Out Here: An anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writers from Aotearoa, eds Chris Tse and Emma Barnes, Auckland University Press, 2021
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.
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. Listenhere.
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.
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).
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.
Stacey Teague reads ‘Angelhood’
Jiaqiao Liu reads ‘as my friends consider children’
essa may ranapiri
essa may ranapiri reads an extract from ‘knot-boy ii’
Emer Lyons reads ‘poppers’
Oscar Upperton reads ‘New transgender blockbusters’
Hannah Mettner reads ‘Obscured by clouds’
Natasha Dennerstein reads ‘O, Positive, 1993’
Gus Goldsack reads ‘It’s a body’
Ruby Porter reads ‘A list of dreams’
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.
Putting this collection together, I tried to group some of my all-time and recent favourite poems in ways where they sat comfortably next to one another – my little poetry playlist/mixtape for Poetry Shelf. Many thanks to Paula for inviting me to put it together, and to all the poets who agreed to be included (and apologies all my favourites that I couldn’t fit in – I was already pushing the limit!).
Alistair Te Ariki Campbell is one of my very favourite writers, especially his love poems. I feel like people often get self-conscious or apologetic about writing love poems – less of this, please! ‘The Fall’ is one of the reasons why it’s so good when a great poet absolutely gets in their feelings – a small, exquisite moment of tenderness, along with useful health & safety advice.
Sophie van Waardenberg is one of the people following in Alistair’s tradition as a great NZ love poet – she’s been slowly building up a collection of wonderful, open-hearted love poems across different journals over the last few years. ‘schön’ is the first of these that I read, a cascade of details and slightly askew metaphors that accumulate into something wonderful.
Cadence Chung’s ‘Hey Girls’ is similar to Sophie’s cascade of moments and images, building into a torrent – it’s one of a series of long, wild poems that have been part of Cadence’s rampage across NZ literary journals over the past two years (see also ‘Girls just wanna have fun’ in The Spinoff, ‘fight scene’ in Food Court, ‘that’s why they call me missus farenheit’ in Landfall, and much more). I’m very excited for her first book, arriving from We Are Babies press next year, giving her just enough time to finish high school in the interim.
I am a very easy touch for any poem that makes me laugh, and Caroline Shepherd is one of the funniest out there – she’s a master at telling jokes as a way to communicate something honest and sincere and sometimes painful. ‘MH370’ was a poem that I remember reading (in Mimicry journal, much loved and missed) and wanting to tell everyone about immediately. (Note: if you want to keep the theme of love poems going rather than pivoting to air disasters, feel free to substitute in Caroline’s equally great ‘Crush Poem!’ here).
I had the same response to ‘Children are the orgasm of the world’, which was the first Hera Lindsay Bird poem I ever read, and wanted to shout from the rooftops about for weeks afterwards (although I think I mostly settled for reading it loudly to my flatmates). I still think about it every time I see a bag with a cheerful affirmation on it.
Hannah Mettner’s ‘Birth Control’ is a recent favourite, one that knocked me down when I first read it in Sweet Mammalian, and then did so again when I heard her read it at Unity Books a few months ago. I love long, exploratory poems like this – something with the time and scope to tell you something new about art history and biblical studies on the way to its conclusion.
Sinead Overbye’s ‘Wormhole’ is another big, wide-ranging poem – I love Sinead’s writing in this form (see also her ‘The River’, ‘Hinemoana’ and more). She always uses her experimentations with the layout of her poem to structure and guide the reader to something deeply felt – she’s another very open-hearted writer. This was originally part of an exquisite corpse experiment for the Digital Writers Festival in Australia where it was paired with music from Ruby Solly (as well as video and coding from two Australian artists, Veronica Charmont and Ruby Quail), and I highly recommend reading it with Ruby’s accompaniment.
Chris Tse and Louise Wallace are both two of my favourite poets and favourite people, so I picked favourites by them that I think read well next to one another. ‘Spanner–A Toast’ and ‘Why we need a reunion’ are both quiet, reflective poems that still hit me hard, years after first reading them. I remember Bill Manhire once described one of Louise’s poems as being like a pebble dropped in the centre of a lake – at first it might seem small, but the ripples keep spreading further and further in your mind after you’ve read it. I think both of these poems do that.
Tayi Tibble’s ‘Karakia 4 a Humble Skux’ is the most recent poem I’ve read that stopped me in my tracks, so it’s the last poem here. It comes towards the end of her new book, Rangikura, and after all of the turbulence in that collection is an incredible moment of calm and transformation – Tayi is always shifting and surprising me as a reader, and she does it again here.
