Tag Archives: poetry shelf monday poem

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Frankie McMillan’s ‘Girls Raised by Swans’

Girls Raised by Swans

We swim like foster children, our necks held high, we swim with open arms knowing water will always want us back, we swim like brides with beautiful feet, we swim like Russian thoughts.

We swim in caravans of water, we swim amongst floating chairs, a toaster, we swim with a lampshade on our heads and when the current surges west, we swim out into the open with the eels.

We swim like we are missed, we swim like we are bridled, we swim under bridges and when the boats come calling, we swim low, through scum, through ropes, we swim like rich people, always laughing.

Frankie McMillan

Frankie McMillan is a poet and short story writer who spends her time between Ōtautahi/ Christchurch and Golden Bay. Her poetry collection, There are no horses in heaven, was published by Canterbury University Press.  Recent work appears in Best Microfictions 2021 (Pelekinesis) Best Small Fictions 2021 (Sonder Press), the New Zealand Year Book of Poetry ( Massey University), New World Writing and Atticus Review.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Vana Manasiadis ‘Skylla draws the planet as three lippy women’

from one spark:
Skylla draws the planet as three lippy women



the planet as Klytaemnestra

 don’t shove you everywhere the tail yours        don’t
sear you the fish to the lips my                like the fish out
 of water                               δεν τρέμω         the fish stinks
 from the head             like the fish     σαν     out of water                
won’t cut I the throat my            το ψάρι     won’t lower
I the tail my           won’t shake like the fish I    


the planet as Medea

              show I the teeth my               
 squeeze I the teeth my
armed until the teeth  fight I
       with nails and with teeth   
 talk I inside from the teeth
talk I outside from
                                    the teeth                                   
  if don’t you have teeth
                   can’t you to bite
you can’t dodge this
    δράκου δόντι να’χεις δεν γλιτώνεις
not even with a dragon’s tooth


the planet as Antigone

from one spark grows a bushfire
 put I the hand           to the fire
     from one spark
είμαι                grows a bushfire
am I lava                     and fire
 the eyes my         throw sparks
                      fall I        
                  φωτιά     to the fire
the eyes                   my
                                     throw sparks
grab I the fire              και
                              put I the hand
   λάβρα                   to the fire
grab I the fire                  am I lava             
 lava                           am I and fire
and fire                   

Vana Manasiadis

Vana Manasiadis is a Greek-New Zealand poet and translator born in Te Whanganui-a-Tara and based in Tāmaki Makaurau after many years living in Kirihi Greece.  She is 2021 Ursula Bethell Writer-in-Residence at Te Whare Wanaga o Waitaha Canterbury University. Her most recent book was The Grief Almanac: A Sequel (Seraph Press).

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Elizabeth Welsh’s ‘all the intertidal meadows’

all the intertidal meadows


my therapist casually suggested that I embody seagrass; this seemed dangerously close to social prescribing, but I had been reading Fontaine with its daymares repeatedly that autumn, together with articles on forest bathing, which seemed earthy, hungry, darkly prescient, so I experienced the briefest of pauses before I embraced it, placing a dark halo over a quivering body evolved from terrestrial plants, returning to the wide-open space of underwater hollows, to silence, to quaking, glittering light. they have flowers and seeds and roots and leaves and connective tissues; they have ribboning foliage, holding firm in built-up silt on tidal flats.

when we found the audio recorder we wanted to buy, the sales assistant outlined the different ways I could record conversations, as if this was the object’s sole purpose. I thought about the taking of another’s voice, the permission we were granting ourselves to grasp the sung shrieks of grass, and I turned to look at your mended lips, reading their unhurried movement. we took the handheld recorders into the soft carpet marsh of the wetlands, stopped our footfalls and created slight archives of our meagre silence, our scant pause. you were annoyed when I interrupted to ask how we define aural stimulus; but what is noise and what is sound? is there a moment – a blurred boundary? is a sound always so fitfully tender and sinking?

