Tag Archives: massey university press

Poetry Shelf celebrates new books with an audio: Amber Esau and Sam Duckor-Jones read from Skinny Dip – Poems

Skinny Dip: Poems, eds Susan Paris & Kate De Goldi, illustrations by Amy van Luijk, Massey University Press (Annual Ink), 2021

Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris, editors of the popular and best-selling Annuals, have edited a lively, much-needed, and altogether stunning anthology of poems for middle and older readers. Kate and Susan commissioned ‘original, and sometimes rowdy poetry’ from a selection of well-known Aotearoa poets. The poems are pitched at Y7 to Y10 readers, but will catch the attention of a range of readers. The collection is shaped like a school year, with four terms, and with the poets both recalling and imagining school days. The subjects shift and spark. The moods and tones never stay still. Some of the poems are free verse (no rules) and some are written according to the rules of specific poetic forms. There is a useful glossary detailing some of the forms at the back of the book (rondel, tanka, haiku, ode, cinquain, rondel, sestina, villanelle, acrostic, pantoum). There are also found, prose, strike-out and dialogue poems. A genius idea for a book that shows how you can follow poetry rules, break poetry rules, play with poetry rules.

The editors invited poems from a glorious group of Aotearoa poets: Sam Duckor-Jones, essa may ranapiri, Bill Manhire, Anahera Gildea, Amy McDaid, Kōtuku Nuttall, Ben Brown, Ashleigh Young, Rata Gordon, Dinah Hawken, Oscar Upperton, James Brown, Victor Rodger, Tim Upperton, Lynley Edmeades, Freya Daly Sadgrove, Nina Mingya Powles, Renee Liang and Nick Ascroft.

Through doing my poetry blogs, schools visits and author tours over decades, I have witnessed poetry simmering and bubbling, somersaulting and sizzling, the length and breadth of Aotearoa. Poetry in my experience can excite the reluctant writer, advance the sophisticated wordsmith, and captivate all those writers in between, both in primary and secondary schools. Poetic forms are fun, and can stretch the imagination, electrify moods and music. Send your writing pen in refreshing and surprising directions.

Poem anthologies for younger and middle readers are as rare as hen’s teeth in Aotearoa, so it is a special day when a new one hits our library and bookshop shelves. Kate and Susan have curated a selection of poems that will fit ranging moods, and perhaps inspire you to write a poem of your own, however old you are!

I have celebrated Skinny Dip on Poetry Box with four readings (Ben Brown, James Brown, Lynley Edmeades and Ashleigh Young). My November challenge on Poetry Box is inspired by Skinny Dip (for Y1 – Y8), so do invite keen young poetry fans to give it a go. For Poetry Shelf, I am featuring two glorious readings by Amber Asau and Sam Duckor-Jones, and including a challenge for secondary students.

I decided Skinny Dip is so good it deserves a feast of celebrations! Let me raise my glass to a fabulous project.

A popUP poetry challenge for secondary school students in Year 9 and 10:

Choose one of the poetry forms mentioned above and write a poem. You can stick to the rules or you can play with the rules. Send to paulajoygreen@gmail.com by November 14th. Include your name, age, year and name of school. Deadline: November 11th. I will post some on Poetry Shelf on November 16th. Write Skinny Dip in subject line so I don’t miss your email. I will have a copy of the book to give away.

two readings

Amber Esau reads ‘Street Fighter’

Sam Duckor-Jones reads ‘Please excuse my strange behaviour’

Amber Esau is a Sā-māo-rish writer (Ngāpuhi / Manase) born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau. She is a poet, storyteller, and amateur astrologer. Her work has been published both in print and online.  

Sam Duckor-Jones lives in Wellington. He has published two collections of poems: People from the Pit Stand Up and Party Legend (VUP).

Massey University Press (Annual Ink) page
Kate De Goldi & Susan Paris talk to Kim Hill
Read an extract at the The Spinoff
ReadNZ Q & A with Kate & Susan


Poetry Shelf celebrates new books: Chris Price and Bruce Foster’s The Lobster’s Tale, photographs and audio

The Lobster’s Tale, Chris Price and Bruce Foster, Massey University Press, 2021

Lloyd Jones’ Kōrero series invites a collaboration between ‘two different kinds of artist intelligence’ on a specific topic. The first two books were a triumph of image, text and design: Lloyd Jones and Euan Macleod (High Wire); Paula Morris and Haru Sameshima (Shining Land). The third book The Lobster’s Tale brings together photographer Bruce Foster and writer Chris Price. A sentence threads along the bottom of the page, there are Bruce’s photographs and there is Chris’s text. The photographs track sky water land, imprints of existence. The paragraphs draw upon multiple voices that also navigate questions of being. The final and fascinating leg of the journey is the conversation that emanates from photographs, text and sentence thread.

