Tag Archives: Anahera Press

Poems from Ockham NZ Book Award poetry finalists: Briar Wood’s ‘Kuramārōtini’





So the story goes

that trickster Kupe

cheated his friend

into diving overboard

to free the lines

then paddled rapidly away.


Some hoa.

Best to know that

legendary navigators take huge risks

and do not make the safest companions.



she asked herself—

what do I want—

home in Hawaiki

or the travelling years?


What does he want—

the waka my father gifted—

Matahourua and me?


Or maybe unhappiness

with the man she’d married

drove her to the coast.

It’s possible—

she was curious and Hoturapa wasn’t

the kind of man who liked a journey

so she chose Kupe.


Yet even an inveterate traveller

might become weary in a waka

on the open sea,

looking out for landfall.


Travelling direct to her destination—

as the future loomed towards her

she named that radiant land

on the horizon




Briar Wood from Rāwāhi (Anahera Press, 2017)


Briar Wood grew up in South Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. Until 2012, she lived and worked as a lecturer in Britain. Welcome Beltane (Palores Press, 2012) made poetic links between family histories and contemporary places. The most recent collection Rāwāhi (Anahera Press, 2017) is focused through a return to Northland places where her Te Hikutū ki Hokianga, Ngāpuhi Nui whakapapa resonates with ecological concerns.

Two poems from Briar Wood’s Rāwāhi



We walk the long sea shore to pick

scallop and cockle while she flicks

shells from her pocket

hinged like a locket

where poems appear, like tricks.


A child is quoting limericks

while I search the shore for lyrics.

We sort words—rocket,

pacific,  quick, stich.

Jamie loves tongue-twister music.



Paewai o Te Moana


The sea at night is blacklit,

kikorangi, kōura, topazerine, pango,

a haul of images pouring from nets,

darker than oil underground


at the edge of Parawhenuamea

rave streams, jostling yachts,

brown iris flags, meadowfoam, puka


Tai Timu, Tai Pari, arawhata ki


pocket beaches of pebble shell rock

meaning a joining of waka

across the slanted playing field


virtual beaches on imaginary roads

where poetry and geometry are almost

compatible, wai weld, creolerie,


ocean patter in ngā kupu,

tūātea, ngaru mata, rahopē


moana waiwai, karma moana,

beforeglow and sonar,


like finding




©Briar Wood, Rāwāhi   Anahera Press, 2017


Briar Wood’s poetry collection gathers, with a wide embrace, details of travel and living, and as the lived-in world grows on the page, the poems set up all manner of conversations. This book draws upon whakapapa, love, relations, ecology, the past and the present. Its warmth and its empathy are infectious. I love the way you can take two poems, such as these, and listen to the talk across and beyond their bridges.

Briar grew up in South Auckland and has returned to Northland places where her Te Hikutū ki Hokianga, Ngāpuhi Nui whakapapa resonates with ecological concerns.




Jesse Mulligan and Simone Kaho in conversation (in case you missed it because it is excellent!)

13 Mar 2017

Poetry: Lucky Punch by Simone Kaho

Auckland poet, Simone Kaho, is from New Zealand and Tongan ancestry. She earned her MA in creative writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters. Her poetry has been published in journals such as JAAM, Turbine, and The Dominion Post. She joins Jesse to read from her book Lucky Punch.

Lucky Punch, Simon Kaho

My review of Simone Kaho’s Lucky Punch in Your Weekend


Lucky Punch
Simone Kaho
Anahera Press, $25

Simone Kaho, an Auckland poet with Tongan ancestry, graduated from the International Institute of Modern Letters with a Masters in Creative Writing. Her debut poetry collection, Lucky Punch, delivers a sequence of lucid prose poems or small fictions. At the heart—and this glorious arrival has heart—family, friendship, love. Scenes are so evocative you can smell and taste them. Anecdotes offer honeyed soft patches with sharp spikes.

For the review see here

from ‘The Shed’

There was a flurry of bush between us and the neighbours. One bush grew glowing green seed capsules we wore as earrings, there was a sticky bamboo hedge and the rotten log sat solidly in a gap. The bush was hick enough for birds to nest in, dark patches in the twigs that cried in spring. Sometimes we’d hear strangled shrieks and sprint to retrieve dying bodies from cats’ mouths; saving lives for a few months. Dad said we’re allowed to pick flowers to put on graves but otherwise it’s a waste.

