Tag Archives: Vana Manasiadis

Poetry Shelf Theme Season: Thirteen poems about home

Home is a state of mind, it’s where you lay your roots down, where you trace your roots, feed yourself, friends and family, bake your bread and make kombucha, where you stand and sleep and dream, it’s a physical place, a small house with wooden floors and comfortable couches, a garden with kūmara almost ready to harvest, shelves overflowing with books, my family tree, my family treasures, my thoughts of life and my thoughts of death, a series of relationships, myself as mother, partner, writer, home is my reluctance to drive beyond the rural letterbox, it’s contentment as I write the next blog, the next poem, sort the kitchen cupboards, light the fire, conserve the water, feel the preciousness of each day.

The poems I have selected are not so much about home but have a home presence that leads in multiple directions. Once again I am grateful to publishers and poets who are supporting my season of themes.

The poems

all of us

once upon a time

all of us here

were one of them there.

maybe

in another skin

in a life before.

maybe

only a few weeks ago.

land of the long white cloud,

land of no borders,

floating

adrift

near the end of the world,

near the end of the sea.

we came

and stayed

and with our accents

call

this place

home.

carina gallegos

from All of Us, Landing Press, 2018

there’s always things to come back to the kitchen for

a bowl of plain steamed rice

a piece of bitter dark chocolate

a slice of crisp peeled pear

a mother or father who understands

the kitchen is the centre of the universe

children who sail out on long elliptical orbits

and always come back, sometimes like comets, sometimes like moons

Alison Wong

from Cup, Steele Roberts, 2005, picked by Frankie McMillan

What’s the pH balance of yin + yang?

lake / river / liquid / beverage / additional charges or income / (of clothes) classifier for number of washes / hai bian / shang hai /  shui guo / zhong guo / Sway by Bic Runga / three drop radicals on my guitar / liquid cement /  tai chi at Buckland’s Beach / put your facemask on and listen to the rain on a UE speaker /

It’s not outlandish to say I was raised by the water.  Aotearoa is a land mapped in blue pen, each land mass a riverbed. Originally swampland, the water gurgles from kitchen taps and runs silent cartographies underneath cities of concrete.

I was raised by my mama, raised with the treasures of every good cross-pollinated pantry. We have rice porridge for breakfast and mee hoon kueh when I plead. My siblings and I vie for iced jewel biscuits kept out of our reach, packed tightly into red-lidded jars on the highest shelf of our pantry. We stretch torso to tiptoe to reach them, knocking the jars off their perch with our fingertips. The dried goods we ignore on the levels below are the real jewels in the cabinet. From behind the creaky door comes the festivities of Lunar Celebrations: dried mushrooms, dried shrimp, vermicelli noodles, black fungus, herbal remedies, that good luck moss you eat on New Year’s.

Chinese cooking is a testament to soaking. Benches overflow with an array of colanders, damp towels cover small white bowls of noodles, rehydrating. We wash rice in liquid choreography: Pour. Swirl. Measure by the pinky. Drain.

My mum is from Ma Lai Xi Ya, her mum’s mum from Fujian, China. I google map the curve of a bordering coast, trace a line through the wet season pavements of Kuala Lumpur and end up with fingerprints all the way to Oceania. From my house you can see the windmills of Makara, jutting out like acupuncture needles. The sea rushes the wind like nature’s boxing lessons.

We fly back to Malaysia every couple years, past the sea-lapsed boundaries of other countries. In Singapore I am offered moist towelettes on the plane. In KL, where two rivers meet by the oil of Petronas, I shower in buckets of cold water and reunite with faulty flushing.

The first ethnic Chinese came to New Zealand during the 1850’s, following flakes of fortune. They came for the gold rush, fishing for luck on the unturned beds of rivers. Wisps of fortune lay in thousand year old rocks worn down to alluvial alchemy.  Chinese last names carried through the cold water creeks. They died in sea-burials.

Tones and tombs. You made your river, now lie in it. Yǐn shuǐ sī yuán. To think of water and remember its source; to remember where one’s happiness comes from; to not forget one’s roots or heritage.

Oriental Bay is the closest beach to us in Wellington City. On weekends, we drive out for picnics, happy to migrate our schedules. The beach was named by George Dupper in the late 1840’s after the boat he arrived on. Fresh off the Bay. Oriental Parade is famous for 22,000 tonnes of imported sand. In my house we are displaced soil in torrential rain. I search ancestry on Wikipedia, then look for my own last name.

Think of water and remember its source. Where do our pipelines go? When do our bodies enter the main frame? Oriental, noun. Characteristic of Asia, particularly the East. Rugs, countries, bamboo leaves. A person of East Asian descent (offensive).  A beach with fake grains. Imported goods and exported gooseberries. The fruits of our labour, measured and drained.

I think tourists find the green unsettling. It never stops pouring.

Year of the money. Year of the pig. Year of the scapegoat, the migrants, the rats on the ship. Labour. Lei. Qi Guai. Guai Lo. I google the wind howls around a shipwreck. I google microtraumas until my eyes bleed transparent. I google:

  • why do chinese people love hot water
  • can chinese people swim
  • why are there so many chinese in auckland
  • chinese people population
  • chinese people opinion

Ink blue motions stencil sight lines into the harbour of my eyes. I rub at ink sticks until the ocean turns to soot. The rising shadows of New World Power loom from water’s depths. We float currency back to motherlands in a trickle down economy.  What’s the pH balance of yin + yang?

I was raised with the dawn promise of an unpolluted skyline, pools in cyan-printed eyes, long white dreams of the colony. My body the cycle of a washing machine, bleached into safety. I was raised in a world full of oysters, one lofty pearl held between the whiskered snout of a dragon. But you can’t feng shui the comments on Stuff articles.

Feng shui just means wind water. It’s not scary. Duān wǔ jié is the annual dragon boat festival. I throw zongzi in the river to protect Qu Yuan’s body. Remember how you moved across the world to know you had been here already? My mum says she caught sight of the harbour and it’s why she will never leave. I watch her from the doorway, her frame hunched across the sink. She belongs here. The soft light of morning streams through the window, catching glints on small rice bowls. I can hear a pot of water boiling. She soaks bones for breakfast, then asks if I’m hungry. 

Vanessa Mei Crofskey

from A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand, eds Paula Morris and Alison Wong, Auckland University Press, 2021

blue beat

Every morning he milked the cow.

It was the chime that woke me and my sister,

metal against metal,

the fall of the empty milk-bucket’s handle

as he put it down to open the gate

right beside our sleep-out.

At the end of the day, in socks,

the cold, clear smell of fresh air

still on him, was his way

of arriving back;

the glass of water he gulped,

the hanky dragged from his pocket,

how he leaned back with a grunt

against the nearest doorpost

to rub and scratch the itch,

or ache, between his shoulders. Once,

seeing me poring over a map of the world

trying to find Luxemburg,

he teased, saying something

about how I couldn’t wait to leave.

None of us knowing then

that he would be the first to go,

leaving us

long before we could ever leave him.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

from Born to a Red-Headed Woman, published by Otago University Press, 2014

We used some

concrete blocks

the hollow kind

that let the grass

grow through

to make a carport

then took a few

out back to

plant a herb garden

parsley    thyme

used to step out

mid-dish to snip off

fronds till

it all went to seed

now my mother’s not

been out the

back door in

more than a year

they’ve grown into

massive aberrant

plants to match

the trampolines

around the flats

on either side

Jack Ross

Bliss

If I were to describe this moment

I may write

bliss

If bliss meant quiet, companionship

you in the garden, me hanging washing

the fresh scent of rain on the air

the murmur of voices inside

You and me

not far away

bliss

Rose Peoples

Reasons you should retire to the

small town the poet grew up in

Because you have a Grahame Sydney book on your coffee table.
Because you are public figure
        reinventing yourself as a public figure –
        in Central Otago.
Because you can buy advertising space cheap
        and write a column about
        local issues.
Because you know how moorpark apricots
        ripen from the inside
        and look deceptively green.
Because it’s a gold rush
        a boomer boom town.
Because you are a big fan of Muldoon
        flooding the gorge
        for the generation of electricity –
        when the river rose
        it formed little islands
        possums, skinks and insects
        clung to power poles
        to escape drowning.
Because you fell in love when you were sixteen
        with the dusty curtains
        in the high school hall –
        immense as the horizon
        holding the town in.

Ella Borrie

from Stasis 2020, picked by Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connnor

In my mother’s house

Everything is always evening:

curios in candlelight, blowpipes,

riding crops, cabinets of Caligari.

Children used to giggle in the rhododendrons;

dragons wander up to the door.

There were nightingales.

The ghosts hunch, passing the port,

rehash old scandals, broken trysts,

all those garden parties long ago.

Harry Ricketts

from Just Then, Victoria University Press, 2012

Hunting my father’s voice, County Down

It begins with the medieval

throat clearing of crows

high over Scrabo tower. You

were the boy your mother

forgot to drown and still

you holler for help

So here’s a bloody conundrum

shot to blazes and back

and your brother Jimmy

in a slow swim to save you

Dad, the land is full of boulders

an apron of stones

to feed a nanny goat

chalk a plenty to soften your voice

All those stories, enough

to hang a man, come Easter

All that dreaming

the time it took

to dig breath for the fire

the knot and bog

of the back parlour where Jimmy

washed roosters

and sister Maureen, her hair

lovely enough to stop your throat

Frankie McMillan

appeared on a Phantom Poetry Billsticker 2015

SH5

From Bluff Hill we can see the ships come in. Past the buoys stitched crooked like Orion’s belt. My school is art deco seashell and lavender climb. Girls press their hands to the frames and breathe on the glass. There’s this one boy who got peach fuzz before the rest of them. His voice cracks seismic and we all swarm. I practice my California accent down the landline and my mother laughs behind the door. We pass him around like chapstick. Hickies like blossoms on his neck, like rose-purple flags planted behind pine trees and beach grass. There are socials. Socials with glow sticks and apple juice in cardboard cartons. We all look at him. We look at him, through him, to see each other. A postcard is no place to be a teenager. The sea air is too thick. Rusts my bicycle in the garage. Rusts the door hinges. Stings in the back of my eyes.

Our town’s like honey. You get knee deep. Arataki. Manuka. Clover. Sweet. Council flat, Sky TV, pyramid scheme, boxed wine, sun-freckled early twenties. Ultra-scan, veganism, Mum’s club with the girls who went to your kindy. His sisters, their perfume vanilla and daisies, their babies fat and milky. We could have built a vege garden. I could have kept a shotgun under the mattress.