I had been painting the blue sky a brighter blue. I had been higher than I thought possible. When I fell, the sun wheeled spokes of light about my head
I make no excuses for my fall – anyone that aims at such heights must take the necessary precautions. He must take care to lean his ladder against a fixed object, preferably a star.
O love, knowing your constancy, how did I fail to lean it against your heart?
Alistair Te Ariki Campbell
from It’s Love, Isn’t It? The Love Poems, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and Meg Campbell HeadworX, 2008
my girl watered her cacti until they drowned my girl filled my house with flowers until the house coughed and fell down
my girl ties yellow ribbons to my hair with her cold hands and calls me beautiful in swooping german and my girl laughs
when my girl laughs she cuts my life in two and two again where she kisses me there is love fizzing from my cheeks to the car windows
and we walk into the supermarket at midnight when the lilies have gone quiet and hold hands past the eggs and milk and cut-price easter bunnies
when my girl wakes up she looks at me close and still smiles my girl nearest to me in the world plucks her eyebrows and frowns and proves her face
my girl and I, here we are, refusing to decide what to feed each other in the crumbed kitchen with the lights off
my girl and I spill our egg yolks on wednesday’s astrology forget that we are paper boats pushed out to sea by wistful hands
my girl forgets with me the drycleaning ticket my girl forgets with me the breakfast cost
my girl becomes a calendar and I curl up inside her my girl becomes a tongue twister and I curl up inside her
my girl lets the spring in through her hands she puts her hands over my ears and I remember how it feels
it is nice and nice and nice
Sophie van Waardenberg
from Mimicry 4, 2018
Hey girls could we dance in the glister of a winter night could we hum along to the hazy beat of jazz? We could be neon
we could be starlets eyeliner like slits in our skin holding that little 20s powder compact in the shape of a gun (with a matching bullet-shaped lipstick).
God, girls I’d love to glow as green as radium glassware, discarded in the night like a ghost’s banquet, all the dead dames and dandies
sipping toxic wine, listening to the click of the Geiger counter getting louder louder louder, girls, there are graves that still hum with radiation, that you
can’t stand too close to or your cells will go haywire split, swirl, divide oh girls I’d paint my lips fluorescent green just to poison for 24,000 years longer.
Hey ladies if the jazz gets too much then how about we listen to the slow descent into tragedy that Chopin always reminds me of like the blood
crusted onto a stale knife with lapis, emerald, ruby on the hilt. We could waltz far too close at the ball cause a scandal come home with
our petticoats swapped around and smelling like each other, so much so that the swallows would change their paths, mix up their routes confused
with the exchange of souls and lace, and love. My girls, I could be the humble gardener with crooked teeth and dirt down my nails you could be the fair dame
who never accepts marriage proposals and spends all her time planting violets to coat in coarse sugar make the bitter petals sweet. Girls, we could dance
in the dry-throated-heart-thumping mess of waiting backstage before a show, listen to the crowd shout louder than the glaring stars. We could wear huge
plastic earrings, so heavy they can only be worn once a year. Girls, let’s tie the ends of our button-down blouses and make them into crop-tops wear sunglasses on
our heads, but never let them blind us to our brightness. Hey hey hey girls if flowers bloom on my grave then I hope they have disco lights on their stamens
so people never forget the sweat-slicked thumpthumpthump of my past; the statues of the Greeks were once painted and were hideously gaudy, but we forget that things were not always
just bronze, marble, and plaster. We forget the click from the gravestones, growing louder every day. Ticktickticktick tick, the ground is growing heavy from the weight of such
blistering souls it carries. Tickticktickticktick, girls, before it’s too late let us paint ourselves with the brightest pigment and burn our kisses into history books ‒ xoxoxo.
from Poetry New Zealand Yearbook, Massey University Press, 2021. The poem was the winner of the 2021 Poetry New Zealand Yearbook Student Competition, Year 12 division.