Poetry Shelf interviews Serie Barford: ‘Each poem or short story is a co-ordinate that can be located and mapped within one of seven embroidered panels’




Serie Barford is of Samoan and European descent and lives in Aotearoa.  Her poetry and short stories have been published in literary online anthologies such as Snorkel, Trout, Blackmail Press, Cordite Poetry Review and Jacket and in recent print editions such as Maui Ola (AUP:2013), Pacific Identities and Wellbeing (Routledge 2013), Essential New Zealand Poems (Random House:2014) and Whispers and Vanities (Huia:2014).  Her third poetry collection, Tapa Talk, was published by Huia in 2007 and her fourth collection, Entangled Islands, was released by Anahera Press in December 2015.  Serie was the recipient of the 2011 Seresin Landfall Residency.

To celebrate the arrival of her new collection, Serie agreed to answers a few questions for Poetry Shelf.

Did you write as a child? What else did you like to do?

I clearly remember the first poem I wrote outside of a classroom setting. I was at primary school and had spent the night with my paternal grandmother. I wrote a poem about the rain and her flooded garden. Her spontaneous delight kick-started my love affair with poetry. A few weeks later I declared, “When I grow up I’m going to write books!”

I had a teacher who favoured Donald Grave’s writing principles. She facilitated a process that encouraged students to write authentically. We were allowed to go to sleep or write freely every Friday afternoon. Our journals were collected and locked in a cupboard when the bell rang. We were told “your words are safe with me.” The teacher scribbled personal responses to our ramblings. By the end of the year we were writing as quickly as we could to maximise our precious hour. She was a sympathetic audience and we trusted her with stories from our lives. Many years later I met this teacher again and told her how important the writing hour had been to the class. She laughed and said, “I just wanted peace and quiet on a Friday afternoon!”

Those Friday afternoon writing sessions were the closest school ever came to validating the storytelling environment of my home. I still like to write conversationally and shares stories as if they’re anecdotal recounts.

I also liked the family picnics, parties and meals that the maternal (Samoan) side of my family shared all the time. I still get a “buzz” when I walk into a crowded room and know that everyone present has a familial story that relates us by blood or association.

I started relating to other people’s poetry when I discovered a slim volume entitled Some Modern Poetry from Western Samoa in the Wesley bookshop in Apia in 1975. It was edited by Albert Wendt. I was hooked by the opening stanza of Rupert Petaia’s poem:


I was six when

Mama was careless

she sent me to school


five days a week


One day I was

kidnapped by a band

of Western philosophers

armed with glossy-pictured

textbooks and

registered reputations

‘Holder of B.A.

and M.A. degrees……..

These days I refer to Albert as my “literary papa’ and I still have this book on my bookshelf. It cost 50 sene (cents) at the time. I won a ‘Special Prize for English’ when I was in Form Five (Year 11) and was presented with a handsome edition of The Poems of John Keats. We didn’t study non-European poetry when I was at school and we weren’t rewarded for our scholastic achievements with “other voice” books. John Keats resides on a varnished shelf beside Whetu Moana, Mauri Ola and other books with a South Pacific focus.


What poets inspired you when you started writing poetry as an adult?

I wasn’t inspired by any of the poets I studied at varsity until I encountered their work years later in non-institutional settings. One day my Samoan grandmother asked me at the dinner table, “What did they teach you today?” I couldn’t say that the professor had talked about cocks and sexual desire and sexual politics because my maternal family hadn’t left their beloved homeland and made huge sacrifices so that I could study poetry about orgasms. We were studying Adrienne Rich’s Reforming the Crystal.
I am trying to imagine 
how it feels to you
to want a woman

trying to hallucinate 
centered in a cock
focused like a burning-glass

desire without discrimination:
to want a woman like a fix
To put this in context, my grandmother was born in 1912, was a teenage bride and the blooded sheet from her wedding night was proudly paraded through the village by her mother the next morning. My grandmother was the daughter of a taupou (a ceremonial female village virgin) and had witnessed public deflowerings of taupou when she was a child. We talked openly about such matters. But the poetry and sexual politics I studied in Stage I English in 1979 was a world away from our dinner table and only increased my sense of isolation at university.

