Tag Archives: VUP

My SST Jenny Bornholdt review

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Selected Poems
Jenny Bornholdt
Victoria University Press, $40

Jenny Bornholdt, a former New Zealand Poet Laureate, much honoured and widely loved, has published nine poetry collections and a number of chapbooks. She has also co-edited an edition of love poems and the award-winning Oxford Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English.

Victoria University Press has recently released an exquisite hardcover edition of her Selected Poems. The beauty of returning to the start of a poet’s work and traversing the contours of a writing life is to experience the delight and wonder of the poetry all over again.


for full review go here

Kirsten McDougall kickstarts a great new interview series




This is a great start to Kirsten McDougall’s new interview series on what people do. Kirsten begins with a terrific interview with Ashleigh Young (VUP editor).

‘My job at VUP is the first job I’ve felt I can be my true self, whatever that is, on the whole. It took a while to get used to. The time I have to put on the armour is at book launches and other literary events. If I am giving a speech I always wear so much armour you can practically hear me clanking about.’

I know this feeling! I sometimes feel I need a clone to go out and do the public stuff as though the real me, the hermit, is happiest off the beaten track out west.


A very small sample:


Does your job have title?

Ashleigh Young

Yes, I am an Editor at Victoria University Press (VUP). It feels nice to have a title. For half of the year I am also a Tutor in Science Writing, but that’s a whole other can of worms so I’m going to focus on my main day-to-day job.


Can you describe the things you do in your job?

Ashleigh Young

I work with a lot of writers to help them get their books ready to go out in the world. I edit books of poetry, short story collections, some nonfiction (mostly the memoir sort of nonfiction), and the odd novel. I’ve just finished editing Danyl McLauchlan’s second novel, Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley, which was one of the most fun novels I’ve ever edited.

Alongside the editing I try to be supportive and encouraging, especially for first-time authors who are still getting their heads around the whole process. I like editing to be a conversation, a process of suggestion and refinement, rather than me tearing bits off someone’s work and scolding them for using too many adverbs or semicolons or whatever.

I typeset the books and sometimes help find a cover image or commission one from an illustrator. I write a few back-cover blurbs. I have a bit of a fixation with a good blurb. A well-done blurb is such a thing of beauty. My journey in blurbs is really only just beginning.

For the complete interview see here

A very special Poetry Book Launch: Rachel Bush



And some mornings seagulls fly
three or four over this house to say
something about grief and weather.

–from ‘Watch’, by Rachel Bush



Victoria University Press warmly invites you to a celebration of Rachel Bush and the launch of her new collection Thought Horses.

On Tuesday 19 April, 5.30pm–7.30pm at Vic Books, Kelburn.

This event will include readings of Rachel’s poems by Bill Manhire, Chris Price, Jo Randerson, Louise Wallace, Dinah Hawken, Louise Wrightson and Glenn Colquhoun.

Thought Horses will be available for purchase, $25, p/b.
Refreshments will be served.

Louise Wrightson farewells Rachel Bush


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The Strong Mothers

Where are the mothers who held power
and children, preserved peaches
in season, understood about
greens and two classes of protein
who drove cars or did not have a licence
who laughed, raged and were there?
Take Mrs Russell who rode her irate bike,
an upright fly that buzzed
with a small engine on its back wheel
up South Road past the school football field
on her way to the hospital. Consider
the other Mrs Russell, drama judge, teacher of
speech and elocution in a small front room,
part-time reporter on The Hawera Star.
And Mrs Ellingham who had an MA in French,
ah, the university. Or Mrs Smith, one knee stiff
with TB, her tennis parties on Saturdays, adults
on banks and we smoked their cigarettes in the bamboo.
Her legs shone, their skin in diamonds like a lizard’s.
Then Mrs Chapman who sang in the church choir,
formed brooches from fresh white bread,
made you look for a needle till you found it,
heated records and shaped them into vases for presents
who did a spring display in the window of Gamages Hats.

They have left the vowels uncorrected, the stories unproofed.
They have rested their bicycles inside their garages,
looked up the last word, la dernière mot, in Harraps Dictionary,
let needles lie in the narrow dust between verandah boards.
They have tested the last jam on a saucer by a window
comforted the last crying child they will ever see,
and left. How we miss them and their great strength.
Wait for us, we say, wait for me.
And they will.

Listen to the poem on Best New Zealand Poems 2002 here



I was sorry to miss the launch of Chris Price and Lynley Edmeades new books at Unity, Wellington, last week. It was the same day as the celebration of poet Rachel Bush’s life at Old St Johns in Nelson. The event was part celebration, part concert. I’ve never been to an occasion like this where spontaneous applause followed the many performances. Rachel would have enjoyed every moment.

