Tag Archives: National Poetry Day

My National Poetry Day Suite of Poems: Magnolia Wilson’s ‘Dear Sister’




Dear Sister,

I write to you this morning from my desk overlooking the garden. I can see Toby clearing grass from beside the path where I walked this morning. The way my shoes crunch upon the white pebbles on the path, I find it pleases me. There is something about our clothes, the taffeta, silks, stitched leather of our shoes, the sounds they make against the world, brushing upon things, rustling, that satisfies me so much and I do not know why. I wonder if any person from the past of the future has thought or will think the same. Oh, I like the way this stiff linen cuff feels brushing against this paper as I write, or, I love the sound of mother’s shoes clicking deeply on the cool marble of the passageway.

This morning the sun rose like jewellery, only, so much more than jewellery and less of that lonely feeling that gifts of precious stones and metals gives me. What is it with men and things. Here is this little transparent chunk of earth, stick it to your finger and now give me your person, your selfhood, your body, all the hours of the rest of your days. My heart belongs to mornings like this one. It was my own. The world was still and alive and I could hear men in the distance beginning to husband their animals. A far away dog was barking, someone calling out to her children.



©Magnolia Wilson







National Poetry Day in Dunedin

From Diane Brown:


In Dunedin the main event was held on Thursday 25th. Titled Decadence, 1 Otago poet and 9 Dunedin poets,  Michael Harlow, Vincent O’Sullivan, David Eggleton, Allan Roddick, Richard Reeve, Emma Neale, Diane Brown, Carolyn McCurdie, Lynley Edmeades and Robyn Maree Pickens  entertained an audience of over 100.  Posters were made of their poems and gifted to the audience.  Jazz was played in the interval and in the mix and mingling. This from someone in the audience Decadence-10 Dunedin Poets this evening was a wonderful Dunedin experience. I ‘d committed to be somewhere else by 7.30 but could not tear myself away. A heart-warming, magic event.

Visitors to the library collaborated on a joint poem and children made a poetry tree.
Also in Dunedin was the roll-out of poems in an unexpected location – on the back of tickets from some pay and display parking meters. Starting with 8 poems written by Dunedin poets this is an ongoing project that will work like a lucky dip.

There was quite a poetry buzz in local media and a public poetry reading at Otago University.

National Poetry Day in Christchurch

Hagley Writers’ Intstitute’s National Poetry Day event at Scorpio Book shop – Bernie Hall, Teoti Jardine, Owen Marshall,Rose Collins, Frankie McMillan, Jeni Curtis, Marisa Cappetta, Christina Stachurski, James Norcliffe and the winner, Danielle O’Halloran – thanks Phantom Billstickers for sponsoring National Poetry Day and for publishing the winning poem and Sarah Jane Barnett for the photos.

James Norcliffe with Morrin Rout, and Bernadette Hall below


National Poetry Day in the Herald: some thoughts, a favourite poem and ten poems that have stuck to me

The NZ Herald invited to share some thoughts on poetry for National Poetry Day. Here is my contribution in full, including a favourite poem and a list of poems that have stuck to me.


Paula with Courtney Sina Meredith’s fabulous Tail of the Taniwha


Josephine likes lyric poetry


Josephine likes the way a poet will pull in a bird or a ladder

or an old coat and the bird and the ladder and the old coat

will tremble and shiver and ebb and flow just like the sea

so you will fall upon the fullness of each and it will make

you shift on your chair and almost stop breathing.


