anomalia, Cadence Chung, We Are Babies Press, 2022
scrapes and yellow bruises on her knees, she is learning the terrain, learning that some things cut and some things stain, she is learning that the sky above is full of balls of light that you can’t touch or feel or taste she is getting used to the injustice of it all.
from ‘specimen ‘332: the astronomer’
anomalia is Cadence Chung’s debut collection, and was written during her final year of secondary school in Wellington. She has been writing since she was young, and began publishing in her teens. Cadence has made two demo albums and her musical Blind Faith was staged at her secondary school in 2021. She hit the poetry headlines with ‘Shadows / shades’, a poem she wrote in response to NZQA using a poem by white supremacist and murderer Lionel Terry in a Level 2 History exam.
The collection’s opening poem, ‘abstract’, underlines how anomalia heightens a sense of the imprecise, the irregular. Stare at a word long enough, say it often enough, and it slips into the unfamiliar, the unpredictable, the unsteady. The word ‘abstract’ may reference a summary that acts as prelude or doorway. It may be ideas that stand as theoretical window. Or the removal that signals a clearance from expected settings. The word/idea/flashpoint bounces me back to the title of the book, and I am musing on how a word wobbles on the line, how this thought or that gesture, this appearance or that choice, deviates from expectation.
Poetry is a perfect place to contest everyday anomalies. The word may wobble on the line, but the word on the line can emit light, can resist subjugation. And Cadence’s poetry demonstrates this.
Poetry is a perfect place to celebrate the present tense, to make use of the gerund, the present participle, in order to keep moving: to keep searching, collecting, surrendering, dissecting, loving, pretending, existing, recurring.
Cadence’s collection is a curious curiosity cabinet with its recurring motifs and themes: cicada, vivisect, blood, science, anxiety, specimens, antique shops, milk(y), love. But it is more than that. It is more than physicality. Cadence has probed into the tender flesh of being human, with scalpel and penetrating lens, and laid the seeping wounds and insights into the clearing that is poem.
There is the insistent and constant need to classify, sort, catalogue or vivisect the specimen. The specimen may be a gathered object, a body’s organ, but I also see it as self. The poet is driven to sort, classify, catalogue, vivisect self. It is the beating heart, the fragile state. It is elusive and unknowable. Self is placed in display cabinet. Self becomes cabinet. Self becomes poem. And if the specimen is dismembered, split open, if the self is vivisected, this is poetry of pain, hurt, danger, vulnerability.
The floating and ambiguous ‘me’ is more than body parts. It is astonishing to peer into the glass cabinet of the poem and hit the sharp edge of anomaly. Where the most important things (I love you) are incommunicable. Where sorrow is easily categorised but matches no category. Where uncertainty is a certainty. Where life is sonnets and getting tender about mushrooms, a flirting moon. And life is ‘patching together / every scrap and semblance i know of’. Also from the poem ‘that’s why they call me missus fahrenheit’: ‘Because everything’s too bitter / to not suck on the sweet bits’.
Oh and scientist poet, poet scientist, becomes dissident. They long to subvert the results, the order – and gore becomes glitter cluster. From ‘anatomy’: ‘keep trying to understand the strange strange anatomy / of existence’.
The collection has hooked onto my skin, down my breathing passages. The poetry is provisional anchor. Searchlight. Distress signal. Gritty field. Self reflection.
anomalia is a breathtaking debut.
like i have admired everything in my life with recklessness and without hesitation
how could i not? when there are drawers full of herbs pictures of distant towns
ripped waistcoats long-gone family crests love letters to dispense from heart-covered machines
for a penny each how could i not? when i am so used to being collected
like dust between pages like sludge in a gutter like eyeliner on skin left to sit
how could i not? when i am lonely so everything reminds me of love
We Are Babies is made up of Carolyn DeCarlo, Jackson Nieuwland, Stacey Teague, Ash Davida Jane, Nat-Lîm Kado, and Ya-Wen Ho. Our kaupapa is to create a space for writing and writers that might not be able to find a home elsewhere. We are focused on publishing work by LGBTQIA+, disabled, Māori, Pasifika, BIPOC, and otherwise marginalised writers. We also have a particular interest in works in translation, debut and out-of-print books, and experimental writing. We are open to works of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and hybrid forms.
We Are Babies is in its first season. In November/December, we are publishing Whai by Nicole Titihuia Hawkins and Requiem for a Fruit by Rachel O’Neill. These books are currently available for pre-order at wearebabies.net. In March, we will be publishing Anomalia by Cadence Chung and We’re All Made of Lightning by Khadro Mohamed. We chose the following poems as representative of what these collections have on offer. We hope you enjoy their work as much as we have been.
On Nicole’s poem:
This poem was the inspiration for the cover of Nicole’s book, which is taken from a photograph of a multi-coloured piupiu made by Rita Baker (aka Flaxworx), a contemporary artist working in the Far North. This poem describes Nicole’s grandmother, whose legendary rainbow piupiu lends itself to the title of the poem. The tone Nicole uses here is so encapsulating of this collection as a whole–pride in kōrero o mua, a kind of nostalgia for things she didn’t get to experience, and the process of affirming of her heritage. These poems are heart-wrenchingly personal, but written in a way that brings the reader along on her journey. So much aroha.– Carolyn DeCarlo
On Rachel’s poem:
I’ve been a fan of Rachel O’Neill’s writing for almost a decade now and this might be my favourite poem of hers I’ve come across in all those years. I remember hearing her perform it at a reading at our house. She had the audience in convulsions. I was so glad to come across this poem again when Rachel submitted her manuscript. It brings a grin to my face every time I reread it. It might just be my raison d’être. – Jackson Nieuwland
On Cadence’s poem:
This poem is one of many gems from Cadence’s forthcoming collection, with language so lush it drips with imagery. As a teaser for what’s to come, the poet takes herself apart piece by piece, and puts herself under the microscope. It reminds me of the old nursery rhyme that says girls are made of ‘sugar and spice, and everything nice’, only Cadence turns the question back on itself and reveals the process of dissection, slightly gruesome and certainly not nice. – Ash Davida Jane
On Khadro’s poem:
I’m really lucky to be editing Khadro’s manuscript, there are so many magical moments contained within it, and this poem is a perfect example. Its rich and beautiful language builds a bridge between Aotearoa and Africa. It reads as a love letter to her homeland and herself. – Stacey Teague
I don’t know enough about the tipuna I’m named after but when I read she was a weaver I feel her stitching tāniko into the bodice of my insides
She says it doesn’t hurt that much When I breathe in hundreds of tiny holes expand but her pattern holds its place like the ocean holds the stars that got us here
I don’t know anything about kākahu but when I hear she made cloaks from juicy kererū I can feel her weaving muka into my shoulder blades
She says to hold still When I breathe out they move in rhythm rows on rows of feathers align like the tides with the winds that carried us here
I’ve never heard of a Rainbow Piupiu but when I’m told she made one I can feel her binding the cords around my soft waist
She says she had ten babies by my age When I swirl my hips the piupiu dances each dyed band melts into another colour like her blood into the salt that brought us here
Nicole Titihuia Hawkins
A reason for everything
One day there is a reason for everything. Except, the following morning there are no reasons, only raisins, just like the philosopher warned you. The next day you go to work and your colleague asks, ‘What’s your raisin, though?’ You hand your colleague a bit of paper. On it you have written, ‘What if there is no raisin?’ Your colleague can’t handle the implication that all men walking the earth are without a single raisin, that even the smallest of raisins is missing. That night you can’t sleep. Being unconscious and prone and partially paralysed for up to eight hours without a raisin no longer seems sensible. If only there was one good raisin left in the world, you think. If only it could be found.
