Tag Archives: Chris Tse

Poetry Shelf review: Out Here: An anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writers from Aotearoa

Out Here: An anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writers from Aotearoa,
eds Chris Tse and Emma Barnes, Auckland University Press, 2021

Gender buttons

An object on a shelf; a self with words inside that never came out.
Your finger down my spine; fine singing in my bones. Umbrella avoiding
the rain: the celebrating hat you wear. Tell me a little more about myself.

The food you forgot; what you got for biting at my breasts. The coloured
loss of uneaten toast on the bench and your tongue of loving pepper.
Hunger heavy in my mouth.

This room we bed down in, be wed down in. White roses growing
on the ceiling.
You want in a variety of colours, but a rose is a rose is a rose
a bunch of them placate the air much better than one.
We couldn’t grow anywhere else.

The teasing is tender and trying and thoughtful. Melting without mending
you undo my gender buttons till all of me is myself.

 

Hannah Mettner

Out Here is a significant arrival in Aotearoa, both for the sake of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writers and readers, and for the sake of poetry. The sumptuous and wide ranging anthology feeds heart mind skin lungs ears eyes. It is alive with shifting fluencies and frequencies, and I want to sing its praises from the rooftops, from the moon, from street corners.

Chris Tse and Emma Barnes have responded to the erasure of queer identities in a national literature that was traditionally dominated and controlled by white heterosexual men. Chris and Emma opted to use ‘Takatāpui’ and ‘LGBTQIA+’ in the title to signal Aotearoa’s rainbow communities within the broadest possible reach. They have used the word queer in their introduction and underline that that must make room for as many ‘labels and identities’ as necessary. I am using the word queer with similar intentions.

Having spent a number of years on a book that responded to the erasure of women in literature across centuries, I understand what a mammoth task it is to shine a light across invisible voices and to reclaim and celebrate. To refresh the reading page in vital ways. Out Here draws together prose and poetry, from a range of voices, across time, but it never claims to cover everything. We are offered a crucial and comprehensive starting point. After finding 110 writers, Emma and Chris sent out an open call, and the response was overwhelming.

We chose words that delighted us, surprised us, confronted us and engaged us. We chose political pieces and pieces that dreamed futures as yet only yet imagined. We chose coming out stories and stories of home. We followed our noses. What our reading revealed to us is that our queer writers are writing beyond the expectations of what queer writing can be, and doing it in a way that often pushes against the trends of mainstream literature.

Emma Barnes and Chris Tse

I am reading the poetry first. I am reading poetry that reactivates what poems can do whether in terms of style, voice, theme, motifs. Some poems are navigating sexuality, gender issues, sex, love, identity. Other poems explore the body, oceans, discomfort, the end of the world, mothers, fathers, violence, tenderness, place, the dirt under fingernails. Expect humour and expect seriousness, the personal and the imagined. Expect to be moved and to be heartened. Some of the poems are familiar to me, others not, and it is as though I have parked up in a cool cafe for a legendary poetry reading (if only!). The physicality is skin-pricking, the aural choices symphonic, the intimate moments divine.

Take the three poems of Ash Davida Jane for example. I am reminded of the feminist catchphrase the personal is political but I am upending it to become the political is personal. ‘Good people’ resembles an ode to the soy milk carton. The poem considers how to be in the world, to make good choices, and be a good person when the world is drowning in plastics. It blows my head off. Ash’s second poem, ‘water levels’, celebrates the tenderness of being in the bath with someone who is shampooing your hair. The poem slows to such an intimate degree I get goosebumps. A poem that looks like a paragraph, ‘In my memory it is always daytime’, pivots on the waywardness of memory, its omission coupled with its power to transmit. I keep stalling on this glorious suite of poems rereading, revelling in the ability of poetry to deepen my engagement with the world, language, my own obsessions, weakenesses.

I stall too on Carolyn DeCarlo’s poems like I have struck a turning bay in the anthology. Rereading revelling. Reading revelling. And then Jackson Nieuwland’s astonishing ‘I am a version of you from the future’ where they stand in the shifting shoes and choices of a past self and it is tender and it is moving and it is tough. Or Ruby Solly’s ‘Lessons I don’t want to teach my daughter’, which is also tender and moving and tough. The ending in both English and Te Teo Māori restorative.

Imagine me standing on my rooftop singing out the names of the poets in the anthology and how they all offer poems as turning bays because you cannot read once and move on, you simply must read again, and it is measured and slow, and the effects upon you gloriously multiple. Chris and Emma have lovingly collated an anthology that plays its part in the final sentence of their introduction:

The final sentence resonates on so many levels. No longer will we tolerate literature that is limited in its reach. Poetry resists paradigms set in concrete, fenced off manifestos, rules and regulations, identity straitjackets. I welcome every journal and event, website and publishing house, that opens its arms wide to who and how we are as writers and readers. Out Here makes it clear: we are many and we track multiple roads, we are familied and we are connected. We are loved and we are at risk. We are floundering and we are anchored. This is a book to toast with a dance on the beach entitled POETRY JOY. I am dancing with joy to have this book in the world. To celebrate its arrival, I invited nine contributors to record a poem or two. Listen here.

Thank you Emma, Chris and Auckland University Press; this book is a gift. 💜 🙏

I would like to gift a copy of this book to one reader. Let me know if you’d like to go in my draw.

The editors

Chris Tse (he/him) was born and raised in Lower Hutt. He studied English literature and film at Victoria University of Wellington, where he also completed an MA in creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML). Tse was one of three poets featured in AUP New Poets 4 (2011). His first collection How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (2014) won the Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry and his second book He’s So MASC was published to critical acclaim in 2018.

