Tag Archives: Kate Camp

Poetry Shelf Theme Season: Eleven poems about breakfast

Breakfast is a lifelong ritual for me: the fruit, the cereal, the toast, the slowly-brewed tea, the short black. It is the reading, it is the silence, it is the companionship. It is finding the best breakfast when you are away at festivals or on tour, on holiday. This photograph was taken last year at Little Poms in Christchurch when I was at WORD. One of my favourite breakfast destinations. Breakfast is my gateway into the day ahead, it is food but it is more than food. It is the ideas simmering, the map unfolding, the poem making itself felt.

The poems I have selected are not so much about breakfast but have a breakfast presence that leads in multiple directions. Once again I am grateful to publishers and poets who are supporting my season of themes.

Unspoken, at breakfast

I dreamed last night that you were not you

but much younger, as young as our daughter

tuning out your instructions, her eyes not

looking at a thing around her, a fragrance

surrounding her probably from her

freshly washed hair, though

I like to think it is her dreams

still surrounding her

from her sleep. In my sleep last night

I dreamed you were much younger,

and I was younger too and had all the power –

I could say anything but needed to say

nothing, and you, lovely like our daughter,

worried you might be talking too much

about yourself. I stopped you

in my arms, pressed my face

up close to yours, whispered into

your ear, your curls

around my mouth, that you were

my favourite topic. That

was my dream, and that is still

my dream, that you were my favourite topic –

but in my dream you were

much younger, and you were not you.

Anna Jackson

from Pasture and Flock: New & Selected Poems, Auckland University Press, 2018

By Sunday

You refused the grapefruit

I carefully prepared

Serrated knife is best

less tearing, less waste

To sever the flesh from the sinew

the chambers where God grew this fruit

the home of the sun, that is

A delicate shimmer of sugar

and perfect grapefruit sized bowl

and you said, no, God, no

I deflated a little

and was surprised by that

What do we do when we serve?

Offer little things 

as stand-ins for ourselves

All of us here

women standing to attention

knives and love in our hands

Therese Lloyd

From The Facts, Victoria University Press, 2018

How time walks

I woke up and smelled the sun mummy

my son

a pattern of paradise

casting shadows before breakfast

he’s fascinated by mini beasts

how black widows transport time

a red hourglass

under their bellies

how centipedes and worms

curl at prodding fingers

he’s ice fair

almost translucent

sometimes when he sleeps

I lock the windows

to secure him in this world

Serie Barford

from Entangled islands, Anahera Press, 2015

Woman at Breakfast

June 5, 2015

This yellow orange egg
full of goodness and
instructions.

Round end of the knife
against the yolk, the joy
which can only be known

as a kind of relief
for disappointed hopes and poached eggs
go hand in hand.

Clouds puff past the window
it takes a while to realise
they’re home made

our house is powered by steam
like the ferry that waits
by the rain-soaked wharf

I think I see the young Katherine Mansfield
boarding with her grandmother
with her duck-handled umbrella.

I am surprised to find
I am someone who cares
for the bygone days of the harbour.

The very best bread
is mostly holes
networks, archways and chambers

as most of us is empty space
around which our elements move
in their microscopic orbits.

Accepting all the sacrifices of the meal
the unmade feathers and the wild yeast
I think of you. Happy birthday.

Kate Camp

from The Internet of Things, Victoria University Press, 2017

How to live through this

We will make sure we get a good night’s sleep. We will eat a decent breakfast, probably involving eggs and bacon. We will make sure we drink enough water. We will go for a walk, preferably in the sunshine. We will gently inhale lungsful of air. We will try to not gulp in the lungsful of air. We will go to the sea. We will watch the waves. We will phone our mothers. We will phone our fathers. We will phone our friends. We will sit on the couch with our friends. We will hold hands with our friends while sitting on the couch. We will cry on the couch with our friends. We will watch movies without tension – comedies or concert movies – on the couch with our friends while holding hands and crying. We will think about running away and hiding. We will think about fighting, both metaphorically and actually. We will consider bricks. We will buy a sturdy padlock. We will lock the gate with the sturdy padlock, even though the gate isn’t really high enough. We will lock our doors. We will screen our calls. We will unlist our phone numbers. We will wait. We will make appointments with our doctors. We will make sure to eat our vegetables. We will read comforting books before bedtime. We will make sure our sheets are clean. We will make sure our room is aired. We will make plans. We will talk around it and talk through it and talk it out. We will try to be grateful. We will be grateful. We will make sure we get a good night’s sleep.

