Tag Archives: NZ Poetry Day

43 poets celebrate National Poetry Day: A memory suite


Amy Leigh Wick’s weekly writing group






1996 Dunedin poets.jpg


Nick’s 100 words of NZ poetry snapshot

I have many namedropped stories of poet encounters. They are all slimy and desperate. But here’s an image of a time in Dunedin writing that feels, at least to me, important. On St Kilda beach in 1996 are some of the main poets of the Robbie Burns pub readings and soon to be the progenitors of Glottis magazine. Left to right it’s:

Blair Reeve (his TedX performance!)
Richard Reeve (no relation and still to me NZ’s best poet)
Bernadette Hall (1996’s Burns Fellow)
Kapka Kassabova (see all the awards her Border won)
Stuart Dymond
and Jocelind Dunford

Nick Ascroft


Mr Bird

“I remember telling my seventh-form English teacher (who told us his favourite film was Easy Rider; who had an amiable weary expression whenever I submitted a practice essay; whom I liked) that I thought I might write on poetry in the Bursary exam. ‘Oh, no, I wouldn’t do that,’ he said, as if I’d confessed to considering spending lunchtime smoking weed on the roof of the horticulture prefab. ‘Too risky.’”

Amy Brown



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In 2012 I visited the apartment of Anna Akhmatova in St Petersburg. I love house museums anyway, but this one was just astonishing. She spent decades under house arrest, banned from writing, awaiting the knock at the door that would take her husband or her to the gulag or death. Assuming that the apartment was under constant surveillance, her only way of writing poetry was to memorise lines, and then write them on scraps of paper when a friend came to visit. While they pretended to discuss banalities, the friend would memorise a line or two, then Akhmatova would burn the scrap of paper in this ashtray.

In this way her poems were smuggled out in the minds of her friends, reassembled, and published out of the country. Also shown in the house were small “books” made of birch bark on which gulag prisoners had written out her poems from memory with the blackened end of a twig.

“When I hear what is coming toward me / I would be afraid / even if I were dead.”

That might be a misquote, but it’s how I remember the line of hers. What a woman.

Kate Camp


POETS Day today

Haha … what has stuck with me is my adult nephew, who was a builder’s apprentice at the time, telling me that every Friday his builder mates would tell him, ‘All good, bro, it POETS day today!’ When he asked them what they were talking about they replied, ‘It’s time to Piss Off Early … Tomorrow’s Saturday!’ Every poetry day I remember that.

Glenn Colquhoun


Josiah and the wind

Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 11.12.01 AM.png

(drawing by Emily Cater, teacher/artist)Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 11.13.03 AM.png

Sam Duckor-Jones


Reading at Alba

(a memory for Paula Green)


the audience

stretched away

the length of the bar

to the windows

and beyond

the street

gave glimpses of

proverbial women

and men

passing to and fro

one’s words were going

out over the heads

of this audience

and one caught oneself thinking


this poem seems to

go across quite

well tonight

and at that moment


there came

the rubbish truck

its cataclysmic arm

hydraulic lifting up

the public bins

one by one by one

and so that poem

(the one that was going along okay)

grew quiet

poet and audience


until the rubbish truck

was gone

and the poem

went all the way back

to the beginning

to start again


Murray Edmond


First there were rhymes, the same words repeated in the same sequence, the chime of rhyme, the skip of rhythm, belying their terror. The mice with bleeding stumps where their tails should have been, the sudden vertiginous drop between someone’s knees as the horsie stumbled, the black bird that pecked off my nose. When I was four or so I tried out rhyme for myself. My uncle always said, ‘Fiona Farrell, the rickety barrel!’ whenever he saw me. And this time I said back, ‘Uncle Bill, the rotten pill!’ It made everyone laugh. They remembered it, still remember it. My first poem, my first audience. The dizzy power of words.

Fiona Farrell


I remember the first time I ever read at a writers festival. It was with Fiona Farrell at a vineyard near Nelson, and the only way I could get there was to borrow my uncle’s swish white BMW – which I felt really odd, really uncomfortable driving – and drive it over the Takaka hill. On the way – I was with my sister – we started to imagine that, upon arriving at the reading, I would step out of the BMW and be dressed all in flowing white chiffon robes, and a flock of white doves would be dramatically released from inside the BMW and into the air around me. Now, whenever I feel nervous before a reading, I put that image in my head and it makes me feel silly and much better.

Joan Fleming


In 1972 my Y12 English teacher told me I would never get anywhere in the world writing as I wrote. That year James K Baxter stood on the stage in bare feet, with scraggly beard and tatty suit, and read poems like a tuī. I went home and wrote dreadful Baxter poems. Seven days later he died. I painting his portrait in watercolour blue and pinned it to my bedroom wall. I wrote more dreadful Baxter poems. I walked into the school library with my buttoned-up melancholy and discovered Hone Tuwhare’s poetry and the thrill that words can do anything in poetry.

Paula Green


When I was about nineteen, I started going to poetry readings. Probably the biggest of these was by Paul Muldoon, after Hay but before he won the Pulitzer with Moy Sand and Gravel. There were maybe two hundred people there.