Emma Barnes (Ngāti Pākehā, they/them) studied at the University of Canterbury and lives in Aro Valley, Wellington. Their poetry has been widely published for more than a decade in journals including Landfall, Turbine | Kapohau, Cordite and Best New Zealand Poems. They are the author of the poetry collection I Am in Bed with You (2021).

Auckland University Press page

Poetry Shelf celebrates new books: Nine poets read from Out Here: An anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writers from Aotearoa

Out Here: An anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writers from Aotearoa, eds Emma Barnes and Chris Tse, Auckland University Press, 2021

We chose words that delighted us, surprised us, confronted us and engaged us. We chose political pieces and pieces that dreamed futures as yet only yet imagined. We chose coming out stories and stories of home. We followed our noses. What our reading revealed to us is that our queer writers are writing beyond the expectations of what queer writing can be, and doing it in a way that often pushes against the trends of mainstream literature.

Emma Barnes and Chris Tse

The arrival of Out Here is significant. Editors Emma Barnes and Chris Tse have gathered voices from the wider reach of our rainbow communities. Queer texts, rainbow texts. Fiction, poetry, comic strips. I am delighted to present a selection of audio readings in celebration.

The readings

Stacey Teague

Stacey Teague reads ‘Angelhood’

Jiaqiao Liu

Jiaqiao Liu reads ‘as my friends consider children’

essa may ranapiri

essa may ranapiri reads an extract from ‘knot-boy ii’

Emer Lyons

Emer Lyons reads ‘poppers’

Oscar Upperton

Oscar Upperton reads ‘New transgender blockbusters’

Hannah Mettner

Hannah Mettner reads ‘Obscured by clouds’

Natasha Dennerstein

Natasha Dennerstein reads ‘O, Positive, 1993’

Gus Goldsack

Gus Goldsack reads ‘It’s a body’

Ruby Porter

Ruby Porter reads ‘A list of dreams’

The poets

Natasha Dennerstein was born in Melbourne, Australia. She has an MFA from San Francisco State University. Natasha has had poetry published in many journals internationally. Her collections Anatomize (2015), Triptych Caliform (2016) and her novella-in-verse About a Girl (2017) were published by Norfolk Press in San Francisco. Her trans chapbook Seahorse (2017) was published by Nomadic Press in Oakland. She lives in Oakland, California, where she is an editor at Nomadic Press and works at St James Infirmary, a clinic for sex-workers in San Francisco. She was a 2018 Fellow of the Lambda Literary Writer’s Retreat.

Gus Goldsack is a poet, cat dad and black-sand-beach enthusiast. He grew up in Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington and Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland, and lives in Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in The Spinoff and Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers From Aotearoa (Auckland University Press, 2021).

Jiaqiao Liu is a poet from Shandong, China, who grew up in Tāmaki-makau-rau. They are finishing up their MA in Creative Writing at Vic, working on a collection about love and distance, relationships to the self and the body, and Chinese mythology and robots.

Emer Lyons is a lesbian writer from West Cork living in New Zealand. She has a creative/critical PhD in lesbian poetry and shame from the University of Otago where she is the postdoctoral fellow in Irish Studies at the Centre for Irish and Scotish Studies. Most recently, her writing can be found at The Pantograph Punch, Newsroom, Queer Love: An Anthology of Irish Fiction, Landfall, and The Stinging Fly

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.Hannah Mettner

Ruby Porter is a writer, artist and PhD candidate. She tutors creative writing at the University of Auckland, and in high schools. Ruby was the winner of the Wallace Foundation Short Fiction Award in 2017, and the inaugural winner of the Michael Gifkins Prize in 2018, with her debut novel Attraction. Attraction was written during her Masters of Creative Writing at the University of Auckland under supervisor Paula Morris, and published in 2019 by Melbourne-based Text Publishing. It is distributed throughout Australia, New Zealand and North America.

essa may ranapiri (Ngāti Wehi Wehi, Ngāti Raukawa, Na Guinnich, Highgate) is a takatāpui poet living on the lands of Ngāti Wairere. They are super excited about Out Here being in the world even in these weird times. Their first book of poems ransack (VUP) was published 2019. They are currently working on their second book ECHIDNA. They will write until they’re dead.

Stacey Teague (Ngāti Maniapoto/Ngāpuhi) is a queer writer and editor. She is the poetry editor for Awa Wahine, editor for We Are Babies Press, and has her Masters in Creative Writing from the IIML.

Oscar Upperton‘s first poetry collection, New Transgender Blockbusters, was published by Victoria University Press in 2020. His second collection, The Surgeon’s Brain, is scheduled for publication in February 2022. It follows the life of Dr James Barry, nineteenth century surgeon, dueller and reformer whose gender has been the subject of much debate.

Auckland University Press page

Poetry Shelf Spring Season: Francis Cooke picks poems

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.

The poems

The Fall

for Meg

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

schön

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

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.

Cadence Chung

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.

MH370

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 

Caroline Shepherd

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

Birth control

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.  

       

Hannah Mettner

from Sweet Mammalian 7, 2020

Wormhole

Sinead Overbye

from Scum, July 2020

Spanner—A toast

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.

Chris Tse

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.

Louise Wallace

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.

Āmene.
Āmene.

Lesh go.
Lesh go.

Tayi Tibble

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

 

Poetry Shelf write-ups: Jordan Hamel on Lōemis Epilogue

Lōemis Epilogue

Poetry and music go together like candles and churches, and what’s better than poetry and music? Poetry and music in the cavernous St Peters church on a stormy night. Lōemis Festival’s recent event Epilogue, born out of the mind of Festival Artistic Director Andrew Laking, brought together some of the city’s finest ensemble musicians and a murderer’s row of local poets for an evening of original composition that was at times ecstatic, somber, thought-provoking, soothing and so much more. Local wordsmiths Nick Ascroft, Chris Tse, Rebecca Hawkes, Ruby Solly and Harry Ricketts were all given the opportunity to write and deliver original poems in this reimagined requiem mass and their words the space and scope they deserved.

