Tag Archives: Robyn Maree Pickens

A conversation and poem from the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize Finalists: Robyn Maree Pickens

 

 

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Urban planning

 

Before we came to this country

there would’ve been another name

for the Spectacled Flying Fox

(an endangered bat).

 

I never understood how she could

disparage the indigenous people

yet work long nights giving out free food & bibles

(to the Aboriginal homeless & street children).

 

Some groups, she says, have taken

the rainbow as their symbol

without knowing its true meaning.

Instantly I want to cover myself with Pride tat

loll in the refracted light where the rainbow meets the mangroves

& hold my girlfriend

(the speed of coloured light).

 

After a day with her

hordes of yellow crested white cockatoos

descend cawing to roost in the crowns of brittle ribbonwoods

(their guano is killing the trees).

 

Aboriginal people were sleeping amongst the tropical vegetation

outside her hotel, she tells me. The council raked between the dense weave

collecting bedding & feces which were left to dry before removal

(the maintenance of urban planning).

 

The plaque in the hotel acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land

pays respect to the elders throughout the ages

but does not name the people, the mob, the community

(a sea-swimming turtle angles towards the milky way).

 

It is 5:30pm at the bus stop, a drunk man attempts to attack

two women. No one bats an eyelid. Outside my hotel

it is a person I discover, not a machine, breaking down, rupturing

(I remember that under blue light veins are not visible).

 

The tiny ants come into my hotel room

appearing first on the white bathroom tiles

to run over my bathroom toe & later my bedroom ear lobe

(you and I were kissing but some countries cut that out).

 

©Robyn Maree Pickens

 

 

A conversation

 

If you were to map your poetry reading history, what books would act as key co-ordinates?

Three books in particular come to mind: The Limits by Alice Miller (2014), Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong (2016), Big Energy Poets: Ecopoetry Thinks Climate Change edited by Heidi Lynn Staples and Amy King (2017).

 

What do you want your poems to do?

I want them to do whatever they want to do, so I try not to impose on them too much.

 

Which poem in your selection particularly falls into place. Why?

Each poem responded to a specific moment or set of circumstances, but I am not sure that there is one that particularly falls into place.

 

There is no blueprint for writing poems. What might act as a poem trigger for you? 

Probably like most people it comes down to time. Either I am almost inadvertently quiet for long enough so that I can listen for a word, phrase, response, or I actively make time to write. Sometimes of course there is an event or experience that eclipses whatever else I am meant to be doing. A residency with a generous stipend would also work wonders.

 

If you were reviewing your entry poems, what three words would characterise their allure?

Ecological, political, caring.

 

You are going to read together at the Auckland Writers Festival. If you could pick a dream team of poets to read – who would we see?

Ocean Vuong, Kaveh Akbar, Alice Miller, Talia Marshall (Ngāti Kuia, Rangitāne ō Wairau, Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Takihiku), CAConrad, Lucas de Lima, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Adam Zagajewski, Emer Lyons, Hana Pera Aoake (Ngāti Raukawa, Tainui), and if I could raise the dead, Janet Frame.

 

 

Robyn Maree Pickens is an art writer, poet, and curator. Her critical and creative work is centred on the relationship between aesthetic practices and ecological reparation. Robyn’s poetry has appeared in the Australian eco-poetic journal Plumwood Mountain (2018), and U.S. journals Matador Review (2017), water soup (2017), and Jacket 2 (2017). Her most recent work was exhibited at ARTSPACE, Auckland in March 2018. Robyn’s poetry criticism has appeared in Rain Taxi (2018) and Jacket 2 (2018). Currently Robyn is a PhD candidate in ecological aesthetics in the English Department at the University of Otago, and an art reviewer for the Otago Daily Times, The Pantograph Punch, and Art News.

 

The four finalists will read from their work at the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize event at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday 20 May, 3.15-4.15pm in Aotea Centre’s Herald Theatre. Free event, all welcome.

Sarah Broom Poetry Prize page.

Congratulations! Sarah Broom Poetry Prize finalists 2018

 

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Sarah Broom Poetry Prize Finalists 2018

We are delighted to announce four finalists for the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize in 2018.

 

Stuart Airey is a poet with a day job as an optometrist, which involves using the logical, scientific part of his mind. He describes poetry as “letting me explore all the other bits”.  Stuart began writing poetry a few years ago; these poems are as yet unpublished, but they have been performed in his local church. Though he has been living in Hamilton for many years now, Stuart feels an increasingly strong call from his Christchurch roots and his resonance with loss. Poems allow a part of him to look up at the Port Hills, walk along leafy Saint Albans, and gaze longlingly out at the Sumner surf.

 

Jane Arthur was born in New Plymouth and lives in Wellington with her partner, baby and dogs. She has worked in the book industry for over 15 years as a bookseller and editor, and is a founder of the New Zealand children’s literature website The Sapling. She has a Master’s in Creative Writing from the IIML at Victoria University, where her supervisor was Cliff Fell, a 2017 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize finalist. She also has a Diploma in Publishing from Whitireia Polytech and a Master’s in English Literature from Auckland University. Her poems have appeared in journals including Sport, Turbine, Ika, and Sweet Mammalian.

 

Wes Lee is the author of Body, Remember (Eyewear Publishing, 2017), Shooting Gallery (Steele Roberts, 2016), and Cowboy Genes (Grist Books, University of Huddersfield Press, 2014). Her work has appeared in the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2018, New Writing Scotland, The London Magazine, Landfall, Poetry LondonIrises: The University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s Poetry Prize Anthology 2017, and many other journals and anthologies. She has won a number of awards for her writing including the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Literary Award; the Short Fiction Writing Prize (University of Plymouth Press) and the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Award in Galway. Wes is currently working on her third poetry collection, By the Lapels.