From New York Pocket Book Seraph Press, 2016



Poetry is a form of music. There are no rules you can’t break. Poems can tell stories, make lists, leave things out, share secrets, make things up, confess things, protest in a loud voice. A good poem can take you out in the world and turn you upside down so everything looks different. It can push you down a steep slope that is really exhilarating or put you in front of something strange or wonderful so you just have to stop and linger as though you are in a bush clearing or on an unfamiliar street or peeking through a door ajar. Sometime the hairs on the back of your arm might stand on end, especially when you hear a good poem read out loud (Bill Manhire, Michele Leggott, David Eggleton). Good poems can sometimes misbehave (Hera Lindsay Bird) or make you suck your cheeks in because they tang with life (Emma Neale) or make you swop shoes (Sarah Jane Barnett, Anna Jackson, Helen Rickerby). We don’t have to get everything in a poem. A good poem is where a poet takes shoes and socks off and stands in a southern stream in the middle of winter. Anything is possible. Some poems don’t suit us and some poems are a match made in heaven (Tusiata Avia, Bernadette Hall, Joan Fleming, Ian Wedde, Chris Price, Gregory O’Brien, Murray Edmond, Elizabeth Smither, Steven Toussaint).



A favourite poem

I love Rachel Bush’s ‘Sing Them’ because she is singing out of near death, unfolding lines until they ‘float,’ and there is love and memory, even at ‘the cold leftover end/ of the rind of winter,’ and I feel sad as I read but she lets the world shine and each phrase is extraordinary.



Ten New Zealand poems that have stuck to me (sticky poems)

Jenny Bornholdt ‘The Rocky Shore’

James Brown ‘The Bicycle’

Anne Kennedy ‘Sing-Song’

Michele Leggott ‘Blue Irises’

Margaret Mahy ‘Down the Back of the Chair’

Bill Manhire ‘Hotel Emergencies’

Selina Tusitala Marsh ‘Fast Talking PI’

Cilla McQueen ‘Being Here’

CK Stead ‘Auckland’

Hone Tuwhare ‘Rain’






Wanaka Library is popping for Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day

… love all the creative energy libraries are putting into our national poetry celebrations


Book Spine Poetry Display at Wanaka Library

This fun and quirky display will have you coming back for more. Pop in each day during Wanaka Library’s week of National Poetry Day celebrations and see what the Wanaka library staff, have put together. The idea is simple and fun, it involves stacking books in a particular order so the titles on the book spines create a poem. A display for all to enjoy! This is a great chance to come in to Wanaka Library and get some inspiration for your own poetry writing. See if you would have arranged the titles in a different way, and what other poems you would make out of the spine poetry on display.


Entry Details: Free. Open to all ages. This is a free to view on going display for the week of National Poetry Day.


Date/Times: Monday 22nd August – Friday 26th August. Open during regular library opening hours: Mon-Wed 9:00am – 5:30pm; Thurs 9:00am – 7:00pm; Fri 9:00am – 5:30pm; Sat 10:00am – 5:00pm


Location: Wanaka Library, 1 Bullock Creek Lane, Wanaka
Contact: Eve Marshall-Lea / eve.marshhall-lea@qldc.govt.nz
Further Info  or here

Great news: New partnership powers up National Poetry Day

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 8.15.24 AM

National Poetry Day always demonstrates the wide reach of poetry in New Zealand. All manner of events and poets tumble into vision and hearing. Phantom Billstickers is a tireless promoter of NZ poetry. This partnership has to be good. Bravo NZ Book Awards Trust for this grand idea!


This terrific news is just out:

In its 19th year, National Poetry Day — the biggest nationwide poetry event of the year —will be boosted by the partnership between the New Zealand Book Awards Trust and Phantom Billstickers, with a sponsorship agreement announced today.

The highly popular and eclectic National Poetry Day will now be known as Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day and will continue to bring poetry to the people, with over 80 events held nationwide, involving everyone from seasoned award winners to aspiring poets facing the microphone for the first time. Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day will be held on Friday August 26 this year and continue the day’s legacy of taking poetry to the people from Kerikeri to Southland, across the streets of small towns and major cities.

“It’s an opportunity to hear more poetry. There’s the possibility to take it back to the regions that built us,” says Jim Wilson, owner of Phantom, “We’ve been putting the New Zealand voice out there for some time. Now with this exciting partnership that voice will become louder.”

Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day is about discovery, diversity, community and pushing boundaries. Poetry enthusiasts generate events such as slams, poetry-music jams, poetry art exhibitions, performance poetry, poetry and dance, poetry street chalking, bookshop and library readings, open mic events and poetry writing competitions.

Nicola Legat, chair of the New Zealand Book Awards Trust says “We have long admired Phantom’s commitment to putting poems on posters and in cafes via their Café Reader. They are a natural partner given that Phantom’s business is taking messages to the streets and that’s what the New Zealand Book Awards Trust aspires to do with poetry.”


Phantom Billstickers   http://0800phantom.co.nz/   is a street poster company which since 1982 has consistently helped Kiwis express themselves. Recognising and supporting home grown talent has always sat comfortably alongside its commercial campaign work. Phantom actively promotes New Zealand music, art, poetry and culture around the country and across the world, putting poetry on posters and a literary mix of work into cafes via its quarterly magazine the Phantom Billstickers Café Reader. Phantom makes New Zealand’s streets livelier by taking the creative arts into public spaces.

The New Zealand Book Awards Trust   www.nzbookawards.nz  was established as a charitable trust in 2014 to govern and manage the country’s two major literary awards and National Poetry Day, and to ensure their longevity and credibility. New sponsorship agreements have now been secured for all three properties with Ockham supporting the Book Awards, Hell Pizza backing the Children’s and Young Adult awards via its support of the Reading Challenge and Children’s Choice programmes and Phantom National Poetry Day. Additional funders include The Acorn Foundation, Book Tokens Ltd, Creative NZ, Copyright Licensing Ltd NZ , the Fernyhough Education Foundation, Nielsen and Wellington City Council, supporting specific aspects of the properties.


National Poetry Day returns for its 18th year – Registrations are now open


National Poetry Day returns for its 18th year – Registrations are now open

The highly popular and eclectic National Poetry Day will be staged for its 18th year on 28 August 2015. A varied programme of events around the country will celebrate poetry in its many forms and engage with writers and readers at all levels.

“National Poetry Day is a golden opportunity to celebrate New Zealand poetry not just within extended poetry communities but also within mainstream contexts … Across the nation, a range of eclectic and stimulating events demonstrate new ways to promote the joy of poetry,” says poet Paula Green.

Damien Wilkins, Director of the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University says, “The Day is an incredibly valuable opportunity to connect readers and writers …The broad range of poets and events, as well as its national reach, make this a highly significant date on the literary calendar.”

In 2015, you can keep abreast of poetry day developments with the National Poetry Day blog (https://nznationalpoetryday.wordpress.com/). It’s dedicated to reviewing New Zealand poetry and keeping those involved as coordinators for Poetry Day events informed about registrations and progress. It is bound to become a hub for poetry lovers nationwide.

This is the first year that National Poetry Day has had no association with the New Zealand Book Awards, and it is funded through a grant from Creative NZ. “We are extremely grateful for CNZ’s support of this year’s event,” says Nicola Legat, chair of the Book Awards Trust, which manages National Poetry Day, with the help of Booksellers NZ.

“They are supporting an amazing grassroots event that takes all sorts of wonderful forms, from poetry readings in libraries and halls to random acts of poetry in the public street.”

Miriam Barr is back on board as National Coordinator, and delighted to be involved in this important programme of events in 2015.

Registrations are now open to enrol your event for National Poetry Day. The combined registration and funding application form can be found online here. All registered events and activities will be included in the official calendar of events.

Event Registrations and Funding Applications both close on Monday, 25 May. For further information and to enrol your event, fill in the form online, or after 31 March, contact Miriam Barr, National Coordinator Poetry Day 2015 miriamnpd@gmail.com.

