Tag Archives: Nina Powles

Reading Nina Mingya Powles’s I am a forest/ fire

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Nina Mingya Powles has produced a terrific new zine: I am a forest/fire – notes on Mitski & being mixed race.

 

Nina listens to Mitski, the Japanese/American songwriter, at her desk in Shanghai.

I noticed a swelling in my chest and in my stomach like something about to burst. I noticed how her voice lingers on every word. Something sweet / a peach tree.

Both Mitski and Nina are using the forward dash in lyrics/ poetry and prose as ‘A breath, a pause, a sharp shift.’ The forward dash is like the space on a line that allows room for pause, for new furnishings. There is much space in the zine. I like that.

Nina traces herself – her poetic lineage ‘made up of multiple languages and art forms, containing several oceans’.

She pulls herself into view. She doesn’t want to speak of herself in fractions with the pieces getting smaller and smaller as white people do ( I am a quarter Scottish, I might say).

I think of my own writing and how sometimes making a poem means making something exist outside of my own brain, my own skin. The poem contains parts of me and I still contain parts of it, but it’s also separate from myself, distinct, new.

I agree. We carry bits of things that we have read inside ourselves, the things that stick and prod and soothe. The things that change us forever.

Nina’s zine is like an album of pieces (the images, the Chinese characters, the hand scrawlings).

What do I know but pieces? All at once. Half sun, half moon. Half tooth, half bird. A blue lantern, a jade heart, a peach-pink melamine bowl.

The zine is beautiful. It is beautiful in the way it slows right down to a state of meditation, of facing the inner space, the diverse fragments:

The shadowy space in me shimmers like glitter.

Where there is a forest there is growth. Where there is fire there is heat. This gorgeous zine with its sharp edges is the growth and burn of  the shadowy space. It heats up inside you as you read.

And

this is writing that illuminates. The subject matter is tough – that insistent consideration of who you are. Outside a storm is close. I can see it in the dark clouds coming in from the coast and the way the manuka keep bending back. All I can think about is this zine. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

 

The shadowy space in me shimmers like glitter. I feel its burn and glow. It is a kowhai forest in a southern-hemisphere summer. It is bloodlines, it is threads, it is pieces of cotton hanging up to dry under a coconut palm, sheets of white and pink and blue.

 

Nina’s web site

BONUS: You can see Nina’s response to the Oceania exhibition currently on at the Royal Academy in London (essay + poems + collages/embroideries) here

 

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Poetry Shelf Audio Spot: Nina Powles reads ‘Mid-Autumn Moon Festival 2016’

 

 

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Photo credit: Sophie Davidson

 

 

‘Mid-Autumn Moon Festival 2016’ was originally published in Starling 5.

 

Nina Powles is from Wellington and currently lives in London. She is the author of Luminescent (Seraph Press, 2017) and is poetry editor at The Shanghai Literary Review. Her poetry pamphlet Field Notes on a Downpour is forthcoming from If A Leaf Falls Press in late 2018. Nina is on the shortlist for the  the inaugural Women Poets’ Prize (UK).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nina Powles makes shortlist for inaugural Women Poets’ Prize

 

The Rebecca Swift Foundation is deeply excited to share the shortlist for the inaugural Women Poets’ Prize.  See here

Shortlist includes Nina:

Nina Mingya Powles
Nina Mingya Powles is a writer from New Zealand living in London. She is the author of Luminescent (2017) and Girls of the Drift (2014), and her poetry pamphlet Field Notes on a Downpour is forthcoming from If A Leaf Falls Press. She is Poetry Editor at the Shanghai Review, and won the 2018 Jane Martin Poetry Prize. @ninamingya

 

The Rebecca Swift Foundation is a UK registered charity set up in memory of Rebecca Swift – a much-loved editor, novelist, diarist, poet, and founder and director of The Literary Consultancy from its foundation in 1996 until her early death in April 2017.

 

Launching a year on from Rebecca’s passing, 2018 marks the inaugural Women Poets’ Prize – a biennial award seeking to honour Rebecca’s two key passions: poetry and the empowerment of women.

 

The Prize will be awarded to three female-identifying poets. Each winner will be carefully matched with a poetry mentor in addition to a pastoral coach, facilitating a holistic body of support that nurtures craft and personal wellbeing in equal measure. The Prize will also offer a programme of support and creative professional development opportunities with the Foundation’s partners: Faber and Faber, The Literary Consultancy, RADA, City Lit, Verve Festival, Bath Spa University, and The Poetry School. In addition to these opportunities which constitute the Women Poets’ Prize professional grant, each successful poet will each receive a cash bursary of £1,000.

 

 

Monday Poem: Nina Powle’s Styrofoam Love Poem

 

 

 

 

STYROFOAM LOVE POEM

 

 

my skin gets its shine from maggi noodle seasoning packets / golden fairy dust that glows when touching water / fluorescent lines around the edge of / a girlhood seen through sheets of rainbow plastic / chemical green authentic ramen flavour / special purple packaged pho / mama’s instant hokkien mee / dollar fifty flaming hearts / hands in the shape of a bowl to carry this cup / of burning liquid salt and foam / mouthful of a yellow winter morning / you shouldn’t eat this shit it gives you cancer / melts your stomach lining / 99% of all this plastic comes from China / if we consume it all maybe we’ll never die / never break down / and I’ll never be your low-carb paleo queen / I’ll spike your drink with MSG / find me floating in a sea of dehydrated stars / on the surface of my steam shine dream / my plastic Chinese dream / lips swollen with the taste of us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

©Nina Powles

Nina Powles is a poet and zinemaker from Wellington, currently living in London. Her debut poetry collection, Luminescent, was published by Seraph Press in 2017. She is poetry editor of the Shanghai Literary Review and was the 2018 winner of the Jane Martin Poetry Prize. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Pantograph Punch: A fabulous Nina Powles letter from Shanghai

 

 

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Nina Powles – the author of one my favourite 2017 poetry reads (Luminescent) –  writes of her experience living in Shanghai and two New Zealand authors who preceded her: Agnes Moncrieff and Robin Hyde. I also recommend Nina’s little chapbook, Girls of the Drift, that invents a letter conversation between Jessie Mackay and Blanche Baughan.