The sentence thread running along the bottom of the pages, is described by Chris as a paragraph, a ribbon. A paragraph ribbon that is a poetic and fascinating accretion. An at-times borrowed thread that draws upon the words of Ursula LeGuin and William Beebe. As you turn the page, the paper rustle breaks into the stream of reading, a tiny rupture, visually and aurally. Which is how I read the book as a whole. Ideas arrive and I pause. The thread is an itinerary, full of pit stops and bridges and, as with any voyage, I can only hold it in pieces. I grasp the damaged earth, weather, diverse terrain, the air we breathe, definable time, indefinable time.

I travel with the paragraphs next, and each paragraph, reminiscent of poetry, expands in generous frames of white space. The writing is both intricate and plain. Complex issues of ‘being’ come to the foreground. ‘Being’ becomes notated existence, whether lobster or human, whether voyage or longing, repleteness or hunger, plunder or plenitude. Suicide is a linking echo. Albert Camus, Tupaia, Jonathan Franzan, Ursula Le Guin, David Foster Wallace, among others, make appearances. Yes, lobster is a starting point, from which reading and research radiate. Fascinating lobster facts and anecdotes reside alongside philosophical nuggets. I am attracted to these nuggets gleaming in the oceanic dark, like landmarks on my voyage into the unknown. The writing is both of and beyond the lobster. The writing is a means of becoming. ‘A profound thought,’ says Camus, ‘is in a constant state of becoming’.

The photographs register as loading bays for contemplation: secret-holders, blurred, still, even stiller, shimmering, creased and folded, abstract, political, sequences of trails, debris, impacts, light, land, water. The photograph is a means of breathing in the light. Facing our fragile future. The sequence itself offers its own haunting itinerary, a voyage that is more about the getting there than the destination. I join the other spectators, my back to the lens, gazing spellbound at the horizon, the infinite pull of water.

And then I pivot, and view the sentence thread and the paragraphs also as creased and folded, as shimmering talk, as sequences of trails and debris.

To read The Lobster Tale in the time of Covid is to refresh the voyage. It becomes imperative, in the face of difficulty and uncertainty, to acknowledge that everything is intensely personal, elusive and far away. Writing reviews is tough. I need voyage. I need anchors. And I need books, so lovingly crafted as this one has been, books that matter. I look forward to the next collaboration/conversation in the Kōrero series.

Chris Price reads an extract ‘below-the-waterline’ text from The Lobster’s Tale

Chris Price is the author of three poetry collections and the hybrid ‘biographical dictionary’ Brief Lives. She has also collaborated with NZ physicists (in Are Angels Ok?), and with German poets (in the bilingual anthology Transit of Venus Venustransit). Chris convenes the MA Workshop in Poetry and Creative Nonfiction at the International Institute of Modern Letters.

Bruce Foster’s current photographs consider the impacts on nature of political decisions and corporate actions. Recent touring  exhibitions that include his work are: the ‘Kermadec Project: Lines Across the Ocean’, an initiative articulating the issues facing one of the few pristine ocean sites left on the planet; ‘Wai, the Water Project’, an exploration of the cultural, conceptual and imaginative aspects of waterways and the existential threats they face; and ‘Toitū Te Whenua – The Land Will Always Remain’.

The photographs in this book were made between 1996 and 2020. For more information

Massey University Press page

RNZ Saturday Morning interview interview

Ian Wedde review Academy of NZ Literature

Bruce Foster and Chris Price in conversation Read NZ

Poetry Shelf review: Anne Noble’s Conversātiō – in the company of bees

Conversātiō – in the company of bees, Anne Noble with Zara Stanhope and Anna Brown, Massey University Press, 2021

each morning in the bright window she’s there

on the tip of your tongue her bees working

the red flowers that take you from vine to fire

as she contemplates another shift in the pronouns

Michele Leggott

from ‘Blue Irises’, from DIA, Auckland University Press, 1994

Anne Noble’s Conversātiō – in the company of bees is a precious object with its luxurious velveteen cover, generous serving of images, handbound look, luxuriant paper stock. The book as art work. An artwork as book. There are conversations, essays and a smattering of bee-related writings from Xenophon of Athens (c. 430 – 350 BCE) through to Emily Dickinson (1830 -1886), Carl Jung (1875 – 1961), Karl Marx (1818 – 1883), Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321), Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963), and many more.