A whole ass plane disappeared five years ago and we still Take the bins out and get Thai takeaway
Turn on the news and they’re talking about the print on the royal baby’s bib and I feel like dragging a really large wine glass into somewhere crowded and politely drowning in it to force the point that an ENTIRE plane disappeared OUT OF THE SKY and it isn’t the first thing the Prime News guy opens with like
“Kia ora good evening, I’m Eric Young, an entire fucking plane disappeared 1825 days ago, and this is prime news”
I am no expert in planes or in flight or in anything I am silly and stupid and stuck on this, unattractively, like a mad child
but: an airplane, gone, vanished that flushed, roaring engine 227 passengers, 10 flight attendants, 2 pilots and a snack cart
And the world continues, which I guess is what it does But I want to place a formal compliant to whoever is in charge of this kind of thing that cornflakes shouldn’t go on special when a plane is missing, or at the very least milk should also go on special at the same time
A plane leaves and we look for it and when we don’t find it, we go on. We let the world get away with being this big. Worse- we know it’s this big and we don’t spend all our time afraid. That is the point. Sorry it took so long to say so. Something should not be so large and unforgiving
from Mimicry 5, 2019
Children are the Orgasm of the World
This morning on the bus there was a woman carrying a bag with inspirational sayings and positive affirmations which I was reading because I’m a fan of inspirational sayings and positive affirmations. I also like clothing that gives you advice. What’s better than the glittered baseball cap of a stranger telling you what to strive for? It’s like living in a world of endless therapists. The inspirational bag of the woman on the bus said a bunch of stuff like ‘live in the moment’ and ‘remember to breathe,’ but it also said ‘children are the orgasm of the world.’ Are children the orgasm of the world like orgasms are the orgasms of sex? Are children the orgasm of anything? Children are the orgasm of the world like hovercraft are the orgasm of the future or silence is the orgasm of the telephone or shit is the orgasm of the lasagne. You could even say sheep are the orgasm of lonely pastures, which are the orgasm of modern farming practices which are the orgasm of the industrial revolution. And then I thought why not? I like comparing stuff to other stuff too. Like sometimes when we’re having sex and you look like a helicopter in a low budget movie, disappearing behind a cloud to explode. Or an athlete winning a prestigious international sporting tournament at the exact same moment he discovers his wife has just been kidnapped. For the most part, orgasms are the orgasms of the world. Like slam dunking a glass basketball. Or executing a perfect dive into a swimming pool full of oh my god. Or travelling into the past to forgive yourself and creating a time paradox so beautiful it forces all of human history to reboot, stranding you naked on some distant and rocky outcrop, looking up at the sunset from a world so new looking up hasn’t even been invented yet.
Hera Lindsay Bird
from Hera Lindsay Bird, Victoria University Press, 2016
We begin with the viral video of the anaconda in New England giving birth to her exact genetic copies because she’s never even seen a male snake in all her eight years behind glass.
The headlines are calling it a virgin birth.
I watched the video this morning— now everywhere I turn, a Madonna, a snake. Oh, Rome, how you worship your silk-hipped mothers!
You heap your offerings of smoke and ash, your hard heels of bread. This church is just another Santa Maria with an old woman in a shawl and a takeaway coffee cup shaking outside.
At the Vatican yesterday, I wondered if he-who-sees-everything could see the small t-shaped thing inside me. I walked through the metal detectors and bag-check and had the surreal thought that the Pope might sweep down to deny me entry like Jesus in The Last Judgment.
When I first had it inserted, I bled for a month and ruined all the underwear I owned, even though I rinsed them in cold water first the way my mother taught me. Every day I’d think it’d stopped, but it kept coming— Mary’s stigmata, Eve’s—relentless like the blood after birth— uterus closing like a fist with nails cutting into the palm.
In the Vatican there is so much art, so much wealth, but what I notice is the absence of Madonnas. Every wall in Rome is frescoed with Marys except here, the holy centre.
At home, my daughter, who has grown so tall so quickly it looks like someone has grabbed her at either end and pulled, starts taking the pill to manage her bleeding.
Six months ago she was innocent as grass. Seems like every initiation into womanhood is an initiation into pain. Into seeing the other women busying around us, bruising hips on the corners of tables, gasping in the bathroom as their stitches tear—
trying to hold back the knowledge of it, doing their best always, always rubbing honey into the wound, almond butter into the cracks in their hands, delivering us into the knowledge of blood.
In this church the colours are fairy floss and hayfever and bubble-gum flavoured milk but Byzantine.
The gold is so bright that we glow a bit, even though we joked about burning up as we walked in. If god made gold, it was definitely for this—to dazzle us into a submissive kind of belief.
But, later, all these churches later, what I remember is the fresco of the one woman with her arms held wide trying to call her companions to order, like Bitches, please, and that poor woman on her left with a toddler and a baby on her lap each clamouring for a breast.