 

Robyn Maree Pickens is an art writer, poet, and curator. Her critical and creative work is centred on the relationship between aesthetic practices and ecological reparation. Robyn’s poetry has appeared in the Australian eco-poetic journal Plumwood Mountain (2018), and US journals Matador Review (2017), water soup (2017), and Jacket 2 (2017). Her most recent work was exhibited at ARTSPACE, Auckland in March 2018. Robyn’s poetry criticism has appeared in Rain Taxi (2018) and Jacket 2 (2018). Currently Robyn is a PhD candidate in ecological aesthetics in the English Department at the University of Otago, and an art reviewer for the Otago Daily Times, The Pantograph Punch, and Art News.

The four finalists will read from their work at the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize event at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday 20 May, 3.15-4.15pm.  Guest judge Eileen Myles will introduce the finalists and announce the winner.

 

The judge:

Eileen Myles is an American poet and writer who has produced more than twenty volumes of poetry, fiction and other works. Their poetry collections includes I Must Be Living Twice (selected poems) and Not Me, and they are the author of Inferno, a novel detailing the hell of the life of the female poet. Myles has been awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in nonfiction, four Lambda Book Awards, and numerous other awards and fellowships. Fellow novelist Dennis Cooper has described Myles as “one of the savviest and most restless intellects in contemporary literature”.

A southern poetry reading and poem sampler: Carolyn McCurdie on Rhian and Robyn

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Rhian and Robyn

You know that something is going on when the café is not just packed, but has a crowd three-deep along the back wall. The Dog with Two Tails Café and Bar in Dunedin is usually full for the Octagon Poetry Collective’s monthly readings. But for the March readings, I was the host, and I knew that the word had gone out. I knew that people were juggling dates in their diaries to be there. They’d told me. And the reason was the same for all – Rhian Gallagher.

I was as aware as anyone that Rhian hadn’t read in public for a while, and so was feeling chuffed that she’d accepted my invitation to be one of my two featured poets in March. My second guest was Robyn Maree Pickens, a young poet, less well-known, but with a growing history of publication and a growing local following. Some of the crowd had come to hear Robyn as well.

From a host’s point of view, one of the many advantages of featuring much loved poets, is that other poets turn up in numbers, and the quality of the open mic readings is pretty impressive. This Wednesday night, it was great. We encourage new readers. Established poets also take their turn at the mic and set a standard that lifts everyone’s game. Over time, you can hear wobbly beginners develop confidence and an individual, deft use of words.

I divided the evening in two. After the first half of open mic readings I introduced Robyn. When I’d invited her to read, she’d expressed doubts that her work was ‘good enough’. I had no such doubts. She’d also said how nervous she was. Well, on the night, it didn’t show. Her poise was flawless, or looked that way to an outside observer. The standard of her poetry, and the way she presented it earned well-deserved hearty applause from a poetically discriminating crowd. Robyn Maree Pickens. Watch out for that name.

Then more open mic readers, a break, and time to introduce Rhian. People settled. People hushed. Rhian has a kind of reserve about her. She will undoubtedly think this report is over-blown. It ain’t. Her voice is quiet, measured, and the reserve means that she almost removes herself, and the words take over. And suyes. Rhian Gallagher is an exceptional poet. She finished reading. No one wanted to leave.

 

Carolyn McCurdie 2017

 

Into the Blue Light

for Kate Vercoe

 

I’m walking above myself in the blue light

indecently blue above the bay with its walk-on-water skin

here is the Kilmog slumping seaward

and the men in their high-vis vests

pouring tar and metal on gaping wounds

the last repair broke free; the highway doesn’t want

to lie still, none of us want to be

where we are exactly but somewhere else

bending and arrowing

the track a tree’s ascent, kaikawaka! hold on

to the growing power, sun igniting little shouts against my eyeballs

and clouds come from Australia

hunkering over the Tasman with their strange accent

‘get out the sky mate!’ I’m high as a wing tip

where the aches meet the bliss

summit rocks exploding with lichen and moss –

little soft fellas suckered to a groove

bloom and bloom – the track isn’t content

 

©Rhian Gallager 2017

 

All the way

 

To whet a structure like this:

a temple; a palace; a tomb;

I bring my roosting being down

from an adjacent planetary system,

and feel the dew lining each blade

of grass.

 

I offer fresh pineapple chunks

and pointy rose quartz crystals,

twelve distinct species of lichen,

and a harvest of fine salmon bones.

 

I bend unpruned effusion; quiver

like a minnow free; become human sap

that slips out the side of the mountain.

 

I smell what bees taste; feel my forehead

crease into the occasional sun; greet

the raindrop that finds my eyelid; trace

the soft down dune of your neck; drift

into immense fields of information:

microbial, arboreal, mycorrhizal. Palpating

organs that bring salt to the pore; lift

heat from the asphalt; hold the glisten

in an ear of corn.

 

Till we are limbed-loose and I live all

the way through to you; tendered

to the meat-earth; to the black peat;

the mantling mica, oracular bracken, ur-apple.

Craving, lifting into this flowering temple.

with an end, flax rattling their sabres,

tussock like miles of heads

drying their hair in the stiff southeasterly; the track wants to go on

forever because it comes to nothing

but the blue light. I’m going out, out

out into the blue light, walking above myself.

 

©Robyn Maree Pickens