Tag Archives: poetry shelf monday poem

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: essa may ranapiri’s ‘cracked or crackling or splitting down the sides’ 

cracked or crackling or splitting down the sides 

(after Robert Sullivan’s ‘the crackling page’) 

if it is a fire then i know it is a fire if there is
warmth coming from that fire then it is
warmth in my mouth if my mouth is really
there and i know it is because it is open it is
open with fire streaming through my teeth
with heat lining my gums if my tongue is
moving in my mouth then sound is coming
 out if sound is coming out and surely i know
this because it is my mouth and my sound it is
a fire and i know it is a fire because of
how it burns 

essa may ranapiri (Ngaati Raukawa, Te Arawa, Ngaati Pukeko, Clan Gunn) is a poet who lives on Ngaati Wairere whenua on the island of Te Ika a Maaui. Author of ransack (VUP, 2019) and ECHIDNA (THWUP, 2022). They have a great love for language, LAND BACK and hot chips. They will write until they’re dead.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Airini Beautrais ‘Wasted youth’

Wasted youth

When you were clear-eyed
When your breasts burst out of you like blossoms
Your legs brown willow wands
Your hair like golden fire
You determined to be strange
Wore bad 80s tracksuits
Hair in a low ponytail tied with a scrunchie
Frumpy centre part and frizz, a frown
Under thick eyebrows
Wore old man pants
Hacked off your hair
Grew it back without grooming
Went to the ball in jandals and your grandma’s dress
Smelling like dust
Wore no bra and your mum’s old skivvy
Ate cake in the street
Made homemade dreadlocks
That stunk of skin and rotting thread
Went swimming in baggy boyleg trunks
Wore old sneakers from a skip bin
Smoked weed out of toilet rolls, apples,
plastic bottles, bits of bamboo
Threw all your costume jewellery in the clothing bin
Bought a pair of heels and never wore them
Gave them to the opshop
Slept with stoners, drunks, deadbeats and layabouts
Tried to get jobs in bare feet
Threw out everything made of leather
Wore thai fisherman pants and no undies
Refused to shave anything
Hacked your hair off again
Wore a bad 80s jacket
Dyed it patchy pink with DYLON cold
Cut your own bangs crooked
Got paint all over yourself
Wore clown pants
Carried everything in a dirty backpack
No spare change no time of day
Get lost, fuck off, nothing to see here
Like a tree dropping fruit
On the pavers of an abandoned courtyard

Airini Beautrais

Airini Beautrais lives in Whanganui and is the author of four poetry collections and a collection of short fiction. Her most recent poetry collection is Flow: Whanganui River Poems (VUP 2017). Bug Week and Other Stories recently won the Ockham NZ Book Fiction Award 2021.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Neema Singh ‘Before Cara Delevingne’

Before Cara Delevingne

Before Cara Delevingne
there was me
bushy-browed and proud
ready to walk down the catwalk
at Burwood Primary (down by the silver birches
where we played tree tag).

My eyebrows were so big and black they could knock out
the scrawny blonde kid at Intermediate,
the one who followed me and hit my legs
with a stick as I walked away
the one who called the only other brown girl in our class

My eyebrows were so wild they could radiate
waves of anger to the stranger at the bus stop
who said, “just smile, it’s not the end of the world”.

My eyebrows were so thick they punched through my voice
spoke so loudly that our Social Studies classroom rumbled
and everyone turned to listen.

In my dreams I have a sidekick –
with my beastly brows and Kajol’s unibrow
we are unstoppable.

Watch out tweezers and threaders and assorted brow shapers
we refuse to be plucked or trimmed into shape.
We bow only to the brow goddess
for long luscious fluffy brows.

Neema Singh

Neema Singh is a poet from Otāutāhi. Her work appears in Ko Aotearoa Tātou: We Are New Zealand(2020) and A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand (2021) and she is currently working on her first collection of poetry. Neema is an experienced secondary school English teacher and holds a Master of Creative Writing from The University of Auckland.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Karlo Mila’s ‘Stretch Marks’

Stretch Marks

(20 Sep 2021)

On looking
at my naked body.
Knowing you will be

My body is ripped 
with silver linings.