After about fifteen minutes, he stopped, looked straight at me, clearly annoyed, and said, ‘Would you like to continue doing that somewhere else?’ Everyone stared. ‘I’m dead,’ I thought. ‘So this is what the end of a poetry career looks like: getting kicked out of a Paul Muldoon reading.’

It turned out that there were two people sitting directly behind me who’d been talking loudly and I hadn’t even noticed. I’d been so caught up in the reading.

Erik Kennedy




After reading Lucia Perillo’s ‘Logotherapy: After Betrayal’ I texted my friend, ‘i feel like i have to physically take a break.’ Every line in this piece has the power to undo me, it leaks with a quiet violence, a ‘grief of too much water having fallen in too few days’. ‘He gave me some new words: Faith, Reconciliation, Continuance…but they began to fill me up with grief /so I tossed them out the window’. When I read that line, I felt this watery, wet grasp of something that threatened to spill. This is what Perillo’s poetry does to me; it grows with urgency and breaks with force.

Wen-Juenn Lee


I am thinking of the moment in July 2001 when the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc) went live. There’s only the briefest of mentions in our What’s New section: ‘We are pleased to announce the establishment of the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc) at the University of Auckland on Montana New Zealand Poetry Day. This marks the culmination of a trial collaboration between several parts of the university and the poetic community. We welcome your comments and hope you will return often to check on progress.’ When poet librarian webmaster and co-founder Brian Flaherty pushed that button, six months of intense work with poets and publishers went out into the world in a single blissful instant. We’ve celebrated our birthday every year since, and it is with great pleasure that we announce the release of Six-Pack Sound #7 on Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day 2018. The latest Six-Pack features audio by Owen Bullock, Chloe Honum, Courtney Sina Meredith, Jacob Shores-Argüello, Penny Somervaille and, yes, the redoubtable Brian Flaherty. Salutations to all six and to the touch of a button that brings their voices to our listening ears.

Michele Leggott


I’ll admit that the floral dress over hairy legs with big black boots caught my eye, but what really got me was the book. Was that really someone reading a poetry book, brazenly, in the middle of the day outside for everyone to see!? I knew it was only a matter of time before we met. And sure enough, one day later, in the New Zealand collection of the Waikato University Library, I met essa ranapiri. I introduced myself and we talked poetry for a while. Essa gave me Vaughan Rapatahana to read and I gave them Amy Brown. It was a good day.

Therese LLoyd


Wildlife with Michael Ondaatje

I remember some years ago taking Michael Ondaatje for a drive over to the Wairarapa when he was out here promoting The English Patient. It was whitebaiting season, so we went out to Lake Ferry: fish and chips, and an ancient man who shamefacedly displayed a couple of whitebait at the bottom of a yellow plastic bucket. Later, somewhere between Martinborough and Gladstone, Michael suddenly shouted, “Stop the car!” We pulled over, and he leapt out and picked up a hedgehog that was curled up in storybook manner in the middle of the road. He clucked and cooed over it, then placed it reverently on the grass verge. I think he had never seen a hedgehog before. Anyway, not a bad tally: two whitebait and a hedgehog. And after that he went on to win the Booker Prize.

Bill Manhire


Henry Reed’s `Naming of Parts’

In the early 1960’s I experienced compulsory military training at Waiouru, and subsequently became a territorial force officer. I came across Henry Reed’s `Naming of Parts’ and found the 1942 poem wonderfully apt in capturing the sense of wry disjunction often experienced in army training. It remains a favourite of mine. The first stanza:

To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. and tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighbouring gardens,
And to-day we have naming of parts.

Owen Marshall


The Sun

It’s as vivid as if I’d just done it today – lain on the concrete with closed eyes, the sun through my eyelids. Pink, gold, a burst of blue. Karori West Normal. A teacher – was it Mrs Mackerel with her back-combed blonde hair and orange shift dresses? – said write a poem. She said lie there in the sun and write what you think of. I wrote about the flaring colours and then addressed the sun itself.

I think in my mind was the story my dad used to read me about the fish who wanted the hat he saw in the sky, but the hat was really the sun. Being with my dad was all about love and warmth and looking for the sun in things. I was eight.

The poem I wrote for Mrs Mackerel was two or three lines long, written in pencil, with a grinning and colourful sun presiding over it. My mother kept the page – it’s in my papers somewhere.

From memory I wrote something like this … ‘the blue was a part and the gold was it all / and I said to the sun you’re the love of it all’. My first proper poem. I was so happy with it.

Mary McCallum


When the coast is clear

Fitz was one of my mother’s many boyfriends. He owned a book store in Wellington and when ‘ the coast was clear’ he’d visit carrying books in brown paper bags. The first book he gave me was a small illustrated book of Christina Rossetti’s poetry. Reading the book made me feel both glamorous and wise to the heartache of the world. I wanted to have learned conversations with him about poetry; somehow candles were involved and marshmallows toasted over a fire. Of course my mother was never present. She had her ankles deep in salty water, eyes scanning the coast line for any hint of trouble. There’s always somebody who’ll rock the boat, she’d say.