Important Links:
Registration and Funding application form
NZ National Poetry Day blog
National Poetry Day Facebook page

Media contact:
Nicola Legat
Chairperson, Book Awards Trust
Email:  nmlegat@gmail.com
Phone: 021 958 887

General contact for physical forms before 31 March:
Sarah Forster
Booksellers NZ
email: sarah.forster@bookawardstrust.org.nz

Important Dates:
25 May                 Deadline for registration and closing day for funding applications
1 June                   Funding Applications confirmed to applicants
19 August            National media release sent out
28 August            National Poetry Day

Poetry Shelf interviews Jim Wilson from Phantom Billstickers for National Poetry Day

To celebrate National Poetry Day I decided to do two things. Post a poem by the fabulous poet, Tusiata Avia, and run an interview with poetry benefactor extraordinaire, Jim Wilson.

Jim Wilson started Phantom Billstickers, a street-media company, in New Zealand in 1982. His aim was to draw audiences to music events and the wider arts. Since then he has started the Phantom Billstickers Poetry Project to ‘to use posters to share the hearts and minds of the Kiwi poet with people outside of New Zealand.’ Over the past five years the posters have gone up in cities across the world (Amsterdam, Barcelona, Chicago, Clarksdale (Mississippi), Glasgow, Hong Kong, London, NYC, Paris, Singapore, Sydney, and Vienna, among many others) and back home. They are pasted on walls, poles and in cafes and have featured an electric and vital feast of New Zealand poems and poets. He is an unsung hero of NZ poetry and it is time to sing his praises. I love the idea of poems appearing like glowing beacons in all kinds of surprising places. I love the idea that you can stand in a public place and stop in the midst of urban hubbub and get hooked it into a poetry gem. So thank you Jim Wilson. We salute you on National Poetry Day!

DSC01977  jim photo

All photo credits: Jim and Kelly Wilson

In a video interview, you say you want ‘to play it by my heart.’ The picking of poems. The putting up of posters. ‘Heart’ seems like a vital word when it comes to poetry. I also like the way it hides the word ‘ear’ and the word ‘art.’ Even the generosity of sharing our poetry around resonates with heart. What made you decide to put poems on posters?

I was going through a difficult stage in my life having been through two courses of interferon (for Hepatitis C) and having lost some key people in my life. I became clinically depressed and was looking for something ‘real’. I began reading Janet Frame again and then poetry. Then I thought I should take something meaningful into the streets. Poetry was it.

Reading poetry is usually such a private, intimate thing. I love the way your poem posters bring reading out into the open. Does the public airing affect your choices of poems?

I always try and give people pause to reflect. I am very intrigued by the idea of ‘beauty’. We live in such a caustic world and I aim for beauty. Some of our poems may have an anguished twist to them but I try to stay away from venting poems.


I saw two men reading my poem on the pavement in Kitchener Street once. I hesitated and then told them I was the poet. They slapped their knees and whooped. Two Irish guys just off a ship. They thought Auckland was full of culture. Hilarious! ‘Get out of here!’ they kept saying. ‘Get out of here!’ Have you ever witnessed a stranger reading one of the poems?

I have seen lots of people stop and read the poem posters. I’ve seen groups of people gathering around lampposts in the USA reading our poem posters. Two separate places come immediately to mind, I saw a group gathered around a Michele Leggott poem poster in Northern Liberties in Philadelphia and then some people gathered around a pole in Lambertville, New Jersey. This is very gratifying.

FINAL JPEGNew Hope Poster-INTL   asburypark

Indeed. What kind of reactions are you after?

I like it when people look internally and feel something real. I imagine that’s what they do when they read poetry. I hope that’s the case at any rate.

Where is the most surprising place you have seen one of your poem posters?

You are asking me where I have been particularly happy to put a poem poster? I have been putting up posters for bands and the like since I was 16 years old. I am now 63 and I have heard the words ‘you can’t put that there’ more than anyone in New Zealand, I am sure. I was delighted to get a Hone Tuwhare poem poster right opposite the main gates of Parchman Farm (The Mississippi Federal Penitentiary) in Mississippi. You aren’t allowed to stop on that road for a mile or so either side of the main gates, but I did and the screws came running. The poem poster went up! Also I did a lot of Janet Frame poem posters in Baltimore and at Princeton University. I felt every single one I put up.

