Tag Archives: Sarah Broom Poetry Prize

The 2019 Sarah Broom Prize session @AWF: a celebration of poetry

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Rarotonga-based poet Jessica Le Bas is the winner of the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2019. 

Sarah Broom website here with poems by the finalists and winner

 

On Saturday I had the honour of mc-ing the Sarah Broom Prize session, having acted as Prize Director for the past year. I welcomed international judge, Anne Michaels, the finalists, Michael Steven, Jessica Le Bas and poet Vana Manasiadis standing in for London-based Nina Mingya Powles, the Prize founder and Sarah Broom’s husband, Michael Gleissner, and their family, and a room packed to the rafters with poetry fans.

 

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In 2014 when Michael established the award he told me he had created a financial prize to support writing time for a poet, as his wife Sarah had enjoyed. But the Sarah Broom Prize is more than this. It allows us to shine increased light on NZ poetry, local poets get to be read by an international judge and the finalists get to read at Auckland Writers Festival. This is a gift for our poetry communities and we are immensely grateful to you, and to the hardworking Sarah Ross and Greg Fahey. The Sarah Broom Trust has launched a new website and new plans for the future.  This year there were over 320 entries. For the past six years The Sarah Broom Trust has worked in partnership with the Auckland Writers Festival.

 

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Sarah Broom (1972 -2013)

 

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The prize also enables an annual return to Sarah’s poetry and this is a joy. Sarah’s debut, Tigers at Awhitu, appeared post her Cambridge doctorate, at a time she dedicated her life to motherhood, poetry and managing lung cancer. Her second collection, Gleam, was published posthumously. I have found her poems shine with cadence and craft, exquisite wisdom and subtle movements. She wrote poetry for the well and for the dying; the world is to be cherished. Love is always intensely present. I carry her poetry next to my heart.

I read two of her poems:  ‘anchor’ and ‘river come gently’ from Gleam Auckland University Press, 2013.

 

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The finalists

Nina Mingya Powles, of Pākehā and Malaysian-Chinese heritage is the author of field notes on a downpour (2018),  two from Seraph Press Luminescent and Girls of the Drift She is the poetry editor of The Shanghai Literary Review and founding editor of Bitter Melon 苦瓜, a new poetry press. Her prose debut, a food memoir, will be published by The Emma Press in 2019. Poetry Shelf interview

Jessica Le Bas has published two collections of poetry with AUP, incognito and Walking to Africa and with Penguin, a novel for children, Staying Home. She currently lives in Rarotonga, working in schools throughout the Cook Islands to promote and support writing. Poetry Shelf  interview here

Michael Steven is the author of four chapbooks and Walking to Jutland Street, a collection published by OUP, longlisted for the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. He was recipient of the 2018 Todd New Writer’s Bursary. He lives in West Auckland. Poetry Shelf interview

 

The Judge, Anne Michaels

 

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Anne Michaels, poet and fiction writer, Toronto Poet Laureate, author of the beloved Fugitive Pieces among other splendid things, has produced breath-taking poetry. Poems that take up residency in your body, that savour silence alongside revelation, that tend to musical pitch and luminosity, that take you deep into human experience, both physical and imagined. These are some of her poetry treasures. [I held up All We Saw, Poems (her first three collections) and her magnificent children’s book, The Adventures of Miss Petitfour that I urged  Kate De Goldi to read if she hasn’t already]. When I was in A & E on Sunday my daughter brought me Anne’s Infinite Gradations to reread. It transported me beyond injury, beyond hospital walls to the most glorious writing on poetry and art I know, on what it feels or means to write poetry or make art. So many lines felt utterly relevant in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks when we collectively asked and keep asking ‘what good poetry’ and collectively seek kindness, empathy and connection.

Let me share a few favourites.

 

We write and we read in order to hold another person close.

Sometimes language is the rescuer.

Poetry is the lonely radical precious expression of a single life.

Poetry suspends time. Poetry is time. Poetry gives us time.

We belong where love finds us.

 

 

Poetry Shelf interview with Anne Michaels

 

Anne Michaels spoke on poetry and the finalists entries – she has also selected two highly recommended poets – Jess Fiebig and Wen-Juenn Lee.

Anne told the audience it it was an honour to judge the prize – and that she paid absolute attention to every entry. She said the poems provided a glimpse of New Zealand one could never have in any other way, and that questions arose on home, exile, language, belonging. She saw the poems as kinds of ‘seeking voices’, and that poets are a tribe with a shared love of the word, a compulsion to write, solidarity – and that we are all in it for the enterprise of it.

