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Poetry Shelf Theme Season: Eighteen poems about love

Ah. Love is my final theme. My seventeenth gathering. I chose love because love is the ink in my pen, it drives the pencil filling my notebooks. It’s the reason I keep two blogs running when, at times, it seems impossible. There is the love of reading and writing stretching back to childhood. Love poetry can embrace many subjects, moods, objects, experiences, relationships. So many poetry books in Aotearoa are steeped in love. In what is written and, just as importantly, in the infectious love poets feel for the power of words. For the possibility of the line, silence, music, physical detail. As readers, writers, publishers, reviewers, booksellers of poetry, we are connected through a shared and invigorating love of poetry. Ah.

To celebrate the end of my theme season I have ten copies of Wild Honey: Reading New Zealand Women’s Poetry to give away. I will sign one for you or for a friend. You can leave a comment on the blog, on FB or Twitter: Which theme resonated for you? What theme do you suggest if I should ever do this again? Or just email me if you have my address.

Grateful thanks and aroha to all the poets, publishers and readers who have supported my season of themes. I so loved doing this!

The poems

Poem

So far
it has worked
by imagining you
in all the places I would
like you to be

*

this is the one I love.
he is not here
but the air is still warm
from where he
might have been

*

we have spent hours
circling each other
with words-thinly
vowelled embraces

*

how to translate these
words into silences
or the silences
into words

*

when I cannot fix you
behind my eyes
I carry your absence
like stars
on the blue roof

Jenny Bornholdt

from Selected Poems, Victoria University Press, 2016

Catch

Two sitting at a table
two at a table sitting
two and two
a table in the grass
in the grass a table
and on the table
empty almost with a little
a little empty almost but
with a little water
there sits a jar for love
on the table a jar for love
not a fresh jar every day
fresh every day
nothing in the jar that lasts
always fresh they are sitting
sitting at the table
looking they are looking
at the jar at the table
at each other they are
sitting looking sitting
at the table at the jar
looking looking sitting
now is nearly the day
the day is nearly now now
go to sleep go to love
go to jar go to look
look looking look
sit sitting catch that catch
two sitting at a table
two at table sitting
two and two and two
a table in the grass

Murray Edmond

from Fool Moon, Auckland University Press, 2004

Because of you

(for Darae)

My Son,

in you I see the shape of the heart
all poets try to explain

you, the greatest poem
I could never pen

how blessed I am
to mother a son
to exercise hope and love
when everything else is absent

Son,
your are a gift to men
because of you
I pray for men
still love men
hold hope for me,
for you.


Grace Iwashita-Taylor

from Full Broken Bloom, Ala Press, 2017

The wind has shaken everything out of the quince tree.
Behold the bony gullets of fledglings
as yellow as the towers of rock that arise in Wyoming.
‘Stop blocking the gangway,’ the old woman
used to say, cutting away long roils
of yellow clay with her spade, hell bent on re-configuring
a brand new version of genetically modified
melancholy. ‘Never forget how the old ones
arrived from Dubh Linn, the Place of the Dark Pool,
formed from the union of the River Liffey
and the River Poddle. Never forget
that we are arisen from a line of proud people.’
And here I am, holding onto my end of the string
and I know, my love, that you are holding onto the other.     

Bernadette Hall

Aroha Mai

Aroha mai
I was trying to get to you
but the wind kept changing direction

Aroha atu
she hates it when institutions use Te Reo in their signatures
she hates it when my wet hair drips all over the bedsheets

Aroha mai
I couldn’t see you this time
I was down a rabbit hole
along the coast beside the point

Aroha atu
love given love received
there isn’t enough room in this house to house our love
the brick square flat beneath a rectangle sky

Aroha mai
your baby finally came
the angels found your address submerged in yesterday’s current
and she’s clapping in every photo

Aroha atu
my feet don’t touch the ground these days
take the stairs to stay fit
I keep my car full of gas
it is easy to recycle the past 

Aroha mai
my ghost is in town
and I don’t know if I should email her back

Aroha atu
already the skeleton wings of this year are casting long shadows
we don’t know what’s for dinner but next door’s
Tui keeps singing all the buried bones to life

and you’re opening every can of beans in the cupboard
to feed the tired warrior in my arms 

Courtney Sina Meredith

from Burnt Kisses on the Actual Wind, Beatnik Publishing, 2021

Helping my father remember

My father
is in the business
of transmissions.
A radio technician,
the basic premise being
that a message is sent out,
then received. Except something’s
gone wrong with the wiring,
and he didn’t teach me
how to fix it. I see him, standing
at the kitchen bench,
his hand hovering
over an orange and paring knife;
trying to think
what he had planned.

*

There is evidence that sound
helps restore memory:
the sound
of a cricket ball colliding
with tin fence; lemonade
meeting beer
in a shandy;
sticks smouldering
in the air, when pulled
from a camp fire.
The doctor says
depression, my sister says
stress, my father says
stop being
so bloody dramatic.

*

They say
I am the most like you,
and that we
are like your mother.
I am following you through
tall grasses, as high
as my head. You’re in
your angling gear.
It’s summer, I can hear
the cicadas.
There’s a wind up,
but its warm.
We’re heading
to the river.
You find Nana,
and I’ll find you.
We won’t be lost
if we’re together.

Louise Wallace

from Bad Things, Victoria University Press, 2017

The love poem

I haven’t read a single
new book since I’ve been
with you. I’ve been so busy
peering into your eyes
where I can see dark
passages & feinting
canaries & gold &
mine
mine
mine
mine

Plus I’ve been preoccupied
with the joy of sex
the science of living
the interpretation of dreams
& my undiscovered self.

So today I read
a love poem.

But when I looked
at it, it just said
your name.

It was very repetitive.
It just kept skipping
over itself. Skipping
to the important bits.
Slipping into something
more comfortable.

I looked away for a second
& when I looked back the
love poem had filled the
whole room. It was thrusting
against the ceiling & had
burst through the open window
pushing the vase of sunflowers
right out.

I tried to call to you to come
& look but the love poem
was so big that it caught
in my throat. There were fainting
canaries everywhere like the
fallen petals of sunflowers
gasping
yours
yours
yours
yours

Hannah Mettner

from Fully Clothed and So Forgetful, Victoria University Press, 2017

Strummer Summer

All that summer we kissed outside 
because we had nowhere inside 
to be alone. We had matching Clash t-shirts
and black outlooks. After my shifts 
at Seafood Sam’s I would pick you up 
in my Dad’s ute and we’d drive to the river

so I could swim off the chip grease. I’d 
light a fire while you showed me the riffs
you’d learned that day on your unplugged
Fender. /I’ve been beat up, I’ve been thrown out,/
/But I’m not down, No I’m not down./
 I requested 
Blondie but you said it was chick-music. 

Poking the fire with a stick, the tinny twang 
of your dead strings. We thought we had it 
pretty bad. Your Dad didn’t like me because
I was “the wrong flavour”. I craved city life. 
Packed my army bag and left home, but not before 
I withdrew half my chip money and bought you an amp.

Helen Lehndorf

from The Comforter, Seraph Press, 2011

The library


The library is full of people looking for love. At the
sound of footsteps approaching, a boy turns around with
a meaningful glance, and casually slips a pencil behind his
ear. Girls pause on the landings, clutching armfuls of books
to their breasts. Sometimes, you feel sorry for these people.
You wish this wasn’t happening. All you want is a book,
and all the shelves are filled with eyes of longing.

Airini Beautrais

from Secret Heart, Victoria University Press, 2006

Always on Waking

Always, on waking, I look out into treetops:
I lie beside you in the shimmering room
Where, whether summer morning, shell of dawn
Or dazed moonlight patterns leaves on walls
I wake to wide sky and the movement of treetops.

As the leaves flicker (thin scimitars of opaque
Dull green the eucalyptus bundles over her bark strips)
They become lucent; leaves lined with sunlight
With moonlight are no longer drab
But seem scimitars shining, are not now opaque.


While you are there I am nested among leaves;
As sparrows come each morning for breadcrumbs
So I look for your still face beside me;
Without your calm in the face of what wild storm
I am no longer nested, but desolate among these leaves.

