Tag Archives: amanda hunt

Some highlights in the 70th anniversary edition of Landfall

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Landfall 233 edited by David Eggleton


Last Sunday I was feeling travel worn, flat, depleted, sick and I could not settle on anything. The kind of day where you pick this up and put it down. You pick that and then this and then that and then this. And then find yourself back at the start again. It was only when I opened the new Landfall I found my self settling back and reading.

The 70th Birthday issue is terrific. It includes testimonies from Chris Price and Iain Sharp (both candid on the difficulties of editing a key literary journal), Philip Temple (on the controversial dismissal of Robin Dudding and efforts to revive the flagging enterprise) and Peter Simpson on Charles Brasch and Landfall. Simpson quotes Brasch musing on when to quit editing. He decided he must stop at 15 years – although it stretched to 20. He concluded:

‘I shall have nothing to live for, nothing I badly want to do, nothing I am forced to do in order to live …’


Sometimes I like to read a journal from first page to last page in order to follow the contours and harmonies of editing. This time it was pick n’ mix poetry. As I read I jotted down:

vibrant fresh vital diverse essential reading unfamiliar voices much-loved voices direct indirect


Adore the Art Portfolios by Chris Corson-Scott and Heather Straka.


Two prose pieces caught me eye first. Both surprising and stick like biddibids.

‘Last-ditch Daisies’ Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor

‘It’s All I Had’ Joanna Cho


Then the poetry:


‘Four Transformations on a theme of Philip’ by Anne Kennedy is like a return to her brother (1951 – 1973). Every time I pick the book up it falls open here and I read it again. The short lines shift patterns on the pages like little twitches of contemplation, memory, bright retrieved detail with indents, parentheses, fluency.


Catch me in the garden

and put me in a jar


the air where I was

in the palm of your hand



‘Morning Song’ by Emma Neale builds a loving grandfather portrait that weds sharp detail with war undertones spiky within a family’s daily life. It is sumptuous writing with things hiding off the edges.


Gramps stole eggs, green seeds of song, from their nests

to show us wonder; hairline cracks ran

our sooks’ hearts as we watched the robbed mothers fly home.



‘Mr Anderson, You Heartbreaker’ by Helen Rickerby teases and bites into Hans Christian Anderson and his depiction or wooing of women and harnesses Helen’s adult eyes on the Little Mermaid.


And really, if she’d just held onto her tongue

she could have sung him to her

reeled him in, drunk him down

one prince, on the rocks, coming up



‘Storm’ by Amanda Hunt is a glorious lyrical snapshot that slows down the pace of contemplation to the point each detail is under an enviable spotlight. ( I am reminded of how Janet Frame wanted to slow down the pace of her poems)


a butterfly flutter

of moth-soft feathers

glancing across my shoulder


‘Fear of Feathers’ by Michael Gould delivers a surprising passage through the lines to the final enticement ‘life is good.’


Some sounds of birds (unseen but heard)

may confound those with no sense of the absurd


‘Personal Space’ by Johanna Emeney refreshes the domestic poem beautifully and needs to be read in its completeness to catch the humour, the pathos, the politics, the poetry, the feeling. I am including the last stanza.


She should clear a space

beneath the sudden worry of crowded floors,

the scatter of feet; the shock of doors,

run downstairs and shut herself in

the last room at the bottom,

then spin, arms open,

to see just how wide

she has forgotten.



‘Inflammable’ by Anna Jackson is a poem that catches the dark and light of life and living beneath the flicker of candle light. It reminds me of the way a particular moment, against all the millions lost and faded, that is luminous on return.


The world was flammable we knew it was.


‘Art Is Weak’ by Nick Ascroft is smart and sharp and hooks you from the first line.


Conceptual art is not so empty sleeved

and brained.


‘The Bee Elle’ by Lynley Edmeades curls and coils deliciously around a physical view and subterranean ideas.


Everyone is hooked up

to various elsewheres

as if our bodies don’t matter.


