Tag Archives: Makaro Press

My SST review of the refreshed Poetry NZ Yearbook

Book review: Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017 edited by Dr Jack Ross

Dr Jack Ross.


Dr Jack Ross.

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017

edited by Dr Jack Ross

Massey University Press, $35

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017 
edited by  Dr Jack Ross

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017 edited by Dr Jack Ross

Wellington poet Louis Johnson established the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook in 1951. It has just received a well-deserved makeover by Massey University Press. The new design is eye-catching, the writing has room to breathe and the content is eclectic. With Victoria and Otago University Presses publishing Sport and Landfall, it is good to see a literary magazine finding a home in Auckland. It is the only magazine that devotes sole attention to poetry and poetics, with an abundant measure of poems, reviews and essays.

Editor Dr Jack Ross aims to spotlight emerging and established poets and include “sound, well-considered reviews”. There are just under 100 poets in the issue, including Nick Ascroft, Riemke Ensing, Elizabeth Smither, Anna Jackson, Michele Leggott and Kiri Piahana-Wong. When I pick up a poetry journal, I am after the surprise of a fresh voice, the taste of new work by a well-loved poet, the revelatory contours of poetry that both behaves and misbehaves when it comes to questionable rule books. The annual delivers such treats.

A welcome find for me is the featured poet: Elizabeth Morton. Morton’s debut collection will be out this year with Makaro Press, so this sampler is perfect with its lush detail, lilting lines and surreal edges. My favourite poem, Celestial Bodies is by Rata Gordon (‘When you put Saturn in the bath/ it floats./ It’s true.’). Fingers-crossed we get to see a debut collection soon.

Mohamed Hassan’s breath-catching poem, the cyst, is another favourite: “In the small of my back/ at the edge of where my fingertips reach/ when I stretch them over my shoulder/ it is a dream of one day going home for good.”

You also get the sweet economy of Alice Hooton and Richard Jordan; the shifted hues of Jackson and Leggott (‘She is my rebel soul, my other self, the one who draws me out and folds me away’); the humour of Smither.

To have three essays – provocative and fascinating in equal degrees – by Janet Charman, Lisa Samuels and Bryan Walpert is a bonus.

Ross makes great claims for the generous review section suggesting “shouting from the rooftops doesn’t really work in the long-term”. A good poetry review opens a book for the reader as opposed to snapping it shut through the critic’s prejudices. However on several occasions I felt irritated by the male reviewers filtering poetry by women through conservative and reductive notions of what the poems are doing.

Ross’ review of Cilla McQueen’s memoir In a Slant Light highlighted a book that puzzled him to the point he did not not know exactly what she wanted “to share”. In contrast I found a poignant book, ripe with possibility and the portrait of a woman poet emerging from the shadows of men.

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook, in its revitalised form, and as a hub for poetry conversations, is now an essential destination for poetry fans. Not all the poems held my attention, but the delights are myriad.

 – Stuff

Dulcie Castree’s A Surfeit of Sunsets: What is particularly fascinating is how the novel swivels upon notions of poetry


A Surfeit of Sunsets, Dulcie Castree, Mākaro Press, December 2016


Dulcie Castree wrote short stories and poetry, before writing her novel, A Surfeit of Sunsets, in the mid 1980s. She had secured a publishing detail, the book was readied for publication, had an ISBN number good to go, but at the last moment, she withdrew the book due to editing challenges. Three decades later, her grandson Finnbar Castree Johansson, who lived in the same house and thought of his grandmother as a sibling, discovered the manuscript and decided to self publish it for the family. With the help of his aunties’ editing skills—Dulcie had four daughters—he produced a print run of 100. Dulcie, then in her nineties, died a few weeks before the novel was printed.