I was inspired and supported by poets I met at the Poetry Live evenings during the 1980s and early 1990s. This was the first time I’d heard Maori and Pasifika poets live. I listened to John Pule, David Eggleton, Robert Sullivan, Albert Livingstone Refiti, Michael O’Leary, Emily Karaka, Haare Williams and Apirana Taylor, as well as many other wonderful poets. Through them I learned to appreciate poets such as Hone Tuwhare, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, Sam Hunt and James K. Baxter.

In 1984 I bought a couple of volumes of poetry while I was waiting for a bus in Los Angeles; Relearning the Alphabet by Denise Levertov and The Women and the Men by Nikki Giovanni. I read and reread their poems as I flew from LA to Alaska to Dusseldorf and felt inspired to write. I returned to Aotearoa-New Zealand a few weeks later with a clutch of poems that appeared in Plea to the Spanish Lady, the first of two experimental collections published by Hard Echo Press.

I only read “other voice” writers while I was struggling with identity issues but now that I have found my personal voice and tūrangawaewae (standing place) I have eclectic tastes, although I’m still drawn to to the works of Polynesian writers when I want to be nourished and swamped by a sense of familiarity and belonging.


Your poetry is so evocative. As reader, it is as though you can absorb a poem through senses, bite into flavor and smell the poem’s very essence. What kinds of things do you want your poetry to do?

I like my poetry to feel ‘alive’ and hope that it will continue to contribute to the canon of Pasifika literature and writing in general that is flowing from the South Pacific and connecting us to people around the world. I imagine the universe as an infinite tapa canvas with tusili’i (fine, wavy lines) connecting disparate beings and ecosystems. I’m fascinated by the Samoan concept of ‘Ia te’u le va’ – to take care of/cherish relationships across Spacetime. In ‘Connections’ a poem from Tapa Talk (Huia:2007) I wrote:


there’s no such thing as empty space

just distances between things


made meaningful by fine lines

connecting designs and beings

in the seen and unseen worlds


distances can be shortened

made intimate or dangerous


or lengthened

until the connections weakens

finally withers away

I want my writing to explore and express connections and disconnections by positioning myself and my audience within various communities of belonging, as if we are plotted on a sociogram. Each narrative maps my emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual journey through Spacetime. By engaging with my journey the audience fixes itself upon my (metaphorical) tapa canvas. We are connected long enough to hongi. To mingle breath. To experience the human condition on the same page for a few seconds.


Entangled-Islands-Cover-hi-res   Entangled-Islands-Cover-hi-res


Your new collection, Entangled Islands, is like an album of anecdotes and occasions transcribed lyrically. It feels both political and personal. What was important to you as you wrote?

Entangled Islands is attentive to liminal zones and explores blurred boundaries where states of being and historical events co-exist with political and personal pou whenua – posts that mark territorial boundaries or places and events of significance.

I chose the motif of a fala su’i, a woven pandanus mat fringed with wool, to represent a Spacetime matrix. Each poem or short story is a co-ordinate that can be located and mapped within one of seven embroidered panels. Each panel is a chapter. Entangled Islands begins with the arrival of a life force and ends with a life force returning to its namesake – Sirius/Takurua. The audience traverses Spacetime with the me, the narrator, guiding them over trails and revealing pou whenua that stand upon the matrix mat demanding attention, understanding and empathy.

I have exercised a certain amount of poetic license because traditional fala su’i are fringed but not embroidered like the Cook Island tivaevae. However, descendants of Polynesian migrants are fusing tradition and innovation, and I was inspired by an embroidered fala su’i that was for sale at a festival. It was a syncretic creation and did not look out of place in cosmopolitan Aukilani (Auckland).

Entangled Islands explores and reinforces the concept of Ia teu le va. Albert Wendt describes the Va as the between-ness that relates or holds separate entities and things together in the unity-in-all; the space that is context, giving meaning to things.


I love the title. It can signify knots, webs, even braid. I got a sense of tangles that are personal and tangles that implicate communities, history, patches of the world. Tell me about the tangles you trace.

The introduction explains that “ ‘Entangled Islands’ was the first in a series of exhibitions held at the Auckland War Memorial Museum to mark the WWI centenary period. Damon Salesa’s speech on opening night referred to the colonial, genealogical and spatial entanglements that resulted from New Zealand’s occupation of Western Samoa … Our family history is entangled with colonial expansion, suppression, intermarriage, migration and migrants’ dreams of a better life for their children on the islands where they live.”


