Tag Archives: Te Herenga Waka University Press

Poetry Shelf review: essa may ranapiri’s Echidna

Echidna, essa may ranapiri, Te Herenga Waka University Press, 2022

they’re sharing takeaways
next to the ocean
bony butts on a park bench
the Spider signs into the air
did you know liking hot chips makes you gay
Echidna smiles does it?
there is just the sound of waves crashing
and the newspaper rustling
the grease making things
transparent

from ‘Echidna & the Spider’

Spending extended time with essa may ranapiri’s new collection Echidna is a catalyst for contemplation, deep-seated musing, sinking into the knowable, wallowing in the unknowable, brushing against the light, scratching at the dark. All this and more. essa is writing in the present tense, that intimate prolonged precious moment when their words meet screen or page but, as their dedication indicates, are writing – for to from – their ancestors (past) and descendants (future). And past present future become weave. And writing becomes weave. And weave becomes writing.

I see the word weave is used on the book’s blurb: ‘Echidna contends with three stands of tradition; Greek mythology, Christianity and Māori pūrākau, and through weaving them together attempts to create a queerer whole.’ Storytelling is weave. Weave is storytelling. Where and how did she fit into storytelling over time? Where do they fit into story telling. Who is speaking? Who wields power according to the dominant voice? Ah the power of myth to acculturate.

For decades, we have attempted to place she centre stage, to give her necessary voice, to rescue her from shadows and misrepresentation, this complex prismatic stretching she. As a writer and once temporary academic, I wanted/want to witness and engage with her publications, performances, anthologies, critiques. And now, so long overdue, we must place they centre stage, to give them voice, the non binary, the gender fluid, to rescue them from shadows and misrepresentation, this complex prismatic stretching they. As writer and once temporary academic, I want to witness and engage with their publications, performances, anthologies, critiques.

essa draws upon so very much for this heart-startling collection. I experience it as a weave of their own self, vulnerabilities, fears, dreams, experiences. As a weaving of contemporary spaces, mythological and cultural inheritances, and above all the wounding slam of colonialism. This is the kind of book an author has given every inch of skin and blood to. I am reminded of Tusiata Avia’s Bloodclot.

Again I am also reminded that the books we write are woven out of the books that precede us, the communities we write within and beyond – as much as life, imaginings, daring. essa acknowledges this in their poem dedications and ‘Notes’ and the connective tissue of their poems. Here is part of the community they gather: Tusiata Avia, Tayi Tibble, Roman Potiki, Aimee-Jane Anderson O’Connor, Hana Pera Aoake, Tina Makereti, Sam Duckor-Jones, Ruby Solly, Stacey Teague, Whiti Hereaka, Keri Hulme, Rangi Faith, Robert Sullivan, Anne Marie Te Whiu, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Reihana Robinson, Elizabeth Kerekere, Hinemoana Baker, Sinead Overbye, Michelle Rahurahu, Harry Josephine Giles, Carin Smeaton.

The collection. Echidna, the she-viper, cave dweller, mother of monsters, half woman half snake: she is myth and she inhabits this world. She meets Narcissus, and she starts an instagram account, plays video games, eats takeaways. She squashes sandwiches into a tupperware container and she wraps herself in cliches. She meets Ureia. She is a night cleaner. She is the pulse and tension of this collection. She will keep you reading.

standing in the shower now she scrubs vivid from her tails      kids’ comics
and lyrics     from the radio     Black Parade and a Riot! of melodrama    when
she gets out   lifting her unruly  form over the threshold     she wraps clichés
around herself to get dry    the mirror fogged over      hides a reflection she
doesn’t see herself in

from ‘Echidna Goes through Her Emo Phase’

Māui and Prometheus also make an appearance or two in a steaming hot relationship. The poem ‘Prometheus Collects the Body of His Lover’ hugs the right-hand margin and the collection slows right down to heartbreak, to held-breath, to astonish us as the poem shifts vantage point and embodies grief.

he takes small sips
black and bitter

there was a Prometheus who would howl at this
would take up patu and strike
a Prometheus who would burn the house down
and leave with the body
and bury him in the rich soils of his kāinga
a Prometheus who would try his hand at succeeding
where Māui had failed
but that wasn’t him

not now

essa offers sensual hooks so poems become tactile, aromatic, igniting taste buds. There is the physical and there is the intangible. The form of the poems shift like the shifting voice of the storyteller, the point of view swivelling. Sometimes a poem might appear like two salt pillars, sometimes ravined with space and ache, sometimes wider gaps punctuate the line, allowing room for float and drift.