I was drawn to this book because for over 35 years I have lived with an artist known for his beehive paintings, who views the hive on the landscape as a found object, as a site of transformation, as a sublime interplay of light and dark. As a family we have travelled the South Island roads taking photographs. We have smelt linseed oil and paint for decades, even watched a honeybee land on a painted hive. We have a beehive work hanging on the lounge wall that is my point of uplift, my transcendental device, my place to restore balance. Outside, honeybees dart in the manukā, land on flowers in the vegetable patches. The bees, and the beehive paintings, are a source of interior glow as I sit still and watch and reboot. The bees are doing what bees do, and it feels good. It is of the greatest comfort.

Anne’s bee-thicket book (it is of course a collective project) will offer the reader many sidetrack diversions, parallel lines of thought and feeling. I am catapaulted back into the honey-rich poetry of Michele Leggott, the dulcet threads and motifs. Find me a collection of hers where the honeybee does not make an appearance, and I will be surprised. Across centuries the bee has pollinated the poetic line with sweetness, fostering a delight in connectivity, awe, the miraculous. As a motif it fertilises a poem with the visual, the sensual, the unsayable, with patterns, transformations. This is what Michele’s poetry does for me.

Looking at one of Michael’s paintings, reading Michele’s poems or glimpsing the bee in our vegetable gardens, I am filled with life-sustaining joy. And how that matters. This is what the bee does for me.

Pick up Conversātiō, this sumptuous book, with its title demanding attentiveness, and you will fall into Anne’s close-up photographs of bees at work, how the collective labour is paramount. You will read of the mystery of the bee’s flight patterns and interpretations of their dances. You will read of the miracle of survival, the need for bee survival, the tending of hives, the harvesting of honey.

How you travel through this book is open. It is over to you. It feels like a thicket with interlocking paths, rich in images and ideas, possibilities. It is a beauty of a book. It is a book of beauty.

Massey University Press page

‘A journey of discovery into the life of bees’ — John Daly-Peoples, New Zealand Arts Review
‘A remarkable and beautifully produced book’ — Peter Simpson, Kete
‘Another sumptuous book from Massey University Press’ — David Hill, RNZ
‘A fascinating hybrid work, formed by the streams of art, science, poetry and philosophical thinking that flow into it’ — Landfall Review Online
Anne Noble talks to Lynn Freeman on RNZ
Anne Noble is interviewed by Woman magazine
Anne Noble talks to Stuff

‘Crown Range’, Michael Hight, 2017

Poetry Shelf celebrates new books with readings: Ten poets read from Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021, ed Tracey Slaughter, Massey University Press

Poetry New Zealand is our longest running poetry magazine – it features essays and reviews, along with substantial room for poems. Tracey Slaughter has taken over the editorial role with the 2021 issue, a wide-ranging treat. A poet and fiction writer, she teaches creative writing at the University of Waikato. Her new collection of short stories, Devil’s Trumpet, has just been released by Victoria University Press.

Winners of the Poetry New Zealand Poetry Prize and the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook Student Poetry Competition are included. Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor is the featured poet. To celebrate the arrival of the new issue – with 182 poems by 129 poets – I invited a few to read.

Cadence Chung reads ‘Hey Girls’ (First Prize, Year 12, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook Student Poetry Competition)

Brecon Dobbie reads ‘Diaspora Overboard’

Nida Fiazi reads ‘the other side of the chain-link fence’

Lily Holloway reads ‘The road to the hill is closed’

Michele Leggott reads ‘Dark Emily’

Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connnor reads ‘Cat’ and ‘If the heart is meat made electric’

Kiri Piahana-Wong reads ‘Before’

essa may ranapiri reads ‘Hineraukatauri & Her Lover’ (for Ruby Solly)

Jack Ross reads ‘Terrorist or Theorist’. Listen here

Michael Steven reads ‘The Gold Plains’

Cadence Chung is a student at Wellington High School. She first started writing poetry during a particularly boring maths lesson when she was nine. Outside of poetry, she enjoys singing, reading old books, and perusing antique stores.