See the Pantograph Punch feature here.

 

 

‘The way I write about home changes when I’m away. The sea gets bluer, the hills become sun-drenched. But our ideas of ‘home’ and ‘away from home’ are becoming increasingly less fixed; they are no longer polar opposites but different, parallel ways of feeling and being. I am one of a growing number of New Zealanders who feels at home in two different cultures and in multiple places in the world. Writing to and about home from somewhere else is more than just an act of maintaining connection or keeping a record. For those of us who identify as mixed race, we are trying to keep hold of something, to tether ourselves to somewhere familiar while we go off in search of other homes, both old and new. ‘

Nina Powles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NZ edition of Poetry

 

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I know I find it hard to listen.

I read too much. I often need a drink.

It isn’t the world that makes us think,

it’s words that we can’t come up with.

Sure, I can work up fresh examples

and send them off to the committee.

But the poetry is in the bird. And in the pretty.

 

Bill Manhire, from ‘Polly’

 

International poetry traffic is so often dependent upon fortuitous connections. The degree of familiarity with poetry from elsewhere is utterly paltry compared with the degree of familiarity I have with local writing. Yes I have studied American and British poetry but I am more aware of the luminous stars in these poetry constellations than the grassroot outings.

On the other hand, we are no longer dependent upon ocean voyages and the constraints of distance, but to what degree does our poetry travel (compared say with fiction)? Or our poetry conversations extend beyond our lapping tidelines.

I am acutely aware of my impoverished relations with contemporary Australian poetry. Perhaps Joan Fleming and Amy Brown could guest edit a local journal with an Australian focus? But then again our journals are often annual and offer vital but scant opportunities for local poets.

This is not the first time an overseas journal has showcased New Zealand poetry, but it is perhaps the example I am most excited by. The editors – Stephanie Burt (USA), Paul Millar (NZ) and Chris Price (NZ) – have worked hard to present a distinctive and diverse overview of our current poetry. The selected poets cross all manner of borders: age, geographical location, style, university affiliation, gender, ethnicity. This matters if we want to move beyond the legacy of white male predomination, urban bias and privileged poetry models. I cannot name a NZ journal that has achieved such movement.

Yes the five books Daisy Fried reviewed – from the fifteen 2017 publications she was sent – were all Victoria University Press. Her selection certainly does not reflect the contours of that year, and we can all stand on the sidelines and shout (or sing) about the books we loved, but I have no issue with reviews reflecting individual taste. However I do take issue that a short intro and five VUP books can respond to her opening question: ‘How to characterise a national poetry?’ Why would you even try! It is a personal take on five excellent books.

The rest of the journal is an altogether different joy. The effect of reading is symphonic in the different hues and chords. Every single poem lifts off the page and catches both ear and eye. Such freshness, such lightness, darkness, musicality, room to breathe, surprising arcs and links and undercurrents. I keep swaying between Anna Jackson’s glorious bee poem and the flickering titles that coalesce in Nina Powles’s offering or the infectious wit of James Brown, Ashleigh Young and Tim Upperton.  I am pulled into the bite of Anahera Gildea, Chris Tse and then Tayi Tibble and stop in the tracks of reading. Travelling with Janet Charman and the revelatory suite makes me weep. Switching to Anne Kennedy and the momentum coils and overlaps and poetry transforms a starting point into elasticity on the line. Bill Manhire flips me over into the second stanza, and the lacework of reading – intricate yet full of holes – offers mystery, surprise, wit, curious things.

 

The time of breathing into clasped hands

hovering over a lighter to make a flame

 

not knowing

that an angry man threw his eyes into the night

 

the belly of his shattered father

weeping rain for separation of earth and sky

 

Jessie Puru from ‘Matariki’

 

 

The editors did not feel beholden to poetry that targets versions of New Zealand/ Aotearoa; our poetry might do this and then again it might not. The poems have the freedom to do and be anything whether they spring from spoken-word rhythms or  talkiness or thinginess or anecdotal revelations or sumptuous Baroque-detail or story or slanted humour or cutting political edges.

The poets: Anna Jackson, Kate Camp, Michele Leggott, Therese Lloyd, Jessie Puru, Essa Ranapiri, Tayi Tibble, Robert Sullivan, Kerrin P. Sharpe, Hera Lindsay Bird, Dylan Horrocks, James Brown, Murray Edmond, Jenny Bornholdt, Anne Kennedy, Bill Manhire, Nina Powles, Janet Charman, Anahera Gildea, Bernadette Hall, Vincent O’Sullivan, Courtney Sina Meredith, C.K. Stead, Chris Tse, Tim Upperton, Gregory O’Brien and John Pule, Faith Wilson, Ashleigh Young, Albert Wendt, Steven Toussaint, Erik Kennedy

This issue is a cause for celebration – I absolutely love it – and my celebration will take  the form of a subscription. New Zealand poetry has been well served – congratulations!

 

Poetry here

 

everything I never asked my grandmother

I can understand but I can’t speak

no one has played that piano since

New Zealand is so far away from here

let me translate for you the poem on the wall

 

Nina Powles from ‘Some titles for my childhood memoir’