And the sound. There is the music of the storytelling voice, a voice attuned to holding a listener entranced, to composing aural connections, undulating chords. Yes, it is music for the entranced listener.

Books find you. You find books. Poetry, like storytelling, has an incredible ability to invigorate every body pore, in ways that both heal and challenge. We need poetry in these turbulent times. We need this book. This remarkable groundbreaking Echidna.

essa may ranapiri (Ngaati Raukawa, Highgate, Na Guinnich) is the author of this book. Their first book, ransack, was published in 2019. They will write until they’re dead. 

Te Herenga Waka University Press page
Poetry Shelf Monday poem: ‘Echidna & Nafanua’

Poetry Shelf review: Oscar Upperton’s The Surgeon’s Brain

The Surgeon’s Brain, Oscar Upperton, Te Herenga Waka University Press, 202B

A life needs rinsing out, once in awhile.

from ‘Code name’

Oscar Upperton has followed New Transgender Blockbusters, his terrific debut poetry collection, with a book that is equally sublime.

The Surgeon’s Brain is the story of Dr James Barry, a biography say, that is in debt to research, imagining, poetry, more imagining. According to the collection’s blurb, Dr Barry was “a pistol toting dueller, an irascible grudge holder, a vegetarian, an obsessive cleaner – and a brilliant military surgeon who served throughout the British empire, travelled the world with a small menagerie of animals, and advocated for public health reform. Barry was also a transgender man living in the Victorian era when ‘transgender’ was unknown in Western thought.”

Oscar’s new book is essential reading. Marvellous, startling, heart-jolting reading. Poetry, in my view, is a perfect process in which to take risks, to step into the shoes of another, to challenge historical misconceptions and regulations, to enable words to sing. The Surgeon’s Brain does all this and more. It strikes a mark, and then another, and lights up on so many levels. The story is divided into three sections: ‘Dura Mater | Tough Mother’, ‘Arachnoid Mother | Spider Mother’, ‘Pia Mater | Tender Mother’. A baby born, a life lived, a life goes missing. At one point, the doctor admits:

I am not a writer. I am a soldier. I am a surgeon.

Sometimes I write reports. I write in straight lines and use straight
language. I would never dream of writing a poem.

from ‘Well’

And here is the doctor speaking from the straight lines of a poem. He is infused in the ink of the excavating poet. And the straight lines of poetry are judder bars, potholes, side roads, scenic views, the unforeseen, the exhilarating downhill cycle ride. And if the doctor only ever wrote reports, would never dream of writing poems, the young girl dreamed of busting apart the straight lines of a girl’s future. She sews herself into another gender. She makes the physical garment and codpiece that renders her man, and he steps into a different set of expectations and outcomes. He studies, passes exams and practices as a surgeon. Dr Barry, for example, is the first surgeon to perform a caesarean where both mother and baby survive.

The rules are different now. I travel unchaperoned;
I enter public houses; I attend a university.
Once I hid my hair and people would talk to me differently,
but now they listen differently too. Before they didn’t listen
but now their ears are opened. I am worth teaching now.
I can be of use beyond myself. There is no question
of my right to board a ship, or take a room.
It is as though I were a ghost and I have now been give form.

from ‘The rules’

It is joy reading this as story, moving through beginnings middles and endings, but it is not pure delight. It is discomfort, corrugated musings, because the world has not yet dismantled the structures and behaviours that denigrate and deny women. That perpetrate blind ignorance of all genders as opposed to equity and openness. I carry a degree of mourning as I read, thinking of heart-numbing dichotomies: men women slave master rich poor literate illiterate hungry full. Yes Victorian times, yes 21st century.