Brecon Dobbie recently graduated from the University of Auckland with a BA in English and Psychology. She is currently writing as much as possible and trying to navigate her place in the world. Some of her work has appeared in Minarets JournalHowling Press and Love in the time of COVID Chronicle

Nida Fiazi is a poet and an editor at The Sapling NZ. She is an Afghan Muslim, a former refugee, and an advocate for better representation in literature, particularly for children. Her work has appeared in Issue 6 ofMayhem Literary Journal and in the anthology Ko Aotearoa Tātou | We Are New Zealand.”

Lily Holloway (born in 1998, she/they) is a forever-queer English postgraduate student. Her creative writing has been published in StarlingScumThe Pantograph Punch, Landfall and other various nooks and crannies (see a full list at lilyholloway.co.nz/cv).  She is an executive editor of Interesting Journal and has a chapbook forthcoming in AUP New Poets 8. Lily is based in Tāmaki Makaurau, is a hopeless romantic and probably wants to be your penpal!

Michele Leggott was the New Zealand Poet Laureate 2007-09 and received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry in 2013. Recent collections include  Vanishing Points (2017) and Mezzaluna: Selected Poems (2020). Michele coordinates the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc) with colleagues at the University of Auckland. In 2017 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor writes thanks to the support of some of the best people on this big watery rock.

Kiri Piahana-Wong (Ngāti Ranginui) is a poet and editor, and she is the publisher at Anahera Press. Her poems have appeared in over forty journals and anthologies, most recently in tātai whetū: seven Māori women poets in translation,Solid Air: Australian and New Zealand Spoken Word and Set Me on Fire(Doubleday, UK). Her first poetry collection, Night Swimming, was released in 2013; a second book, Give Me An Ordinary Day (formerly Tidelines), is due out soon. Kiri lives in Auckland with her family. 

essa may ranapiri / tainui / tararua / ootaki / maungatautari / waikato / guinnich / cuan a tuath / highgate / thames / takataapui / dirt / dust / whenua / there is water moving through bones / there are birds nesting in the cavities

Jack Ross works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University. To date he’s published three novels, three novellas, three short story collections, and six poetry collections, most recently The Oceanic Feeling (Salt & Greyboy Press, 2021). He was the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand Yearbook from 2014-2019, and has edited numerous other books, anthologies, and literary journals. He blogs here

Michael Steven was born in 1977. He is an Auckland poet.

Poetry Shelf review: Catherine Bagnall & L. Jane Sayle’s ‘on we go’

on we go, Catherine Bagnall and L. Jane Sayles, Massey University Press, 2021

On we go

Empty suitcase made of leaves

and a stomach light as air

just to walk up in the sky

talking with you

Artist Catherine Bagnall grew up between the bush and Wellington harbour’s eastern shore. She lectures at the College of Creative Arts Toi Rauwhārangi, Massey University. L. Jane Sayle was raised on Wellington’s south coast. She has lectured in art and design history, and collected and sold curios and ephemera. This is her debut poetry collection.

Jane was living in Munich and Catherine was in Wellington when they began on we go. It is an exquisite collaboration that matches watercolours with poetry. I had no idea about their working process when I first read the book. I read the images, then read the poetry and finally I read the conjunctions that simmered away between art and text. A magical and unique reading experience. In fact Catherine and Jane exchanged emails but produced the work independently with neither art nor poetry coming first.

Enter the collection and you enter a magical place that resembles a series of open windows and doors, thresholds that lead you to a world that is rendered ethereal, fable-inducing, childlike, dreamy, mysterious. The translucent layers in both the poetry and the images transport you to shadow and light, the familiar and the achingly strange.

I read the watercolours first, finding my way through a forested world peopled with costumed figures that seem part-child part-adult part-animal (rabbits, cats, butterflies). The trees adopt other-worldly shapes, there is a strong sense of playfulness, of acting out, of visual narratives that open wide for you to go meandering. Dream reading. Sometimes the characters are caught mid-movement while at other times they are transfixed in the scene, caught in the middle of reverie. I love the image of the two cats, one larger and one small, one black and one blue, on the doorstep staring out into the ambiguous colour-washed world. I am there on the threshold as reader and am part of the world-gazing. There is a tiny teapot next to the two cats, a miniature marker of the domestic, of curios and collectibles, of rituals that shape a day. On the other side of the page, two figures awkwardly climb into their cat costumes, one tall and one small, one black and one blue, with arms bent and askew, and one reaching out fingertips to touch the threshold, the tree branch, the great big magical wide open world.