The event page promised an echo of the original idea, that follows the same rise, fall and atmosphere, and it delivered, interspersing music and the spoken word. The event begun with a composition from the ensemble and they punctuated every poet’s performance, creating room for breach and reflection and time for the poems to wash over the crowd and reset the mood for the next poet. The church was dark and moody and still throughout, while this made for the perfect audience experience it made it impossible to take any notes during the show, as a result I’m just going to gush about all the wonderful performers who took the stage.

Epilogue

Nick Ascroft was the first poet to take to the pulpit. He delivered two new poems that were personal and inventive, hilarious and heartbreaking. While I’ve been a fan of Nick’s wit on the page for years it was great to have the opportunity to see him read in this context, not only did his poems set the tone for the evening but his opener ‘You Will Find Me Much Changed’ has been lounging about in my head ever since. Next up was everyone’s favourite poet crush Chris Tse. Dressed in dapper attire apparently inspired by a fancy can of water, Chris, much like Nick used repetition to build his sermon, like a mantra, an incantation. It reverberated off the stained-glass windows and when Chris finished with his piece, entitled ‘Persistence is futile’, I got so upset I have to wait until 2022 for his third collection.

Rebecca Hawkes was next, accidentally dressed as Kath from Kath and Kim due to a wardrobe malfunction but it didn’t matter. Rebecca is the type of poet tailor-made for an event like this, she can conjure imagery that spans the grotesque to the sublime and she has a performance style that colours those images so vividly you feel fully submerged in her world. Speaking of complex other worlds, Ruby Solly is one of the masters of weaving them together and that was on full display in her performance. Ruby also played taonga pūoro with the ensemble before her reading just to remind the audience how talented she is. The last poet of the evening was Harry Ricketts, whose Selected Poems is out in the world right now. Harry’s ‘The Song Sings the News of the World’ closed out the evening, and while it wasn’t necessarily the most complex or challenging poem of the evening, it was the perfect ending, prompting all those watching to look forward and wonder, leaving the audience with a sense of hope.

Overall it was the perfect evening, poetry and music together as they should be, in a venue built for ritual. Epilogue is the type of event that showcases what poetry can be when it’s not confined, stretching it and moulding it into something unexpected, the type of event Andrew and his VERB co-director Clare Mabey excel at producing. I sincerely hope Epilogue doesn’t live up to its namesake and we get to see it again in one form or another.

Jordan Hamel

Music by Nigel Collins and Andrew Laking, in collaboration with Simon Christie and Maaike Beekman. New texts written and read by Chris Tse, Rebecca Hawkes, Harry Ricketts, Ruby Solly, and Nick Ascroft. With Dan Yeabsley (reeds), Tristan Carter (violin), and Dayle Jellyman (keys).

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.

Jordan Hamel’s poem ‘You’re not a has-been, you’re a never was!’

Poetry Shelf Theme Season: Twelve poems about faraway

Slea Head: Dingle Peninsula Michael Hight, 2020

Poetry is a way of bridging the faraway and the close at hand. A poem can make the achingly distant comfortingly close. Poetry can be a satisfying form of travel, whether to the other side of the world, to the past or to imagined realms. Reading poems that offer the faraway as some kind of presence, I feel such a range of emotions. Moved, yes. Goose bumps on the skin, yes. Boosted, yes. This is such a fertile theme, I keep picturing a whole book moving in marvellous directions.

I am grateful to all the poets and publishers who continue to support my season of themes.

The Poems

Remembering

if you can you can try to recall

the sun across the roof and you

knee-deep in childhood playing

near the fence with the storm

of daisies still impressionable

in the way of dreams still

believing leaves had voices

and you might then remember

curtains drowned in burnished light

how at night the sky emptied

into a field of stars leaching out

the guilt you’d soon forget unlike

the woman you called Nana who kept

knitting you hats while you kept not

writing back and maybe then you’d know

the injustices you had no part in

the lady who bought your house how

she ravaged your kingdom while

you were away oh these memories

spiralling into memories into

nothing this helter skelter art of

remembering this bending

over backwards running out of light

Anuja Mitra

from Mayhem Literary Journal, Issue 6 (2018)

Drifting North

Acknowledgement to David Eggleton

She said we discussed post

structuralism in a post modern

context. She said in order

to remember such crucial

poetic phrases she had bought

a small exercise book in which

to record them.

It was, she said, a book

of semantic importance.

She said we considered

the deception of disjointed

parody and the fragmentation

of shallow consumer culture.

I can only remember

a girl

in her pale blue cardigan

drifting north

in a zither of light.

Jenny Powell

from Four French Horns, HeadworX, 2004

apricot nails

I want to paint my nails apricot
as an homage to call me by your name
and the fake italian summer I had last year — 

fake because
I didn’t cycle beside slow streams or
in slow towns

Instead I lay on a 70 euro pinstripe lounger
and couldn’t see the water
only other tourists

And the apricots I ate
came from peach spritzes at sea salt restaurants
and clouded supermarket jars

But all the shops are shut
and the closest nail colour I have
is dark red 

I want to be somewhere in northern italy
with light green water and
deep green conversations

I want to pick fresh apricots from drooping branches
and kiss a boy I shouldn’t
on cobblestone paths against cobblestone walls

I want to lick a love heart on to his shoulder
so that when he gets on a train
my hands shake like a thunderstorm

and I can’t cycle home past
the fields we held each other in
and mum has to pick me up from the station

I want to walk down a staircase
with winter at the bottom
waiting to sweep me into snow

I want the phone to ring when the sky is white
and hear an apricot voice 
ripe and ready to be plucked from the tree

he’ll say how are you
and I’ll slowly leak

Rhegan Tu’akoi

from Stasis 5 May 2020, picked by Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor

Wearing Katherine Mansfield’s Shawl

Seventy years on, shut

in a cardboard box in the basement

of City Hall, you might think

the shawl would have lost

its force to charm, the airy fragrance

of its wearer departed, threads

stripped bare as bones,

yet here it is, another short story:

it felt like love at the Hôtel

d’Adhémar the moment you placed

the silk skein around my shoulders,

the dim red and rusty green fabric

and a fringe gliding like fingertips

over my arm, a draught of bitter

scent – Katherine’s illness,

Virginia’s sarcasm – and

yes, a trace of wild gorse

flowers and New Zealand, not

to mention the drift of her skin

and yours during the photograph,

the stately walk through the town.