Most of us. Most of us leave. We carve the initials of our high school sweethearts into lumps of driftwood and throw them out to sea. To big cities where no one knows us, where the cops drive with their windows up and their sleeves rolled down. We learn to sleep through the traffic. We keep on leaving till we find a way to go. We leave so one day we can maybe come back.

Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor

from Starling 6

The Shed

It was a shed before it was home to Tongan relatives. The inside smelled like Dad’s work gloves, musk and dirt. Dust caught in cobwebs draped over muddy tools. Overgrown insects nested between the spades and hoes. Wonky stacks of building stuff lay against the walls,window frames, doors, planks with flaking paint and nails poking out. Dad would be busy in the humming dark behind the shed, shovelling smelly things in the compost.

He’d reach the bottom of the pit in one spadeful, burying green- oaty food waste and feathering rich crumbly compost over the top with delicate shakes. I liked the slicing sound of the spade when he dug deep. The mouldy compost frame kept everything together for so many years. To Dad’s left there was the chicken coop, with a motley crew of chickens and a duck. He’d built a pirate-rigging treehouse in the trees above. To his right the long brown garden where everything he planted thrived, giant broccoli and gleaming silverbeet. Runner beans grew up a chicken-wire frame separating the veggie plot from the pet cemetery at the back where flowers grew amongst wooden crosses with cats’ names scrawled on them.

There was a flurry of bush between us and neighbours. One bush grew glowing green seed-capsules we wore as earrings, there was a sticky bamboo hedge and the rotten log sat solidly in a gap. The bush was thick enough for birds to nest in, dark patches in the twigs that cried in spring. Sometimes we’d hear strangled shrieks and sprint to retrieve dying bodies from cats’ mouths; saving lives for a few moments. Dad said we’re allowed to pick flowers to put on graves but otherwise it’s a waste.

Simone Kaho

from Lucky Punch, Anahera Press, 2016

Home is on the tip of your tongue when

you lose your tongue

watch your tongue         

  wag your tongue

hold your γλώσσα

  cat got your tongue

sharpen your tongue      

  bite your γλώσσα

bend your tongue                      

  keep a civil tongue                   

slip some tongue

  speak in γλώσσες

  roll your tongue                        

give great γλώσσα

  loosen your tongue

find your tongue                        

   find your γλώσσα

Βρες your γλώσσα

 Βρες τη γλώσσα

Βρες τη γλώσσα σου

Vana Manasiadis

And Are You Still Writing?

All day in the spaces in between

soothing, feeding, changing the baby,

fielding work, balancing accounts, juggling memos,

tidying away the wandering objects

left in tidemarks in every room –

spill cloths, rattles, stretch ’n’ grows,

a stray spool of purple cotton,

coffee cups, litters of shoes – 

a poem waited,

small, tight-skinned, self-contained:

a package left on the doorstep of an empty house.

It was to be a poem

about the spaces in between.

From it would grow

menageries and oases:

wilds and silence.

But, as so often, dusk came.

The pen cast its image on the page.

The shadow lengthened, deepened

and thickened, like sleep.

Emma Neale

from Spark, Steele Roberts, 2008

The poets

Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor was awarded the 2018 Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Essay Competition, and the 2017 Monash Prize for Emerging Writers.  Her work has appeared in Starling, Mayhem, Brief, Poetry New Zealand, Landfall, Turbine, Flash Frontier, Mimicry, Min-a-rets, Sweet Mammalian, Sport and Verge. She is Poetry New Zealand‘s 2021 Featured Poet. She writes thanks to the support of some of the best people on this great watery rock.

Ella Borrie is a Te Whanganui-a-Tara based poet from Otago. She co-edited Antics 2015 and her work appears in Mimicry, Starling and Turbine | Kapohau. The title of this poem is inspired by Louise Wallace’s poem ‘How to leave the small town you were born in’.

Kay McKenzie Cooke’s fourth poetry collection was published by The Cuba Press in June 2020 and is titled Upturned. She lives and writes in Ootepoti / Dunedin.

Vanessa Crofskey is an artist and writer currently based in Pōneke Wellington. She was a staff writer for online arts and culture journal The Pantograph Punch and has a collection of poems out in AUP New Poets Volume 6. 

carina gallegos, originally from Costa Rica, has worked in journalism and development studies, and with refugee communities since 2011. She published poems in All of Us (Landing Press, 2018) with Adrienne Jansen. She lives in Wellington with her family and refers to New Zealand as ‘home’.

Simone Kaho is a digital strategist, author, performance poet and director. Her debut poetry collection Lucky Punch was published in 2016. She has a master’s degree in poetry from Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML). She’s the Director of the E-Tangata web series ‘Conversations’ and a journalist for Tagata Pasifika. In 2021 Simone was awarded the Emerging Pasifika Writer residency at the IIML.

Vana Manasiadis is Greek-New Zealand poet and translator born in Te Whanganui-a-Tara and based in Tāmaki Makaurau after many years living in Kirihi Greece.  She is 2021 Ursula Bethell Writer-in-Residence at Te Whare Wanaga o Waitaha Canterbury University. Her most recent book was The Grief Almanac: A Sequel.

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.

Emma Neale is a writer and editor. Her most recent collection is To the Occupant. In 2020 she received the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for a Distinguished Contribution to New Zealand Poetry.

Rose Peoples is from Te Awakairangi/Lower Hutt. She is a student at Victoria University and, having finished her law degree last year, decided that the logical next step was to embark upon a Masters in Literature. She is a bookseller at Good Books. Her work has previously appeared in Cordite, Mimicry and Starling.

Harry Ricketts teaches English Literature and creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka. His latest collection Selected Poems was published by Victoria University Press, 2021.

Jack Ross‘s most recent poetry collection, The Oceanic Feeling, was published by Salt & Greyboy Press in early 2021. He blogs on  the imaginary museum, here[http://mairangibay.blogspot.com/].

Alison Wong is the coeditor of A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand (AUP, 2021), the first anthology of creative writing by Asian New Zealanders. Alison’s novel, As the Earth Turns Silver (Penguin/Picador, 2009) won the NZ Post Book Award for fiction and her poetry collection Cup (Steele Roberts, 2006) was shortlisted for the Jessie Mackay Award for best first book of poetry. She was a poetry judge at the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Ten poems about clouds

Twelve poems about ice

Ten poems about dreaming

Eleven poems about the moon

Twelve poems about knitting

Ten poems about water

Twelve poems about faraway

Fourteen poems about walking

Twelve poems about food

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: The light changes: readings by Claudia Jardine and Vana Manasiadis

Open late next Wednesday evening, The Physics Room is excited to host readings from Claudia Jardine (current artist in residence at The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora) and Vana Manasiadis (2021 Ursula Bethell Residency in Creative Writing at University of Canterbury). We’ll be serving mulled wine, pumpkin soup, and toast to stay warm as you listen.

Hosted within the exhibition Light enough to read by, Jardine and Manasiadis’ readings hinge on ideas of shift and sequence, returns and remembrance, terrain and syntax: changes which we register physically, textually, seasonally. Alongside the exhibition, which includes works by artists Fiona Connor, Lucy Skaer, Rachel Shearer and Cathy Livermore, these readings honour the space for listening, speaking, and non-visual aspects of communication.

Manasiadis will read from her publication The Grief Almanac: the Sequel (Seraph Press, 2019) and recent unpublished writing, and Jardine from The Temple of Your Girl (AUP, 2020), alongside other of their works.

There will also be an opportunity to view the exhibition, with the gallery remaining open until 8pm.

Born in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Vana Manasiadis has been moving between Aotearoa and Kirihi Greece the last 20 years. Her most recent book The Grief Almanac: A Sequel, followed her earlier Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima in experimenting with hybridity and code-switching, and as editor and translator she has edited or co-edited bilingual poetry selections including Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Women Poets in Translation with Maraea Rakuraku of Tūhoe and Ngāti Kahungunu. In 2021 she is Ursula Bethell Writer-in-Residence at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha Canterbury University with Behrouz Boochani.

Claudia Jardine (she/her) is a poet and musician based in Ōtautahi/Christchurch. In 2020 she published her first chapbook, The Temple of Your Girl, with Auckland University Press in AUP New Poets 7 alongside Rhys Feeney and Ria Masae. For the winter of 2021 Jardine is one of the Arts Four Creative Residents in The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora, where she is working on a collection of poems. She likes velour, animals and going to the backcountry.–

Image: Lucy Skaer, In the Shelterbelt, Arrows Rain Down, The Day is Bright and Open, Hare Darts for Cover and the Chord of C Minor Sounds (detail), 2021. Photo: Janneth Gil.

Poetry Shelf Theme Season: Twelve poems about food

Oven baked salmon

I like my fat cooking pot

I like my fat wild heart

Paula Green, from Cookhouse, Auckland University Press, 1997

My theme-season introductions seem like miniature self confessions on life and poetry. Crikey! I always have much to say about food and poetry because I love cooking and I love writing. My first book Cookhouse got scathing reviews either for being too domestic or for being too experimental. I walked around the supermarket on a Sunday morning reading the first review of my first book saying OMG OMG OMG. It was my first lesson as a writer: leave reviews with the person who wrote them. Just get on with what you love. A few weeks later I opened the Listener and there was a photograph of Cookhouse on the recipe page with a Marcella Hazan cookbook ( I loved her recipes!). Plus one of my poems, sitting on the page like a recipe. That was my second lesson as a writer. Your books and poetry find their way into surprising places and you will never know how your poetry touches people. Although sometimes you get an inkling: a stranger might walk up to you, or send an email or a card, and surprise you (in a good way!).

I can’t keep food out of my poetry and I am equally drawn to writers with similar intent. It is one reason I am such a fan of Nina Mingya Powle’s poetry. Her poems lead in multiple directions but the sensual hooks are often sparked by food. Ian Wedde is the same. I adore The Commonplace Odes. It has always mattered what food I put in my body, and it is a bit the same with with poetry. I want to cook a meal that tastes good and I want poetry that satisfies my reading tastebuds whether I am writing or reviewing. In fact don’t call me a reviewer please. And I am not actually very kind. I simply love reading poetry and sharing my engagements. Just as I love cooking a meal every night for my family.