Frankie McMillan


We called it the sitting room. We would wash our hair on Sunday nights and lie in front of the fire to dry it. I received an anthology of poetry for my birthday and one night my mother asked me to choose a poem from it to read out loud. I read From a Railway Carriage by Robert Louis Stevenson. I heard the tripping rhythm, and the sound of the train, and the sudden clambering child and I felt quite still and strange. When my mother told me to choose another one, I asked, suddenly urgent, if I could read that one again.

Maria McMillan



A Lesson from Rosalie Carey


Silver birch, white gravel path, Globe Theatre garden.

Stand there and speak it to me over here,

said Rosalie, project the poem to me without effort.

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being

But you are shouting in your throat! Say it again,

go deeper, find that lower register, breathe with the diaphragm,

project the voice control the breath from deep inside

the ribs with intercostal muscles while the mouth

articulates the sound with clarity       her voice to my ear

and mine to hers        from far away       Again, she says,

do it again, and give it some expression –

Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead

inside voice intercostal muscle flickering sunlight

Are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing –

carried on my breath those very words

that Shelley must have heard inside his mind

assembling into fluent lines, until he took his pen

to write them down – taught me the physicality of poetry.


Cilla McQueen


Snapshot 01

I remember a poem my mother wrote about seeing her life side on

at the time I was a small child and she had included me

(I forget which stanza

but the impact was mighty)


It was the first time I saw myself on the page

I went to school the next day (Primary)

and all the colours I saw and all the children I played with

and all the turns I took down the slide were immortalised


Courtney Sina Meredith


When I was eleven I was obsessed with The Cure’s album Wish, and I remember reading in the liner notes, a line that read: “you were bigger and brighter and wider than snow.”

Of course, listening to the song, it had always sounded like “whiter” but the fact that the notes read “wider” was such a promising gesture into strangeness, beyond error, like glimpsing something that hadn’t quite happened yet.

Alice Miller


I came across Hone Tuwhare’s ‘Rain’ in an anthology textbook during a high school English class. I was meant to be reading something else; or perhaps someone was reading aloud in that painstaking drone of group reading, where teachers make everyone ‘perform’ a paragraph at a time, and you can sense even a brilliant story convulsing slowly like a fish on a dry ship deck… Tuwhare’s words trickled down the page with the purity and clarity of water. The classroom fell away. The poem brought a totally new feeling – something almost captured in Virginia Woolf’s phrase: “a basking, with every faculty alert, in the sun of pleasure” – some strange hybrid of revelation and arrival; ecstasy and calm.

Emma Neale


When I was little my parents took me to the beach. As we drove out of the hills toward the ocean, mum pointed out the window at the blue expanse and said ‘there’s the sea, Rachel’. I replied, ‘what can you see, Mum?’ I think poetry is a bit like this. Someone looks at the sea, another person sees a question. The reader brings a whole other reckoning, perspective, curiosity to the poem, and kind of sets eternal fire to all that carefully worded certainty.

Rachel O’Neill


Steven Toussaint during his time as Writer in Residence at the University of Waikato lent me a copy of Cody-Rose Clevidence’s book BEAST FEAST after I bemoaned the lack of poetry by gender-queer people. I often hunt for books that provoke the question: who is this person and how did they get away with this? And BEAST FEAST is exactly that, messy poems that try to inject some wild(er)ness into the English language. I remember standing in the faculty department looking down at the pages my mind boggled by what was on display. Ever since, I’ve tried my best to get at that animal feeling in my own work.

Essa Ranapiri


When I was a young man searching for something to address my own angst, my own existential abyss, I first read Daddy by Sylvia Plath. I learned the sheer power of great poetry.

This was not some distanced prance about clouds and trees.

This was blood and guts and massive pain and it sat me right up. Poetry such as this is vital. Cathartic. Raw, well away from clever-dick wordplay. Such is the angry agony, the poem convulses itself into a series of rhymes and assonance – and awful allusions to the domestic demons plaguing Plath.

It made me write a poem starting I am the brother of Sylvia Plath

Link to Plath reading Daddy

Vaughan Rapatahana





I had been meaning to read Anne Carson ever since the book recommendation website told me that if I like The Passion by Jeanette Winterson then I should try The Autobiography of Red; but that was out, so I borrowed Glass and God instead. I started reading it straight away, sitting at the high bench in the café that overlooks the ground floor of the library, eye-level with the grey insulation that is meant to dampen sound, and which looks like clouds. It felt as if held my breath the whole time I was reading ‘The Glass Essay’, held spellbound by it: So that’s what you can do with poetry? The universe expanded. I closed the book and wrote a poem of my own.

Helen Rickerby


His name was Warner. We didn’t use first names. We’d been set a poem to write for prep. Mine was about our dog, Shot. It rhymed. I didn’t know the term ‘doggerel’, but that’s what my poem was: literally. I did realise it was awful, though. Poems sounded like ‘Cargoes’, which we’d learnt by heart and recited in class. When our prep came back, mine had squiggles under many lines. Warner was asked to read his poem aloud. It didn’t rhyme; it contained the phrase ‘curly kale’. Ever since, part of me has always thought of poems as ‘curly kale’.

Harry Ricketts


Being the youngest in a family of four tends to make you extra sensitive to snubs. My eldest brother was the brainy one, the next brother was the writer, and my sister was the arty one. So what was I?