Anne wanted everyone who entered a poem to understand and feel to their very soul that they are part of this enterprise. She then introduced each of the finalists (I have included her comments on highly recommended):

 

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Jessica Le Bas (winner)

Jessica Le Bas’s poems are alive with detail acutely observed. In the poet’s disciplined language and perception is a kind of tenderness – for the natural world, and for human frailty. It is a poetic vision that understands how inextricable hope and despair, beauty and loss: of a cracked mango, Le Bas wisely advises, “eat it now”. In these poems, the world is passionately perceived.

 

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Nina Mingya Powles (finalist)

These poems express both the power of memory and the grace of a present moment. They are a deeply felt exploration of language – how it separates us and holds us close; how it can become, sometimes, the only home we have. The best compassion is born of clear seeing, and this is the compassion that imbues Nina Mingya Powles’s poems – expressed with a generous, gentle, authority. These are poems of beautiful depth.

 

 

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Michael Steven (finalist)

These poems speak of intimate encounters, often wordless, and of communions – through music, plums shared along a path, a circling hawk, a gravestone. There is a quietude in these poems that reminds us just how loud the world has become, and how valuable those moments, the “tiny benefactions” that gently restore our attention to what’s important.

 

Jess Fiebig (highly commended)

By not turning away from a moment, these poems insist on understanding, finding meaning where it hurts. These poems are full of compassionate detail, direct and wondering, and “finding treasures” in plain sight.

 

Wen-Juenn Lee (highly commended)

These are poems of witness – vivid and fierce, seeking a kind of justice. In their passion to name what it means to live in exile – from a place, from a language – these deeply felt poems assert the right to be seen and known, not forgotten. Their seeking is a kind of restoration. Wen-Juenn  reads ‘Prologue’ for Poetry Shelf

 

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In announcing the winner Anne underlined how she loved all three poets, and she urged the audience to follow their careers, to buy their books and to spread the word.

 

At the beginning I asked, what good  poetry? I took up from Anne’s point and finished by saying, as this session so beautifully demonstrated, that we read and write to hold things close: life, love, loss, people, experience, knowledge, connections. Friends and strangers come up to me afterwards and said that this session was full of heart and soul. I agreed.

Grateful thanks to the Sarah Broom Trust and to the Auckland Writers Festival.

I wish you all the best for future years.

 

 

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Poetry Shelf interviews the 2019 Sarah Broom Prize finalists: Michael Steven

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

– James K. Baxter Pig Island Letters

– Allen Curnow Continuum

– Robert Creeley For Love

– Robert Lowell Life Studies; For The Union Dead

– Elizabeth Bishop The Complete Poems

– Cesare Pavese Selected Poems, Penguin Modern Poets

– Richard Hugo Making Certain It Goes On

– August Kleinzahler Sleeping It Off In Rapid City

– Denis Johnson The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millenium General Assesmbly

– Fanny Howe Selected Poems

– Philip Levine The Simple Truth

– William Bronk Collected Poems

 


What do you want your poems to do?

I hope something of our beautiful and difficult world’s damaged rapture remains in my poems, long after the impetus or occasion for their being written has passed.

 


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

I’m still a poor judge of a poem’s strengths, and perhaps an even poorer judge of its weaknesses, but of my entry poems ‘Summer/Haszard Road’ is the one I have the most love for.  (This poem will appear on the Sarah Broom website)

 

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

Here are some memorable triggers:

Cooking and drinking with Malcolm Deans. Spring drives through the Lower Kaipara. Jewel heists in Dubai. Hawkers markets. The Proustian memory avalanches set off by listening to certain records. Flying from Auckland to Dunedin. Driving from Auckland to Dunedin. The spice merchants of Kochi. The industrial plains of Penrose. Tank farms. Musty churches. Junk stores. Museums. Dusk in Taupaki. Coffee and indica. My son.

 

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

Embodied. Emboldening. Empathetic.

 

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?

John Forbes. Ed Dorn. Anne Sexton. Seamus Heaney. Elizabeth Bishop. Ishion Hutchinson.

