Tag Archives: poetry shelf monday poem

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Fleur Adcock’s ‘Island Bay’


Island Bay


Bright specks of neverlastingness

float at me out of the blue air,

perhaps constructed by my retina


which these days constructs so much else,

or by the air itself, the limpid sky,

the sea drenched in its turquoise liquors


like the paua shells we used to pick up

seventy years ago, two bays

along from here, under the whale’s great jaw.


Fleur Adcock



Fleur Adcock was born in New Zealand but has lived in England since 1963, with regular visits to NZ. She lives in London, and has dual British and New Zealand citizenship. She was awarded an OBE in 1996, a CNZM in 2008 and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2006. Her poetry is published in Britain by Bloodaxe Books and in New Zealand by Victoria University Press. In 2019 her Collected Poems appeared from Victoria University Press, and later that year she received the Prime Minister’s award for Literary Achievement in Poetry.

Fleur: I wrote this poem when I was in New Zealand late last year. It feels unbelievable that I should have been able to walk freely along the coast of Island Bay basking in the sunshine and the wind, just because I felt like it; things are not like that here, and may never be again for someone of my age. But at least it’s spring, and I have my garden, and am allowed to go for walks in the local woods as long as I don’t travel on a bus to get there, or risk doing anything so audacious as my own shopping.








Poetry Shelf connections: two poems from Nicola Easthope


Unessential kiss


I thought we’d meet in Island Bay

on a park bench facing the sea.

Well, you two on it, in your safe bubble

with us three standing, two metres away.


There’d be coffee poured from the flask

steaming against the strait’s new ice

and muffins with feijoa’s soap-sweet grit.

We’d inhale the aroma, lift our masks.


In lock down, I can’t mistakenly slip

on the mussel-kelp-anemone rock

and the soft creased surface of your cheeks

cannot be surprised by my bursting lips.



Numb and Absurd have morning

love children

and there is small relief.


Boris has gone to hospital.

Donald is lost, will lose.

Scotland’s chief medical officer,


Catherine and our Health Minister, David

have apologised for breaking

their own rules. The Queen, Elizabeth


calls for stoicism and self-discipline.

The iwi from Uawa are dancing

on the checkpoint line, in rainbow chiffon


wings, totally winning.

Craig from Solly’s lorries says all loos

are closed on his route from Mataura


to Ashburton but he makes it in time

yet the journo presses him – just take us

through this – what did this feel like?


I am looking in the mirror at the small

purulent pimple on my chin

wondering why on earth at my age?


I am thinking of people with nothing

in the fridge and no safe haven.

I am loading the dishwasher too unlovingly


and chip the willow-green bowl my mother

made at a pottery nightclass way back

when all we ever caught off each other


were colds, mumps, chickenpox, headlice

and it was wickedly easy

to make ourselves burp, or cry.


Nicola Easthope



Nicola Easthope (Pākehā, tangata Tiriti) is a teacher, poet and cheerleader for teen activism, from the Kāpiti Coast. Her two collections are leaving my arms free to fly around you (Steele Roberts, 2011) and Working the tang (The Cuba Press, 2018), and individual poems have been published in Aotearoa, Australia, Scotland and the U.S. She was a guest of the Queensland Poetry Festival in 2012, the Tasmanian Poetry Festival in 2018, and a couple of very cool LitCrawl seasons in Pōneke. You can find more of her work on gannet ink






Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Jordan Hamel’s ‘Te Papa’s giant squid dreams of the moana’


Te Papa’s giant squid dreams of the moana


school kids stare in awe and disgust

I’ve learnt more about my own

history from science teachers


giant soldiers mourn my captivity

the earthquake house shakes

in condemnation, docents wipe

away rebellious fingerprints


Did you know the Architeuthis has three hearts 

and a donut shaped brain?


my ink is responsible

for love notes in math class

complicated café orders

ratifying bilateral trade agreements


are you reading this in hard copy

sweet saviour

if so…  you’re welcome


once people have extracted

everything from you that’s special

they put you on display

and tell the world

how special you were


like the rugby hall of fame

where the 1985 All Blacks are kept in chains

destined to tackle each other into eternity

or permanent brain damage


I can’t find my edges

I’ve forgotten my reach

membrane liquefying

in industrial brine, I’m just

sinew floating in a historically

significant chowder


if you’re reading this before 2040

take an E-Scooter to the waterfront at midnight

break into the nature exhibit

pry open my colossal jar

let me Shawshank out of there

sliding back to my mother’s dank embrace


if you’re reading this after 2040 it’s too late

she’s already taken me back

Te Papa too


Jordan Hamel




Jordan Hamel (he/him) is a Pōneke-based poet and performer. He is the co-editor of Stasis Journal, which you should definitely check out. He was the 2018 New Zealand Poetry Slam champion and has words published or forthcoming in Poetry New Zealand, takahē, Landfall, Sport, Mimicry, Mayhem and elsewhere.





Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Kiri Piahana-Wong’s ‘ Give me an ordinary day’


Give me an ordinary day


Ordinary days

Where the salt sings in the air

And the tūī rests in the tree outside our kitchen window

And the sun is occluded by cloud, so that the light

does not reach out and hurt our eyes

And we have eaten, and we have drunk

We have slept, and will sleep more

And the child is fed

And the books have been read

And the toys are strewn around the lounge

Give me an ordinary day


Ordinary days

Where I sit at my desk, working for hours

until the light dims

And you are outside in the garden,

clipping back the hedge and trees

And then I am standing at the sink, washing dishes,

And chopping up vegetables for dinner

We sit down together, we eat, our child is laughing

And you play Muddy Waters on the stereo

And later we lie in bed reading until midnight

Give me an ordinary day


Ordinary days

Where no one falls sick, no one is hurt

We have milk, we have bread and coffee and tea

Nothing is pressing, nothing to worry about today

The newspaper is full of entertainment news

The washing is clean, it has been folded and put away

Loss and disappointment pass us by

Outside it is busy, the street hums with sound

The children are trailing up the road to school

And busy commuters rush by talking on cellphones

Give me an ordinary day


And because I’m a dreamer, on my ordinary day

Nobody I loved ever died too young

My father is still right here, sitting in his chair,

where he always sits, looking out at the sea

I never lost anything I truly wanted

And nothing ever hurt me more than I could bear

The rain falls when we need it, the sun shines

People don’t argue, it’s easy to talk to everyone

Everyone is kind, we all put others before ourselves

The world isn’t dying, there is life thriving everywhere

Oh Lord, give me an ordinary day


Kiri Piahana-Wong



Kiri Piahana-Wong, Ngāti Ranginui, is a poet and editor, and is the publisher at Anahera Press. Kiri’s first full-length collection, Night Swimming, was published in 2013.

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Diana Bridge’s ‘The critic at sunset’



The critic at sunset


They cling like snow to the line of the hill,

their proportion that of wave top

to its wave. Perched on a point,

the houses are an outpost. Just a strip

of habitation holding fast above

the massive plates on which they balance,

like one brave mind engaging

with the savage present.


The critic in him sweeps through shelves,

pouncing on those words that come unbidden;

these (after Dryden) he pronounces ‘hits’.

Brimming with connections, he looks to praise,

where he can find it, craft. He is vital

before time and illness and, when he thinks

a line, and we ourselves, will bear it, offers

his take on the last great human theme.


On its promontory, the strip of houses

flames at sunset. It makes a cultivated stand

against raw statement. Will it ebb, will it increase?

Are his lines over? We, who are sure of nothing,

see this present lapped in burnished distance:

cliffs brittle as bone, the hard-to-read

stance of the land, the role played in all

of this by an ever-ambiguous sea.


Diana Bridge



Diana Bridge has published seven collections of poems, including a new & selected. Her most recent book, two or more islands, came out in 2019 and was one of The Listener’s Top 10 poetry picks for the year. Although much of her adult life has been spent overseas, she was once dubbed a ‘quintessential Wellingtonian’. Her work combines home-grown and Asian, particularly Chinese and Indian, perspectives. She has a Ph.D. in classical Chinese poetry, and has taught in the Chinese Department at Hong Kong University. Her writing includes essays on the China-based poems of Robin Hyde and William Empson; she recently completed a collaborative translation of a selection of favourite Chinese classical poems.

Like many, the poem above foreshadows events. Although it was written before our Whakaari / White Island tragedy, it reflects a general feeling of precariousness stretching from physical catastrophe to the recent deaths of Clive James and Jonathan Miller. It was triggered by one of Clive James’s ‘Late Reading’ columns. I was thinking here of the poetry critic, and especially the author of Poetry Notebook, 2014.

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Johanna Aitchison’s ‘ANNA IS DRIVING HER WHITE CAR & HER CAR IS CRYING’






Anna’s white car refuses to leave the driveway without shouting goodbye

to all of the titoki,

the camellias,

the silverbeet,

the letterbox,

the veranda,

the trampoline.




“Those flowers remind me of the blues,” says the white car,

“the sky is bruise bruise bruise,

the tussock is hair follicles of a blond boy.”


“What’s that couch doing on the roadside?” says Anna.

A battered brown leather three-seater.

Anna would wave out if there were people on the couch,

she would shout out “hey!” as she was driving past,

but there are no people on the couch,

no people with legs spaghettied,

no people with light-washed faces,

no people laughing at the television

or crunching Snax & kicking crumbs behind the cushions.




At the reception Anna pays two hundred & sixty dollars for the unit for two nights.

The motel room says, “Do you like my picture?”

“I like it that you’re clean,” says Anna, “I like it that the bed looks new,

there’s Sky TV, a bath, a toaster,

& the owner has given me a little bottle of milk.”


Anna sits down on the bed & looks at the acrylic painting:

“I like it that your picture is a beach scene,

but you’re beside a lake.

A beach scene is more impersonal than a lake scene,

because it’s not connected to the place we’re in;

it’s neither beautiful nor repulsive,

which is the perfect way for a motel picture to be.”


“But do you like me?” says the motel room.

“I like it that you represent an idea,” says Anna,

“you’re more an idea of a motel than an actual motel.

You’re sufficiently general not to make

any claims on me; I like that.

I like you for what you don’t remind me of,

rather than what you do remind me of,

but I don’t want to get too personal with you.”


The motel room does not tell Anna to “turn the fucking TV on”,

because it wants to delay the moment.




When Anna was a child she thought a monster lived in the lake

& when she & her sister splashed in the motel pool at night,

she imagined the monster rising & seizing her from the back

dark corner. These were the kinds of things that terrified her.

The motel, however, wouldn’t talk about bland things

to distract her like it does when she’s an adult,

instead it told her to look up from her Weetbix

at snakes corkscrewing around the curtain rails

& that the carpet would display its incisors,

chomp down on her toes & hold her there.




After Anna finishes talking to the motel room, she walks to the lake & along the path by the lakefront.


There are DANGER stones & stickmen falling off signs at the cliff lip.

Anna notices someone has scraped off some letters:

DANG,           ANGE             —                    DANCE!


The red bicycles chained to the fence beside the lake make Anna so sad.

She doesn’t know if it’s the paint

or the child’s bike lying on its chain

or the horror of discovering, when she steps closer,

the missing pedals, seats, handlebars,

which look samesame from far away, but become uncomfortably individual

as she zooms in.


Anna finds a spot by the lake edge to eat her kebab.

She concludes she will never find the perfect spot,

but the spot she finds is good enough,

against the trunk of a pohutukawa,

she sits & bites through her food.

As Anna eats the chicken, the beef, the hummus, the yoghurt, the lettuce, the chili sauce,

she watches a couple drop their clothes, watches the man run-hop that run-hop you do when the water’s cool. The woman’s wearing a black bikini, & after she stops shrieking, the man pulls her in close for warmth.

Anna takes a photo & posts it to Instagram. If you look carefully, you can spot the entwined couple carved into the cold water. Anna calls her husband. “Did you hear about Christchurch?” he asks.


Johanna Aitchison



Johanna Aitchison is a PhD candidate at Massey University, examining how contemporary innovative poets create cohesion in experimental verse. She was the 2019 Mark Strand Scholar at Sewanee Writers’ Conference in Tennessee, and her poetry has appeared, most recently, in Best Small Fictions 2019 and Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2020.






Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Murray Edmond’s ‘The Chocolate for the Ants’





It was the ants who taught you pathos.

Your oldest aunt the only one not living

in Australia stern Methodist that she was

loved you best of all her many nephews

so when you had eaten all your dinner up

gave you a piece of chocolate which you

with your grasp of the Methodist ethic of

delayed gratification placed on the bedside

table when you had been tucked up in

your narrow bed so that the pleasure

to be taken on awaking in the morning

would be all the greater than had that

chocolate been eaten when it was received

except those ants had their own wayward

thoughts and there they were exercising

their own ideas when you woke. So thickly

did they coat that chocolate piece the pathos

was you could not see the chocolate for the ants.


Murray Edmond




Murray Edmond’s recent books include Back Before You Know (2019, Longlisted for the Ockham NZ Book Awards) and Shaggy Magpie Songs (2015), two poetry volumes; Then It Was Now Again: Selected Critical Writing (2014); and Strait Men and Other Tales (2015), fictions. He is the editor of Ka Mate Ka Ora: A New Zealand Journal of Poetry and Poetics; and works as a dramaturge – Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis’s Mrs Krishnan’s Party (2017) and Welcome to the Murder House (2018) and Naomi Bartley’s Te Waka Huia (2017/ 2018). Also directed Len Lye: the Opera (2012).