Anahera Press







Serie Barford’s book launch

Screen shot 2015-11-07 at 7.35.41 AM

Kia ora koutou,

You are warmly invited to the launch of Serie Barford’s poetry and short story collection, Entangled Islands, published by Anahera Press, and held in conjunction with Poetry Live. With music by Brendan and Alison Turner, and readings from the book by Serie. MC-ed by Kiri Piahana-Wong. Entangled Islands will be launched by Karlo Mila. Food and drink available from the bar. Thanks to Creative New Zealand for supporting the publication of this book.

8 pm: Brendan and Alison Turner (folk/blues duo)
8.45 pm: Book launch
9.15 pm: Poetry Live resumes with open mic – all welcome to read

Poem Friday: Leilani Tamu’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ — I love the mesh of surprise and political bite




Photo credit: Janet Lilo



Mouths Wide Shut

it was while I was boarding

the early morning bus

with my mouth taped shut

that I came to understand




her pale eyes watching me

she didn’t know what to do

or how to react


to the challenge

of my impertinent act

not golden but ashen

she seemed to be shaken


not wanting to deal

with my rage or passion

her mind was made up


who cared about the reason

why my mouth was taped

shut? her role was not

to question or get involved


let alone make a fuss

coz it’s not her problem

if someone wants to make

a statement on board

the public bus


© Leilani Tamu, The Art of Excavation Anahera Press, 2014



Leilani’s note about the poem:

In 2012, I wrote an article for Metro magazine called ‘Mouths Wide Shut’ which tackled the issue of racism in New Zealand. The article focused on the implications, both personal and public, of choosing to remain silent, or do nothing, when confronted with racism. After writing the piece, I collaborated with artist Janet Lilo to stage a social / artistic intervention whereby Janet took photographs of me boarding a public bus in Auckland with my mouth covered with black duct tape. We rode the early morning bus from Avondale to Point Chevalier and during the trip not one person asked us what we were doing. People seemed to feel more comfortable ignoring us and most people looked uncomfortable. It was this experience and the subsequent photographs that inspired the poem.

The original article can be read online here

Author bio:

Leilani Tamu is a poet, social commentator, Pacific historian and former New Zealand diplomat. In 2013 she was the Fulbright / Creative New Zealand Writer in Residence at the University of Hawai’i in Mānoa. Leilani’s work has appeared in a diverse range of anthologies and her debut book of poetry The Art of Excavation was published in August 2014.


Paula’s note about the poem:

I had no idea about the genesis of the poem when I first read it but it really struck me. Stuck with me. I love the mesh of surprise and political bite. The title and the phrase, ‘mouth taped shut,’ were the initial hooks. It first brought to mind Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in 1955. Leilani’s title is an oxymoron yet it makes sense as the closed mouth of the title speaks volumes. It is a little cipher to carry through the poem. By being ‘sentenced’ to silence, willfully or otherwise, the taped mouth is both potent and resonant. It cuts into your state of ease. For me, it caught hold of centuries of thought, loose conversations, anecdotes and theory on women speaking and women silent, that reach back as far as Aristotle’s ‘A woman’s crown is her silence.’ The poem suggested to me that subject isn’t yet dead and there is still much to be said on the matter. Who is silence? Why is she silence? How is she silenced? Does it matter that she is a woman?

Yet this poem isn’t just issue based. It is vital, vibrant and rich with possibilities.

When I hit the word ‘silence’ in its own pillow of white space, I was tugged in a completely different direction. Now I was lead to the notion that you can observe and absorb and thus understand the world so much better if you are quiet (like the chatterer in the bush doesn’t get to experience the bush beyond the filter or screen of talk).

Then you reach the poem’s passenger and her distance. This returns you to the title and the poignant phrase. The passenger’s stance ignites thoughts on how we navigate difference and how difference is so often held at arm’s length because it is threatening, unfathomable, confusing. The notion that you can observe and absorb and thus understand the world so much better if you are quiet is tilted, flipped on its head. You get to observe, absorb and understand the world more through interrogation, through conversation. The poem is both the public bus and the public performance and it is over to us to draw close and raise questions. I love the way this poem is both understated and packs a punch. I have barely begun to pick at its threads.

Maybe you get to observe, absorb and understand the world  by both silence (observation) and engagement (questioning).