Stretch marks. 

A weave of flex.
when my world got too big for me,
bearing babies
or burdens.

Stretch marks.
Invisible inked in skin.
Traces I needed to suddenly hide, 
Dive in, submerge into skin
safer unseen
from predator, prowler,

Oh luminous seal
with quick thick thighs
you dived underwater
thick-pelted, you hide,

The loneliness of mammals. 

Alone in the deep blue deep.
Gestating to a saline rhythm .
All my own. 
All alone.
Skins grown
and shed.

Stretch marks.

A spider webbed weave
of vibrating threads.

Silks spun,
and undone.

The painful crack
of the shell of my understanding


Shedding full body armour
of weta skin, mine and others –
left behind –
with prayers on parting.

The coconut husk –
wringing cream and water
to try and see my future
in the milk of ancestral fluids.

The cocoon
of caterpillar storybooks
cake and pickle and pie,
so hungry.

The black butterflied chrysalis 
of love poetry written in my 30s.
That well written body indeed.

Here it is. 
Looking for love 
Same songs
different sounds.

I am always entranced 
by the acoustic version,
almost poetry. 

Sound healing.
Sexual healing.

I have been waiting for you so long,
Karakia even.
It’s been too long.
Too alone.
I’m too human.

Across time and space,
He arrives, rain.
softly quoting hurricane.
He comes
in front of me,
sticky embryonic. 

Ultimate tōhu
of fertility. newness. rebirth.
remake. Remaster. 

We cross digital divides,
magic echnologies of presence.
wonder-lust, the marvellous.
the surreal sexuality of screens.

Missionary position
is my favourite way
to look at you.
You see
Speak it out loud.

Small scars on my body speak 
to trauma worn, scribbled on skin.
Stretch marks.
Paper thin.
Will you see me? My frailty?
Will you want? 

The small gods of chemistry
are king.

Will you want to
Come in?

Already I imagine you
in my mouth. Salty. Sweet. Big. Deep.


De-col. it’s everywhere.
Even in the seabed and foreshore of play… can I play? Can I say? 
Will you stay? 

Trust. in the 21st century 
of unconditional lovers
where it only lasts as long
as the longing.

I want nothing but.
Having settled for less.

I want no settler.
I want native. 

But these stretch marks speak to small anxieties, 
cartography of flesh.
I take a deep breath.
With these silver threads:
Tuia ki roto
Tuia ki waho
Tuia ki raro
Tuia ki runga

I stitch. I sew. I bind. 

Both of us
gasping for breath
in this ocean we have 
Leap of faithed 

Oh departing place 
of the spirits
watch over us.

Deepak recasts it as moving into the unknown 
beyond the prison of the past.
I listen to his lilting words:
“Today, I will step into the unknown.
I will relinquish the known.
By stepping into the unknown
I will enter in the field of unlimited possibilities.”

This is our place.
The field
beyond write and wrong.
Between hema and mata’u.
The field between other husband and other wife. 

The field between us.

There is no map-making to be had
using the small cursive script of the past. Prisons. 
I cast away my own incarcerated markings,
scribbles, notes, past poems, tiny wounded stories. 

I will give up the need to track-back
the way out
To tightly pencil a safe way in.
To re-make the boundaries.  To fortify.  
To try and control the way home.

I will leave the birds-eye to my ancestors,
keeping an ear open only
to the manu that tangi
keeping our forest alive.
This field.

I step, I step, 
Knowing I will be naked,
humbled, human, 
vulnerable, ashamed, 
afraid, and aroused,
I step, I step
into our field
of infinite possibility.

In this green grass,
I will lie
and meet you there.