i am made from milk teeth, not yet weaned from this world though it may try to pull itself from my wet pink gums
i will hang on to its grit for a moment and a moment and a moment longer. i am made of dandelion fluff
spinning like spokes into living rooms and kitchens and trying to find a home somewhere, a place to seed
and stay. all i want is for someone to divide me into neat parts and lay them all out, so i can see
the pesky veins that cause my blood to swim, the blushing heart that tries to love more than it can chew through
o, silly organs of mine, i would say you fools of longing, lust and time hot and carnal and really nothing like
a seed or petal—o to be made of pretty white taffeta or downy petals instead of such heavy instruments
that weigh me down. o to have people take out their tweezers and glasses to have them examine me and pull
me apart, marvelling at each lovely piece that comes out—the heart the spleen, the liver, the brain
sparkling like jewels crisp as bug wings and with just as much glister
IF I GO BACK
if I ‘go back to where I came from’ I will take everything with me. my mason jars with fireflies, my golden bangles, my morning coffee. I will take my earth, my horned melons and stories of cleopatra I will take that rug, the one you love so much, with the golden tassels and delicately picked butterfly wings. I will take my turmeric
my henna, my lemongrass and my acacia leaves. I will take my language, heavy and soft in the palms of my hands I will tuck my afrobeats and hip-hop in my back pocket I will carry the moon in my bindle, my chocolate in a zip-lock bag
I will carry my baobab and the cash you owe me in my backpack and then you’ll be left with naked kings and queens with concave bellies and hollow, scooped out eyes because their fancy fabric, thin sclera and jewelled crowns belong to me too.
Ama Ata Adioo once said ‘what would the world be without Africa?’ and I think I know now. it would no longer grow roses, it would be void of lyrical words and sweet orange pulp that melt on my tongue the earth would be scaly and dry, the wind would not whistle. there would be a dent in the air every time you took a breath. there would be no myriad of reds and purples dancing across the sky.
Cadence Chung is a poet, musician, and student at Wellington High School. She has been writing poetry since she was at primary school, and since then has loved writing, whether it be songs, short stories, or poems. Outside of poetry, she draws inspiration from classic literature, Tumblr text posts, and roaming antique stores.
Nicole Titihuia Hawkins (Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa, Ngāti Pāhauwera) is a novice writer, avid home-baker and proud aunt. She lives in Pōneke and works at a local high school teaching English, Social Studies and tikanga Māori. Nicole is also involved in pastoral care and facilitates Kapa Haka. Nicole has collaborated with other writers to host ‘Coffee with Brownies’, which are open mic events for people of colour to share their work in safe spaces. She co-hosted ‘Rhyme Time’, a regional youth event, with Poetry in Motion, to encourage a diverse range of youth to perform their incredible poetry. Nicole has work published by Overland, Capital Magazine, Blackmail Press and The Spinoff Ātea and credits her courageous students with inspiring her to write.
Khadro Mohamed is a 20-something year old poet residing on the shores of Te Whanganui-a-Tara. She’s a tea lover, a photo enthusiast, an occasional poet… and that’s pretty much it. You can find bits of her writing floating around Newtown in Food Court Books and online.
Rachel O’Neill is a Pākehā storyteller who was raised in the Waikato and currently lives and works in Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Kāpiti Coast. Rachel enjoys collaborating with writers, artists and filmmakers on publications, exhibitions and works for screen, and they are a founding member of the four-artist collaborative group, All the Cunning Stunts. A graduate of Elam School of Fine Arts (BA/BFA) and the International Institute of Modern Letters (MA), Rachel was selected for the 2017 Aotearoa Short Film Lab, received a 2018 SEED Grant (NZWG/NZFC) for feature film development, and held a 2019 Emerging Writers Residency at the Michael King Writers Centre. Their debut book, One Human in Height (Hue & Cry Press) was published in 2013. As a queer non-binary storyteller Rachel strives to represent the longing for connection and the humour and strangeness that characterise human experience.
Putting this collection together, I tried to group some of my all-time and recent favourite poems in ways where they sat comfortably next to one another – my little poetry playlist/mixtape for Poetry Shelf. Many thanks to Paula for inviting me to put it together, and to all the poets who agreed to be included (and apologies all my favourites that I couldn’t fit in – I was already pushing the limit!).
Alistair Te Ariki Campbell is one of my very favourite writers, especially his love poems. I feel like people often get self-conscious or apologetic about writing love poems – less of this, please! ‘The Fall’ is one of the reasons why it’s so good when a great poet absolutely gets in their feelings – a small, exquisite moment of tenderness, along with useful health & safety advice.
Sophie van Waardenberg is one of the people following in Alistair’s tradition as a great NZ love poet – she’s been slowly building up a collection of wonderful, open-hearted love poems across different journals over the last few years. ‘schön’ is the first of these that I read, a cascade of details and slightly askew metaphors that accumulate into something wonderful.
Cadence Chung’s ‘Hey Girls’ is similar to Sophie’s cascade of moments and images, building into a torrent – it’s one of a series of long, wild poems that have been part of Cadence’s rampage across NZ literary journals over the past two years (see also ‘Girls just wanna have fun’ in The Spinoff, ‘fight scene’ in Food Court, ‘that’s why they call me missus farenheit’ in Landfall, and much more). I’m very excited for her first book, arriving from We Are Babies press next year, giving her just enough time to finish high school in the interim.
I am a very easy touch for any poem that makes me laugh, and Caroline Shepherd is one of the funniest out there – she’s a master at telling jokes as a way to communicate something honest and sincere and sometimes painful. ‘MH370’ was a poem that I remember reading (in Mimicry journal, much loved and missed) and wanting to tell everyone about immediately. (Note: if you want to keep the theme of love poems going rather than pivoting to air disasters, feel free to substitute in Caroline’s equally great ‘Crush Poem!’ here).
I had the same response to ‘Children are the orgasm of the world’, which was the first Hera Lindsay Bird poem I ever read, and wanted to shout from the rooftops about for weeks afterwards (although I think I mostly settled for reading it loudly to my flatmates). I still think about it every time I see a bag with a cheerful affirmation on it.
