounts tidal surges in existence long before you left. And the kakahu always enfolds me, certain I will awake unbroken.

Iona Winter

from gaps in the light, Ad Hoc Fiction, 2021

Heaven

A galaxy of stars on dark water,
the breaking of the pack.

Or more like fat congealing on boiled mutton.

When there is only white,
when everything is coloured white,
the land, the sky the ice and the horizon,

the heroes, as they walk away,
you’d say were climbing a white wall to heaven.

Bernadette Hall

from The Ponies, Victoria University Press, 2007

Poem note: This poem arises from the optical illusion in a white-out or almost white-out. As figures move away from you, they appear to be moving upwards. In December 2004 the Dunedin artist, Kathryn Madill and I shared an Artist in Antarctica award.  We were stationed at Scott Base. The Antarctic experience was a life-changer for both of us. Lines from this poem have been set in the stone pavement at the foot of Robert Falcon Scott’s statue at the intersection of Oxford Terrace and Worcester St, Christchurch, on the Ōtākaro pathway. The text was carved by Neil Pardington. My grandsons, Leo and Darcy, are having a find old time, deciphering their grandmother’s word-painting.

Bernadette Hall

Harvest

The first whitebait, see-through, rivery
lightly-flamed into a wriggle of sweet eyes.
Oysters, pink-creamy, frilly, a glug of ocean
neck-felt, lemon-spattered, a sea cry.

The first potatoes, knuckle-white, waxy
spilling from the earth’s dark hold.
Corn, buttoned to the cob, yellow, fleshy,
spitting to the bite.

Sunflowers standing on hopeless stems.
The first-born, mother-coated,
unfolding in the first tears,
swimming into the miraculous light.

Richard Langston

from Henry, Come See the Blue, Fitzbeck Publishing, 2005

Jane

                                                Nga Motu beach, New Plymouth          1845

When my great-grandmother Jane
was a small girl
she played with her cousins
on the backs of harpooned whales.

From the summit
of the biggest creatures on earth
they pointed out to sea:
Look! Look at the islands!

A single mountain
stood behind their backs
felt but not seen,
inward and silent.

Nonetheless
a witness.

Dinah Hawken

in There Is No Harbour, Victoria University Press, 2019

4.9.10 / HOMECOMING

the earth just / empty of it
take the shape of a shake / between your teeth.
in the cold morning many things falling.

touch the wall as it heaves while
translucent alarms vomit
into still air / air is still /
underneath it the writhing thing
turns its dirty head / side to side.

in this movie now / we all should have known better
forget to close the door behind you
run barefoot onto the silty street
see the neighbours in their underpants
/ this is not a dream /

just a mirror of the noise
a tiny pearl lying in your palm sleeping
itch it away at your peril.

later you will urinate / in a dark hole next to the rose bushes
whose thorns in the dawn spiked your mother
in her dressing gown fleeing the house
three wide circles / in her face
eye eye mouth.

fear lives here
in the business part of the throat
nestled / between the toes with
the simple earth fissured
waiting and just

/ not quite
what it used to be.

*

I am in the city,
and it has been long enough.

It’s a decade on, almost,
and the streets’ breathless pant has slowed to a sighing;
smooth tufts puffed into icy air.

Rupture has softened,
cracked stone padded in limpid moss,
splintered beams braced by scaffolding,
broken brick tucked up in landfills.

Christchurch remains
frozen in its decay, somehow,
contractions have distilled
entire city blocks to essences:
flat ground, empty horizons,
a big loud nothing
where a city should be.

Its winter sky is unchanged:
unshaken, unscarred, tectonically oblivious
the low-hung grey cloud a steely blanket
locked tight in violent closure.

A blackened scab
is being pulled off the knee of Christchurch,
and she bleeds brick dust out over the plains,
while the Port Hills loom like aristocracy
cloaked in a fine-knit sprinkle of snow,
sentenced to beheading for the crime of
‘seismic lensing’.

And the Avon River, unfazed,
just goes about its watery business the same;
an arterial swirl the colour of new-born eyes, unsettled,
drawling like a dream past roadwork realms, cone castles,
up-and-coming urban developments,
and the melancholy ghosts
of everything we lost along its banks.

Hebe Kearney

from Starling 10

Land

A child dances alone
in the street. A rainbow
arcs the sky. A hawk
circles, descends. A helicopter
appears. Dark suited, new ghosts
of developers materialise from
the clouds. Here visions –
wild places to shelter –
are set upon empty land
by the writer’s eye.