your lungs of clay heaved with the cold and unsympathetic air, my tendons stretched, elastic over our loud together loneliness. if you took a diecut mould and used it on me, you’d find: there’s your body and hers and safe and hard and compost and squeaking tedium and peaty soil; there’s microbes and knuckles and luminescence and practice and precarity and crushing blends of all this. we sign up for a noxious plant maintenance scheme when we leave via the ranger’s hut, and she informs us that it is mainly cordgrasses that we will be tackling. they strangle the groundcover, she murmurs earnestly, and we know to nod many times and make appropriate noises. all the intertidal meadows are swollen, she grows tiny as she talks, and I struggle to lip-read what she’s saying as she moves closer and closer to the compressed, rising earth

Elizabeth Welsh

Elizabeth Welsh is a poet, papermaker and academic editor. She is the author of Over There a Mountain, published by Mākaro Press in 2018. Her poetry has been published in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and she is Auckland Council’s Artist in Residence for 2021, creating site-specific poetry and handmade paper on/from the wetlands at Āwhitu Regional Park. She lives in Titirangi with her husband and daughter.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem; Lynn Davidson’s ‘Lineage’


I was nine months pregnant, and waiting, when the man in the

Taranaki airport shop snapped this isn’t a library you know,

and when I turned my great belly full of fingernails and teeth-in-bud

towards him he asked (hotly) if I was actually going to buy anything.

The baby made exclamation marks with its soft bones,

glared with its wide open eyes – two Os.  No I said I won’t buy

my news from you. Above the town, Mount Taranaki blazed red and then

in the quick cold dusk, the plane with my parents in, touched down.

That night the child swung from its treehouse to the tree

and climbed through me to my mother’s hands and with its

persimmon tongue brought us stories (both good and terrible)

from this world, and the other one.

Lynn Davidson

Lynn Davidson’s latest poetry collection Islander is published by Shearsman Books and Victoria University Press. She had a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2013 and a Bothy Project Residency at Inshriach Bothy in the Cairngorms in 2016.  In 2011 she was Visiting Artist at Massey University. She won the Poetry New Zealand Poetry Award, 2020 and is the 2021 Randell Cottage Writer in Residence. Lynn has a doctorate in creative writing and teaches creative writing. She recently returned to New Zealand after four years living and writing in Edinburgh. 


Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Natalie Morrison’s ‘Be the Building’

Be the Building

Make sure you are in a comfortable

position. Steer your attention down

to your foundation piles.

Sense your I-beams, your

cross-braces. Let your elevators

rise and fall in their natural rhythm.

You may feel your thoughts begin to wander

between floors and out into the street.

This is perfectly normal. I want you to accept

the drift of your thoughts, then gather them back

to their allocated desks. Just focus on the stillness.

Listen to the many keyboards inside yourself.

You might experience them as a ticking cavern

or a preschool armed with felted mallets.

Notice the shuffle of your thoughts in your internal

stairwells. There may be pigeons scribbling their nests

in your eaves, a fresh pucker in your wiring, burnt toast

on Level 7. Acknowledge these,

and try not to ask yourself

why your pipes

feel so water-logged

these days, or whether

it’s just a clump of thoughts

leaning on a wall.

Let your elevators rise

and let them softly fall.

Natalie Morrison

Natalie Morrison has an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, where she received the Biggs Family Prize for Poetry in 2016. She lives and works in Wellington. Her debut collection Pins appeared in 2020 (Victoria University Press).

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Robert Sullivan’s ‘Dream’


I woke with the birds.

We were on a bus somewhere in England,

a double-decker red one and the driver

turned up an arterial which had turned to grass.

He turned us around and took us commuters

in the reverse direction. We were working

our way through the contents of my soft

gym bag which was filled with beads,

shiny coins, and we’d piled them up on the bus floor

so a young boy with his parents sitting opposite us

dived into them before I could scoop them back.

I had asked the bus driver if he could let a passenger know

that they might miss their bus stop now that

we had changed direction, but he instead quoted

a lengthy passage of Shakespeare I think

in which he quoted owls do cry.