Hannah Mettner’s ‘Birth Control’ is a recent favourite, one that knocked me down when I first read it in Sweet Mammalian, and then did so again when I heard her read it at Unity Books a few months ago. I love long, exploratory poems like this – something with the time and scope to tell you something new about art history and biblical studies on the way to its conclusion.
Sinead Overbye’s ‘Wormhole’ is another big, wide-ranging poem – I love Sinead’s writing in this form (see also her ‘The River’, ‘Hinemoana’ and more). She always uses her experimentations with the layout of her poem to structure and guide the reader to something deeply felt – she’s another very open-hearted writer. This was originally part of an exquisite corpse experiment for the Digital Writers Festival in Australia where it was paired with music from Ruby Solly (as well as video and coding from two Australian artists, Veronica Charmont and Ruby Quail), and I highly recommend reading it with Ruby’s accompaniment.
Chris Tse and Louise Wallace are both two of my favourite poets and favourite people, so I picked favourites by them that I think read well next to one another. ‘Spanner–A Toast’ and ‘Why we need a reunion’ are both quiet, reflective poems that still hit me hard, years after first reading them. I remember Bill Manhire once described one of Louise’s poems as being like a pebble dropped in the centre of a lake – at first it might seem small, but the ripples keep spreading further and further in your mind after you’ve read it. I think both of these poems do that.
Tayi Tibble’s ‘Karakia 4 a Humble Skux’ is the most recent poem I’ve read that stopped me in my tracks, so it’s the last poem here. It comes towards the end of her new book, Rangikura, and after all of the turbulence in that collection is an incredible moment of calm and transformation – Tayi is always shifting and surprising me as a reader, and she does it again here.
I had been painting the blue sky a brighter blue. I had been higher than I thought possible. When I fell, the sun wheeled spokes of light about my head
I make no excuses for my fall – anyone that aims at such heights must take the necessary precautions. He must take care to lean his ladder against a fixed object, preferably a star.
O love, knowing your constancy, how did I fail to lean it against your heart?
Alistair Te Ariki Campbell
from It’s Love, Isn’t It? The Love Poems, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and Meg Campbell HeadworX, 2008
my girl watered her cacti until they drowned my girl filled my house with flowers until the house coughed and fell down
my girl ties yellow ribbons to my hair with her cold hands and calls me beautiful in swooping german and my girl laughs
when my girl laughs she cuts my life in two and two again where she kisses me there is love fizzing from my cheeks to the car windows
and we walk into the supermarket at midnight when the lilies have gone quiet and hold hands past the eggs and milk and cut-price easter bunnies
when my girl wakes up she looks at me close and still smiles my girl nearest to me in the world plucks her eyebrows and frowns and proves her face
my girl and I, here we are, refusing to decide what to feed each other in the crumbed kitchen with the lights off
my girl and I spill our egg yolks on wednesday’s astrology forget that we are paper boats pushed out to sea by wistful hands
my girl forgets with me the drycleaning ticket my girl forgets with me the breakfast cost
my girl becomes a calendar and I curl up inside her my girl becomes a tongue twister and I curl up inside her
my girl lets the spring in through her hands she puts her hands over my ears and I remember how it feels
it is nice and nice and nice
Sophie van Waardenberg
from Mimicry 4, 2018
Hey girls could we dance in the glister of a winter night could we hum along to the hazy beat of jazz? We could be neon
we could be starlets eyeliner like slits in our skin holding that little 20s powder compact in the shape of a gun (with a matching bullet-shaped lipstick).
God, girls I’d love to glow as green as radium glassware, discarded in the night like a ghost’s banquet, all the dead dames and dandies
sipping toxic wine, listening to the click of the Geiger counter getting louder louder louder, girls, there are graves that still hum with radiation, that you
can’t stand too close to or your cells will go haywire split, swirl, divide oh girls I’d paint my lips fluorescent green just to poison for 24,000 years longer.
Hey ladies if the jazz gets too much then how about we listen to the slow descent into tragedy that Chopin always reminds me of like the blood
crusted onto a stale knife with lapis, emerald, ruby on the hilt. We could waltz far too close at the ball cause a scandal come home with
our petticoats swapped around and smelling like each other, so much so that the swallows would change their paths, mix up their routes confused
with the exchange of souls and lace, and love. My girls, I could be the humble gardener with crooked teeth and dirt down my nails you could be the fair dame
who never accepts marriage proposals and spends all her time planting violets to coat in coarse sugar make the bitter petals sweet. Girls, we could dance
in the dry-throated-heart-thumping mess of waiting backstage before a show, listen to the crowd shout louder than the glaring stars. We could wear huge
plastic earrings, so heavy they can only be worn once a year. Girls, let’s tie the ends of our button-down blouses and make them into crop-tops wear sunglasses on
our heads, but never let them blind us to our brightness. Hey hey hey girls if flowers bloom on my grave then I hope they have disco lights on their stamens
so people never forget the sweat-slicked thumpthumpthump of my past; the statues of the Greeks were once painted and were hideously gaudy, but we forget that things were not always
just bronze, marble, and plaster. We forget the click from the gravestones, growing louder every day. Ticktickticktick tick, the ground is growing heavy from the weight of such
blistering souls it carries. Tickticktickticktick, girls, before it’s too late let us paint ourselves with the brightest pigment and burn our kisses into history books ‒ xoxoxo.
from Poetry New Zealand Yearbook, Massey University Press, 2021. The poem was the winner of the 2021 Poetry New Zealand Yearbook Student Competition, Year 12 division.