‘How a New Zealand Sunrise is Different from Other Sunrises’ by Erik Kennedy is like a landscape poem standing on its head and is thus invigorating to read (I am a landscape poem fan for all kinds of reasons).


Pinks and yellows collude to orange the hillside,

but they trick you into thinking the hills are proper orange

on their own, like an oyster catcher’s lurid bill


#awf16 Going to the Sarah Broom Award


(excuse my photos but I have managed an eerie poetry light on everyone!)


Going to the Sarah Broom Award is always a sad-glad occasion for me as I get to remember a wonderful poet and to celebrate the vitality of New Zealand poetry.

This year was no exception. The award is a gift from Sarah’s husband, Michael Gleissner. His dedicated drive to support NZ poetry offers an award for a poet at any stage of their career. For the past two occasions, an overseas judge has selected the shortlist and winner. This year, acclaimed Irish poet, Paul Muldoon, was judge. He had no idea who wrote the poems and insisted on reading all the entries (over 250) because he wanted to find the entries that ‘judge you, that read you and impress themselves upon you.’


Paul’s short list: Airini Beautrais, Elizabeth Smither and Amanda Hunt

Paul began with a moving tribute to Sarah, Sarah’s family and her poetry. He read her poem (among others) ‘Holding the Line’ and said: ‘We’re all trying to hold the line of poetry which seems a little perilous, but that’s what we’re all trying to do.’

Each poet read a handful of poems.



The winner, Elizabeth Smither read the poem about her mother that she read at the Laureate Circle event in Wellington. Kate Camp and I were in a frenzy to read it again. Elizabeth so kindly gave Kate her copy and signed it and emailed me one. It is the kind of a poem that has built a room of its own in my head. The sort of poem that rises and pierces your heart with the acute depiction of a moment. Elizabeth is outside in her car in the street seeing her mother move through her house without realising her daughter is watching. Elizabeth followed it with a poem, ‘The name in the fridge’ that made me laugh out loud. She and friend had put the name of someone they wished ill of in the freezer but nothing bad happened (see poem below). As Paul said, Elizabeth has the skill to blend humour with seriousness. Yes, her poems can handle that and so much more. The stillness, insight and deep connection to humanity makes Elizabeth a poet writing at her very best.

Elizabeth is a former NZ Poet Laureate, has published numerous poetry collections that have garnered awards and high praise, along with short stories and novels. She lives in New Plymouth.


The name in the fridge

Someone we both disliked: you wrote

his name on a slip of paper

folded it, and inserted it in the freezer


under a tray of ice cubes, next to

a frozen chicken, frozen vegetables

a casserole sectioned into cartons.


You’d read about it. Nothing too serious

would happen. Perhaps he’d lose his job

or his dog would need taking to the vet.


The dog would recover, the bill be huge.

His wife might flirt with someone at a party

and be noticed: notice was a big part of it.


When nothing happened after six months:

his dog had puppies, he got promoted

we took out the paper, ice-encrusted


and brushed it against our jerseys. Soft

powder fell into the sink. You said

you’d take it with you when you went to England


as if it would be more potent there.

A huge fridge near an Aga

stuffed with grouse and pheasants and wild boar.


©Elizabeth Smither




Airini Beautrais read from a sequence of poems that forge links with the Whanganui River. As a poet she bends the line and then makes it glow with luminous detail so that as you listen to the contours of voice you are both skimming the slopes of  every day living and doing little side jumps to out-of-the-everyday. It all comes down to voice. To human beings finding their way in different circumstances. As I listened I felt like I want to read the river, to read the whole sequence, and follow people as much as river currents.

Airini has published three collections of poetry and is a graduate of IIML. Her most recent collection, Dear Neil Roberts, was longlisted for the Ockham NZ Book Awards in the Poetry Category. Like Amanda she studied ecological science at university. Her debut collection was named Best First Book of Poetry at the Montana NZ Book Awards 2007. She lives in Whanganui.