Karlo Mila

Karlo Mila (MNZM) is an award winning Pasifika poet of Tongan / Palangi descent.  Her third poetry book “The Goddess Muscle” was released by Huia Publishers in 2020.  Her first book won the first best book award at the New Zealand literary awards in 2005.  She is a Mother, writer, researcher, creative, academic and activist.  Her day job is as the Programme Director of the Mana Moana Experience at Leadership New Zealand.  Karlo is the founder and creator of Mana Moana – aimed at elevating and harnessing indigenous Pacific knowledge for contemporary living and leadership. It is based on five years of postdoctoral research.  Karlo has three sons and lives in Auckland.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Kate Camp’s ‘What I would give away’

What I would give away

This pill
little light blue moon
tasting of rosewater

the night
in lines
through black dust
of the blind

smashed and torn off

morning light
when orange falls
six weeks a year
that way.

But the darkness?
The one behind my eyes?
In the cavities
of this responsible body? No.

When I saw the tow truck
I thought it was carrying
a crucifix.

Let’s start with that.

Kate Camp

Kate Camp’s most recent book is How To Be Happy Though Human, published by Victoria University Press and in Canada by House of Anansi Press. Her memoir, You probably thing this song is about you, will be published by Victoria University Press in 2022. 

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Amber Esau’s ‘Liminal’


Parted down the middle, his sharpened cuerpo
struts out of a waspish cave in the dark

harakeke, strands bowing under a nosey Tūī
eyeing the red beaned flower that’s claw-like

in lazy light. We lock eyes in glass. Feathers
and flax. He stares from corners acting coy

but this is k’rd, bruh, a Queen will call you
out for not looking long enough. I ruffle

the curls searching silences in the glare
knowing? Not quite slow moving but watchful

the manu drops a beak at onyx arrowhead
eyes forgetting forward. Down the vague grey

he walks the tui across the winking glass
into a powdery afternoon, kicking up silent

dust behind them on the street. They swoop to the top
of St. Kevin’s perched for a second before flying off

into the blue thin as the moon of pulotu
dragging nails across the fog and Paz.

Amber Esau

Amber Esau is a Sā-māo-rish writer (Ngāpuhi / Manase) born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau. She is a poet, storyteller, and amateur astrologer. Her work has been published both in print and online. 

Hear Amber read


Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Erik Kennedy’s ‘Lives of the Poets’

Lives of the Poets

There is the possible world in which,
having no safety net
to fall into, I killed myself.

There is the world in which
acclaim came early
with a book called something like
Sex Owls of the Sun,
and the effects of success jaded me,
so I stopped pursuing
the art that I loved.

And there is also the world that was
a succession of cool, forgettable evenings
spent among canapés and loud friends,
in which we aged so slowly
that we hardly noticed it,
until it blurred our vision
like damp creeping into a camera.

Erik Kennedy

Erik Kennedy is the author of the poetry collections There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime (2018) and Another Beautiful Day Indoors (2022), both with Victoria University Press, and he has co-edited No Other Place to Stand, a book of climate change poetry from Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific forthcoming from Auckland University Press in 2022. His poems, stories, and criticism have been published in places like FENCEHobartMaudlin HousePoetryPoetry Ireland Review, the TLS, and Western Humanities Review. Originally from New Jersey, he lives in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Amy Brown’s ‘Only Children’

Only Children

The Baby Shark Song eats
the part of me that cares

for rhythm, for pattern. Time
is a parent on leave, retired even.

What an age to be alive, I sigh
to my partner while playing a live

stream of a writer I admire (her face
fits my palm). I turn the screen

to show him and imagine my camera
has shown him steaming from the shower

where our son hammers the glass
with a plastic orca and chants

the words stuck in our shared head.
How does the Duchess know

Alice is thinking? he asks.
I say I can tell when he’s thinking.

Now? His focus relaxes.

No! It was a trick.
He wasn’t thinking,

just looking.
Thoughts are made,

looking is a sort of finding,
knitting is done, dreams are suffered,

and listening to your mother read
Alice in Wonderland

is in between. Is it possible
to behead something

bodiless? I ask. Of course not.
He’s learning independence.

The balding Sylvanian badger
once belonged to me. I’d have it

speak to that same grey rabbit.
He’s built them a magnetic castle.