I met Rachel in 1996 when we were on a writing course run by Bill Manhire. I loved her the moment we met. When Bill set the group the task of writing a pantoum—a verse form that by its nature leans toward the serious and contemplative—Rachel’s first line was an accusatory “You offered to make the lasagne” which had us all laughing.


Another member of the group of ’96 was at her farewell too; Ingrid Horrocks, whose mother, Ginny, led the order of service. It’s usual to learn more about a friend’s past on occasions such as this and it was enlightening. Ginny traced her early relationship with Rachel at Canterbury University when they were junior lecturers, their planned trip to visit Tierra del Fuego (which didn’t happen because Rachel met Richard Nunns and fell in love), their shared ‘earth mother’ time bringing up children and their abiding friendship.

Rachel’s recorder group—she favoured the bass recorder—played a few of the same 16th century pieces they had performed for her while she was in the Nelson hospice.

Mary Ayre played ‘Songs without Words’ (Mendlessohn) on the piano and later accompanied Jo Hodgson when she sang ‘Ave Maria’ (Bach/Gounod) and ‘Sleep My Little Prince’ (Mozart).


Late last December I spent a week with Rachel and we went to her singing group run by the talented Pam Sims. Rachel liked German lieder and sang them beautifully in her husky voice. Her voice will always stay with me. It comes through the poems in her three Victoria University Press books: The Hungry Woman (1997), The Unfortunate Singer (2002) and Nice Pretty Things (2011).

Her fourth book, which Rachel saw before she died, thanks to VUP, will be launched at Vic Books in Wellington, 19 April, 5.30pm and at Page and Blackmore in Nelson later in the month.


There were many compliments about Rachel, the person, the writer, the singer, and musician. Peter Speers spoke about how she made ordinary things spring into life and how perceptive and gentle a critic she was. Other speakers mentioned her courage and loyalty to family and friends.

Rachel was a contained, thoughtful, loving friend. Underneath her considered surface I sensed a constant hum as she interpreted what was happening around her. She was wired for observation. This private alert woman was generous with her concern for the well being of her friends and family when they rang or called in to Napoli Way to check her health and lift her spirits. They bought all manner of delicious food and flowers. I remember a huge rich Christmas cake, pale blue eggs, shortbread, sweet peas, date loaves, crispy biscuits, orange roses, frittatas and cheese scones. If food and love could have beaten her cancer Rachel would be with us now. The phone rang often with friends calling from all over New Zealand.


Rachel’s poems featured at the service; her friend Robin Riley read ‘The Strong Mothers’, her lovely grand-daughter Jessica Moser read ‘The Song of Miss Gotto”, one of Rachel’s two daughters, Lucy, read ‘Birthday’. Molly read a poem called ‘Our Mother’ that the sisters had written together. It will appear in a Penguin book called ‘Thanks Mum’ which will be published this Mother’s Day.

Rachel had been cremated before we gathered to farewell her. As Pachelbel’s Canon played, her husband, Richard, carried the box that held her ashes out of the church followed by her family, including her five grandchildren. Rachel has gone and we have lost a wonderful woman and a lively poet. It’s a great comfort that she knew how very much she was loved. And it’s a bonus that we’ll have another opportunity to enjoy Rachel’s whimsy, gentle backslaps and interesting spin on life when her new book, Thought Horses, is released by VUP mid-April.

Louise Wrightson, April 2016


Fergus Barrowman has kindly granted Poetry Shelf permission to post two poems from the new collection (thanks to the latest issue of Sport online).


‘All my feelings would have been of common things’

All my feelings are of common things
of the clock going on, of the next
meal or the last one, of the washing
on the line and if there’s enough heat
to dry it, of how to clean a lawnmower
just enough to make the Salvation Army
man want to take it away, with old grey
grass stuck to the blades, the tyres that hold
dirt, like cleats in walking shoes. Also
a dryer I bought forty years ago,
I stick the manual and the expired
guarantee inside the metal drum.
All those clothes it turned and churned, the lint
that it trapped in its door. I once thought
many things would make my life happier
and now one by one I will let them go.



Stepping out

If you would open your curtains,
if you could just go outside.
But you don’t
you can’t.
If you could step out
of your own house
your own skin,
lay your accumulated habits
and personality on the floor,
say of a hotel foyer,
for someone else to find
after you have gone,
light and lithe, into what
ever’s there, perhaps a spring
morning, pink trees surprised
by blossom. The best spring
is in your own high
free step.

For the rest of the Sport selection go here.


I got to meet Rachel for the first time when she read at the Nelson leg of my Hot Spot Poetry Tour a couple of years ago. Having been attracted to the warmth and detail of her poetry, I was instantly drawn to the warmth and detail of Rachel Bush in person. Her voice. Her smile. Her engagement with the children on the carpet. She was a special person. I wanted to hug her. To read Louise’s moving account of the memorial service is a way to take stock, to sit quietly, to say goodbye. I won’t get to have that coffee on my next visit to Nelson, but I will get to have ‘afternoon tea’ with Rachel’s poems for many years to come. I treasure that one meeting. Thank you Louise for drawing us closer.