The poems selected are not so much about food but revel in a presence of food to varying degrees. Grateful thanks to the publishers and poets who continue to support my season of themes.

The Poems

De-stringing beans

A mountain of runner beans

to top and tail and de-string.

She decides to do it for them: her sons

so they will be eaten this evening

sliced into green splinters

with pink seeds showing through.

Easier to sit than stand. Her best profile

towards the door when her son appears.

She wants to disguise how content she is.

The stringy edges, tops and tails, in a dish

the beans growing, like a mountain of shoes

later to be wrapped in tinfoil

roughly divided into two.

No one else in the family will eat them.

In an article it says they are underrated

almost despised as a vegetable

underestimated on two counts

or three: first the vigorous way

they climb, clamber to the sun

second they are rich in iron

and last and best: this contentment

so rarely found, except in

a painting of a woman pouring from a jug

someone bathing someone in a tub

this mountainous-seeming task

calming with each stroke of the knife.

Elizabeth Smither

little walnuts

served from across the seas

in a tin or a jar, fished from suitcases

presented

with grandmotherly dimples

little walnuts – xiao he tao

proudly, good for brain.

except neurons are firing

in staccato, half-

forgotten Mandarin.

they manage xie xie and dutifully

I eat them.

I forget why I ask for these –

the carnage of shells

scraps of brown meat

and a strange invasion staged

on my tongue – slow

and clumsy muscle.

I am quick to rise – you do not get to comment on what’s in my lunch box

but just as quick to pick

the yolks of my too-dry lotus mooncakes –

discarded suns

of a world in hieroglyphs.

and when I have counted

waves of sleep – yi, er, san

I don’t dream in the same vowels.

what can I bring back for you?

her smile like furls of steaming jasmine tea

amidst clamouring children

hawking their wants like roadside wares

or suitcase wheels clicking on concrete

destined for smog and skyscrapers.

I always ask for my little walnuts.

*Little walnut or xiao he tao is a particular kind of Chinese walnut with a distinct sweet-salty flavour.

Joy Tong

from A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand, eds Paula Morris and Alison Wong, Auckland University Press, 2021

The proper way to make tea 

It is a cold dry day in late November. 

I take the Jubilee line 

to Bond Street 

change for Mile End 

and wait for the District line

to slowly deposit me at East Ham. 

She peers through the glass door 

small and wrinkled 

like a nut. 

We both smile. 

The worn aluminium pan on the stove is waiting 

thick slices of white bread brown. 

A faint smell of gas 

and toast 

and warm kitchen air. 

A stainless-steel container of yoghurt 

made last night 

sets quietly on the bench. 

Two leftover rotli 

press into each other 

in the tin.

She pours milk, water 

and heaped teaspoons of 

tea leaves and sugar 

into the pan.

Her tiny body

stands watchfully 

as she nudges the heat. 

Reaching for the mugs 

her sari slips off her shoulder. 

She tugs it back and the milk 

erupts

upward and outward

the creamy brown foam 

puffing up 

a breaking wave flecked with dark seaweed. 

Our wooden chairs creak 

muffled voices 

rumble through the wall 

butter soaks the toast. 

We sit together 

mugs of chai between us 

steam mingling like breath. 

Neema Singh

from A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand, eds Paula Morris and Alison Wong, Auckland University Press, 2021

With Nectarines

                                    to Claire Beynon        

A cob loaf rests on a surface,

perhaps a table, an altar, a jetty,

that reaches over a shoreline toward dark water

and the approaching edge of night.

Out there an indigo quiet where the sky lowers to sea,

clouds shouldering weight of storm to come;

a hint of beach, airborne flicks of white,

where seabirds swoop for fish and scraps.

On this side of a sill,

the bread, and a bowl of tawny nectarines

occupy foreground that’s human with light,

with hearth-glow in the corner,

tended against incoming cold.

The bread is warm from the oven,

the fruit ripe, and the room that extends

from the canvas edge into my lived space

where the painting hangs, included as offering

to the sombre air,

to anyone who comes to this threshold, empty.

Carolyn McCurdie

Super Wine

The news is early or his clock is slow,

so he grabs his mug of tea and pops

a biscuit in his pocket,

the top pocket of a faded old coat.

It’s a wreck of a thing, this coat of his.

a shamefully limp and grubby article,

but he wears it through the news and Campbell Live

and on into the night,

and he wears it when he leaves his little flat

and slips up the lane and out into the park

and lights a cigarette

(his skinny nine-o’clocker

and the last of the day).

And he smells the smells of mown grass and woodsmoke,

and he walks across the park towards the lights,

the lights of the houses on the hill,

secular stars of silver and orange,

and he walks beneath the frosty stars themselves,

this unmarried, unmended man,

this unmarried, not-unhappy Earthling,

A Super Wine forgotten in his pocket.

Geoff Cochrane

from Pocket Edition, Victoria University Press, 2009

If you love me you’ll buy Bluff oysters and cook asparagus. Even though I don’t like either.

for Kirsten Holst, for feeding me many good things

and for Alison and Peter, for their Bluff oysters and asparagus

When I am no longer who I was

I can only hope that I will be loved by someone

so much that every day during Bluff oyster season

they will buy me a dozen Bluff oysters.

Even though they don’t like Bluff oysters

they will buy them for me

and every day I will exclaim

“I can’t even remember the last time I had Bluff oysters!”;

they will nod at the extreme length of time it has been.

When I am no longer who I was                                                                                      

and when Bluff oyster season is over

I can only hope that I will be loved by someone so much

they will cook me freshly picked asparagus every day.

Even though they don’t like asparagus

they will grow it for me and pick it for me

and lightly steam it

so that I can relish it served with hollandaise sauce

(although some days more lazily served with butter and lemon).

I will eat it with my fingers

and let the sauce (or butter) dribble down my chin;

no one will mind or tell me to be less messy

it will just be moments of edible joy.

In reality I don’t like Bluff oysters (or any oysters)

and I can’t stand asparagus (the taste and texture are disturbing);

I can only hope that maybe someone will love me enough

to buy and cook me the things that I love

even though they hate them, even though I won’t remember.

Paula Harris

the great pumpkin war

standing in the kitchen crying

beaten by a vegetable

thought by now it would be easier

people have suggested this (people i trust)

the myth of progress

you do something every day it gets easier

in reality each day the dirt accrues

it multiplies between cupboard doors

i am running out of resources

i am getting further & further into

the ten-year warranty on the fridge compressor

one day soon i will have to pick up the knife

& address the pumpkin in the room

bought so cheaply from the farmers’ market

now growing larger by the day

taking up all the bench space

i fear for the fruit bowl

my mother says to drop it from a height

she throws hers down the stone garden steps

my previous attempt resulted in

20 minutes lost to searching for an unscathed pumpkin

trying to break open a pumpkin at night

is like starting a winter war in russia

i am letting everything get out of control

i sleep knowing it is getting worse

i do not think i can win at this

i do not think i can carry on in any capacity

Rhys Feeney

from AUP New Poets 7, ed Anna Jackson, Auckland University Press, 2020

The Cheese Scone Recipe as Promised

What’s the secret, people ask,

why do your students return

year after year to your class?

Cheese scones, I say, crisp

on the outside, soft inside

like all good characters. First,

turn up the heat, 200 degrees

should do it. Next, sift two cups

of self-rising flour, holding the sieve

high, letting the flour fall like snow

in the air, then add a heaped half

teaspoon each of salt, mustard powder

and a good pinch of cayenne for a lick

of fire. Stir and rub in 30 grams

of butter. If in a hurry, as I usually am,

you can grate the butter or cheat

with the food processor,

but do not go all the way, stop

at the crumbly stage, add 75 grams

of grated cheese, then beat a large egg,

with about 75 mils of buttermilk,

(if you have none, add lemon juice to milk,

rest it for ten minutes). Breaking

the drought pour into the dry ingredients,

mixing first with a knife, then lightly

with your hands to bring the soft dough

together. If it seems too dry

add more buttermilk, but like

it’s a newborn and precious, go easy

with your handling, remembering

scones and poems need a light touch.

Cool hands, my mother said,

though mine have always been hot.

Roll the dough out in a rough circle,

not too thin, about 2.5 cm thick.

With students due any minute,

I usually take the lazy way, divide

it roughly into 8 triangles but you might

be wanting to impress your mother

or daughter-in-law, and have the time

and the aesthetic sense for fluted cutters.

Appearance improves the taste

so brush the tops with milk, sprinkle

on a little grated cheese, and a dusting

of cayenne. Bake on a high shelf

for about 15 minutes till golden

and irresistible. Making scones

is not dissimilar to crafting a poem,

you need to pay attention to detail,

measuring, mixing, letting in air,

but there the recipe ends.

What I haven’t talked of can not

like metaphor, be quantified, the secret is

to bring to the process, a little of you.

Diane Brown

the children open their

lunch boxes to each other

a ham sandwich

for a Fijian fried egg and three cassava sticks

a mini feta quiche

for a South Indian roti parcel stuffed

with cumin and okra

a tub of yogurt

for a Middle Eastern pouch of semolina

sautéed in ghee and cardomens

a celery stick

for a Tongan plantation ladyfinger banana

a juice box for

fresh Kiribati island toddy

the wooden decks approve

their slats on standby to suck evidence

of sharing and spit them into the crawl space

beneath the salivating joists

it’s the allergies

                            the adults

                                                the food policies

                                                                                  and

the way fear feeds us all

Mere Taito

P r o p e r t i e s


You’ll need oil –
For your forehead on Ash Wednesday, for the insides and outsides
of your palms. For sore inner ears and lifeless hair. For removing
the evil eye – that’s the most important. Though not one in the family
knows the ritual, better to be with, than without.

Grapes and leaves –
For your rice and pinenuts, for your grape jelly.

And ash –
For the grape jelly – vine cinders to be precise. For holy crosses
over the front doors of your houses or workplaces. For the bottoms
of incense holders – hubris to clear it out.

Rose petals –
For gravestones, but mostly for the preserve that fits into a spoon
followed by icy water.

Water
From the priest, for drinking in the first month of the year
and sprinkling in every room. For keeping in the fridge thereafter.
For putting chamomile into – tea or warm compresses.

Garlic
For everything. For mashing up and applying with honey to sores.
For rubbing on styes. For wrapping in bread and swallowing whole
when feverish. For shooing away evil by saying the word alone –
along with a spitting sound.