Ruth France

from No Traveller Returns: The poems of Ruth France, Cold Hub Press, 2020

Honey

It was manuka honey, the best kind,
in a big, white plastic bucket, given to you
by someone with bees, because you’d been helpful,
so much honey, it looked like it might last a lifetime
and you being you, and maybe why I love you,
you spooned it out into carefully washed jars
and gave it to your uncle, your mother, your brothers,
our friend with the little boy, your mother’s neighbour
who had the birthday, so much honey, and after
all that you gave away, there was still so much left for us.

Janis Freegard

from Meowing Part 1 (the Meow Gurrrls zine).

Is It Hard to Follow Your Heart When You Have Three?

(on the story of the giant octopus from Aelian’s De Natura Animalium)

is it hard to follow your heart when you have three?

one for circulation
two for breathing

i am the stone jar of pickled fish
you are the giant octopus

i wait in the dark for you
you crawl up the sewer for me

we cast our votes
two are for breathing

Claudia Jardine

from The Starling 9

Toikupu aroha 1

I waited all night for you to come home
to plant kihikihi into your cupped palms

now as you sleep I glide my fingers
memorising the tracks that led me here

to this chest – arms – manawa
with such vastness and proximity

I lean down taking in the entirety
of your pulse and there my hā quickens

above lifelines grooved
with spacious and honest certainty.

Iona Winter

from Gaps in the Light, Ad Hoc Fiction, 2021

For Baukis

There are four extant poems written by the ancient Greek poet Erinna. Three of these concern the death of her childhood friend, Baukis.

you lost her, didn’t you?
the one that made it worthwhile
to be underneath the sun and breathing

you remembered her, didn’t you?
the days you played 
chasing the tortoise topsy turvy,
falling from all the white horses

you missed her, didn’t you?
when marriage came like a thief
and snatched her away 
the ribbon of your world

you mourned her, didn’t you?
when the ribbon was torn
the bright eyes empty,
the breath stilled

you cried for her, didn’t you?
raw, with it heaving out 
the wet thick language 
of snot and tears

you loved her, didn’t you?
even more than a friend, 
the closest companion 
the only one

you wrote for her, didn’t you?
wove her memory through hexameters 
to stave off oblivion 

and, now, 
for her
we read.

Hebe Kearney

When the Person You Love Leaves You in the Night


When the person you love leaves you in the night, it is only natural to get out of bed and follow them. It is also only natural for your pyjamas to be all crumpled and your hair sticking up at the back. It is only natural to feel confused, and alone.

Nine times out of ten, a light will be on and you will walk into the living room, squinting. The person you love will probably be making human body parts out of plasticine, or playing video games. They will look up and say ‘Hello’ and smile at you like you’re some kind of lost baby animal. You will feel a little bit found.

If there is no light on in the house, it is important that you check the garden. If there is no garden, check the balcony. The person you love will be out there, staring at the moon and not crying. You are the one who cries. Except that one time… and the other. Don’t ask them if they’re okay because they will just say ‘Yeah’. Besides, you are the one who was left alone in the night.

Just look at them in the moonlight, and let them look at you. Stay very still. Then take their hand in slow motion and walk to the kitchen. The person you love will follow you, and so will the moon. Pour some milk into a pan and simmer gently. You will see a quivering white circle. The moon will be in there somewhere. Slice cheese onto bread and turn on the grill.

When you have two pieces of cheese-on-toast, put them on a plate. Pour half the milk into the mug with Peter Rabbit on it and half into the souvenir mug from Sweden. There will be sugar on the floor and it will stick to your feet. Swing yourself up onto the kitchen bench. You and the person you love will sit with your feet dangling side by side. The sugar will fall without a sound. You will drink your milk. The person you love will eat their grilled cheese, with sips of milk in-between. Peter Rabbit will eat his radishes.

Congratulate yourselves for drinking calcium. Sit at opposite ends of the couch with your legs tossed over their legs. Talk until you wake up the birds.

It is important that at some point during the night the person you love reminds you that you are the person they love. It is also important that they thank you for the grilled cheese. If they don’t, give them a pen and a piece of cardboard. Drop them on the side of the road. Tell them, ‘You can hitchhike from here.’

Joy Holley

from Starling 4

Love Poem with Seagull

I wish I’d seen it from your side of the table
when the horrid gull attacked my fish and chips,
the springy baton of haddock in my hand
a signal for the post-saurian psycho
to swoop at my talon-less fingers as they moved toward my mouth
in their classically dithering mammalian way,
because if I’d had the privilege to see
the stress-warped, flexuous face behind
my bat-like ultrasonic shrieks of shock
as I fought off the bird unsuccessfully
then I’d have some idea of what it means
for you to love me, the sort of person who manages
to always look like this or feel like this
regardless of how much easier being normal is.

Erik Kennedy

from There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime, Victoria University Press, 2018

Found Again

our love is a tracking device
more sure than any global
positioning system

just carve us into wooden tablets
then imprint us on opposite corners
of a mighty length of siapo
and watch tusili’i spring forth

making bridges to connect us
over rock-bound starfish
scampering centipedes and
the footprints of bemused birds

we have many stories of
losing and finding each orther

of getting lost
and losing others

but today all is well

I lie beneath the old mango tree
smothered with coconut oil
embellished with wild flowers
and droplets of your sweat

your aging shoulders
still fling back proud

and I still arch towards you
like a young sweetheart

you have whispered in my hair

found again

and we both know
this is our final harbour

Serie Barford

from Tapa Talk, Huia Press, 2007

Everything

This morning when I looked out my window
they were the first thing I noticed.
I saw them flocking outside my house.
I like to look at them from my window.
I get the sun there. I’ll go out and stroke them.
I wonder what they think of me.
Some people don’t have anything much
but if you put a hen on their knee they start looking.
I’m not fast on my feet. I have bother with my eyes.
I’ve got friends that can’t get out.
Everything goes downhill.
I would go back to when I was younger.
I love the first things.
When you’re young you’ve only a future.
I’ve made no plans for dying. I haven’t paid for anything.
I’d be terrified if they made a mistake.
I do love everything about living though.
I love being able to see.
I like to look out my windows and see the leaves
like a blanket on the ground. I love the autumn.
I love the hens in the autumn.
They’re beautiful.
I couldn’t imagine my life without them.
They’re everything to me.

Ashleigh Young

from How I get Ready, Victoria University Press, 2019

The poets

Serie Barford was born in Aotearoa to a German-Samoan mother and a Palagi father. She was the recipient of a 2018 Pasifika Residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre. Serie promoted her collections Tapa Talk and Entangled Islands at the 2019 International Arsenal Book Festival in Kiev.  She collaborated with filmmaker Anna Marbrook to produce a short film, Te Ara Kanohi, for Going West 2021. Her latest poetry collection, Sleeping With Stones, will be launched during Matariki 2021.

Airini Beautrais lives in Whanganui and is the author of four poetry collections and a collection of short fiction. Her most recent poetry collection is Flow: Whanganui River Poems (VUP 2017). Bug Week and Other Stories recently won the Ockham NZ Book Fiction Award 2021.

Jenny Bornholdt is the author of many celebrated collections of poems, including The Rocky Shore (Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry, 2009) and Selected Poems (2016), and editor of several notable anthologies, including Short Poems of New Zealand (2018). In 2005 she became the fifth Te Mata Estate Poet Laureate, during which time she wrote Mrs Winter’s Jump (2007). In 2010 she was the Creative New Zealand Victoria University Writer in Residence. In 2013 she was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature. In 2016 she edited the online anthology Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems. Jenny’s most recent collection is Lost and Somewhere Else (2019). 

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 (http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/kmko/);  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.

Ruth France (1913–68) published two novels: The Race (1958), which won the New Zealand Literary Fund’s Award for Achievement, and Ice Cold River (1961); and two volumes of poetry: Unwilling Pilgrim (1955) and The Halting Place (1961), under the pseudonym Paul Henderson. Poems from a third collection, which remained in manuscript at the time of her death, are published as No Traveller Returns: The Selected poems of Ruth France (Cold Hub Press, 2020).

