Tag Archives: Kiri Piahana-Wong

20/20 May Poets: A Phantom Billstickers Poetry Day celebration

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Alison Wong and Chris Tse

Apirana Taylor and Kiri Piahana Wong

Vincent O’Sullivan and Lynley Edmeades

Paula Green and Simone Kaho

Jenny Bornholdt and Ish Doney


This terrific project forms a little poetry reading house where you enter the rooms off the side and you don’t know what you will find. There is a vitality and a freshness as established and emerging poets and those in-between come together in poem conversations. Love it! (I am part of it but no idea how the poetry house would unfold)



A week of poems: Kiri Piahana-Wong’s ‘For Michelle’



For Michelle


You have receded against the far

horizon. It’s been three months

since you left, I can barely make

out the shape of the vessel you

sailed away on. I lie in my garden

and I grieve. Nothing seems to

thrive, not the flowers, not the

vegetable plants. Sometimes I

go to the shore and look out.

I think I can see you, surely

you are just there, surely

you haven’t left yet, it’s too

early, did no-one tell you?

I know now that’s what

happened. You forgot to

read the timetable, you didn’t

realise, Oh yes, the time to

catch this ship is years from now,

I have all the time in the world.


©Kiri Piahana-Wong


Be True to Yourself: Timeout Bookstore Poetry Reading



Time Out Bookstore, Poetry Reading

Friday 12 August at 7pm.

The line-up includes:
Makyla Curtis
Steven Toussaint
Kiri Piahana-Wong
Selina Tusitala Marsh
Vaughan Rapatahana
Iain Britton

This is a BYO event. Come relax, have a drink and listen to some fantastic poetry!

Hope to see you there!

Ika Issue 4 – a feast indeed


With the latest issue, Ika is planting its feet firmly on the NZ writing landscape, as a journal to take notice of. Each issue tweaks the design a little. This one looks good. Poems luxuriate on the page. The art is honoured. The internal design is appealing to the eye.

Anne Kennedy, with her astute eye and ear, has assembled writing that matches the fresh appeal of the design. Like Sport, the journal acknowledges its links to its Creative Writing programme and allows established writers to rub shoulders with students. I applaud the celebration of Pacific writing. You will find art, poetry, fiction, an interview and nonfiction. A feast indeed.

Lovely launch at Auckland Central Library on Saturday with a fitting speech by Sue Orr, a handful of readings and  wow-factor song.


A taste of poetry:

Annaleese Jochems: She is a graduate of MIT and is now doing a Masters in writing at Victoria. Her poem is your entry into the book and it leaves you wanting more. Just what a new voice offers: surprising lines, audacity, elasticity.

I must go home for dinner,/ but I don’t want to go home/ where I play my unrequited/ love like a banjo


Poet and publisher Kiri Piahana-Wong has a suite of poems that I think are her best yet. How do you reproduce feeling in a poem in 2016? Kiri shows how: ‘A month later my chest/ still felt like a stone/ was inside it so I stayed/ there and I kept waiting’


Bill Manhire also has a suite of poems. The first poem, ‘We Work to be Winners’ got under my skin because I loved the surprising juxtapositions of one line alongside the next. It got me thinking about the origins of the poem. Sometimes if you know that, it changes the way you read the lines. In this case I began inventing origins as I waited in a festival queue. It felt like the poem had a fascinating backstory which could become a poem in its own right. It might be a found poem (but from where? that is what intrigues). It could be written from the point of view  of someone who writes a sentence in a diary each Thursday. Or the offbeat biography of a hippy from the 1970s. Get the journal and decide for yourself. First line: ‘I left the ashram running for my life.’

Craig Santos Perez: ‘Micronesians in Denial’ brings mouth-watering detail alongside history alongside political spikes. I also loved ‘Aunty of rainwater and Smoke’ – the title says it all. This is poetry song and poetry joy.

David Eggleton (winner of Poetry Category at NZ Book Awards last week) is hitting his poetry straps so to speak. You get two poems that are a linguistic explosion in the ear with musical chords sneaking in and rhythms pulling you along at breakneck speed. It is not just aural gold though because there is the visual weave that ignites all senses.

Awks: you winged Auk-thing, awkward, huddling;

you wraparound, myriad, amphibious,

stretchy try-hard, Polywoodish

juggernaut’ (from ‘Edgeland’)


I am flicking in and out of the journal waiting for a session at the festival and stumble upon these lines by Hera Lindsay Bird (she has a book out with VUP later this year!): ‘O Anna/ let us jettison the manky quilts/ of our foremothers’ Yep – it is a terrific poem.


Courtney Sina Meredith’s ‘of all the bricks we laid in our sleep’ stuck with me, haunted me as I drove home on Sunday with festival fatigue. this poem was like a haunting refrain. ‘and hear your soft waiata/ through the floorboards’


This stanza from Doug Poole‘s ‘The light I had hoped’ also got to me:

As a child I would lie awake listening to my grandmother slapping

clothes on her bedside chair, speaking aloud her thoughts of the day,

clicking rosary beads and whispering her prayers


This afternoon I fell upon  ‘Chasing Spirits’ by Kim M. Melhuish. A voice keeps asking ‘how’s this’ and the answers tumble like little poetry postcards perfectly formed:

two words

fishing for love

pink orchids

finger paint

the night ahead.