 

 

Dropped Pin: Three Lamps, Ponsonby

for Ryan Moroney, poet of Papamoa

This poem I started writing ten years ago
to say thanks for buying me breakfast
after a night of rough red and hydro.
Waiting for coffee, outside Cezanne,
the heat climbing high into the twenties,
our brains were slow rebooting that morning.
You’ll remember we shared a table with Monica.
Unduly caged by dubious DSM definitions,
by a psychiatrist’s repeat prescriptions,
she gulped cans of cola through a white straw,
gut-dragged on John Player Specials,
and muttered “Yes, dear,” to our questions.
Ryan, I like to think she was healed a little
every lunchtime in All Saints church,
when the minister threw open the doors
and she shuffled inside the chapel
lumping her cache of shopping bags
stuffed with paperbacks, woollen jumpers,
fortnight-old copies of The Herald
along the aisle and on to the transept
to her daily appointment in the organist’s seat.
I remember one of her small communions,
how the delicate first notes of a minor adagio
by Schubert were held in the humid air
by a common and accessible grace
on a lost afternoon, outside the chapel.
In that district of ghosts we once knew,
Monica is long gone; the minister, too.
Her playing stopped time but was heard by few.
You said goodbye, and went south again.
Her last recital you missed by twenty minutes.

 

 

Michael Steven was born in 1977. He is the author of four chapbooks and the acclaimed full-length collection Walking to Jutland Street which was longlisted for the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards (Otago University Press, 2018.) He was recipient of the 2018 Todd New Writer’s Bursary. His writing has been described as “expansive and earthed and spirited.” He lives in West Auckland.

 

at Jacket2 Catherine Dale, Orchid Tierney and David Howard write on Michael Steven (with poems)

Otago University Press Page

 

The Sarah Broom Prize session: Michael appears at the Auckland Writers Festival with the other finalists where Anne Michaels will announce the winner. Saturday May 18th, 1pm, Waitākere Room, Aotea Centre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf interviews the 2019 Sarah Broom Prize finalists: Jessica Le Bas

 

 

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

I couldn’t read as a child. I didn’t read a book till I was 20. My father read me all sorts of crazy stuff. However, I did read poetry. Because it was short and the sounds were wonderful. I read Keats and Shakespeare and the war poets very young, maybe around ten. It’s slow music, really, poetry. I had no idea what many of the words meant. I liked the beat, the rhythms and the small stories of those poems. I remember carrying little poetry books around everywhere, like they held some secret. And they did!

Around that time my mother sent me to an old woman in Avondale for elocution lessons. My mother thought I was swearing too much! ‘Ain’t’ and ‘not never’ etc. Old Mrs Davy was paid to ‘straighten me out.’ Huh! What she did was teach me the beauty of reading poetry, aloud. She made The Highwayman provocative and wild and fun!

C.K. Stead and Allen Curnow were milestones too, because they read to me at university, and made poetry go beyond the page into a life. And Riemke Ensing because she was wildly passionate, and she unpicked poetry like my father ate flounder; sucking the juice around every small bone.

Later I found a seductive freedom in the voice of Hone Tuwhare’s No Ordinary Sun – in Jenny Bornholdt and Paul Muldoon, and Simon Armitage’s Seeing Stars. Check out his poem, Song – perfect beauty.

 

What do you want your poems to do?

I guess I write to see and hear more about the world I’m in, to be surprised and bear witness to its wonders. I want these poems to be true to their geography, and their people.

When I wrote Walking to Africa, I wanted the poems to stand tall and be loud, and tell the world that adolescent depression is Shit!

In this Large Ocean Islands sequence I want the poems to go beyond the cliché of Pacific Islands, beyond the beachside resorts, to their stronger, truer and older heart.

 

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

For me each poem is loaded with the story of its writing, and the wider events that surround it. ‘Large Ocean Islands’ is part of a bigger work in progress, and I’m still being challenged to balance the whole, and to give each poem its place and an integrity of its own too.

‘The White Chairs’ is the ‘oldest’ poem of the sequence. You could say it belongs.

 

 

 

UNDRESSING THE LIVES OF THE SILENT HEROES

ADORNED IN SPECTACULAR SUNLIGHT

In reply to C K Wright’s The Obscure Lives of Poets; Revelation lives on a large ocean island

 

Three serve time in New Zealand. Two in fruit canneries

where golden peaches become the names of their children; Queenie

and Bonnie, who is really Bonanza. One mama brings a nectarine

stone through airport customs in her underwear. Another time,

between two breasts of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Neither flourish.

One thousand roosters with insomnia. One survives the storm that takes

his only son, spends his days in view of the sea, much of it riding.

The sound of one mango falling. Three named after the fathers

of the fathers of monolingual seafarers who came ashore, and left

behind narrow eyes and a new mode of cranial wiring. One of ten

is taken and becomes one of fifteen, unrelated; family ties mapped

back to uplift and shift and fire. One too many three legged dogs.

