Tag Archives: Carole Beu

Poetry Shelf Friday talk spot: Celebrating poetry and communities at the NZ Booksellers Conference




The dirty dishwater sky

I see a rainbow

the harbour gleaming white

the sparkling nighttime sky tower

a strange statue of Moses

an early morning cleaner

the crinkled-slept-in-sheets sky


a collective poem made up on the spot by NZ Booksellers


On Sunday I was a key-note presenter with poet Gemma Browne at the booksellers conference in Auckland. The conference theme was Creating Communities – which feels really important as both an adult and children’s author. I dedicated Wild Honey to four women: Elizabeth Caffin, my first publisher; bookseller Carole Beu who has done so much for women readers and writers through The Women’s Bookshop; Michele Leggott who has brought women’s poetry to light and has written dazzling poetry of her own; Tusiata Avia who has inspired young and older women as both a teacher and inspiring poet, and who is a dear friend.

Most of my time as a writer is private, secret, quiet, and I like it like that. It is the writing process that gives me the greatest joy as a poet – not winning prizes or being famous or getting picked for anthologies or festivals. These can all be lovely surprises that give your ego little boosts, and more importantly boost book sales, but nothing beats that moment when pen hits paper and the words start flowing and you think – Where did that come from? How did I write that?

Yet I also write in multiple communities and that is important to me. I have a number of publishing families for a start. Then there are the two communities I have created through my blogs – Poetry Box and Poetry Shelf – that are made up of diverse readers and writers. I wanted to create a go-to place for poetry because poetry was becoming less and less visible in the media. Books would be published and I wouldn’t know unless I spotted them in a bookshop or got a launch invite.

Even now it is very rare that Poetry Shelf will be included in a list of online sites, newsletters or links devoted to advancing our engagement with New Zealand books. Yet Poetry Shelf keeps poetry fans in touch with what is happening in our diverse book/writing communities, signalling the books that are released, events, opportunities. I am building up an archive of recordings, interviews, commentaries and reviews. What will happen to all this material when I can no longer care for it? It seems so fragile.

One part of me wants to switch off my computer and phone, and tuck up into a novel in the hammock – because some days I am just treading water and making no difference.

As an author I am also part of our community of booksellers and am more than happy to do events in bookshops, yes to help promote my books but also to promote NZ poetry through various initiatives. I want to start a Bookseller Spot on both my blogs where booksellers recommend a NZ book they have loved or any poetry book they have loved. Or record a poem from a NZ book they have loved. Please get in touch: paulajoygreen@gmail.com

I want to build and nurture a community of poets writing for children and make it easier for readers to find children’s poetry books. Is this possible? Do we want our children’s lives to be enriched by New Zealand poetry? It is the hardest thing – to get children’s poetry published,  reviewed and in prominent places in bookshops. Can we show that poetry – the liberating place of word play – is the most glorious tool for any child. The reluctant writer can juggle words in the air, the sophisticated writer can advance their skills, take up challenges, explore their engagement in a challenging world. Poetry makes a child feel warm inside and itch to read and write.

I want to build bridges and nourish sightlines between our distinctive, diverse and wide roaming poetry communities. Is this possible? Is it vital? Can we draw together in attentiveness across cities, regions, cultures, generations, styles, preoccupations, politics, poetics, voices? For example, I see Louise Wallace (The Starling) and Emma Neale (Landfall) trying to do this in diverse ways. I see Anne O’Brien working hard to do this with her team at AWF. And Claire Maby through Verb Wellington.

And there is nothing wrong with nourishing your own poetry family, your go-to community that supports and listens to and reads what you do. As VUP do with their breathtaking stable of poets, their elders and emerging voices. As do the grassroot presses, such as Seraph, Cold Hub and Compound Press. The small journals such Mimicry and Min-a-ret.

I turned up at the conference after three hours sleep (max!), a poached egg and a short black and had the loveliest conversation with Gem. We talked about poetry, Wild Honey and building communities. I felt invigorated to be in the same room as people who work so hard, imaginatively, passionately, inventively – to sell our books. These are booksellers but they are also most importantly readers.

We wrote a poem to break the ice – and now I have broken the ice I want to keep making poetry visible and making poetry connections. How do I do it? How do we do it?

If I were rich and bounding with energy I would visit every bookshop that invited me and get children and adults hooked on the joy and curiosities of poetry.

I would start up a children’s poetry press.

But I am not rich and I am not bounding with energy at the moment so I will keep thinking on my feet and inventing ways for my blogs to make connections, start conversations, and celebrate the way our book community is comprised of many communities. And keep telling myself that I am not alone. Poetry Shelf has done that!

