Tag Archives: Jane Arthur

The Sarah Broom Prize 2018 winner ….




Wellington poet Jane Arthur is the winner of the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2018.


Arthur is a Wellington-based poet with a Masters in Creative Writing from IIML at Victoria University, a Whitireia Polytech Diploma in Publishing and an MA in English from the University of Auckland. She has worked as an editor and bookseller for over 15 years and co-founded The Sapling, a NZ children’s website. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals.

Stuart Airey, Wes Lee and Robyn Pickens joined Arthur as prize finalists at the Sarah Broom Poetry event at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday 20 May. Each read work from their prize submissions, introduced by Paula Green, who stood in for guest judge and New York poetry icon, Eileen Myers.

Myers described the quality of the entries for the prize as ‘really high’.  After whittling down the list, they said ‘there’s an incredible intimacy about sharing that moment with a group of writers you’ve never met and then hunkering down finally with a small bunch of them’.

Of Arthur, Myers said that ‘poetry’s a connection to everything which I felt in all these poets but in this final winning one the most. There’s an unperturbed confident “real” here.’

The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize was established to celebrate the life and work of Sarah Broom (1972-2013), author of Tigers at Awhitu and Gleam.  It is now in its fifth year, and we are pleased again to be working together with the Auckland Writers Festival to showcase and celebrate New Zealand poetry.


A conversation and poem from the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize Finalists: Jane Arthur

Jane Arthur_2018.jpg



To check up on the state of your heart you must lie back


with your tits out so a warm-handed stranger-

technician can run a small device across your ribs

like a barcode scanner. She seems not to see your skin,

is only concerned with looking beneath it. You want to ask her,

What is it that makes me different

from others who’ve lain here, does my heart hide deeper

in my chest, do my nipples watch you cock-eyed, disturbingly,

am I more beautiful than 50% of others or.

On a black-and-white screen there’s something grainy

and pulsing, trapped in a wedge frame

like an embryo, unheard. This is your heart, twitching.

Watching it you can’t tell what from what, all you know is

the image is moving and you are alive. What a miracle

of existence, you now understand, to have a life inside you

and you want to clutch the technician and rejoice.

Now you can hear it, too, your heart—thumping, muffled,

like listening with your ear pressed up against a wall,

the white-noise hiss of the ocean trapped behind.

But that’s not ocean, not white noise,

it’s blood noise. That’s blood pumping through your heart

to your veins. You hear it through a wall

of veins, bones, fat, flesh, skin keeping all this life inside you

like one big intricate loving dam.


©Jane Arthur


If you were to map your poetry reading history, what books would act as key co-ordinates?

Formatively, I was a music-obsessed teen, so the liner notes of the angsty ’90s: Kristin Hersh, Tori Amos, R.E.M.. Patti Smith. Before that: the poems of Leonard Cohen and Pam Ayres. More recent inspirations: Jenny Bornholdt’s Miss New Zealand; Geoff Cochrane; Kim Addonizio’s What Is This Thing Called Love; Louise Glück’s Vita Nova; random editions of Sport; A Hole is to Dig by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Online poetry journals, including Sweet Mammalian, Starling, Turbine/Kapohau. The Poetry Foundation website. And most recently: essa ranapiri’s incredible Twitter thread of great NZ poems.


What do you want your poems to do?

I guess I want them to be intellectual exercises that end up appearing thoroughly non-intellectual. I want them to be approachable, definitely messy and imperfect, a bit funny but completely heartfelt without being gross? At least, that’s what I want them to “be”. What I want them to do is … reassure awkward readers that we’ve all been there and it’s cool, don’t worry about it.


Which poem in your selection particularly falls into place. Why?

“To check up on the state of your heart you must lie back” is one of those rare poems that burst out of me in one sitting (having been rolled around my brain for a day or so) and didn’t change significantly after that. An earlier version was published in Ika and two years later only a few words have changed. I wish I knew why some poems come out easily, it’s much more efficient. I am typically the world’s most painfully slow and fussy writer … more of a deleter.


There is no blueprint for writing poems. What might act as a poem trigger for you?

Standing in the shower. Brushing my teeth. Trying to write a different poem. Reading fiction. Going for a walk. Restless nights. Pretending to be someone else. Deadlines.


If you were reviewing your entry poems, what three words would characterise their allure?

Familiar, surprising, dorky


You are going to read together at the Auckland Writers Festival. If you could pick a dream team of poets to read – who would we see?

