Tag Archives: tate fountain

Poetry Shelf classic poem: Tate Fountain picks Emma Barnes’s ‘White Tuxedo’


White Tuxedo


I dream of you in a white tuxedo. It is a wedding. It is not our wedding.

But the face that you affix to yourself when you look into me is the face

of the man viewing the woman. Hello this is love. Your square jaw. Your

soft, capable, all knowing mouth. Hello even your bluest and greenest

eyes. Everyone is wearing white. I look down at myself and I am lace over

pearlescent white water wings and I am shaking with adrenaline. We walk

holding hands and you’re a helium balloon I tug to earth with my

unexpected weight. Your hands slip over me. You in a white fitted shirt

with your head thrown back. We lie in bed together wrapped tightly in disbelief.

Some of our best moments were sleeping. Some of our best

moments were only in our eyes. You tilt your head to turn to me and the

whole world follows behind you.


Emma Barnes


The poem was originally published in the journal, Sweet Mammalian 3



Note from Tate Fountain:

I rarely pass specific poems on to friends, despite the amount I read and my general penchant for sharing. ‘White Tuxedo’, however, was immediately dispatched to the other side of the globe: this is a very good poem, I told my best friend, the link attached in a Twitter DM. And it is, of course, precisely that. A very good poem. A bittersweet one, which accomplishes so much in something so seemingly simple.

‘White Tuxedo’ balances the delightful with the devastating, and both elements are augmented for the presence of the other. There is an ease to Barnes’ language, unadorned yet undoubtedly calculated, which lends both to fine poignancy—‘Your/ soft, capable, all knowing mouth’—and to forward propulsion—‘lace over/ pearlescent white water wings […]’. The fourth ‘sentence’, if you will—‘But the face that you affix to yourself when you look at me is the face/ of the man viewing the woman’—pierces. It verbalises a distinct discomfort, and the inescapable air of objectification, that I’ve so often found in ‘heterosexual’ experiences. (This is perhaps furthered by the wedding in the poem, and how pointedly it is not that of the narrator and the subject.) Of course, this line might just as well signal romance to someone else (‘Hello this is love’): perhaps an ode to the archetypes of affection by which they have seen themselves represented. This may be the loving look of literature, of cinema, of song—which is a valid interpretation, and a testament to the multitudes Barnes’ phrasing can contain (though it may also be the kind of feminine subjecthood that Barnes, in penning this particular poem, has explicitly reversed).

What I love most about ‘White Tuxedo’, though, is entrenched in each and every phrase: say it with me, gang—the intimacy of it all. This intimacy is a condition that I’m always looking for in poetry; in art, in life. The knowing of somebody, and an existence shared with them, that cannot be erased by the conclusion of it. The enormity of that understanding; making macro of the minute. Really, I have always had to share this poem just for its final statement, in which Barnes handles the depth of these ideas with sparing, rapturous clarity: ‘You tilt your head to turn to me and the/ whole world follows behind you.’ It’s delicious. It’s immediate, and it’s immense. It says everything it needs to. It’s very, very good.


Tate Fountain is an Auckland-based writer, actor, and academic, whose recent work can be found in Starling, Perception, Gold Hand and MIM. In 2018, she self-published the chapbook Letters, which found readers around the world, and she has just begun a literary newsletter, which she hopes might be read by five people.


Emma Barnes lives and writes Te Whanganui-ā-Tara. She’s working on an anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writing with co-conspirator Chris Tse. It’s to be published by AUP in 2021. In her spare time she lifts heavy things up and puts them back down again.





Poetry Shelf review: Starling 8 Winter 2019

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Read the journal here

I have poetry interviews on the go, poetry reviews on the go, a leaning tower of poetry books to read (this morning it toppled), questions for me to answer for my new books, a study that needs sorting after four years of intense work ( it needs to be like the clean sheet before I begin again), a house that needs spring cleaning, a veggie garden that needs weeding, fruit trees that need planting, novels that call to be read, doodles that need doodling ….. and after being awake for hours with the marine forecast and Jeffrey Paparoa Holman’s pilot memoir on RNZ National all I feel like doing is making a lemon honey and ginger drink and reading the brand new Starling.