Vana Mansiadis

from Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima, Seraph Press, 2009

1.2 To the cookbook

Turning east, I drove towards blue grey

Mountains down which cloud crawled

From summits which were already sky. High in it

A glare like grubby porcelain told me that morning

Was advanced. The nibbled winter paddocks were over-

Written in a language no one had ever taught me:

Glottal, almost choking, wet. Lines

Of leafless shelter-belt enwrapped the shorter

Rows of berryfruit trellises in need

Of pruning. My destination: an art gallery.

My mission: to speak about art and poetry.

It was going to be all over before I got there.

Quintus Horatius Flaccus, help me

In my hour of need, help me turn my back

on landscape that wants to be art, on poetry with feet

Of clay. The lovely world has everything I need,

It has my kids, my sweetheart, my friends, it has a new book

With mouth-watering risotto recipes in it,

The kind of plump rice you might have relished,

Horace, in the Sabine noon, yellowed with saffron.

‘The zen poet’ is another of you, he wrote a poem

About making stew in the desert which changed my life.

A good cookbook is as good as a book of poems

Any day, because it can’t be more pretentious

Than the produce you savour with friends as night falls.

Ian Wedde

from The Common Place Odes, Auckland University Press, 2001

Custard

When I was smaller than the family dog,

Dad would tell Mum

that he was taking me to kōhanga.

Then we’d go to the bakery

and get as many custard pies

as we could handle.

Park up by the river,

talk,

eat,

listen to the radio a while.

He’d light one up

as fat as the mighty brown trout,

captured and killed

and lull me to sleep

with a puku full of custard

in his red van

with all his windows up.

Now I am grown

and you ask me to explain something you said.

My eyes glaze

and all I can see is that

red van,

pastry flakes resting

in the corners of my sleeping mouth.

Ruby Solly

from Tōku Pāpā, Victoria University Press, 2021

The Poets

Diane Brown is a novelist, memoirist, and poet who runs Creative Writing Dunedin, teaching fiction, memoir and poetry. She is the Poetry Editor for ‘The Mix’ in the Otago Daily Times. Her latest book is a poetic novella, Every Now and Then I Have Another Child, Otago University Press 2020.

Geoff Cochrane is the author of 19 collections of poetry, mostly recently Chosen (2020), two novels, and Astonished Dice: Collected Short Stories (2014). In 2009 he was awarded the Janet Frame Prize for Poetry, in 2010 the inaugural Nigel Cox Unity Books Award, and in 2014 an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Award.

Rhys Feeney is a high school teacher in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. You can buy Rhys’ debut collection, “soyboy,” as part of AUP New Poets 7

Paula Harris lives in Palmerston North, where she writes and sleeps in a lot, because that’s what depression makes you do. She won the 2018 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize and the 2017 Lilian Ida Smith Award. Her writing has been published in various journals, including The Sun, Hobart, Passages North, New Ohio Review and Aotearotica. She is extremely fond of dark chocolate, shoes and hoarding fabric. website: www.paulaharris.co.nz | Twitter: @paulaoffkilter | Instagram: @paulaharris_poet | Facebook: @paulaharrispoet]

Vana Manasiadis is Greek-New Zealand poet and translator born in Te Whanganui-a-Tara and based in Tāmaki Makaurau after many years living in Kirihi Greece.  She is 2021 Ursula Bethell Writer-in-Residence at Te Whare Wanaga o Waitaha Canterbury University. Her most recent book was The Grief Almanac: A Sequel.

Carolyn McCurdie is a Dunedin writer, mostly of poetry and fiction. Her poetry collection ‘Bones in the Octagon’ was published by Makaro Press in 2015.

Neema Singh is a poet from Christchurch of Gujarati Indian descent. Her work appears in Ko Aotearoa Tātou: We Are New Zealand(2020) and A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand (2021) and she is currently working on her first collection of poetry, a series of poems unfolding the layers of culture, identity and history contained within ordinary moments. Neema is an experienced secondary school English teacher and holds a Master of Creative Writing from The University of Auckland.

Elizabeth Smither ‘s new collection of stories: ‘The Piano Girls’ will be published in May by Quentin Wilson Publishing.

Ruby Solly (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) is a writer, musician and taonga pūoro practitioner living in Pōneke. She has been published in journals such as LandfallStarling and Sport, among others. In 2020 she released her debut album, Pōneke, which looks at the soundscapes of Wellington’s past, present and future through the use of taonga pūoro, cello, and environmental sounds. She is currently completing a PhD in public health, focusing on the use of taonga pūoro in hauora Māori. Tōku Pāpā, published in Februrary 2021, is her first book.

Mere Taito is a poet living and working in Kirikiriroa.She is interested in the way poetry can be used to revitalise minority Indigenous languages like Fäeag Rotuạm ta.

Joy Tong picks wildflowers from neighbours’ fences, pets strangers’ dogs and chases stories in the streets. She’s a student, musician and writer from Tāmaki Makaurau and her other works can be found in LandfallMayhem and Starling, as well as A Clear Dawn, an anthology for NZ-Asian voices.

Ian Wedde was born in Blenheim, New Zealand, in 1946. He lives with his wife Donna Malane in Auckland. ‘To the cookbook’ is from a sequence called The Commonplace Odes, published as a book by Auckland University Press in 2001. He was New Zealand Poet Laureate in 2011.

Ten poems about clouds

Twelve poems about ice

Ten poems about dreaming

Eleven poems about the moon

Twelve poems about knitting

Ten poems about water

Twelve poems about faraway

Fourteen poems about walking

Poetry Shelf Theme Season: Twelve poems about knitting

I have always knitted but never very often and never very well. I have a winter cardigan that has been on the go for years and I need help to get it working again. When I was young I knitted a very complicated black jersey. I completed it and it felt like a work of art with its intricate and sublime stitching and hard-to-see-as-you-knit colour. But before I ever put it on, my dog Woody ripped it to shreds. I have never managed to finish anything since. Perhaps this winter I will see if I can find the bag with the grey wool and hope the moths haven’t shredded the cardigan.

I love knitting because it is soothing, because crafting things is a joy, and we can produce things that are of the greatest comfort. (Although at AWF 2021, Brian Turner talked about his grandmother knitting him childhood jerseys he never really liked!) I love the way you can lose yourself in the clicketty clack rhythm, or if you are skilled, you can read and look elsewhere as you knit. But knitting is a metaphor for so much more. Writing a poem is a form of knitting. Relationships and family life are forms of knitting. Telling a story. Living. Loving. Existing.

I am grateful to all the poets and publishers who continue to support my season of themes. These poems are not so about knitting, but have a knitting presence in varying degrees. Ha! I think reading is a form of knitting too! Happy knitting!

Twelve poems about knitting

Lockdown knitting

I hit on knitting for something to do

in the gloom, I get restless,

this end of the room is dim

and outside the window, the sun

burns down on browned-out plants

holding onto the dry clay bank,

relentless blue behind.

What Paul watches all day long.

Smoking for something to do.

He raises his eyebrows ridiculously

as I pull the thread of last year loose,

wants to know what I’m doing.

I say it stops me from chatter.

We say little bits from time to time

it’s peaceful, his coffin

on the dining room table

…32, 34, 36… I’m casting on the front

a dark ship riding into the room

light falling in behind

through the potted palms

in the little courtyard.

I’m halfway up the rib

on announcement day; it’s grim.

Paul says if no one can come

and no one can go,

just chuck him in his car

and straight in the ground.

We take the back seat out.

I knit and wait and watch

at the foot of the bed

and I’m not sure of the pattern:

a black square in the middle

that no one knows how to do.    

Marty Smith

Berthe

Reflection on Berthe Morisot’s ‘Young Woman Knitting’

There you sit

where you’re put,

painted feverishly

into place.

Did you mark

the woman who

made you

in a thousand

strokes of pastel

oils? Do you notice

the way your hands,

held up to their task

seem to merge, blend

with the pale-pinkness

of your gown,

how your edges,

ill-defined,

threaten to dissolve

into the background,

so that you would

disappear in a haze

of smoke

and the smell of

burning wool?

Know all that as you sit

fixed at your task,

but also note that she –

your creator –

set your head, your shoulders

against the green-grey

of the water. So that we

might see you,

defined, so that you might

tip back,

fall,

feel your head caught by the water

and your hair trail in the waves.

Rose Peoples

knitting a poem

I’m knitting this poem

                               for you. knit 1 purl 2.

found the pattern

in an old drawer

fraying at the seams. knit 1 purl 2.

I’m tatting together

a crochet

to keep us warm. p2sso.

cabling

a colourful coverall

to contain love. p2sso.

no slip-stitched

tangle here, k2tog.

only this

inter/twined/applique

taut to the touch. k2tog.

I’m knitting this poem

                             for you. knit 1 purl 2.

ribbing together

a cardigan of care

we can don

anytime our world

unravels. knit 1 purl 2.

I’ve sewn up

this poem

for you. bind off.

Vaughan Rapatahana

Skein                                                                                                             

having three sons

to see through winter

in a house

with one fireplace

our mother was an

expert knitter

turning out identical

triplets of jerseys

almost continuously

or like Penelope

seated at her loom

she unravelled then

reconstructed frayed elbows

ragged seams and cuffs

hands moving

one over the other

in the firelight

with love

Tony Beyer

Calling

We let the string sleep slack between our houses

hours, days, years, until one of us tugs.

Then, lifted and pulled taut, we speak. Buzz

words coming down the line. A baked bean can

for trumpet and for conch. Our voices echo sound,

plumbing the marks. On my lips, your name, a manner

of holding you and what you spell. Something like

kin and kinship, something like kind; something like

affection being the grounding stitch of love, which,

purl to plain and slip-one-pass-one-over, knits

our kith. Peculiar patterns we make

with our yarn, shaped to what blows through and what’s

prevailing. Rambunctious winds, or fretful. These times

you are bent beneath a howling. I am picking up

the string to make a steady tether for your heart.

For thy heart. Dear friend, I’m thinking of thee.

Sue Wootton

from The Yield, Otago University Press, 2017

My Mother Spinning

Sit too close

& the spinning bob cools you.

Leave the room

& the foot pedal beats

on a raw nerve.

Leave the house

& a thread of wool follows.

Peter Olds

(picked by Richard Langston)

For my parents

You were meant to die at home

suddenly, one of you stepping in from a walk

to find the other on the floor inside.