The art work is mesmerising, a watery narrative that can never be pinned down to single meanings, dead-end stories. I didn’t discover the mode of working until the endnote. Catherine makes clothes resembling ‘other-ly creatures’ with tails, ears and fur, and wears them into the forest where she archives her experience / performances. These then are translated into the watercolours. I liked reading the images before discovering this, so I hope I haven’t spoiled the pathways for you.

What bird is that?

Between winds

soft sunshine

strands of lemon lichen

across a satin-grey rock bank

and the smell of blackberry

living for the moment

inside the quiet air

on the nameless day

Armed with this fascinating biographical snippet, I then read Jane’s poems wondering if a poet can also make her her own ‘other-ly’ dress-up clothes that she wears into the forest before archiving her performances (so to speak). The elegant poetry achieves the same layering of mystery, etherealness, economy. Enter the layered poems and you draw upon the metaphysical, the ambiguous, the translucent, the metaphorical. The poems are potent, allowing tiny narratives of your own making, with everything delighting in the present tense. We are directed to the small and we are sidetracked to the large. There is vital economy and there is vital plenitude. There are ideas and there are moods. The detail is lush, the sound effects are intricate.

When the poem, ‘On we go’, offers an empty suitcase that is made of leaves, the suitcase itself becomes the point of fascination rather than the contents. And then the whole notion of emptiness pulls you back, and the collection pivots on whatever is there and whatever is not. I see this collaboration as part fable, part fairytale, part response to the knotty world but, more than anything, it is a precious contemplation prompt. A gorgeously-produced handbook to keep in your pocket for times you need that moment of dream and drift and replenishment.

Though we were long gone

all our coats were hanging

on hooks in the hall

How things wait

for us to come back

how they mutely love us

as they fade

from ‘Going back’

Massey University Press page

Sample pages

Poetry Shelf review: Paula Morris and Haru Sameshima’s Shining Land: Looking for Robin Hyde

Shining Land: Looking for Robin Hyde, Paula Morris and Haru Sameshima,

Massey University Press, 2020

In 2020 Massey University Press initiated the kōrero project, a collaboration between ‘two different kinds of artistic intelligence to work at a shared topic’. As I underlined in my review, the first book – High Wire, by Lloyd Jones and Euan Macleod – was stunning. The kōrero project seems necessarily open with no prescriptive views on how each collaboration ought to proceed. I like that. The second book, Shining Land: Looking for Robin Hyde by writer Paula Morris and photographer Haru Sameshima, offers a different approach and is equally satisfying. Both hardbacks are gorgeously produced by Massey University Press.

Perhaps I am drawn to Shining Land because it returned me to my own search for women poets in the archives and their poetry as I wrote Wild Honey. Paula and Haru went looking for Robin Hyde in her books and in the archives, but equally significantly in the physical places where she had lived in Aotearoa. Individual ‘storm chasers’ who met and planned and then took to their own roads of creating. The photographs and the text offer separate narrative threads, but also establish electric connections between image and word, between what is imagined and what is read, the elusive past and a personal present. I see this ground-breaking book as an invigoration of genre. It is memoir, biography, artwork, road trip, narrative, collaboration. It does not contextualise a subject in academic theory or adhere to biography paradigms or offer sustained close readings. If the authors are in search of their subject so too are the readers. I like that. In fact I love peering between the lines and the shadows, so to speak.

Consider this book as you might consider a poem where the poet offers stepping stones without filling in the whole river scene. It is over to us to choose how we navigate the electric currents, cross the bridges, absorb the biographical details, the self exposures of author and photographer. We can track Robin’s difficult life: her incessant pain after a knee injury, numerous lovers but no long term attachments, the death of a lover overseas, a stillborn baby, a secret baby placed in foster care, the scorn of men including local literary power brokers, the censure of family, the mental fragility, breakdowns even, the prolonged time in ‘mental hospitals’. The incessant need to earn money to pay for the care of her son, Derek Challis. The departure from New Zealand, with her fraught stopover in war-torn China and Japan. Her premature and tragic death in London. The books published in her lifetime; the articles, the fiction, the poetry written. Such layers of challenge when unendurable pain (eased by morphine) was spiked by the pain of losing her babies, her lover, her family’s respect, a place to call home, to be home.