Robert Sullivan

Robert Sullivan lives in Oamaru. He belongs to Ngāpuhi (from Kāretu and Omanaia), and Kāi Tahu (Karitāne). His seven collections of poetry includeCaptain Cook in the Underworld, Shout Ha! to the Skyand the best-selling Star Waka. He co-edited three major anthologies of Pacific and Māori poetry. His PhD, Mana Moana, examines the work of five other indigenous Pacific poets. His eighth collection, Tūnui / Comet will be published by AUP later this year.

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Ben Brown’s ‘Writing on the Moon’

Writing on the Moon

Writing on the moon

with a feather dipped

in light

The sickle of

tomorrow’s sun

reflecting possibilities

The shadow of

the world defines

unlimited imagining

Ben Brown (2020)

Ben Brown (Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Koroki, Ngāti Paoa) was born 1962 in Motueka, which is further away from him now than he cares to think about. He has been writing all his life for his own enjoyment and published his first children’s book in 1991. He is an award winning author who writes for children and adults across all genres, including poetry, which he also enjoys performing. Generally, if pressed, he will have something to say about anything. In May 2021 he was made the inaugural NZ Reading Ambassador for Children – Te Awhi Rito. He is also a father of two, which he considers his best work to date. He lives in Lyttelton above a pie shop across the road from the sea.

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Cilla McQueen’s ‘Festival Time’

Festival Time

Pearl-grey moiré silk

above a base-line of pewter,

high top notes cloudy gold.

Oyster Festival tomorrow,

the day the road is jammed with traffic,

the day Bluff is invaded by lovers;

thousands of salt-sweet mouthfuls

dredged from their seabed, shucked deftly,

swallowed alive by the roistering crowd.

Too many people – I’m staying home.

After this rain the paradise ducks will come

down to the green field patched with sky.

Cilla McQueen

Cilla McQueen lives and writes in the southern port of Bluff. A recipient
of multiple awards for her poetry, she eats oysters as often as possible. Cilla’s most recent works are In a Slant Light: a poet’s memoir (2016) and Poeta: selected and new poems (2018), both from Otago University Press.

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Lily Holloway’s ‘Tidewrack’


Everything is beached in the apocalypse

bathed in eggplant light as I trundle

past lines of tidewrack and lemons

spitting with sandhoppers

Pink cephalopods suck armoured worms 

from where holes bubble and froth

muscle pulled thick and stubborn

I can hear their beaks cracking

tentacles grasping and it’s painful

to see through their pellucid skin

When I look again, now closer to that line of debris

fluorescent seaweed are strands of thin balloons 

blues and yellows simply twisted and segmented

overlapping scuttlers 

a carrier crab with an urchin settled on its carapace

an offering or mardi-gras hat

People have written cryptograms with sticks

just under the surface of the water

tic-tac-toe and boxes made of scallop shell

preserved in the stillness of it all

The sand path around the cliffside grows thin

and I walk like there’s less gravity 

in a jacket that rustles and clinks

pockets full of the clarity I’m bootlegging

Lily Holloway

Lily Holloway (she/they) has been published in StarlingScumThe Pantograph Punch, Landfall and other various nooks and crannies (see a full list at lilyholloway.co.nz/cv).  She is an executive editor of Interesting Journal and has a chapbook forthcoming in AUP New Poets 8. Lily is based in Tāmaki Makaurau, is a hopeless romantic and probably wants to be your penpal! You can follow her on Twitter @milfs4minecraft.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: James Brown’s ‘Their Feelings’

Their Feelings

Their feelings are like a mosquito sliding
its proboscis into a freckle. Their feelings are like
light through blinds in an 80s music video.
Their feelings are like techno under aurora in Norway.
Their feelings are like swimming in sunlit sea and
seeing a shadow. Their feelings are like when they’ve
taken bath salts that turn out to be bath salts, and they
end up in A&E and their mothers have flown in from
Hamilton and are holding their hands and crying, but
all they can think about is how their lives have become a
TV hospital soap which they could have been written out of
or out of which they could have been written.
Their feelings are like a Mindful Self Compassion course
when someone asks where the hyphen goes in the title
and the convenor says ‘Anywhere’ and the person says
‘I don’t think this is what I am looking for.’

James Brown

James Brown’s Selected Poems was published by VUP in 2020. He is working on a new book.