Then one of you in the garden

splayed on the earth and

the other in the earth already so

it’s like you fell to them.

That’s not how you went.

Things were more difficult than that.

We still talk, or –

to use the language of crossing over –

communicate.

Newly chaste.

Awfully polite.

Shy ministers of the invisible continent.

To cover the quiet moments

I start to knit a hat, and

in deep times,

like a Victorian daughter,

I rest my knitting on my lap.

We have about a hundred stitches to let go

of Alzheimer’s and stroke

and pick up the daily walks down the goat track

to the beach, you two

ahead of me,

towels slung around your shoulders,

your bare feet finding their own way down

the steep clay path. 

Lynn Davidson

from Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2020, Lynn reads ‘For My Parents’ here

Purl 

Side by side

we purl the fine, cream wool.

The baby pushes and glides

beneath your elbows, your fingers

tense with ribbing.

I pick up your slipped stitches,

pass the needles back and forth.

Our tiny singlets grow.

Outside it is afternoon,

the sky paling and snow

clumped on Ben Lomond.

Jillian Sullivan

from Parallel, Steele Roberts. 2014

The Pattern of Memoir

In the days before synthetics from China,

women knitted. My Brownie teacher taught me

at seven, words or wool, anyone can master it.

First, the unravelling of elusive, possibly false

strands of memory.

 

Next, you settle into long days, row after row,

hoping for a garment approximating truth,

knowing anything re-knitted is always a little

uneven, a compromise at best. I make no mention

of the casting off.

 

The way your hands finding nothing

to do now, start searching for trouble again,

unearthing that old thing in the back

of the wardrobe just itching for a make-over,

a whole new life.

In the days before synthetics from China,

women knitted. My Brownie teacher taught me

at seven, words or wool, anyone can master it.

First, the unravelling of elusive, possibly false

strands of memory.

Diane Brown

From Every Now and Then I Have Another Child, Otago University Press, 2020

KNITTING

P l e x i s P e r i p l e x i s


Stooped sore with the shells and soaps of gift-giving, the midnight-baked koulouria
and sesame, the red eggs of the resurrection, a map, a compass
shoulder-sloped with the southerly through the crack in the dining stained-glass,
the dawn frosts on the lawn and the knitting mum prudently started:


so you’ll be able to trace your way back, my mikroula, my thesaurus, so you won’t get lost,
fall, be eaten whole, wander for days in bad company, catch cold, worry; so you’ll have
something to fly from Yiayia’s yard with the pots, the tiles dusted-clean, the shed with my
clothes by the tree


I squeeze on and through; down the rows, losing rows; reach down from
the overhead locker, pull out needles and threads and start looping.

Vana Manasiadis

from Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima, Seraph Press, 2009

coming undone

lists of names unspooling, not dead

but extinct, never-coming-again

owl, quail, snipe, wren

and I’m on my knees, weeding the lettuces

a blackbird hops, watches, drawn by the freshly turned earth

he’s wary he knows what species I am –

the one whose jersey’s unravelling

leopard, rhino, wolf, ibex

and strands of blue wool

unstitch behind me,

snag on blackberry barbs

and break

penguin, dolphin, sea-lion

and above me, gulls on lifting wind

bring salt-tanged keening

shearwater, petrel, albatross

and a cuff of my jersey flops down, hobbles

my hand on the trowel; I re-roll the sleeve

and my dangling hem has gathered dried sepals dropped

by camellias, that rustle, click like a small-clawed cortege

piopio, huia, bat

and I stare at my trowel as if I don’t know

what to do with it.

Carolyn McCurdie

very fine lace knitting

this is a picture of my house

wallpaper silvery with birch trees

covering the workbook

the stories and the pictures

red and yellow blue and blue-green

the smiling suns

jack in the box on the window sill

see Sweetie run

the high shelf in the toyshop

I want to be a ship

the umbrella poem

the oak tree and its acorns

the blue eyes that wouldn’t

the bar of chocolate and our mother at a high window

angelic openings in the calendar

circus elephants on the road at Waitara

hot black sand and the donkey rides at Ngāmotu

but we came ashore after the others

Mama still pale and no baby sister

though we begged her to tell us

when we might see her again

hush darlings she said

look at the tents and the lovely black sand

we will camp out until there is a house for us

but that house burned down right away

and Papa had no watch

or any instruments to make drawings with

and all of us felt sad

because the ship had gone

perhaps with our baby sister hidden somewhere inside

crying to us but we couldn’t hear

now Papa must cut the Sugar Loaf line

now Mama must tell us a new story

and when the earth shakes and the rats run across our blankets

we will not think of her

our sister outside in the dark

beside the rivers and wells

that wait to drown children less wary than us

when my mother was a girl

she thought all grown men had to go to jail

and feared to find her father one day

among the figures working in the prison gardens across the river

under the watchful eye of Marsland Hill

how did she know

afternoon sun slanting through eucalypts

stream curving or carving the valley that divides

here from there, us from them

now from then

or not at all

how did she know

that her grandfather was locked up

for three months pending trial

for the attempted murder of his wife and child

on the farm at the top of Maude Road

and that she, our great grandmother

would drop the charges, needing him

at home and claiming he would often shoot at her

going down the road, for target practice

he was cautioned against excessive drinking and released

to lose the farm and start over

as a teacher in country schools

how did my mother know

that her father, a young man in a country town

was put in the lock-up for two weeks in the year before the war

for sending indecent literature to the girl who jilted him

two postcards and a photograph

he is named but she is not

in the police report that went to the local paper

he was in the second draft

leaving for Palmerston North

dark hair brown eyes five foot seven

oblique scar on left forearm

August 1914

We were too small to remember

the trouble that took Papa to prison

for losing all his money

were we there too we ask Mama

did you take us did we all live in prison for a while

she will tell us only

that it wasn’t so bad

that everyone helped out and soon

he was home again I cannot now recall

how long we were away

but I was glad enough to leave that place

though I was not in favour of the long voyage

to the other side of the world

and dreaded confinement at sea

Well that is another story

now your father ties off his lines

for the company and remembers Cornish hills

Somerset hills and Devon hills under his pencil

he sees the nature path in the valley of the Huatoki

and knows it will take him to slopes covered in red and white pine

rimu and kahikatea

where a house may be built or brought

on land bought with remittances from England

the small child in the big photo

dark hair dark eyes pixie face

is my mother’s sister

they share a middle name

the child in the photo could be a year old

she is holding onto a stool with baby fingers

her feet are bare and she wears a dress

of soft white wool knitted by my grandmother

in whose bedroom the photo hangs

above the treadle sewing machine we are pumping hard

for the noise it makes up and down up and down

up and down and we are never told to stop or be quiet

we know the child in the photo died long ago

before she had time to become my mother’s sister

but we never ask our grandmother

about the very fine lace knitting

of the photo that hangs in her room

when at last we go looking for

the child who would have been our aunt

the trail is cold the dates stones or tears

Date of death: 20 September 1923

Place of death: Stewart Karitane Home Wanganui

Cause or causes of death: Gastroenteritis 2 1/2 Months, Exhaustion

Age and date of birth: 19 Months, Not Recorded

Place of birth: Stratford

Date of burial or cremation: 21 September 1923

Place of burial or cremation: Kopuatama Cemetery

we see our grandfather thrashing the Dodge

between Stratford and Whanganui

and the journey home with the little daughter

he will bury next day at Kopuatama

was our grandmother there

in the car at the Karitane Home at the graveside

the two and a half months of sickness

the birth of a second child

our Uncle Jack

8 July 1923

up and down up and down up and down

noise to cover a heartbeat under soft white wool

I look upon these letters and do not like to destroy them

they are a house of memory and when I read

I am my mother on deck at last

searching for a ripple on the flat Pacific Ocean

I am my father making delicate waves

around each of the Sugar Loaves on the map going to London

I am my brother in a choir of breakers

that bring his body to the landing place

I am my sister in the boat

outside the orbit of the moon and the orbit of the sun

I am my sister a bell-shaped skirt

between ship and shore

I am my sister painting a rock arch

that became fill for the breakwater

I am my sister exhausted

by travelling and the house to clear

I am my sister writing poems

that lie between the thin pages of letters

I am my sister singing

ship to shore choir of breakers alpine meadow

I am myself on the other side of nowhere

waiting for a knock on the door

my mother is taking a photo

of herself and our baby sister

in the mirror on the wall of silvery grey birches

it’s summer and she has propped the baby

between pillows in the armchair

holds the Box Brownie still

leans over the back of the chair smiling

into the mirror

she and her baby by themselves

reflected in silvery light

not for a moment aware of the child

whose passing long ago

mirrors to the day

the arrival of our sister

whose middle name my mother took

from the light of Clair de Lune

and so the daughter library

remakes itself and is not lost

though great libraries burn and cities fall

always there is someone

making copies or packing boxes

writing on the back of a painting or a photo

always there is someone

awake in the frosty dark

hearing the trains roll through and imagining

lying under the stars at Whakaahurangi

face to the sky on the shoulder of the mountain

between worlds and mirror light

***

Michele Leggott

Tony Beyer lives and writes in Taranaki. Recent poems have appeared online in Hamilton Stone ReviewMolly Bloom and Otoliths.

Diane Brown is a novelist, memoirist, and poet who runs Creative Writing Dunedin, teaching fiction, memoir and poetry. She has published eight books: two collections of poetry – Before the Divorce We Go To Disneyland, (Jessie Mackay Award Best First Book of Poetry, 1997) Tandem Press 1997 and Learning to Lie Together, Godwit, 2004; two novels, If The Tongue Fits, Tandem Press, 1999 and Eight Stages of Grace, Vintage, 2002—a verse novel which was a finalist in the Montana Book Awards, 2003. Also, a travel memoir, Liars and Lovers, Vintage, 2004; and a prose/poetic travel memoir; Here Comes Another.

Lynn Davidson’s latest poetry collection Islander is published by Shearsman Books and Victoria University Press. She had a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2013 and a Bothy Project Residency at Inshriach Bothy in the Cairngorms in 2016.  In 2011 she was Visiting Artist at Massey University. She won the Poetry New Zealand Poetry Award, 2020 and is the 2021 Randell Cottage Writer in Residence. Lynn has a doctorate in creative writing and teaches creative writing. She recently returned to New Zealand after four years living and writing in Edinburgh. 