A whole ass plane disappeared five years ago and we still Take the bins out and get Thai takeaway
Turn on the news and they’re talking about the print on the royal baby’s bib and I feel like dragging a really large wine glass into somewhere crowded and politely drowning in it to force the point that an ENTIRE plane disappeared OUT OF THE SKY and it isn’t the first thing the Prime News guy opens with like
“Kia ora good evening, I’m Eric Young, an entire fucking plane disappeared 1825 days ago, and this is prime news”
I am no expert in planes or in flight or in anything I am silly and stupid and stuck on this, unattractively, like a mad child
but: an airplane, gone, vanished that flushed, roaring engine 227 passengers, 10 flight attendants, 2 pilots and a snack cart
And the world continues, which I guess is what it does But I want to place a formal compliant to whoever is in charge of this kind of thing that cornflakes shouldn’t go on special when a plane is missing, or at the very least milk should also go on special at the same time
A plane leaves and we look for it and when we don’t find it, we go on. We let the world get away with being this big. Worse- we know it’s this big and we don’t spend all our time afraid. That is the point. Sorry it took so long to say so. Something should not be so large and unforgiving
from Mimicry 5, 2019
Children are the Orgasm of the World
This morning on the bus there was a woman carrying a bag with inspirational sayings and positive affirmations which I was reading because I’m a fan of inspirational sayings and positive affirmations. I also like clothing that gives you advice. What’s better than the glittered baseball cap of a stranger telling you what to strive for? It’s like living in a world of endless therapists. The inspirational bag of the woman on the bus said a bunch of stuff like ‘live in the moment’ and ‘remember to breathe,’ but it also said ‘children are the orgasm of the world.’ Are children the orgasm of the world like orgasms are the orgasms of sex? Are children the orgasm of anything? Children are the orgasm of the world like hovercraft are the orgasm of the future or silence is the orgasm of the telephone or shit is the orgasm of the lasagne. You could even say sheep are the orgasm of lonely pastures, which are the orgasm of modern farming practices which are the orgasm of the industrial revolution. And then I thought why not? I like comparing stuff to other stuff too. Like sometimes when we’re having sex and you look like a helicopter in a low budget movie, disappearing behind a cloud to explode. Or an athlete winning a prestigious international sporting tournament at the exact same moment he discovers his wife has just been kidnapped. For the most part, orgasms are the orgasms of the world. Like slam dunking a glass basketball. Or executing a perfect dive into a swimming pool full of oh my god. Or travelling into the past to forgive yourself and creating a time paradox so beautiful it forces all of human history to reboot, stranding you naked on some distant and rocky outcrop, looking up at the sunset from a world so new looking up hasn’t even been invented yet.
Hera Lindsay Bird
from Hera Lindsay Bird, Victoria University Press, 2016
We begin with the viral video of the anaconda in New England giving birth to her exact genetic copies because she’s never even seen a male snake in all her eight years behind glass.
The headlines are calling it a virgin birth.
I watched the video this morning— now everywhere I turn, a Madonna, a snake. Oh, Rome, how you worship your silk-hipped mothers!
You heap your offerings of smoke and ash, your hard heels of bread. This church is just another Santa Maria with an old woman in a shawl and a takeaway coffee cup shaking outside.
At the Vatican yesterday, I wondered if he-who-sees-everything could see the small t-shaped thing inside me. I walked through the metal detectors and bag-check and had the surreal thought that the Pope might sweep down to deny me entry like Jesus in The Last Judgment.
When I first had it inserted, I bled for a month and ruined all the underwear I owned, even though I rinsed them in cold water first the way my mother taught me. Every day I’d think it’d stopped, but it kept coming— Mary’s stigmata, Eve’s—relentless like the blood after birth— uterus closing like a fist with nails cutting into the palm.
In the Vatican there is so much art, so much wealth, but what I notice is the absence of Madonnas. Every wall in Rome is frescoed with Marys except here, the holy centre.
At home, my daughter, who has grown so tall so quickly it looks like someone has grabbed her at either end and pulled, starts taking the pill to manage her bleeding.
Six months ago she was innocent as grass. Seems like every initiation into womanhood is an initiation into pain. Into seeing the other women busying around us, bruising hips on the corners of tables, gasping in the bathroom as their stitches tear—
trying to hold back the knowledge of it, doing their best always, always rubbing honey into the wound, almond butter into the cracks in their hands, delivering us into the knowledge of blood.
In this church the colours are fairy floss and hayfever and bubble-gum flavoured milk but Byzantine.
The gold is so bright that we glow a bit, even though we joked about burning up as we walked in. If god made gold, it was definitely for this—to dazzle us into a submissive kind of belief.
But, later, all these churches later, what I remember is the fresco of the one woman with her arms held wide trying to call her companions to order, like Bitches, please, and that poor woman on her left with a toddler and a baby on her lap each clamouring for a breast.
Another woman seems to be resting a sandalled foot casually on the decapitated head of a man. Her robe drapes a bit in the blood, but she’s too deep in conversation to notice that. On the far side of the group the woman in blue has her arm raised to receive a raven while she whispers in her friend’s ear.
This is the pastel chaos of womanhood. And behind them all in black, a neat semicircle of men.
What’s helpful is to know what the line ‘Blessed be the fruit’ actually means. It’s what the serpent said to Eve just before she bit—what Eve said to Adam juice dripping down her chin.
In Rome, outside every church are four or five armed soldiers and a jeep, spilling ash from their cigarettes between the cobblestones, watching. Kitset boys in camouflage and blood-red berets.
I sit on the steps of the fountain and google the church— the first church in Rome dedicated to Mary, it holds the head of the virgin martyr Saint Apollonia. But before that it was a pagan temple dedicated to Carmenta — goddess of childbirth, prophecy and technical innovation. Inventor of the Latin alphabet.
And the old woman, begging outside? One of the soldiers calls her Maria and hands her a bomboloni wrapped in a paper napkin.
The light around the broken temple of the virgins is orange and thick. If the flame went out, the women were blamed for being unchaste. Whoever the culprit— she was buried alive with just enough apricots and milk
to make the death a low-angled wasting. What would her heart do, while her face was pulling back into its bones? She would cry, and you would too, for spending your life a servant to fire, and never knowing how it felt to burn.
Parthenogenesis is the ancient word for a virgin birth— not magic, but a well-documented biological process in many plants and animals. Typically, what has happened
is that if men can’t explain a thing, they call it witchcraft and destroy it. There is a hymn for everything here and this is the hymn for days made narrow through lack of sleep. This is the hymn for the good-bad gift of knowing.
from Sweet Mammalian 7, 2020
from Scum, July 2020
To be the sun. To be locked in the care of glass. To show, then offer. To know that love is the most dangerous sting yet to still give up an arm. To wake from machines and know your hope will never be yours alone. To take to those machines as an unexpected spanner. To fill a touch with a complete backstory. To leave sugar at my door to keep you close. To crave
but not seek. To know the future and avoid it. To accept that after silk comes rain from dark, honest clouds. To lose a smile at a storied game of chance. To let the morning sweep away the last nine months. To wrong no other even when the line’s gone dead. To family and friendship. To starts, to ends, to towers we go.
from He’s So MASC, Auckland University Press, 2018
Why we need a reunion
Something about long driveways, wizened trees sprawling overhead, the stew and the yeasty bread. Country comes from the stereo. I like it, I admit – but only in this house.
At the lunch table it’s the same old stories – comforting like the meal. What will you do? My family’s favourite question. I try to think of a new answer, one they might not mind.
Nana broke science. She overpowered our genes – wrestled them to the floor. Let’s forget about who got the coffee table she made from shells. But who did? Let’s forget that.
I could have used a funny uncle growing up. Call me ‘Boss’, he said, and we did, but never saw him much. Other than that, I can’t mention names – everything is touchy still. We won’t be here forever you know, the gorse will eat the hills.
from Since June, Victoria University Press, 2009
A Karakia 4 a Humble Skux
I take a bath in my body of water I take a bath in my body of water
I know I am the daughter of rangi papa tangaroa I know I am the daughter of rangi papa tangaroa
& every yung god who fucked it up before me. & every yung god who fucked it up before me.