It is joy reading The Surgeon’s Brain as poetry, moving through the lilt and economy of voice. And yes, it is voice, think speaking voice: confessing, exploring, refining. It is the musicality of conversation that is poetry. It is images and it is wisdoms. Fluidity and fluencies. Tenderness. It is the arrival along the plainness of line that forms another stitching of self. The poem as self-dress. Precious buttons and warm threads. Lines stand out and it is like you are gut-winded. Here I am falling in to a hole in the world, like we might fall into a hole in the poem, into a life. And I am imagining the floor of the poem. And it is this:

Mamma fell ill; an ill wind blasted; a will drawn up; the trapdoor
    swung down:
a rope ladder descending into darkness;
a hole in the floor of the world—

from ‘The idea’

So much to say about The Surgeon’s Brain. I wish we were in a cafe, having invented a poetry bookclub so we could share espresso and our favourite lines. Quoting this bit, and warm musing on that bit. I want to share how the doctor builds a room in his head with a bookshelf and chair, dust in the air and London light. We could talk hesitantly about the rooms we build in our own heads, for whatever reasons, that help keep us safe and on track, strengthened.

I want to tell you as you sip your coffee about a particular poem (‘Journey to the university’) that has a shadow version in the footnotes, little refinements, because we cannot take a face or an action or a statement for granted. Because behind this poem is another shadow poem, and behind that another.

Or the forest. I am thinking of the power of metaphor to get us along the straight line. Through the living of the life, the reading of the poem. How this life and this book is effervescent with metaphor.

Some things I keep secret even from myself.
I’ve never seen a forest but sometimes I walk in one
in my dreams, great black trees with twisted branches
and underfoot wet earth and spiders’ nests.
This is a forest that covers the world,

and in it live three things: the red foxes that dislike rain,
the innumerable silver spiders, and me, numerable
I think, but when I turn to regard the path behind me
I am there. Each step of me is frozen in place,
curls of earth sticking to the soles of my feet.

Some things I keep secret even from myself.
I didn’t want done to me the things that were done to me.
But the sun rises and you say, well.
Only you don’t say it. You never say it

from ‘Into the forest’

But most of all I want to share the well. The well that ends ‘Well’, the straight line poem I have already mentioned (aside from the appearance/echo in ‘Into the forest’ above). I will leave you with the well, leave this metaphor for you to become entangled in, and say as an opener, how Oscar’s quiet and extraordinary poetry collection taps into another life, and how in doing so, it also taps into your life, my life. You and me and poetry are in this upheavalled world together. And know that as you read thorough marvel and wonder, mourning and wound, poetry is the lamp we can hold high and share.

I am a well. Or there is a well in my mind, clean stones, broad
wooden bucket, rope. The water at the bottom of this well is so
clear and cold it makes men drunk. It is black, because it takes the
darkness with it when it is pulled from the well.

I would like to intoxicate. I would like to be a well-frequented well.

from ‘Well’

Oscar Upperton’s first poetry collection was New Transgender Blockbusters (VUP, 2020). In 2019 he was awarded the Creative New Zealand Louis Johnson New Writer’s Bursary. His work has been featured in Sport, The Spinoff, Metro and Best New Zealand Poems.

Te Herenga Waka University Press page

Conversation with Lynn Freeman, Standing Room Only, RNZ National

David Kert review Kete Books

‘Code name’ The Friday Poem at The Spin Off

‘The surgeon’s brain’ Poetry Shelf

Poetry Shelf review: Frances Samuel’s Museum

Museum, Frances Samuel, Te Herenga Waka University Press, 2022

Up here in the thin green air,
I’m feeling the wind on my face
with the joy of a dog on a family car trip,
head out of the window.

from ‘Exhibition (DNA)’

Frances Samuel worked in a museum writing texts for exhibitions for many years. For me, museums are an endless source of fascination and marvel. I wrote about the intoxicating thrill of museums in New York Pocketbook. Standing, for example, before a pair of child’s boots in Ellis Island’s Immigration Centre or moving with the wonders of the Natural History Museum. Or the roll call of museums that fed my Italian degrees. There are the hungry gaps of the past that you seek to fill by studying scuffed toes, wrinkled leather, the uncanny emptiness, the child that once ran or skipped or hid. In my self-imposed lockdown, picking up Frances’s new collection felt like a trip to a museum and, as happens on the threshold of any museum space, I felt a heady mix of anticipation, joy, curiosity. Where would this book take me?

