Tag Archives: NZ Poet Laureate

Vincent O’Sullivan posts some new poems by Emma Neale on the Laureate website. They are simply breathtaking.


Current NZ Poet Laureate, Vincent O’Sullivan, has selected some new poems by Emma Neale to mark the shift between one year and the next. They are stunning poems, not only in the aural delights, the archival detail and each poem’s building momentum, but in the way the poet lays anchors in both a real world of sons and husband and an exhilarating world of ideas. These poems have shifted gear.

Emma was shortlisted for the Sarah Broom  Award this year and read with fellow shortlisted poet, Kirsti Whalen, at the Auckland Writers Festival. To hear Emma read was to hear the poetic detail and music come into even richer life. A highlight for me this year.

Vincent O’Sullivan on Emma Neale:

‘There is something so celebratory about Emma Neale’s poetry, about its eager, informed, needle-eyed engagement with the contemporary world, that it seems the very thing for this final Poet Laureate blog of the year, for what we still, with our perverse and saving optimism, call ‘the festive season’. Thanks to Emma for these unpublished poems, for their kitchen-familiar and cosmic-wide attentions, for running the hot thread of such linguistic flare and precision through whatever occasion she takes up. These seem to me the kind of poems that begin with readers but end with partners, in their take on how things are, and how we talk of them. This is poetry in that ancient tradition of ‘speaking for us all’, of making scenes and events that we find are about ourselves all the time, even when they may at first move so confidently in that Rilkean dimension of ‘beauty and terror’. Good poems to end one year, and to begin another.’

For the selected poems see here.

The website of New Zealand’s Poet Laureate has moved.

Website can be found here.

Here is a taste of Poet Laureate, Vincent O’Sullivan’s latest post:

Until a few months ago, all I knew of Mexican poetry was from a few international names like Octavio Paz, a selection of translations by Samuel Beckett, and a number of fine poets from anthologies. Then my discovery that in fact Spanish American poetry was being written a few kilometres from where I live. Rogelio Guedea has been in Dunedin for almost a decade. He teaches at the university, an intellectual who contributes regular political columns to papers in Mexico, a former legal prosecutor, a writer of crime novels, and a prolific poet. El crimen de los Tepames, the final volume of a fiction trilogy, last year was a best seller in Mexico, and his poetry has won Spain’s Premio Adonais. The enterprising Roger Hickin, whose Cold Hub Press is the only New Zealand imprint that brings out collections in foreign languages, is about to publish Si no te hubieras ido/If only you hadn’t gone, with his own finely pitched translations. The set of thirty four poems was written while the writer’s wife and family was temporarily back in Mexico. As I’ve noted in an Introduction to the volume,

‘Ordinary,’ I expect, is the first word that may come to you, should you ask, what kind of world is this, that these poems are part of? For that is the ultimate grace, you might say, that the poet’s wife bestows on a house and a suburb while she is there, and that seems so distant, so unlikely, when she is not. (…)

Visit site to read the rest of the piece.


Elizabeth Smither’s Ruby Duby Du deserves to be under the pillow of every new mother and father


Elizabeth Smither, Ruby Duby Du, Cold Hub Press, 2013

Elizabeth Smither is an award-wining poet and novelist. She was named New Zealand Poet Laureate in 2002 and was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry in 2008. On the back of her new book, Ruby Duby Du, Elizabeth says, ‘None of these compares to being a grandmother.’

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This delightful book signals the burgeoning output of small presses –- handcrafted books with smallish print runs, scope for new poets to emerge, and established poets to publish miniature gems or take sidestepping risks. Elizabeth’s book, published by Dunedin’s Cold Hub Press, is a gold nugget of a book and deserves to be under the pillow of every new mother and father, and in the gift box of every newborn child. It is an utter delight from curling fingertip to wriggling toe.

The new collection, with delicate illustrations by artist Kathryn Madill, is a book of poems dedicated to Ruby (born 2011) from her grandmother, Elizabeth. It begins with the announcement of a pregnancy, and ends with Ruby in her father’s arms and the counting of stars. Love is both the movement and the anchor that holds Elizabeth’s poetry in warm embrace. These poems are intimate, personal and captivatingly real.

I was taken back, convincingly, mesmerisingly to the birth of my daughters — to a time when the world moves into acute and breathtaking focus (as though you have a new pair of glasses). To a time when certain things matter so much less and fade into pale.

Each poem resonates with a particular moment — measuring Ruby in the womb (‘the height of a tall vase/ a blue iris’); cleaning windows for Ruby’s visit (‘Your grandmother/ had clean windows for her first granddaughter/ and everything glowed from then’).

There is tenderness and charm, but there is also wit running through the veins of these poems — the cheekiness of the grandmother along with the deep love. In ‘The grandparents intervene’ (a terrific poem!) the grandparents await news of the birth in their separate houses (‘In two separate houses broken sleep/ and then you broke into the world, Ruby’). The poem ends on the two clocks (his ‘from a ship’ and hers ‘from a shop that sold antiques’). The clock is resonant of time to come and time past but is also enriched by these divergent origins.

Elizabeth’s wit is sparkling in ‘Ruby and the mock-rivalry.’ The baby (that can’t yet speak) tells the grandfather she wants to captain an ocean liner. The grandmother knows the only reason Ruby might want to go to sea is ‘to write a book in which case/ the breath of the sea might come in handy.’

More than anything, these poems are songs to Ruby. Elizabeth has drawn upon her craft as a poet, found the music in a line, the detail that you want to hold onto and share (let’s take a photograph and preserve this moment), the way the movement in a new life can generate delicious movement in a poem (what poem can survive without this). There is thought (the way some occurrences can be slipped through a philosophical filter) and there is heart (the way some things are steered by gut and intuition, along with love).

In ‘Ruby and the vegetable rockery,’ Elizabeth aligns silver beet and Ruby (‘Though they are unacquainted at present/ each is pulling itself up by the roots’). I have never read a poem where a baby and silver beet are poetic companions, but Elizabeth’s collection is full of surprises. The poem, like the book as a whole, is layered like the vegetable rockery – the poet has planted herself and Ruby in every nook and cranny, and you will brush against the sheer joy of new life. Elizabeth shows that poetry can put the world (in this case, Ruby) in loving focus. It is a gift to read. It is a gift to share!


New Zealand Book Council author page

University of Auckland author file

Auckland University Press author page

Hamesh Wyatt review of The Blue Coat

Caitlin Sinclair review of The Blue Coat

NZ Poet Laureate, Vincent O’Sullivan’s blog is worth following

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As the current NZ Poet Laureate, Vincent O’Sullivan is following in the footsteps of his predecessors (Michele Leggott, Ian Wedde and Cilla McQueen) and contributing a regular blog to the Laureate site.

Each poet has used this opportunity in quite different ways. Vincent states his aim at the outset: ‘The obvious point of this site is to celebrate and present the breadth of experience and formal variety that poetry embraces. I shall be inviting a guest poet to contribute work of their own, and to select a poem by a living writer they value, as well as a poem from an earlier era that continues to matter to them.’

He also plans to showcase poets who have been persecuted as a writer. The first is Ghanaian Kofi Awoonor, killed by terrorists on the day he was to appear at a literary festival.

The first invited poet is Jennifer Compton.

This is a wonderful initiative on the part of Vincent — an invitation that will be of real benefit to New Zealand poetry communities, and to all those who love poetry.

See here for The Laureate site.