Tag Archives: poetry shelf monday poem

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Brian Turner – an unpublished poem and a new book


In the Middle of Nowhere


On a late winter morning when driving east towards Ranfurly

pale grey fog’s smothering most of the land from Wedderburn

to Naseby, Kyeburn, Kokonga, Waipiata, Hamilton’s, Patearoa

and beyond. And I’m thinking how often we’re told we live

in the middle of nowhere: that nowadays people everywhere

are categorised, seen as somewheres, anywheres, or nowheres,

and that, in particular, this place is empty, needs more people.

So it goes. In ‘Furl’ I shop at the corner Four Square, pluck

some cash from a money machine, buy a long black and two

thick egg and chive sandwiches at the E-Café, fill up with gas

at the garage and set off homewards. Then, when re-entering

the Ida Valley and emerging into sharp sunlight, and wondering,

yet again, whether what is ever present always feels burdened

by the past, everywhere one looks – north south east and west –

bulky hills and shining mountains glisten with heavy snow.

And, oddly perhaps, so-called nowhere’s nowhere to be found.


Brian Turner


Brian Turner was born in Dunedin in 1944. His debut collection Ladders of Rain (1978) won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. He has published a number of collections including Just This which won the NZ Post Book Award for Poetry in 2010. He has received the Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry (2009) and was NZ Poet Laureate (2003-5).  He lives in Central Otago.

In April Victoria University Press published Brian’s Selected Poems, a hardback treasury of poetry that gains life from southern skies and soil, and so much more. When I am longing to retreat to the beauty of the south, I find refuge in one of Brian’s poems. The economy on the line, the exquisite images, the braided rhythms. Read a poem and your feet are in the current of a gleaming river, your eyes fixed on a purple gold horizon line.


Once in a while

you may come across a place

where everything

seems as close to perfection

as you will ever need.

from ‘Place’


Yet the joy of reading the Selected Poems is also in the diverse subject matter: the acerbic political bite when he considers a world under threat, the love poems, poems of his mother and his father, the elegies, the humour, the storms, the seasons. In ‘The mixing bowl’ the mother is kneading, she feeds her son cakes and scones, along with ‘a rough and tart / unstinting love’. The final stanzas catch my heart:


But I did not know

it would be so hard

to watch her grow,

enfeebled, toward oblivion,

her hands and face

yellow as floury

butter, her arms

white as gentled flour.


I love ‘In Ladbroke Grove’: a woman in a London cafe is surprised he is writer because she didn’t ‘know there were any in New Zealand.’ When she asked where New Zealand was ‘he refused to answer that because too many know anyway’. Ha!

I emailed Brain earlier in the year to see if had any new poems -and he said he had hundreds. ‘In the middle of nowhere’ is one of them – a Turner taste before you read the glorious Selected Poems. His poetry might carry you to the middle of nowhere (a fiction of course!) but his poems are rich in the sumptuous experience of somewhere. His poetry somewhere is vital, humane, illuminating. His Selected Poems is an essential volume for me and I want to keep quoting poems to you because they are so rewarding. Instead I  recommend you pack the book in your bag and take time out for a Turner retreat.


The dead do

sing in us, in

us and through

us, and to themselves

under their mounds of earth

swelling  in the sun, or in their

ashes that shine

as they depart on the wind.

from ‘After’ for Grahame


Victoria University Press page


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Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Jess Fiebig’s ‘Summer’


Summer 2016


that summer was heavy, thick

I felt myself weighted,

struggling to move through air

it was underwater with open eyes

breathless and pressurised

seeing everything through

the blur and sting

of sea water


my new breasts were tight and hard in my chest,

and I had to sleep on my back for the first time;

my body was an unfamiliar collection of bones,

brittle as shells, and freshly bleached hair.


it was an achingly empty summer,

it was bitten, itchy skin,

damp thighs rubbing on denim,

it was bare chested and freckled,

salt licking new scars


it was the season of lemons

softening in the bowl,

damp fur, and fingernails bitter and green

from tearing and linking

daisy stems


it was clotted black blood, sprinklers,

strawberries and razorblades,

it was warm, long nights alone


it was the summer of the 6 am hate poem,

the first summer the soles of my feet

grew thick and hard

and as I watched shadows stretch

and felt cool wind come off the water,

it was the summer

I fell in love with



Jess Fiebig



Jess Fiebig is a nationally-recognised poet, educator and performer living in Otautahi/Christchurch, New Zealand. Her writing has featured in journals such as Aotearotica, Catalyst, Landfall, takahē, Turbine, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook and Best New Zealand Poems 2018. Jess was commended in the 2017 and 2018 New Zealand Poetry Society International Poetry Competitions and was highly commended in 2019 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize. Her poetry explores themes such as madness, sex, love, family violence, friendship, drugs and dislocation. Jess teaches creative writing and is a tutor at the Christchurch School for Young Writers.  Jess’s website.





Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Sudha Rao’s ‘Manuhiri’

check layout 22/ 7





Her grandmother told her she was a child of Manu,

manushi, daughter of humanity, blessed

to be a visitor when she crossed the sea.


The wooden gate is a threshold with arms outstretched

in protection, the slow wash of green waters rhythm.

Rising notes of another tongue is the wailing of her mother tongue.


Her back, a billowing canvas is taking shape –

her grandmother’s tapping, tapping the geo-graphy of her

in colours of the monsoon rain.


She is dusk, light with all the distance around her.

She crosses the threshold and offers her grandmother’s verses,

a garland of old earth sounds for the new.






Blissful waters surround pain washed up over and over again.

She sits among silent voices, bodies twitching to utter

shame for carrying skin, coloured by others.

What’s a brown skinned woman to do

at the gates of a marae? The solidarity of colour

bears differentiation.

He opened to a stance defying rule, he said I am

connected to islands by water, I am connected to you

by colonisation.

The gates opened enough for her to raise her head.





Nga Mihi

Korihi Te manu, takiri mai i Te ata 

Ka ao, ka ao, ka awatea

Tihei Mauri ora

Kua tau tenei manu hei manu, hei manuhiri, hei manu hari 

Ko te takahanga waewae, ko te rere o te kupu

Ka tangi te ngakau, he roimata aroha

Ki te manawhenua, no koutou tonu te whenua nei.

He awe ko toku mama, he awe ko toku papa 

Ma te huruhuru te manu ka rere 

Ka rere i te ao, ka rere i te po, ka rere ki toku whenua ake 

Ma Te ahi ka te manu ka ora. 

Tena koutou katoa.



When the kuia holds her hand, a sacred place ignites.

You are a seed of the old banyan tree swept

from your grandmother’s lap.

Transplanted here, I see birds’ nests, singing insects and shoots bearing the weight

of you. I see strong branches making light of your path –

see how they are dropping roots –

she feels the earth quiver under her feet.



Across the table, she hears raging clouds roving

to make wave upon wave to become sea overhead. White peaks roughed up on waters

below are screeching

gulls. How can she say that she is a visitor

on a  warm beach with sand beads

sketching a canvas stretched in her head?





She is a mirror of herself.

She is not a mirror of herself.

She is a scooped grain of memory,

of a love-song for a life lived

between her worlds.






1  The mihi for Manuhiri was prepared for me by Matt Gifford. It is made of two parts – the first is Māori proverb, the second part of the speech is an introduction of me to the hosts at the marae. The translation is as follows:


Nga Mihi (speech)

Part One – Maori proverb

Korihi Te manu, takiri mai i Te ata

Ka ao, Ka ao, ka awatea

Tihei Mauri ora

The bird sings, the morning has dawned

The day has broken

Ah! There is life.

Part Two – my speech introducing myself Matt references me as bird

Kua tau tenei manu hei manu, hei manuhiri, hei manu hari

Ko te takahanga waewae, ko te rere o te kupu

Ka tangi te ngakau, he roimata aroha

Ki te manawhenua, no koutou tonu te whenua nei.

This manu (bird) has descended as a manu (bird), as a visitor, as a dancing visitor

Through its dancing feet and its flowing words

Its heart cries, the tears of love

For you the home people, this is your land.

He awe ko toku mama, He awe ko toku papa

Ma te huruhuru te manu ka rere

Ka rere i te ao, ka rere i te po, Ka rere ki toku whenua ake

Ma Te ahi ka te manu ka ora.

My mother is a feather, my father is a feather

And it’s by their feathers this manu (bird) takes flight

Taking flight to the day, and flight to the night, From its own home land

Where the home fire burns, and gives this manu (bird) life.



Originally from South India, Sudha Rao lives in Wellington and has had a long standing involvement with the arts, primarily as a dancer. In 2017, Sudha graduated with a Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University, Wellington. Since 2012, Sudha’s poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies. These include two editions of Blackmail Press (2012 and 2014); an anthology of New Zealand writing, Sunset at the Estuary (2015) and in the UK anthology Poets’ quest for God (2016);  Landfall, Otago University, Dunedin (2018),and an anthology of migrant voices called More of us published in March 2019. In 2014, one Sudha’s poems was on the Bridport Poetry Competition’s shortlist. Excerpts of her prose work, has appeared in Turbine (2018) which comprised part of her MA thesis Margam and other excerpts were read in two sessions on national radio RNZ (2018). Sudha is part of a collective of Wellington women poets called Meow Gurrrls, who regularly post poems on YouTube





Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Elizabeth Morton’s ‘You can’t, always’


You can’t, always


I’m not going to cry. All winter the television

sulks in the corner of our love. You put the lentils

in a colander to flush the ugly bits. You peel oranges

to their pith and talk about your past like it was mine too.