One day my father came home with a little book of poems he’d picked up for my number-two brother (not present) in a second-hand bookshop.

“Why is everything always for him!” I screamed (was I ten, twelve at the time?). Off I ran to my room.

Later my father knocked on the door and, silently, put down the book beside my bed. It was the collected poems of A. E. Housman.

Its cover eventually came off from over-use. Housman’s poetry still moves me. It’s so simple, so right. It reminds me of my Dad.

Jack Ross


slam-rule ignorant
wild black wig, mesh-net tights
barely-covered-bum red dress
tail-coat, silver platforms
chain and whip slung over shoulder

didn’t win / couldn’t win
with costumes, props and a song
but did get to run
seven national Lopdell House poetry events

had to enter all going west slams after that
(except for the year my kidney was cut out)
then you, Paula, turn up with Glenn and Harry

and I win
that slam leads me down a path
to a new book

 Ila Selwyn


I met Anis Mojgani in 2015 when he came to speak as part of Wellington Writers and Readers. I bought a copy of his newest book of poetry at the time, The Pocketknife Bible. He wrote a lovely dedication inside: “Emma – keep your words close and far”. Along with the lovely poetry in the book itself, this little dedication has been a reminder to keep aspiring to spread my voice as well as a reminder to stay close to the personal inspirations that surround my words.

Emma Shi


A writing group special

Last night! giving new poems a hit-out online with Tusiata Avia, Kate Camp and Stefanie Lash. Absent: Hinemoana Baker and Maria McMillan.

Tusiata’s dream poem was worrisome things in real life flicking up in odd settings, darkly funny in the theatre of the absurd: ’I’m a criminal lawyer” – that part is hilarious’. The second to last stanza is the more brilliant ending … against that, everyone wanted to keep the last line.

Kate’s poem was staggeringly tight, ‘it has that spooky other-worldly feeling even though it’s ordinary details’, perfectly paced, and ‘nostalgic without being twee, poignant without being mawkish’ and, the Russian dolls!

Stef’s poem was a fantastical push for anarchy in archaeology… (dinosaur… dynamite). Exquisitely subversive, the poem ‘wanders round with a strange kind of logic. (Is that even an actual dinosaur name?)

I wrote for the teachers on strike, and Kate said, I love this. It goes so far out in the relationship with the student beyond the report language,’ and though there was a sticking bit, it got cleared for flying.

Marty Smith


Aerogramme from Cal

When I was young and studious I used to read the complete poems of a major poet each year and this was Robert Lowell’s year. I was waiting in a bus stop, reading for the  nth time ‘The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket’ when suddenly the poem cracked open in all its glory. Impulsively I wrote to Robert Lowell, sending him a copy of my first book, and one day a blue aerogramme from R. Lowell, Bearsted, Maidstone, Kent arrived. ‘New Zealand is so far away I feel this may never reach you,’ he wrote.  The excitement is still fresh.

Elizabeth Smither


In a Zagreb bookshop

‘When your armies are defeated,
your leaders dead or in exile,
your enemy in the Chancellery
and his militia on your streets,
it is then, my friend, your language
becomes a power.

‘It is the impregnable gate
and the house of your pride.

‘That is why if I should say
“He is a writer”
you will receive respect.
But if I should tell them
“He is a poet”
respect becomes honour.

‘Poets are the guardians of the language.
Pray you have them.
Pray you never need them.’

C. K. Stead


My poetry memory is of my 85 year old grandmother sitting in her bed, in her nightgown, with her eyes closed, listening intently as I read to her from my first book The Art of Excavation. Having lost her sight to glaucoma a few years prior, my beautiful nana loved hearing about the sights and sounds I was experiencing first-hand in the world ‘outside’ of her home, and enjoyed listening to my interpretations of that world through the poems that I wrote. Nana passed away in winter of 2018 and since then I’ve found it very hard to read my poems aloud. I miss her everyday.

Leilani Tamu


Before I even had my first book published I was invited to read and speak to a group of primary school students who were visiting the National Library for an exhibition about New Zealand poetry. It was the first time I had to field questions from an audience and they were all fantastic questions – to this day they have yet to be surpassed. My favourite was, “Are you good at rapping?”

Chris Tse


I got interested in poetry during my final two years (1960-61) at Otago Boys’ High School. I recall that the sonority and imagery of Matthew Arnold’s ‘The Forsaken Merman’ appealed to me. After leaving school I found I much liked work by some New Zealand poets, especially Alistair Campbell and James K Baxter. Then, in the early 1970s, when I was working for the NZ branch of Oxford University Press in Wellington, we represented several overseas publishers including Faber & Faber, so I had access to very many volumes by established and up and coming British and American poets in particular. By that time I was writing poems myself. I’ve never stopped. It’s a condition that I’ve not been able shrug off.

Brian Turner


Love Without Hope

In 1990, when I lived in London, I commuted to work on the Tube. Everyone read The Sun or The Times or the banner advertisements above the heads of the passengers opposite. Someone had the bright idea of filling vacant advertising spaces with poems – these were later anthologized as Poems on the Underground. And so it was that I first read Robert Graves’ poem, “Love Without Hope.” At only four lines long, it’s an easy poem to memorize:


Love Without Hope

Love without hope, as when the young birdcatcher

Swept off his tall hat to the Squire’s own daughter,

So let the imprisoned larks escape and fly

Singing about her head, as she rode by.