Michele Leggott was the first New Zealand Poet Laureate 2007–09 under the administration of the National Library. She received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry in 2013. Her collections include Mirabile Dictu (2009), Heartland (2014), and Vanishing Points (2017), all from Auckland University Press. She cofounded the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (NZEPC) with Brian Flaherty at the University of Auckland where she is Professor of English. Michele’s latest collection Mezzaluna: Selected Poems appeared in 2020 (Auckland University Press).

Vana Manasiadis is Greek-New Zealand poet and translator born in Te Whanganui-a-Tara and based in Tāmaki Makaurau after many years living in Kirihi Greece.  She is 2021 Ursula Bethell Writer-in-Residence at Te Whare Wanaga o Waitaha Canterbury University. Her most recent book is The Grief Almanac: A Sequel. 

Carolyn McCurdie is a Dunedin writer, mainly of poetry and fiction. Her collection, Bones in the Octagon was published by Makaro Press in 2015.

Peter Olds was born in Christchurch, 1944. His mother was a born knitter. All her life she spun and knitted. His Selected Poems was published in 2014 by Cold Hub Press.

Rose Peoples is from Te Awakairangi/Lower Hutt. She is a student at Victoria University and, having finished her law degree last year, decided that the logical next step was to embark upon a Masters in Literature. She is a bookseller at Good Books. Her work has previously appeared in Cordite, Mimicry and Starling.

Vaughan Rapatahana (Te Ātiawa) commutes between homes in Hong Kong, Philippines, and Aotearoa New Zealand. He is widely published across several genre in both his main languages, te reo Māori and English and his work has been translated into Bahasa Malaysia, Italian, French, Mandarin, Romanian, Spanish. Additionally, he has lived and worked for several years in the Republic of Nauru, PR China, Brunei Darussalam, and the Middle East.

Marty Smith spent 2020 writing poems and an essay for her friend Paul, who died in lockdown in April. Now she’s working on her racing project, following riders, trainers and ground staff through the seasons at the Hastings racecourse as they work with their horses.Marty spent lockdown as one of a small team given dispensation from Cranford Hospice to give end-of-life care to their friend, Paul. He does not make it to the end of the extra five days. Nearly. So close. Poem and audio, ‘My Lights for Paul’. VERB Essay: ‘I hope to make six good friends before I die’ (for Paul).

Jillian Sullivan lives in the Ida Valley, Central Otago. Her thirteen published books include creative non-fiction, novels and short stories.  Once the drummer in a women’s indie pop band, she’s now grandmother, natural builder and environmentalist. Her awards include the Juncture Memoir Award in America, and the Kathleen Grattan prize for poetry.  Her latest book is the collection of essays, Map for the Heart- Ida Valley Essays (Otago University Press 2020). 

Sue Wootton lives in Ōtepoti-Dunedin, and works as the publisher at Otago University Press. ‘Calling’ won the 2015 takahē international poetry competition.

 

Ten poems about clouds

Twelve poems about ice

Ten poems about dreaming

Eleven poems about the moon

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Vana Manasiadis in conversation with Nicholas Wright

Go here for details (tickets are free)

λυρικό ελεγείο : Vana Manasiadis in conversation with Nicholas Wright

About this Event

This is the first in our An Evening With Series, hosted at UC Arts at the Arts Centre Christchurch.

Vana Manasiadis’s The Grief Almanac: A Sequel (2019) is, as the title of this talk suggests, deeply involved with the forms of lyric and elegy. Indeed, her volume has been described as a “hybrid of poetry, memoir, letter, essay and ekphrasis” that pushes at the boundaries of poetic form “melding Greek with English, prose with poetry, and the past and present with fantasy and myth”. Do come along to hear Vana talk about the poems in this volume, her thoughts on poetic form, as well as the new work she is writing as Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence, in the University of Canterbury’s English Department.

———————-

Vana Manasiadis is a Greek-New Zealand poet and translator who has been moving between Aotearoa and Kirihi Greece the last twenty years. Her most recent book The Grief Almanac: A Sequel, followed her earlier Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima in experimenting with hybridity and pluralism and is being translated into Greek for forthcoming publication in Greece. She has also edited and translated Ναυάγια/Καταφύγια Shipwrecks/Shelters, a selection of contemporary Greek poetry, and co-edited a bilingual volume of poetry, Tatai Whetu, Seven Māori Women Poets in Translation, a Spinoff ‘20 Best Poetry Books of 2018’, with playwright Maraea Rakuraku. Her residency project will include an exploration of translanguage and poetic form, of territory and authority. She will be working on poetic texts in response to various geographies of Christchurch and Canterbury, and on a series of multilingual and multimodal dialogues between exiled speakers.

Nicholas Wright is a lecturer in the English Department, University of Canterbury. He has published on a host of New Zealand poets, and is currently working on a book of essays on the contemporary lyric in Aotearoa.

Poetry Shelf connections: Vana Manasiadis dialoguing with Jill Sorensen

 

Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 10.26.16 AM.png

 

0001.jpgScreen Shot 2020-05-06 at 10.25.14 AM.png

 

0002-1.jpg

 

The full dialogue is here

The Alternative Reality Huts is here

 

 

Vana Manasiadis is a Greek-New Zealand poet, translator and creative writing teacher who has been moving between Aotearoa and Greece, and is now living in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. Her most recent collection, The Grief Almanac: A Sequel, was published by Seraph Press in 2019. She is the co-editor of the Seraph Press Translation Series, and was the editor and translator of Ναυάγια/Καταφύγια: Shipwrecks/Shelters: Six Contemporary Greek Poets (2016) and co-editor, with Maraea Rakuraku, of Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Women Poets in Translation.

 

Jill Sorenson completed her undergraduate studies at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Australia (1991) and gained an MFA (1st class honours) at Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland (2002). She is a Fine Arts lecturer in the undergraduate program at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design in Auckland and currently undertaking a PhD at Massey University College of Creative Arts,. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally, showing regularly at Whitespace in Auckland and Kobo Chika in Tokyo, as well as regional public galleries and independent exhibition spaces throughout New Zealand. She has initiated and lead a number of collaborative group projects played out as a series of installations at Rm Gallery in Auckland and  Blue Oyster in Dunedin. She is currently instigating research into ‘thinking together’ through the Conversation Pit project.

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf questions poets: Do poetry communities matter to you?

DSCN9858.jpg

 

Part of my aim with Poetry Shelf is to build bridges between diverse poetry communities and in doing so create a hub for sharing poems, interviews, news, anecdotes, ideas, interviews, audio, podcasts, reviews, new books, old books and so on. I want to engage with and showcase a diversity of voices.

I live on the outskirts of Auckland on the west coast, with dodgy internet, mobile reception and power, and at the moment scarce water (!) and I don’t get into the city that often. So I am dependent on the books I am sent, and my communications with as many poets as possible. I feel both inside and outside communities, belonging not-belonging.

Researching and writing Wild Honey took me into all manner of communities – past and present. Utterly fascinating. Always surpising. I found goodwill, bitchiness, support and aroha in the archives. Connections between women poets seemed vital, especially when women were writing in the shadows. The 2019 Wild Honey events were something special – and got me thinking about connectedness and bridges and how belonging to one community is not enough. Listening hard counts. I agree with Louise Wallace – kindness,  generosity and diversity – are crucial. I see this in what she is doing with The Starling.

Poetry Shelf is my made-up and constantly evolving community and includes best friends, people whose poetry I have admired for a long time, people whom I have never met, new discoveries. Why do I do this crazy thing that takes up so much time and operates outside the currency of money? Because no matter how tired or challenged or doubt-smashed I feel, in its drive to celebrate, question, and connect, Poetry Shelf is a necessary form of nourishment. It is like a huge loving poetry family with a truckload of goodwill and support. It constantly surprises and delights me. Do keep in touch. Do let me know of new discoveries.

 

Louise Wallace:
Poetry communities matter and have mattered to me immensely. Writing is of course a solitary act, but what’s the fun in doing the rest of it alone? A common misconception seems to be that the NZ poetry community is bitchy or competitive. I have found the opposite to be true. I am grateful for the opportunities I have received, often sent my way by other writers. Poetry communities can fulfil different needs at different times. As a young writer I really valued being surrounded by my peers who were on the same journey as me, and the help and guidance offered to me by senior writers. As a new mum last year I was physically isolated, unable to attend many literary events. Online communities filled that gap as a way to stay connected and still feel myself – I listened to poetry podcasts while out walking my son in his pram, I kept up with NZ poetry news on twitter whenever I could check my phone. Community to me means creating space for others. It means making sure there is room for as many different voices as we can imagine. It means generosity and kindness: lifting each other up. If there’s a window, fill it with someone else’s name.

 

Jordan Hamel:

I spent a long time figuring out how to answer this. Obviously the answer is yes, but I didn’t know how to articulate what poetry communities to me, ironically it took me to until last minute to ask other people for their opinions, my friend Sara gave me a great analogy. There’s an old classroom trust-building exercise where a bunch of kids sit in a circle and two kids in the middle are blindfolded and try to beat each other with rolled-up newspaper. They have to rely on the voices of the circle to tell them where to swing and gently push them in the right direction. What an apt metaphor, almost too on the nose. Sincerity is awful and I apologise in advance but strap yourself in because here we go.

When I first started writing, like most people I felt like the blindfolded kid swinging the newspaper, never sure if I was hitting anything. In the past couple of years I’ve found a circle, well circles plural, different, intersecting, amorphous circles, some occupy physical spaces like readings, writers groups and open mics, others digital and less tangible, all are so important to me and my poetry. I think the great thing about the metaphor is, in poetry communities you aren’t always the one in the middle wildly swinging, you’re also in the circle guiding others as they go through the same thing, sometimes you’re the one who created the circle in the first place, but as wholesome as this extended metaphor is, poetry communities in NZ aren’t perfect, we could all take a look at our circles and think how we can make them bigger, more inclusive, flexible, every so often we can turn around and try to see who’s outside the circle, blindly stumbling and swinging on their own, or who’s too nervous to even ask to join in. I’ve been lucky enough to find people who will let me play even though most of the time I still feel like a blindfolded kid swatting at darkness, but I think everyone feels that way and everyone needs those voices.

 

 

Sugar Magnolia Wilson:

This is such a good question for me right now. The answer is very much yes, poetry communities do matter to me, but also, no, not as much as they used to in the way that they used to.