Every day I breach the surface cleanly Every day I breach the surface cleanly
& step out dripping so hard & step out dripping so hard
ya better call a plumber. ya better call a plumber.
God I’m a flex. God I’m a flex.
I’m God’s best sex. I’m God’s best sex.
I am made in the image of God. I am made in the image of God.
I am made in the image of my mother. I am made in the image of my mother.
I am made in the image of I am made in the image of
my mountain my river my whenua
my mountain my river my whenua
Yeah I’m as fresh as my oldest tipuna. Yeah I’m as fresh as my oldest tipuna.
Even when I’m lowkey I’m loud. Even when I’m lowkey I’m loud.
Lil, but a million years old. Lil, but a million years old.
I’ve been germinating like a seed I’ve been germinating like a seed
been on my vibe like an atom been on my vibe like an atom
& I am wilder than anything & I am wilder than anything
my ancestors could have imagined. my ancestors could have imagined.
So release the parts of me that call for change So release the parts of me that call for change
but the energy is stale. but the energy is stale.
I’m switching it all up I’m switching it all up
fishing stars into the sea fishing stars into the sea
and painting the skyful of whales. and painting the skyful of whales.
Keep it humble, keep it skux. Keep it humble, keep it skux.
Keep it pushing, keep it cute. Keep it pushing, keep it cute.
I be in the marae doing the dishes I be in the marae doing the dishes
cos there’s mahi to do. cos there’s mahi to do.
Creator and Creation. Creator and Creation.
I am made of the same I am made of the same
star matter as legends. star matter as legends.
Lesh go. Lesh go.
from Rangikura, Victoria University Press, 2021
Francis Cooke is a Wellington author and co-editor (with Louise Wallace and the editorial committee of Tate Fountain, Claudia Jardine and Sinead Overbye) of Starling journal.
Hera Lindsay Bird was a poet from Wellington. She hasn’t written a poem in a long time, and no longer lives in Wellington.
Alistair Te Ariki Campbell (1925 – 2009) was born in Rarotonga and lived in Aotearoa from the age of eight. During his writing career of sixty years, he published 20 poetry collections along with novels, plays and an autobiography. His many honours and awards included a NZ Book Award for Poetry (1982), an Honorary DLitt from Victoria University of Wellington (1999), the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (2005). He was made an Officer of NZ Order of Merit (2005).
Cadence Chung is a poet and student at Wellington High School. She has been writing poetry since she was at primary school, and draws inspiration from classic literature, Tumblr text posts, and roaming antique stores.
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.
Sinead Overbye (Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata) is a poet and fiction writer living in Wellington. In 2018 she completed her MA in creative writing at the IIML. She founded and co-edits Stasis Journal. Her work can be found in The Pantograph Punch, Tupuranga Journal, Turbine | Kapohau, Starling, and other places.
Caroline Shepherd is (still) a Victoria University student whose work has appeared in the Spinoff, Starling, and Stasis, along with some other places that do not start with S. She is based in Wellington and likes mint slices, actually.
Tayi Tibble (Te Whānau ā Apanui/Ngāti Porou) was born in 1995 and lives in Wellington. In 2017 she completed a Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington, where she was the recipient of the Adam Foundation Prize. Her first book, Poūkahangatus (VUP, 2018), won the Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award. Her second collection, Rangikura, was published in 2021.
Chris Tse is the author of two poetry collections published by Auckland University Press – How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (winner of Best First Book of Poetry at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards) and HE’S SO MASC – and is co-editor of the Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers From Aotearoa (AUP, 2021).
Sophie van Waardenberg is a poet from Tāmaki Makaurau and a current MFA candidate at Syracuse University, where she serves as an Editor-in-Chief of Salt Hill Journal. Her first chapbook-length collection, does a potato have a heart?, was published in Auckland University Press’s New Poets 5 (2019).
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. She spent the level 4 lockdown at home with her partner and young son on the Otago Peninsula.
Poetry Shelf Spring Season
Tara Black picks poems Victor Rodger picks poems Peter Ireland picks poems Emma Espiner picks poems Claire Mabey picks poems Sally Blundell picks poems
Music is the first poetry attraction for me. I am drawn to poems that sing. Poems sing in multiple keys with affecting and shifting chords, rhythms, harmonies, counterpoints, pitch, cadence, codas, crescendo. Tune your ear into the poetry of Karlo Mila, Emma Neale, Sue Wootton, Bill Manhire, Hinemoana Baker, Michele Leggott, Nina Mingya Powles, Lily Holloway, Alison Wong, Chris Tse, Mohamed Hassan, Gregory Kan, Anna Jackson, David Eggleton and you will hear music before you enter heart, mystery, experience, startle. Take a listen to Bernadette Hall or Dinah Hawken or Anne Kennedy. Anuja Mitra. Louise Wallace. How about Grace Iwashita Taylor? Ian Wedde. Tusiata Avia. Tayi Tibble. Rebecca Hawkes. Helen Rickerby. Selina Tusitala Marsh. Murray Edmond. Apirana Taylor. Iona Winter. Rose Peoples. Sam Duckor Jones. Vincent O’Sullivan. Kiri Pianhana-Wong. Jackson Nieuwland. Serie Barford. Listening in is of the greatest body comfort and you won’t be able to stop leaning your ear in closer. I think of one poet and then another, to the point I could curate an anthology of musical poets. I can name 100 without moving from the kitchen chair. Ah. Bliss.
But for this theme I went in search of poems that speak of song. The poems I have selected are not so much about song but have a song presence that leads in multiple directions. And yes they sing. Once again I am grateful to publishers and poets who are supporting my season of themes. Two more themes to go.
poem to Hone Tuwhare 08
adroit composer of
‘No Ordinary Sun’
the music grows flows grumbles and laughs
from his pen
only the old house has fallen to the wind and storm
death shakes the tree but the bird lives on
from A Canoe in Midstream: Poems new and old, Canterbury University Press, 2009 (2019)
Between Speech and Song
I’m sorry, you said.
What for, I said. And then
you said it again.
The house was cooling.
The pillowcases had blown
across the lawn.
We felt the usual shortcomings
of abstractions. I hope,
you said. Me too, I said.
The distance between our minds
is like the space
between speech and song.
from As the Verb Tenses, Otago University Press, 2016
my sister is humming
the front door is shutting
and opening like lungs
to kauri trees
leaping upwards through air
my lungs are pressed
grey warblers sing like
dust moving through air
the sunflower is opening
and shutting like lungs
my lungs are shifting
from Second Person, Victoria University Press, 2020
The woman next door sings so slowly someone must have died. She practices her sorry aria through the walls. When we bump on the steps she is neighbourly, maybe, with her purpled eyes. She tries for lightness. The radio tells me it is snowing somewhere south. Drifts fall down for days. The presenter uses the word ghastly far too often. In the ghastly snow, he says, animals dig for their calves. When we meet on the path my own voice is chestnut and dumb. ‘It’s a ghastly thing,’ I say. ‘It was a ghastly mistake.’ In the dark the woman’s voice touches a sweet, high place. It’s a small cupboard where her children once hid when she’d tried to explain – which you never really can – why the animals must paw in the cold, brown slush. Where are the young? Who hears their low, fallow voices?