Janis Freegard is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Reading the Signs (The Cuba Press), and a novel, The Year of Falling. She lives in Wellington. website 

Bernadette Hall lives in the Hurunui, North Canterbury. She retired from high-school teaching in 2005 in order to embrace a writing life. Fancy Dancing is her eleventh collection of poetry (VUP, 2020). In 2015 she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for literary achievement in poetry and in 2017 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Joy Holley lives in Wellington and has recently completed her Masters in fiction at the International Institute of Modern Letters. Her writing has been published in Starling, Sport, Stasis and other journals.

Claudia Jardine (she/her) is a poet and musician based in Ōtautahi/Christchurch. In 2020 she published her first chapbook, The Temple of Your Girl, with Auckland University Press in AUP New Poets 7 alongside Rhys Feeney and Ria Masae. For the winter of 2021 Jardine will be one of the Arts Four Creative Residents in The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora, where she will be working on a collection of poems.

Hebe Kearney is a queer poet who lives in Tāmaki Makaurau. Their work has appeared in The Three Lamps, Starling, Oscen, Forest and Bird, a fine line, and Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021.

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 later in 2021. His second book of poems is due out in 2022. His poems, stories, and criticism have been published in places like FENCEHobartMaudlin HousePoetryPoetry Ireland Review, the TLS, and Western Humanities Review. Originally from New Jersey, he lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Helen Lehndorf’s book, The Comforter, made the New Zealand Listener’s ‘Best 100 Books of 2012′ list. Her second book, Write to the Centre, is a nonfiction book about the practice of keeping a journal. She writes poetry and non-fiction, and has been published in Sport, Landfall, JAAM, and many other publications and anthologies. Recently, she co-created an performance piece The 4410 to the 4412 for the Papaoiea Festival of the Arts with fellow Manawatū writers Maroly Krasner and Charlie Pearson. A conversation between the artists and Pip Adam can be heard on the Better Off Read podcast here

Courtney Sina Meredith is a distinguished poet, playwright, fiction writer, performer, children’s author and essayist, with her works being translated and published around the world. A leading figure in the New Zealand arts sector, Courtney is the Director of Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust, an organisation committed to championing Oceanic arts and artists. Courtney’s award-winning works include her play Rushing Dolls, poetry Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick, short stories Tail of the Taniwha and children’s book The Adventures of Tupaia. Burst Kisses On The Actual Wind is Courtney’s new collection of poetry, the book was released just this month. 

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.

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 & Kia Mau Festival 2021). Currently working on next body of work WATER MEMORIES.

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.

Iona Winter (Waitaha/Kāi Tahu) lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin. Her hybrid work is widely published and anthologised in literary journals internationally. Iona creates work to be performed, relishing cross-modality collaboration, and holds a Master of Creative Writing. She has authored three collections, Gaps in the Light (2021), Te Hau Kāika (2019), and then the wind came (2018). Skilled at giving voice to difficult topics, she often draws on her deep connection to land, place and whenua.

Ashleigh Young is the author of Magnificent Moon, Can You Tolerate This?, and How I Get Ready (Victoria University Press). She works as an editor at VUP.

Ten poems about clouds

Twelve poems about ice

Ten poems about dreaming

Eleven poems about the moon

Twelve poems about knitting

Ten poems about water

Twelve poems about faraway

Fourteen poems about walking

Twelve poems about food

Thirteen poems about home

Ten poems about edge

Eleven poems about breakfast

Twelve poems about kindness

Thirteen poems about light

Thirteen poems about song

Sixteen poems of the land

Poetry Shelf Theme Season: Sixteen poems of land

the land. the contested land, the stolen land, the cherished land. the land with its regenerating bush. with a view out to the tail end of the Waitākere ranges. the feel the look the idea. the beauty. the unwavering beauty that holds you as you totter. as you stand. the kūmura to be harvested. the lettuces and herbs. the land as essential pulse in your veins. the sublime land. the broken land. the wounded land. the beloved land. we cycle the length and walk the breadth. we climb the heights and we join hands to protect. we will never stop singing the land. in poetry

The poems

Our tūpuna remain

Nothing like a lone-standing nīkau
in the middle of some paddock
owned by some Pākehā
to make you feel mamae

Surrounded by maunga
who serve to remind you
once that whole paddock
had that same sense of tapu

It’s a bit like that urupā
in the middle of that reserve
which used to be a papakāinga
till some Pākehā had it burned

So

consider yourselves warned:

It’ll take more than

a change of name
a chopping down of trees
a burning down of whare

to make us forget

our tūpuna remain

Jacq Carter

from Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English, Auckland University Press, 2014

Hone Said

chris abani
said
hone said
the only land I am
is that between my toes
but anne read
that hone said
the only land I have
is that between my toes
then michele said
selwyn said
hone had said

which is why
chris had written

it’s the difference between
being
and owning
surging
and standing
living
and landing
she said
she’d read
he said
have
not am

I keep
the am
anyway

then ken said
ron mason said
it first

Selina Tusitala Marsh

from Fast Talkin PI, Auckland University Press, 2009

Parihaka

we never knew
about Parihaka
it was never
taught anywhere
except maybe
around the fires
of Parihaka
itself at night
when stories
are told
of the soldiers
who came
with guns
to haul us up
by the roots
like trees
from our land
though the prophets
called peace peace
it was never
taught at school
it was all hushed up
how we listened
to the prophets
Tohu, Te Whiti
who called peace ‘Rire rire
Paimarire’
but the only
peace the soldiers
knew
spoke through
the barrels
of their guns
threatening
our women children
it was never
taught or spoken
how we
were shackled
led away to the caves
and imprisoned
for ploughing our land

Apirana Taylor

from A Canoe in Midstream: Poems new and old, Canterbury University Press, 2009 (2019)

Kauarapaoa

The road climbs up abruptly, here
beneath the cliff the water dark blue glass.
A peacock dives into the grass –
oh where oh where oh where oh where oh where?
Wet tang of sheep shit, mass of trees
releasing plant-scents in the angled sun,
those smells of summers been and gone,
bruised sap, ripe humus, rising to the nose.
The road bends with the deep-cut stream,
leaves fuzz the chasm to its brim,
and the stream slinks down towards the river
like a lover you’ll never get over.


All over, loose exotic scrub:
gum, willow, wattle, elder, poplar, broom
stitching the hillside like a seam
across the rends of
slip-soil dull and drab.
A man in white bends to his hives
below a face of mānuka sprayed dead.
Sheep crawl amongst the sticks to feed
on threads of green, wherever greenness lives.
Across the road, like greying bones
lie slash-piles of cut-over pines.
And the naked peaks
roll on forever
like a lover you’ll never get over.

A falcon calls above the rise:
Kek kek kek kek kek kek kek kek kek kek.
Far over farmland lies a break
of ocean, and the pale of western skies.
The white volcano points out north,
seeming steadfast, despite its restless sleep.
The road skirts, in a gravel loop
a drop so steep it catches in the breath.
The roadside bluffs divulge their shells,
reveal the ocean held these hills.
And water is as much a mover
as soil in softness is a giver.
And what can the land do but take cover?
Like a lover you’ll never get over.

Airini Berautrais

from Flow: Whanganui River Poems, Victoria University Press, 2017

Wild

Measure my wild. Down to my last leaf,
my furled, my desiccated. This deciduousness,
this bloom. Calculate my xylem levels.
My spore count, fungal, scarlet
in a bluebell glade. Whoosh,
where the foliage closes on a great cat.
Test me: how many tigers in my jungle,
how many lions at roam? Map my rivers,
deltas, estuaries. Mollusc, whelk, worm.
Monitor my silt. Do I have spoonbills, 
high-stepping and watchful over the darting fish?
Rainfall on pines. Dappled sunlight
in my dells. Under moss, the fallen log, under
the log the hibernating hedgehog. Late my dates,
or soon? Return of the albatross, godwits
gathering. What clouds me, shifts,
but: indigo thunder-stack, pink wisp. Count the mice.
What will survive me, O my cockroaches, O my lice?
Scaffold me with metal, cage me in glass, tube me,
needle me, fill me, flush me. Saline solution:
the ocean. Oxygen therapy: the sky.
Mineral deficiency: socks off. Soil. Dark
rot, eye-less wriggle, while the roots seek, seek.
Un-diagnosable, that ticklish insect.
Mountain peak speak only snow, and thus
I am diminished; thus I rest in my pulse. Sweet
heart. Monitor my yearn, and treat it with trees.
Un-pane me. Wilden my outlook.
Membrane animal, skin mammal under the osmosis moon.
Allow my tides. All this to say, in love we nest, and on Earth.