Once the all-seeing water carried
dreams to this safe shore: liquid
stars to navigate the ancients;
shallows to nurse great-whites;
coastline to settle waders’ Arctic flight;
sea-views for soldiers arriving home.

Now this land is gifted to the gods
of helicopters, SUVs, M6s, sharknosed
disruptors who conjure the mantra of
mixed model, urban renewal, WOW factor,
solar gain, waterfront living. There’s money
to summon – ta-da! – from soil. Everything
seen or imagined belongs to them. The past –
its evicted, protestors and peacemakers –
is a trick, an adjunct made to disappear.

As if the scattering of birds
into late morning, the shriek of
banshees escapes; the helicopter too.

The displaced need this land to live.
They want their future to grow here,
like trees. They want their children
to dance upon it alone, to feel sap
pulse through the branch. Rainbow

and hawk to rise from it. This close
to regeneration, the evicted lament
that which they cannot settle,
cannot own. Their wailing is –
the rustle of money, whisperings
of the past – almost quelled;
almost, but not quite.

Siobhan Harvey

from Ghosts, Otago University Press, 2021

Objects 12

The tight-rooted morning coils up
but I imagine the buds unfurling
in the mess of garden down there;
the sharp agapanthus blooms white,
the jasmine vine, the flame weeds,
the drooping, beaded kowhai.
I do not see it happen but I see it
happen. That waxy flexibility
of plants, I used to call them
my guests. There were tea parties
with dew.
             I want you to whisper to me
about everglades and prairies,
sylvan historians and Dan Bejar,
but I’m afraid that you don’t love me
anymore. The dark morphing
into the unimaginable.

               Look, I’ll show you around
this condensed symbol of a place.
It’s true, it’s everything
and nothing specific,
and everything to me
and always specific.
It’s impossible to understand
how we got from there to here.
One place after another.
You come close
to a home.

             Look, Pip says
the days are getting shorter,
but I can’t help it anymore
I think life is just starting.

Nikki-Lee Birdsey

from Night As Day, Victoria University Press, 2019

Place

Once in a while
you may come across a place
where everything
is as close to perfection
as you will ever need.
And striving to be faultless
the air on its knees
holds the trees apart,
yet nothing is categorically
this, or that, and before the dusk
mellows and fails
the light is like honey
on the stems of tussock grass,
and the shadows
are mauve birthmarks
on the hills.

Brian Turner

from Elemental: Central Otago Poems, Random House, 2012

The poets

Airini Beautrais lives in Whanganui and is the author of four poetry collections and a collection of short fiction. Her most recent poetry collection is Flow: Whanganui River Poems (VUP 2017). Bug Week and Other Stories recently won the Ockham NZ Book Fiction Award 2021.

Nikki-Lee Birdsey was born in Piha. She has a PhD in poetry from the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), an MFA from the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a BA from New York University. Her first book Night As Day was published by VUP in 2019. She taught poetry at the IIML last summer.

Jacqueline Carter (also Jacq, Jacqs or Jackie), of Ngāti Awa, Waitaha, Ngāi Te Rangi, English, Irish and Scottish descent, is a poet and teacher living in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. She has recently become a member of Te Hā o Ngā Kaituhi Māori (formerly Te Hā) – Contemporary Maori Writers. Her poetry has appeared in several anthologies including Whetū Moana, Mauri Ola, and Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English (Auckland University Press).

Bernadette Hall lives in the Hurunui, North Canterbury. She retired from high-school teaching in 2005 in order to embrace a writing life. Fancy Dancing is her eleventh collection of poetry (VUP, 2020). In 2015 she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for literary achievement in poetry and in 2017 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Siobhan Harvey’s new book, Ghosts (Otago University Press, 2021) is a collection of poetry and creative nonfiction. She was awarded 2020 New Zealand Society of Authors Peter & Dianne Beatson Fellowship, 2020 Robert Burns Poetry Prize and 2019 Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems. 

Dinah Hawken lives and writes in Paekakariki. Her ninth collection of poetry, Sea-light, is published by Victoria University Press, August, 2021.

Hebe Kearney is a queer poet who lives in Tāmaki Makaurau. Their work has appeared in The Three Lamps, Starling, Oscen, Forest and Bird, a fine line, and Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021.