HRH Selina Tusitala Marsh as MC because I want her to be everywhere at all times. Some of the finest new, super-young poets like Tayi Tibble, Nina Powles and Freya Sadgrove – I’d ask the Starling eds to organize that bit. With interludes from Faith Wilson, Coco Solid, Hera Lindsay Bird, Chris Tse and Fleur Adcock. With a surprise VIP encore from Margaret Mahy during a round of whisky.


Jane Arthur was born in New Plymouth and lives in Wellington with her partner, baby and dogs. She has worked in the book industry for over 15 years as a bookseller and editor, and is a founder of the New Zealand children’s literature website The Sapling. She has a Master’s in Creative Writing from the IIML at Victoria University, where her supervisor was Cliff Fell, a 2017 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize finalist. She also has a Diploma in Publishing from Whitireia Polytech and a Master’s in English Literature from Auckland University. Her poems have appeared in journals including SportTurbineIka, and Sweet Mammalian.



The four finalists will read from their work at the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize event at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday 20 May, 3.15-4.15pm. 

Sarah Broom Poetry Prize page.


Congratulations! Sarah Broom Poetry Prize finalists 2018


Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 2.34.13 PM.png


Sarah Broom Poetry Prize Finalists 2018

We are delighted to announce four finalists for the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize in 2018.


Stuart Airey is a poet with a day job as an optometrist, which involves using the logical, scientific part of his mind. He describes poetry as “letting me explore all the other bits”.  Stuart began writing poetry a few years ago; these poems are as yet unpublished, but they have been performed in his local church. Though he has been living in Hamilton for many years now, Stuart feels an increasingly strong call from his Christchurch roots and his resonance with loss. Poems allow a part of him to look up at the Port Hills, walk along leafy Saint Albans, and gaze longlingly out at the Sumner surf.


Jane Arthur was born in New Plymouth and lives in Wellington with her partner, baby and dogs. She has worked in the book industry for over 15 years as a bookseller and editor, and is a founder of the New Zealand children’s literature website The Sapling. She has a Master’s in Creative Writing from the IIML at Victoria University, where her supervisor was Cliff Fell, a 2017 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize finalist. She also has a Diploma in Publishing from Whitireia Polytech and a Master’s in English Literature from Auckland University. Her poems have appeared in journals including Sport, Turbine, Ika, and Sweet Mammalian.


Wes Lee is the author of Body, Remember (Eyewear Publishing, 2017), Shooting Gallery (Steele Roberts, 2016), and Cowboy Genes (Grist Books, University of Huddersfield Press, 2014). Her work has appeared in the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2018, New Writing Scotland, The London Magazine, Landfall, Poetry LondonIrises: The University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s Poetry Prize Anthology 2017, and many other journals and anthologies. She has won a number of awards for her writing including the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Literary Award; the Short Fiction Writing Prize (University of Plymouth Press) and the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Award in Galway. Wes is currently working on her third poetry collection, By the Lapels.


Robyn Maree Pickens is an art writer, poet, and curator. Her critical and creative work is centred on the relationship between aesthetic practices and ecological reparation. Robyn’s poetry has appeared in the Australian eco-poetic journal Plumwood Mountain (2018), and US journals Matador Review (2017), water soup (2017), and Jacket 2 (2017). Her most recent work was exhibited at ARTSPACE, Auckland in March 2018. Robyn’s poetry criticism has appeared in Rain Taxi (2018) and Jacket 2 (2018). Currently Robyn is a PhD candidate in ecological aesthetics in the English Department at the University of Otago, and an art reviewer for the Otago Daily Times, The Pantograph Punch, and Art News.

The four finalists will read from their work at the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize event at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday 20 May, 3.15-4.15pm.  Guest judge Eileen Myles will introduce the finalists and announce the winner.


The judge:

Eileen Myles is an American poet and writer who has produced more than twenty volumes of poetry, fiction and other works. Their poetry collections includes I Must Be Living Twice (selected poems) and Not Me, and they are the author of Inferno, a novel detailing the hell of the life of the female poet. Myles has been awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in nonfiction, four Lambda Book Awards, and numerous other awards and fellowships. Fellow novelist Dennis Cooper has described Myles as “one of the savviest and most restless intellects in contemporary literature”.