In the Alexander Turnbull Library I held a sticker scrapbook that Robin had made for Derek, little stickers pasted alongside little stories she wrote for him. The stories petered out, and then the stickers petered out, and I felt the pain of the loss deeply. I carried a phantom presence as a throbbing ache back to my hotel room.

As I try to write about Shining Land my words keep breaking its incandescent magic (shining), its accumulating moods. The photographs are uncanny, eerie, both empty and full, empty of human presence because Robin is missing and missed. The storm chasers outside the frame. I keep imagining Robin entering the scene. I like that. When I look at the shot of Rangitoto ki te Tonga D’Urville Island and Te Aumiti French Pass from French Pass Road with gloomy skies and greys I become grey state. I like this so much. How can I speak? This is where pregnant Robin posed as a married woman, before moving to Picton and then back to Wellington with her secret baby and and her secret heartache. I am on the pass looking down at the grey isolation. I will never know Robin, I will never be in Robin’s shoes, but I feel. And that is what Paula and Haru do. They feel Robin in the depths of their looking and their making. It is contagious.

For Paula, it has much to do with feeling home and unhome and being on the move. Nomadic. Paula has lived in many cities, both in Aotearoa and overseas. Robin too was always on the move, from this house to that, to psychiatric institutions, from her city of birth to a city in the provinces to a city offshore, far removed from loved ones. Haru’s photographs offer footbridges to states of minds and to author phantoms. Transcendental. Movement rich. Still. So too does Paula’s writing. Together Paula and Haru visited the Grey Lodge that is now part of Unitec Institute of Technology, but was part of Avondale Mental Hospital. Robin admitted herself after a nervous breakdown. Unlike other guests she had a private room in the lodge and patch of garden, a table and a typewriter, and took up her doctor’s suggestion to write a memoir. The photographs are eerie, thick with mood and absence that translates into an uncanny and heart-beating-faster presence. Paula’s paragraph sets my hairs on end. Place becomes heartbeat.

The door to the attic is green, tattooed with graffiti, and Haru warns me about the steps: they’re alarmingly narrow and tall, and must have been difficult for Hyde to negotiate with her limp. The attic view now is of tree tops and the city, with glimpses of the harbour. The room is dusty and bare, humming with a central air unit. Something about the attic excites us both: it seems alive with Hyde, or perhaps we feel close to her in this plain space; the shape would have been familiar to her, the quiet.

After I edge back down, my feet too big for the steps, I leave Haru alone in the house – apart from the ghosts – waiting for the light to turn.

Shining Land makes me feel closer to Robin, perhaps more than any other book has done, apart from her poetry. Paula and Haru have built a space for her, a plain space, with pathways and rooms and gaps between the lines. And so more than before, I am feeling the pain of losing babies, of needing to write, of translating experience into prose and poetry, of persisting on through crippling pain. Of not saying everything out loud, so the rooms of a life fill, so we may eavesdrop all this time later.

Paula offers felicitous quotations, along with nuanced comments. Empathetic. Insightful. Spare. For example: The building where Robin roomed in Whanganui – after she had fostered Derek out – now houses a children’s clothing shop: ‘I’m glad she never had to look at those tiny rompers and bonnets.’

On one page, one sentence only: ‘Gwen Metcalfe, her closest friend: “It is a lot to happen to a girl before she is twenty.”’

When I was writing Wild Honey, I mourned the way some writers of the past and the present have rendered our early women poets missing, lost in the service of academic theory, in the privileged views and yardsticks of men. I wanted to hold these fierce and insistent women close, and feel their poetry, feel their circumstances and their ideas, their refusal to vanish. Shining Land is a form of embrace. It offers significant facts, personal connections, an astute selection of Robin’s words, and from friends and enemies. The book is restrained and vulnerable and probing. On this occasion and in this way, it holds Robin. In the gaps, the empty rooms, the medicine bottles, the window views. It makes me want to pick up my favourite Hyde collection Houses by the Sea and catch glimpses of an elsewhere time and place, a woman finding life so heartbreakingly difficult. I feel Shining Land to my core.