Sue Wootton

from The Yield, University of Otago Press, 2017

Tidelines

6am—

The sun rising behind me
The sea roaring at my feet
On the lip of the precipice

Everyone hunched in quiet
boxes, houses scattered to
the hills, precariously leaning
towards the sea, here we are
surrounded, ready to surrender
the day to the surf, dissolving
other imperatives into the
dust, into the black iron-laced
sand, tracing the time
against the rising breeze,
the tide ticking in, the river
in flood, swollen by rain

And still time passes
it washes away my footprints
Every day I make new marks
imprints on the beach
lines on the page

I walk and I string words in long lines in my head
I write and I skip words across the page like stones

I let them sink
I watch them slowly spiral down
through my mind
Down and down, until they reach the ocean
Deeper, into the abyss of collective dreaming

Until they are no longer my words
Just a passing thought you were having

Early one morning,
in your bed,
in your house,
in Piha,
waiting for the tide to come in. 

Kiri Piahana-Wong

from Night Swimming, Anahera Press, 2013

My Carbon Gaze

1.

Because there were hills to the east and hills to the west, there was a good chance that when you looked at something it would be a hill. Perhaps it would be a hill with a family member or a friend in the foreground. A family member or a friend might be called a loved one for short.

2.

With the hills and the loved ones far apart, your eyes would end up making so many trips back and forth that their orbit solidified into a sort of object. It was a wire model of an atom like they had in the museum. Or perhaps a model of the solar system. In any case, a round thing involving energy and with the potential to explode, but that would be in exceptional circumstances, probably never.

3.

I still have it in my natural history section, although sometimes I wish I didn’t. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have a natural history section. I wish I hadn’t looked up at those hills so often – willy-nilly – between 1960 and 1985, and looked back down at the loved ones, because now I am left with this wire model and it will never go away. In fact it will, because it is organic, but only after a very long time. Perhaps even after I am dead.

4.

Most summers there was a fire on one of the hills, the east or the west, the sun-coming-up hill or the sun-going-down hill. It would seem like the hill was burning, but it was only the gorse. Not so serious. But serious enough to prompt a teacher to set a Poem for homework.

5.

On the way home you could hear the black crackling and it seemed to have a personality, and not a very nice one.

6.

My mother wrote the poem quickly as she peeled the potatoes – in fact she only said it. I wrote it in my McCahon handwriting but much more neatly. Of English descent it crowds the hills, / Originally meant for hedges and sills. / A prickly maze, a funeral pyre, / a golden haze, a monstrous fire. 

7.

There was only ever one hill on fire at a time. The problem would be if both hills caught fire at the same time, and the fires might burn down into the valley, and the trees would burn, and the lawns, and all our houses and their contents. And our Prefaces and Introductions. Not to mention the people. But we would run down to the beach. That’s what we would do.

8.

There was an article in the paper about the possibility of a tidal wave sweeping up the bay and taking everything with it, and if you hadn’t gone in the earthquake that preceded the tidal wave, you would now be finished off altogether. This was the opposite of the fire. You would be washed the other way, all the way into town. How extreme the world was. Why not something in the middle?

9.

(Why not fear something in the middle? Earth, wind, a few other things.)

10.

And the hills were mostly benign anyway. They were just there, like your name. You might even get sick of them, of looking up at them and back again. Why don’t people get sick of their name? Maybe they do. Maybe they say, If I hear that name one more time I’ll scream.

11.

Sometimes you might look up at the hills and think, I am looking at the hills, and you might have some sort of reaction, e.g., They are dark against the white sky and are very beautiful. Or, They have a sun like a solitaire nestled into them, but no for long. See look – gone! Divorced. I told you so. These kinds of reactions were the first attempts to connect the hills and the people in the foreground. But it is probably impossible. Well nigh impossible.

12.

In spring they were brassy yellow with gorse flowers. In summer they were ‘tinder dry’ (a cliché) and ‘brown’ (not a cliché because the word brown doesn’t have much to it and people haven’t got sick of it yet). Okay, brown.

13.

When both sides of the hills were brown, to the east and to the west, in the ‘height of summer’, a fire might be lit by a boy letting off fire-crackers saved from Guy Fawkes, or by a girl letting off fire-crackers (svd fr. GF), or by a man going for a walk on the town belt and smoking a cigarette, or by a woman (gng fr wlk on TB w. cig.), and the fire brigade would be called out.

14.

But because there were two fires – one lit by the boy or the man, the other lit by the girl or the women – the fire brigade would have no chance of taking control, and the fire would burn down into the valley. And everyone, family members and friends (loved ones for short as there would not be much time), would run down the Parade to the beach and go and stand in the sea because there would be nowhere else to go. I am still out there. I am standing in the cold sea at Island Bay, and it is 2011, and it is freezing, and I am waiting for the fires on the hills to go out.

 Anne Kennedy

from The Darling North, Auckland University Press, 2012

                                            

Emotional geography

Look back, and forks
and crossroads soon appear.
Now you see, or think you do,

how that U-bend, that country
lane, which at the time seemed
less a turning than the leaning

of the moment, led on to this
and later this, as though there really is
a road-map of the heart

whose one-way system you have to follow
down Ego Street to Guilt Mews,
and the various alleys off Vanity Row.

Harry Ricketts

from Your Secret Life, HeadworX, 2005

More ancient than any of us

Birds swoop over the whenua. Reminders of you alight upon puku and manawa, and night-time channels thoughts unspoken in daylight. Lit fires smoulder upon open ground more ancient than any of us.

Desire grew in the air between us. Braided awa beneath rākau limbs came crashing earthward, into landscapes of enlivened senses. The gifts inside their ringed stumps spoke of ages and shadow tones, and graced our faces with crossed lattices.

Streams of consciousness — like gaps in the light.

Promises leaked from your eyes. They landed upon my soul etching deep chasms of aroha, before that mamae of yours disrupted the course and an undertow began to tear at the fabric of us, casting me out.

My ringaringa spread wide to expose secrets. And you owned none of the lies that spilled over to lap at my feet, where pūrerehua wings stroked my winnowed heart beating fast to the rhythm of our mother.

Streams of consciousness — like gaps in the light.

Birdsong emerged between pō and rā, to illuminate all the unnoticed seasons. But who can say whether we shifted and morphed with it, or remained stagnant puzzles of links scattered from root to tip, our enacted patterns alive.

Wind blows the tussocks in this unfamiliar place. Yet the longing for you dissipates with each luminous marama cycle, and recounts tidal surges in existence long before you left. And the kakahu always enfolds me, certain I will awake unbroken.

Iona Winter

from gaps in the light, Ad Hoc Fiction, 2021

Heaven

A galaxy of stars on dark water,
the breaking of the pack.

Or more like fat congealing on boiled mutton.

When there is only white,
when everything is coloured white,
the land, the sky the ice and the horizon,

the heroes, as they walk away,
you’d say were climbing a white wall to heaven.

Bernadette Hall

from The Ponies, Victoria University Press, 2007

Poem note: This poem arises from the optical illusion in a white-out or almost white-out. As figures move away from you, they appear to be moving upwards. In December 2004 the Dunedin artist, Kathryn Madill and I shared an Artist in Antarctica award.  We were stationed at Scott Base. The Antarctic experience was a life-changer for both of us. Lines from this poem have been set in the stone pavement at the foot of Robert Falcon Scott’s statue at the intersection of Oxford Terrace and Worcester St, Christchurch, on the Ōtākaro pathway. The text was carved by Neil Pardington. My grandsons, Leo and Darcy, are having a find old time, deciphering their grandmother’s word-painting.