One joins the police because he believes he can take his dog to work.

One walks around Avatiu harbour at night looking for stars

that have slipped their leash, fallen into the sea. He will be there

to rescue them. One family, the size of fifteen islands connected

by ocean currents. One dances in the lagoon, waist high

in blue, and bouncing for the effect it could have on his waistline,

but only after sunset, and only on the neap tide. One big family.

One maintenance man is sent to prison for acquiring money

that did not belong to him. He has a penchant for high

performance running shoes and real diamonds.

One teaspoon of pawpaw seeds alleviates diarrhoea, and maybe hook worm.

One hands a machete to his son, says just get on with it boy,

not meaning the taro patch or the elephant grass or the palm fronds

hanging over the windows, pulling a blackness over his house.

One Ian George painting is not enough; one stone turtle on the rough grass.

One stays on even after his wife and kids leave, sleeps on a mat

on a friend’s deck, till the mosquitos find him, and immigration says

there is a fine for that sort of behaviour. One wave after one wave.

One island is all one needs to join the dots. One small paradise

emerges in the path of the old navigator, and sets the scene

for growing silent heroes in spectacular sunlight.

 

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

I remember Jenny Bornholdt saying how a poem’s form finds itself in the writing, and I think that’s true. In Cyclone Season, the unrelenting heat and the way it lingers for weeks here, triggered a list of observations, repetitive and often banal.

Every day I write ‘stuff’ on my phone. Anything. Sometimes I’m amazed how something so ordinary here is spectacular, and starts a chain of surprise and insight. Like seeing a man at the lagoon at dusk with two small turtles in a tub of water. Watching him later taking them out swimming with him, like they were his children.

Poems are like vehicles; they have doors and windows, and they take you places.

Listening and watching, closely, ruminating, tasting, breathing them in – and sometimes being courageous – that triggers poetry.

 

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

I’m not sure I am seeking to be ‘alluring’ in the poems I write.

In Large Ocean Islands I’d like the reader to see the wonder of the Cook Islands, and honour it. Each small island is big, and delicate and vibrant, and heavy with old wisdom. Sometimes I get a glimpse of something here that is so far removed from where I come from it feels like I’ve moved in time to what ‘we’ were before consumerism and capitalism and industrial economies. There’s a deep truth and a beauty here, that’s both joyous and heart-breaking.

 

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?

Seamus Heaney, Robin Hyde, Yehuda Amichai Hone Tuwhare … OK, not a ‘real’ dream then? So many great poets to choose from! Let’s go with… Selina Tusiatala Marsh, Chris Tse, Tusiata Avia, Glenn Colquhoun …

 

 

Jessica Le Bas has published two collections of poetry, incognito (AUP, 2007) and Walking to Africa (Auckland University Press, 2009), and a novel for children, Staying Home (Penguin, 2010). She currently lives in Rarotonga, where she works in schools throughout the Cook Islands to promote and support writing.

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf interviews the 2019 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize Judge: Anne Michaels

between your touch

and my cry

between the sea

and the dream of the sea

 

from ‘Sea of Lanterns’, All We Saw, Bloomsbury, 2017

 

 

Anne Michaels lives in Toronto where she is the city’s Poet Laureate. Her internationally bestselling novel, Fugitive Pieces (1996), was awarded the Orange Prize and the Guardian Fiction Prize among other awards. The Winter Vault (2009), her second novel, was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. She has written a number of highly acclaimed poetry collections, including the collaborative Correspondences (2013), which was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the selected volume Poems (2000). I read Fugitive Pieces when it first came out and the poetic layerings took my breath away. It moved into the room in my head for books that haunt and stay with me. I have since fallen in love with Anne’s poetry: the melodies, the intensities, the insistent refrain of love.

Anne is appearing at the 2019 Auckland Writers Festival. She is presenting the finalists (and winner) of the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize, appearing in conversation with Michael Williams and on a WWII panel.

Friday 17 May, 10 – 11 am, ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre: A Life’s Work: Anne Michaels

Saturday 18 May, 1 -2 pm, Waitākere Room, Aotea Centre: Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2019

Sunday 19 May, 11.30 – 12.30 pm, Limelight Room, Aotea Centre: The Aftermath with Vincent O’Sullivan, Maria Tumarkin and Kirsten Warner introduced by Catriona Ferguson.