There are a thousand ways to write a poem (no rules, no recipes which is what is so appealing), yet poetry stalls each of us in different ways. What stops you in your tracks when you read a poem? Any examples?

I wouldn’t know what iambic pentameter is from a hole in the ground and I don’t know how poetry works, but I ‘feel’ it. In Tusiata Avia’s poems I feel every word (check out today’s Friday Poem I have posted by her!). I also feel everything Gerald Stern writes and Ben Brown too.



Yes! ironically words take you beyond words. On occasion you have launched a poster-poem series (for example in Christchurch, Auckland and New York). This brings the ‘ear’ of heart into play more. Hearing a poem read aloud means you get to play it in the poet’s voice from then on if you like. Have any poems had a new affect on you when you heard them performed?

Some of the best ‘readers’ I have seen are not the best poets. Reading is a ‘performance art’. Ben Brown combines both worlds I think. He sets the walls on fire.

Tusiata is like this. And Bill Manhire. When he reads a poem like ‘Hotel Emergencies’ time stops. Did you read poetry as a child (lay down rhymes and rhythms that stuck with you) or did you come to it later in life?

I probably read a lot of poetry when I was a kid but my dad read William Faulkner and he resonated in our house. Like I say, I don’t know iambic pentameter from a hole in the ground but I do think Bob Dylan liberated us all to be poets. I find more in poetry each and every day. I find my history in James K. Baxter.

Nice. I like  that idea. Poetry has many functions. What American poets are in your memory banks that you love?

I love Mathew Dickman who has just signed with our project and a San Francisco poet called August Kleinzahler who is now also involved. I remember seeing the emails from Lawrence Ferlinghetti himself when he became involved and that was profoundly moving. I also spent a bit of time with Gerald Stern and he has read to me lots of times. That experience is gold in the bank. Also to have involved people like Robert Creeley (we had the ‘sign off’ from Penelope Creeley), Jim Harrison, C.K. Williams, Robert Pinsky and W.S. Merwin… All this has lead me to think we are doing something with real purpose.

Ben Brown Mt Rushmore 

What New Zealand poets are in your memory banks that you love?

Tusiata Avia, Hinemoana Baker, James K. Baxter, Ben Brown, Bill Direen, David Eggleton, Sam Hunt, Frankie McMillan, Dave Merritt, Elizabeth Smither, Marty Smith, Hone Tuwhare… There are just so many of them…We have produced poems by just over 100 different Kiwi poets (from memory). This country has some of the very best poets in the world and I don’t know exactly how you measure their work… But if you feel something on the reading then that is good enough for me. As I keep on saying, I scarcely know anything about ‘technique’ and this is probably my strong suit.

If you were to describe poetry written in New Zealand to an American poetry fan, what sorts of things might you say?

That it is of the earth. That it is on the ground. That it all comes from being in a natural country and stranded in paradise.

Are you drawn to write poems? Or anything else?

I do a lot of writing and feel daunted almost every time I see a fresh poem poster come to us.

Poetry has many functions: to tell miniature stories, to make music, to make connections, to move people, to challenge people, to show the world in new lights, to share ideas, to speak out in a political way to surprise people, to soothe people, to startle people, to make people laugh. For a start! What functions matter to you?

That it all takes your body before it takes your mind.

If you had a completely free day today (NZ Poetry Day), and you could sit and read poetry all day long, what would you read?

Ben Brown, Tusiata Avia… Mixed with P. Larkin, Gerard Manley Hopkins, E.E. Cummings… Not to be traitorous but even if they are not Kiwis they are still pretty good.

If you were trapped somewhere (in a lift, in a waiting room, in an airport,) what poetry book would you read?

Always had to pick one. James K. Baxter’s Oxford Press collection. That’ll stop you being annoyed and ‘bring you back to yourself’.


Thanks Jim Wilson!


The Story of the Poster Poem on YouTube

The Poetry Project