I pass through the book’s opening poem, ‘Exhibition (Security)’, and then move through three exhibitions: ‘SUPER(NATURAL) WORLD’, ‘(IM)MATERIAL WORLD’ and ‘OBJECT LESSONS’. I am following the poet, the museum maker, but the museum on offer is porous. It reaches out beyond walls and still life into the air we breathe, and with each poem I track twist unfold pursue peruse fold untwist. Just like I do on Ellis Island. Or in Roma. It is discovery and it is magical.

The poem ‘Climate Change’ proposes a change in perspective. Inventive in its start:

Since we are all made up of atoms and vibrations,
let’s rearrange ourselves.
You be a bird and I’ll be a buffalo,
stand on my back and off we go, carefully
stepping over our discard clothes

And utterly moving, when you reach the final stanza. I keep bouncing back to the poem’s title, just as I might switch and flick between museum diorama, museum label and someone else’s shoes:

From above, we watch travellers on the trails
tying and retying their loads to donkeys’ backs.
They take a few steps and the load slips again.
Over and over again, agreement can only come
when the bird in me bleats
to the buffalo in you.

Frances writes lightfootedly. It’s not just a matter of weight but a matter of luminosity. If the poems were written in ink, the ink would be imbued with a wonder that slips in and out of view. You need to read each poem whole to get the effect of fitting together, but certain lines stand out and settle on you, little talismans, little points of fascinations.

‘Rain is hole-punching its way in.’ from ‘Moonhopppers’

‘My friend wears a grass jumpsuit / teeming with ants and worms.’ from ‘Fashion’

‘A poet explodes at a kitchen table / taking everything else with her.’ from ‘Pottery’

‘The words are falling from him like seeds.’ from ‘Fast Forest’

‘If one hundred thousand leaves / can make a clean break every day / then what are you waiting for?’ from ‘Seed/Leaf/Tree’

In the first section/exhibition, you enter forests, mountains, deserts, fields, physical exhibition spaces. In the second section/exhibition space, the immaterial shifts my view on existence. Ghosts and trees jangle eyes. Things leap off the page, the canvas, out of the shadows, or from the anecdote, to gain provisional flesh, and you are back in the invigorating and mysterious air of the world.

And suddenly it’s a good thing
you extinguished your shoes
because now you are walking on air.
And when you are walking on air
you can go anywhere.

from ‘Exhibition (Shoes)

And then poet becomes mother, and the maternal role, reframed time and fatigue, chores and the tendering, are made visible. The mother is still of course poet, and the third section/exhibition refuses to keep the world confined in glass cases. The domestic enters and still the writing mind roves and creates and muses. In such an airy space, the wonder and discovery expands. For both reader and writer. In ‘Coin Rubbings’, the speaker finds buried civilisations and buried self elusive, so she tries this:

(…) So maybe it’s as easy
as placing the paper over your own face
and rubbing to see what impression
you are making on the world.

In each section/exhibition space, you turn upon notions of perspective, ways of absorbing and reacting, seeing and feeling. Your place(s) in the world comes into question, or into view, or dissolves, and you turn the page and keep reading. This sublime stanza appears in ‘The Kindness of Giants’ and appears in other guises or translations throughout the book.

Your feet are shod in cruise ships, and your eyes
look though spectacles made of frozen lakes.
Trapped fish obscure your vision.

When I first visited foreign museums in my twenties, I found them dead. Nothing jumped out and poked me in the eye or heart. Yet all these decades later, both poetry and museums are alive to me. I get to carry bits of humanity, song, epiphany, storytelling, dread, mystery, roadmaps, possibility atlases, the real, the unreal. The power of words, in both locations, along with the power of objects, get to sing in heart and mind. I finished France’s new collection and, how can I explain it, I was bursting with gladness and sadness. Maybe because instead of listening to the 11 am announcement on Covid changes yesterday, I read the book. I reread the collection today, writing this on one breath, on the wire of living, on the lightning rod of uncertain times, and as I put the book on my shelf, I am busting up with joy. That is what poetry can do. Read this book.