Paula Morris MNZM, Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Manuhiri, Ngāti Whātua, is an award-winning novelist, short-story writer and essayist. A frequent book reviewer, interviewer and festival chair, she is an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland, where she convenes the Master in Creative Writing programme, and is the founder of the Academy of New Zealand Literature.

Haru Sameshima was born in Shizuoka City, Japan, and immigrated to New Zealand in 1973. He completed an MFA (1995) at Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland. Sameshima has exhibited and published widely in New Zealand, and his images illustrate some of New Zealand’s most significant art and craft publications. He has his own publishing imprint, Rim Books, and runs his Auckland studio, Studio La Gonda, in partnership with Mark Adams.

Massey University Press page

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Vaughan Rapatahana reviews Wild Honey with small interview – plus a plug for WORD!

Full review here

Vaughan Rapatahana has just a posted a terrific feature on Wild Honey on Jacket2. I am usually doing the reviewing and posting so felt nervous being on the other end of the critique. Especially when I am in a cycle of terrible doubt about what I do and write, the state of the planet, the covid issues, the political game playing at home and abroad, about whether people read things any more. I wake in the night and worry about this.

I felt incredibly moved and restored by Vaughan’s engagement with the book – by his acknowledgement that this was an important arrival in view of a history of women poets in the shadows, by his considered attention. I send a bouquet of thankfulness.

I am reminded that books are an important part of who we are – and that we must do everything in our power to create them, publish and circulate them, review them, celebrate them, even challenge them if needed. Read and talk about them. Gift them!

This paragraph in particular moved me so much – there are people in the world building houses of knowledge, peace, forging multiple connective links:

I am immediately reminded of the work of Hirini Melbourne and his concept of whare whakairo, or a carved meeting house, whereby everything in and about this construction fits into and lends support, stability and splendour to every other component. The parallels are manifest. Granted that I am transposing women poets into his words, however Melbourne’s description of te whare whakairo rings out as so similar to Green’s own kaupapa in Wild Honey, namely, “The whare whakairo is … a place of shelter and peace. It is a place where knowledge is stored and transmitted and where the links with one’s past are made tangible … [it] is a complex image of the essential continuity between the past and present …” (Melbourne, 1991). 

I also answered a few questions for the feature, after a run of wakeful nights with world and local worry, so my self-filter wasn’t on – I was answering from that secret-self-core that is private and wakes in the dark to dream, worry, invent and somehow find the truth.

Last year I did Wild Honey events throughout Aotearoa where women came and read, and I have never experienced anything like it. Such a strong feeling as younger and older writers made connections, different kinds of voices were heard together. I felt like I was holding something enormous that I created but that it got bigger than me as so many women told me what the book meant to them. It was overwhelming and it was wonderful.

I am due to do a Wild Honey event at the Word festival in Christchurch with a stunning group of women poets and I can’t wait. Come and say hello!

Poetry Shelf review: Lloyd Jones and Euan Macleod’s High Wire

 

Screen Shot 2020-05-21 at 10.41.23 AM

 

High Wire Lloyd Jones and Euan Macleod Massey University Press 2020

 

Massey University has launched the kōrero series of picture books for adults – a series of collaborations where ‘two different kinds of artistic intelligence’ work on a shared topic.

The first collaboration links author Lloyd Jones and artist Euan Macleod.

After Lloyd invited Euan to the bridge project, Euan drew and sketched profusely. Lloyd mused upon the crisscrossing bridges that constitute a life, and the way such structures lift you above the mundane. But then his musings changed:

But soon the heady ideas I had about bridges began to collapse. Where I had been, others had. The commonality of experience breathed its deflating air. As exhilarating as it had been to walk across Golden Gate Bridge or to soar above Sydney Harbour or to flit across the modest rainbow from child hood, my footsteps fitted neatly into others’: my beating heart fell in with theirs.

 

Bridges became high wire.

With High Wire you enter a collaboration that is glorious at every level: the words, the images, the ideas, the feelings. It is a book that saturates you in wonder and, as reader, I contemplate, observe, sidetrack. I had thought about interviewing both Lloyd and Euan, but the book is so powerful, so haunting, I want to celebrate that. Keep room for the unsaid, the enigma, the openings.