And then it was this delicious morsel from Vivienne Plumb from ‘Peach Tree’:

The cactus unfurls its one brilliant

blinding flower. Excuse me,

there is no poetic peach tree here.


AND I still have to read poems by these poets: Airini Beautrias, Bryan Walpert, Charlotte Steel, Elizabeth Morton, Gregory O’Brien, Makyla Curtis, Manisha Anjali, Ria Masae, Richard Von Sturmer, Sophie van Waardenberg.

I applaud everyone involved. This is a journal worth subscribing to.


Enquiries: ikajournal@gmail.com

submit at





Poetry Live’s 35th Birthday Celebration

Tuesday 5th May 8pm, Thirsty Dog, Karangahape Road, Auckland

The Poetry Live team welcomes you to a special event: our 35th birthday. All through the month of May we will be holding special readings celebrating Poetry Live and this important milestone.

To kick things off on Tuesday 5th May we will have a mihi from MC Rachael; a short speech about Poetry Live from Judith McNeil; music by Otis Mace; poetry readings by former Poetry Live MCs Miriam Barr, Piet Nieuwland, and Christian Jensen; and a Poetry Live-themed open mic.

Guest musician: Otis Mace
Otis Mace is a Auckland based singer/songwriter/musician who performs crafty, irreverent, comic takes on life in Aotearoa. Love ballads, pop noir and surreal protest songs tangential to most mainstream music. A long-time supporter of the Poetry Live nights and wholehearted ranter ,reader and raconteur, come and see his seventh show as guest artist! Vivid stories introduce provocative and punchy pop gems. He has toured extensively and opened for diverse acts: Billy Bragg, The Violent Femmes, Screaming Blue Messiahs, D.O.A. Albums are on Powertool and Jayrem and Ode, and now OMM (Otis Mace Music).

Guest poets:

Miriam Barr
Miriam Barr first came to Poetry Live in 2001 as a 19 year-old who had never read her poems to anyone but a few friends and family members. She is now the current national coordinator of NZ’s National Poetry Day and her book Bullet Hole Riddle was published by Steele Roberts last year. Poetry Live has been her home away from home for over a decade. One night at Poetry Live in 2005 she met her husband, poet Daniel Larsen, and poet Shane Hollands, a meeting that would lead to the creation of performance poetry group The Literatti. For six years she served as an MC and saw Poetry Live through its last year at Grand Central in Ponsonby, the move to the Classic Studio on Queen St, a short stint at Te Karanga and the first years at the Thirsty Dog.

Piet Nieuwland
Piet Nieuwland started reading poetry in Kaikohe and made his first appearance at Poetry Live in 1984. He soon took on the role as MC and was included in the Globe Tapes. Since then he has read poetry in a wide variety of gatherings, meetings, hui, cafes, restaurants and bars throughout New Zealand and beyond, including Pecha kucha evenings. His poems have been published in Landfall, Live Lines, Mattoid, Takahe, Snafu, Take Flight, Tongue In Your Ear, Poetry NZ and in online journals including the Blue Note Review. He is currently involved in Poets Exposed readings in Whangarei and has just co-edited a chapbook compilation of Northland poetry titled Fast Fibres Poetry. Fast Fibres 2 is in preparation.

Christian Jensen
Christian is a former creative director of The Literatti, and was one of the organisers of the Metonymy Project, a collaborative project that sends a poet and a visual artist on a 6-week blind date, culminating in an exhibition. His work has been published in such places as Snorkel, The Hay(na)ku Anthology, Otoliths and the De-Formed Paper. His book, Zin Uru (Soapbox Press) was released in 2008. Christian was an MC at Poetry Live from 2006-2012.

Open Mic: This week we have a themed open mic. We welcome you to read poetry about Poetry Live. (General open mic will also run.) 5 min max as usual.

Koha entry

MC: Kiri

Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English — I flipped a question that I carried with me through my doctoral thesis


Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English editors Robert Sullivan and Reina Whaitiri (Auckland University Press, 2014)

I am curious as to how many Māori poets we can name beyond a handful, beyond the much loved Hone Tuwhare. Open a New Zealand literary journal and do we still fall upon a Pākehā bias? The arrival of Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English (2014) presents us with a selection of writing that celebrates a wide and vibrant field. The editors, Robert Sullivan and Reina Whaitiri have brought a glorious range of voices into the spotlight.

Robert, of Ngāpuhi/Irish descent, is a poet and anthologist, and is currently Head of the Creative Writing Programme at Manukau Institute of Technology. Reina, of Māori/ Pākehā descent, is also a poet and an anthologist, and has taught English at the Universities of Auckland and Hawai’i. Along with Albert Wendt, Robert and Reina edited Whetu Moana (AUP, 2003) and Mauri Ola (AUP, 2010).

