Tag Archives: Best NZ Poems

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Best NZ Poems 2020 goes live

Poet Laureate David Eggleton has edited the latest edition of Best NZ Poems 2020. He concludes his introduction with these words:

I hope you will enjoy reading these poems as much I have on my year-long odyssey for which I didn’t have to leave home. I’m glad to have had the privilege of the journey and its discoveries. Discoveries rather than judgements because poems are essentially playful and deeply wilful and a law unto themselves and won’t be judged. As the American poet Archibald MacLeish put it in his brilliant formulation about the art of poetry: ‘A poem should not mean/ But be.’

I had already read most of the poems – but I loved revisiting them. Poems are like albums; you can put them on replay and they just get better.

Go here for poems, introduction and audios.

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Best NZ Poems is now live



We both know a language is waiting inside my tongue.

Please put down the adze, the skillsaw, the file:
Speak gently to me so I can recognise what’s there.

Alice Te Punga Somerville from ‘Rākau’


Kei te mōhio tāua, he reo kei tōku arero.

Waiho ki raro te toki, te kani, te whaiuru:
Kōrerotia whakamāriretia kia kite ai au he aha rā kei reira.

Translation from ‘Rākau’ by Te Ataahia Hurihanganui


Poet and novelist Fiona Farrell selected poems from 2018 that held her attention in diverse ways  – from books, journals and online sources. She questioned ‘best’ (a vague term), ‘New Zealand’ (poets needed to have been born here or lived here for some time) and ‘poem’ (she went to the Greek and cited a poem as ‘something made’).  Poetry offered her numerous reading pleasures:

Those hundreds of poems, gathered over a single year, formed a massive anthology, and if that means ‘ an arrangement of flowers’ – as it does by definition – then New Zealand poetry often reminds me of a garden I saw once, inland from Te Horo. Its flowers were a host of golden margarine containers and tin cans tacked to sticks. It was beautiful, this New Zealand version of common or garden. It was startling and provocative. What is beauty, after all? What is form and order? Why do we choose this and not that? Why does beauty exist in distortion? Why do we find it beautiful when a person stands on one calloused toe rather than with both feet firmly on the ground? Or when an apple is reduced to a crimson cube? Or when a sequence of words is forced from the patter of everyday speech? I’ve thought about that garden while plucking the blooms of 2018.


The refreshed site looks good;  you can hear some poets read and you can read notes from some poets on their selected poems (love these entries into poems). We get a new anthology – a harvest of poems that spark and simmer and soothe in their close proximity.

Tusiata Avia’s ‘Advice to Critics’ is like a backbone of the poet and it makes me sit up and listen to the sharp edges, the witty corners. There is the rhythmic hit of Hera Lindsay Bird’s love poem, there is the measured and evocative fluency of Nikki-Lee Birdsey’s ‘Mutuwhenua’, and the equally measured and evocative fluency of Anna Jackson’s ‘Late Swim’. Mary McCallum’s ‘Sycamore tree’, with its delicious syncopation and resonant gaps, first held my attention in her XYZ of Happiness. Bill Manhire’s ‘extended joke’ takes a bite at social media and I laughed out loud. Chris Tse’s poem reminds me of one of my favourite reads of 2018, HE’S SO MASC (and he has the best poet photo ever!)/. There is the inventive lyricism of Sophie van Waardenberg and the aural electrics of essa may ranapiri.
Fiona steps aside from notions of community, and questions of representation but these remain important to me. Part of the impetus of my blog is to nurture our poetry communities by showcasing and fostering connections, overlaps, underlays, experiences, events, ideas, feelings, heart. I am acutely aware that certain communities have not achieved the same representation as others, so I still check anthologies to muse upon the range of voices visible. Yep community is a slippery concept, heck I am consistently asking myself where I belong for all kinds of reasons, but as a white woman I most definitely afforded privilege, access and visibility even when I feel like an outsider. I have sat on the edge of the bed this morning stuck on the word ‘community’. Over the four years of writing and producing Wild Honey it was a key word, for all kinds of reasons, and it kept me going.