Helen Rickerby

from How to Live, Auckland University Press, 2019

Morning song

Your high bed held you like royalty.

I reached up and stroked your hair, you looked at me blearily,

forgetting for a moment to be angry.

By breakfast you’d remembered how we were all cruel

and the starry jacket I brought you was wrong.

Every room is painted the spectacular colour of your yelling.

I try and think of you as a puzzle

whose fat wooden pieces are every morning changed

and you must build again the irreproachable sun,

the sky, the glittering route of your day. How tired you are

and magnanimous. You tell me yes

you’d like new curtains because the old ones make you feel glim.

And those people can’t have been joking, because they seemed very solemn.

And what if I forget to sign you up for bike club.

The ways you’d break. The dizzy worlds wheeling on without you.

Maria McMillan

from The Ski Flier, Victoria University Press, 2017

14 August 2016

The day begins
early, fast broken
with paracetamol
ibuprofen, oxycodone,
a jug of iced water
too heavy to lift.
I want the toast and tea
a friend was given, but
it doesn’t come, so resort
to Apricot Delights
intended to sustain me
during yesterday’s labour.
Naked with a wad of something
wet between my legs, a token
gown draped across my stomach
and our son on my chest,
I admire him foraging
for sustenance and share
his brilliant hunger.
Kicking strong frog legs,
snuffling, maw wide and blunt,
nose swiping from side
to side, he senses the right
place to anchor himself and drives
forward with all the power
a minutes-old neck can possess,
as if the nipple and aureole were prey
about to escape, he catches his first
meal; the trap of his mouth closes,
sucks and we are both sated.

Amy Brown  

from Neon Daze, Victoria University Press, 2019

break/fast and mend/slowly

                                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                               

Tate Fountain

from Starling 11


Biologist abandoned

I lay in our bed all morning             

next to the half-glass of juice you brought me 

to sweeten your leaving

ochre sediments settled in the liquid

a thin dusty film formed on the meniscus

but eventually I drank it                 

siphoning pulp through my teeth 

like a baleen whale sifting krill from brine

for months after your departure I refused to look 

at the moon

where it loomed in the sky outside              

just some huge rude dinner plate you left unwashed

now ascendant                   

brilliant with bioluminescent mould

how dare you rhapsodize my loneliness into orbit

I laughed                 

enraged                       

to the thought of us   

halfway across the planet staring up

at some self-same moon & pining for each other

but now I long for a fixed point between us

because from here       

even the moon is different     

a broken bowl     

unlatched from its usual arc & butchered                

by grievous rainbows        

celestial ceramic irreparably splintered              

as though thrown there

and all you have left me with is          

this gift of white phosphorous

dissolving the body I knew you in    

beyond apology

to lunar dust     

Rebecca Hawkes

in New Poets 5, Auckland University Press, 2019, picked by Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor

everything changing

I never meant to want you.

But somewhere

between

the laughter and the toast

the talking and the muffins

somewhere in our Tuesday mornings

together

I started falling for you.

Now I can’t go back

and I’m not sure if I want to.

Paula Harris

from woman, phenomenally

Breakfast in Shanghai

for a morning of coldest smog

A cup of black pǔ’ěr tea in my bedroom & two bāozi from the

lady at the bāozi shop who has red cheeks. I take off my gloves,

unpeel the square of thin paper from the bun’s round bottom.

I burn my fingers in the steam and breathe in.

 

for the morning after a downpour

Layers of silken tofu float in the shape of a lotus slowly

opening under swirls of soy sauce. Each mouthful of doufu

huā, literally tofu flower, slips down in one swallow. The

texture reminds me of last night’s rain: how it came down

fast and washed the city clean.

 

for homesickness

On the table, matching tiny blue ceramic pots of chilli oil,

vinegar and soy sauce. In front of me, the only thing that

warms: a plate of shuǐjiǎo filled with ginger, pork and cabbage.

I dip once in vinegar, twice in soy sauce and eat while the

woman rolls pieces of dough into small white moons that fit

inside her palm.

 

for a pink morning in late spring

I pierce skin with my knife and pull, splitting the fruit open.