Sarah Jane Barnett
from Bonsai – Best small storiesfrom Aotearoa New Zealand, edited by Michelle Elvy, Frankie McMillan and James Norcliffe, Canterbury University Press, 2018
The song feels like singing,
looks out the window:
clouds glued to the sky,
hills like collapsed elephants.
There’s food stuck to the highchair,
a plastic spoon on the floor.
The cat stares up in awe at the fridge.
The song opens its mouth,
but seems to have forgotten the words.
The song wakes up.
Someone is crying.
The morepork in the ngaio
shakes out its slow spondee:
more pork more pork more pork.
Back in the dream a line
of faces passes the window.
Each face smiles, lifts
its lips to show large teeth.
The song sits at the window, humming
ever so softly, tapping
a rhythm on the table-edge, watching
the harbour slowly losing
colour. At the very far end
of the harbour slightly up to the right,
a zip of lights marks the hill
over to Wainuiomata. If that zip
could be unzipped, thinks the song,
the whole world might change.
The song strokes the past
like a boa, like some fur muff
or woollen shawl,
but the past is not soft at all;
it’s rough to the touch,
sharp as broken glass.
The song longs to sing in tune.
The song longs to be in tune.
The black dog comes whenever
the song whistles, wagging its tail.
The black dog waits for the song’s whistle.
The black dog wants a long walk.
The song croons “Here Comes the Night”
very quietly. Meanwhile the baby
spoons its porridge into a moon.
The black dog leads the song
down long, unlovely streets.
The night is slowly eating the moon.
from Winter Eyes, Victoria University Press, 2018
The crowd is seaweed and there’s always one man too tall at least or one man dancing too much or one woman touching too much. We form short bonds with each other. The man next to me we briefly worry is a fascist. But him and I set a rhythm of touches with each other as we’re together and apart from the music and the bodies. When the bassline and the drums are inside my entire body they always shake up grief like sediment in water so that I am the sediment and my tears become water. And I am the water and the seaweed at the same time and I hover in the thick of the sound experiencing myself experiencing sound and feeling and my body as one piece of a larger thing. I want to be part of a larger thing as often as I can. So many days there isn’t enough music to pull us together. We shred each other, other days. A little rip. A tiny tear. A deep cut. We curl backwards into ourselves to do the damage. I follow the line. I rise into it because it is the sea and the only thing to do is to rise. I am bread and I am fire. I am the line of the horizon as it is reflected back to you. We make our own beds and lie in them. You will have said something. To me. Later, as I think it through I remember us neck to neck, clutching.
from Sweet Mammalian 7
singing in the wire
The song is a clutch of mailboxes
at the end of an undulating road,
an unsteady stack of bee-hives
The song is the whine from a transformer,
crickets, waist-high roadside grass,
a summer that just will not let up.
The song is a power pole’s pale-brown
ceramic cup receiving a direct hit
from a clod flung by my brother.
It is looped bars laid
against the white paper of a gravel road.
Released the year and month my father died,
‘Wichita Lineman’ can still bring me the valley
where we lived,
still bring me grief, the sound
of wind through wire, the loneliness
of country verges; but does not bring
my father back. You can ask
too much of a song.
Kay McKenzie Cooke
from Born To A Red-Headed Woman, Otago University Press 2014
thursday quartet 9:15
The stairwell grew and rolled
with slackened half-night. Quite clearly
she saw how her words had become her.
When she sang she remembered; her breath was deep
letters unnudged. The stairwell hummed. Everything
smelt of other people’s hands.
One, two, three. Another life had trained her ready.
She knew these breaths. It had been a day
of near misses, daredevil secret creatures
who followed her home, a line of sight
and the road, misadventured art deco.
Had she been good enough?
At night her window smithied day.
She could see the boats as they came.
The stairwell rose and then uprising
the first notes.
When Johnny Cash was sad he’d call Willie Nelson and ask for a joke.
Willie knew a dirty joke – good or bad – was the secret to happiness.
Some people haven’t yet realised that Willie Nelson is one of the greatest singers, guitarists
and songwriters. But there’s time. There’s always time. Despite it being funny how it always seems
to just slip away. Still, to add to the legends of Willie smoking pot on the roof of the White House
and blowing out interviewers so that they couldn’t remember where they parked their car or where they lived or worked,
we can now thank Willie not only for his 70 albums and for writing the greatest jukebox weepie of all time…
But, also, on some level, he helped keep Johnny Cash alive for as long as he lasted. Johnny battled his depression
with a dirty joke from Willie Nelson. I’m not saying it works for everyone but it served The Man in Black.
carrying its song to crushed metal, smashed glass,
and fading in echoes of the old folks’ choir.
from The Conch Trumpet, Otago University Press, 2015
My brother says that he doesn’t
understand poetry. He hears the words
but they all intersperse into a polyphonic
whirl of voices; no meaning to them
beyond the formation and execution
of sounds upon lips, pressing together
and coming apart. I cannot touch or feel
words, but I see them ‒ the word ‘simile’
is a grimacing man, poised on the edge
of polite discomfort and anguish. ‘Dazzled’ is
a 1920s flapper with broad, black eyes
and lank black hair around the edges of
her face. A boy in my music class hears
colours ‒ well, not hearing as such, he says,
but images in his mind’s eye. People play
tunes and ask him what colour it is, but
they play all at once, and he says that it is
the indistinguishable brown of all colours
combined. I think of a boy I used to know
called Orlando, and how this word conjures
the sight of a weathered advert for a tropical holiday
in my mind ‒ a forgotten promise, just ephemera
and not to be mentioned. The History room at school smells
like strange, zesty lemons, like the smell when you
peel a mandarin and its pores disperse their
sebum into the air, or when you squeeze the juice
from a lemon into your hands, and feel it dissolve
the soapy first layer of skin. I always think of
a certain someone when I smell this, even though
they wear a different perfume, and when I listen
to soft guitar ballads I think of them too, even though
I know they wouldn’t have heard them. All
of the sounds and smells and thoughts blend
into ephemera, scorched postcards of violets and
swallows, etched with the perfect handwriting of
old, consigned to antique stores that smell of
smoke. Things of the past with no value, no
substance, just air filled with citrus mist. I collect
each word and strain of what was once fresh in
my mind, in a forgotten jacket pocket, to be discovered
on some rainy day, years later. I’ll pull out the
postcard and think of the way I always look twice
when I see someone with curly hair; the word ‘longing’
is a blue wisp that creeps between the cracks
in my fingers. That wisp hides in these things,
tucked away, like the 1930s train tickets I found
in an old book. I wonder if their owner ever made it
to their destination. I wonder who they were.
first appeared in Milly’s Magazine
Love songs we haven’t written
Within the warm wreckage of me,
I’d never dare to ask you, but
in that moment when pain finds it plowing rhythm,
would you want me dead?