I love Fiona’s selection – the poems form an invigorating and uplifting day trip that offers breathtaking moments, surprising twists and turns, unfamiliar voices, old favourites and a welcome reconnection with some of my favourite reads of 2018 (I am thinking of Sam Duckor-Jones’s People from the Pit Stand Up for example). An anthology-garden that is well worth a day trip over Easter! I’ll be going back because I prefer to dawdle when I am travelling so still have sights to take in.


see me see me
by the sycamore tree
each child a propeller
sorry each child has a
propeller & is throwing
it up  & the dead seeds
spin & spin & spin & they
shriek my little ones & pick up another

Mary McCallum from ‘Sycamore Tree’


Visit Best NZ Poems 2018 here.



Selina Tusitala Marsh has edited Best NZ poems 2017 – the Pasifika way

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.03.51 AM.png


Yes!  What a breath of outstandingly fresh air. I love Selina’s approach to picking the poems – you need to read the whole piece here

And it is a crackingly good selection. I can’t wait to read and listen.  Some of my favourite reads from 2017 included. Content’s page here


From the intro:

‘I dedicate this last 12 months of choosing the ‘best’, to my friend and mentor, the late Associate Professor Teresia Teaiwa, whose Memorial Scholarship Fund continues to help give Pasifika peoples a choice.

Everybody loves free books (excluding my sons). I accepted this invitation to judge 2017’s batch of newly published poems because frankly, I wanted the books. I wanted to be able to map the latest constellation of Aotearoa’s poetry stars and navigate the various poetic journeys being offered from a particular time and place. I wanted to be inspired. After reading what seemed like, say, 3000 plus poems, I got what I wanted.

But I soon discovered that this was not an easy task. It wasn’t just a matter of reading a few poems and picking the ones I liked ‘best’. The sheer variety of form, tone, subject matter and lyricism soon problematised what I had thought was the ‘best’. Many a judge before me has acknowledged the impossibility of the task ahead. Most point to the bright sticky pink bubble gum of subjectivity that clicks and pops in the mouth whilst reading: ‘click, I like this one; pop, don’t like this one. Blow, I’m in my own bubble anyway.’ Presumably, this lets one off the hook. But I soon discovered that what I liked was too small a cage in which to read these free-range poems—just to further mix my metaphors in the post-euphoria of having climbed the Mt Everest of 2017’s poetic metaphors. Note to self: stop with the tongue in cheek stuff and get on with the serious business of writing this Introduction! (Aah, but whose tongue and in whose cheek?)

As a Pasifika Poet-Scholar, I wanted a more egalitarian way to ‘judge’ the ‘best’. I wanted to do something different, more collaborative, more epistemologically Pasifika—recalling Sia Figiel’s famously poetic passage nestled in the middle of her novel, Where We Once Belonged:

there is no ‘I’
only ‘we’

So, I decided to seek out the opinions, responses, reactions of the ‘we’ for a select numbers of poems that I hadn’t liked enough to include in my measly top 25. I gave out books and I gave out poems (with the payment that they could keep what they liked). My readers? Fellow Waiheke Trail Tribe runners, real estate agents, book club members, students, teachers, family members, people at the bus stop I saw often enough to bug. I asked them to give me 1-3 poems they liked and why.’


Selina with fue - 2 FLS.JPG


Selina at the Tokotoko Laureate event.  Photo credit:  Fiona Lam Sheung






Jenny Bornholdt’s choice of Best NZ Poems 2016 now live

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 9.18.56 AM.png


Looking forward to delving into this delectable poetry banquet (sorry AY but I love cooking and writing equally!) An impressive array of mostly Wellington published and Wellington based poets –  poetry must sizzling on the streets there just as it does in Ireland. It blew my poetry socks off. Extraordinary!


Press release:

The latest online edition of Best New Zealand Poems is now available, bringing together twenty-five poems that are rich with place and vibrating with a fierce energy.

The anthology has been published annually since 2001 by the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) at Victoria University of Wellington with support from Creative New Zealand.

“Best New Zealand Poems 2016 comes with a brand new look that includes author photos and a search feature,” says series editor, poet and IIML senior lecturer Chris Price.

This year’s edition represents the cream of New Zealand poetry published in 2016, as selected by poet and Arts Foundation Laureate Jenny Bornholdt.