I am addicted to the soft ripping sound of pink pomelo flesh

pulling away from its skin. I sit by the window and suck on the

rinds, then I cut into a fresh zongzi with scissors, opening the

lotus leaves to get at the sticky rice inside. Bright skins and leaves

sucked clean, my hands smelling tea-sweet. Something inside

me uncurling. A hunger that won’t go away.

NIna Mingya Powles

from Magnolia 木蘭, Seraph Press, 20020

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.

Amy Brown is a writer and teacher from Hawkes Bay. She has taught Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne (where she gained her PhD), and Literature and Philosophy at the Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School. She has also published a series of four children’s novels, and three poetry collections. Her latest book, Neon Daze, a verse journal of early motherhood, was included in The Saturday Paper‘s Best Books of 2019. She is currently taking leave from teaching to write a novel.

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.

Tate Fountain is a writer, performer, and academic based in Tāmaki Makaurau. She has recently been published in StuffStarling, and the Agenda, and her short fiction was highly commended in the Sunday Star-Times Short Story Competition (2020).

Paula Harris lives in Palmerston North, where she writes and sleeps in a lot, because that’s what depression makes you do. She won the 2018 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize and the 2017 Lilian Ida Smith Award. Her writing has been published in various journals, including The Sun, Hobart, Passages North, New Ohio Review and Aotearotica. She is extremely fond of dark chocolate, shoes and hoarding fabric. website: http://www.paulaharris.co.nz | Twitter: @paulaoffkilter | Instagram: @paulaharris_poet | Facebook: @paulaharrispoet

Rebecca Hawkes works, writes, and walks around in Wellington. This poem features some breakfast but mostly her wife (the moon), and was inspired by Alex Garland’s film adaptation of Jeff Vandermeer’s novel Annihilation.  You can find it, among others, in her chapbook-length collection Softcore coldsores in AUP New Poets 5. Rebecca is a co-editor for Sweet Mammalian  and a forthcoming collection of poetry on climate change, prances about with the Show Ponies, and otherwise maintains a vanity shrine at rebeccahawkesart.com

Anna Jackson lectures at Te Herenga Waka/Victoria University of Wellington, lives in Island Bay, edits AUP New Poets and has published seven collections of poetry, most recently Pasture and Flock: New and Selected Poems (AUP 2018).

Therese Lloyd is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Other Animals (VUP, 2013) and The Facts (VUP, 2018). In 2017 she completed a doctorate at Victoria University focusing on ekphrasis – poetry about or inspired by visual art. In 2018 she was the University of Waikato Writer in Residence and more recently she has been working (slowly) on an anthology of ekphrastic poetry in Aotearoa New Zealand, with funding by CNZ.

Maria McMillan is a poet who lives on the Kāpit Coast, originally from Ōtautahi, with mostly Scottish and English ancestors who settled in and around Ōtepoti and Murihiku. Her books are The Rope Walk (Seraph Press), Tree Space and The Ski Flier (both VUP) ‘Morning songtakes its title from Plath.

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.  

Helen Rickerby lives in a cliff-top tower in Aro Valley. She’s the author of four collections of poetry, most recently How to Live (Auckland University Press, 2019), which won the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry at the 2020 Ockham Book Awards. Since 2004 she has single-handedly run boutique publishing company Seraph Press, which mostly publishes poetry.

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 interview with Kate Camp

Photo credit: Grant Maiden

‘And I think it is this sense of connection, in all Kate’s poems, which sent me scrambling for a word like spiritual. Because what I feel when I read Kate’s work is that the great mysteries of the world, the omnipresent magnificence, the unexplainable and the truly awesome, rest in being human among humans. Take your ley lines and chakras and give me the oesophagus and the eyeball, the memory of a dusty school hall, that night, that party, remember the small blasts of happiness, our bloody painful hearts.’

Maria McMillan, launch speech for Kate Camp’s How to Be Happy Though Human

Poet, essayist and literary commentator, Kate Camp has published six previous poetry collections. Her debut collection, Unfamiliar Legends of the Stars, won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry at the 1999 Montana NZ Book Awards. Her fourth, The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls, won the 2011 NZ Post Book Awards Best Book of Poetry. Her poems have appeared in magazines and journals in New Zealand and internationally. For a number of years she has discussed classic literature – Kate’s Klassics – on with Kim Hill’s Saturday spot on Radio NZ.

To mark Victoria University Press’s publication of Kate’s How to Be Happy Though Human, Kate answered a few questions for Poetry Shelf.