It’s a startling thought.
So round and whole and ordinary.
But you can’t know these things until
you’re sunk deep in the geometry of them. Of course,
the bed I lie on would be lily white and threatening levitation.
I would imagine the emptiness I leave and
you would think of all the ways to fill it.
That is the grotesque version.
It should of course be the other way around.
I don’t need misery to write poetry.
For me words come only after precarity passes
and there is safety in sitting still for long stretches.
Words, eventually, have the thickness of matter
left out too long in the sun. My love,
If we had a daughter, I’d be more dangerous.
She’d lick words whole out of the air.
I would recognize her tiny anthem.
Like you, she’d need two anchors, and only one mast.
Like me, she’d be immovable, a miniature old woman
by seven years old.
my singing teacher says yawning during lessons is good
it means the soft palate is raised and air circulates the bulb of your skull
to be pulled out between front teeth like a strand of taut hair
gum skin or yesterday’s nectarine fibre
in empty classrooms my body is a pear, grounded but reaching
the piano is out of tune, its chords now elevator doors
a shrieking melody that says: relish the peeling off
floss til you bleed and watch through the bannisters
voices merge like a zip ripped over fingers
reeling backwards and thrown to the wall
are all the arcades, rubber children
midnight sirens and birds sounding off one by one
the sopranos cry out offering forged banknotes
while the altos bring the alleyways
you crash through the windscreen, thumbs deep in pie
laundromat coins with that rhythm
Emma Barnes lives and writes in Te Whanganui-ā-Tara. She’s working on an anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writing with co-conspirator Chris Tse. It’s to be published by AUP in 2021. In her spare time she lifts heavy things up and puts them back down again.
Sarah Jane Barnett is a writer and editor from Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Her poetry, essays and reviews have been published widely in Aotearoa. Her debut poetry collection A Man Runs into a Woman (Hue + Cry Press) was a finalist in the 2013 New Zealand Post Book Awards. Her secondcollection Work (Hue + Cry Press) was published in 2015. Sarah is currently writing a book on womanhood and midlife.
Kay McKenzie Cooke’s fourth poetry collection was published by The Cuba Press in June 2020 and is titled Upturned. She lives and writes in Ootepoti / Dunedin.
Cadence Chung is a student from Wellington High School. She started writing poetry during a particularly boring maths lesson when she was nine. Outside of poetry, she enjoys singing, reading old books, and perusing antique stores.
Lynley Edmeades is the author of two poetry collections, most recently Listening In (Otago Uni Press, 2019). She lives in Dunedin and teaches poetry and creative writing at the University of Otago.
David Eggleton is the Aotearoa New Zealand Poet Laureate 2019 – 2022. His most recent book is The Wilder Years: Selected Poems, published by Otago University Press.
Rata Gordon is a poet, embodiment teacher and arts therapist. Her first book of poetry Second Person was published in 2020 by Victoria University Press. Through her kitchen window, she sees Mount Karioi. www.ratagordon.com
Lily Holloway is a queer nacho-enthusiast. She is forthcoming in AUP New Poets 8 and you can find her work on lilyholloway.co.nz.
Pippi Jean is eighteen and just moved to Wellington for her first year at Victoria University. Her most recent works can be found in Landfall, Starling, Takahe, Mayhem, and Poetry New Zealand Yearbook among others.
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.
Simon Sweetman is a writer and broadcaster. His debut book of poems, “The Death of Music Journalism” was published last year via The Cuba Press. He is the host of the weekly Sweetman Podcast and he writes about movies, books and music for a Substack newsletter called “Sounds Good!” (simonsweetman.substack.com to sign up). He blogs at Off The Tracks and sometimes has a wee chat about music on RNZ. He lives in Wellington with Katy and Oscar, the loves of his life. They share their house with Sylvie the cat and Bowie the dog.
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.
Catherine Trundle is a poet and anthropologist, with recent works published in Landfall, Takahē, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook, Not Very Quiet, and Plumwood Mountain.
Landfall 241, edited by Emma Neale, reviews editor Michelle Elvy
Otago University Press, 2021
As Landfall 241 is the final issue edited by Emma Neale, Poetry Shelf takes a moment to toast the stellar work she has done as editor over the past few years. Like the other Landfalls under her watch, the latest issue is a vital compendium of poetry, fiction, reviews, essays and artwork. I am delighted to see a range of familiar and unfamiliar voices, emerging poets and those established, and to traverse wide-ranging subject matter and styles. The winners of the Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Essay Competition are announced and the artwork is sublime, distinctive, eye-catching.
Bridget Reweti’s stereoscopic photographs invert Allen Curnow’s ‘Unknown Seas’ to become ‘Known Seas’. If you hold the double images at the right distance and look though to the horizon you get a sense of spatial depth. It got me considering how I ‘hold’ a poem and experience multiple shifting depths. The way a poem pulls you into space in myriad ways. The way you float through layers, in focus out of focus, absorbing the physical, the intangible, the felt.
I made a long list of poems that held my attention as I read. Alison Glenny’s extract from ‘Small Plates’ haunted me with its off-real tilts:
The poets move together in flocks. One finds a new song and the others take it up. Developers move in and the poets rise together to find a new perch. The night is a forest with missing eaves. So much wood to build boxes for poems to live in. Each leaf a quarrel over the exact placement of the moon.
In the end I assembled a Landfall reading comprising voices I have rarely managed to hear, if ever, at events. It is so very pleasing to curate a reading from my rural kitchen and feel myself drawn to effervescent horizons as I listen. The print copy is equally rewarding!
The poets in Landfall 241: Joanna Aitchison, Philip Armstrong, Rebecca Ball, David Beach, Peter Belton, Diana Bridge, Owen Bullock, Stephanie Burt, Cadence Chung, Ruth Corkill, Mary Cresswell, Alison Denham, Ben Egerton, Alison Glenny, Jordan Hamel, Trisha Hanifin, Michael Harlow, Chris Holdaway, Lily Holloway, Claudia Jardine, Erik Kennedy, Brent Kininmont, Wen-Juenn Lee, Wes Lee, Bill Manhire, Talia Marshall, Ria Masae, James McNaughton, Claire Orchard, Joanna Preston, Chris Price, Tim Saunders, Rowan Taigel, Joy Tong, Tom Weston
Cadence Chung reads ‘that’s why they call me missus fahrenheit’
Claudia Jardine reads ‘Field Notes on Elegy’
Ria Masae reads ‘Papālagi’
Stephanie Burt reads ‘Kite Day, New Brighton’
Tim Saunders reads ‘Devoir’
Jordan Hamel reads ‘Society does a collective impersonation of Robin Williams telling Matt Damon “It’s not your fault” repeatedly in Good Will Hunting‘
Rowan Taigel reads ‘Mothers & Fathers’
Trisha Hanifin reads ‘Without the Scaffold of Words’
Stephanie Burt is a professor of English at Harvard and has also taught at the University of Canterbury. Her most recent books include Callimachus (Princeton University Press, 2020) and Don’t Read Poetry: A book about how to read poems (Basic, 2019).