PS At Mary Kisler‘s conference session dedicated to her fabulous book, Finding Frances Hodgkins, Nicola Legat and Sam Elworthy talked about the new initiative, Coalition for Books. Various organisations are coming together under the one umbrella to work for the collective good of authors, publishers, booksellers and festivals. And of course readers.

PPS After such an intense and wonderful month I am now back to sleeping. Thankfully. Wild Honey‘s arrival in the world had shocked me into a constant state of awakeness.






The Ladies’ Litera-Tea -‘like warm honey in your mouth too good to swallow’ Urzila Carson



The Ladies’ Litera-Tea is an annual event organised by bookseller taonga, Carole Beu, and the Women’s Bookshop: eleven authors, a full auditorium and an excellent afternoon tea with delicious cakes and savouries. It usually lasts about five hours if you include the book signings. I always come away with a bag of new books, often unexpected choices.

This year I felt like I was walking the fine line between voice and no-voice, with a fuzzy head and a sway that wasn’t to do with reading poems on stage. Luckily I was third up so delivered my poems and then sat back to listen. Usually I take notes to replay on my blog but all I seemed to do was doodle as a counterbeat to the feasts of words.

My head isn’t up to scholarly focus today so I am in bed blogging and reading.

Not sure why there were so many doodle birds. Birds were barely mentioned. Apart from Billy Bird. Or hats. Apart from the steampunks and their creative shed and steampunk hats.


First up was Catherine Chidgey talking with exquisite clarity about her new novel, The Wish Child. I loved the way she made something of obstacles and detours and can’t wait to read the book. Next up Helene Wong talking about: Being Chinese: A New Zealand Story. This is also on my must read list. It feels like essential reading particularly in view of the enduring racism Helene faces.



Helene Wong and Marilyn Jessen (Marilyn went on a road trip tracking creative spaces)

Helene recounted an anecdote that resonated (with a few details missing). She was at an undergraduate Chinese paper with a fairly indifferent bunch of students. The white middle-aged bloke started reading a poem in Cantonese. Helen was captivated by the undulating pitch and tones despite not understanding a word. She was struck by this ordinary white man’s pleasure in the Chinese language. His ‘gesture of respect astounded’ her. She almost ‘wept in gratitude’ that he showed so clearly Chinese culture is not to be ashamed of.


Emma Neale and Paula Green

There is no right formula for authors on stage – especially in view of what to say. I can go either way – just hearing the work or also hearing anecdotes and inroads into the writing experience can hit the spot. I loved the way Emma Neale talked about lexical exhaustion on completing a novel. She borrowed a quote from a musical composer who replayed his piece when asked to explain his work. Emma said she had decided to let the extracts do the talking. I agree with Emma on ‘the joyous creative anarchic energy’ of Billy, the central character of her new novel, Billy Bird.  I have just finished this book and it is a top fiction read for 2016. So beautifully written, so moving, so funny, so gobsmackingly good.


The very lovely, very inspirational, Yael Shochat wrapped up the first half. She was celebrating the arrival of Ima Kitchen. I was hooked on the video of grandmothers in the kitchen in Israel making lunch. At half time, the queue for Ithe cookbook never stopped. Both cafe and book are terrific additions to Auckland’s eclectic food scene. We have had such a wide cultural culinary seasoning for decades and it adds so much to who we are as a city. When I arrived back from London in the 1980s my tastebuds were popping. Will be cooking out of this book tonight!


a f t e r n o o n    t e a    interlude    was   worthy of    a n       a f t e r n o o n    t e a  p o e m

sweet lamington and asparagus roll

the poem unfolds like spanikopita

spinachy peppery cream on the tongue


(thanks Yael, so delicious)


A long time fan of Kerrin P Sharpe’s poetry it was such a treat to hear her read for the first time. I adore the mother poems in her new book, Rabbit Rabbit – the audience did too as it was oohs and aahs and beautiful (just as I heard after the lyrical fiction of Emma Neale). I also loved the entry points gave into the book as it provided me with new discoveries.

Having recently (two posts back maybe!) gushed to you about Ashleigh Young’s witty  debut collection of essays, Can You Tolerate This?, a highlight was hearing her read. She selected a section from ‘Big Red.’ I have quoted several times from this essay, so it felt like a favourite album was playing and I was word perfect. Wonderful!



Emma Neale and Gina Cole (in the 6pm shadows!)


I was hooked on Gina Cole’s ancedotes, lucidity, warmth and story extracts all pivoting on the “L” word: lighthouses, law, literature. Her new book, Black Ice Matter, went in my shopping bag! I want to post about this soon!