So many things can go wrong

inside a human life, it’s almost comical.

You find yourself in a house,

in a night, with everyone you love

breathing in and out somewhere

and if you thought about it properly

you’d just throw up in terror.

 

from ‘Panic button’

 

Paula: Have you always been an avid reader and writer?

Kate: Family legend is that I came home from my first day of school and told my mother I could read. She said, oh ok read this. I replied, well I don’t know any words yet.

I didn’t learn to read particularly early, but once I did I quickly became obsessive about it, all the usual reading under the covers, walking down the street with a book on my way to school, re-reading books over and over again.

Paula: Can you name a few poets that have caught your attention across the decades?

Kate: Lauris Edmond is a key one for me among New Zealand poets. I’m reading Fleur Adcock’s selected poems at the moment and remembering what an important influence she was for me early on. And Jenny Bornholdt, her work and mine are so different, and yet I always feel such an affinity with her poems.

In more recent years / decades I’ve got into a lot of poetry in translation. Czesław Miłosz is one I come back to again and again, and Wisława Szymborska. Like Bornholdt, Mary Oliver is a poet I feel is very different from me, but I love her.

Paula: You acknowledge your writing group. How important is it to be part of this as a poet?

Kate: My whole career I’ve had a writing group. When I first started writing seriously I was on the creative writing course at Victoria in 1995, so I was in a weekly workshop. After that finished, around half the course members formed a group together and we met for years. Then in 2003 I joined my current group and it’s been going that whole time.

They are my first readers, my best readers, my greatest motivators. We follow the “Iowa workshop” style where we read our poem aloud, the others talk about it, and the poet just listens and says nothing. It’s such a brilliant, powerful way to understand how a poem is landing.

A liquorice cable

wires hand to mouth.

 

Proud magpies

raced the dawn home.

 

Asphalt remains lively

weeks after its laying.

 

from ‘Unfamiliar Legends of the Stars’

Paula: Your debut collection Unfamiliar Legend of the Stars came out in 1998. Were you writing poetry much before this?

Kate: I’d always written poems in a notebook but never really shown them to anyone or thought I’d do anything with them. I knew about the creative writing course at Victoria, I was a student there studying English and I knew that Emily Perkins, who was the older sister of a school friend, had done the course and become a published author.

I thought, I’ll apply for the course three times, if I don’t get in I’ll just give up on it. I got in the first time I applied and it was really only then that I started writing with any focus or seriousness.

Paula: That first book really caught my attention – it felt fresh and rendered the world alive with possibilities. Can you remember what motivated you as a poet then, what mattered when you shaped a poem?

Kate: I think what motivated me then was a sense that I saw the world in a certain way and I wanted to share that way of seeing with others. And I guess I felt the power of poetry, and I wanted to wield that power myself.

What mattered to me then was to write a poem that was clever, surprising, and made you feel something.

Having said that, when I’m actually writing a poem I try not to think at all. About anything. I find that gets in the way. The Canadian poet Christian Bok said “take care of the sound and the sense will take care of itself.” That’s how I’ve always written, just going with what comes up and trying not to switch my thinking brain on until I’ve finished the draft, and it’s time to edit.

Violin was out the back of my flat when I was nineteen.

I would put the speakers in the garden

and play ‘Be Mine Tonight’ again and again

running inside to rewind the tape.

He’s shocked to find I am middle aged.

I’m not shocked. Inside me are Russian dolls

of the women and girls I’ve been before

each more beautiful and unhappy than the current.

 

from ‘One train may hide another’

Paula: Your new collection How to Be Happy Though Human (you have a deft hand with titles!) is a gathering of new and selected poems. I like the way you have placed the new poems first and then we move through your books from the debut to the most recent. Often the new poems go at the end. I love this choice! Any comments?

Kate: I read a lot of selected poems and I tend to read them backwards, in chunks, so that I’m reading the poet’s most recent poems first. Otherwise with a poet like Milosz you’re starting in the 1940s and the poems can feel really dated. But if you start with the new ones, by the time you get back there you’re kind of in the zone.

That doesn’t really apply to my selected though as my career hasn’t been that long, at least not by Milosz standards! I just wanted to start with new poems because, you know, new poems are always the ones you love the most. The best poem is the next one.

And I go back to Saturday

we dance with other people

other people’s children,

create community with physics.

 

Memory is a kind of  mourning.

We take each other’s hands

as if they were made for that

and we form a circle.