I got to see a taste of the novel online last year and I was captivated by what I read. Jane Parkin, an editor, and Mary McCallum from Mākaro Press, fell in love with the family edition, to the extent Mary reissued the novel in 2016. So much haunted me as I read the novel this week. Did Dulcie keep writing after she finished her first novel? Were her poems ever published (apparently her short stories were)? How old was she when she wrote the novel in the 1980s? Lynn Freeman interviewed Finn and Jane when the family edition came out last year, but has the book been reviewed? Does Dulcie, like Janet Frame, have a goose bath of unpublished poems? If so, are they any good? I have been haunted by the book, and I have been haunted by the woman who wrote it. Finn told Lynn that Dulcie’s failed publishing deal ‘screwed with her’ and she ‘didn’t write after it.’ She would have been in her sixties when she wrote the novel. What had she amassed leading up to that point?

I have scant answers to these questions, but I do have the novel, and Finn’s suggestion that the novel was ‘like an extension of her.’ Jane, who so loved the novel and scarcely had to change a word, saw the overriding voice as Dulcie’s. The novel is set in a small fictional town north of Wellington; there are the local residents and there are the Wellington escapees. Avid reader, Shirley has fled from an affair with a married man and a pregnancy termination. After the death of her husband, Poesy (Freda) has fled an empty house, with snobbish attitudes and a yearning to write poetry. Phoebe and Henry look after their niece May after the death of her mother. They, too, are Wellington exiles. There is an adult swimming group and a literary group that is more social than literary. You enter a fictional world brought to dazzling life through character and conversation. I am reminded initially of reading Virginia Woolf – of entering the long looping poetic conduit of her sentences where time slows and everything glows with life and feeling. I am reminded of Katherine Mansfield, and then again, Janet Frame. It is as though I enter a time that is both time-specific and out-of-its-time. For the most part you are becoming familiar with Shirley through her relations with the key residents, especially with May. Dulcie waits before revealing something about the child. It startles and sends me back to read her again. It is a curious thing the way you assume and presume as you read, and that the way we view people can be so constrained or biased. I am going to leave you the opportunity to discover May for yourselves. At the end of the book something dreadful happens that I did not expect.

What is particularly fascinating is how the novel swivels upon notions of poetry: the reading and writing and sharing of poems. May’s teacher thinks poetry is only suitable for children. Henry reads his sister-in-law’s poem notebook and finds unexpected and strange stirrings within himself. He doesn’t understand poetry but he hungers after it, searching for Felicity, and for himself, in the poems he reads: first, FT Palgrave’s Golden Treasury, then the Anthology of Twentieth Century New Zealand Poetry.  He was born in England; he sees himself in one and then not the other, and then vice versa. Poesy hopes to ‘produce a poem, phoenix-like, from the ruins of her life.’ Francis, the other teacher, is composing a poem in his head, as though anybody can do it: ‘What a common thing poetry is.’ When he reads poetry, ‘he leaps straight into the pool of words like his belly-flopping boys and comes up dripping with joy.’ Poesy ‘persists in believing she can record the universe and beyond in eight rhyming rhymes.’ On the one hand, Dulcie delivers the portrait of a small town and the ripples effected by the summer gatecrashers, while on the other hand she builds a portrait of poetry, the way it is absorbed and borne and sung.

That the novel exudes an ethereal timelessness lures you in. The work resists narrative models, yet it offers a satisfying completeness, a voice that stitches you into a fictional world to the point you are part of it, as though you might give Poesy feedback on her poem. The sentences are both lyrical and lightly spun. When I finished reading I had that melancholy feeling you get at the end of a long summer holiday when the curtains are pulled, the bach door is locked, and you are beginning the long drive home, caught in an intertidal zone of freedom and routine, of drifting thoughts and daily chores, of different food and regular meals.  Melancholic, too, because I am reminded of the shadows that women writers have occupied in New Zealand.  I am haunted by this poetic book, and I want to peruse and pursue the threads that I have raised.



Author photo: Catherine Palethorpe


Radio New Zealand interview

Unity Book launch

Mākaro Press page


Poetry Shelf Poem – Heidi North-Bailey’s ‘The Women’ is like a delicious sweet almond with a bitter sweet kernel

Mary McCallum from Mākaro Press and Heidi North-Bailey have given me permission to post this marvelous mother poem from Heidi’s debut poetry collection.  The poem is so beautifully lyrical, exquisitely layered, the gaps large and resonant, the line of women vital; the hidden stories pull you back for another look, and then another. This is one of my favourite poems of the year to date.