Anne Kennedy is a poet, fiction writer, screenplay editor and teacher. Recent books are Moth Hour (AUP) and The Ice Shelf (VUP). Awards and fellowships include the NZ Post Book Award for Poetry and the IIML Writers’ Residency. The Sea Walks into a Wall is forthcoming from Auckland University Press in October 2021. 

Richard Langston is a poet, television director, and writer. Five O’Clock Shadows is his sixth book of poems. His previous books are Things Lay in Pieces (2012), The Trouble Lamp (2009), The Newspaper Poems (2007), Henry, Come See the Blue (2005), and Boy (2003). He also writes about NZ music and posts interviews with musicians on the Phantom Billstickers website.

Selina Tusitala Marsh (ONZM, FRSNZ) is the former New Zealand Poet Laureate and  has performed poetry for primary schoolers and presidents (Obama), queers and Queens (HRH Elizabeth II). She has published three critically acclaimed collections of poetry, Fast Talking PI (2009), Dark Sparring (2013), Tightrope (2017) and an award-winning graphic memoir, Mophead (Auckland University Press, 2019) followed by Mophead TU (2020), dubbed as ‘colonialism 101 for kids’.

Harry Ricketts teaches English literature and creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka. His Selected Poems appeared in June, Victoria University Press.

Kiri Piahana-Wong is a poet and editor, and she is the publisher at Anahera Press. She lives in Auckland.

Apirana Taylor, Ngati Porou, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngati Ruanui, Te Ati Awa, is a nationally and internationally published poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, actor, painter and musician. He has been Writer in Residence at Canterbury and Massey Universities. He frequently tours nationally and internationally visiting schools, tertiary institutions and prisons reading his poetry, storytelling and taking creative writing workshops. He has written six collections of poetry, a book of plays, three collections of short stories, and two novels. His work has been included in many national and international anthologies.

Brian Turner was born in Dunedin in 1944. His debut collection Ladders of Rain (1978) won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. His writing includes biography, poetry, sports writing and journalism and has won many awards. Just This won the NZ Post Book Award for Poetry (2010). He was the Te Mata Poet Laureate (2003-2005) and received the Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry in 2009. He lives in Central Otago.

Iona Winter (Waitaha/Kāi Tahu) lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin. Her hybrid work is widely published and anthologised in literary journals internationally. Iona creates work to be performed, relishing cross-modality collaboration, and holds a Master of Creative Writing. She has authored three collections, Gaps in the Light (2021), Te Hau Kāika (2019), and then the wind came (2018). Skilled at giving voice to difficult topics, she often draws on her deep connection to land, place and whenua.

Sue Wootton lives in Ōtepoti-Dunedin, and works as the publisher at Otago University Press. ‘Wild’ was awarded second place in the 2013 International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, and appears in Sue’s Ockham short-listed poetry collection The Yield (Otago University Press, 2017).

Ten poems about clouds

Twelve poems about ice

Ten poems about dreaming

Eleven poems about the moon

Twelve poems about knitting

Ten poems about water

Twelve poems about faraway

Fourteen poems about walking

Twelve poems about food

Thirteen poems about home

Ten poems about edge

Eleven poems about breakfast

Twelve poems about kindness

Thirteen poems about light

Thirteen poems about song

Poetry Shelf Theme Season: Thirteen poems about water

‘A poem is / a ripple of words / on water wind-huffed’

Hone Tuwhare

from ‘Wind, Song and Rain’ in Sap-wood & Milk, Caveman Press, 1972

The ocean is my go-to salve. Before we went into level-four lockdown last year, I went to Te Henga Bethells Beach near where I live. I stood by the water’s edge as the sun was coming up. The air was clear and salty. Not a soul in sight. I breathed in and I breathed out, and I saved that sublime moment for later. Like a screen shot. Over the ensuing weeks in lockdown, I was able to return to that spot, my eyes on the water, my senses feeding on wildness and beauty. Look through my poetry collections and you will see I can’t keep the ocean out. It is always there somewhere.

Unsurprisingly there is a profusion of water poems in Aotearoa – think the ocean yes, but lakes and rivers and floods and dripping taps. This was an impossible challenge: whittling all the poems I loved down to a handful. I hadn’t factored in leaving poems out when I came up with my theme-season plan. Some poets are particularly drawn to water. Kiri Piahana-Wong’s sublime collection Night Swimming is like an ode to water. The same can be said of Lynn Davidson’s glorious collections How to Live by the Sea and The Islander. Or read your way through Apirana Taylor’s poems and you will find they are water rich – and his poetry flows like water currents. As does the poetry of Hone Tuwhare. Again water rich. And of course the poetry of Dinah Hawken, with her lyrical eye bringing the natural world closer, water a constant companion.