Anahera author page here

My review of The Art of Excavation here

Art_of_Excavation_cover-726x1024-1   Art_of_Excavation_cover-726x1024-1

Jess Holly Bates’s Real Fake White Dirt — The poems overlap and interlace with a vibrant cutting bite

Jess Bates book cover   Jess_author_photo_lo-res

Jess Holly Bates is a Pākehā poet, particularly a spoken-word poet, and has studied English and Chemistry at The University of Auckland. Her Masters Thesis (she gained First Class Honours) is entitled ‘Revolting Others; Disgusted Bodies as a Function of Colonial Continuity in Aotearoa NZ and the Pacific.’ She did a Rising-Voices workshop which spurred her desire to write spoken word poetry. Her first piece, ‘P.I.P: Pakeha Identity Poetry’ was performed at the Rising Voices Slam in 2011. Since then she has performed in various places; most notably, REAL FAKE WHITE DIRT, which was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (with a four-star review).

Anahera Press (publisher is Kiri Piahana Wong)  published REAL FAKE WHITE DIRT in 2014 and it is a terrific debut. It is the first Pākehā poet that this press has published and I can see why Jessie was chosen. The poems overlap and interlace with a vibrant cutting bite. This is wide open, loud politics that navigates identity issues face on. Tough. Uncompromising. Edgy. I loved the urgent challenging punch of ideas but I also love the way the words on the page split and weave into poetry. There is glorious word play at work. On the page, phrases flit and float. You have to keep your eyes roving as this is not conventional poetic forms/form (although not exactly unconventional  as you can trace back examples of this for decades). I see it as poetry misbehaviour. There is enviable rhyme (taxes/ masses, bleached/ keen, schtict/ poetic). There is leapfrogging assonance and the aural allure of repetition. Repeated things gain flesh in shifting contexts. Sound enacts political punctual marks. Everything comes back to the white-hot core that this is poetry from the heart and that vital ideas percolate above the surface. Wonderful!

PS: It is a gorgeous production with a striking black cover and a fake patch of grass that in the manner of poetry could equally be something else.

Anahera press page here

Leilani Tamu’s The Art of Excavation — This is an impressive debut that lays poetic roots in the present in order to nourish the past.


Leilani Tamu The Art of Excavation Anahera Press, 2014

Leilani Tamu graduated with an MA in Pacific History at the University of Auckland. She is also a  poet, social commentator and has worked as a New Zealand Diplomat. She was the 2013 Fulbright -Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer in Residence at the University of Hawai’i. Her poetry has appeared in numerous collections.

Leilani’s debut collection is in debt to the ‘concepts, ideas and philosophy’ underpinning her Masters thesis: Re-defining ‘the beach’: the Municipality of Apia, 1879 -1900. This poetry is the work of a poet who is Pacific archaeologist, word alchemist, hot-air balloonist (sees the world from new perspectives), scholar, musician, navigator, storyteller. The poems forge vibrant links with people and place, and with both economy and flair, they frame scenes and anecdotes. I was struck by the way the weighty package of a thesis is reduced to the slender frame and form of a poem yet billows with scholarly insight. A single phrase can open the poem out for the reader (‘layers of decaying colonial matter’ ‘but the missionaries/ caught the message/ on the wind/ and ate the bat’ ‘hijacked history remains supreme/ over dusty archives’).

Yes, these poems take you into history, a Pacific history that is forward facing as much as it includes  travels into the past. Yes, these poems are fueled by a genealogy of Pacific writers (there is a wonderful tribute to Albert Wendt’s ‘Inside Us the Dead’). Yes, these poems are lifted by a familial genealogy. The extensive endnotes and glossary add to the reading experience as they shine light on the genesis of a poem or linguistic options. What I particularly admired were the poetic choices that sung the Pacific as much as they commented on the Pacific. The line breaks augment the economy of words, together establishing the silent beats that evoke that which cannot be spoken, that which is spoken, that which is cradled and shared within  overlapping traditions of the Pacific. Or the aural chords and suspended alliteration that enacts the chords that link this person with that person, this place with that place, this event with that event. In ‘Midden Secrets’: you move from’ gut’ to ‘while at road juncture/ a collarbone juts  out’. In ‘A Tribute to the Black Ghost’: ‘like a black ghost the Sun’s ray glides/ on the surface of the lake-like lagoon’ and ‘with a flick of a wing/ her long sting trails behind.’

This is an impressive debut that lays poetic roots in the present in order to nourish the past.


Anahera Press page here