 

from ‘How to be happy though human’

 

Paula: Your new book offers perfect routes through the rewards of your poetry. The physical world is refreshed, relationships between things and people are made visible, there are surprising connections, and always a glorious poetic fluency. Did you encounter any poetry stumbling blocks or epiphanies across the decades?

Kate: There was a fairly big gap between Beauty Sleep and The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls. I was having a crap time in my personal life, and I felt really stuck creatively. I was scared to write about my failures, my despair, my loneliness, my fucked up life. And I was scared to write about “the human condition” like a Milosz or a Mary Oliver, I felt – who am I  to write about the meaning of life? On both fronts my ego and my vulnerability was in the way.

But then I realised, the artists I most admired were writing poems and songs of utter devastation and heartbreak and disaster. And I didn’t think they were losers, I thought they were magnificent.

And I realised that I was never going to be anything other than a middle class New Zealand woman who grew up on Timbacryl adverts and 70s singer songwriters, and that I had just as much right as the next poet to plumb the depths of the human psyche.

I think that book marked a “fuck it” point for me where I decided just to write the poems that are in me, however depressing, distasteful or megalomaniacal they may be.

I take the last few turns in darkness

steep, short of breath

these legs have been mine all my life.

Hot hands. Small nights within my lungs.

 

We are fortunate to live in a world.

We are fortunate to live in a world

where some person, some man

is painting railings on the zig zag

 

and when he finished

he could have raised his eyes

and seen, beyond the black-tree hills

some ragged and fast-moving clouds.

 

from ‘Walking up the zig zag’

Paula: I just adore the new poems housed under the title ‘How to Be Happy Though Human’. Now and then I post a poem that has really haunted me in a new collection – and this whole section haunts me. The poems stick to me – I think the title is a key. These poems are intimate and revelatory, physical and movement-rich. Again the surprising juxtapositions: hanging out the washing, Watergate, your mother. Scenes become luminous. Family matters. There is a poetic heartbeat. Would you see any changes in the poetry process?

Kate: Almost all of these poems have been written since I came back from the Menton fellowship, where I was writing prose – a collection of memoir essays. I can definitely see the influence of that. These poems are looser, more prosy in style, and in many cases are straightforwardly autobiographical. They’re also long. Pulling together this book made me realise that my poems have got very long lately!

Paula: Do you have doubt tagging along? Is there a particular poem that was hard to write?

Kate: Most poems I try to write either don’t happen at all, or turn out to be not that good and get abandoned. But every poem I write that turns out good, I write in one go, in an hour or so. I will revise it later but usually not a huge amount. That’s just my process, it’s kind of scattershot but when it’s working, it’s easy, so I don’t really find any poem hard to write. I just throw away a lot of attempted poems.  

My main doubt is whether I will ever write a good poem again. The first sensation when I write something I like is relief.

Tom Waits records the sound of frying chicken

that’s how he achieves his pops and crackles

Our old unit had a crooked arm,

it was a trunk of wood with woven speakers.

 

As I child I worried about forgetting:

the hexagonal handle, a creamy honey cell,

that flaw in the lino resembling Donald Duck

while the others of its kind looked like grey bells.

 

sometimes life would seem too big, even then

an empty Sunday when you drifted as a ghost.

I saw Bonnie and Clyde on such a day,

as I recall, in black and white

 

from ‘Snow White’s coffin’

Paula: What poem really works or matters to you?

Kate: The poem “Snow White’s Coffin” is an important poem for me. It covers a lot of abiding interests for me – found facts, childhood memories, what makes life meaningful when you’re an atheist. It draws on something I thought on a lot when I was living in Berlin, the tension between intellect as the most human thing of all and the intellect as dehumanising. There’s also a tone of anger and despair in it which is quite primal – the word “howling” is in it, which is not a word anyone puts in a poem lightly.

In my last few books, the title poem is a poem that is really important to me – one that functions as a kind of tuning fork for the whole collection.

Paula: Do you have any tips for emerging poets?

Kate: Read poetry by other people. If you don’t like reading poetry, you’re not a poet, you’re just a bit of a dick.

Paula: What else do you love to do apart from writing?

Kate: Conversations and laughing are my favourite things. I love to sing with my choir. I love to watch Netflix. I love to dance. I love to drink to excess, rarely but with gusto. I love doing escape rooms with my nephew. I love looking out the window while drinking tea and listing to podcasts about American politics.