I have so loved this water sojourn. The poems are not so much about water but have a water presence. I am grateful to all the poets and publishers who continue to support my season of themes.

The poems

Girl from Tuvalu

girl sits on porch

back of house

feet kicking

salt water skimming

like her nation

running fast

nowhere to go

held up by

Kyoto Protocol

An Inconvenient Truth

this week her name is Siligia

next week her name will be

Girl from Tuvalu: Environmental Refugee

her face is 10,000

her land is 10 square miles

she is a dot

below someone’s accidental finger

pointing westwards

the bare-chested boys

bravado in sea spray

running on tar-seal

they are cars

they are bikes

they are fish out of water

moana waves a hand

swallows

a yellow median strip

moana laps at pole houses

in spring tide

gulping lost piglets

and flapping washing

girl sits on porch

kicking

Selina Tusitala Marsh

from Dark Sparring, Auckland University Press, 2013, picked by Amy Brown

The body began to balance itself

It started to rain

and it was not clear

if this would last a short time

or a long time

so I got my husband

and colleagues

and the librarian

and the owner of the local chip shop

and the humourless lady who failed me

on eyesight at the driver licence testing station

into a boat

though it was extremely cramped

and they rowed

out to the open ocean

and sat quiet

and waited.

Louise Wallace

from Bad Things, Victoria University Press, 2017

The Lid Slides Back

Let me open

my pencil-case made of native woods.

It is light and dark in bits and pieces.

The lid slides back.

The seven pencils are there, called Lakeland.

I could draw a sunset.

I could draw the stars.

I could draw this quiet tree beside the water.

Bill Manhire

from The Victims of Lightning, Victoria University Press, 2010

Train of thought

I thought of vitality,

I thought of course of a spring.

I thought of the give inherent

in the abiding nature of things.

I thought of the curve of a hammock

between amenable trees.

I thought of the lake beyond it

calm and inwardly fluent

and then I was thinking of you.

You appeared out of the water

like a saint appearing from nowhere

as bright as a shining cuckoo

then dripping you stood in the doorway

as delighted by friendship as water

and beaming welcomed us in.

Dinah Hawken

The lake

The ripples are small enough. The lake surface is the lake surface is the lake surface. All lakes exist in the same space of memory. Deep dark water. The scent of stones. I think of a swift angle to depth. I think of the sound when you’re underwater and the gravel shifts beneath your feet. I think of all the colours of water that look black, that look wine dark, that look like youth looking back at me. I can barely take it. I can see the lake breathing. I am the lake breathing. The lake breathes and I breathe and the depth of both of us is able to be felt by finger, by phone, by feeling. Don’t ask what you don’t want to know. I ask everything. I want to know nothing, everything, just tell it all to me. The gravel shifts again with the long-range round echo of stones underwater. I am separate parts breathing together. You say that I am a little secret. You say, as your brain seizes, that you have lost the way. Your eyes flicker and flutter under your eyelids as you try to find what’s lost, what’s gone forever. Nothing can really be found. I am never located when I want to be located the most. I am instead still that teenager on the side of the road with a cello hard case for company. I forget I exist. You forget I exist. I’ve forgotten I’ve believed I’ve not existed before. I’ve not forgotten you. Never forgotten your face. Could never. Would never. I don’t know how to communicate this with you in a way that you’ll understand. My mouth waters. I am back in the lake again. Except I’m the lake and I’m water myself.

Emma Barnes

Flow

To the stone, to the hill, to the heap, to the seep,

to the drip, to the weep, to the rock, to the rill,

to the fell, to the wash, to the splash, to the rush,

to the bush, to the creep, to the hush;

to the down, to the plain, to the green, to the drift,

to the rift, to the graft, to the shift, to the break,

to the shake, to the lift, to the fall, to the wall,

to the heft, to the cleft, to the call;

to the bend, to the wend, to the wind, to the run,

to the roam, to the rend, to the seam, to the foam,

to the scum, to the moss, to the mist, to the grist,

to the grind, to the grain, to the dust;

to the core, to the gorge, to the grove, to the cave,

to the dive, to the shore, to the grave, to the give,

to the leave, to the oar, to the spring, to the tongue,

to the ring, to the roar, to the song;

to the surge, to the flood, to the blood, to the urge

to the rage, to the rod, to the rood, to the vein,

to the chain, to the town, to the side, to the slide,

to the breadth, to the depth, to the tide;

to the neap, to the deep, to the drag, to the fog,

to the stick, to the slick, to the sweep, to the twig,

to the roll, to the tug, to the roil, to the shell,

to the swell, to the ebb, to the well, to the sea.