Puna Wai Korero is a moving feast. The poets selected come from a variety of locations, circumstances, backgrounds, writing preferences. The choices of style, tone, subject matter and poetic techniques are eclectic. There is humour, inward reflection, love and loss. There are poems of the marae and poems of elsewhere. There are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. There is politics on the quiet and politics loud and clear. There is grief. There is home. There are familiar voices, there are those that are not. There are writers known for their fiction.

Through all this, I flipped a question that I carried with me through my doctoral thesis (does it make a difference if the pen is held by a woman?) to ask: Does it make a difference if the pen is held by a Māori. Do some writers deliberately and gloriously foster a Māori voice (perhaps, where the poet stands and writes from, how the poet stands and writes from, how the oratory traditions of the marae inflect the poetry, how genealogy inflects the poem and so on). I spent seven years hauling my question through politics, law, history, psychology, familial relations, art, literature, history, patriarchy within an Italian context and the Italian language. Over the past months, I have held a book that drew me in close to all of these things within the miniature frame of a poem and within the context of Aotearoa. You can view the poems within whatever cultural luggage you bring to them (a Western paradigm of how to write a poem and how to break a poem, both cemented by tradition and innovation). Or you can step out of that luggage and approach these poems afresh, and in doing so open out the ways in which we can make and read and hear poetry.

This was the first joy of reading this anthology — navigating the burgeoning questions for which I felt inept at answering.

The second joy, the equally sustaining joy, was the discovery of new writers along with a return to those well loved (whenever I visit secondary schools I share my James K Baxter/Hone Tuwhare anecdotes that kickstarted me on the path of poetry in 1972). A wee taste of what I have loved: a tingle in reading Hilary Baxter’s ‘Reminiscence,’ the heart and gap in all of Hinemoana Baker’s poems, the sharp kick of Arapera Hineira Blank’s ‘After watching father re-uniting with sons in prison,’ the utter joy of Bub Bridger’s ‘Wild daisies,’ the force of Ben Brown’s ‘I am the Māori Jesus,’ the insistent catch of Marewa Glover’s ‘Pounamu,’ the evocative laying of roots in Katerina Mataira’s ‘Restoring the ancestral home,’ the pocket narrative in Trixie Te Arama Menzies’s ‘Watercress,’ the piquant detail of Paula Morris’s ‘English grandmother,’ the subtle shifts in Kiri Piahana-Wng’s ‘Four paintings,’ the verve and aural steps of Vaughan Rapatahana’s ‘Aotearoa blues, baby’ (I want to hear him read this!), the sumptuous detail in Reihana Robinson’s “God of ugly things,’ the poetic and political and personal stretch of Alice Te Punga Somerville’s ‘mad ave,’ all of JC Sturm (especially ‘At times I grieve for you’), Robert Sullivan (especially ‘Voice carried my family, their names and stories’), Apirana Taylor (especially ‘Te ihi’ and ‘Haka’) and Hone Tuwhare (especially, most utterly especially ‘Rain’).

This is a book of returns, to be kept on every shelf. Bravissimo!

Jess Holly Bates’s Real Fake White Dirt — The poems overlap and interlace with a vibrant cutting bite

Jess Bates book cover   Jess_author_photo_lo-res

Jess Holly Bates is a Pākehā poet, particularly a spoken-word poet, and has studied English and Chemistry at The University of Auckland. Her Masters Thesis (she gained First Class Honours) is entitled ‘Revolting Others; Disgusted Bodies as a Function of Colonial Continuity in Aotearoa NZ and the Pacific.’ She did a Rising-Voices workshop which spurred her desire to write spoken word poetry. Her first piece, ‘P.I.P: Pakeha Identity Poetry’ was performed at the Rising Voices Slam in 2011. Since then she has performed in various places; most notably, REAL FAKE WHITE DIRT, which was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (with a four-star review).

Anahera Press (publisher is Kiri Piahana Wong)  published REAL FAKE WHITE DIRT in 2014 and it is a terrific debut. It is the first Pākehā poet that this press has published and I can see why Jessie was chosen. The poems overlap and interlace with a vibrant cutting bite. This is wide open, loud politics that navigates identity issues face on. Tough. Uncompromising. Edgy. I loved the urgent challenging punch of ideas but I also love the way the words on the page split and weave into poetry. There is glorious word play at work. On the page, phrases flit and float. You have to keep your eyes roving as this is not conventional poetic forms/form (although not exactly unconventional  as you can trace back examples of this for decades). I see it as poetry misbehaviour. There is enviable rhyme (taxes/ masses, bleached/ keen, schtict/ poetic). There is leapfrogging assonance and the aural allure of repetition. Repeated things gain flesh in shifting contexts. Sound enacts political punctual marks. Everything comes back to the white-hot core that this is poetry from the heart and that vital ideas percolate above the surface. Wonderful!

PS: It is a gorgeous production with a striking black cover and a fake patch of grass that in the manner of poetry could equally be something else.

Anahera press page here