 

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Anne kindly agreed to an interview for Poetry Shelf.

 

 

Somewhere rain is falling

Somewhere a man is repairing the night, one word at a time

 

 

from ‘Somewhere Night Is Falling’, All We Saw

 

 

Paula: If you were to map your poetry reading history, name 3 or 4 books that would act as key co-ordinates?

Anne:

T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.

Rilke – Selected Poems (translated by Stephen Mitchell).

And the poetry of Nazim Hikmet (translated by Randy Blasing, Mutlu Konuk), Pablo Neruda (translated by Ben Belitt and Alastair Reid), Osip Mandelstam (various translators), Anna Akhmatova (various translators)

 

Paula: For me your poetry is the kind of poetry that lingers, demanding to be read and then to be read again. The musicality, repetition, the silences and white space, the luminous detail, the layered feeling, the loss, the love – all etch a pattern on the skin. I call it goosebumps. What do you want your poems to do?

Anne: By its very nature, a poem witnesses and, in that witnessing, seeks a kind of justice – not only for the lives or events described by the poem, but witnesses also the reader’s life. Witnesses both what is painful and what is inexpressibly beautiful. I long for a poem to answer an experience, to honour what must be remembered, to honour what cannot be expressed. I long for a poem to name a mystery, to break us open, to wake us. Every poem is part of a greater collaboration, a collaboration of writer to writer, writer and reader, adding its small witnessing to what it means to be alive. To give each other courage. There is no witnessing that does not include the listener. Even if that listener is only the page itself. And I long for the poem to listen to the reader.

 

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Paula: Your collection, All We Saw, carries me deep into humanity, into humanness. The poem, ‘Somewhere Night is Falling’, came at me in waves, prodding me to to feel the wider scope of life and living. I am deeply moved by it and I hope you read this in Auckland. Actually ‘To Write’ hit me in a similar way. What surprised you as you wrote this collection? What questions arose?

 

and where

you are

is where you have

always been,

looking to the edge of paper   that torn edge

of sea

 

from ‘All We Saw’, All We Saw

 

Anne: Within a short span, most of those closest to me died, intimates of 30 years or more, and my parents. I wanted to understand what language there could possibly be for desire so extreme it is rendered chaste. When desire is forced to become grief. No words are restrained or spare enough to express the difference between silence and muteness. All my work is an attempt to render language chaste and these poems especially. I wanted to know how we might find a place in ourselves to assert that “death must give/not only take from us”.

 

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

Anne: A poem can emerge from what haunts us, what insists: an event or a life that insists on being spoken, a question that has no answer. A poem should give more than it takes – i.e. open us in such way that we are left asking a deeper question. Language itself is inconsolable – it exists in time and yet longs to express what is beyond our grasp: what is lost, what is incomprehensible, what might be, what is ineffable. I write to hold another human being close.

 

Paula: You are the 2019 Judge of the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize. As a reader what draws you into a poem?

Anne: I am immediately drawn by a disciplined use of language – discipline, rather than manipulation – by a poet who knows a line is not a sentence. A poet who uses language to manipulate will never escape their own certainty; but discipline, however, requires a profound humility – to content, to technique – and an essential respect for and acknowledgement of the inexpressibility of experience. A poet who acknowledges the innate failure of language reaches beyond the self. I am drawn by clarity, not cleverness. I am drawn by a poet unafraid of emotion – the absolute asceticism of emotion – a poet who understands that emotion is somehow irreducible.

 

in that turning of the page

inside out, in the scarf

of shadow, in the message

passing

 

you wanted death to give

not only take from us

 

from ‘Late August’, All We Saw

 

 

Anne Michaels’s website.

Listen to Anne in conversation with Kim Hill on RNZ National

Sarah Broom Prize

 

Sarah Broom Prize finalists: Jessica Le Bas, Nina Mingya Powles, Michael Steven

2019 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize call for submissions

 

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SARAH BROOM POETRY PRIZE

The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize is one of New Zealand’s most valuable poetry prizes and aims to recognise and financially support new work from an emerging or established New Zealand poet. In 2019, the prize is an award of $10,000. Poets are required to submit six to eight poems (at least five unpublished).

The prize was established in 2013 in honour of the New Zealand poet Sarah Broom (1972-2013), the author of Tigers at Awhitu (2010) and Gleam (2013).