Even now, I can type it without checking for accuracy. It’s basically an extended simile, an abstraction made miraculously concrete. It’s the greatest love poem I know.

Tim Upperton


As a teenager, I did a weekend poetry workshop run by Kate Camp at Tairāwhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne. She brought in a box of postcards she had collected from second hand shops, many with messages written by strangers on the back, and we were to use the postcards as inspiration for a poem. Kate would have only been in her late twenties herself, and it felt so amazing to hear from a writer who was not so different from myself and to discover you could find poetry in everyday places.

Louise Wallace


In 1969-70 I was working in Amman, Jordan, and in the mornings would walk past some coffee shops to catch my bus. I saw men listening intently to radios. I thought they were listening to the news but learned it was broadcasts of poems by the likes of Mahmoud Darwish, Fadwa Tuqan and Samir al Quasim. This image of poetry as significant public discourse has stayed with me for fifty years, not as something I can pretend to emulate but as a reminder that there are places and situations where poetry matters like this.

Ian Wedde


Book Speak

For my twelfth birthday Aunt Sharon gives me a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. I carry it with me everywhere, careful to hide the nude sketches from Mom and Dad. I whisper the poetry aloud, as if it is a divine book that comes, not from the writer at all, but through the writer, from some divine source. Gibran describes desires I cannot yet express myself. He makes me want to write. He makes me want to learn the secrets of my own heart, “and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart” (Gibran).

Amy Leigh Wicks





In the early afternoon of 15 February 2014 I was lying facedown on the grass at Tapapakanga Regional Park. I remember hearing small insects droning in my ears and the way the grass smelt fresh and stuck to my face. Then Sam Hunt started reading. He was standing under a beautiful old gnarled tree that looked like something out of Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood. His voice rose and fell on the breeze. A moderate-sized crowd of enthralled children sat mesmerised by his words. I don’t remember now what he said, or what he read, just the inimitable intonation of his voice. It washed over me as I continued to lie semi-passed out on the grass with my friend beside me. It was wonderful, and magical, to lie on a hot summer’s day in the park with my face squished into the grass with poetry passing through and over me. (Splore Festival 2014)

Kiri Piahana Wong


Onslow College, Wellington. I was 16. The teacher handed out some pages, and I began to read. “You should have been told:/ only in you was the gold. / Mountain and river paid you no fee / mountain melting to the river / river to the sea.” The walls dissolved. And then I read the words, “country crumpled like an unmade bed” and was undone. It was the first time that a poem had spoken into me like that, giving me a recognisable image of our land, our place, the crumpled country where my own feet actually walked. I carried that little phrase within me from then on.

Years later, I crossed the crumpled country to live in Dunedin, fetching up in an old house in Sligo Terrace – a house, I discovered, where Denis Glover had lived as a small boy. The moment I learned that fact, well, there it was again … the walls dissolving – “mountain melting to the river / river to the sea”.

Sue Wootton







Group Two of Phantom Billsticker’s 20/20 online poetry collection goes live today – here’s Kevin Ireland’s pick (Gregory Kan)






After lunch my mother walks into the dining room

and my father and I both

blow our noses.


In the past when I thought about people my parents

were somehow

not among them. But some wound stayed


wide in all of us, and now I see in their faces

strange rivers and waterfalls, tilted over with broom.

You are watching the brown-paper covers of books grow


out around your father, as he dreams there

against the wall, thinking perhaps

how rocks are not quite lands.


Gregory Kan, from untitled sequence in This Paper Boat (Auckland University Press, 2016)

Kevin Ireland picked Gregory’s poem and had this to say: “Gregory Kan’s sequences in This Paper Boat are full of self-discoveries and surprises. The words really do swirl around and head off in different directions — just like the paper boats that inspired them.”
Group Two (go here for poems)

Tusiata Avia
‘I cannot write a poem about Gaza’
Fale Aitu/ Spirit House
(VUP, 2016)


Teresia Teaiwa
‘Fear of Flying (in broken Gilbertese)’
Poetry Foundation site


Kevin Ireland
‘Flying across Australia’
Looking out to sea
(Steele Roberts, 2015)


Gregory Kan
[Any of the sequences]
This Paper Boat (AUP, 2016)


Diana Bridge
‘Big Bang’
In the supplementary garden
(cold hub press, 2016)


John Dennison
(AUP, 2015)


Andrew Johnston
Fits and Starts (VUP, 2016)

Bill Nelson
‘The whys and Zs’
Memorandum of Understanding (VUP, 2016)


Michael Harlow
‘The late news’
Nothing For It But To Sing (OUP, 2016)


Paul Schimmel
‘With Words’
Reading the Water (Steele Roberts, 2016)


Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day celebrate 20 years with diverse

poetry collection

To mark the 20th anniversary of Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day (NPD), 20 leading Kiwi poets were asked to select one of their own poems, something they felt spoke to New Zealanders now. They also chose a poem by an emerging poet, writers they feel make essential reading for us in 2017.