Bernadette Hall

Harvest

The first whitebait, see-through, rivery
lightly-flamed into a wriggle of sweet eyes.
Oysters, pink-creamy, frilly, a glug of ocean
neck-felt, lemon-spattered, a sea cry.

The first potatoes, knuckle-white, waxy
spilling from the earth’s dark hold.
Corn, buttoned to the cob, yellow, fleshy,
spitting to the bite.

Sunflowers standing on hopeless stems.
The first-born, mother-coated,
unfolding in the first tears,
swimming into the miraculous light.

Richard Langston

from Henry, Come See the Blue, Fitzbeck Publishing, 2005

Jane

                                                Nga Motu beach, New Plymouth          1845

When my great-grandmother Jane
was a small girl
she played with her cousins
on the backs of harpooned whales.

From the summit
of the biggest creatures on earth
they pointed out to sea:
Look! Look at the islands!

A single mountain
stood behind their backs
felt but not seen,
inward and silent.

Nonetheless
a witness.

Dinah Hawken

in There Is No Harbour, Victoria University Press, 2019

4.9.10 / HOMECOMING

the earth just / empty of it
take the shape of a shake / between your teeth.
in the cold morning many things falling.

touch the wall as it heaves while
translucent alarms vomit
into still air / air is still /
underneath it the writhing thing
turns its dirty head / side to side.

in this movie now / we all should have known better
forget to close the door behind you
run barefoot onto the silty street
see the neighbours in their underpants
/ this is not a dream /

just a mirror of the noise
a tiny pearl lying in your palm sleeping
itch it away at your peril.

later you will urinate / in a dark hole next to the rose bushes
whose thorns in the dawn spiked your mother
in her dressing gown fleeing the house
three wide circles / in her face
eye eye mouth.

fear lives here
in the business part of the throat
nestled / between the toes with
the simple earth fissured
waiting and just

/ not quite
what it used to be.

*

I am in the city,
and it has been long enough.

It’s a decade on, almost,
and the streets’ breathless pant has slowed to a sighing;
smooth tufts puffed into icy air.

Rupture has softened,
cracked stone padded in limpid moss,
splintered beams braced by scaffolding,
broken brick tucked up in landfills.

Christchurch remains
frozen in its decay, somehow,
contractions have distilled
entire city blocks to essences:
flat ground, empty horizons,
a big loud nothing
where a city should be.

Its winter sky is unchanged:
unshaken, unscarred, tectonically oblivious
the low-hung grey cloud a steely blanket
locked tight in violent closure.

A blackened scab
is being pulled off the knee of Christchurch,
and she bleeds brick dust out over the plains,
while the Port Hills loom like aristocracy
cloaked in a fine-knit sprinkle of snow,
sentenced to beheading for the crime of
‘seismic lensing’.

And the Avon River, unfazed,
just goes about its watery business the same;
an arterial swirl the colour of new-born eyes, unsettled,
drawling like a dream past roadwork realms, cone castles,
up-and-coming urban developments,
and the melancholy ghosts
of everything we lost along its banks.

Hebe Kearney

from Starling 10

Land

A child dances alone
in the street. A rainbow
arcs the sky. A hawk
circles, descends. A helicopter
appears. Dark suited, new ghosts
of developers materialise from
the clouds. Here visions –
wild places to shelter –
are set upon empty land
by the writer’s eye.

Once the all-seeing water carried
dreams to this safe shore: liquid
stars to navigate the ancients;
shallows to nurse great-whites;
coastline to settle waders’ Arctic flight;
sea-views for soldiers arriving home.

Now this land is gifted to the gods
of helicopters, SUVs, M6s, sharknosed
disruptors who conjure the mantra of
mixed model, urban renewal, WOW factor,
solar gain, waterfront living. There’s money
to summon – ta-da! – from soil. Everything
seen or imagined belongs to them. The past –
its evicted, protestors and peacemakers –
is a trick, an adjunct made to disappear.

As if the scattering of birds
into late morning, the shriek of
banshees escapes; the helicopter too.

The displaced need this land to live.
They want their future to grow here,
like trees. They want their children
to dance upon it alone, to feel sap
pulse through the branch. Rainbow

and hawk to rise from it. This close
to regeneration, the evicted lament
that which they cannot settle,
cannot own. Their wailing is –
the rustle of money, whisperings
of the past – almost quelled;
almost, but not quite.

Siobhan Harvey

from Ghosts, Otago University Press, 2021

Objects 12

The tight-rooted morning coils up
but I imagine the buds unfurling
in the mess of garden down there;
the sharp agapanthus blooms white,
the jasmine vine, the flame weeds,
the drooping, beaded kowhai.
I do not see it happen but I see it
happen. That waxy flexibility
of plants, I used to call them
my guests. There were tea parties
with dew.
             I want you to whisper to me
about everglades and prairies,
sylvan historians and Dan Bejar,
but I’m afraid that you don’t love me
anymore. The dark morphing
into the unimaginable.

               Look, I’ll show you around
this condensed symbol of a place.
It’s true, it’s everything
and nothing specific,
and everything to me
and always specific.
It’s impossible to understand
how we got from there to here.
One place after another.
You come close
to a home.

             Look, Pip says
the days are getting shorter,
but I can’t help it anymore
I think life is just starting.

Nikki-Lee Birdsey

from Night As Day, Victoria University Press, 2019

Place

Once in a while
you may come across a place
where everything
is as close to perfection
as you will ever need.
And striving to be faultless
the air on its knees
holds the trees apart,
yet nothing is categorically
this, or that, and before the dusk
mellows and fails
the light is like honey
on the stems of tussock grass,
and the shadows
are mauve birthmarks
on the hills.

Brian Turner

from Elemental: Central Otago Poems, Random House, 2012

The poets

Airini Beautrais lives in Whanganui and is the author of four poetry collections and a collection of short fiction. Her most recent poetry collection is Flow: Whanganui River Poems (VUP 2017). Bug Week and Other Stories recently won the Ockham NZ Book Fiction Award 2021.

Nikki-Lee Birdsey was born in Piha. She has a PhD in poetry from the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), an MFA from the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a BA from New York University. Her first book Night As Day was published by VUP in 2019. She taught poetry at the IIML last summer.

Jacqueline Carter (also Jacq, Jacqs or Jackie), of Ngāti Awa, Waitaha, Ngāi Te Rangi, English, Irish and Scottish descent, is a poet and teacher living in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. She has recently become a member of Te Hā o Ngā Kaituhi Māori (formerly Te Hā) – Contemporary Maori Writers. Her poetry has appeared in several anthologies including Whetū Moana, Mauri Ola, and Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English (Auckland University Press).

Bernadette Hall lives in the Hurunui, North Canterbury. She retired from high-school teaching in 2005 in order to embrace a writing life. Fancy Dancing is her eleventh collection of poetry (VUP, 2020). In 2015 she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for literary achievement in poetry and in 2017 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Siobhan Harvey’s new book, Ghosts (Otago University Press, 2021) is a collection of poetry and creative nonfiction. She was awarded 2020 New Zealand Society of Authors Peter & Dianne Beatson Fellowship, 2020 Robert Burns Poetry Prize and 2019 Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems. 

Dinah Hawken lives and writes in Paekakariki. Her ninth collection of poetry, Sea-light, is published by Victoria University Press, August, 2021.

Hebe Kearney is a queer poet who lives in Tāmaki Makaurau. Their work has appeared in The Three Lamps, Starling, Oscen, Forest and Bird, a fine line, and Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021.

Anne Kennedy is a poet, fiction writer, screenplay editor and teacher. Recent books are Moth Hour (AUP) and The Ice Shelf (VUP). Awards and fellowships include the NZ Post Book Award for Poetry and the IIML Writers’ Residency. The Sea Walks into a Wall is forthcoming from Auckland University Press in October 2021. 

Richard Langston is a poet, television director, and writer. Five O’Clock Shadows is his sixth book of poems. His previous books are Things Lay in Pieces (2012), The Trouble Lamp (2009), The Newspaper Poems (2007), Henry, Come See the Blue (2005), and Boy (2003). He also writes about NZ music and posts interviews with musicians on the Phantom Billstickers website.