Ms Bornholdt says she picked poems that “made me pause and put a book/pile of paper down; made me want to go to the bakery and buy a cream torpedo then make coffee; or put my gumboots on and go and inspect the compost—the things I do when I need to think”.

Internationally acclaimed and Ockham New Zealand Book Award-shortlisted writers Ashleigh Young and Hera Lindsay Bird, and the father/son duo Tim and Oscar Upperton are among the poets who have made the cut. The anthology takes flight into the past with an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, soars with an orphaned falcon named Avro Vulcan, yet always manages to return to earth in a recognisably New Zealand landscape and culture.

Place is a key theme in this year’s selection, and the poets often find themselves transported—in both senses of the word. Claire Orchard’s ‘Charms’ takes a drive through her childhood neighbourhood to examine her past life, James Brown heads for the trig in a Wellington wind and 2017 Windham-Campbell Prize winner Ashleigh Young is galloped away screaming on a frightened horse. John Dennison meditates on man’s urge to fly; Andrew Johnston travels outside of time and space at the ear, nose, and throat doctor’s; and Tim Upperton visits Kansas, well, kind of.

Other poets find their way around life’s biggest emotions and events. Bill Nelson writes a memorandum of understanding to his love; Anna Livesey examines the death of her mother, the birth of her child and cabbages; Tusiata Avia looks at a photo of her house, and watches it populate with people, spirits and history.

“The poems themselves are as fresh as this morning’s milk. There’s never been a better time to encounter new New Zealand poetry,” says Chris Price.

The new site has been designed by poet Rachel O’Neill.  (looks great Rachel!! PG)

Best New Zealand Poems 2016 can be viewed online

Best NZ Poems now live

The 2015 edition of Best New Zealand Poems was launched yesterday, introducing both established writers and new voices to the wider public.
Best New Zealand Poems 2015 can be viewed here.

The anthology has been published annually since 2001 by the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) at Victoria University of Wellington.

Poet and academic John Newton had the task of sifting through the thousands of poems published in books and journals last year in search of 25 that delivered what he wanted.

“I was looking for an active jolt of pleasure,” he says. “That moment of finding something that really does it for you, when you can’t wait to get on the phone or on Facebook, or better still in person, hearing it echoed in the pleasure of the person you’re sharing it with.”
Best New Zealand Poems series editor Chris Price, a senior lecturer at the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), says one of the contributions is from Selina Tusitala Marsh, who just last month performed for the Queen at Westminster Abbey. “Her poem describes watching The Vampire Diaries after a day spent teaching post-colonial theory,” Ms Price says.
Diverse cultures and forms of communication feature strongly in this year’s selection, demonstrating that our poetry is both rooted in the local and connected to the world. Sarah Jane Barnett’s beautiful and timely poem looks at the life of a refugee from Ethiopia.  Gregory O’Brien’s poem attempts to gain the ear of the King of Tonga, and Alison Wong tries to decipher the language of match-making in Shanghai. Kani Te Manukura remembers Te Kooti’s last stand and thinks about Aotearoa’s race-time continuum. Ashleigh Young encounters a man in Reno with the voice of ‘Death’s personal computer’.

Readers of John Newton’s top 25 poems are also able to hear recordings of several of the poets reading their work.

Ms Price says there is a playful, wry tone to much of this year’s work.
“Hera Lindsay Bird announces that ‘It’s a bad crime to say poetry in poetry’ but she does it anyway. Alexandra Hollis reminds us that Rihanna is as profound as the stars, and Bryan Walpert’s title, ‘This poem is conversational’, might be a comment on the very nature of contemporary New Zealand poetry.”

Best New Zealand Poems is published by the IIML with support from Creative New Zealand, and is hosted by the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection.

It is a great list — Best NZ Poems is now live

Our current NZ Poet Laureate, Vincent O’Sullivan, has edited Best NZ Poems 2014. It is an eclectic taste of why New Zealand poetry is so very very good at the moment. Congratulations!