Airini acknowledged the significance of  Sarah’s poetry: ‘As a mother and writer I find Sarah’s poetry particularly moving, and also inspirational. I am inspired by her bravery and strength. She has left us an important legacy.’




Kids, who wants to look up through the telescope?

This is the largest unmodified refractor telescope in use

in New Zealand. Birthday girl, you first. I hope

you’ll see a planet up there, with rings. That might come loose

if you fiddle with it, be careful. It looks like smoke?

That would be a cloud. Is that really a planet? Yes.

Nah, I stuck a picture up on the end. That was a joke.

Could an asteroid destroy humanity? Well, I guess

there’s a chance. No object we know of threatens us any time soon.

Is there life like ours, out there? Keep looking up, wave a little.

Parents, bring your kids back one Friday night, maybe the moon

will be visible. Who hasn’t had a turn yet? Look there, and it’ll

be right in the middle. Ha, that’s what everyone says. You know how

they called this planet Saturn? They really should have named it Oh wow.

©Airini Beautrais




Amanda Hunt read a bunch of native bird poems that were glorious renditions of birds but offered so much more in terms of life and living. Like Elizabeth she had the ability to make us laugh and pause. There was the joy of hearing a poet for the first time that you know absolutely nothing about and have no idea what effect her poems will have on you. I loved the static between visual detail and people doing things.

Amanda is a poet and ecologist based in Rotorua and, while she has been writing poems for awhile, is beginning to seek increased publishing opportunities. She studied medicine and environmental science at the University of Auckland. She has worked in environmental and resource management throughout New Zealand and Australia, but returned to her home town a few years ago.

Amanda said that she ‘felt the award helps to keep Sarah’s amazing work very much alive and it was a real honour to be reading at this event in her name.’



He says

the grey warbler sounds

like the beginning of a Bizet aria


a small pale bird

ruffling its feathers

inside a red dress

one wing outstretched

as its sings the same song

over and over


all our birds have

funny names and

our voices are strange so

he has to ask us to repeat

what we say

over and over


the cold is on the border

of being worth dressing for

he came without gloves

it’s still winter and the

wind blitzes us from the south


but in the morning he’s not sure

if it’s snow he sees on the hills or

the sun in his eyes


we drive on the wrong side of the road

there are no newspapers in his language

and he still wakes late with jet lag


and yet

every morning

in the kowhai tree behind his house

the first notes of a song

he already knows.

©Amanda Hunt



(Elizabeth with her AUP editor, Anna Hodge)

When Elizabeth was announced as winner she was a little shocked (I do think the finalists could be told back stage so they don’t have to sit on stage for an hour, with the the sizable store of nerves that build when you are about to read in public). She searched in her bag for a piece of paper while Paul supplied her with another poem to read.

I thought her thank-you speech was very moving. She said, ‘It feels like having your first poem accepted again. The chase is always on the for the next poem that might be better though it is always moving out of reach.’

Elizabeth was reminded of her short story where a young girl, notebook in arm, struggled to be a writer in Paris. Elizabeth had included this quote from Mavis Gallant in her story: ‘She was sustained by the French refusal to accept poverty as a sign of failure in an artist.’

Elizabeth said that poets would be familiar with this and ‘That is why the Sarah Broom Award is so marvelous. Sarah and Michael have exactly understood the position, the amount is perfect, the conditions are wonderful.’

Like Airini and Amanda, she paid moving tribute to Sarah’s poems: ‘I heard that a whole new cluster of planets has just been discovered. That’s how I think of Sarah’s poems: flying through space, serene and beautiful, wrought from tragedy and beauty.’

Elizabeth also thanked the audience! She made us feel that as readers we matter: ‘And I want to thank the audience for being present. Poetry could not survive without you. The girl in the French cafe was counting on that: if she could write something, someone would read it and she then would be a writer.’

Thanks to AWF for hosting this event.

Thanks for a terrific occasion Michael. Three very special writers. One very special award.