Selina Tusitala Marsh (ONZM, FRSNZ) is the former New Zealand Poet Laureate and  has performed poetry for primary schoolers and presidents (Obama), queers and Queens (HRH Elizabeth II). She has published three critically acclaimed collections of poetry, Fast Talking PI (2009), Dark Sparring (2013), Tightrope (2017) and an award-winning graphic memoir, Mophead (Auckland University Press, 2019) followed by Mophead TU (2020), dubbed as ‘colonialism 101 for kids’.

Harry Ricketts teaches English literature and creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka. His Selected Poems appeared in June, Victoria University Press.

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

Apirana Taylor, Ngati Porou, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngati Ruanui, Te Ati Awa, is a nationally and internationally published poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, actor, painter and musician. He has been Writer in Residence at Canterbury and Massey Universities. He frequently tours nationally and internationally visiting schools, tertiary institutions and prisons reading his poetry, storytelling and taking creative writing workshops. He has written six collections of poetry, a book of plays, three collections of short stories, and two novels. His work has been included in many national and international anthologies.

Brian Turner was born in Dunedin in 1944. His debut collection Ladders of Rain (1978) won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. His writing includes biography, poetry, sports writing and journalism and has won many awards. Just This won the NZ Post Book Award for Poetry (2010). He was the Te Mata Poet Laureate (2003-2005) and received the Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry in 2009. He lives in Central Otago.

Iona Winter (Waitaha/Kāi Tahu) lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin. Her hybrid work is widely published and anthologised in literary journals internationally. Iona creates work to be performed, relishing cross-modality collaboration, and holds a Master of Creative Writing. She has authored three collections, Gaps in the Light (2021), Te Hau Kāika (2019), and then the wind came (2018). Skilled at giving voice to difficult topics, she often draws on her deep connection to land, place and whenua.

Sue Wootton lives in Ōtepoti-Dunedin, and works as the publisher at Otago University Press. ‘Wild’ was awarded second place in the 2013 International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, and appears in Sue’s Ockham short-listed poetry collection The Yield (Otago University Press, 2017).

Ten poems about clouds

Twelve poems about ice

Ten poems about dreaming

Eleven poems about the moon

Twelve poems about knitting

Ten poems about water

Twelve poems about faraway

Fourteen poems about walking

Twelve poems about food

Thirteen poems about home

Ten poems about edge

Eleven poems about breakfast

Twelve poems about kindness

Thirteen poems about light

Thirteen poems about song

Poetry Shelf review: Iona Winter’s gaps in the light

gaps in the light, Iona Winter, Ad Hoc Fiction, 2021

Gaps in the Light uses form in innovative ways to express deeply the experience of loss and joy in ways I can’t remember reading anywhere else. Nothing is binary here – everything feels multidimensional, so perfectly complicated, like echoes off multiple surfaces. It’s simply astounding!’

Pip Adam, author of Nothing to See, The New Animals, I’m Working on a Building, and Everything We Hoped For

Iona Winter, Waitaha/Kāi Tahu, lives on the East Otago Coast. She holds a Masters in Creative Writing and has published two previous collections, Te Hau Kaika (2019) and then the wind came (2018). Iona’s latest work gaps in the light comes with ‘advance praise’, tributes from other writers that include Helen Lehndorf, Kirstie McKinnon and Pip Adam. I so loved this suite of endorsements I have shared an extract from Pip Adam’s comments above. If I had read these words browsing in a bookshop, I would have bought the book, resisted all chores and distractions, and started reading. I too adore this book , and like Pip, know of no other quite like it. The slow-building embrace of loss and joy sets up long-term residency as you read.

The collection is dedicated to Iona’s son Reuben (20.5.1994 – 17.9.2020), and the dedication page becomes a pause a prayer a bouquet of sadness before you turn the page. I stalled here. I waited at this border between life and death. And then I entered a peopled glade: characters voices circumstances. Iona lays her own pain and loss beneath the surface of every scene, the hybrid writing stretching delving recovering above the subterranean ache. Writing becomes preservation, connection, ebb and flow, fighting against and fighting for. It is writing as lament and it is writing as meditation.

I dwell on the phrase ‘Streams of consciousness like gaps in the light’. What does it mean, but more importantly what does it feel? The writing is leaning in and listening to the dark without letting go of the framing light. A little like the mother and daughter in ‘Swallows’:

When we go walking, I tell our daughter what it means when the raupō are bent and spiders have crafted cocoons — white flags signalling peace. We inhale autumnal pine needle paths that smell of Christmas too early.

Little deceptions we tell one another make the intolerable less so.

 

When on the beach a heart stone is picked up, just one from the cluster, to hold and to carry. The sentence is smooth like the heart stone, but a few lines later the sound shifts and hits your ear sharply: ‘When mildew and salt scratched at my insides, and my back hit the stippled deck — life met decay once again.’ You will move from terminal illness to birdsong, from what you do to keep going to what you see out the window. There is a muscular thread of grandmother and grandfather wisdom. There is the way you get thrown off balance, expectedly, unexpectedly. The recurring thoughts of a loved one, the sight of the moon that startles: ‘it throws me off balance / that look of yours / an unexpected full moon in daylight showing herself on the horizon’ (from ‘Whorls’).

Iona is translating personal experience into hybrid writing and it is incredibly potent. I can’t imagine how hard this book was to write, but it is a gift, a glorious taonga, a gift of aroha. Thank you, Iona, thank you.

I prefer to expose the greying strands of my hair.

I prefer kōrero in person as opposed to communicating

via the Internet.

I prefer to sing aloud in the car.

I don’t prefer silent unspoken things.

 

I prefer non-martyred compromise.

I prefer to tend my wounds before creating them for

another.

I prefer  compassion to witch-hunts.

I prefer to believe in the possibility of something

beautiful, rather than fear the inevitable pain of loss.

 

I prefer to choose aroha.

 

from ‘Natives’

Ad Hoc page

Iona Winter page

Poetry Shelf: Iona reads ‘Gregorian’

Poetry Shelf Theme Season: Eleven poems about the moon

The moon has shone in poems for centuries and I can’t see a time when it won’t. Aside from the beauty allure that transfixes you in the dead of night – for me there is the way the connective light shines down on us all – both transcendental and sublime. When I read a moon poem that I love, it feels like I am cupping the moon in the palm of my hand to carry all day. Moon poem bliss. So many moon poems to love. So hard to choose. As with all my themes, it is not so much poetry about the moon, but poetry with a moon presence.

I am grateful to all the poets and publishers who have and are supporting my ongoing season of themes.

Eleven poems about the moon

Last summer we were under water

for K.

and we asked what are you doing there, moon?

our bodies neck-deep in salt and rain

each crater is a sea you said & dived under

the sun before I could speak water rushing

over your skin the place where chocolate

ice cream had melted and dried there like a

newly formed freckle on the surface of

us and the islands crumpling apart softly

over sea caves somewhere opening

my mouth in to the waves to save you are

you are you are

Nina Mingya Powles

from Magnolia 木蘭, Seraph Press, 2020

Soon, Moon 

It’s not you, moon, it’s me:

the way I look to you as if

you’ll choose to be muse

then look back at my battered

corner-alley of a blue mood

and find only eye rhymes

for human-ugly and you:

lost hubcap, squashed yoghurt pot,

metal sewer lid; all the zeros

on the street numbers of the richest

most forbidding houses; the fierce interrogations

of their security lights and satellite disks; 

the white flowers like hung-head hoodies 

on the roadside gang of onion weed.

Even the pale, shucked hull

of mandarin peel dropped in the street

seems like eco-graffiti that cusses

we’re a pack of greedy moon-calves,

fancy apes with glitter-baubles, 

guzzlers at Earth’s thin, sweet milk

who can’t see our hungers

will turn her into your mirror, darkly.