Fiona Kidman

from Where Your Left Hand Rests, Godwit, Random House, 2010

Sparks

On the occasion of the Sew Hoy 150th Year Family Reunion, September 2019

Here in this earth you once made a start

home treasure watered with sweat, new seeds

a fire you can light and which gives off sparks

the gleam of gold glowing in darkness

an open door, warm tea, friendships in need

here on this earth you once made a start

sometimes you imagined you left your heart

elsewhere, a woman’s voice and paddies of green

a fire which was lit, remembering its sparks

but even halfway round the world, shoots start

old songs grow distant, sink into bones unseen

here in this earth you can make a new start

with stone and wood you made your mark

built houses of diplomacy and meaning

a new fire was lit, with many sparks

flame to flame, hand to hand, heart to heart

150 years, sixteen harvests of seed

here, in this earth, you once made a start

A fire was once lit. We all are its sparks.

Renee Liang

Heavy Lifting

Once, I climbed a tree

too tall for climbing

and threw my voice out

into the world. I screamed.

I hollered. I snapped

innocent branches. i took the view

as a vivid but painful truth gifted

to me, but did not think to lay down

my own sight in recompense.

All I wanted was someone to say

they could hear me, but the tree said

that in order to be heard I must

first let silence do the heavy lifting

and clear my mind of any

questions and anxieties

such as contemplating whether

I am the favourite son. If I am not,

I am open to being a favourite uncle

or an ex-lover whose hands still cover

the former half’s eyes. I’ll probably never

have children of my own to disappoint

so I’ll settle for being famous instead

with my mouth forced open on TV like

a Venus fly-trap lip-synching for its life.

The first and last of everything

are always connected by

the dotted line of choice.

If there is an order to such things,

then surely I should resist it.

Chris Tse

from he’s so MASC, Auckland University Press, 2018

My city

drawing blank amber cartridges in windows

from which we see children hanging, high fires

of warehouse colours, a reimagining, my city fluttering

far and further away with flags netted

and ziplining west to east, knotted

and raining sunshine,

paving cinder-block-lit-tinder music in alleys

where we visit for the first time, signal murals

to leapfrog smoke, a wandering, my city gathering

close and closer together a wilderness

of voices shifting over each other

and the orchestra,

constructing silver half-heresies in storefronts

to catch seconds of ourselves, herald nighttimes

from singing corners, a remembering, my city resounding

in and out the shout of light on water

and people on water, the work of day

and each other,

my city in the near distance fooling me

into letting my words down, my city visible

a hundred years from tomorrow,

coming out of my ears and

forgiving me,

until i am disappeared someways and no longer

finding me to you

Pippi Jean

Looming

I call it my looming

dread, like the mornings I wake

crying quietly at the grey

in my room, like whispering to my sleeping

mother – do I have to

like the short cuts I can’t take

like the standing outside not breathing

like my hand on the doorknob

counting to twenty and twenty

and twenty.

Tusiata Avia

from Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, Victoria University Press, 2004

mothering daughter

I am coming home to myself

while watching

my mother going away from herself.

Every move you make

an effort

so much slower now, mother

like your body is trying to keep pace

with your mind

everything about you reads as

tired

but sometimes I read as

giving up

FUCK THIS! silently salts my tongue

a tight fist slamming the steering wheel

gas under my foot

tears choking my ears

smoke swallowing my chest.

I am a mother:

Mothering her son,

a motherless daughter mothering her mother.

It’s hard somedays not to be swallowed.

Grace Iwshita-Taylor

from full broken bloom, ala press, 2017

Memoir II

Preparing for death is a wicker basket.

Elderly women know the road.

One grandmother worked in munitions, brown

bonnet, red stripe rampant. the other, a washerwoman:

letters from the Front would surface, tattered.

You must take the journey, ready or not.

The old, old stream of refugees: prams

of books and carts with parrots.

Meanwhile the speeches, speeches: interminable.

When the blood in your ears has time to dry: silence.

The angel will tie a golden ribbon to the basket’s rim.

You will disappear, then reappear, quite weightless.

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman

from Blood Ties: New and Selected Poems 1963- 2016, Canterbury University Press, 2017

fever

moving away from the orchard plots,

laundry lines that sag under the macrocarpa.

moving away from the crystalline skies,

the salt-struck grasses, the train carts

and the underpasses. i astral travel

with a flannel on my head, drink litres

of holy water, chicken broth. i vomit

words into the plastic bucket, brush

the acid from my teeth. i move away,

over tussock country, along the desert

road. i chew the pillowcase. i cling

my body to the bunk. the streets

unfurl. slick with gum and cigarettes.

somebody is yelling my name. i quiver

like a sparrow. hello hello, says the

paramedic. but i am moving away from

the city lights, the steel towers.

and i shed my skin on a motorway

and i float up into the sky.