Another woman seems to be resting a sandalled foot casually on the decapitated head of a man. Her robe drapes a bit in the blood, but she’s too deep in conversation to notice that. On the far side of the group the woman in blue has her arm raised to receive a raven while she whispers in her friend’s ear.
This is the pastel chaos of womanhood. And behind them all in black, a neat semicircle of men.
What’s helpful is to know what the line ‘Blessed be the fruit’ actually means. It’s what the serpent said to Eve just before she bit—what Eve said to Adam juice dripping down her chin.
In Rome, outside every church are four or five armed soldiers and a jeep, spilling ash from their cigarettes between the cobblestones, watching. Kitset boys in camouflage and blood-red berets.
I sit on the steps of the fountain and google the church— the first church in Rome dedicated to Mary, it holds the head of the virgin martyr Saint Apollonia. But before that it was a pagan temple dedicated to Carmenta — goddess of childbirth, prophecy and technical innovation. Inventor of the Latin alphabet.
And the old woman, begging outside? One of the soldiers calls her Maria and hands her a bomboloni wrapped in a paper napkin.
The light around the broken temple of the virgins is orange and thick. If the flame went out, the women were blamed for being unchaste. Whoever the culprit— she was buried alive with just enough apricots and milk
to make the death a low-angled wasting. What would her heart do, while her face was pulling back into its bones? She would cry, and you would too, for spending your life a servant to fire, and never knowing how it felt to burn.
Parthenogenesis is the ancient word for a virgin birth— not magic, but a well-documented biological process in many plants and animals. Typically, what has happened
is that if men can’t explain a thing, they call it witchcraft and destroy it. There is a hymn for everything here and this is the hymn for days made narrow through lack of sleep. This is the hymn for the good-bad gift of knowing.
from Sweet Mammalian 7, 2020
from Scum, July 2020
To be the sun. To be locked in the care of glass. To show, then offer. To know that love is the most dangerous sting yet to still give up an arm. To wake from machines and know your hope will never be yours alone. To take to those machines as an unexpected spanner. To fill a touch with a complete backstory. To leave sugar at my door to keep you close. To crave
but not seek. To know the future and avoid it. To accept that after silk comes rain from dark, honest clouds. To lose a smile at a storied game of chance. To let the morning sweep away the last nine months. To wrong no other even when the line’s gone dead. To family and friendship. To starts, to ends, to towers we go.
from He’s So MASC, Auckland University Press, 2018
Why we need a reunion
Something about long driveways, wizened trees sprawling overhead, the stew and the yeasty bread. Country comes from the stereo. I like it, I admit – but only in this house.
At the lunch table it’s the same old stories – comforting like the meal. What will you do? My family’s favourite question. I try to think of a new answer, one they might not mind.
Nana broke science. She overpowered our genes – wrestled them to the floor. Let’s forget about who got the coffee table she made from shells. But who did? Let’s forget that.
I could have used a funny uncle growing up. Call me ‘Boss’, he said, and we did, but never saw him much. Other than that, I can’t mention names – everything is touchy still. We won’t be here forever you know, the gorse will eat the hills.
from Since June, Victoria University Press, 2009
A Karakia 4 a Humble Skux
I take a bath in my body of water I take a bath in my body of water
I know I am the daughter of rangi papa tangaroa I know I am the daughter of rangi papa tangaroa
& every yung god who fucked it up before me. & every yung god who fucked it up before me.
Every day I breach the surface cleanly Every day I breach the surface cleanly
& step out dripping so hard & step out dripping so hard
ya better call a plumber. ya better call a plumber.
God I’m a flex. God I’m a flex.
I’m God’s best sex. I’m God’s best sex.
I am made in the image of God. I am made in the image of God.
I am made in the image of my mother. I am made in the image of my mother.
I am made in the image of I am made in the image of
my mountain my river my whenua
my mountain my river my whenua
Yeah I’m as fresh as my oldest tipuna. Yeah I’m as fresh as my oldest tipuna.
Even when I’m lowkey I’m loud. Even when I’m lowkey I’m loud.
Lil, but a million years old. Lil, but a million years old.
I’ve been germinating like a seed I’ve been germinating like a seed
been on my vibe like an atom been on my vibe like an atom
& I am wilder than anything & I am wilder than anything
my ancestors could have imagined. my ancestors could have imagined.
So release the parts of me that call for change So release the parts of me that call for change
but the energy is stale. but the energy is stale.
I’m switching it all up I’m switching it all up
fishing stars into the sea fishing stars into the sea
and painting the skyful of whales. and painting the skyful of whales.