Emma Neale

from Tender Machines, Otago University Press, 2015

Tapa Talk

I’m a shadow catcher

I walk and fly in worlds

between worlds

but you were born in

the light of a bright moon

when the doors of heaven

were open to the songs of stars

your lips are trochus shells

fully parted in sleep

your eyes are nets

that draw me in

to your arms

your Leo heart

is a starfish freshly

plucked from heaven

your familiar body

the midrib of a coconut leaf

adorned with pandanus blooms

your laughter

a banana pod

burst open

and right now

dawn crawls over you

like a centipede

at last I understand

you’re the translation

of an ancient text

and the tapa on the wall

is the gallery of motifs

I found in your sleeping form

that tapa could be you

lying next to me

breathing into the first light

and you, darl

could be the tapa

hanging on the wall

Serie Barford

from Tapa Talk, Huia Press, 2007

Moon

for Ruth

You tell me you are a moth drawn to the moon
and I see you, a rare white puriri
unable to rest in the perfect green
of your sisters. You rise
from the forest
wings lifting and sighing.
You are heavy with prescience
and you have only
a few nights.

Alison Wong

from Cup, Steele Roberts, 2006

From Above  

The twinkly stars disinterestedly  

staring back, it tickles your thinking,  

the sum of you, the multiplicated product  

of all your hysterical episodes, and function,  

fluctuated, fractal, of your moods and vacuities.  

The people you’ve wrung out your guts for  

like the sponge end of a squeegee, that’ve ticked  

and tocked through a month, three months,  

six months, a year of rinse cycles,  

the faces who’ve written their looks  

into your programming, all the undeletable,  

second-guessed significations, the gestures  

of their lips, their fingers’ commands,  

it leaves you spinning, dehydrating  

the evening to a dusty, distant simile.  

I feel like a moon, punched all over with  

old bruises, but whole, orbiting on,  

pressing on, whole.

Nick Ascroft

from Back with the Human Condition, Victoria University Press, 2016

Madrigal

The moon rose out of the sea

     and climbed above Mihiwaka.

          How terrible, lonely far off

             it seemed, how resolute and cold

in a vast nest of stars.

     I stood leaning on a gatepost

         listening to the mysterious wind

             bending the pines a long time

before I set off down the hill

     feeling like a stranger

          returning to the place

              where he was born.

And the moon came after me,

    sat on my shoulder

       and followed me inside.

            All night it lay glowing

in the bones of my body,

     a private pain, given over

        to everything; all night

             the moon glowed as a body glows

in a halo of moonlight,

    and in the half-light of dawn

      I heard the moon sing a madrigal

           for those who live alone.

Brian Turner

from Ancestors, John McIndoe, 1981, picked by Richard Langston

Moon

‘Look,’ I said,

‘there’s the bloodied moon

over Paekakariki.

She’s tilting crazily

(one ear lopped off),

skimming the bright sea,

colliding with the hill-side.

I am afraid of madness –

the moon worries me.’

‘All the best people

are mad,’ you said.

And I laughed, agreeing,

so we welcomed her as she

moved along the coast

towards where we lay,

warm, in our bed.

Meg Campbell

from The Way Back: Poems, Te Kotare Press, 1981

The night sky on any day in history

I want you to look into an oncoming night.
Is it a little green? Does it have the cool orange
beginnings of streetlights? Tip your head back
as someone with a nosebleed might.
Survey the lower sky. Are there chimneys
making mini city silhouettes? Satellite dishes,
their smooth, grey craters turned in one direction?

You might insist you hear a nightingale.
Might see, at a distance, the huge screen
advertising an upcoming concert by the Beach Boys.
You could spend your time watching trains pull
their strings of yellow windows along in lines.

Or you might come here, where I am
where I stand upon the rarely silent floor
looking up at the rectangle moon
of our neighbour’s window.

Kate Camp

from How to be Happy Though Human: New and Selected Poems, Victoria University Press, 2020

Gregorian

Will you have me count off the days in your calendar, like some kind of self-soothing tool? Have we all been sold the latest gadget, to take our focus away from what’s happening out there? Distracted from colours changing in the trees, the moon continuing her cycle above, and the ocean’s repetitive lull. Do you dream about the world ending, or worry yourself down to the quicks in your nail beds, devouring hoarded tins of peaches and complaining because you can’t get into Farro Foods for poshos — when most people have to queue to buy an overpriced bottle of milk and a loaf of white bread to feed their children? I don’t care if your fancy-arsed store didn’t have the brand of cereal you desired. No, I will not post social media diaries of daily activities (like you who never bothered before and kept us at a distance with your academic nonsense, avoiding the reality our communities were already fucked); the thesaurus that kept you safe now serves as a doorstop, your words have dried up, and you’re resorting to colloquialisms. I doubt you will ever have a sense of life as it is for the minorities (who are really the majorities if you look at the world’s pyramid charts on the distribution of wealth); most of us struggle week to week, day to day, to survive everything you have created, and I don’t need to use your learned words of ‘capitalism’ and ‘eco fascism’ to know what I’m on about — without those labels we are connected regardless, through tissue, blood and ether, going back to wherever it is that we came from, whenever it was the beginning, if there ever was one. A painful silence echoes through these unspoken things, I see you in your ‘bubble’ wittering on about the importance of connection; but have you checked on your elderly neighbours to see what they might need? Or are you inside, behind your locked doors and twitching bespoke drapes, waiting for something to arrive?

Iona Winter

The Woman in the Moon

I was dancing in the shadow of the moon

under dark trees strung with party lights; a band

played waltzes; I can still feel the warmth of your hand

on the small of my back

while my fingers curled round your neck,

knowing your pulse through my long red gloves.

I hoped we were dancing into love;

we’d turn under those lit trees forever.

My hair was piled high, we looked to a future

I thought.  If only I’d followed your eyes,

caught where they rested: that other light,

an ivory candlestick, skin so pale

drawing you in like a moth.  Of course you fell.

Looking back, I see now, the obvious clue

I was dancing in the shadow of the moon.

Janis Freegard

from Kingdom Animalia: the Escapades of Linnaeus (Auckland University Press, 2011). 

Moon of love

Under the moon of love, I shimmy

on silver over waves, flirt with light,

hang with cloud, under the moon of love.

Under the cloud of the moon of love, rain

shower blessing my lunatic stroll.

In every way guided by stars, under

the moon cloud of love.

Shine on the man I am

in this moon, reflect on the heart

of my inner space. Show me the night

shadow my day, shine on the man

in the moon of love.

You marvellous moon, I’m making

all your promises. Luminous moon, promise

me, promise you moon of love.

Michael Giacon

from Fast Fibres 6 2019, Olivia Macassey pick

Nick Ascroft dangles from the Wellington skyline on his e-bike, kid in the child-seat, and a look in the eyes that says: surmountable. His most recent collection of poems is Moral Sloth (VUP 2019).

Serie Barford was born in Aotearoa to a German-Samoan mother and a Palagi father. She was the recipient of a 2018 Pasifika Residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre. Serie  promoted her collections Tapa Talk and Entangled Islands at the 2019 International Arsenal Book Festival in Kiev.  Her latest poetry collection, Sleeping With Stones, will be launched during Matariki, 2021.

Kate Camp’s most recent book is How to Be Happy Though Human: New and Selected Poems published by VUP in New Zealand, and House of Anansi Press in Canada.

Meg Campbell (1937-2007) was born in Palmerston North, and was educated at Carncot, Marsden School and Victoria University. In 1958 she married poet, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, and lived with him and his son in Pukerua Bay on the Kāpiti Coast. She worked in a number of libraries and a bookshop, and published six poetry collections.

Wellington-based Janis Freegard is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Reading the Signs (The Cuba Press), as well a novel, The Year of Falling (Mākaro Press). She was the inaugural Ema Saikō Poetry Fellow at New Zealand Pacific Studio and has previously won the Katherine Mansfield Short Story Prize and the Geometry/Open Book Poetry Prize. She grew up in the UK, South Africa and Australia before her family settled in Aotearoa when she was twelve.

Michael Giacon was born in Auckland and raised in a large Pakeha-Italian family. He was the NZ Poetry Society featured summer poet 2021, and his work has featured in the recent editions of Landfall and the New Zealand Poetry Yearbook. He is currently finalising a manuscript for publication.