Elizabeth Morton

from This Is Your Real Name, Otago University Press, 2019

Black Stump Story

After a number of numberless days

we took the wrong turning

and so began a slow descent

past churches and farmhouses

past mortgages and maraes

only our dust followed us

the thin cabbage trees were standing

in the swamp like illustrations

brown cows and black and white and red

the concrete pub the carved virgin

road like a beach and beach like a road

two toothless tokers in a windowless Toyota

nice of you to come no one comes

down here bro – so near and

yet so far – it takes hours

not worth your while –

turned the car and headed back

shaggy dogs with shaggy tales

Murray Edmond

from Fool Moon, Auckland University Press, 2004

The Poets

Tusiata Avia is an internationally acclaimed poet, performer and children’s author. She has published 4 collections of poetry, 3 children’s books and her play ‘Wild Dogs Under My Skirt’ had its off-Broadway debut in NYC, where it took out The Fringe Encore Series 2019 Outstanding Production of the Year. Most recently Tusiata was awarded a 2020 Arts Foundation Laureate and a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to poetry and the arts. Tusiata’s most recent collection The Savage Coloniser Book won The Ockham NZ Book Award for Best Poetry Book 2021.

Murray Edmond, b. Kirikiriroa 1949, lives in Glen Eden. 14 books of poetry (Shaggy Magpie Songs, 2015, and Back Before You Know, 2019 most recent); book of novellas (Strait Men and Other Tales, 2015); Then It Was Now Again: Selected Critical Writing (2014); editor, Ka Mate Ka Ora; dramaturge for Indian Ink Theatre. Forthcoming: Time to Make a Song and Dance: Cultural Revolt in Auckland in the 1960s, from Atuanui Press in May, 2021.

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman is a Christchurch poet and non-fiction writer. A poetry collection, Blood Ties: selected poems, 1963-2016 was published by Canterbury University Press in 2017. A memoir, Now When It Rains came out from Steele Roberts in 2018. He makes his living as a stay-at-home puppy wrangler for Hari, a Jack Russell-Fox Terrier cross. Hari ensures that little writing takes place, while psychogeography and excavating parks happen daily. Recent work has appeared in Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021, an essay on prison reform, and poetry; also, an inclusion in The Cuba Press anthology, More Favourable Waters – Aotearoa Poets respond to Dante’s Purgatory.

Grace Iwashita-Taylor, breathing bloodlines of Samoa, England and Japan. An artist of upu/words led her to the world of performing arts. Dedicated to carving, elevating and holding spaces for storytellers of Te Moana nui a Kiwa. Recipient of the CNZ Emerging Pacific Artist 2014 and the Auckland Mayoral Writers Grant 2016. Highlights include holding the visiting international writer in residence at the University of Hawaii 2018, Co-Founder of the first youth poetry slam in Aoteroa, Rising Voices (2011 – 2016) and the South Auckland Poets Collective and published collections Afakasi Speaks (2013) & Full Broken Bloom (2017) with ala press. Writer of MY OWN DARLING commissioned by Auckland Theatre Company (2015, 2017, 2019) and Curator of UPU (Auckland Arts Festival 2020).

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.

Fiona Kidman has written more than 30 books and won a number of prizes, including the Jann Medlicott Acorn Fiction Prize for This Mortal Boy. Her most recent book is All the way to summer:stories of love and longing.  She has published six books of poems.In 2006, she was the Katherine Mansfield Fellow in Menton.  The poem ‘Wearing Katherine Mansfield’s shawl ‘is based on an event during that time. Her home is in Wellington, overlooking Cook Strait.

Renee Liang is a second-generation Chinese New Zealander whose parents immigrated in the 1970s from Hong Kong. Renee explores the migrant experience; she wrote, produced and nationally toured eight plays; made operas, musicals and community arts programmes; her poems, essays and short stories are studied from primary to tertiary level.  In recent years she has been reclaiming her proud Cantonese heritage in her work. Renee was made MNZM in 2018 for Services to the Arts.

Anuja Mitra lives in Auckland. Her writing has appeared in TakaheMayhemCordite Poetry ReviewStarlingSweet MammalianPoetry Shelf and The Three Lamps, and will appear in the AUP anthology A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand. She  has also written theatre and poetry reviews for TearawayTheatre ScenesMinarets and the New Zealand Poetry Society. She is co-founder of the online arts magazine Oscen.

Elizabeth Morton is a teller of poems and tall tales. She has two collections of poetry – Wolf (Mākaro Press, 2017) and This is your real name (Otago University Press, 2020). She has an MLitt in creative writing from the University of Glasgow, and is completing an MSc in applied neuroscience at King’s College London. She likes to write about broken things, and things with teeth. 

Jenny Powell is a Dunedin poet and performer. Her work has been part of various journals and collaborations. She has a deep interest in music and used to be a french horn player.

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 forthcoming Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers From Aotearoa.

Rhegan Tu‘akoi is a Tongan/Pākehā living in Pōneke. She is a Master’s student at Victoria and her words have appeared in Turbine | Kapohau, Mayhem and Sweet Mammalian. She has also been published in the first issue of Tupuranga Journal

Ten poems about clouds

Twelve poems about ice

Ten poems about dreaming

Eleven poems about the moon

Twelve poems about knitting

Ten poems about water

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Epilogue new work featuring poets and musicians

Epilogue

St. Peter’s on Willis
Sat 19th June, 8pm

Epilogue is a new work that follows the form of a requiem mass, minus the death and liturgy.

Five writers accompanied by an ensemble of musicians explore a series of unrelated events, evoking ideas around transition, inevitability, rest, activity, optimism and infinity.

Music by Nigel Collins (Flight of the Conchords / Congress of Animals) and Andrew Laking, in collaboration with Simon Christie and Maaike Beekman. New texts written and read by Chris Tse, Rebecca Hawkes, Harry Ricketts, Ruby Solly, and Nick Ascroft. With Dan Yeabsley (reeds), Tristan Carter (violin), and Dayle Jellyman (keys).