Inside your heart, a museum
and not the free-entry kind,
not the kind with a rollercoaster
and a cafe and a shop.

from ‘Museum Without an End’

Frances Samuel‘s first book was Sleeping on Horseback (VUP, 2014). Her poems have appeared in many print and online publications, including Sport, Best New Zealand Poems, Short Poems of New Zealand, and the National Library exhibition The Next Word: Contemporary New Zealand Poetry.

Te Herenga Waka University Press page

Poetry Shelf celebrates: Ursula Bethell Collected Poems

Today is International Women’s Day. At breakfast, I read NZ Supreme Court Judge Susan Glazebrook’s terrific story about her ongoing ZOOM efforts to help get women Judges out of Afghanistan last year (with the help the International Association of Women Judges). The story is in the February issue of North & South and it is unmissable. It feels like we are living and breathing under such a blanket of darkness at the moment. We know the list: the pandemic and its ripple effects, misguided protests, impending war, human suffering under despots across the globe, misguided journalism, mis-and-disinformation, poverty, greed. At times it is too much. I switch off social media, the radio, the papers to avoid toxic voices creeping in with their destructive influences influencing the vulnerable and the disenfranchised. But here I am reading a magazine presenting good journalism under Rachel Morris’s astute editorship. Rachel is stepping back now from the role, but I am grateful for the issues she has presented (not forgetting worthy attention to books in Aotearoa).

It seems an eon since Wild Honey appeared in the world, yet it was only last year I was doing the online Ockham NZ Book Award celebration for it. But it is fitting to remember this project of love – I set out to celebrate and retrieve women poets in Aotearoa. The younger generations of women poets are vibrant, inspiring, active, revealing, political, personal, edgy, lyrical, path-forging and it is a joy to read them. To write about their work on Poetry Shelf. But I don’t write out of a vacuum. I write out of the women poets who preceded me. Who also wrote with vigour, with various connections to the personal and the political. And so to celebrate International Women’s Day, to celebrate women’s poetry in Aotearoa, I draw your attention to Te Herenga Waka University Press’s reissue of Ursula Bethell’s Collected Poems.

I have several copies of Wild Honey to give away. Email or DM or leave a comment if you would like a copy.

Let’s shine lights this week on all the wonderful things women are doing – but hey, not just women, everyone. Let’s shine lights on humanity’s goodness.

Ursula Bethell Collected Poems, ed Vincent O’Sullian, VUP Classic, 2021

Detail

My garage is a structure of excessive plainness.
it springs from a dry bank in the back garden.
It is made of corrugated iron,
And painted all over with brick-red.

But beside it I have planted a green Bay-tree
— A sweet Bay, an Olive and a Turkey Fig,
— A Fig, an Olive, and a Bay.

Ursula Bethell, From a Garden in the Antipodes, 1929

Ursula Bethell is the kind of poet I turn to when I want uplift, when I crave the poetic line as transport beyond ongoing despair at this sad-sack world. Ursula Bethell’s reissued Collective Poems is now a member of the VUP Classic series. Oxford University Press originally published the collection in 1985, and it was reissued in 1997 with corrections and a new introduction by editor Vincent O’Sullivan.

I utterly loved engaging with Ursula’s poetry in Wild Honey. I considered it in three parts:

“I want to approach her poetry as three distinctive garden plots with a memorial garden to the side: From a Garden in the Antipodes (1929), Time and Place (1936) and Day and Night (1939) and ‘Six Memorials’. You could consider the debut collection as poem bouquets for friends, the second as a poetry posy handpicked for Pollen after her death, while the final collection, a late harvest from the same ground, almost like a consolation bouquet for self. The memorial poems were penned annually on the anniversary, or thereabouts, of Pollen’s death.”


I wrote in my Wild Honey notebooks:

Bethell published three collections of poetry in her lifetime, all anonymously, with the poems chiefly drawn from a decade she devoted to writing, gardening and her cherished companion, Effie Pollen. For ten years, the two women lived in Rise Cottage in the Cashmere Hills, until Pollen’s premature death, at which point Bethell’s life was ripped to unbearable shreds.  The more I read Bethell’s poetry and letters, and the more I muse beyond her characteristic reserve, I feel as though this is the woman to whom I would devote an entire book. She is a knotty collision of reticence, acute intellect, acerbic advice, crippling heartbreak and poetic dexterity. Bethell rightly counters the claim that she ‘knows no school mistress but her garden’, with the point that the garden was ‘a brief episode in a life otherwise spent’. Yet her gardening decade was the most joyous of her life, responsible for the bulk of her poetry, and a period she could not relinquish in letters and the grief that endured until her death. She moved back into the city with ‘no cottage, no garden, no car, no cat, no view of mountains’, no dearest companion and an impaired ability or desire to write poetry.