Starling is edited by Starling founder Louise Wallace and Francis Cooke and publishes the work of writers under 25 which is a very good thing. Starling always exposes me to new voices that I am dead keen to read more from.

This issues includes the work of 20 writers, an eye-opening interview with Brannavan Gnanalingam and the extra cool cover art of Jessica Thompson Carr. It is women rich, there is fire and cut and lyricism. I loved every piece of writing – no dull grey spots. Just an inspired and inspiring celebration of what young writers are doing


Here are a few tastes to get you linking.

Tate Fountain is a writer, actor and student in Auckland. Her tour-de -force poem ‘Dolores’ busts up form, ‘you’,  expectation and what good is poetry. It gently kicks you in the gut with ‘ashes in the back of a car’ and shakes your heart with ‘maybe craft is love and love is attention’. The pronouns are adrift as the lines stutter and break;  F Scott Fitzgerald makes an appearance, and Kandinsky. Sheez this poem electrifies. I am now on the hunt for Tate’s Letters; she describes it ‘perhaps [..] blasphemously as an extended chapbook’.

Nithya Narayanan is currently doing a conjoint degree (BA / LLB) at the University of Auckland. Her poem ‘Hiroshima’ held me in one long gasp as the mother / daughter relationship links the title to the final ‘bomb’ stanza. This is confession at its most radioactive (excuse the pun) with a rhythm that pulls and detail that hooks.

Rose Peoples is a student at Victoria University. Her poetry has appeared in Mimicry and Cordite. Her extraordinary poem ‘The Politics of Body Heat’ begins with a woman pegging washing on a line, then moves through cold and sexism, female syndromes and disappearances. You just must read it.

Think –
Have they forgotten the fear
of a cold hand on the back of the neck?
The dread of an icy whisper?
Remember this –
It is easy to disappear in the cold.


Morgan McLaughlin is an English lit graduate and describes herself as a fierce feminist. It shows in her poem ‘1-4’, four prose-poem pieces that subvert numerical order as clearly as they lay down a challenge to patriarchy. The writing is lucid, sharp as a blade and deliciously rhythmic.  I would love to hear this read aloud. I want to read more.

Meg Doughty recently completed an Honours degree in English at Victoria University of Wellington. She says she is a reactionary writer who is fascinated by the everyday mystic. Her poem is like two heavenly long inhalations that pick up all manner of things, herbs, birds, cats, fire, and I am caught up in the idea of poetry as breath (again, see today’s Herald!!). Then I reach the end of the poem and here is the poet breathing:

I stir
hover over the steam
and breathe in
I know how to live in this world


Mel Ansell is a Wellington poet whose brocade-like poem ‘Cook, Little Pot, Cook’ (I have used this term before) shimmers and sparks with surprise arrivals as I read. Ah poetry bliss where food and love and place and home rub close together.
Rebecca Hawkes is in the recently published AUP New Poets 5 with Sophie van Waardenberg and Carolyn DeCarlo. She has a cluster of poems here that show her dazzling word play, the way images and detail build so you are swimming through the poetic layers with a sense of exhilaration (it was like that when I heard her read at the launch). Her poetry is so on my radar at the moment.

I want to read more from Danica Soich.

Joy Tong is a Year 13 student at St Cuthbert’s College. ‘Tiny Love Poem‘ is pitch perfect.

Hebe Kearney is from Christchurch but is currently studying to complete her Honours in Classics at the University of Auckland. Her poem ‘Bukit Ibam, 1968’ is so divinely spare but opens up inside me, like an origami flower that unfolds family:

a story in a cage. dad,
you recount my grandmother
through the mosquito netting baking
tiny raised cakes.


Thanks Louise and Francis. This is a terrific issue. Now I need to head back to my long list of jobs to do before I head back down to Wellington for National Poetry Day.