Victoria University Press author page

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Kate Camp’s ‘The law of expressed emotion’

 

The law of expressed emotion

The law is, that those who love you
will not help you get better.

Yes, they will sit next to you in a car
and take you through space

both moving forward at exactly the same speed
showing your profiles to each other

which are ageing rather more cruelly
than the fronts of you.

They will do things like park their car on the footpath for you
leaving only a card on the dashboard as a plea for clemency

and they will do explaining for you
when people do not understand your language

because you appear absolutely fluent while in fact
you are somewhat on fire.

They might take you to the monastery
with its not very important frescoes of Jesus

faintly visible and let you look down into valleys
that literally never see the sun.

They hope you will find this soothing
but perhaps it will be terrifying, the train of marvels

with its gorges and viaducts
and the medieval villages it passes though

on its way to the coast.
Maybe better to take you to the wardrobe

the armoire, where all the sheets and towels are
and where there used to be stickers of the Incredible Hulk

which glowed in the dark.
Except we gave the wardrobe away

left it out on the street with a sign saying
FREE

and when we woke up
or when we looked around

it was gone.

 

Kate Camp

 

Kate Camp is a Wellington-born essayist and poet, with six collections of poetry published by Victoria University Press. She has also written essays and memoir. Unfamiliar Legends of the Stars won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award (1999), and The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls won the New Zealand Post Book Award for Poetry (2011). Snow White’s Coffin was shortlisted for the award in 2013, and The internet of things was longlisted in 2018. She has received the Creative New Zealand Berlin Writer’s Residency (2011) and the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship (2017). Her essay ‘I wet my pants’ was a finalist in the Landfall essay competition in 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Kate Camp picks Lauris Edmond’s ‘Camping’

 

Camping

 

Do you remember how we woke

to the first bird in that awkward pine

behind the ablution block, and leaned

across the knotted ground to lift

the canvas as though it was

the wall of the world

and ourselves at the heart of it

lying together

with the fresh grass against our faces

and the early air sweet beyond all telling –

 

do you sometimes look still

into that startled darkness

and hear the bird,

as I do?

 

When we drove away I looked back always

to the flattened yellow grass

to see the exact map of our imagining

our built universe

for a week

and saw that it was just earth

and faced the natural sky.

 

We took with us the dark pine

and the blackbird

and dew beside our foreheads

as we woke

 

and now we live apart

and I don’t know where they are.

 

 

Lauris Edmond  (from New & Selected Poems, Oxford University Press, 1991)

Posted with kind permission from the Lauris Edmond Estate.

 

 

From Kate Camp: It feels a bit odd that this is such a favourite poem of mine, because of the pun with my name. But the image of the flattened grass hit me with such power when I first read it, and does every time I revisit it. There is so much to love about the poem – its sensuality, its unashamed romanticism, and of course (being Lauris Edmond) its absolutely killer ending.

I remember Lauris saying to me once that she felt a poem should end like the shutting of a car door, from which I took a sense of satisfying and substantial closure, a rightness. I didn’t know Lauris well but she had a way of talking, and of reading her poems, as if she was slightly surprised by each individual word. I hear that cadence when I read the poem.

But of course the best thing about this poem is the ablution block. It’s such an ugly, unlikely thing to find in a poem, both the thing itself and the awkward “no one has ever said it” tone of the phrase. You know this is a found piece of language off some battered sign of the camp ground, and that lends the whole poem a down home, unpretentious feeling, that lets her get away with the romantic flourish of the “early air sweet beyond all telling.”

The other thing I love about this poem is how, like one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, it’s really a kind of sly testimony to the power of poetry – and of this particular poet – to capture and immortalise. It ends “I don’t know where they are” but of course we do know where they are, the bird and the pine and the dew are here in this poem. Wherever the poem’s protagonists and landscapes are, however lost to time and mortality, the poet has saved them here.

I think that’s why for me this melancholy poem is one that leaves me with a sense of exhilaration, even triumphalism – because when the car door of the poem closes, I sense the power of the poet in the driver’s seat.

 

 

Kate Camp is a Wellington-born essayist and poet, with six collections of poetry published by Victoria University Press. She has also written essays and memoir. Unfamiliar Legends of the Stars won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award (1999), and The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls won the New Zealand Post Book Award for Poetry (2011). Snow White’s Coffin was shortlisted for the award in 2013, and The internet of things was longlisted in 2018. She has received the Creative New Zealand Berlin Writer’s Residency (2011) and the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship (2017). Her essay ‘I wet my pants’ was a finalist in the Landfall essay competition in 2018.