 

To begin with I am mindful of the beauty, the vistas and heights that bridges might deliver but then, as Lloyd abandons his first musings and settles on the high wire, I am lodged in the terrain of vertigo, fear, death, exhilaration, memory, wobbliness.

Euan’s initial drawings resemble subconscious scrawls steered by predetermined subject matter (an oxymoron?).  I can’t stop looking at them. I can’t stop turning the pages as the opening light and airiness hit the dark. The thicker wedges of ink and line draw me in and then switch back to an enigmatic wash of light, a sudden and surprising flash of colour. Euan’s kinetic sketches are as much about the maker as they are the subject. I read them as a piece of music. Again an oxymoron, as all senses are lit. More than anything, I relish the musical flow. Art as music as feeling as idea in a tempo-ed move between light and dark, thin and thick, space and density. The high-wire figures – scrawled and ink washed – are a catalogue of human emotion. Think intimacy, think vulnerability, think daring. Think astonishing!

This is gut wrenching stuff. It is a book you feel before you move on and speculate. I find myself thinking about art, heights, tightrope walkers, childhood, people leaping from the flaming Twin Towers, struts and balancing acts. I get to the drawing ‘hold your nerve’ and it seems prescient.

 

Adjacent to each image is the writing – tightrope writing – where the author opens himself up, testing where he places the next foot so to speak. At one point he writes:

In the subconscious everything is up for grabs – there is no enforced geographical isolation. There are no trespass notices.

Again I am pondering the degree to which the subconscious steers the predetermined subject matter – to the way a sense of risk and challenge is heightened in the state of writing. I could have asked Lloyd this if I had interviewed him, but I remember he once told me his novels are guided by the unknown and discovery.

I don’t need to know how this book came into being – I want to navigate its existence in as many ways as possible. That makes it a book of returns.

 

On a pragmatic level you could stick with the simple premise that this is a book about a narrator walking to Australia on a high wire! Or the story of Philippe Petit who walked a high wire between the Twin Towers in 1974. Ah but this is a book of so many crossings, crisscrossings and possibilities, both physical and ethereal. At one point we meet the saddest bridge in the world. It is a bridge that is as much about disconnection as it is connection.

Lloyd muses on the bridges between random things as Bill Gates had imagined. So now, having stalled on this opening on the page, the bridges between me reading and my own random things are spiked into view by the book. How do I dare? How do I dare? How do I dare? How do I cross the vertigo-inducing gap between here and there? As reader? As writer? As human being?

What would the world be like without bridges? Lloyd asks. I carry that question as I follow the drawings again.

 

Lloyd weaves together the mysterious and the physical: to the point a sentence becomes luminous. Haunting.

 

A dark wriggle in the lunar surface of the sea turns yellow as the cloud passes and the moon reappears. To the west, the steady light of an aeroplane on its direct and patient course.

 

I love this book for so many reasons: because of its fertility for both heart and mind, because images and words speak to each other without taking a privileged position, because human experience is made complex and absorbing.

I don’t see this as a graphic novel – I see it as a book of connections born out of collaboration. An adult picture book. Massey University Press has created an exquisite book – the paper a perfect hue and texture. A gorgeous object to hold. High Wire is bookmaking at its very best. I recommend it highly and I can’t wait to read the next one.

 

 

Massey University Press page

Launch video (an excellent lockdown launch)

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Lounge: MUP’s online launch of Lloyd Jones and artist Euan Macleod’s High Wire

 

 

 

 

 

 

High Wire brings together Booker finalist writer Lloyd Jones and artist Euan Macleod. It is the first in the new kōrero series of a series of ‘picture books written and made for grown-ups’ and designed to showcase leading New Zealand writers and artists working together in a collaborative and dynamic way.

In High Wire the narrators playfully set out across the Tasman, literally on a high wire. Macleod’s striking drawings explore notions of home, and depict homeward thoughts and dreams. High Wire also enters a metaphysical place where art is made, a place where any ambitious art-making enterprise requires its participants to hold their nerve and not look down.

It’s a beautifully considered small book which richly rewards the reader and stretches the notion of what the book can do.

It’s a hardback and $45.

 

Nicola Legat

 

 

Unity Books Wellington are currently taking pre-orders for the book, simply fill out the inquiry form here
Alternatively, the book is available for purchase from the Massey University Press website here