You say it was sunnier in Queens than it could ever be in

an unhappy kitchen with a lover made of feathers.

I want to tell you about the way a man can look down

a corridor, the way a hunter visits his scope. There are things

too big to ever fold into your hands. A barbule is enough

to demonstrate how even soft things fall down,

like small people from towers that trade in shadows.

When I say I need you, it clambers up a stairwell in my throat

like you were the only window left in 110 levels of pain.

I’m not going to say I get it. You toss the lentils

in a brine pot and power-up the television.

You say we spend too much of life watching

the kind of comedies that make you sad. Like Home Improvement

and The Cosby Show that make you think of time

and the way we were happy in Queens

before small people sat on window ledges, before

the hunter’s scope settled on an ordinary bird.

I’m not going to cry. All morning chopping onions,

watching Bill Cosby hug his wife in Brooklyn Heights

before he was a rapist, and before you first registered

towers on the skyline by their absence.

When I say I need you I am a soft thing falling

on something familiar, and it is violence

in the way dispassionate surgery is violence

or the way The Cosby Show is what you get

before you get what you never wanted.


I’ll take what I can.



Elizabeth Morton




Auckland writer, Elizabeth Morton, is published in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the UK, Canada and the USA. She was feature poet in the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017, and is included in Best Small Fictions 2016. Her first poetry collection, Wolf, was published with Mākaro Press in 2017. She is completing a MLitt at the University of Glasgow, usually in her pyjamas.





Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Louise Wallace’s ‘it’s winter’



it’s winter


sit facing the toilet which look

it’s fine it’s fact it’s winter according

to the new seasonal fruit so shock

your life before it shocks you change

your partner change your wardrobe

your secret your small revelation

nurturing doubt hear the room hear

the strange thin levels that sound

a bit full in your mouth your vocals

their once serene chords like stone tight

like a budget ripe as the bulky

citrus fruit sharp and untrue



Louise Wallace  from… ‘Like a heart’





Louise Wallace is the author of three collections of poetry published by Victoria University Press, most recently Bad Things. She was the 2015 Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago, and is the founder and editor of Starling. Louise lives in Dunedin with her husband and their young son.






Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Marcus Sellwood’s ‘Aotea Square’



Aotea Square


Finally just us two

reclining on the shores of Aotea square

The absolute epicentre

of any bonafide

Auckland urban romance


I’m convincing you the pavers

could almost be sand

If you squint hard enough anyway

But I’ll say any old guff

just to make you smile


The sun’s evaluating the skyline

It’s making me drowsy

or you’ve doped me with the pretzels

I swear the odd gradient of these steps

is identical to a beach on the tip of the Coromandel

I can’t quite remember the name of

or perhaps I never knew to begin with


Your polygamy story soon jolts me out of my reverie

En masse the city dwellers

are lying around sun-drunk

sprawled all over my fake foreshore

in their suitably fake sunglasses

half watching the Chinese cultural festival

cryptically splash at our feet


We’ve got gigs across town from one another

so we’re play-acting

sulky besotted teenagers being torn asunder

by unspecified forces

much larger than our-tragic-selves


The IMAX sign looks down frowning, unconvinced

and for heaven’s sake, it would know!


Marcus Sellwood



Marcus Sellwood is a musician and occasional poet. He was born in central Auckland and has lived his whole life there. He likes to write about his experiences of the fast-changing city.










Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Maringikura Mary Campbell’s ‘How we loved’


How we loved

for Meg and Te Ariki Campbell


i always wondered why
the dogs never pissed inside the house
How the house gripped onto the hill
the wind
and how we never fell
How you lived even though
you wanted to die, my mother
How we loved and hated
but mostly loved
How we doubted the sincerity
of those whose lives seemed easier
How we hated the Nats
because they hated the poor
How we tolerated those who voted for National
because they thought their wealth would rub off on
How our family, our mokopuna, surpassed all others
and how every time we looked at each other we saw
out Tupuna
staring right back at us
How we loved our parents right to the end
of their lives and ours
My beloved parents
How we loved.


Maringikura Mary Campbell


Maringikura Mary Campbell lives in the family home in Pukerua Bay. She is a mother of three and has one mokopuna whom she adores. She published Maringi in 2017. She also published Smells like Sugar – poems by rangatahi young people in psychiatric care and What it takes to fly – poems by mental health consumers from around New Zealand.

You can listen to Maringikura Mary Campbell read another poem (for her grandmother), ‘Ethell Mary’, here