Mine was a red-roofed doll’s house
handmade by Grandad (ready to go—

now gone). Badger says to Rabbit,
It’s not lockdown here, so come on

inside and have a nice glass of wine.
It’s a good game, my son explains

You’d like it because
there’s no fighting.

I like watching the show Alone
because Vancouver Island

is a limpid coastline of the general
wild. Those whining men

living off limpets while yearning
for buckets of chicken gradually

know they’ll never be rescued.
A boat might deliver them

back to families, places where lost fat
is found, but there will always be want.

So, I tell my only child
we must learn to play alone—

to shape a shelter from fallen branches,
snack on oxalis and set traps to catch fathers.

Amy Brown

Amy Brown was born in Hawkes Bay and now lives in Melbourne. Her latest poetry collection, Neon Daze, a verse journal of the first four months of motherhood, was one of the Saturday Paper‘s 2019 books of the year. She is also the author of The Odour of SanctityThe Propaganda Poster Girl, and Pony Tales, a series of children’s novels.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Ashleigh Young’s ‘Jeremy’


I need to write to this guy Jeremy, a poet who I met in New York.
Every six months or so Jeremy writes to say hello and provide an update
on his latest book which, to be honest, I don’t want to hear about
but that’s beside the point; I liked Jeremy and I will get a copy.

I need to write to my other friend, my old friend, who I have not
written or spoken to for a long time.

Whenever I hear from Jeremy I think about this poetry reading
we both did in Brooklyn, October 2017.
At the reading, a mania seized me and I went on for too long.
Maybe I wouldn’t remember this now if it weren’t for the fact
that the great American poet Eileen Myles
was waiting for me to finish reading so that they could read,
and when I finally finished and sat down, they stood up
and cleared their throat and set a timer on their phone.

Whenever I hear from Jeremy I think of that reading
and my arms and legs spasm in shame, as if
I’ve been hit by an arrow.
It was an outdoor event
with rows of those white marquees
that undulate violently when the wind blows.
People were walking, walking,
all through the afternoon, in that miraculous way
that people just walk around on the other side of the planet.

Why did I read so long?
Why didn’t Jeremy stop me?

If I had stopped reading sooner,
there would be more time in the world.

Those three to four minutes would be snowballing
off in some other direction
accumulating whole hours, days.
Maybe my friend and I would still be talking.

The days might be growing longer, not shorter.
And all of a sudden we’ve made it through winter together.
From the apartment we look down onto the street
and decide there is enough light left to go out walking.

Ashleigh Young

Ashleigh Young’s most recent book is How I Get Ready (Victoria University Press, 2019).

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Chris Price’s ‘Housekeeping’


Of course I never bought
the wedding story

so now a blackbird does
the housekeeping on my lawn:

it costs me nothing but
the pleasure of watching her

turn dead leaves
into tasty morsels.

I don’t have time
to renovate, but still

I want something new
so this plain-purl-cross-

stitch that covers nothing
with seed pearls and

knits patterns of conflict
into tatty blankets

will have to do. This is my re-
production, the curtain goes

up every night whether
the theatre is empty or full.

I want you to sit down here
with me. I can’t wait

for your get up and go.
I fly by night

above the stage
so you don’t have to.

Chris Price

Chris Price is the author of three poetry collections and the hybrid ‘biographical dictionary’ Brief Lives. She has also collaborated with NZ physicists (in Are Angels Ok?), and with German poets (in the bilingual anthology Transit of Venus Venustransit). Chris convenes the MA Workshop in Poetry and Creative Nonfiction at the International Institute of Modern Letters. Her latest publication is the third book in Lloyd Jones’s Kōrero series (The Lobster’s Tale, Chris Price and Bruce Foster, Massey University Press, 2021).

Poetry Shelf audio and photographs from The Lobster’s Tale
Massey University Press page
RNZ Saturday Morning interview
Ian Wedde review Academy of NZ Literature
Bruce Foster and Chris Price in conversation Read NZ