Keep it humble, keep it skux. Keep it humble, keep it skux.
Keep it pushing, keep it cute. Keep it pushing, keep it cute.
I be in the marae doing the dishes I be in the marae doing the dishes
cos there’s mahi to do. cos there’s mahi to do.
Creator and Creation. Creator and Creation.
I am made of the same I am made of the same
star matter as legends. star matter as legends.
Lesh go. Lesh go.
from Rangikura, Victoria University Press, 2021
Francis Cooke is a Wellington author and co-editor (with Louise Wallace and the editorial committee of Tate Fountain, Claudia Jardine and Sinead Overbye) of Starling journal.
Hera Lindsay Bird was a poet from Wellington. She hasn’t written a poem in a long time, and no longer lives in Wellington.
Alistair Te Ariki Campbell (1925 – 2009) was born in Rarotonga and lived in Aotearoa from the age of eight. During his writing career of sixty years, he published 20 poetry collections along with novels, plays and an autobiography. His many honours and awards included a NZ Book Award for Poetry (1982), an Honorary DLitt from Victoria University of Wellington (1999), the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (2005). He was made an Officer of NZ Order of Merit (2005).
Cadence Chung is a poet and student at Wellington High School. She has been writing poetry since she was at primary school, and draws inspiration from classic literature, Tumblr text posts, and roaming antique stores.
Hannah Mettner (she/her) is a Wellington writer who still calls Tairāwhiti home. Her first collection of poetry, Fully Clothed and So Forgetful, was published by Victoria University Press in 2017, and won the Jessie Mackay Award for best first book of poetry at the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She is one of the founding editors of the online journal Sweet Mammalian, with Sugar Magnolia Wilson and Morgan Bach.
Sinead Overbye (Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata) is a poet and fiction writer living in Wellington. In 2018 she completed her MA in creative writing at the IIML. She founded and co-edits Stasis Journal. Her work can be found in The Pantograph Punch, Tupuranga Journal, Turbine | Kapohau, Starling, and other places.
Caroline Shepherd is (still) a Victoria University student whose work has appeared in the Spinoff, Starling, and Stasis, along with some other places that do not start with S. She is based in Wellington and likes mint slices, actually.
Tayi Tibble (Te Whānau ā Apanui/Ngāti Porou) was born in 1995 and lives in Wellington. In 2017 she completed a Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington, where she was the recipient of the Adam Foundation Prize. Her first book, Poūkahangatus (VUP, 2018), won the Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award. Her second collection, Rangikura, was published in 2021.
Chris Tse is the author of two poetry collections published by Auckland University Press – How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (winner of Best First Book of Poetry at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards) and HE’S SO MASC – and is co-editor of the Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers From Aotearoa (AUP, 2021).
Sophie van Waardenberg is a poet from Tāmaki Makaurau and a current MFA candidate at Syracuse University, where she serves as an Editor-in-Chief of Salt Hill Journal. Her first chapbook-length collection, does a potato have a heart?, was published in Auckland University Press’s New Poets 5 (2019).
Louise Wallace is the author of three collections of poetry published by Victoria University Press, most recently Bad Things. She is the founder and editor of Starling and is currently working on a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Otago. She spent the level 4 lockdown at home with her partner and young son on the Otago Peninsula.
Poetry Shelf Spring Season
Tara Black picks poems Victor Rodger picks poems Peter Ireland picks poems Emma Espiner picks poems Claire Mabey picks poems Sally Blundell picks poems
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.
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.
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 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.
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
from Mayhem Literary Journal, Issue 6 (2018)
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
in her pale blue cardigan
in a zither of light.
from Four French Horns, HeadworX, 2004
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
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.
from Where Your Left Hand Rests, Godwit, Random House, 2010
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.
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.
from he’s so MASC, Auckland University Press, 2018
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
until i am disappeared someways and no longer
finding me to you
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
from Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, Victoria University Press, 2004
I am coming home to myself
my mother going away from herself.
Every move you make
so much slower now, mother
like your body is trying to keep pace
with your mind
everything about you reads as
but sometimes I read as
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.
from full broken bloom, ala press, 2017
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
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.
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
from Fool Moon, Auckland University Press, 2004
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 ColoniserBook 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 Takahe, Mayhem, Cordite Poetry Review, Starling, Sweet Mammalian, Poetry 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 Tearaway, Theatre Scenes, Minarets 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
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.
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.
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 Review, Pigeon Pages, Landfall (NZ), Redivider, The Offing, Adroit, Waxwing, 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)’
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
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.