Janice Marriot’s book on Grandparents Talk also went in my shopping bag. It  was good to meet a poet who has writtn some of my favourite poems in the Treasury!

Finally a dose of laughter. Urzila Carlson used her new book, Rolling with the Punchlines, to deliver a stand-up routine/reading/musing/confession that was pure gold. Like most of us she was anxious about following on from people so much wittier or funnier or more erudite. She says it best. She had been hearing all this writing that was ‘like warm honey in your mouth and too good to swallow.’ She then compared it to an effervescent something on the tongue [and then a riff on that]. ‘Holy shit,’ she says ‘What am I doing here? I should leave. I should say I’ve got to get a flight with Ashleigh.’  But then she had us in fits of laughter, tears streaming for twenty minutes, with a few piercing moments of inbreath and gasp at something sad or hard to talk about. Such a tonic.



It was a rollercoaster occasion: warmth, ideas, humour, sad things, happy things, connections. I think I came home with six new books.


Thanks Carole and the Women’s Bookshop – it was a very happy audience.





AWF15 bouquets and brickbats

This morning I ran along the beach into the hit of the west-coast wind, and it felt like a hinge between four glorious days at the Auckland Writers Festival and getting back to work. As I ran, I pictured myself asking Murakami running questions. Where does he like to run? Is it in a wild space where you hardly see another soul as I do and your mind empties as the rhythm of the run takes over. You might see a puffed up dotterel out of the corner of an eye or a pied stilt wading. The rhythm of the run sends me into a pre-writing state but mostly it is is just me and breathtaking beauty.

This morning as I ran it took awhile to get into that equilibrium of silence as the festival keep drifting through. What I loved. What I loved a little less.


My bouquets in no particular order

1. To Anne O’Brien and her team for creating a dazzling programme that pulled me out of hermithood into the city for four full-to-the-brim, glorious days, that filled an auditorium over and over, that offered free sessions. This was one of the best festivals I have attended yet in terms of the range and quality of voices on offer. The audiences.

2. The new dedicated focus on children’s writing with the School Days, Family Day and sessions featuring a children’s author. I was coming out of a session and saw David Walliams at his signing table and was incredibly moved. He was looking with careful attention at a picture a young child had drawn for him, taken the time to pause and wonder, when his signing queue had stretched out into the square at the start of my session. It seems to me the festival has also become a gift for our emerging readers and writers, our thinkers and our scientists, our comics and our leaders. Thank you!

3. The amount of poetry this year. Sure I still love a line up of ten poets like a tapas tasting lunch that shows you the terrific width of our poetry communities. But I love the way poets now read along side international authors and local fiction writers in panels. This exposes our poets to a much wider audience. One stand out for me (sadly I missed some poets I had wanted to see due to clashes) was John Dennison. I have just reviewed his stunning debut collection on the blog but his poems lifted and became even more exquisite as I listened and shut my eyes. Two poets came to mind: Gregory O’Brien and Bill Manhire. I could hear a faint, appealing somethingness  of them in John’s intonations, the pauses, the repetitions, the stresses — the downright joyous musicality. If you don’t have John’s book, I highly recommend it. Maybe you can find him reading a poem or two on YouTube.

4. More poetry. The session with Anna Jackson and Daniel Mendelsohn on translation gymnastics was fascinating. I had Anna’s new book, I, Clodia, and a bilingual edition of Catallus in my bag all weekend as I am working on a review. I think I will save some of the gems from Anna until I do the review. But hearing the poems read aloud, we all leaned forward into the beauty of them. Gorgeous!

5. The Gala Night story tellers hit the mark. Sometimes I have been at previous ones counting how many to go. Not this time. The last one spoke, the time was up and I had stayed glued to every word.

6. Mrs Dalloway: I was in awe of Rebecca Vaughan maintaining those weaving voices for ninety minutes, pulling us into the shifting detail, moods, revelations.

7. Amy Bloom in conversation with Carole Beu. I had just read Lucky Us. Sparkling, scintillating, sent me straight to the book stall to buy the short stories.

8. Kim Thúy, a Vietnamese-Canadian novelist, in the panel session on Asian Histories. I didn’t know her at all but loved the little stories that ballooned out from a single word. Loved it when she said Vietnamese don’t show the feelings so much, and that her parents never asked her how she felt, but would ask her if she was hungry, then feed her mood. Dashed to the bookstall and bought Man. This writing is astonishing and I want to read everything she has written. I bumped into her when she was talking to her friend Anne Kennedy and so she inscribed my book. Ah the joy of lucky moments at festivals.