What to Expect
To make Epilogue, we took the structure and sense of a requiem mass, then pulled it apart it and filled it with contemporary language and music. What we’re left with is an echo of the original idea, that follows the same rise, fall and atmosphere, but speaks to more recent events, all of which are different and personal, but connected in a broader sense. Imagine a secular order of service that alternates between music and spoken word and you’re half way there!

Who’s involved?
Nigel Collins is a playwright and musician who is best known for his work with Flight of the Conchords (Orchestra of One) and Congress of Animals. He combines with a fantastic ensemble of musicians, including bassist Simon Christie (Aurora IV), Dayle Jellyman and reeds maestro Dan Yeabsley (The Troubles). The texts have been put together by a standout collection of writers, featuring many of Wellington’s best – for more info, click on the artist profiles on this page.

Tickets: From $25

Poetry Shelf celebrates new books: Nine poets read from A Clear Dawn

A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand

eds. Paula Morris and Alison Wong, Auckland University Press, 2021

To celebrate the arrival of A Clear Dawn, I invited nine poets to read one of their poems in the collection as audio or video. This fabulous anthology of poetry and fiction, so astutely and loving assembled by Paula Morris and Alison Wong, is sheer reading joy. I am delighted you get to have a taste of nine of the poets’ voices here. Auckland University Press have created an exquisite book. I love holding it, I love finding my way through the beautifully designed pages. I just love this book.

If you live in Auckland you might like to go to the launch at the Auckland Writer’s Festival:

Saturday May 15th, 5:00pm – 6:00pm Balcony Bar, Level Five, Aotea Centre

Enjoy a complimentary glass of wine with selected readings as this ground-breaking contribution to our literature is launched.

You can listen to Alison Wong discuss the book with Kathryn Ryan here.

Auckland University Press page.

The Readings

Isabelle Johns reads ‘The Dance’

Maryana Garcia reads ‘Glass questions’

Modi Deng reads ‘Ben Lomond’

Neema Singh reads ‘A proper way to make tea’

Jiaqiao Liu reads ‘to a future you’

E Wen Wong reads ‘one world sleeps in an apple’

Chris Tse reads ‘Punctum’

Rushi Vyas reads ‘I saw you and I learned this, beloved

Vanessa Mei Crofskey reads ‘What’s the pH balance of yin + yang?’

Vanessa Mei Crofskey is an artist and writer based in Te-Whanganui-a-Tara, who features in A Clear Dawn, the first-ever anthology of Asian New Zealand creative writing. She is the current director of Enjoy Contemporary Art Space. 

Modi Deng is a postgraduate candidate in piano performance at the Royal Academy of Music on scholarship. Currently based in London, Modi received a MMus (First Class Hons, Marsden research scholarship) and a BA from Auckland University. Her first chapbook-length collection of poetry will be part of AUP New Poets 8. She cares deeply about literature (especially poetry, diaspora), music, psychology, and her family.

Maryana Goco Garcia is a poet, and a journalist who dabbles in photography. All of Maryana’s work, visual or written, attempts to find the miracle in the moment, to encourage pausing, to look hard at what lies before us until we notice something new. You can find her poetry on Instagram where she keeps a visual and word archive as @ripagepoet. 

Isabelle Johns likes to write when she has the inspiration, and is (grudgingly) practising doing so without the inspiration part, too. She studies Computer Systems Engineering at the University of Auckland, where she can be found most of the time, either catching up on missed lectures or frantically debugging code before a deadline. Her poems have been published in The Three Lamps, University of Auckland’s literary journal, as well as the upcoming anthology for Asian New Zealand writers, A Clear Dawn.

Jiaqiao (Jay) Liu is a Chinese nonbinary poet currently doing a creative writing MA in Pōneke. They write about family, queerness, longing, myth and tech, among other obsessions. Some of their work can be found in brief, Blackmail Press, takahē and Queer the Pitch.

Neema Singh is a poet from Christchurch of Gujarati Indian descent. Her work appears in Ko Aotearoa Tātou: We Are New Zealand(2020) and A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand (2021) and she is currently working on her first collection of poetry, a series of poems unfolding the layers of culture, identity and history contained within ordinary moments. Neema is an experienced secondary school English teacher and holds a Master of Creative Writing from The University of Auckland.

Chris Tse is the author of How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes and HE’S SO MASC. He and Emma Barnes are co-editors of Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers From Aotearoa, due to be published in October 2021. He is The Spinoff‘s Poetry Editor.

Rushi Vyas is a writer, educator, and PhD candidate at Te Whare Wānanga o Ōtākou / University of Otago. He is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection When I Reach For Your Pulse (Four Way Books, 2023) which was a two-time finalist for the National Poetry Series in the US, and the co-author of the chapbook Between Us, Not Half a Saint, with Rajiv Mohabir. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Colorado-Boulder. He currently serves as Reviews/Interviews Editor for GASHER Journal. Recent poetry is forthcoming or published in The Georgia Review, Indiana ReviewPigeon PagesLandfall (NZ)RedividerThe OffingAdroitWaxwing, and elsewhere.