The Women - North Bailey.jpg

The Women - North Bailey2.jpg


©Heidi North-Bailey 2015


Possibility of Flight cover WEB


Three poems from Hoopla 16: Helen Jacobs, Harvey Molloy, Ish Doney


Mākaro Press recently released its third series of Hoopla poetry collections. Under the guiding eye of series editor, Mary McCallum, each year includes a debut, a mid-career and a late-career New Zealand poet. The design is uniform and eye-catching with simple but striking covers and fold-in jackets.

To celebrate this series, Mākaro Press has given Poetry Shelf permission to post a  poem from each collection (tough picking!)


This year sees a collection by young poet Ish Doney. Ish completed a design degree in Wellington, and currently lives in Scotland with an aim to move elsewhere soon. The poems generate a youthful zest, as they navigate love, loss, home, family, departure, distance. Feeling is paramount but, rather than smothering the poems, sets up shop in the pace of a line, sharp and surprising detail, images that prick your skin.



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Mid-career poet, Harvey Molloy has published widely both here and abroad. He was born in Lancashire but moved to New Zealand as a teenager and now lives in Wellington. As the key word on the cover indicates, these poems move through kaleidoscopic worlds.  This is a poet unafraid of directions a poem might take, of stories being told, of shifting forms, of a mind reflecting, contemplating, observing.Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 2.47.20 PM.png

Helen Jacobs (Elaine Jakobsson) was once the Mayor of Eastbourne, but moved to Christchurch in 1995. She has been publishing poems for 35 years both in New Zealand and abroad. Since her arrival in Christchurch in 1995, Helen has belonged to the Canterbury Poets Collective. At the age of 85, she has now relinquished some of her lifelong passions such as gardening and bush walks but not writing. Her new poems come out of old age with delicious vitality — her ear and eye are active participants in the world. The collection renews your relationships with the things that surround you.



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2016 Hoopla Series launching in the freshly opened Scorpio bookstore in Christchurch’s Hereford Street



Press release from Mākaro Press:
The audacious new poetry series HOOPLA, which launches three poets every April, is three years old this year. And with two Christchurch poets in the 2016 line-up it is launching in the freshly opened Scorpio bookstore in Hereford Street.

The series with its bright Faber-like covers has been a hit on the local poetry scene where most poets make their way individually. HOOPLA launches  a late-career, mid-career and debut poet at the same time, and is an imprint of Wellington’s Mākaro Press.

‘The idea,’ says publisher Mary McCallum of Mākaro Press, ‘ is that the poets and their books support each other out in the world: generating a combined energy at events, standing with each other at readings, providing a focus at bookstores. It’s a tough world out there for poetry, and so far we’ve loved the way the HOOPLA poets have worked together in their groups of three, and together as a wider whānau.’

The HOOPLA poets of 2014 and 2015 appeared together at Litcrawl in Wellington last year, in an event which saw them reading as a tag team on the theme of ‘love’. And the 2015 trio undertook a Melbourne road trip. There have been award nods too with Jennifer Compton’s Mr Clean and The Junkie long-listed for the Ockham prize this year, and Hoopla work selected for Best NZ Poems.

Much-loved Canterbury poet Elaine Jakobsson ( 87) is the late career poet for Hoopla 2016 with her book Withstanding. The theme of the collection is ‘age’. Wellingtonian teacher and activist Harvey Molloy is the mid-career poet with Udon by The Remarkables, theme: ‘worlds’, and the debut poet is Christchurch poet Ish Doney with Where the Fish Grow, theme: ‘leaving’. Ish returns from Scotland for the launch.

Previous HOOPLA poets are:  (2014) Michael Harlow, Helen Rickerby and Stefanie Lash; (2015) Jennifer Compton, Bryan Walpert and Carolyn McCurdie. The 2016 launch is on Saturday, 16 April, 3.30 pm at Scorpio’s Hereford Street store in the BNZ centre, launcher James Norcliffe, with a Wellington launch the next day 17 April at the Fringe bar, Allen St,  4-6pm. The Hoopla series is designed by William Carden-Horton and available through all good bookstores for $25 each.