The result is the 20/20 Collection – 40 poems by New Zealand poets who represent the diversity and vibrancy of talent in our contemporary national literature. The list includes Poet Laureates, Ockham New Zealand Book Awards winners, and strong new voices from recent collections and anthologies.

NPD has been running continuously since 1997 and is always celebrated on the last Friday in August. Poetry enthusiasts from all over New Zealand organise a feast of events – from poetry slams to flash and pop-up events – in venues that include schools, libraries, bars, galleries, surf clubs, and parks. This year’s NPD will be held on Friday 25 August.

Launched on May 24, the 20/20 Collection will be published in groups of ten poems between now and NPD. Featured poets are: Jenny Bornholdt and her pick, Ish Doney; Paula Green and Simone Kaho; Vincent O’Sullivan and Lynley Edmeade; Apirana Taylor and Kiri Piahana Wong; Alison Wong and Chris Tse; Tusiata Avia and Teresia Teaiwa; Kevin Ireland and Gregory Kan; Diana Bridge and John Dennison; Andrew Johnston and Bill Nelson; Michael Harlow and Paul Schimmel; C.K. Stead and Johanna Emeney; David Eggleton and Leilani Tamu; Elizabeth Smither and Rob Hack; Richard Reeve and Michael Steven; Robert Sullivan and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku; Bill Manhire and Louise Wallace; Selina Tusitala Marsh and Reihana Robinson; Cilla McQueen and David Holmes; James Norcliffe and Marisa Capetta; and Brian Turner and Jillian Sullivan.


Paula Morris, NPD spokesperson for the New Zealand Book Awards Trust, said that she was “excited to see the range of voices selected here, and the ethnic and geographic diversity in the poets chosen by our twenty established writers. This list speaks to a ‘new’ New Zealand literature, and reflects how much our culture is changing and growing.”

Many of the poets featured in the 20/20 Collection will take part in events on 25 August, Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day 2017. Event organisers are encouraged to register their poetry event online as soon as possible: http://www.nzbookawards.nz/national-poetry-day/how-to-register-your-event/.


Now into their second year of naming rights sponsorship of National Poetry Day, Phantom Billstickers will support NPD and 20/20 on the ground, online and in print, with funky billstickers that celebrate our nation’s poets. Business Development Manager Kelly Wilson says, “If given a platform, poetry speaks to people. We are very proud at Phantom to support National Poetry Day and provide platforms all around the country for the poetic voice of New Zealand.”


Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day is proudly administered by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust.




Notes to Editors

National Poetry Day was established in 1997 with a mandate to celebrate discovery, diversity, community and pushing boundaries. It is a one-day national poetry-event extravaganza held on the last Friday of August each year. This is the second year of National Poetry Day operating under the sponsorship of Phantom Billstickers.


Phantom Billstickers is a street poster company which has consistently helped New Zealanders express themselves since 1982. 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 Café Reader.

The New Zealand Book Awards Trust was established as a charitable trust in 2014 to govern and manage the country’s two major literary awards – The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and the New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults – as well as National Poetry Day, and to ensure their longevity and credibility.

The 20/20 Collection features work by living New Zealand poets with one exception: Tusiata Avia’s selection of a poem by Teresia Teaiwa. Sadly, Teresia died of cancer in March, aged just 48. She was a much loved and influential

figure in Pacific studies, and ​the committee hopes that her inclusion in 20/20 encourages more people to seek out her important creative and critical work.


Paula Morris (Ngati Wai, Ngati Whatua) is an award-winning novelist, short story writer and essayist. A frequent book reviewer, interviewer and festival chair, Paula holds degrees from universities in New Zealand, the U.K. and the US, including a D.Phil from the University of York and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is convenor of the Master in Creative Writing programme at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.



Poetry Shelf Dream Picks: Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day – poems in the dunes


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Oh I love the sound of this event at the Karekare Life Saving Clubhouse

Friday August 26th 6.15 to 8.30


West Auckland poets are winding up to wow you and woo you, provoke and entertain you. Join Sam Sampson, Janet Charman, Serie Barford, Jenny Clay, Sandra Coney, Rewi Spraggon, Elizabeth McRae & Sue Gee with special guests The Rutherford Writers from Rutherford College. Plus 20 minutes Open Mic – Bring your own poem. Follow the flames along the estuary from the beach carpark to the iconic Karekare Surf Life Saving Clubhouse. Antipasto provided. Drinks available. MC Sir Bob Harvey

Happy Poetry Day from Poetry Shelf – 20 things to do that aren’t on the poster!