Here is a taste of Vincent’s introduction:

“Last year I joked, more accurately than I realised, that there are now more publishing poets in New Zealand than there are commissioned officers in our armed forces. And that was before I considered the three thousand poems that turned out for inspection in 2014. There’s at least a clarity if we’re just noting numbers. But talk of poetry may quickly fall into generalisation and defence of a corner, when it comes to poems that interest us deeply. We are always reading towards the elitism of our own taste, whether or not we quite put it like that. Geoff Page, the editor of the excellent Best Australian Poems 2014, wryly picks up on this when he writes, ‘Our time on earth is finite, and we are invariably hierarchical.’ It’s not a big step from there, of course, to the necessary corrective that we are always teetering on the verge of possible error.

Inevitably then, the discomfort other editors too have felt with that title, ‘Best Poems’. I wish it weren’t called that, because I have never heard a compelling argument to take it seriously. As a philosopher might say, it is a ‘category error’. Instead, what you have are twenty-five poems that I admired when I first came on them, continue to admire as I read them again, and am fairly certain that next time round they will still attract me with the particular kind of attention they give to how something is said, or for their technical elegance, or for the finally indefinable lift that good poetry provides. But let’s not make out that anything more definitive than personal choice is going on. One reader’s shortlist may be another reader’s rejects. Yet what a privilege, and a celebratory one, to be handed the chance to invite readers, ‘Look at these, look at their variety, their elan, their vigour—isn’t that something?’”

Full introduction here

Contents here

Submission Guidelines for Best NZ Poems 2015

Submission guidelines (see here for full page)

Submissions for Best New Zealand Poems 2015 are open from 1January 2015 and must be received by 15 December 2015.

What to submit

  • Only poems or books of poems by New Zealanders published within the calendar year of the current collection are eligible for consideration. (Unpublished poems may be submitted to our other annual online collection, Turbine.)
  • Poems or collections published in print or in online journals, and in local or international publications, are eligible provided the publication date falls within the calendar year.
  • While online journals are an acceptable publication source, blogs will generally not be eligible.
  • Publishers may submit books, magazines, journals or links to online journals that meet these criteria.
  • Individual poets may also submit published poems or books directly.
  • Please note the specific guidelines about electronic submissions under ‘How to Submit’ below.

When to submit

  • You may send submissions for Best New Zealand Poems 2014 at any time during the calendar year, provided they reach the IIML by 15 December 2015.
  • Receipt of email submissions will be acknowledged. Postal submissions will be acknowledged if an email address or SSAE is included with the submission.
  • Publishers and / or authors of selected poems will be contacted by February of the following year. For all accepted material, copyright remains with the author (or in some instances the original publisher) upon publication. Due to the volume of submissions, we are unable to
  • The editors are unable to engage in correspondence regarding individual submissions.

How to submit

Postal submissions should be directed to:

BNZP editor
c/o International Institute of Modern Letters
Victoria University
PO Box 600
New Zealand

Email submissions of individual poems or a small selection of poems should be submitted, preferably as attachments, to: modernletters@vuw.ac.nz.

  • Please put ‘BNZP submission’ in the subject line.
  • Include contact details, preferably an email address, in the body of the email.
  • Include name and contact details on each page of your submission.
  • Mac users sending MS Word attachments should save them first in Rich Text Format and add a “.rtf” suffix to each filename.
  • We do not accept whole manuscripts in electronic form. Submissions of e-book-only publications should be made in the form of a printed pdf copy, and include a link to the publication site.

Whether posting or emailing, please include the following information with each individual submission:

The place and date of publication of each poem submitted (including web links if relevant).

Best NZ Poems 2013 is now live and the list is a cracker!

Here is a list of the poets in the latest edition of Best NZ Poems edited by Jane Stafford and Mark Williams. Poetry Shelf has featured many of these poets to date and I can’t wait to work my way through the poems. This is a terrific line up — imagine it as a poetry reading!

Fleur Adcock Hinemoana Baker Amy Brown Sarah Broom Kate Camp Mary Jane Duffy Murray Edmond Johanna Emeney Cliff Fell Bernadette Hall Dinah Hawken Caoilinn Hughes Anna Jackson Anne Kennedy Michele Leggott Therese Lloyd Selina Tusitala Marsh John Newton Gregory O’Brien Rachel O’Neill Vincent O’Sullivan Elizabeth Smither Chris Tse Ian Wedde Ashleigh Young

Check out the 2013 page here

%d bloggers like this: