Tag Archives: emer lyons

Poetry Shelf Lounge: a Landfall 239 reading

 

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Landfall 239 edited by Emma Neale, Otago University Press, 2020

 

To celebrate the arrival of Landfall 239, edited by Emma Neale, I invited a few poets to read their poems from the issue.

The new issue is an excellent place for small reading retreats. You get fiction, non-fiction, poetry and reviews. It includes heavenly embroidered panels by artist Vita Cochran; they took me back to my primary school days when embroidery was a thing. Surely this will inspire a swag of us to pick up needle and thread, and get creative. I equally adored the paintings – oil on linen or canvas – by Star Gossage. These muted portraits, favouring  blue / green palettes, hum with mood and presence. Gosh I love them.

You also get the winning essays in the Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Essay Competition 2020.  And they cut through any stasis. Especially Grace Lee’s winning essay, ‘Body/Love’.

Small reading excursions are so very satisfying. And with me not going out for the forseeable future, I am very glad to settle back on the couch, and watch / listen to this Landfall reading. And then venture back into the book to read the fiction and reviews. Wonderful.

Thank you Landfall poets for contributing to a Poetry Shelf Lounge event.

 

 

 

 

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Lynley Edmeades reads ‘Notice’

 

 

 

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Leonard Lambert reads ‘Nights of Wonder, Days of Splendour’

 

 

 

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Emer Lyons reads ‘Nothing repaired, nothing gained’

 

 

 

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Talia Marshall reads ‘Being Active’

 

 

 

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Kōtuku Titihuia Nuttall reads ‘Kēhua’

 

 

 

 

essa may ranapiri reads ‘echidna goes to see the drone perform in front of a live audience’

 

 

 

Jo-Ella Sarich reads ‘The Jasmine (We need to talk about suicide)’

 

 

 

Tim Saunders reads ‘Demilune’

 

 

 

Nicola Thorstensen reads ‘Legacy’

 

The Poets

 

Lynley Edmeades is the author of two books of poetry: As the Verb Tenses (2016) and Listening In (2019), both published with Otago University Press and both longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Best Book Award. Lynley is a lecturer at the University of Otago, and she is currently working on a book of essays.

Leonard Lambert is a long-established NZ poet with a publication history stretching from A Washday Romance (John McIndoe, 1980) to Somewhere in August: Selected Poems 1969-2016 (Steele Roberts, 2016). His most recent publication is a chapbook, Winter Waves, from Cold Hub Press. Between poems he paints and is a regular exhibitor around his home turf of Hawke’s Bay.

Emer Lyons is a lesbian writer from Cork, currently in the last months of a creative critical PhD at Otago.

Talia Marshall (Ngāti Kuia/Rangitāne ō Wairau/Ngāti Rārua/Ngāti Takihiku) is a poet and essayist with one son and one dog who has a poetry collection forthcoming from Kilmog Press titled Bad Apple. In 2020 she is writing about Ans Westra’s photographs of Māori as part of her Emerging Māori Writer’s Residency at Victoria University. Her essay titled ‘This Is the Way He Walked Into the Darkest, Pinkest Part of the Whale and Cried Don’t Tell the Others’ was quoted on the cover of POETRY magazine’s February 2018 Aotearoa issue.

Kōtuku Titihuia Nuttall (Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Rangatahi, SȾÁ,UTW̱ First Nation) is a creative writing student at Te Pūtahi Tuhi Auaha o Te Ao (IIML). Her work has been published in Landfall, Turbine / Kapohau, Starling, Food Court, and Te Rito o Te Harakeke.

essa may ranapiri (Ngāti Raukawa/Tainui/Ngāti Takatāpui/Clan Gunn/Highgate) is a person or some shit / or whatever / they wrote a book of poems called ransack / it’s still in th world / the only time they use they/them pronouns for themselves is in these bios / isn’t that funny / thx goes out to their ancestors / who are as big as everything / just wow / just everything / they will write until they’re dead

Jo-Ella Sarich is a lawyer, writer, and mother to two young girls living in Te Awa Kairangi. Her poems have appeared in a number of print and online publications, including New Statesman, The Lake, Cleaver Magazine, Barzakh Magazine, Quarterday Review, Shoreline of Infinity, takahē magazine, Shot Glass Journal, the New Zealand Poetry Society’s Anthology for 2017 and the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017.  Tumblr link, @jsarich_writer.

Tim Saunders farms sheep and beef near Palmerston North. He has had poetry and short stories published in Turbine|Kapohau, takahē, Landfall, Poetry NZ Yearbook and Flash Frontier. He won the 2018 Mindfood Magazine Short Story Competition, and placed third in the 2019 and 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Awards. His book, This Farming Life, was published by Allen & Unwin in August, 2020.

Nicola Thorstensen is a member of Dunedin’s Octagon Poetry Collective, which organises monthly poetry readings. Her work can be found in a number of New Zealand periodicals and journals, including Takahē, Poetry New Zealand and political anthology Manifesto Aotearoa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Friday talk spot: On being reviewed by Emer Lyons

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Whenever someone reviews a book, and they have spent time reading, contemplating and questioning, I am happy. Reviews connect me with books I might want to read. Poet Emer Lyons recently reviewed my mammoth, maze-like book Wild Honey: Reading NZ Women’s Poetry (MUP, 2019) for Landfall Online.

I loved Emer’s review; it confirmed there is no single way to write one. Reacting to a book that celebrates 201 poets, Emer highlights those she made strong connections with (Heather McPherson, Hinemoana Baker, Tusiata Avia, Rhian Gallagher). I love that. Part of my aim was to write a book that sparked poetry interests in the reader – to encourage them to track down particular poets and find out more. Her review invites you into the experience of a particular reader, a little like a reading diary. Yes, give me a personal review over a detached, jargon-driven piece any day. Emer makes it clear that a personal approach can also be a critical approach (she is currently doing a PhD at Otago University). Both the personal and the critical can feed off thought and feeling.

The second thing I loved about Emer’s review is that it got me musing. I said in Wild Honey I would like to see a non-Pākehā woman write a book about Māori and/or Pasifika women poets. This is not apologetic nor guilt ridden but me believing I am not the best person for the job. I can’t, for example, wait to see Selina Tusitala Marsh’s volume on Pasifika women poets. Yet it was essential that my poetry house welcomed widely: across cultures, time and place, and writing preferences. I entered the poetry of others, regardless of difference, and listened. Slowly, slowly, slowly. I can never take my reading travels for granted. I hate the idea of being an authority.

Emer rightly suggested I didn’t make similar points about lesbian poetry. I didn’t state, for example, that I would like to see a not-heterosexual woman write a volume that presented lesbian poetry in new and significant lights – because I wasn’t the best person for the job. And I did not write about lesbian poetry (or sexuality or gender) as a particular focus. It is easy to claim this as one of the many things I did not do in the book but Emer’s argument really got me thinking and I loved that. This is what the very best reviews can do.

I felt invigorated by this review and for that I am grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf questions poets: Do poetry communities matter to you?

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Part of my aim with Poetry Shelf is to build bridges between diverse poetry communities and in doing so create a hub for sharing poems, interviews, news, anecdotes, ideas, interviews, audio, podcasts, reviews, new books, old books and so on. I want to engage with and showcase a diversity of voices.

I live on the outskirts of Auckland on the west coast, with dodgy internet, mobile reception and power, and at the moment scarce water (!) and I don’t get into the city that often. So I am dependent on the books I am sent, and my communications with as many poets as possible. I feel both inside and outside communities, belonging not-belonging.

Researching and writing Wild Honey took me into all manner of communities – past and present. Utterly fascinating. Always surpising. I found goodwill, bitchiness, support and aroha in the archives. Connections between women poets seemed vital, especially when women were writing in the shadows. The 2019 Wild Honey events were something special – and got me thinking about connectedness and bridges and how belonging to one community is not enough. Listening hard counts. I agree with Louise Wallace – kindness,  generosity and diversity – are crucial. I see this in what she is doing with The Starling.

Poetry Shelf is my made-up and constantly evolving community and includes best friends, people whose poetry I have admired for a long time, people whom I have never met, new discoveries. Why do I do this crazy thing that takes up so much time and operates outside the currency of money? Because no matter how tired or challenged or doubt-smashed I feel, in its drive to celebrate, question, and connect, Poetry Shelf is a necessary form of nourishment. It is like a huge loving poetry family with a truckload of goodwill and support. It constantly surprises and delights me. Do keep in touch. Do let me know of new discoveries.

 

Louise Wallace:
Poetry communities matter and have mattered to me immensely. Writing is of course a solitary act, but what’s the fun in doing the rest of it alone? A common misconception seems to be that the NZ poetry community is bitchy or competitive. I have found the opposite to be true. I am grateful for the opportunities I have received, often sent my way by other writers. Poetry communities can fulfil different needs at different times. As a young writer I really valued being surrounded by my peers who were on the same journey as me, and the help and guidance offered to me by senior writers. As a new mum last year I was physically isolated, unable to attend many literary events. Online communities filled that gap as a way to stay connected and still feel myself – I listened to poetry podcasts while out walking my son in his pram, I kept up with NZ poetry news on twitter whenever I could check my phone. Community to me means creating space for others. It means making sure there is room for as many different voices as we can imagine. It means generosity and kindness: lifting each other up. If there’s a window, fill it with someone else’s name.

 

Jordan Hamel:

I spent a long time figuring out how to answer this. Obviously the answer is yes, but I didn’t know how to articulate what poetry communities to me, ironically it took me to until last minute to ask other people for their opinions, my friend Sara gave me a great analogy. There’s an old classroom trust-building exercise where a bunch of kids sit in a circle and two kids in the middle are blindfolded and try to beat each other with rolled-up newspaper. They have to rely on the voices of the circle to tell them where to swing and gently push them in the right direction. What an apt metaphor, almost too on the nose. Sincerity is awful and I apologise in advance but strap yourself in because here we go.

When I first started writing, like most people I felt like the blindfolded kid swinging the newspaper, never sure if I was hitting anything. In the past couple of years I’ve found a circle, well circles plural, different, intersecting, amorphous circles, some occupy physical spaces like readings, writers groups and open mics, others digital and less tangible, all are so important to me and my poetry. I think the great thing about the metaphor is, in poetry communities you aren’t always the one in the middle wildly swinging, you’re also in the circle guiding others as they go through the same thing, sometimes you’re the one who created the circle in the first place, but as wholesome as this extended metaphor is, poetry communities in NZ aren’t perfect, we could all take a look at our circles and think how we can make them bigger, more inclusive, flexible, every so often we can turn around and try to see who’s outside the circle, blindly stumbling and swinging on their own, or who’s too nervous to even ask to join in. I’ve been lucky enough to find people who will let me play even though most of the time I still feel like a blindfolded kid swatting at darkness, but I think everyone feels that way and everyone needs those voices.

 

 

Sugar Magnolia Wilson:

This is such a good question for me right now. The answer is very much yes, poetry communities do matter to me, but also, no, not as much as they used to in the way that they used to.

Before 2012 my poetry community was just myself. I wrote and wrote, for years, in creative isolation and it was awesome, but I didn’t know any different so it wasn’t really anything. It was just the way it was. Come 2012 and I got accepted into the IIML masters course. It changed my life. My views were challenged, my writing grew, and I had such an amazing time being part of the Wellington writing community. The book launches. Amazing writer friends with the same writerly bullshit struggles. The support and lots of love and wine. So much creative generosity and oh boy is Wellington good at that. Without that kind of hothouse scenario, my book wouldn’t have happened, and I wouldn’t have turned my writing into a craft. But … like all good things, it needed to have its own little death.

I started, last year some time, to feel a bit sad about the whole thing. The launch of Wild Honey really defined what a poetry community should look like for me; big, wise, loving, many-voiced, multi-generational. I can’t really explain it, other than I felt like my IIML year had gone on for eight years instead of one, and that I was really and truly ready to graduate and throw my cap off and leave it in the rain. I realised that in order for my writing to survive beyond one book, that I needed to go it alone, to figuratively and literally move away, to let go of all the stuff and the scene and sort of competitive element than can start to creep in. I’m not interested in that stuff and I don’t want to be defined by my success on the Unity Books Bestsellers list. No shade to Unity wot wot.

Anyway, now I live in the bush and it’s nice, and I’m eternally grateful for poetry communities. I am hoping that over time a new kind of one will grow. Something wild and sweet that lets me grown in new ways.

 

Eliana Gray

Yes!!!! Where would I be, where would any of us be without community? Community to me is the bedrock and the impetus for everything. Why do we write if not to communicate with others? Why do we communicate if not to build community? I feel that almost every – if not all – human action has community building at its base.
We would be very little without community, isolated ghosts. I don’t think that sounds very fun. Other humans are one of the key ways we define our existence. I just can’t imagine life without it. Communities make me a happier person, a better writer, more accountable, more empathetic, a smarter person, harder, better, faster, stronger, all of it. Thank you to everyone in my poetry communities. I am still alive because you make life very appealing.

 

Vana Manasiadis:

I tried to answer this question before I fell down a metaphor hole grabbing at definitions all the way. What do I think a [poetry] community is, does, has? I like these community values: respect, agency, meaningful participation, collaboration, integrity, inclusion. When I’ve had poetry community experiences that have included lots of these things – kōrero, voices, tautoko – they are like blood transfusions. Like actual substance, and substantiveness. Like: I don’t have to long-walk/talk-listen-disagree-agree-eat-drink-stay late with my poetry community every day and night (though that’s the dream) but I do need more than brief SM broadcasts. (And clearly I’m saying this as a judgmental SM recluse who has swallowed the hard self-inflicted pill of not being part of a/the poetry community online; and who spends way too much time wondering whether it’s even possible to be in the same community as folks who’ve super-active-online-selves). But. Anyway. In my wider-panning poetry community (see above) – which really, really matters to me (see blood) – aside from curation there’s also accident, mess, aporía, and slow time. And now I think of it, I’m in a small but ecstatic community of poets who write long and languorous emails to each other. I should say epistles obviously.

 

 

Emer Lyons:

I was working on Heather McPherson’s poem ‘stein song for the blue house’ this month and I was drawn back to a quote from Starhawk’s book Spiral Dance: The Rebirth of The Ancient Religion of The Great Goddess:

And Goddess religion is lived in community. Its primary focus is not individual salvation or enlightenment or enrichment but the growth and transformation that comes through intimate interactions and common struggles. Community includes not only people but also the animals, plants, soil, air and water and energy systems that support our lives. Community is personal­—one’s closest friends, relatives, and lovers, those to whom we are accountable. But in a time of global communications, catastrophes, and potential violence, community must also be seen as reaching out to include all the earth (1999, 22).

Poetry communities are rife with nepotism, can become insular, and elitist, and benchmarks in people’s minds for what is deemed good or bad poetry, rather than the focus being on the sharing of “intimate interactions and common struggles.” The poet Fatimah Asghar says, “I work in the medium of community,” and I feel that, but only as far as community is a place from which I can question, include, and remain accountable.

 

 

Kiri Piahana-Wong:

Yes! Poetry communities matter, and they matter to me. I love how people who write in different styles and perform in different modes can find their poetry ‘home’ in different communities of poets. For many years my poetry community was Poetry Live. Attending the event every week somehow kept me grounded in poetry, and the friends I made there were endlessly encouraging of my poetry attempts. It made me feel strongly that poetry was not a niche hobby but rather an art form to take seriously. I’m grateful for the years that Poetry Live was my second home, and I’m also not the first person to meet their husband/future husband or wife/future wife there!

 

 

Olivia Macassey:

To begin my answer at the shallow end, writing poetry can feel like a bit of a strange compulsion, so there’s camaraderie involved in being with others who are just as crazy. I vividly remember my astonishment and joy when, as a teenager, I first encountered a bunch of poets en masse (in 90s Auckland at the Shakespeare tavern), and realized how not-alone I was. There’s a solidarity involved in this, which can be supportive and nurturing, and that matters to me. In recent years I’ve been involved in projects in the Northland community, led by Piet Nieuwland, and appreciate the wider perspective of seeing how poetry communities and other communities overlap and weave together and strengthen one another. Shared experiences, interests, kaupapa are essentially about similarity, but there’s also an important dimension that is about difference, mutual discovery and renewal: the way we encounter new ways of seeing and thinking and writing, spark off one another aesthetically, conceptually, politically, or in terms of practice.

Another important type of community is the kind of imagined communities we inhabit as writers. In a narrow sense I see this in, say, different people who may be connected through a particular publisher or publication (such as brief or this blog) – poets I may have read a lot, but not necessarily met or interacted with – but in a wider sense, it’s about ‘finding your people’ outside the constraints of time and place. An imagined community can centralize marginal poetics; social class, disability, sexuality. In my youth, I think without a sense of structures of feeling beyond the mainstream paradigms, or some connection to other poetic genealogies, I would have felt lost, and these communities continue to matter to me. At the deepest level though, for me, the act of writing always already anticipates community because a poem is a priori an act of communication, of reciprocity; its very existence implies a shared world. I write because I have found you: I write in order to find you.

 

James Norcliffe:

Writing poetry is a solitary act and in adolescence, when poetry began for me, it had a solitary audience as well. There was often an idealised, intended audience, but I was never brave enough to show my poems to her.

Later, though, craving a larger audience, it became apparent that other people wrote poetry too, and while the practice wasn’t as arcane as clog dancing or synchronised swimming (although it was up there) it  was clearly rarefied. Still, reading and submitting to magazines and attending the odd reading, made me aware that these people had names. Moreover some of them were local and, in time, I got to know them.

I’m not entirely sure what a ‘poetry community’ is. I’m pleased the question put community in the plural as it suggests a variety of communities of different sizes, purposes and flavours.

I belong to several. Firstly there is a small core of very close friends I’ve made through poetry and whom I number among my nearest and dearest. We meet regularly, eat together, occasionally holiday together and generally have a great time. We read and support each other’s work (and often launch it), but we’ve moved beyond the shallows of writing and into the warmer, deeper sea of friendship.

Secondly, there’s a closely-knit of poets of about half a dozen poets whom I meet with monthly, a group David Gregory once laughingly called the ‘poots’ groop’ and so the name remains. The p.g. has a shifting population with a fairly stable core and we meet to share and critique each other’s poems. It has been going probably about twenty years and one or two of the first group are part of this as well. I’m off to a meeting tonight feeling a little fraught as I need to find something to take. Even, if I don’t find anything I know I’ll have a great time and that among the laughs there’ll be a lot of close reading and penetrating thought. Just lovely.

Thirdly there’s the wider group of Christchurch writers I’ve been associated with for well over thirty years: the Canterbury Poets’ Collective. This highly active group organises an annual series of readings, bringing poets from beyond the city to a relatively large Christchurch audience. There are eight readings a season – now in Spring – involving over twenty four guest readers and large numbers of b.y.o. people. The CPC also occasionally organises one off readings and events, typically National Poetry Day celebrations. I suppose it involves two communities: the organising committee who are a dedicated set who mix a common goal with fellowship, and the wider collective who come along to support the readings, a large number of whom take part.

Finally, there’s the wider national poetry community of poets I’ve got to know over the years through the magazine and book editing I’ve done. A number of these I’ve only corresponded with, but most I’ve eventually met in real life and many have become firm friends.

All of these communities are hugely important to me. Writers are assumed to have monstrous egos and are supposed to be fiercely competitive. This has not been my experience. I’ve treasured the warmth, encouragement and critical support of people within all of these groups, particularly the more intimate ones. I have never been especially confident in my person or sure of my work although I pretend otherwise. It has been so good to have been nurtured by these communities and so satisfying to have nurtured others who are part of them

 

Hebe Kearney:

The Titirangi Poets group meets once every month in the Titirangi library, surrounded by bush and chickens, which roam the library car park in gangs. When poetry happens, it happens in a circle. Each person reads in turn like a set of dominoes, one following the other. A ‘round robin’ format.

Just knowing that they are there, in the clean and the library quiet, taking a few hours just for the sake of words, makes me feel better about waking and walking in this world. When I had the privilege of reading there I experienced it as a circle of support, everyone had a kind word to say, a suggestion to give me about honing the sound of my voice and words.

Poetry communities like this matter because everywhere there is poetry there are words living, words breathing and growing in power. Virginia Woolf once described poetry as ‘a voice answering a voice’ – poetry is always communal in that it is always a communication, a reaching of one person towards another and back. Poetry communities not only matter, but poetry communities are themselves part of the act of poetry.

Personally, I have tended to write quietly and hold my words close to myself. It is only recently I have begun learning to let my words free, and to really acknowledge the part of poetry that is the voice listening and the voice answering back. And it is through poetry communities that this interaction of voice and voice can be facilitated.

So I am bursting with appreciation and gratitude for poetry communities. They make space in a busy world for the simple beauty of words, and remind those of us with a penchant for hiding of the reciprocity at the heart of poetry. The way that, in essence, it is all about sharing.

 

 

The contributors:

 

Eliana Gray is a poet from Ōtepoti. They like queer subtext in teen comedies and not much else. They have had words in: SPORT, Mimicry, Minarets, Mayhem and others. Their debut collection, Eager to Break, was published by Girls On Key Press (2019) and they are the 2020 writer in residence at Villa Sarkia, Finland. It is very very snowy and they love it.

Jordan Hamel is a Pōneke-based poet and performer. He was the 2018 New Zealand Poetry Slam champion and competed at the World Poetry Slam Championships in 2019. He has poems published or forthcoming in Sport, takahē, Poetry NZ Yearbook 2020, Mimicry, Mayhem, Queen Mob’s Teahouse and elsewhere.

Hebe Kearney is from Christchurch but now calls Auckland her home. She currently studying to complete her Honours in Classics at the University of Auckland. Her work has appeared in Starling, The Three Lamps and Oscen.

Emer Lyons is an Irish, lesbian writer in her final year as a creative/critical PhD candidate in the English programme at the University of Otago, Dunedin.

Olivia Macassey’s poetry has appeared in Rabbit, Poetry New Zealand, Otoliths, Takahē, Landfall and other places. She is the author of two books, edits brief and co-edits Fast Fibres.

Vana Manasiadis is a Greek-New Zealand poet, translator and creative writing teacher who has been moving between Aotearoa and Greece, and is now living in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. She is the co-editor of the Seraph Press Translation Series, and was the editor and translator of Ναυάγια/Καταφύγια: Shipwrecks/Shelters: Six Contemporary Greek Poets (2016) and co-editor, with Maraea Rakuraku, of Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Women Poets in Translation. Her second poetry collection The Grief Almanac: A Sequel appeared in 2019 (Seraph Press).

James Norcliffe is a poet, editor and children’s author. He has published ten collections of poetry, most recently Deadpan (OUP, 2019). In 2010 he took part in the XX International Poetry Festival in Medellin, Colombia and in 2011 the Trois Rivieres International Poetry Festival in Quebec. With Jo Preston he co-edited Leaving the Red Zone, a collection of poems prompted by the Canterbury earthquakes and, with Michelle Elvy and Frankie McMillan, Bonsai (CUP) New Zealand’s first major collection of flash and short fiction. A new anthology co-edited with Michelle Elvy and Paula Morris  Ko Tātou Aotearoa | We Are New Zealand celebrating Aotearoa / NZ diversity is to be published this year.

Kiri Piahana-Wong is a poet and editor, and she is the publisher at Anahera Press.

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. Louise lives in Dunedin with her husband and their young son, and is currently working on a PhD in Creative Writing, focussing on contemporary long-form narrative poetry by women.

Sugar Magnolia Wilson lives in Fern Flat, a valley in the far North. In 2012 she completed her MA in creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. Her work has appeared in a number of journals, both in New Zealand and overseas, and she co-founded the journal, Sweet Mammalian, with Morgan Bach and Hannah Mettner, which is now run by poet, Rebecca Hawkes. Auckland University Press launched Magnolia’s debut collection, cecause a Woman’s Heart is Like a Needle at the Bottom of the Ocean in 2019; it is longlisted for the Ockham NZ Book Awards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf poses a question to poets: Why write poetry?

 

This is an occasional series where I invite a group of poets to respond to the same question. First up: Why write poetry? I selected this question because a number of writers have mused upon the place of poetry when facing catastrophes that devastate our human roots. I pondered that question. I then asked myself why I have written poetry for decades regardless of whether it is published or applauded. It is what I love to do. It is my way of making music and feeling and translating and being happy no matter the life challenges. I also feel poetry is thriving in Aotearoa; at all ages, in multiple forms and in myriad places, many of us are drawn to write poems.

 

Albert Wendt

I write poetry because I can’t stop doing it: it demands that I do it, and it is ‘language’ that I feel most passionately about. When I’ve deliberately tried not to write poetry, I’ve ended up feeling unfinished, incomplete. When the poetry is shaping itself well in my tongue and throat, I feel healed, and healing.

 

Emer Lyons

I talk too much. A male Irish poet visited last year and said my poetry had none of the “jerkiness” of my personality. In writing poetry I find silence and the ability to give that silence space. After drinks with two men from the university last week, the one I had just met sent me a message on Twitter to ask me if I, like him, had Borderline Personality Disorder. Speaking in non sequiturs is not nearly as convincing as writing in them. As women, there are expectations about how we should speak, how we should take up space, how we should be more silent, more stable. Writing poetry is a minor release from social constraints, and the voluntary application of others. I can bind my breasts and write sonnets. On the page, I can be enough.

 

Erik Kennedy

I write poetry for the same reason that architects draw up concepts for floating cities: 1) to see what a better future might look like before it is possible, 2) to make the blueprints of progress public so that others can avoid making the mistakes that I have.

 

Therese Lloyd

Poetry remains mysterious to me. It’s such a strange beast and to be honest, sometimes I wish I had been bitten by the fiction bug instead. But I’ve been writing poetry for a long time. I think the first poem I ever wrote was when I was about 6. The poem was about fireworks and I remember the last line was “beautiful but dangerous”. Even at 6 years old I had a dark turn of mind! It may be a total cliché, but for me, poetry is a way to figure out how I feel about something. Writing poetry, especially that first thrilling draft, is an exercise in bravery. I love the feeling of having only the slightest inkling of what might appear on the page, and then to be surprised (sometimes pleasantly) by the string of lines that emerge.

Why write poetry? Because it’s confounding and liberating in turn. Because, as Anne Carson so famously says:

It is the task of a lifetime. You can never know enough, never work enough, never use the infinitives and participles oddly enough, never impede the movement harshly enough, never leave the mind quickly enough.

 

Michele Leggott

Why write poetry? To sound distance and make coastal profiles, to travel light and lift darkness. I go back to what I wrote about these and other calibrations: A family is a series of intersecting arcs, some boat-shaped, others vaults or canopies, still others vapour trails behind a mountain or light refracted through water. None is enclosed, all are in motion, springing away from one another or folding themselves around some spectral inverse of the shape they make against sea or sky.

 

essa may ranapiri

I write poetry because I love what poetry can be and can do. With poetry you can create these rather dense language objects that have the ability to confront many realities very quickly without sacrificing complexity. It is a space where I feel the English language can be at its most decolonised and queer and wonderful. And it also a space I feel most comfortable exploring the language of my tīpuna te reo Māori, a language I have only really just started learning. Poetry’s capacity for fragmentation and error, gives me permission to try out who I am and who I want to be. It also encourages in me a radical imagination about the society we live in and the societies that we could live in. A poem can be built in a day and take years to understand, it can both encapsulate and be the moment. A poem can give people who are marginalised a space to really embody their voice, make the air vibrate with their wairua, and in so doing provide an opportunity for community for those that struggle to find it wherever they are.

 

Bernadette Hall:

Why write poetry? Why not write poetry? Why should a poem choose you to be its vehicle? ‘Poetry is a terminal activity, taking place out near the end of things’ wrote John Berryman in a review article in 1959. I feel a great excitement when I read his words. An enchantment.  Since childhood, I have been immersed in language that’s not my own. In fact it’s dead. Or so the old school rhymes used to say about it, about Latin. And every now and then, a kind of ‘speech’ would emerge, in my native tongue, English, well out of the range of my everyday talking, things I would write down on paper. Secrets. Janet Frame has been quoted apparently as saying that her writing wasn’t her. Which would give you a huge amount of freedom, wouldn’t it, that embracing and distancing at the same time.  Berryman went on to say of poetry, ‘And it aims …at the reformation of the poet, as prayer does.’  The re-formation. No wonder I’m hooked.

 

Cilla McQueen

It seems healthy for thoughts to have an outlet into the real world.

Thinking is in the poem and is the poem.

You attend to the material and the spiritual. You perceive humanity, see inside yourself and other people, listen to the language of insight, catch words from the deep layers of consciousness.

Writing something down in concentrated form is mental exercise. The elastic syntax inside language asks for attention and skill so that it can be used with subtlety, to contain many shades of meaning and feeling.

Writing is a pleasure. Whether it ends up as a poem or not doesn’t really matter.

Words can unblock. The complete absorption in writing, in silent concentration, can provide a psychic release. A poem both releases energy and generates it.

The act of writing can be a refuge and comfort, also a way of talking things out in order to understand. The page is always listening, a patient companion in times of solitude or loneliness.

Don’t know what I’d do without it. I’ve spent most of my writing life thinking about poetry, but am still wary of defining it (this is part of its charm).

 

 

Albert Wendt has published many novels, collections of poetry and short stories, and edited numerous anthologies. In 2018, along with four others, he was recognised as a New Zealand Icon at a medallion ceremony for his significant contribution to the Arts.

Emer Lyons is an Irish writer who has had poetry and fiction published in journals such as TurbineLondon GripThe New Zealand Poetry Society AnthologySouthwordThe Spinoff and Queen Mob’s Tea House. She has appeared on shortlists for the Fish Poetry Competition, the Bridport Poetry Prize, the takahé short story competition, The Collinson’s short story prize and her chapbook Throwing Shapes was long-listed for the Munster Literature Fool For Poetry competition in 2017. Last year she was the recipient of the inaugural University of Otago City of Literature scholarship and is a creative/critical PhD candidate in contemporary queer poetry.

Erik Kennedy is the author of Twenty-Six Factitions (Cold Hub Press, 2017) and There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime (Victoria University Press, 2018), and he selected the poetry for Queen Mob’s Teahouse: Teh Book (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2019). Originally from New Jersey, he lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime is shortlisted for the 2019 Ockham and New Zealand Book Awards – he will be appearing at the Auckland Writers Festival in May.

Therese Lloyd is the author of the chapbook many things happened (Pania Press, 2006), Other Animals (VUP, 2013) and The Facts (VUP, 2018). The Facts has been shortlisted for the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and she will be appearing at the Auckland Writers Festival in May.

Michele Leggott has published eight collections of poetry, most recently Vanishing Points (Auckland University Press) and has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies including the poetry of Robin Hyde.She was the inaugural Poet Laureate (2007-9) under National Library administration and in 2013 received the Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry. She founded the New Zealand Electronic zPoetry Centre and is professor of English at the University of Auckland. She recently contributed the introduction to Verses, a collection of poetry by Lola Ridge (Quale Press).

essa may ranapiri is a poet from kirikiriroa, Aotearoa and are part of the local writing group Puku. rir |Liv.id. They have been published in many journals in print and online, most recently in Best New Zealand Poems 2018. Their first collection of poetry ransack is being published by Victoria University Press in July 2019.

Bernadette Hall lives in a renovated bach at Amberley Beach in the Hurunui, North Canterbury. She has published ten collections of poetry, the most recent being Life & Customs (VUP 2013) and Maukatere, floating mountain (Seraph Press 2016). In 2015 shereceived the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry. In 2016 she was invested as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature.  In 2017 she joined with three other Christchurch writers to inaugurate He Kōrero Pukapuka, a book club which meets weekly at the Christchurch Men’s Prison.

Cilla McQueen is a poet, teacher and artist; her multiple honours and awards include a Fulbright Visiting Writer’s Fellowship 1985,three New Zealand Book Awards 1983, 1989, 1991; an Hon.LittD Otago 2008, and the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry 2010. She was the National Library New Zealand Poet Laureate 2009 -11.  Recent works include The Radio Room (Otago University Press 2010), In A Slant Light (Otago University Press, 2016), and poeta: selected and new poems (Otago University Press, 2018).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Emer Lyons on Heather McPherson

 

 

Have you heard of Artemisia?

 

Have you heard of Artemisia of Halicarnassus,

or Cartismandua? or Camilla?

 

Have you heard of Hiera of Mysia? Or Julia

Mammaea who ruled Rome? Or Tomyris the Celtic

queen who killed great Cyrus of the invading

Medes and Persians?

 

Have you heard of Boadicea who fought

an attacking empire – who would not be a Roman

Triumph and died by her own hand?

 

Have you heard of Martia Proba, Martia the Just?

Her Martian Statue after a thousand years

was the source of Alfred’s code . . .

 

And what of Hypatia of Alexandria? head of

the School of Philosophy, logician, astronomer,

mathematician, torn to pieces by a Christian

bishop’s flock . . .

 

Have you heard of Thecla the Apostle, or Aspasia,

or Nausicaa? and if you know passionate Sappho

what of Corinna, St. Bridget, or the Lady Uallach?

and since you know Joan of Arc, should I

mention the Papess Joan or good Queen Maud,

or Philippa the beloved queen whose merchants

bought her pawned crown back . . .

 

I did not learn them at school, these queens

and scholars . . . but scan names such as Mary,

Elizabeth, Shulamith, for their story – vivid

women who lived as the Celts did, with audacia,

and loved their sisters . . .

 

In a wheel’s radiation all spokes fit the motion . . .

old Europe’s strain has crossed the Pacific Ocean

and I have heard it, who am a descendant

in a train, going back to a flat with a goddess

wall, who connections travel countrywide

in quiet woman’s guise . . .

 

dedicated to Elizabeth Gould Davis and Max Jacob

 

Heather McPherson, from A Figurehead: A Face (Spiral, 1982)

 

 

Have you heard of Heather McPherson?

Emma Neale asked me this question when I was searching for lesbian and queer poets for my PhD research. I hadn’t which is hard to imagine now.

‘Have you heard of Artemisia?’ was painted on the outside wall of the Women’s Gallery on Harris Street, Wellington in 1981.

As I typed the poem it became apparent that Microsoft Word had not heard of Cartismandua, or Hiera of Mysia or Tomyris. Neither had I. My middle name is Bridget. A name I share with many women in my family. Every year in my Catholic primary school in Ireland we weaved St. Bridget (most commonly spelt Brigid) crosses on her saint’s day, the first of February. Nobody mentioned Darlughdach, Bridget’s apparent female lover and soulmate. Catholic forums online call this a conspiracy theory.

Heather was the first out lesbian to publish a poetry collection in New Zealand.

I’m not a “gold star lesbian” (watch Hinemoana Baker explain the term here). It took me a long time to own my feminism. The Guerilla Girls came to my university in Cork sometime in 2007 (or 2008 or 2009 . . . ) and when they asked the crowd, “How many people here tonight call themselves a feminist?”, I did not raise my hand. I didn’t think then that it mattered that men always won the Oscar for best director, or that women feature in the Met predominately as nudes not as artists. I believe my religious upbringing ensured that the patriarchal domination of society remained unquestioned within me for far too long. I did not learn to question at school.

There are ten question marks in this poem. I encourage you to ask yourself ten questions today. And to ask ten people, “Have you heard of Heather McPherson?”

 

Emer Lyons is an Irish writer who has had poetry and fiction published in journals such as TurbineLondon GripThe New Zealand Poetry Society AnthologySouthwordThe Spinoff and Queen Mob’s Tea House. She has appeared on shortlists for the Fish Poetry Competition, the Bridport Poetry Prize, the takahé short story competition, The Collinson’s short story prize and her chapbook Throwing Shapes was long-listed for the Munster Literature Fool For Poetry competition in 2017. Last year she was the recipient of the inaugural University of Otago City of Literature scholarship and is a creative/critical PhD candidate in contemporary queer poetry.

Heather McPherson (1942–2017) was a poet, editor, teacher and feminist activist. In 1974 she founded Christchurch Women Artists Group and Spiral, a woman’s art and literary journal. She published five collections of poetry, with her poems appearing in numerous journals and anthologies. Figurehead: A Face (Spiral, 1982) was the first poetry collection by an out lesbian in New Zealand. Janet Charman selected the poems for McPherson’s posthumous collection, This Joyous, Chaotic Place: Garden Poems (Spiral, 2018).

 

 

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In the hammock: reading Mimicry IV

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Holly Hunter has edited the latest issue of Mimicry. She has drawn together an eclectic package of art and writing that will place your finger on the pulse of emerging (well mostly!) voices. The magazine is devoted to poetry, fiction, nonfiction, comedy, music, art, photography and design. It is slim but is abundant in reading currents.

You even get a mix tape at bandcamp to listen to as you read.

Often when I pick up a poetry journal I gravitate to the familiar poets whose work I already love – like a music hook. I will share my initial hooks with the rain thundering down outside. In this case Morgan Bach because I  haven’t read anything from her for awhile and I just loved her debut book, Some of Us Eat the Seeds. Her two poems here are honed out of cloud and snow and blood because they are light and airy and serious.

 

Looking for balance to the red interiors

in a calm sea of grasses, the dull love

of dust on a hillside, the caress of each

muscle as it contracts and expands

to pull me to a summit. That place

I would reuse to leave if I could,

but the hours have me by the ankles.

 

from ‘Terrific’

 

After hearing Emer Lyons read in Wellington last year, I jump to her poems in an instant. She is nimble on the page and in the ear, and tacks in fresh directions that retune me as poetry reader.

 

i talk too much at parties

every bee i see is dead or dying

people set fire to the sky

set the dogs howling

record themselves singing the same thing

on repeat

repeating

(and The Fish goes

A A X B B X

1 3 8 1 6 8)

 

from ‘strays’

 

Chris Tse’s latest book, HE’S SO MASC, is a sublime read. I love this book because it risks and it opens. The poem here is ultra witty but dead serious.

 

20. It’s the way we step out of a burning theatre as if nothing’s wrong.

21. As if the smoke in our eyes is a lover’s smile caught in sunlight.

22. An uncontrollable fire is perfectly fine, given the state of the world.

23. Then why do I feel so angry?

24. Are you angry?

25. I’m angry.

 

from ‘Why Hollywood won’t cast poets in films anymore’

 

Essa Ranapiri was a highlight for me at Wellington Readers and Writers week this year.  Their poem, ‘her*’, catches the way they make words ache and arc and slip between your ribs. You need to read the whole thing. To quote a glimpse is barely fair (two lines out of thirteen).

 

i left him wrapped in curtains

to stall the acid action of my stomach

 

from ‘her*’

 

I have only just discovered Rebecca Hawkes on The Starling. She is so good. The poem here is a linguistic explosion on the page: like an intricate and lush brocade that amasses shuddering detail and smatters expectation. You want to spend the weekend with this poem.  (I want to hear her read so will be posting an audio clip of a Starling poem soon)

 

I ask their name and they make an unpronounceable sound / like the

curdling clink of cooling obsidian / so I call them the ultimate war machine

 / they hurl rocks into my enemies and when they beat the earth with their

fists / I feel the world quake under me / this is how I know I have fallen in

love / but also onto the ground

 

from ‘Crush’

 

We are served well with fresh young literary journals at the moment (literary doesn’t seem to catch what they do). They keep you in touch with poets that continue growing on you but also take you into new zones of reading, with unfamiliar voices making themselves felt. Indelibly!  I have just read Sophie van Waardenberg’s three poems and they touch me, make me want to write with their viscosity and tang.

 

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

 

from ‘schön’

 

Cheers to a well-stocked journal to keep you going through wet wintry days. I am saving the rest of the journal for the next wild weekend. First up Louise Wallace (author of much loved Bad Things), Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor (the winner of the Landfall Young Writers Competition 2018) and Rachel O’Neill (who was recently awarded a NZ Writers Guild Puni Taatuhi o Aotearoa Seed grant to develop her screenplay).

The pleasure of good writing journals is that keep you in touch with what you know and catapult you into the unfamiliar where you accumulate new must-reads. Mimicry does exactly that.

 

See Mimicry on Facebook

Enquiries: mimicryjournal@gmail.com

Monday Poem: Emer Lyons’s ‘Poison’

 

Poison

After Gwendolyn Brooks and Terrance Hayes

 

We

take to the drink, wanting real

life to dampen our tongues, cool

the shame we are forced to we-

ar with guilt built in, all left

to us from him. Dul ar scoil

to learn the church’s rules, we

learn to shut mouths, minds, legs, lurk

close to home, wait until late

in life to start living. We

protest against them. We strike

them down like they do us, straight

 

*

 

up get wasted. Hear our we-

ary mothers try to sing

songs that might free us from sin –

A-ma-zee-ing Grace. They we-

ep for us their kin grown thin

from not giving a shite, gin

our favourite perfume. We

think to join in, feel that jazz

of life again but them June

days are made for drinking, we

mute their sound, they turn to die-

ts of rosaries, T.V. Soon

 

*

 

we join the rest like us, we-

lcomed we are into the real

darkness of the pub, scrubbed cool

colours paint the walls, but we

don’t look at the walls, eyes left

downcast for fear that some school

friend’s dad be holding up we-

t edges of a stool, lurk-

ing for some young wan’s time. Late-

r when we’ve spent our lot, we

goes to the likes a him, strike

up some talk with tits out straight

 

*

 

under their noses, they we-

ak them eejits, we be sing-

le, we’re not patrolling sin-

‘s committed by men, we

too busy with our own thin-

clad secrets, like how the gin

at home is watered down – we-

eks of stealing dat took! Jazz

oozes from the jukebox, June

fades outside the window, we

stay until it starts to die

down, already Sunday, soon

 

*

 

Mass be starting, not that we

bother anymore, found real

religion that don’t play cool –

you’ll get what you’re given. We

grab the bottle’s neck, get left

in pools of our own sick, school-

ed to mind ourselves – coz we-

‘ve no time for all dat! Lurk-

ing Larry’s hide in the late

afternoon shadows to we-

t us between the legs – strike

all ya want girls! We walk straight

 

*

 

passed them, they keep trying. We

see some other girls get sing-

led out, get pregnant, the sin

dripping off them, we look we-

ll away when they be thin-

king to look at us. Begin

to think about things that we-

‘ve been told, listen to jazz

music in our rooms with June

next door shouting how we owe

her some peace – go way and die!

Her gob shuts as the bassoon

 

*

 

roars the devil’s music. We

develop our taste buds, real-

ise wine looks classy, the cool

kids be drinking it, so we

form fists around the stems, cleft

our insides, move like a school

of fish, joined at the hip we

be, until we go home, lurk

through our own front doors, dilate-

d pupils in heads, too we-

ak to take d’mother’s strike

against our faces, lie straight

 

*

 

down on the carpet. There we

sleep dreamless until the sing-

ing birds move our bleary sin-

ged bodies to mirrors. We-

igh ourselves (no shoes on) – thin

girls don’t hang onto virgin-

ity long. The fella’s we-

dge between us, shove their jazz-

ing hands down our skirts, the June

heat hot against our heads we-

lded to the wall, us die-

hards wanting it over soon-

 

*

 

er rather than later, we

don’t look into their eyes, real-

ly we’d rather catch the cool

stares of other girls, a we-

llspring of poker faces left

to drown outside of the school

system, taught us nothing we

could use against filthy lurk-

ers, or what to do with late

periods, or how come we-

‘d never be wealthy – strike

us down for we have strayed straight

 

*

 

off the path most chosen. We

won’t marry any man, sing

children to sleep or get sin-

gled out for promotion. We

will live backed against walls, thin-

king of dreams we had of begin-

ning again, all along we

knew we’d never see a jazz

band, another clear blue June

sky or hear our mother’s we-

ak, how sweet the sound. We die

soon.

 

©Emer Lyons

 

 

Emer Lyons is an Irish writer who has had poetry and fiction published in journals such as TurbineLondon GripThe New Zealand Poetry Society AnthologySouthwordThe Spinoff and Queen Mob’s Tea House. She has appeared on shortlists for the Fish Poetry Competition, the Bridport Poetry Prize, the takahé short story competition, The Collinson’s short story prize and her chapbook Throwing Shapes was long-listed for the Munster Literature Fool For Poetry competition in 2017. Last year she was the recipient of the inaugural University of Otago City of Literature scholarship and is a creative/critical PhD candidate in contemporary queer poetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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