Poetry Shelf, Poet’s Choice: Jane Arthur makes her picks



I feel like I was luckier than everyone else this year because I got to read my classmates’ work at the IIML where I was working on my MA folio. I don’t understand how there can be so many good writers around, but there are and I have the proof. At some time in the future, I will choose Nick Bollinger’s ‘Goneville’ as one of my books of the year – it’s a music bio/memoir/cultural history and it just won the Adam Prize for being excellent. Please also check out the latest issue of Turbine online to see how clever my other classmates are.

Tim Upperton’s The Night We Ate the Baby came along right when I needed it this year. It does things and says things poetry “shouldn’t”. It kicks against beauty, niceties, and resolution. A few times, it does this self-referentially, like: poetry is such a dick. Eww, poetry, you’re so gross (see “Fonnet”). It’s a breeze to read and the speaker of the poems is great because he’s such a grumpy bastard. A sucker-punch for anyone who thinks poetry is difficult and pretentious.

Louise Glück’s Vita Nova couldn’t be more different from Upperton’s book, but I loved it too. Each poem feels like a whisper, somehow, though they kept on kicking me in the gut when I wasn’t looking. It’s bloody beautiful. Hold your breath and eat it, I reckon.

I rediscovered the joy of Beauty Sleep by Kate Camp, which is full of zany turns and genuinely funny bits, and the blurting-out of thoughts I’m so fond of in my own life and writing. And the poem “Yuri Gagarin’s bed” has an ending that made me gawp at its honesty and perfection.

Jane Arthur

beautysleep.9780864735119__48403.1347922411.140.215  beautysleep.9780864735119__48403.1347922411.140.215   beautysleep.9780864735119__48403.1347922411.140.215

November On The Shelf: Angela Andrews, Jane Arthur, Serie Barford and Stephanie Mayne

Angela Andrews:

I’ve been writing a long poem for some months now. One of the major features of this process has been the constant struggle between the disjunctive possibilities of poetic form, and the narrative, which I want to be continuous, unfolding forward. How does a poet successfully balance these two approaches, to achieve something that unravels over pages, but also has the capacity to shift gear suddenly, which surprises and moves around within itself? The two forces seem diametrically opposed at times. I’ve been casting about, trying to figure out how this is managed in long poems I love – Jenny Bornholdt’s Rocky Shore, Anne Carson’s Glass Essay, and now, Louise Glück’s Faithful and Virtuous Night.

By no means do the poems in Faithful and Virtuous Night (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014) constitute a straight-forward narrative. The main thread through the book is the voice of a male painter in his later years, confronting “a crisis of vision,” revisiting painful events in his childhood. However, his poems are interspersed with others that seem to be written in the voice of the poet herself, and in amongst both of these voices there are poems that come from neither of these speakers, poems that are allegorical and sometimes surreal. I read it through the first time, mostly aloud, propelled on by nothing more than the pleasure of Glück’s breath-taking word-steps. The first poem “Parable” begins by looking back at the cusp of a journey, during which

the stars had shone, the sun rose over the tree line

so that we had shadows again; many times this happened.

This seems to be what follows: poems that shift between time, place and speakers as they tell a story, losing me sometimes, putting me on the cliff-edge of something vast and unspoken, pulling me back, coming full circle. But always the sun rises again. The same motifs recur, pressing into the same territory: night, endings, shadows, voicelessness, death, silence. Yes, it’s rather terrifying. It is also a very beautiful piece of work. Every poem I’ve looked at again since that first read-through can, I think, stand on its own, even though each feels very definitely part of this book-long narrative.

Given the questions I started with, I find it intriguing that towards the end of the collection, Glück voices the tension with which I’ve been grappling. The poet is caught in a “dry season,” while time moves relentlessly forward. Pausing before the door to her home:

I closed my eyes.

I was torn between a structure of oppositions

and a narrative structure―


The room was as I left it.

There was a bed in the corner.

There was the table under the window.

There was the light battering itself against the window

until I raised the blinds

at which point it was redistributed

as flickering among the shade trees.

[in “The Story of a Day”]

Poet, Angela Andrews, is currently working on her Doctorate in Creative Writing at Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters.


Jane Arthur: I’ve not been entirely faithful to any one poet or book lately. I’ve been exploring with the attention-span of a sugared toddler: pulling books off my shelves, jumping down rabbit holes (or wormholes, or foxholes) on the Poetry Foundation website, obsessively clicking on surely every poem in the wonderful Sport archive, buying new releases and not opening them for months, leaving piles of thin volumes around my house – by my bed, next to the fruitbowl – and in others’ houses.