 

Lauris Edmond wrote poetry, novels, short stories, stage plays, autobiography and edited several books, including ARD Fairburn letters. She published over fifteen volumes of poetry, including several anthologies, and a CD, The Poems of Lauris Edmond, was released in 2000. Her debut collection, In Middle Air, written in her early fifties, won the PEN NZ Best First Book of the Year (1975) while Selected Poems won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (1985). She received numerous awards including the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship (1981), an OBE for Services to Poetry and Literature (1986), an Honorary DLitt from Massey University (1988). Edmond was a founder of New Zealand Books. The Lauris Edmond Memorial Award was established in her name. Her daughter, Frances Edmond, and poet, Sue Fitchett, published, Night Burns with a White Fire: The Essential Lauris Edmond, a selection of her poems in 2017.

 

 

An addition to the 2018 Writers on Mondays series: Kate Camp: Menton, memoir and me

8th Oct 2018 12:15pm to 8th Oct 2018 1:15pm

Soundings Theatre, Te Papa

The International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) is delighted to announce the addition of this special event to the 2018 Writers on Mondays series.

Kate Camp: Menton, memoir and me:

When poet Kate Camp took up the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship in 2017, it was to write memoir, not poetry.

Memoir writing raises interesting questions – of fact and fiction, ethics and ego, what one remembers, and what one chooses to reveal. In this lecture, Kate Camp examines a more difficult and profound question – who cares? Who could possibly give a damn about the details of someone else’s life?

Drawing on her own work and that of other New Zealand writers, Camp’s lecture is an entertaining, insightful, and at times deeply personal exploration of the ‘point’ of writing memoir.

Originally delivered September as the Frank Sargeson Memorial Lecture, initiated by Waikato University with the support of the Friends of Hamilton Library.

FREE EVENT

from Landfall Online: Helen Lehndorf reviews Hannah Mettner and Kate Camp

fully_clothed_and_so_forgetful_mettner.jpg     the_internet_of_things_camp_2.jpg

Fully Clothed and So Forgetful by Hannah Mettner (Victoria University Press, 2017), 91 pp., $25; The Internet of Things by Kate Camp (Victoria University Press, 2017), 61 pp., $25

One quality I love about first volumes of poetry is that they often contain an element of the poet’s origin story. Hannah Mettner’s Fully Clothed and So Forgetful certainly does: there are poems referencing childhood, relationships with siblings and wider family, elements of cultural confusion after an across-the-world move, parenthood – all described with deftness, wit and originality. How about that title? It’s a delight … inviting, and very human.

full review here

Three new books by three VUP authors get an art gallery outing

1e7088a3-8807-47c9-a7a6-98f7294cf027.jpg

 

We warmly invite you to a reading from three new books
by three celebrated VUP writers.

The internet of things, new poetry by Kate Camp
Some Things to Place in a Coffin, new poetry by Bill Manhire
Lifting, a new novel by Damien Wilkins

on Wednesday 12 April, 5.30pm–7.30pm
at Adam Art Gallery,
Gate 3, Victoria University, Kelburn Parade.

Refreshments will be served.

All three books will be for sale courtesy of Vic Books. Guests will also be able to purchase Tell Me My Name, a collaboration between Bill Manhire, composer Norman Meehan, vocalist Hannah Griffin, and photographer Peter Peryer.

All welcome.

Arts Foundation Awards – and Kate Camp is off to Menton

So delighted to see Kate Camp is off to Menton and two writers recognised: Eleanor Catton and Dylan Horrocks. Congratulations.

 
Eleven artists, two philanthropists and four arts organisations are recipients of awards and donations at the 2016 New Zealand Arts Awards. Come and celebrate the Laureate and New Generation Awards, Harriet Friedlander New York Residency, the Award for Patronage and the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship with us.

Congratulations to:

2016 Laureate Award Recipients
Each Laureate Award includes a cash award of $50,000:

Eleanor Catton – Writer
Lyell Cresswell – Composer
Dylan Horrocks – Cartoonist/Graphic Novelist/Writer
Peter Robinson – Visual Artist
Taika Waititi (pictured above) – Film Maker

About the Laureate Award:
The Laureate Award is an investment in excellence across a range of art forms for an artist with prominence and outstanding potential for future growth.  Their work is rich but their richest work still lies ahead of them.  The award should recognise a moment in the artist’s career that will allow them to have their next great success.