9. More poetry. Hearing Chris Tse reading a breathtaking selection from his debut collection How to Be Dead in the Year of Snakes.

10. Some favourite chairs: John Freeman, Carole Beu, Noelle McCarthy, Catherine Robertson, Christine O’Brien, Ruth Harley (many I missed sadly).

11. The privilege of sitting on stage with Edwin Thumboo to talk about poetry and Singapore was an utter highlight. He is, as I said in the session, like Margaret Mahy was, and Michele Leggott and Bill Manhire are: writers whose work fills you with endless admiration but who also occupy the world as writers in a way that is extraordinary. He is a Singaporean national taonga, so how good he read and spoke to a packed house. We barely scratched the surface of what we could have traversed, but to hear his poems hit the air/ear was such a treat. Preparing for the session sent me on new paths of thinking. I am so grateful to the festival for this opportunity.

12. David Mitchell in two sessions. In the first he was jet lagged and in the second, in a panel. Here are some of the gems I loved: He used to make his own Middle Earths with card and paper. He was a low maintenance kid! He stalled on a sip of tea then talked on the über novel, then cautioned new writers to be careful naming things as the name sticks. On character: A character moving into a new book brings a suitcase of credibility from previous ones. On discussing how to pronounce ‘archipelago’ with Catherine Robertson,  they both slide into an hilarious word jam. On links between books: there are doors wormholes tunnels from one book to next but not many. Ponders on how to make many different things coexist in one book: one way is to compartmentalise. He apologises for bringing his wife into the discussion (she was back stage!) on entering the female mind as a writer of his protagonist. He has five friends on earth, three of whom don’t read him! Question: Do you have an attic mind?  Mitchell: a junk shop mind. On names: high scrabble scores generally make useful names. They stick to the eyeball.  On the intensity of writing: You get through the intense immersion of the current novel underway ‘with little kisses of thinking about the next one.’ On fear: you should go outside your comfort zone. Have I bitten off more than I can chew? is important. He offered to read a Stephanie-Johnson draft when she said showing unfinished novels to others was an imposition. He said he wasn’t a novelist; he writes novellas with bridges and tunnels between. [I love this idea the connection can go through air or underground!].

13. Emily St. John Mandel on editing: Retype your entire draft, read the whole thing aloud to yourself, edit pages in random order.

14. Helen MacDonald. Now I have to read her book, H is for Hawk. Things I loved she said: We use nature to prove our concepts to us. On the joy of festivals: They let thoughts and words be said that aren’t normally available in everyday life.  There’s no past or present when you are flying a hawk. When you have a big loss: After a year of grief, I started to grow around the holes. It was all about love.

15. Carol Ann Duffy. Carol Ann Duffy. Carol Ann Duffy.  Carol Ann Duffy. Hearing her read. And loved this bit from John Campbell on the joy of reading her poems: (can’t quite remember exact words) but ‘drilling down into your particular way of knowing.’

16. The fabulous Tim Winton: I  think perhaps people are wired to hope.

17. Hearing Ashleigh Young read her remarkable new poems, especially the casino one and the road one. They felt like a glorious step up from her debut. Fresh, elastic, lyrical, effervescent, surprising. I am going to post one on the blog as soon as possible so I can talk about it. I do hope a new book is on the horizon line.

18. Anne Kennedy talking about Janet Frame’s Owls Do Cry, the Great Kiwi Classic this year. She was so lucid, so on the button, with what she said. Reading the book for her was like a sock between the eyes. She loved the way the vernacular had been transformed into the poetic, but that it was above all a triumph of kiwiness. Anne said Janet rescued kiwiana and polished it like a gem. For Courtney Sina Meredith reading it was like a rite of passage. She said she was terrified of it at university (if you can’t get into this, you can’t get into New Zealand literature) but then she became deeply connected. Wonderful! Damien Barr cried after he read it (hearing his autobiographical anecdote I am not surprised). Great session steered by Kate De Goldi, but more audience involvement would have been good. I think that is the intent of the NZ Book Council that it becomes a very interactive session.

19. The Honoured NZ Writer: CK Stead. Wonderful movement through his life and career. Loved the poems breaking into the conversation. Like the way he said Catallus gave him a persona where he could go to the edge of things that had sometimes happened to him, or that were an invention. It became an area of freedom when he was not mentally a confessional poet. He had returned to NZ because he wanted to be a NZ writer and turned down the option of a very different academic career in Britain. He doesn’t regret it but sometimes ponders the possibilities of that different track.