Emma Neale is a writer and editor. Her most recent collection is To the Occupant (O. In 2020 she received the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for a Distinguished Contribution to New Zealand Poetry.

Nina Mingya Powles is a poet and zinemaker from Wellington, currently living in London. She is the author of Magnolia 木蘭, a finalist in the Ockham Book Awards, a food memoir, Tiny Moons: A Year of Eating in Shanghai, and several poetry chapbooks and zines. Her debut essay collection, Small Bodies of Water, will be published in September 2021. 

Brian Turner was born in Dunedin in 1944. His debut collection Ladders of Rain (1978) won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. His writing includes biography, poetry, sports writing and journalism and has won many awards. Just This won the NZ Post Book Award for Poetry (2010). He was the Te Mata Poet Laureate (2003-2005) and received the Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry in 2009. He lives in Central Otago.

Iona Winter (Waitaha/Kāi Tahu) lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin. Her hybrid work is widely published and anthologised in literary journals internationally. Iona creates work to be performed, relishing cross-modality collaboration, and holds a Master of Creative Writing. She has authored three collections, Gaps in the Light (2021), Te Hau Kāika(2019), and then the wind came (2018). Skilled at giving voice to difficult topics, she often draws on her deep connection to land, place and whenua.

Alison Wong is the coeditor of the first anthology of creative writing by Asian New Zealanders. A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand (AUP, 2021) will be launched at the Auckland Writers Festival on 15 May and at Unity Books Wellington on 27 May 6 pm. There will also be events at the Napier and Dunedin public libraries on 3 and 10 June respectively. Alison’s novel, As the Earth Turns Silver (Penguin/Picador, 2009) won the NZ Post Book Award for fiction and her poetry collection Cup (Steele Roberts, 2006), which includes ‘Moon’, was shortlisted for the Jessie Mackay Award for best first book of poetry. She was a poetry judge at the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. 

Ten poems about clouds

Twelve poems about ice

Ten poems about dreaming

Poetry Shelf connections: celebrating Landfall 238 with a review and audio gathering

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Landfall 238 edited by Emma Neale  (Otago University Press)

 

I am finding literary journals very satisfying at the moment. They suit my need to read in short bursts throughout the day. Landfall 238 came out last year but the gold nuggets keep me returning. Is our reading behaviour changing during lockdown? I read incredibly slowly. I read the same poem more than once over the course of a week.

Helen Llendorf’s magnificent ‘Johanna Tells Me to Make a Wish’ is a case in point. It is slow and contemplative, conversational and luminous with physical detail. She starts with chickens, she stays with chickens, she intrudes upon herself with long parentheses. It feels like a poem of now in that way slows right down to absorb what is close to home.

 

 

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Landfall 238 also includes results from the Kathleen Grattan Award for Poetry 2019, with judge’s report by Jenny Bornholdt; results and winning essays from the Landfall Essay Competition 2019, with judge’s report by Emma Neale; results from the Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize 2019, with judge’s report by Dinah Hawken.

Tobias Buck and Nina Mingya Powles’s winning essays are terrific. Two essays that in different ways, both moving and exquisitely written, show distinctive ways of feeling at home in one’s skin and navigating prejudice. Both have strong personal themes at the core but both stretch wider into other fascinations. Would love to read all the placed essays!

 

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I also want to applaud Landfall on its ongoing commitment to reviewing local books, both in the physical book and in Landfall Review Online. Review pages whether in print or on our screens seem like an increasingly endangered species. Landfall continues to invite an eclectic group of reviewers to review a diverse range of books.

 

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To celebrate this gold-nugget issue – I have invited a handful of poets to read one of their poems in the issue.

Make a cup of tea or a short black this morning, or pour a glass of wine this evening, and nestle into this sublime poetry gathering. I just love the contoured effects on me as I listen. I have got to hear poets I have loved for ages but also new voices that I am eager to hear and read more from.

 

Welcome to the Landfall 238 audio gathering!

 

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Louise Wallace

 

 

Louise Wallace reads ‘Tired Mothers’

 

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 looking forward to resuming a PhD in Creative Writing. Her days in lockdown are filled with visits to the park, bubbles, playdough, drawing, and reading the same handful of books over and over with her young son who she loves very much.

 

 

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Cerys Fletcher

 

 

Cerys reads ‘Bus Lament’

 

Cerys Fletcher (she/her) is in her first year at Te Herenga Waka, splitting her time between Te Whanganui-a-Tara and her home city, Ōtautahi. When possible, she frequents open mics and handmakes poetry zines. She was a finalist in the 2018 National Schools Poetry Awards and the winner of the Environment Canterbury Poems on Buses competition in 2019. She has been published in Landfall and A Fine Line. She does NOT like men who hit on you while you’re making their coffee. She is online & probably wants to talk to you (instagram: @cerys_is_tired. email: cerysfabulousfletcher@gmail.com).

 

 

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Rachel O’Neill

 

 

Rachel reads ‘The place of the travelling face’

 

Rachel O’Neill is a writer, filmmaker and artist based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Aotearoa. Their debut book One Human in Height (Hue & Cry Press) was published in 2013. They were awarded a 2018 SEED Grant (NZWG/NZFC) to develop a feature film and held a 2019 Emerging Writers Residency at the Michael King Writers Centre. Recent poems appear in Sport 49, Haunts by Salty and Food Court, and Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems 2019.

 

 

 

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Peter Le Baige

 

 

Peter reads ‘what she knows’

 

Peter Le Baige has been writing and performing poetry since the first session of the legendary ‘Poetry Live’ weekly poetry readings in Auckland in 1981. He has published two collections of his very early work, ‘Breakers’ 1979, and ‘Street hung with daylit moon’, 1983, and whilst living abroad for 23 years, mostly in Asia and China in particular, has continued to write. He has been previously published in Landfall and was one of the cast for the ‘Pyschopomp’ poetry theatre piece at Auckland’s Fringe Festival in 2019.

 

 

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Jenny Powell

 

 

Jenny reads ‘Not All Colours Are Beautiful’

 

Jenny Powell is a Dunedin poet. Her latest collection of poems is South D Poet Lorikeet (Cold Hub Press, 2017). She is currently working on a new collection based on New Zealand artist, Rita Angus.

 

 

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Annie Villiers

 

 

 

Annie Villiers reads ‘Bloody Awful’

 

Annie Villiers is a writer and poet who works in Dunedin and lives in Central Otago. She has published three books; two in collaboration with artist John Z Robinson and a novel. She is currently working on a travel memoir and a poetry collection.

 

 

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Iona Winter

 

 

Iona reads ‘Portal to the stars’

 

Iona Winter writes in hybrid forms exploring the landscapes between oral and written words. Her work is created to be performed, and has been widely published and anthologised. She is the author of two collections then the wind came (2018) and Te Hau Kāika (2019). Iona is of Waitaha, Kāi Tahu and Pākehā descent, and lives on the East Otago Coast.

 

 

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Stacey Teague

 

 

 

Stacey reads ‘Kurangaituku’

 

Stacey Teague, Ngāti Maniapoto/Ngāpuhi, is a writer from Tamaki Makaurau currently living in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. She is the poetry editor for Scum Mag, has her Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, and has three chapbooks: Takahē (Scrambler Books, 2015), not a casual solitude (Ghost City Press, 2017) and hoki mai (If A Leaf Falls Press, 2020). Tweets @staceteague

 

 

 

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Mark Broatch

 

 

Mark Broatch reads ‘Already’

 

Mark Broatch is a writer, reviewer and the author of four books.
He is a former deputy editor at the NZ Listener and is a fiction judge
for this year’s Ockham NZ Book Awards. His poetry has been published
in Landfall and the Poetry NZ Yearbook.

 

 

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Susanna Gendall

 

 

Susanna reads ‘Spring’

 

Susanna Gendall’s poetry and short fiction have appeared in JAAM, Takahē, Sport, Geometry, Landfall, Ambit and The Spinoff. Her debut collection, The Disinvent Movement, will be published next year (VUP).

 

 

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