Cadence Chung is a student at Wellington High School. She first started writing poetry during a particularly boring Maths lesson when she was nine, and hasn’t stopped since. She enjoys antique stores, classic literature, and tries her best to be an Edwardian dandy.
Jordan Hamel is a Pōneke-based writer, poet and performer. He was the 2018 New Zealand Poetry Slam champion and represented NZ at the World Poetry Slam Champs in the US in 2019. He is the co-editor of Stasis Journal and co-editor of a forthcoming NZ Climate Change Poetry Anthology from Auckland University Press. He is a 2021 Michael King Writer-in-Residence and has words published in The Spinoff, Newsroom, Poetry New Zealand, Sport, Turbine, Landfall, and elsewhere.
Trisha Hanifin has a MA in Creative Writing from AUT. Her work has been published in various journals and anthologies including Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand (Canterbury University Press, 2018). In 2018 she was runner up in the Divine Muses Emerging Poets competition. Her novel, The Time Lizard’s Archeologist, is forthcoming with Cloud Ink Press.
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.
Talia Marshall (Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Rārua, Rangitāne ō Wairau, Ngāti Takihiku) is currently working on a creative non-fiction book which ranges from Ans Westra, the taniwha Kaikaiawaro to the musket wars. This project is an extension of her 2020 Emerging Māori Writers Residency at the IIML. Her poems from Sport and Landfall can be found on the Best New Zealand Poems website.
Ria Masae is a writer, spoken word poet, and librarian of Samoan descent, born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau. Her work has been published in literary outlets such as, Landfall, takahē, Circulo de Poesia, and Best New Zealand Poems 2017 and 2018. A collection of her poetry is published in, AUP New Poets 7.
Tim Saunders farms sheep and beef near Palmerston North. He has had poetry and short stories published in Turbine|Kapohau, takahē, Landfall, Poetry NZ Yearbook, Flash Frontier, and won the 2018 Mindfood Magazine Short Story Competition. He placed third in the 2019 and 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Awards, and was shortlisted for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. His first book, This Farming Life, was published by Allen & Unwin in August, 2020.
Rowan Taigel is a Nelson based poet and teacher. Her poetry has been published in Landfall, Takahe Journal, Shot Glass Journal, Aotearotica, Catalyst, After the Cyclone (NZPS Anthology, 2017), Building a Time Machine (NZPS Anthology, 2012), and she has been a featured poet in A Fine Line, (NZPS). Rowan received a Highly Commended award for the 2020 Caselberg International Poetry Competition with her poem ‘Catch and Kiss’. She can often be found in local cafes on the weekend reading and writing poetry over a good coffee.
Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021, ed Tracey Slaughter, Massey University Press
Poetry New Zealandis our longest running poetry magazine – it features essays and reviews, along with substantial room for poems. Tracey Slaughter has taken over the editorial role with the 2021 issue, a wide-ranging treat. A poet and fiction writer, she teaches creative writing at the University of Waikato. Her new collection of short stories, Devil’s Trumpet, has just been released by Victoria University Press.
Winners of the Poetry New Zealand Poetry Prize and the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook Student Poetry Competition are included. Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor is the featured poet. To celebrate the arrival of the new issue – with 182 poems by 129 poets – I invited a few to read.
Cadence Chung reads ‘Hey Girls’ (First Prize, Year 12, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook Student Poetry Competition)
Brecon Dobbie reads ‘Diaspora Overboard’
Nida Fiazi reads ‘the other side of the chain-link fence’
Lily Holloway reads ‘The road to the hill is closed’
Michele Leggott reads ‘Dark Emily’
Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connnor reads ‘Cat’ and ‘If the heart is meat made electric’
Kiri Piahana-Wong reads ‘Before’
essa may ranapiri reads ‘Hineraukatauri & Her Lover’ (for Ruby Solly)
Cadence Chung is a student at Wellington High School. She first started writing poetry during a particularly boring maths lesson when she was nine. Outside of poetry, she enjoys singing, reading old books, and perusing antique stores.
Brecon Dobbie recently graduated from the University of Auckland with a BA in English and Psychology. She is currently writing as much as possible and trying to navigate her place in the world. Some of her work has appeared in Minarets Journal, Howling Press and Love in the time of COVID Chronicle.
Nida Fiazi is a poet and an editor at The Sapling NZ. She is an Afghan Muslim, a former refugee, and an advocate for better representation in literature, particularly for children. Her work has appeared in Issue 6 ofMayhem Literary Journal and in the anthology Ko Aotearoa Tātou | We Are New Zealand.”
Lily Holloway (born in 1998, she/they) is a forever-queer English postgraduate student. Her creative writing has been published in Starling, Scum, The Pantograph Punch, Landfall and other various nooks and crannies (see a full list at lilyholloway.co.nz/cv). She is an executive editor of Interesting Journal and has a chapbook forthcoming in AUP New Poets 8. Lily is based in Tāmaki Makaurau, is a hopeless romantic and probably wants to be your penpal!
Michele Leggott was the New Zealand Poet Laureate 2007-09 and received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry in 2013. Recent collections include Vanishing Points (2017) and Mezzaluna: Selected Poems (2020). Michele coordinates the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc) with colleagues at the University of Auckland. In 2017 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor writes thanks to the support of some of the best people on this big watery rock.
Kiri Piahana-Wong (Ngāti Ranginui) is a poet and editor, and she is the publisher at Anahera Press. Her poems have appeared in over forty journals and anthologies, most recently in tātai whetū: seven Māori women poets in translation,Solid Air: Australian and New Zealand Spoken Word and Set Me on Fire(Doubleday, UK). Her first poetry collection, Night Swimming, was released in 2013; a second book, Give Me An Ordinary Day (formerly Tidelines), is due out soon. Kiri lives in Auckland with her family.
essa may ranapiri / tainui / tararua / ootaki / maungatautari / waikato / guinnich / cuan a tuath / highgate / thames / takataapui / dirt / dust / whenua / there is water moving through bones / there are birds nesting in the cavities
Jack Ross works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University. To date he’s published three novels, three novellas, three short story collections, and six poetry collections, most recently The Oceanic Feeling (Salt & Greyboy Press, 2021). He was the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand Yearbook from 2014-2019, and has edited numerous other books, anthologies, and literary journals. He blogs here.
Michael Steven was born in 1977. He is an Auckland poet.