  1. read a poem
  2. buy a poetry book for yourself
  3. buy a poetry book for a friend
  4. read a poetry book in a public place
  5. write an off-the-cuff poem and hide it until next Poetry Day
  6. write a poem in the sand or on the pavement
  7. start a crowd writing a poem in the sand or on the pavement
  8. send a letter to your favourite poet
  9. cut up someone’s poem and shape it into something new
  10. check out the poem that Jack Ross (an all-time favourite poet of mine!) included in my birthday book: he is reading in Hamilton’s Poetry Day festivities
  11. check out the poem that our wonderful new Poet Laureate, CK Stead, included in my birthday book. Today is his welcome-to-Poet-Laureateship do. I will be there to celebrate! Congratulations!
  12. write a review of a NZ poetry book for me to post on Poetry Shelf
  13. tell someone about a poetry book you have read and loved in the last few weeks –  me: Joan Fleming’s Failed Loved Poems (VUP, 2015)
  14. go to a poetry event near you today. Send me a write up for Poetry Shelf with photos
  15. send me a paragraph on why you love poetry and I will post
  16. send me a paragraph on a NZ poetry book you have loved this year and I will post
  17. read a poem to a child
  18. write a poem for a child
  19. go hunting in a second-hand bookshop for a poetry surprise (I did this yesterday and got a gorgeous volume of Ruth Dallas’s I’d never seen before!)
  20. read a poem

WOW!!! THE BARDS GO WILD 80 Events for National Poetry Day (Friday, 28 August)

A press release:

From seasoned award-winners to newbies facing a microphone for the first time, National Poetry Day — Friday, 28 August —unleashes the power and excitement of poetry for one incredible day of activity all around New Zealand.

Celebrating its 18th year, National Poetry Day 2015 features an astounding 80 events from Kerikeri to Southland and into cyberspace. This year’s calendar holds something for everyone, from aspiring  to established poets, and from those who enjoy poetry to those who think poetry isn’t for them. The 2015 calendar of events offers a way for anyone to get involved in the poetry community, discover New Zealand poets, share their own work or find out what it is all about.

“One of the best things about poetry is you can make it into whatever you want it to be,” says national coordinator, Miriam Barr. “There are no rules in poetry, or rather all the rules are there to be broken and bent. Poetry lets you say what you need to say, the way you want to say it.” This year, the New Zealand poetry community brings you poetry slams, poetry-music jams, poetry art exhibitions, performance poetry, poetry with dance, poetry street-chalking, bookshop readings, famous poets reading their work, writing competitions, open mic events that invite you to share, and a bunch of online events open to  everyone.

The full calendar of events is live online now.  Competitions open for submissions across August and warm-up events kick off the week leading up to National Poetry Day.

Highlights of this year’s National Poetry include:

Nationwide For the first time ever, National Poetry Day will be celebrated with an international link-up: ‘The Ex-Pat Poet’s Portal’ features interviews with and readings by Dr Amy Brown, Jennifer Compton and Anna Forsyth, New Zealand-born poets living in Melbourne. It’s hosted by Melbourne poet and host of La Mama Poetica, Amanda Anastasi, and streamed live on a Google Hangout broadcast, with questions live on Twitter and a YouTube video after the event. There’s also the Poetry Phone, Poems in Your Pocket and more.
Kerikeri  ‘Rhymes in the Vines’ celebrates poetry in Northland at Fat Pig Vineyard with an open mic and wine-tasting to wind-down the day after National Poetry Day on the 29th of August.
Whangarei  An open mic and the launch of Fast Fibres 2, a compilation of poems by Northland poets at Mokaba Café featuring local poets Piet Nieuwland, Michael Botur, Victoria del la Varis-Woodcock, Maureen Sudlow, and more.
Auckland seems to specialise in quirky events. They include readings at the Happy Tea House, Grey Lynn, a poetry-event venue in a converted sleep-out (hot drinks, orange juice, and breakfast supplied); a poetry walk that starts at the phone box outside Carl’s Junior, next to Aotea Square, and to get people warmed up, the ninth annual ‘Resurrection Night’, in which poets dress up as or pay homage to a dead poet. Slightly more mainstream and totally engaging are readings at the Takapuna Library with Robert Sullivan and others; ‘All Tomorrow’s Poets’, showcasing 10 young poets, in the tiny space above Time Out Bookstore in Mt Eden; the twelfth annual reading event by the marvellous ‘Divine Muses’ with Siobhan Harvey, Tusiata Avia and Jack Ross among the line-up; ‘Poetry Central’, an evening of poetry reading and festivities at Auckland Central City Library.
West Auckland Kumeu An open mic night. Bethells Beach: The “We” Society Poetry Day Wrap Party launches the society’s anthology at Te Henga Studios.
South Auckland A poetry slam at Manukau Institute of Technology, featuring Courtney Sina Meredith.
Hamilton An open mic night followed by a poetry slam at the Garden Place Library; ‘Poetry and Paint’, in which poems become paintings, at the University of Waikato’s Art Fusion Gallery, and  an exhibition of the work created at ‘Poetry and Paint’ with a night of performance poetry.

Katikati Three events, including the annual Haiku Poetry Path prize-draw and an open mic event at Browny’s Café.
Palmerston North Five events, including the Pamutana Poetry Picnic, New Zealand poems set to music by New Zealand composers and performed by the Palmerston North Girls’ High School chamber choir, and the Wisdom Lounge, a digital exhibition showcasing poems and poetic proverbs from Manawatu and around the world.
Wairoa Three events, including the announcement of the winners of the local  poetry competition — Te Roto, Te Awa, Te Moana -The Lake, the River, the Ocean, for poems in English or Te Reo Māori  on one of these themes.
Havelock North  The enterprising owners of Wardini Books have three events: an after-school event, an open mic night and a competition for poets aged between five and 18, judged by Paula Green and Emily Dobson, and open to the entire Hawkes Bay region.
New Plymouth Three events, including a competition for poems about Taranaki, a ‘mix and match’ poetry-making event and a poetry walk on the city’s foreshore. Chalk supplied.
Dannevirke The winner of the Tararua District Library’s Online Poetry Competition is announced.
Wairarapa poetry rolls through the district with an incredible number of events in one day at Pukaha, Featherston, Masterton, Greytown, Martinborough, Carterton and West Taratahi.