2016 New Generation Award Recipients
Each New Generation Award includes a cash award of $25,000:

Parris Goebel – Choreographer
André Hemer – Visual Artist
Alex Taylor – Composer

About the Award:
New Generation artists are the hot shots, the ones to watch, and the ones who have an X-factor that sets them apart from their peers. They have assured potential. Their work is exciting. They are independent, individual and show outstanding promise. They also display a depth of thinking and consistency that gives their work strength.

Harriet Friedlander New York Residency
This residency enables an artist(s) to live in New York for as long as $80,000 lasts them:

Chris Pryor and Miriam Smith – Film Makers

About the Residency
Michael and Jason Friedlander asked the Arts Foundation to assist with the selection and promotion of an artist to receive up to $80,000 to have a New York experience every two years. The Residency is being made possible by a legacy gifted by Harriet Friedlander, who was a dedicated supporter of the arts. She also loved New York. She believed that any young artist exposed to the city would learn and grow in unimaginable ways.

2016 Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellow

Kate Camp – Poet/Writer

About the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship
For the past forty-six years, the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship has enabled a selected New Zealand writer to live for up to six months in Menton, France. There, they have access to the writing room in Villa Isola Bella where one of New Zealand’s most famous writers, Katherine Mansfield, once lived.

Award for Patronage Recipients

John and Jo Gow – Philanthropists

The Award for Patronage Recipients are given $20,000 to distribute to artists or arts organisations of their choice to celebrate the occasion of the award. All recipients to date have chosen to donate $20,000 of their own so they can give away $40,000 to artists, organisations or projects of their choice:

John and Jo’s chosen donation recipients are:

•    The Big Idea
•    Tautai
•    Q Theatre
•    Sculpture On The Gulf

$480,000 will be awarded to the recipients at the New Zealand Arts Awards event night on Wednesday 23 November. With the majority of the funds awarded on the evening being generated by private donations, the Awards are also a celebration of philanthropic support for the arts.

The awards are the highest value, multi-discipline arts awards in New Zealand, and since the inaugural Laureates received their awards in 2000, the Arts Foundation has awarded life-changing monetary and honorary awards to over 190 of New Zealand’s finest artists. By the end of this year, the Arts Foundation will have awarded New Zealand artists $5.2million.

We are very much looking forward to seeing those that have purchased tickets at the Awards next week. If you would like to come and celebrate the achievements of this year’s recipients then select your tickets from our website now.

The 2016 New Zealand Arts Awards
From 6pm, 23 November 2016
Shed 10, Auckland Waterfront

Pre and post ceremony canapés are served with Gladstone Vineyard wines and Yeastie Boys beers

A Reserve $75.00
B Reserve $68.00

Dress: Cocktail/Business

The Listener raises the point of what poetry is

IMG_3239

From Mark Broach:

‘What is poetry? “Poetry is the other way of using ­language,” goes one definition. It’s what gets left behind in translation, goes another. It’s a hundred things: rhythm, harmony, metaphor, compression, juxtaposition, an obsession with the line. But what is poetry for? That topic’s up for debate this weekend, so we put the ­question to a group of poets.

The current New Zealand Poet ­Laureate, CK Stead, says poetry has many roles, some seemingly conflicting.

“It’s for pleasure, intellectual and emotional. It’s sometimes for what Yeats called ‘the fascination of what’s difficult’; and sometimes for a sense of ease, effortlessness, peace and harmony. It’s to remind us of the best uses that have been made, and can still be made, of what marks the human species out as unique on our planet – language. Shakespeare says ‘The truest poetry is the most feigning’, and Wilfred Owen says, ‘The true poets must be truthful’, and both are right without contradiction.”

Tim Upperton wonders if poetry is of any use at all. “If you go by the words of some of its famous practitioners, poetry’s not much good for anything.” ‘

For the rest of the article see here.

Mark also consults CK Stead, our current Poet Laureate, and the three poets performing here:

Kate Camp, Gregory O’Brien and Louise Wallace speak at “A Still Small Voice – What Does Poetry Do for Us?”, a session at Wanaka’s Aspiring Conversations on Sunday, April 24.