Now in its sixth year, the award will be showcased in a special public session at the Auckland Writers Festival in May 2019 where shortlisted poets will read from their work and the winner will be announced. The full Festival programme will be publicly launched on 13 March and will be available in print and online here

Competition entries open on 21 January and close on 28 February 2019

For entries/queries email poetryprize@sarahbroom.co.nz. For more information about the prize and Sarah Broom visit here

 

2019 Judge: Anne Michaels

Award-winning poet, novelist and essay writer Anne Michaels is Toronto’s current Poet Laureate. Her multiple awards and shortlistings include the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Americas, the Orange Prize, the Governor-General’s Award and the Griffin Poetry Prize. Her latest poetry collection All We Saw was published in late 2017.

 

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Poetry Shelf Audio Spot: Louise Wallace reads Darling-

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Louise Wallace, Bad Things, Victoria University Press, 2017

 

‘Darling—’ from Bad Things—

 

Louise Wallace now lives in Dunedin and is the author of three collections of poetry, the most recent being Bad Things (Victoria University Press, 2017). In 2015 she was the Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago. She is the founder and editor of Starling, an online journal publishing the work of New Zealand writers under 25 years of age.

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize winner 2018: Jane Arthur

 

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Photo credit: Kelley Eady Loveridge

It was with great pleasure I announced Jane Arthur as the winner of the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2018. I had not heard Jane read before, had read a few of her poems here and there, but her reading just blew my socks off. Poems have first life on the page but poems also have infectious life in the air. So I cheekily asked her to record two of the poems she had read. Jane is a poet on my poetry radar – I can’t wait to hold her first book and review it on the blog. Warm congratulations!

 

Jane’s acceptance speech:

When I found out I was shortlisted for this prize, I said to my partner, “This is the flashest thing that’s ever happened to me.” And he looked at me and at our baby and back at me, and raised his eyebrows. I mean, it’s a close call, though. Sarah Broom and Eileen Myles? This is definitely the coolest I’ve ever been.

In 2010, a year after I’d moved from Auckland to Wellington, my friend Harriet sent me a gift in the mail, with a note along the lines of “This is essential reading”. It was a copy of the newly released Tigers at Awhitu. I’ve read it a number of times since then, and Gleam, too – and they’ve meant different things to me each time. I’ve read them for pleasure, and I’ve examined their craft. Most recently was this month, and it’s the first time I’ve read them since becoming a parent – it was harder this time. But they’re so brave, and kind and clear-eyed. I’m thrilled to have my name associated with Sarah Broom.

The poems I submitted for this competition were mostly ones I wrote when I did my MA in creative writing at Vic in 2015. Since then, I’ve had a couple of jobs, moved house twice, got a second dog, launched a website, had a baby – and lost entirely my confidence in my writing. It’s always been tenuous, but I had quietly come to the realisation that I’m not a writer. Definitely not a poet. Not good enough. Not proper-writer enough. I’d stopped writing. I was embarrassed at myself for entering this competition.

Then I got a phone call. And I spent a few days feeling like I’d had too much coffee. And then I wrote a poem.

The way this competition runs means the poems are judged blind – the judge doesn’t know who wrote them, how famous or accomplished or awarded the poet is. They simply read the poems. And the judge is different each year. This is a wonderful way to even the playing field and let different tastes and styles rise to the surface. I mean, here I am. Eileen freaking Myles read my poems. 

The prize means – I can barely believe this – I join the likes of Hera Lindsay Bird, who I did a Unity Books stocktake with once, and Elizabeth Smither, who’s from NP like I am. Once it’s sunk in, this prize will seriously up my confidence and give me ammunition to fire back at my imposter syndrome, and it will help me write a book.

Thanks again to the trustees, and the judge. And to the other finalists whose work I’ve really enjoyed discovering. But mostly thanks to Grisham – you are pretty flash.

 

Two poems from Jane’s reading at the festival:

 

“To check up on the state of your heart you must lie back”

 

“Keanu is afraid (a triolet)”

 

From our conversation on Poetry Shelf:

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

Jane: To check up on the state of your heart you must lie back” is one of those rare poems that burst out of me in one sitting (having been rolled around my brain for a day or so) and didn’t change significantly after that. An earlier version was published in Ika and two years later only a few words have changed. I wish I knew why some poems come out easily, it’s much more efficient. I am typically the world’s most painfully slow and fussy writer … more of a deleter.

 

 

 

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 SportTurbineIka, and Sweet Mammalian.

 

 

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Photo credit: Kelley Eady Loveridge (Michael Gleissner with Paula Green, Stuart Airey, Jane Arthur and Robyn Maree Pickens)