But one collection I’ve been returning to – savouring – over the past couple of months is Sharon Olds’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Stag’s Leap (Knopf, 2013), which was recommended to me by Wellington poet Sarah Jane Barnett. It’s tricky to describe Stag’s Leap without making it sound insufferable and self-indulgent: its poems are entirely about the breakdown of the poet’s 30-year marriage. But truly, truly, it’s wonderful. It’s kind, generous and brutally honest. Though it’s specifically “about” the aftermath of the poet being left (for another woman), it also explores thoroughly – epically – what it means to love another person. The sex, desire, willing sacrifices, and impossibility of intimacy. I can see that all still sounds insufferable, so here’s a gory excerpt I loved from a poem about a mouse as dead as the poet’s marriage, called “Sleekit Cowrin’”:

The mouse has become a furry barrow

burrowed into by a beetle striped

in stripes of hot and stripes of cold

coal—headfirst, it eats its way into

the stomach smoother than dirt


And bugs little as seeds are seething

all over the hair, as if the rodent

were food rejoicing.

To say that poem aloud makes you become a bug eating the words, each vowel a bite or a chew. I enjoy Olds’ careful rhythms and sound-patterns as much as I enjoy her excruciating emotional honesty:

[…] O satin, O

sateen, O velvet, O fucking velveeta—

the day of the doctors’ dress-up dance,

the annual folderal, the lace,

the net, he said it would be hard for her

to see me there, dancing with him,

would I mind not going. And since I’d been

for thirty years enarming him,

I enarmed him further—Arma, Virumque,

sackcloth, ashen embroidery!

(from “Material Ode”)

Jane Arthur is production manager at Wellington children’s book publisher, Gecko Press. She was most recently published in the inaugural issue of the new NZ literary journal, Sweet Mammalian (sweetmammalian.com).


Serie Barford:
“Between the Kindling and the Blaze – Reflections on the concept of mana” by Ben Brown,  Anahera Press 2013

A poetry collection I’ve recently enjoyed is Ben Brown’s Between the Kindling and the Blaze – reflections on the concept of mana.  Mana’s a term that’s understood and used by New Zealanders in many different ways, so it was interesting to consider Ben’s reflections and to listen to the accompanying CD. The poems and prose poems shuttle us between Te Ao and Te Pō, the Worlds of Light and Dark. Elemental fire is a motif, a unifying thread that anchors our senses in the familiar whilst we hikoi between deftly portrayed worlds and personalities. The collection opens with ‘Mana’, a homage to Ben’s grandfather:

Mana is my grandfather in his retirement from the darkness and depths

and ingrained dust of the coal mine to mow the marae lawn that extends to

the front door of his twice-built house with two coal ovens eternally warm

beneath the simmering pots of the boil up behind unlocked doors where

footwear for a centipede aligns beneath his broad veranda….

and takes us to the Mongrel Mob in ‘The Dog my brother’:

The dog my brother he walks crookedly

Too many kicks when he was a pup

Dances to his own tune now ……

The street was good to me he say

I made my love

I burned my bridges happily….

We also visit women of mana, a Maori Jesus who eats fish ‘n’ chips with tomato sauce and wears wrap-around sunnies, a rangatira in conversation with a slave on the Wellington Harbour in the early 1840s, various pubs and parties and a hui at the doorway to heaven.

Tihei mauri ora.

Serie Barford is an Auckland-based poet. Her most recent collection is, Tapa Talk.


Stephanie Mayne:

A House on Fire  Tim Upperton

Steele Roberts Publishers, 2009. ISBN 9781877448683

The poems in Tim Upperton’s  book, A House on Fire, appeal because of his use of inventive imagery, his direct observational style, and the painterly quality of his scene setting. His poetry is spare, concise and technically proficient.

Decaying corn, in a poem about a vegetable garden, keeps “its thin hands in its sleeves.” In a poem about the tradition of the Kiwi Sunday roast, the mutton “heaves” in the pan.

Upperton’s relaxed, confident poems are often drawn from nature. In his poem, “The Starlings,” a house once “thrummed” to the sound of nesting birds, whilst in “The Caterpillar” he is moved to see a “damp umbrella, hanging.”

Upperton’s evocative, well-crafted, warm poems pare life back to its bare essentials – family, food, love and nature. Read Upperton’s poems – you’ll discover magic in the ordinary.

Stephanie Mayne is an Auckland librarian and poet.