I have been especially drawn to Karl’s recent poetry collections, their reflectiveness, musicality, ability to matter and move. You saw that a bit in the conversation. On being a critic: I was too dogmatic, too excited, things could have been said more subtly. I discovered what it was like to be characterised by what was a small part of me. On rereading Death of the Body for this ‘ordeal’ decided it was so much cleverer than I am now. A terrific way to end the festival.

20. Hearing fabulous Irish poet, Vona Groarke read her own poems and talk so beautifully about the finalists in the Sarah Broom Poetry Awards. I am so tempted to get to Wellington to hear her talk and read for a whole hour!

21. Stepping into the shoes of Alice Miller to read her finalist poems at The Sarah Broom Poetry Awards. I was amazed at how reading the poems of another poet out loud in front of an audience drew me so much closer into the very heart of them. The poems were breathtakingly good. I should do this more often. Find a special place to stand and read aloud the poems of another.

22. Ah! Murakami. Ah what a tremendous session. Ah! Ah! My daughter gave me some of his novels to read over summer and I was hooked. How had I not read him before? The outright surprise, wonder and delight of where he leads you. So to find out he was coming to the festival was the absolute highlight. I loved the fact he wrote his first novel and cast it into the bin as dreadful. He then wrote it in English as he had a limited vocabulary and stock of phrases. He translated it back into Japanese and achieved the simplicity, the economy and clarity of writing that is now his trademark. He likes his writing to be unpredictable to himself, which it is why it is so gloriously unpredictable to the reader. He feels he can be anybody when he writes (not all writers feel this!). He enjoys reading his books that have been translated into English (a few years after the original) as it is like reading it afresh and he can’t remember what happens. He likes Japanese tofu and donuts! Maybe a tofu donut! The chair, John Freeman, was exceptional. What made this session so utterly special were the silences, the long pauses that became little pivots of contemplation for both speaker and audience. One writer said Murakami says more in his silences than some writers say with truckloads of words. The t shirt he was wearing:







23. The volunteers, the lovely stage crew, the festival team and of course all the readers and writers who filled the Aotea Centre with a buzz of ideas and response. Astonishing!

Thank you thank you thank you


The brickbats that aren’t really brickbats at all

I. I wish Anne O’Brien could get to see more than the odd session. To sit back and enjoy the fruits of her labour.

2. Missing out on a ticket to The World’s Wife. My fault. From all accounts it was fabulous.

3. I was a chair, so feel free to criticise me (like all chairs I walked away wondering how I could have done a better job!), but sometimes the research and commitment as chair takes over whereas it should take the back seat along with your own ego. It seems we now live in an age where audiences have no problems in letting a chair know when they are dominating the conversation. Fair enough maybe, as it keeps us on our toes. The other tricky thing is that the audience will be a clashing mix of expectation, and equally varied mix of experience of the subject and writing under the spotlight. We are all different kinds of readers searching for different things. The sessions where the writers opened out into a warm and and sparking conversation were gold.

4. Why didn’t I run to the free sessions to make sure I got a seat?! Missed out on a few gems.


Graham Beattie and Carole Beu’s faves and raves

As a little add-on to The Book Show, Carole from The Women’s Bookshop  has picked her favourite books from the past year. Two novels I now must buy, and I am so very delighted she picked the Treasury.

Graham also did it and has come with an inviting selection of mostly crime and cook books.

Thanks to these beloved book enthusiasts! The Book Show with Beattie & Beu on Face TV – Link to last night’s final episode (and all the others)

A big thanks to Carole Beu and Graham Beattie for all the work that went into The Book Show. Imagine if TVNZ or TV3 or Prime or Sky picked this up and ran a weekly book show in four seasons next year. Consider the benefits to us — with our dynamic and rich cultures of stories and poetry, whether fiction or nonfiction? If creativity is the new word on the block, let’s showcase that creativity in the stories we tell and the poems we make.

I applaud Carole and Graham for gifting something to our eroded bookscape. You sent me in search of books that I felt I simply had to read. Thank you!

Last night’s episode, the 10th & final episode, of The Book Show on Face TV – Sky Channel 83.


And here are the nine previous episodes:





Episode 3:


Episode 4


Episode 5

Episode 6


Epiosde 7:

Episode 8:

Episode 9


THE BOOK SHOW ON FACE TV TONIGHT AT 8.30PM includes a bit of poetry

The Bookman teams up again tonight with bookseller Carole Beu for another session of author interviews, book reviews and news.

Face TV is Sky Channel 83. If you don’t have Sky or miss the show then it will be linked here and here tomorrow morning. The show also screens on Thursday October 2nd at 12.30pm on Face TV.

This week Graham Beattie is talking to crime fiction author Paul Thomas while Carole chats to poet/author Paula Green.