E Wen Wong is a first-year Law and Science student at the University of Canterbury. She was the winner of the 2020 National Schools Poetry Award.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Chris Tse’s ‘Identikit’

Identikit

when asked to explain the lines that lead to now, you describe / 

the shape of your body as it hits water / the shape of cold water

shocking muscle / the shape of fleshy chambers forced to loosen

and acquiesce / the shape of your grandparents in their coffins /

the shape of coffins that are too small to contain entire lifetimes /

the soft and hard moments we can’t forget no matter how often we

turn our backs to the light / [you write this poem out of love / but

even love can be a blindfold] / the shape of you and your parents

standing in your grandparents’ driveway / after being kicked out

for talking to your aunty’s white boyfriend / your hand reaching

out to someone you don’t recognise in a dream / their silhouette

branded upon your brain / [you’ve tried to swallow the night and

all its inhabitants / but they weren’t designed for consumption] / the

night standing in for doubt / as you argue with your own memory /

waking up to the smell of 皮蛋瘦肉粥 / the shape of a bowl designed

to hold love / love that is never spoken of because to do so would

silence it / the shape of silence when you tell your parents you’ve

fallen in love with a white boy / the shape of that white boy pressed

against your body / both your hearts / shaped like hungry mouths /

the shape of your mouth biting into the world’s biggest egg / the

shape of years spent running before walking / your knees shredded

and bloody / even after you grew the thick skin they said you would

need in this lifetime / the years pass like a watched pot / but you imagine

steam rising from its wide open body / flashbacks to the shape of air

being forced into a lifeless body / some incisions are made to clean

blood, others to fast-forward a certain end / when your grandparents

spoke of life it was whatever came their way / no one back then had

time to hide behind the sky / to pull strings / to taste control / the shape

of control does not fit with the shape of effort / a grounded bird tries

to climb an invisible ladder to heaven / to correct a path the world

wouldn’t let it look upon / in case it traced a line too close to comfort /

we all fear the shape of comfort when it belongs to someone else /

forgetting that we all look the same buried six feet under / both your

grandparents appear before you on the night you learn how to take off

your blindfold / when you finally recognise the shape of acceptance /

and how it might fit among the ruins of your rejections / it goes like this: /

the fights, the kisses, the direct hits / unfolding yourself into a shape

the world doesn’t know how to contain / what doesn’t fit / what doesn’t

hold true / the shape of your name / the shape of a bowl that never

empties / all of these things fit together if you turn them the right way up /

you run your finger along the lip of the bowl and remember / what it

means to be laced in time and not know how to use your hands to feed

yourself / you count the years / you feel their shape flooding your

throat / making a noise / making a space for what’s to come

Chris Tse

Chris Tse is the author of the poetry collections How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes and HE’S SO MASC. He and Emma Barnes are co-editing an anthology of LGBTQIA+ and Takatāpui writers to be published by Auckland University Press in 2021. He also edits The Spinoff’s Friday Poem.

Poetry Shelf radio review of the year: Chris Tse reviews Bill Manhire’s Wow @ninetonoon

My favourite 2020 poetry review on the radio:

Chris Tse discusses Bill Manhire’s Wow with Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon. I loved how Chris said reading the collection reminded him of strolling through the emptied city in lockdown. Yes! Strolling through Bill’s poetry – everything sharpens, the birds are returning, it affects you on so many levels, the invisible is present, fleetingly, lyrically.

This is just wonderful! Listen here.

Poetry Shelf Lounge: A National Poetry Day gathering

Kia ora poets and poetry fans

Welcome to the Poetry Shelf gathering on National Poetry Day. One of my favourite Poetry Days was in Wellington when I jumped in a taxi and went from one event to the next: Vic Books, the National Library, Unity Books, the Book Hound, Miaow. Listening to others read, reading a snippet myself or mc-ing, it felt like the best thing in the world (well right up there with early morning beach walks, and cooking meals, writing secret things, reading books for hours on end).

These days it feels good to count blessings because there is so much toxic stuff out there. I feel utterly privileged to get sent loads of poetry books published in Aotearoa, and to celebrate some of them on the blog. So many times this year I have picked up a new book and felt goosebumps as I settled into the poem thickets and clearings. You know the feeling – when the music and the mystery and the freshness, the challenges and the sensualness and the connective currents – make you feel so darn good.

I invited a handful of poets to send me an audio or video to celebrate National Poetry Day – it was over to them what they did: read their own poems, read the poems of others, share a favourite book or poet, muse on poetry. Bernadette Hall drove 30 km to hook up with Doc Drumheller and Rangiora Library staff at the band rotunda to create her video. Amy Brown did two versions, one with interruptions and a wee poem from her son Robin. I posted both for you! Student E Wen Wong recorded a poem by Cilla McQueen.

I have been getting these files as Auckland is in level 3 – and everyone else level 2 – and what a treat to listen to them. Poetry can do so much! The past few months it has been of immense comfort, and the way so many of you say yes to my requests.

As some of you know I had a melt down yesterday as WordPress has put us onto a new system that I find hard to manage yet. My daughter helped me a bit, but I had to make a few compromises, and one poet will make a future appearance. Thank you for the boosts on social media.

Happy National Poetry Day everyone. Dip and delve into this glorious and utterly special poetry gathering.

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Amy Brown reads two poems of her own: ’16 August 2016′ and ‘Pacing Poem’ from Neon Daze Victoria University Press, 2019. She also reads Airini Beautrais’s ‘Flow’ from Victoria University Press, 2017. Amy sent me two versions, one with interruptions by her son Robin (he does a poem at the end) and one without Robin present. I couldn’t pick as I loved so both, so you get to choose which one to listen to. I think the Robin one is rather special.

Amy Brown reads two poems with the help of Robin

Amy Brown reads the two poems without help

David Eggleton reads ‘The Sound and the Fury’ filmed by Richard C. Wallis in Waikouaiti, North Otago, on Wednesday 19.08.20. Not his tokotoko but a walking stick. Still waiting for the tokotoko ceremony at Matahiwi marae.

Erik Kennedy reads ‘There Is a Man Dancing on the Rudder of an Enormous Cargo Ship’

Bernadette Hall reads two sonnets, one published in Aotearotica and the other in Landfall 239. Her guest Doc Drumheller reads his haiku in Landfall 239. Bernadette had travelled 30 kms to the band rotunda in Rangiora to film this reading with the help of Paula and Daniel from Rangiora Library.