Airini Beautrais

from Flow, Victoria University Press, 2017, picked by Amy Brown

as the tide

i am walking the path

around hobson bay point

nasturtiums grow up the cliff face

and the pitted mud has a scattering

of thick jagged pottery, bricks

faded edam cheese packaging

and a rusty dish rack

all of the green algae

is swept in one direction

i am only aware of the blanketed crabs

when a cloud passes overhead

and they escape in unison

into their corresponding homes

claws nestling under aprons

my dad talks about my depression

as if it were the tide

he says, ‘well, you know,

the water is bound to go in and out’

and to ‘hunker down’

he’s trying to make sense of it

in a way he understands

so he can show me his working

i look out to that expanse,

bare now to the beaks of grey herons, which i realise is me

in this metaphor

Lily Holloway

Ode to the water molecule

 

‘Our body is a moulded river.’ Novalis

 

Promiscuous, by some accounts,

or simply playing the field—

     indecisive, yet so decidedly

yourself, you are

 

all these things: ice flow,

cloud cover,

     bend of a river,

crystalline structure

 

on an aeroplane window, fire-

bucket or drop

in the ocean, dissolver of a morning’s

     tablets or

 

mountain range. We envy you

your irresolution,

          the way you get along

with yourself, as glacier

     or humidity of

 

an overheated afternoon. A glass

of pitch-black water

               drunk at night.

Catchment and run-off. Water,

         we allow you

 

your flat roof and rocky bed

but there are also

          tricks we have taught you:

papal fountain, water

feature, liquid chandelier and

     boiling jug. It is, however,

                 your own mind

 

you make up, adept as you are

          —‘the universal solvent’—

at both piecing together

and tearing apart. With or

 

without us, you find your own

structure, an O and two H’s

                    in the infinity

 

of your three-sidedness, your

     triangulation, at once trinity

and tricycle. Two oars

and a dinghy, rowed.

 

Colourless, but for

‘an inherent hint of blue’,

     molecule in which

we are made soluble, the sum

of our water-based parts—

 

resourceful, exemplary friend

      kindred spirit – not one to jump to

conclusions

as you would traverse a stream, but rather

 

as you would leap in. Fluid,

by nature—given to swimming more than

being swum—

    with rain as your spokesperson,

 

tattooed surface of a river’s

undiluted wonder,

          snowfall and drift,

you enter the flow

 

of each of us, turn us around

     as you turn yourself around

as tears,

     sustenance,

          more tears.

 

Gregory O’Brien

first appeared (in a typeset and ‘drawn’ version) in PN Review 252, in the UK, March-April 2020.

First dusk of autumn here and i swim

through fish flicker through

little erasing tails

 

that rub the seafloor’s light-net out

that ink in night

 

down south winter warms to her task and 

will arrive smelling of wet shale in 

a veil of rain     

 

bats flicker into leaves 

to rub the tree-cast light-net from the grass

to ink in night 

Lynn Davidson

Waiheke

You yearn so much
you could be a yacht.
Your mind has already
set sail. It takes a few days
to arrive

at island pace,
but soon you are barefoot
on the sand,
the slim waves testing
your feet

like health professionals.
You toe shells, sea glass, and odd things
that have drifted for years
and finally
washed up here.

You drop your towel
and step out of
your togs, ungainly,
first
your right foot, then

the other
stepping down
the sand
to stand
in the water.

There is no discernible
difference
in temperature.
You breaststroke in
the lazy blue.

A guy passing in a rowboat
says, ‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’
And it is. Your body
afloat in salt
as if cured.

James Brown

from Poetry, 2018, picked by Frankie McMillan

Mere Taito

Isthmus

Write the sea in your heart, write the rain.

Only that. Words are a poor habit. Let

the wind slide under your ribs let the rain,

for no one will love you the way

you write to be loved,

and your name only a name – but the green

edge of a wave made knifish by light

or some hurtful winter clarity in the water:

a bright sheet of sky against the horizon as if

breathing, as if the air itself

is your own self, waiting. Only there.

And know how your heart is the green deep sea,

dark and clear and untame,

and its chambers are salt and the beating

of waves, and the waves breaking,

and the waves.