Before 2012 my poetry community was just myself. I wrote and wrote, for years, in creative isolation and it was awesome, but I didn’t know any different so it wasn’t really anything. It was just the way it was. Come 2012 and I got accepted into the IIML masters course. It changed my life. My views were challenged, my writing grew, and I had such an amazing time being part of the Wellington writing community. The book launches. Amazing writer friends with the same writerly bullshit struggles. The support and lots of love and wine. So much creative generosity and oh boy is Wellington good at that. Without that kind of hothouse scenario, my book wouldn’t have happened, and I wouldn’t have turned my writing into a craft. But … like all good things, it needed to have its own little death.

I started, last year some time, to feel a bit sad about the whole thing. The launch of Wild Honey really defined what a poetry community should look like for me; big, wise, loving, many-voiced, multi-generational. I can’t really explain it, other than I felt like my IIML year had gone on for eight years instead of one, and that I was really and truly ready to graduate and throw my cap off and leave it in the rain. I realised that in order for my writing to survive beyond one book, that I needed to go it alone, to figuratively and literally move away, to let go of all the stuff and the scene and sort of competitive element than can start to creep in. I’m not interested in that stuff and I don’t want to be defined by my success on the Unity Books Bestsellers list. No shade to Unity wot wot.

Anyway, now I live in the bush and it’s nice, and I’m eternally grateful for poetry communities. I am hoping that over time a new kind of one will grow. Something wild and sweet that lets me grown in new ways.

 

Eliana Gray

Yes!!!! Where would I be, where would any of us be without community? Community to me is the bedrock and the impetus for everything. Why do we write if not to communicate with others? Why do we communicate if not to build community? I feel that almost every – if not all – human action has community building at its base.
We would be very little without community, isolated ghosts. I don’t think that sounds very fun. Other humans are one of the key ways we define our existence. I just can’t imagine life without it. Communities make me a happier person, a better writer, more accountable, more empathetic, a smarter person, harder, better, faster, stronger, all of it. Thank you to everyone in my poetry communities. I am still alive because you make life very appealing.

 

Vana Manasiadis:

I tried to answer this question before I fell down a metaphor hole grabbing at definitions all the way. What do I think a [poetry] community is, does, has? I like these community values: respect, agency, meaningful participation, collaboration, integrity, inclusion. When I’ve had poetry community experiences that have included lots of these things – kōrero, voices, tautoko – they are like blood transfusions. Like actual substance, and substantiveness. Like: I don’t have to long-walk/talk-listen-disagree-agree-eat-drink-stay late with my poetry community every day and night (though that’s the dream) but I do need more than brief SM broadcasts. (And clearly I’m saying this as a judgmental SM recluse who has swallowed the hard self-inflicted pill of not being part of a/the poetry community online; and who spends way too much time wondering whether it’s even possible to be in the same community as folks who’ve super-active-online-selves). But. Anyway. In my wider-panning poetry community (see above) – which really, really matters to me (see blood) – aside from curation there’s also accident, mess, aporía, and slow time. And now I think of it, I’m in a small but ecstatic community of poets who write long and languorous emails to each other. I should say epistles obviously.

 

 

Emer Lyons:

I was working on Heather McPherson’s poem ‘stein song for the blue house’ this month and I was drawn back to a quote from Starhawk’s book Spiral Dance: The Rebirth of The Ancient Religion of The Great Goddess:

And Goddess religion is lived in community. Its primary focus is not individual salvation or enlightenment or enrichment but the growth and transformation that comes through intimate interactions and common struggles. Community includes not only people but also the animals, plants, soil, air and water and energy systems that support our lives. Community is personal­—one’s closest friends, relatives, and lovers, those to whom we are accountable. But in a time of global communications, catastrophes, and potential violence, community must also be seen as reaching out to include all the earth (1999, 22).

Poetry communities are rife with nepotism, can become insular, and elitist, and benchmarks in people’s minds for what is deemed good or bad poetry, rather than the focus being on the sharing of “intimate interactions and common struggles.” The poet Fatimah Asghar says, “I work in the medium of community,” and I feel that, but only as far as community is a place from which I can question, include, and remain accountable.

 

 

Kiri Piahana-Wong:

Yes! Poetry communities matter, and they matter to me. I love how people who write in different styles and perform in different modes can find their poetry ‘home’ in different communities of poets. For many years my poetry community was Poetry Live. Attending the event every week somehow kept me grounded in poetry, and the friends I made there were endlessly encouraging of my poetry attempts. It made me feel strongly that poetry was not a niche hobby but rather an art form to take seriously. I’m grateful for the years that Poetry Live was my second home, and I’m also not the first person to meet their husband/future husband or wife/future wife there!

 

 

Olivia Macassey:

To begin my answer at the shallow end, writing poetry can feel like a bit of a strange compulsion, so there’s camaraderie involved in being with others who are just as crazy. I vividly remember my astonishment and joy when, as a teenager, I first encountered a bunch of poets en masse (in 90s Auckland at the Shakespeare tavern), and realized how not-alone I was. There’s a solidarity involved in this, which can be supportive and nurturing, and that matters to me. In recent years I’ve been involved in projects in the Northland community, led by Piet Nieuwland, and appreciate the wider perspective of seeing how poetry communities and other communities overlap and weave together and strengthen one another. Shared experiences, interests, kaupapa are essentially about similarity, but there’s also an important dimension that is about difference, mutual discovery and renewal: the way we encounter new ways of seeing and thinking and writing, spark off one another aesthetically, conceptually, politically, or in terms of practice.

Another important type of community is the kind of imagined communities we inhabit as writers. In a narrow sense I see this in, say, different people who may be connected through a particular publisher or publication (such as brief or this blog) – poets I may have read a lot, but not necessarily met or interacted with – but in a wider sense, it’s about ‘finding your people’ outside the constraints of time and place. An imagined community can centralize marginal poetics; social class, disability, sexuality. In my youth, I think without a sense of structures of feeling beyond the mainstream paradigms, or some connection to other poetic genealogies, I would have felt lost, and these communities continue to matter to me. At the deepest level though, for me, the act of writing always already anticipates community because a poem is a priori an act of communication, of reciprocity; its very existence implies a shared world. I write because I have found you: I write in order to find you.

 

James Norcliffe:

Writing poetry is a solitary act and in adolescence, when poetry began for me, it had a solitary audience as well. There was often an idealised, intended audience, but I was never brave enough to show my poems to her.

Later, though, craving a larger audience, it became apparent that other people wrote poetry too, and while the practice wasn’t as arcane as clog dancing or synchronised swimming (although it was up there) it  was clearly rarefied. Still, reading and submitting to magazines and attending the odd reading, made me aware that these people had names. Moreover some of them were local and, in time, I got to know them.

I’m not entirely sure what a ‘poetry community’ is. I’m pleased the question put community in the plural as it suggests a variety of communities of different sizes, purposes and flavours.

I belong to several. Firstly there is a small core of very close friends I’ve made through poetry and whom I number among my nearest and dearest. We meet regularly, eat together, occasionally holiday together and generally have a great time. We read and support each other’s work (and often launch it), but we’ve moved beyond the shallows of writing and into the warmer, deeper sea of friendship.

Secondly, there’s a closely-knit of poets of about half a dozen poets whom I meet with monthly, a group David Gregory once laughingly called the ‘poots’ groop’ and so the name remains. The p.g. has a shifting population with a fairly stable core and we meet to share and critique each other’s poems. It has been going probably about twenty years and one or two of the first group are part of this as well. I’m off to a meeting tonight feeling a little fraught as I need to find something to take. Even, if I don’t find anything I know I’ll have a great time and that among the laughs there’ll be a lot of close reading and penetrating thought. Just lovely.

Thirdly there’s the wider group of Christchurch writers I’ve been associated with for well over thirty years: the Canterbury Poets’ Collective. This highly active group organises an annual series of readings, bringing poets from beyond the city to a relatively large Christchurch audience. There are eight readings a season – now in Spring – involving over twenty four guest readers and large numbers of b.y.o. people. The CPC also occasionally organises one off readings and events, typically National Poetry Day celebrations. I suppose it involves two communities: the organising committee who are a dedicated set who mix a common goal with fellowship, and the wider collective who come along to support the readings, a large number of whom take part.

Finally, there’s the wider national poetry community of poets I’ve got to know over the years through the magazine and book editing I’ve done. A number of these I’ve only corresponded with, but most I’ve eventually met in real life and many have become firm friends.

All of these communities are hugely important to me. Writers are assumed to have monstrous egos and are supposed to be fiercely competitive. This has not been my experience. I’ve treasured the warmth, encouragement and critical support of people within all of these groups, particularly the more intimate ones. I have never been especially confident in my person or sure of my work although I pretend otherwise. It has been so good to have been nurtured by these communities and so satisfying to have nurtured others who are part of them

 

Hebe Kearney:

The Titirangi Poets group meets once every month in the Titirangi library, surrounded by bush and chickens, which roam the library car park in gangs. When poetry happens, it happens in a circle. Each person reads in turn like a set of dominoes, one following the other. A ‘round robin’ format.

Just knowing that they are there, in the clean and the library quiet, taking a few hours just for the sake of words, makes me feel better about waking and walking in this world. When I had the privilege of reading there I experienced it as a circle of support, everyone had a kind word to say, a suggestion to give me about honing the sound of my voice and words.

Poetry communities like this matter because everywhere there is poetry there are words living, words breathing and growing in power. Virginia Woolf once described poetry as ‘a voice answering a voice’ – poetry is always communal in that it is always a communication, a reaching of one person towards another and back. Poetry communities not only matter, but poetry communities are themselves part of the act of poetry.

Personally, I have tended to write quietly and hold my words close to myself. It is only recently I have begun learning to let my words free, and to really acknowledge the part of poetry that is the voice listening and the voice answering back. And it is through poetry communities that this interaction of voice and voice can be facilitated.

So I am bursting with appreciation and gratitude for poetry communities. They make space in a busy world for the simple beauty of words, and remind those of us with a penchant for hiding of the reciprocity at the heart of poetry. The way that, in essence, it is all about sharing.

 

 

The contributors:

 

Eliana Gray is a poet from Ōtepoti. They like queer subtext in teen comedies and not much else. They have had words in: SPORT, Mimicry, Minarets, Mayhem and others. Their debut collection, Eager to Break, was published by Girls On Key Press (2019) and they are the 2020 writer in residence at Villa Sarkia, Finland. It is very very snowy and they love it.