I was uplifted by individual poems and by the threads and luminosity as a whole:

“How can poetry ever match the joy and beauty a garden offers? Bethell brings us to the pleasure of words, the way words bloom and bristle. For Ruth Mayhew, a close friend to whom she dedicated a number of poems, Bethell builds her green garden symphony in ‘Verdure’: an abundant foliage of lemon, myrtle, rosemary, mimosa, macrocarpa. Without these variations, Bethell confesses she ‘should have, not a pleasaunce, not a garden/ But a heterogeneous botanical garden display’. The word, ‘pleasaunce’, is the spicy fertiliser waiting to explode the poem into new richness. Bethell favours flowers over produce, a pleasure enticement for the senses over fruit and vegetables for the kitchen (‘I find vegetables fatiguing/ And would rather buy them in a shop’. Her poetry ferments as a form of pleasaunce where the ‘plausible’, easily digested details of domestic routine, the house interior, daily conversations, intimate preferences and relations are sidestepped for words that provoke sensual and intellectual variegation in an outside setting.” from my Wild Honey notebook


To re-enter Ursula’s poetry is an act of restoration, just for a blissful moment, because it’s a way of feeling the warmth of the ground, the warmth of humanity (as opposed to its cruelty and ignorance). It is reminder that our literature offers so many rewards, on so many levels, and it is at times like these, poetry can be such necessary solace, respite, prismatic viewfinders, idea boosters. I am toasting the poetry of Ursula Bethell with thanks to Te Herenga Waka University Press.

Vincent O’Sullivan is the author of the novels Let the River Stand, Believers to the Bright Coast, and most recently All This by Chance. He has written many plays and collections of short stories and poems, was joint editor of the five-volume Letters of Katherine Mansfield, has edited a number of major anthologies, and is the author of acclaimed biographies of John Mulgan and Ralph Hotere.

Ursula (Mary) Bethell (1874-1945) was born in England, raised in New Zealand, educated in England and moved back to Christchurch in the 1920s. Bethell published three poetry collections in her lifetime (From a Garden in the Antipodes, 1929; Time and Place, 1936; Day and Night, 1939). She did not begin writing until she was fifty, and was part of Christchurch’s active art and literary scene in the 1930s. A Collected Poems appeared posthumously (1950). Her productive decade of writing was at Rise Cottage in the Cashmere Hills, but after the death of her companion, Effie Pollen, she wrote very little. Vincent O’Sullivan edited a collection of her poetry in 1977 (1985).   

Te Herenga Waka University Press page

Poetry Shelf review: A Game of Two Halves: The Best of Sport 2005 – 2019

A Game of Two halves: The Best of Sport 2005 – 2019, ed Fergus Barrowman
Victoria University Press, 2021

This book looks back through the fifteen issues of Sport from 2005 to 2019. In 600 pages it presents fiction, poetry, essays and oddities by 100 of our best writers, from leading lights like Bill Manhire, Ashleigh Young and Elizabeth Knox, to emerging glow worms like Tayi Tibble, Ruby Solly and Eamonn Marra. (Blurb)

Reviewing A Game of two Halves is a sad glad day for me. I have loved reading my way through old favourites but I am also sad that this is a farewell. I can remember how excited I was when the first issue of Sport hit the bookstands. It was fresh, exciting, unmissable. I am pretty sure I have every copy stacked on my study shelves. On the blurb, I read that editor Fergus Barrowman’s A Game of two Halves selection is a mix of ‘leading lights and glow worms’, the established and the emerging. Light is such a good analogy because I often find myself using the word ‘incandescent’ to describe writing I love. Writing lights me the reader, the world at large and in miniature, the present, future, past, the miraculous things words can do. Even when the subject matter is dark, shadows and weirdness loom, writing still lifts. Sets me alight. This is what literary journals can do. This is what Sport has done.

