Tag Archives: poetry shelf monday poem

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

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Bill Manhire’s ‘The Hungry Past’

The Hungry Past 

The past isn’t dead; 

it’s eating my brain. 

It looks up for a moment 

then tucks right in again.

Bill Manhire

Bill Manhire founded the creative writing programme at Victoria University of Wellington, which a little over 20 years ago became the International Institute of Modern Letters. His most recent book Wow is published by Victoria University Press in New Zealand and Carcanet in the UK.

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Rosina Baxter and Amy Marguerite’s ‘Pathetic Fallacy’

Pathetic Fallacy

The rain is falling hard on the farm today
We’ve just messaged about loving older humans
How it’s true that age is just a number
How we want the whole world (two people) 
To eat our truth.   But how?
At noon certain numbers make a nation 
Sigh in unison
In the morning certain numbers make a city
Take out their thickest coat
At midlife certain numbers make a person 
Wistful for the bygone.
My grandmother is watching the kārearea soar 
Across the valley on warm spring waves
We give our lovers nicknames 
Like birds giving each patch of air a wing.
Punching my keyboard I ask is there is a way
to give without giving everything?  
I can’t help but think we are the kārearea
Our lovers the old ones watching 
Us soar, somewhere, like eyelashes
Licking golden cheeks 
Watching us watch the whole world
Watch each other 
For the wrong kind of answer.

Rosina Baxter and Amy Marguerite

Rosina Baxter is an emerging poet and songwriter who has used written word as personal catharsis from a young age. She is a regular performer at Poetry Live on Karangahape Road, she narrates poetry and prose for Passengers Journal, and has recently been published in Tarot Magazine.

Amy Marguerite is a poet and writer of non-fiction based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington. Her poetry has featured in a number of journals and literary magazines, most recently the Food Court S08E01 zine. She is currently working alongside Rosina toward a collaborative collection of poetry. 

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Carolyn DeCarlo’s ‘The Opposite of Animal’

The Opposite of Animal

It takes a fine level of awareness,
pulling one’s weight from the house
to the car, from the car to the supermarket
then back inside the car, down the street
to the hair salon, back into the car.
Down the motorway to the Kmart,
the car dealership, the brunch on the waterfront,
across town back to the movie theatre,
back home to dinner,
heating soup and toast on the stove,
climbing the stairs one by one,
being pushed aside by pets
passing one by one on the stairs,
dragging wet noses across
the chairs, the duvet cover,
inserting themselves into windows,
under carpets, inside closets,
and springing, always springing out
in varying levels of attack,
grins on their faces for the joy of it,
the sheer high of overturning the master,
if only to shift the balance for a second.

It takes awareness to centre one’s life
around the less fortunate,
those with fur and claws and wet mouths
whose daily glory revolves around the master.
Measuring food into small bowls like party snacks,
placing them at acceptable heights
around the kitchen and the bedroom,
vacuuming up crystals and muddy paw prints,
sweeping fur across the linoleum
and out the door, with the dog, ready for walkies.
In a moment of trauma, the pet will hide
behind the figure of the master.

A knock at the door or a dropped teacup
sends the whole house scurrying
back, folding in, listening in anticipation
of the master’s reaction. 
The reality of being called the master
implies an innate sense of false equality –
a lack of awareness of power bordering on
ignorance – an alternative so denigrating
one might forget one’s own competence
and begin to seek the pet for protection.

Carolyn DeCarlo

Carolyn DeCarlo is a queer writer living in Aro Valley, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, with seven other mammals. She runs Food Court Books and We Are Babies Press with her partner Jackson Nieuwland. Her chapbook-length collection ‘Winter Swimmers’ was featured in AUP New Poets 5. She also co-wrote the chapbook BOUND: an ode to falling in love (Compound Press 2014).

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Johanna Aitchison’s ‘WHO DOES ANNA THINK SHE IS?’


Anna walks with wire
in her spine.

No one mentions the spine
wire, they just say,

“We call her Porcupine;”
or “You talking about Spiny?”

Overhead, cut-out birds
turn to ash

on powerlines. No one suspects
hidden spines are the cause of

Anna’s Olympic-
level ungratefulness. Perhaps

it’s because she’s a palindrome
that she gets away with fire.

A reversible jacket
has an unfair red side. Anna is unfair

in the forest. She requests a
thousand pines for her

red birds. She asks that her birds
sleep on needles.

Johanna Aitchison

Johanna Aitchison has just finished her PhD thesis “Asserting and Locating Value in Contemporary Elliptical-Style Poetry” at Massey University. She was the Mark Strand Scholar at the 2019 Sewanee Conference in Tennessee and a 2015 Fellow at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. She has published three volumes of poetry in New Zealand.

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.