You can listen to Bill read here

You can find texts of the original poem and Bill’s translation here

Emma Neale reads ‘Polemic’ from Tender Machines Otago University Press, 2015

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You can listen to Marty read here

Marty Smith reads ‘Agnus Dei’ from Horse with Hat, Victoria University Press, 2013

Ruby Solly reads two poems, a very early one and a very new one

Chris Tse reads ‘(Green-Nature)’

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Louise Wallace reads three poems on a women/mother/daughter theme: by herself, (from Bad Things Victoria University Press, 2017), and by Naomii Seah and Modi Deng (from the latest issue of Starling).

E Wen Wong reads ‘Vegetable Garden Poem iv’ by Cilla McQueen from Axis: Poems and drawings Otago University Press 2001

The Poets

Amy Brown is a New Zealand poet, novelist and teacher, living in Melbourne. In 2012 she completed a PhD in creative writing at the University of Melbourne. She is the author of The Propaganda Poster Girl (VUP, 2008), which was shortlisted at the 2009 New Zealand Book Awards, The Odour of Sanctity (VUP, 2013), a contemporary epic poem, and Neon Daze (VUP, 2019), a verse journal of the first four months of motherhood. She is also the author of Pony Tales, a series of children’s novels.

Doc Drumheller was born in South Carolina and has lived in NZ for more than half his life. He has worked in award-winning groups for theatre and music and has published 10 collections of poetry. His poems have been translated into more than 20 languages. He lives in Oxford, where he edits and publishes the literary journal, Catalyst.

David Eggleton is a Dunedin-based poet and writer. He is the current Aotearoa New Zealand Poet Laureate. His Selected Poems is forthcoming.

Bernadette Hall is Otago born and bred. Following a long career as a high school teacher in Dunedin and Christchurch, she has now lived 17 years in a renovated bach at Amberley Beach in the Hurunui, North Canterbury where she has built up a beautiful garden. Her 12th collection of poetry, Fancy Dancing (VUP), will be launched at the WORD festival in Christchurch in November. ‘It’s as close as I’ll ever get to writing an autobiography,’ she says, laughing. And as for the wilful sonnets that explode in the final pages of this book, she wonders where on earth they came from. ‘It was such fun writing them,’ she says, ‘as if I‘d kicked down the stable doors and taken to the hills.’ In 2015 she collaborated with Robyn Webster on Matakaea, Shag Point, an art /text installation exhibited at the Ashburton ArGallery. In the same year she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for outstanding achievement in Poetry. In 2017 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to New Zealand literature.

Erik Kennedy is the author of There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime (Victoria University Press, 2018), and he is co-editing a book of climate change poetry from Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific forthcoming from Auckland University Press in 2021. His poems and criticism have recently been published in places like FENCE, Landfall, Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, the TLS, and Western Humanities Review. Originally from New Jersey, he lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Bill Manhire Aside from publishing his own widely acclaimed poetry, Bill Manhire has edited a number of anthologies and written extensively on New Zealand literature. He was New Zealand’s first Poet Laureate. His most recent collections include Tell Me My Name and Things to Place in a Coffin.  Victoria University Press are publishing his new collection Wow November 2020.

Emma Neale is the author of six novels and six collections of poetry. Her most recent novel, Billy Bird (2016) was short-listed for the Acorn Prize at the Ockham NZ Book Awards and long-listed for the Dublin International Literary Award. Emma has received a number of literary fellowships, residencies and awards, the most recent of which is the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for 2020. Her first collection of short stories, Party Games, is due out late 2020/early 2021. Emma lives and works in Ōtepoti/Dunedin, and she is the current editor of Landfall, New Zealand’s longest-running literary journal.

Marty Smith’s Horse with hat won the 2014 Jesse Mackay award for Best First Book of Poetry. Some of the book looks at the cost to her father of not talking about the war. ‘Agnus Dei’ is a poem that crosses religion over into war, although it looks like farming. She grew up riding beside her father, hence the horse strand in Horse with hat, hence the book she is writing about the obsession of people who risk their lives to ride racehorses. She would risk her life right now to ride a racehorse, if she were allowed.

Ruby Solly is a Kai Tahu / Waitaha writer and musician from Aotearoa, New Zealand. She has had poetry and creative non-fiction published in Landfall, Sport, Poetry NZ, Starling, Mimicry, Minarets, E-Tangata, The Spinoff, and Pantograph Punch amongst others. Victoria University Press will be publishing her debut book of poetry ‘Tōku Pāpā’ in 2021. Ruby is also a scriptwriter and her film ‘Super Special’ which aims to share knowledge around traditional Māori views and practices around menstruation has been featured in film festivals within New Zealand and the US. As a musician, she has played with artists such as Yo-yo Ma as part of his Bach Project, Trinity Roots, Whirimako Black, Rikki Gooch, and Ariana Tikao. Ruby is a taonga puoro (traditional Māori musical instruments) player and therapist with a first-class master’s in music therapy where she conducted kaupapa Māori research into the use of taonga puoro in acute mental health. As a taonga puoro player and therapist, she is privileged to work around Aotearoa with people from all walks of life sharing the taonga of her ancestors. She will be beginning a PhD to further her research this year. Her first album, ‘Pōneke’, which also features poetry, is available from rubysolly.bandcamp.cpm

Chris Tse is the author of How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes and HE’S SO MASC, both published by Auckland University Press. He is a regular book reviewer on Radio New Zealand and contributor to Capital’s Re-Verse column. He is currently co-editing an anthology of queer writers from Aotearoa.

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 on women, [domestic] paralysis and poetic form.

E Wen Wong is in her final year at Burnside High School, where she is Head Girl for 2020. Last year, her poem Boston Building Blockswon first prize in the Year 12 category of the Poetry New Zealand Student Yearbook Competition.