All those clothes it turned and churned, the lint
that trapped in its door. I once thought
many things would make my life happier
and now one by one I will let them go.

Rachel Bush from ‘All my feelings would have been of common things’

Confession – I haven’t read the whole volume yet but I can’t wait to do that to share. I am so engaged, I want you to place A Game of Two Halves on your summer reading pile as a go-to source of luminous writing. Last ‘light’ analogy I promise. Reading the poetry (I always start with the poetry) is like tuning into a Spotify playlist where individual tracks resonate and then send you back to the albums. Rachel Bush’s sublime ‘Thought Horses’ sent me back to that collection. Michele Amas’ equally sublime ‘Daughter’ sent me back to After the Dance. Herein lies the first joy of Fergus’s playlist. I am reconnected with poems that have registered as all time favourites. Read Angela Andrews’ ‘White Saris’. Bill Manhire’s ‘The Schoolbus’. Read Ruby Solly, Esther Dischereit, Rebecca Hawkes, Ash Davida Jane, essa may ranapiri, Tayi Tibble, Michael Krüger, Jane Arthur, Chris Tse, Freya Daly Sadgrove, Emma Neale. Read Amy Brown’s ‘Jeff Magnum’. Ashleigh Young. Louise Wallace.

This is the place where the schoolbus turns.
The driver backs and snuffles, backs and goes.
It is always winter on these roads: high bridges
and birds in flight above you all the way.
The heart can hardly stay. The heart implodes.

Bill Manhire from ‘The Schoolbus’

Perhaps the biggest gleam is from Tina Makereti’s prose piece, ‘An Englishman, an Irishman and a Welshman walk into a Pā’. I am such a fan of her novels, rereading this reminds me of the power and craft of Tina’s writing.

This is the way of it. Before I have memorised her in a way that will last forever, my mother is gone. If someone asks me to recite my first memory, which consists of chickens in a yard and an old farmhouse and an outside toilet, it will contain this absence. For the rest of my childhood, I don’t think it matters.

Tina Makereti from ‘An Englishman, an Irishman and a Welshman walk into a Pā’

In his introduction, Fergus tracks the development of Sport, the almost demises, and the decision to close (with regrets!). He mentions the vibrancy of the issue Tayi Tibble recently edited (Sport 47, not just the cover but also the contents) and ‘whether it made sense to go on reinventing Sport every year?’ I have appreciated the move to showcase Aotearoa writers beyond the traditional Pākehā set in recent years. To always draw upon the inspired writing of new generations. Fergus closes off his introduction by mentioning a couple of other anthologies VUP / THWUP are doing and then offers this: ‘And after that? You tell us? Send us your ideas. Send us your work.’ Exciting prospect.

I raise my glass to toast what has been an important venue for new and established voices. I will miss Sport. I will really miss Sport. Thank you Fergus and Victoria University Press / Te Herenga Waka University Press for dedicating time and love to a vital space for readers and writers. I look forward to what comes next.

It has been a long time
since I last spoke to you.
When we were children, our fathers
wanted to be mountains
our mothers were the sky.
So here I am, the dry hands,
steady in fog, waiting by the not-there
trees, the holes birds make
in the air.

Jenny Bornholdt from ‘It Has Been a Long Time Since I last Spoke to You, So Here I Am’

the air is thick with depression
even the flies   fly very slowly

Freya Daly Sadgrove from ‘Pool Noodle’

I worry about whakamā and imposter syndrome paralysing our people, making them too afraid or inhibited to really live their best lives or at least the best lives they can under the hellskies of capitalism and party politics. I’m all about people, and I’m all about the best lives.

Tayi Tibble from ‘Diary of a (L)it Girl or, Frankenstein’s Ghost Pig’

 

Fergus Barrowman has been the Publisher of Victoria University of Wellington Press since 1985, and founded Sport along with Nigel Cox, Elizabeth Knox and Damien Wilkins in 1988. He edited the Picador Book of Contemporary New Zealand Fiction in 1996.

Victoria University Press / Te Herenga Waka University Press page