Tag Archives: Nina Powles

Poetry Shelf interviews the 2019 Sarah Broom Prize finalists: Nina Mingya Powles

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Photo Credit: Sophie Davidson

 

 

If you were to map your poetry reading history, what books would act as key co-ordinates?

My poetry reading history – by which I mean paying attention to poetry and seeking it out on my own terms – begins with Anne Carson, whose long poem “The Glass Essay” was introduced to me by Anna Jackson in my final undergraduate year of uni. Her translations of Sappho in If Not, Winter and her shadowy, hybrid work Nox suddenly split open for me the limits of what poetry could mean. That’s when I began to feel at home in poetry, maybe because I’ve always been drawn to things that can’t be explained.

Very quickly in my literature degree I realised that the ‘Western literary canon’ we studied was the product of a violent colonial legacy. Instead I felt a pull towards the fringes of contemporary poetry, where I found poets doing extraordinary things with poetic form and linguistic boundaries, especially in The Time of the Giants by Anne Kennedy, The Same as Yes by Joan Fleming, and Lost And Gone Away by Lynn Jenner.

But it wasn’t until I discovered Cup by Alison Wong during my MA year that I recognised something of my own childhood and background in New Zealand poetry. Loop of Jade by Sarah Howe, published in 2016, was the first poetry book I ever read by someone half-Chinese like me. Ever since, I’ve been building my own poetry canon made up of works that negotiate displacement, loss, diaspora, living between cultures, and the ongoing damage caused by European colonisation. Schizophrene by Bhanu Kapil, Citizen by Claudia Rankine, Whereas by Layli Long Soldier, and Poukahangatus by Tayi Tibble are all books that I would like to carry around me at all times like talismans to keep me safe.

 

What do you want your poems to do?

I want a poems that are spells for curing homesickness, I want poems that are notebooks and witness accounts and dream diaries, I want poems that create a noticeable shift in the temperature of the air and transport you to your grandma’s kitchen.

 

 

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Which poem in your selection particularly falls into place. Why?

I knew that when I saw a kōwhai tree in full bloom in a garden in north London, close to where I was working at the time, I would need to write about it because it was the only thing I could do. It was spring and in spring I tend to feel really melodramatic about things. I don’t think the poem is melodramatic, though; I think it ended up somehow capturing what I was feeling, in fragments: both very far away and very close to home at exactly the same moment.

 

There is no blueprint for writing poems. What might act as a poem trigger for you? 

Recent poem triggers: silken tofu, being near the sea, tracking sunlight across my tiny garden in order to figure out where particular plants will grow, a house on fire by the side of the motorway, chocolate ice cream, dreams about whales, Chinese supermarkets, reading, reading.

 

If you were reviewing your entry poems, what three words would characterise their allure?

(This is too difficult and I wish I could ask someone else). Dreamlike, downpour, heatwave.

 

You are going to read together at the Auckland Writers Festival. If you could pick a dream team of poets to read – who would we see?

It would have to be a few American and British poets who I’ve discovered only since moving to London, because I want them and their work to travel as widely as possible. But I wouldn’t want to read alongside them because then I would be too nervous / too in awe / tearful to listen properly. Ocean Vuong – because sometimes at poetry readings he bursts into song. Also Tracy K. Smith, Raymond Antrobus, Bhanu Kapil, and Rachel Long.

 

Nina Mingya Powles is of Pākehā and Malaysian-Chinese heritage and was born in Wellington. She is the author of field notes on a downpour (2018), Luminescent (2017) and Girls of the Drift (2014). She is poetry editor of The Shanghai Literary Review and founding editor of Bitter Melon 苦瓜, a new poetry press. Her prose debut, a food memoir, will be published by The Emma Press in 2019.

 

You can hear Nina read ‘Mid-Autumn Moon Festival 2016’ here

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: In Jacket2 Vaughan Rapatahana presents Part 2 Kiwi Asian women poets

 

Vaughan Rapatahana presents Part 2 of his feature on New Zealand Asian women poets. He  considers rage and alienation but stresses these women write so much more. The poets: Aiwa Pooamorn, Nina Powles, Vanessa Crofskey, Wen-Juenn Lee, Shasha Ali and Joanna Li .

You can read the full piece with poems here.

On Poetry Shelf:

You can read Vanessa’s poem ‘The Capital of My Mother’  here

You can hear Wen-Juenn read ‘Prologue’  here

You can hear Nina read ‘Mid-Autumn Moon Festival 2016’ here

 

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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’

 

 

Nina Headshot (32 of 72).jpg

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