Jordan Hamel is a Pōneke-based poet and performer. He was the 2018 New Zealand Poetry Slam champion and competed at the World Poetry Slam Championships in 2019. He has poems published or forthcoming in Sport, takahē, Poetry NZ Yearbook 2020, Mimicry, Mayhem, Queen Mob’s Teahouse and elsewhere.

Hebe Kearney is from Christchurch but now calls Auckland her home. She currently studying to complete her Honours in Classics at the University of Auckland. Her work has appeared in Starling, The Three Lamps and Oscen.

Emer Lyons is an Irish, lesbian writer in her final year as a creative/critical PhD candidate in the English programme at the University of Otago, Dunedin.

Olivia Macassey’s poetry has appeared in Rabbit, Poetry New Zealand, Otoliths, Takahē, Landfall and other places. She is the author of two books, edits brief and co-edits Fast Fibres.

Vana Manasiadis is a Greek-New Zealand poet, translator and creative writing teacher who has been moving between Aotearoa and Greece, and is now living in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. She is the co-editor of the Seraph Press Translation Series, and was the editor and translator of Ναυάγια/Καταφύγια: Shipwrecks/Shelters: Six Contemporary Greek Poets (2016) and co-editor, with Maraea Rakuraku, of Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Women Poets in Translation. Her second poetry collection The Grief Almanac: A Sequel appeared in 2019 (Seraph Press).

James Norcliffe is a poet, editor and children’s author. He has published ten collections of poetry, most recently Deadpan (OUP, 2019). In 2010 he took part in the XX International Poetry Festival in Medellin, Colombia and in 2011 the Trois Rivieres International Poetry Festival in Quebec. With Jo Preston he co-edited Leaving the Red Zone, a collection of poems prompted by the Canterbury earthquakes and, with Michelle Elvy and Frankie McMillan, Bonsai (CUP) New Zealand’s first major collection of flash and short fiction. A new anthology co-edited with Michelle Elvy and Paula Morris  Ko Tātou Aotearoa | We Are New Zealand celebrating Aotearoa / NZ diversity is to be published this year.

Kiri Piahana-Wong is a poet and editor, and she is the publisher at Anahera Press.

Louise Wallace is the author of three collections of poetry published by Victoria University Press, most recently Bad Things. She is the founder and editor of Starling. Louise lives in Dunedin with her husband and their young son, and is currently working on a PhD in Creative Writing, focussing on contemporary long-form narrative poetry by women.

Sugar Magnolia Wilson lives in Fern Flat, a valley in the far North. In 2012 she completed her MA in creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. Her work has appeared in a number of journals, both in New Zealand and overseas, and she co-founded the journal, Sweet Mammalian, with Morgan Bach and Hannah Mettner, which is now run by poet, Rebecca Hawkes. Auckland University Press launched Magnolia’s debut collection, cecause a Woman’s Heart is Like a Needle at the Bottom of the Ocean in 2019; it is longlisted for the Ockham NZ Book Awards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf audio spot: Vana Manasiadis reads ”Hieroglyph 3 (or Colin McCahon’s Gate III in 1993)’

 

the-grief-almanac-cover-front-web.jpg

 

 

 

Vana Mansiadis reads ‘Hieroglyph 3 (or Colin McCahon’s Gate III in 1993)’

Published in The Grief Almanac: A Sequel  Seraph Press, 2019

 

 

Vana Manasiadis is a Greek-New Zealand poet, translator and creative writing teacher who has been moving between Aotearoa and Greece, and is now living in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. Her first collection, Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima, was published by Seraph Press in 2009. She is the co-editor of the Seraph Press Translation Series, and was the editor and translator of Ναυάγια/Καταφύγια: Shipwrecks/Shelters: Six Contemporary Greek Poets (2016) and co-editor, with Maraea Rakuraku, of Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Women Poets in Translation.

 

Seraph Press author page

 

 

 

 

 

Going West 2019: chickens and a fresh wild wind

 

 

I love the hens in the autumn.

They’re beautiful.

I couldn’t imagine my life without them.

They’re everything to me.

 

Ashleigh Young, from ‘Everything’ in How I Get Ready (VUP, 2019)

 

Going West 2019 is not over yet – but the weekend that brings writers and readers together in a warm bush setting is! Mark Easterbrook, the festival’s creative director, tweeted that every one was tweeting about chickens and not ideas – and here I am  wondering how many chickens will make their way into poems. Co-incidentally I finished my Wild Honey session by reading Ashleigh Young’s heavenly poem where chickens are much loved.

Actually when I arrived I switched my car off and thought it must need a new engine as my car sounded like a chicken! I panicked then saw the hen under the car. We all have our hen stories.

But yes the weekend was rich in kōrero, stories, poetry, conversations, connections. Listening to Apirana Taylor perform his poetry, Elizabeth Knox’s terrific oration on Friday night (I felt I was eavesdropping on the train!) and then talk about The Absolute Book with Dylan Horrocks the next day, (oh jumped to the top of my novel pile!) and Witi Ihimaera discussing his new memoir Native Son and seeking forgiveness from his younger self – was breathtakingly good. Restorative.

I loved hearing Vana Manasiadis read from The Grief Almanac. The writers in the museum session were a fresh wild wind blasting through my body reactivating skin and bones and I just adored them: Saraid de Silva Cameron, To’asavili Tuputala, Louise Tu’u, Lucy Zee.

And it was pretty special to sit on stage with Kiri Piahana-Wong and Anne Kennedy, talk about women’s poetry in Aoteaora and hear them read poems by other women.

I missed The Bellbirds on Friday night because I was so tired and had to drive back to Te Henga in the treacherous weather and got lost in the dark driving like an accident-prone snail and found myself driving up a narrow mountainous road ( I have never got lost coming back from GW) with nowhere to turn around and my heart beating wildly. I was on Mountain Road! I took me so long to get home I should have stayed for the Bellbirds. Fergus said they were gorgeous. Everyone was singing their praises. Ah!

This is always a family-like festival – relaxed, warm, empathetic, community building. Things were a little different this year – the seats arranged differently making audience flow easier, the food breaks were different but offered equally delicious fare, and pleasingly some sessions lasted an hour – but whatever changes were made the festival essence makes it a must-attend experience for me. Maybe with a bit more poetry! I was pleased to see many of the visiting authors listen to other sessions – I was disappointed to see so few Auckland writers in the audience. I find the support of writing communities so different in other cities. Ah – but the hall was full, and readers and writers got talking.

Thanks Going West team!

I loved this weekend. I just loved it.

IMG_5060.JPG

IMG_5064.JPG

IMG_5067.JPG

 

the-grief-almanac-cover-front-web.jpg   Screen Shot 2019-09-09 at 2.40.41 PM.png

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Helen Heath picks Vana Manasiadis’s ‘Talking Tectonics’

 

Talking Tectonics

 

You know, even if I hadn’t come on the plane, on a bus, in a taxi,

I’d get here at some point – cos that clever tektonos, that shifty carpenter,

poet, boat-builder in the sky, he’s been scheming all the while; been doing

a bit of backyard DIY, a bit of God-honest labouring and jack-hammering

on the boundary – right under that picket fence between the plates,

between the kanuka and manuka.

 

There’s a paratekstosyni afoot, a volcanic and magnanimous change,

a winching and an earthmoving: those alpine ridges, those glaciers,

plains and Hutt Valleys, they’re slap-hugging the rest of the North Island

goodbye – Ya old mudpool, ya long drawn out beach, ya tall and flashy

neighbour, I’m off to the Arctic Ocean – I hear you’re off to the Pontos –

never heard of it.

 

And all this in broad daylight, Yiayia – can you believe it?

 

This is what I know: Oceanus gave birth to Styx, the Arcadian spring into which Achilles

was dipped; from which Alexander got sick; whose water Iris drew and took to the Gods

so that it might witness oaths. Or, Styx was the river mortals crossed.

 

Or, the ocean is what I’m standing in – one tiptoe on the Pacific rim

and one not.

 

Vana Manasiadis from Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima, Seraph Press, 2009

 

 

From Helen Heath:

One of the things that draws me to Vana’s work is our shared Greek heritage. I feel a deep affinity to this part of my genetic make-up; my ancestors’ homeland, the island of Ithaca in Greece, plays a big role in my debut collection, Graft.

However, I feel awkward claiming Greek heritage because I am only 1/8th Greek and my family wasn’t close to the Wellington Greek community when I was young. I barely know any Greek language and the Greek alphabet does my head in. I suffer from imposter syndrome, although I’m frequently told I look very Greek.

Vana, on the other hand, has more Greek heritage, she speaks Greek and has lived in Greece. In my mind, she far more authentically Greek than me. However, because she is pale skinned and strawberry blonde, she experienced prejudice from members of the Wellington Greek community. As Vana says. “The criteria of inclusion were missing: we didn’t look stereotypically Greek.”

Vana’s collection: Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima (Seraph Press, SSS), which this poem appears in, weaves her Greek heritage with her New Zealand experience. In it, I feel her working towards a different understanding – moving between worlds and time frames, inclusion and exclusion, reinvention and fragmentation. There is uncertainty and otherness, but also, she gives me hope for a new kind of belonging.

Vana’s new collection, The Grief Almanac A Sequel, was launched in May. by Seraph Press.

μπράβο – Bravo Vana!

 

 

Helen Heath is a poet and essayist from the Kapiti Coast, Wellington. Her debut collection of poetry Graft (VUP) won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book for Poetry award in 2013 and was the first book of fiction or poetry to ever be shortlisted for the Royal Society of NZ Science Book Prize. Her latest collection of poems – Are Friends Electric?  (VUP) – is about people, animals and technology, and won Best Poetry Book at the 2019 Ockham Book Awards.

Vana Manasiadis is a New Zealand Greek writer, editor and translator who spent many years in Greece and Europe, and is now based back in Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau. She is the author of acclaimed collection  and her writing has appeared in a many outlets including 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry (Vintage, 2010) and Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page (Random NZ, 2014). As co-editor of the Seraph Press Translation Series, she has co-edited Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Women Poets in Translation (2018) and edited and translated from the Greek for Ναυάγια/Καταφύγια: Shipwrecks/Shelters: Six Contemporary Greek Poets (2016). The Grief Almanac: A Sequel was published May,  2019 (Seraph Press).

 

_7558891.jpg