Wellington and its surrounding regions are surely a New Zealand poetry epicentre, with an outstanding seven events. They include:National Poetry Day Warm-Up at Te Papa in which eight poets with poems in in Best NZ Poems 2014 (John Dennison, Dinah Hawken, Anna Jackson, Gregory O’Brien, Claire Orchard, Nina Powles, Helen Rickerby and Kerrin P Sharpe) read their poems; Unity Books has a lunchtime reading titled ‘6 Poets in 60 Minutes’; Vic Books at the University has reading and music; at the Kapiti Coast Library, the winners of the Laughing Out Loud poetry competition are announced during an open mic night; in Upper Hutt the winners of the 15th annual Upper Hutt Poetry Competition will be announced at two events at the Upper Hutt City Library; and in Woburn, Lower Hutt there’s a reading of poems about the landscape.
Nelson has six events, including four events at the Elma Turner Library (including ‘Poems for Pikelets’) and Stoke Library, an inspired window of poems at Page and Blackmore Booksellers, open to contributions from people anywhere in the country), and a reading at Page and Blackmore which will also announce the winner of their nationwide Animal Laureate poetry competition.
In Christchurch there are readings at the South Library, Sydenham, and the Hagley Writer Institute has two events, including a workshop and the announcement of the winners of their poetry competition.
Dunedin The Dunedin Public Library is a stellar supporter of National Poetry Day, and 2015 is no exception. This year, during ‘Many Happy Returns’, glasses will be raised to toast Dunedin’s literary treasures on National Poetry Day. This year Poetry Day coincides with the birthday of Dunedin writer, the late Janet Frame. MC’d by Diane Brown, with readings from, Hinemoana Baker, David Eggleton and 2015 Burns Fellow Louise Wallace, as well as three rising stars selected from the Dunedin Secondary Schools Poetry Competition. The evening culminates in the announcement of the 2015 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award recipient.

Oamaru has two events including a performance by David Eggelton and the Spinemark Poetry Challenge.
Tiny Outram hosts J & K Rolling’s Outriders Poetry Tour, an open mic session plus readings of southern poems by Jenny Powell, Kay McKenzie Cooke and Richard Reeve.
Cromwell Paper Plus is holding an open mic event and announcing the winners of its Youth Poetry Competition, for poems about central Otago.
Greymouth The District library announces the winners of its poetry competition winners, and there’s a tour of local poets to three local rest homes.
Gore Jenny Powell and Kay Mackenzie Cooke are on tour, there’s a huge poetry display in the library, and an open mic lunchtime the week following Poetry Day.

It’s an amazing line-up! For more details on National Poetry Day events (including times, entry cost etc), go to https://nznationalpoetryday.wordpress.com/calendar-of-events.

National Poetry Day is managed by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust, which also administers the New Zealand Book Awards and the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. In 2015, the Day is administered for the Trust by Booksellers New Zealand and funded by Creative New Zealand.

Media please note:
National Poetry Day Coordinator, Miriam Barr, is available for interview.
Participating poets and event organisers in your area are also available for interview. Contact details are on the calendar of events for individual events organisers.

For further information please contact Sarah Forster, Booksellers New Zealand
T:  04 815 8367 E: sarah.forster@booksellers.co.nz

All Tomorrow’s Poets at Time Out Bookshop on NZ Poetry Day is a must-go-to event in my view


This event looks terrific! I picked Manon as the winner when I judged The New Zealand Post Secondary School Competition a number of years back (I would so love to hear what she is doing now!) and shortlisted Kirsti for the Sarah Broom Poetry Award this year and and raved about Zarah’s book at her launch and here (and Steven’s). This is some line up. And I love the fact there are people here I have never heard of.

If I wasn’t doing a swag of things in Hamilton for Poetry Day I would be there with bells on. Anyone want to write about this event I will post it on Poetry Shelf. Cheers!

All Tomorrow’s Poets will be a unique and exciting event, showcasing cutting-edge New Zealand poetry and situating it in the context of Aotearoa New Zealand’s literary history.

MC’d by Gregory Kan and Steven Toussaint, the event will feature:

Ross Brighton
Kirsti Whalen
Craig Foltz
Isobel Cairns
Zarah Butcher McGunnigle
Jessica Hansell aka Coco Solid
Gregory Kan
Steven Toussaint
Alex Wild
Manon Revuelta

…reading their own work alongside a New Zealand poem which they have found inspirational.

All Tomorrow’s Poets will take place in the reading room, upstairs at Time Out Books, in an informal atmosphere with copious food and drink.

Come along from 6.30pm on August the 22nd to explore the expanding possibilities of poetry.

Location: Upstairs at Time Out Books, 432 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden, Auckland

Entry Details: Free

Contact Details: please direct any questions to Time Out Books at books@timeout.co.nz