Olivia Macassey

from Takahē, issue 90

Deep water talk

In honour of Hone Tuwhare

& no-one knows

if your eyes are

blurred red from

the wind, too

much sun, or the 

tears streaking your

face that could be

tears or just lines of

dried salt, who 

can tell

& you never can tell

if you are seasick,

drunk, or just

hungover—the 

symptoms are the

same

& sea and sky merge

until the horizon is

nothing but an

endless blue line

in every direction, 

so that you are sailing,

not on the sea, as you

thought, but in a

perfectly blue, circular 

bowl, never leaving

the centre

& you wonder who 

is moving, you or

the clouds racing

by the mast-head

& you wonder if

those dark shapes

in the water are 

sharks, shadows, or

nothing but old fears

chasing along behind

you

& the great mass of

land recedes, you 

forget you were

a land-dweller, 

feeling the pull 

of ancient genes

—in every tide, your

blood sings against

the moon

& food never tasted

so good, or water

so sweet—you’ve 

never conserved water

by drinking wine

before—and rum;

and coke; and rum 

and coke; and can

after can of cold

beer

& your sleep is

accompanied, not

by the roar of traffic 

on the highway,

but by the creaks

and twangs of your

ship as she pitches

and moans through

the dark ocean,

all alone

& you wonder—

where did that bird,

that great gull perching

on the bowsprit,

come from?

Kiri Piahana-Wong

from Night Swimming, Anahera Press, 2013

The Poets

Emma Barnes lives and writes in Pōneke / Wellington. They have just released their first book I Am In Bed With You. For the last two years they’ve been working with Chris Tse on an anthology of LGBTQIA+ and Takatāpui writing to be released this year by Auckland University Press. They work in Tech and spend a lot of time picking heavy things up and putting them back down again. 

Airini Beautrais lives in Whanganui and is the author of four poetry collections and a collection of short fiction. Her most recent poetry collection is Flow: Whanganui River Poems (VUP 2017). Bug Week and Other Stories recently won the Ockham NZ Book Fiction Award 2021.

James Brown’s Selected Poems was published by VUP in 2020. He is working on a new book.

Lynn Davidson’s latest poetry collection Islander is published by Shearsman Books and Victoria University Press. She had a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2013 and a Bothy Project Residency at Inshriach Bothy in the Cairngorms in 2016.  In 2011 she was Visiting Artist at Massey University. She won the Poetry New Zealand Poetry Award, 2020 and is the 2021 Randell Cottage Writer in Residence. Lynn has a doctorate in creative writing and teaches creative writing. She recently returned to New Zealand after four years living and writing in Edinburgh.  

Dinah Hawken lives and writes in Paekakariki. Her ninth collection of poetry, Sea-light, will be published by Victoria University Press in August, 2021.

Lily Holloway is a queer nacho-enthusiast. She is forthcoming in AUP New Poets 8 and you can find her work here.

Olivia Macassey’s poems have appeared in Poetry New ZealandTakahēLandfallBriefOtolithsRabbit and other places. She is the author of two collections of poetry, Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction and The Burnt Hotel (Titus). Her website

Bill Manhire founded the creative writing programme at Victoria University of Wellington, which a little over 20 years ago became the International Institute of Modern Letters. His new book Wow is published by Victoria University Press in New Zealand and Carcanet in the UK.

Selina Tusitala Marsh (ONZM, FRSNZ) is the former New Zealand Poet Laureate and  has performed poetry for primary schoolers and presidents (Obama), queers and Queens (HRH Elizabeth II). She has published three critically acclaimed collections of poetry, Fast Talking PI (2009), Dark Sparring (2013), Tightrope (2017) and an award-winning graphic memoir, Mophead (Auckland University Press, 2019) followed by Mophead TU (2020), dubbed as ‘colonialism 101 for kids’.

Gregory O’Brien recently completed a new collection of poems Streets and Mountains and is presently working on a monograph about artist Don Binney for AUP.

Kiri Piahana-Wong is a poet and editor, and she is the publisher at Anahera Press. She lives in Auckland.

Mere Taito is a poet living and working in Kirikiriroa. She is interested in the way poetry can be used to revitalise minority Indigenous languages like Fäeag Rotuạm ta.

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.

Ten poems about clouds

Twelve poems about ice

Ten poems about dreaming

Eleven poems about the moon

Twelve poems about knitting

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

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‘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

 

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Writers on Mondays at Te Papa: 4 poetry highlights

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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.