Paula Green


Book Launch: Bill Nelson

Victoria University Press warmly invite you to the launch of
Memorandum of Understanding
by Bill Nelson

on 6pm–7.30pm, Thursday 14 April,
at The Guest Room, Southern Cross Garden Bar
39 Abel Smith St, Te Aro

Memorandum of Understanding will be launched by Kate Camp.
Copies of the book will be for sale courtesy of Vic Books. p/b $25.


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Poetry Shelf interviews Joan Fleming – ‘My only rule is to write from the gut, not from the head’


Photo Credit: Ben Speare

Victoria University Press has just published Joan Fleming’s second poetry collection: Failed Love Poems, a book in which I found so much to admire. Joan graduated with an MA in Creative Writing at IIML, where she was awarded the Biggs Prize in 2007. She is currently working on a Doctorate in ethnopoetics at Monash University in Melbourne. Her debut poetry collection, The Same as Yes was published by Victoria University Press in 2011. Along with Anna Jaquiery, Joan recently edited Verge 2015, a literary journal from Monash University. It is a terrific issue – I reviewed and highly recommended it here.


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To celebrate the arrival of her new collection, Joan agreed to be interviewed.


Did your childhood shape you as a poet? What did you like to read? Did you write as a child? What else did you like to do?

I read constantly as a kid and kept journals. Shel Silverstein, fantasy YA novels with animal characters, kid romances, and a collection of ‘morality’ storybooks with titles like Courage: the Helen Keller story are what I remember reading and re-reading. I had an imaginary friend named Becky, and I think I was a bit fey, always off with the pixies or tucked into a corner, praying under my umbrella. But I was a performer, too. I would do anything goofy, just to be looked at. I was an easy child, but a strange one. I wonder if you can see that in my poems now.


When you started writing poems, were there any poets in particular that you were drawn to (poems/poets as surrogate mentors)?

The poems that carved early grooves in my mind were often lived or shared, somehow. I would memorise poems and recite them to my own head as I walked through Wellington. Paul Muldoon’s “Wind and Tree” is now inextricably Kelburn; Hopkins’ “The Windhover” is Lambton Quay. I discovered Anne Carson and wanted to inscribe everything she’d written on the inside of my body. I carried her “Town” poems with me, like “Town of Uneven Love”: “If he had loved me he would have seen me. / At an upstairs window brow beating against the glass.” See how you can walk yourself deeper and deeper into that poem?! I have an intense memory of drunkenly reading sections of Howl aloud to a living room of people, not all of them friends, and then going out into the alleyway behind the house to cry. Music had a similar effect. The poetry of Radiohead and Bonnie Prince Billy can still bring me to my knees. For me, it was about rhythm, emotion, suggestion. And poetry having palpable effect, an effect you couldn’t escape, even if you wanted to.


I love the way your poems refresh the page. There is an elasticity of grammar, a tilt of perspective, dazzling connections and disconnections, an originality that furnishes a distinctive voice. What are some key things for you when you write a poem?

My only rule is to write from the gut, not from the head. I know when I’m writing from the head. What happens is this flat, crass, nasal voice squats in my frontal lobe and won’t shut up, saying, “this is what a poem should do.” When I’m writing from the gut, there are no directives. Only sensation, surprise, connection, music, and feeling. It takes a lot of time and a lot of reading to get the gut working, but it’s the only way.


I adore the inventive syntax at work in your poems; a syntax that replays ambiguity and honeyed fluency all in one breath. Are there any other poets that have fed your syntactical inventiveness?

Anne Carson and Gertrude Stein are heroes of odd syntax for me. Jerome Rothenberg’s pseudo-translations of ritual poetries have also been influencing my practices of fragment and invention.


Deletion and erasure is a potent device (so apt for revelations and concealments when it comes to matters of the heart). Whereas Mary Ruefle whites out part of a poem in order to create something new, you have used bold black as an erasure tool. It steps away from a thing of aesthetic beauty as we witness on Mary’s page to something far harder hitting. Like a gut kick. Can you talk a little bit about notions of erasure in this collection?

Do they hit hard? That’s good. A couple of the blacked-out poems are angry ones. Erasure turned out to be a way of protecting certain subjects and lending torque to poems that gave too much away. The act of erasure also feels thematic – we perform conscious or unconscious erasures on our memories of love. We select moments and lenses; we tell ourselves a story, that casts the beloved in golden or bitter light. Blackout was a way of enacting that selectivity of the mind – the mind’s failure to tell itself the whole truth about love.


‘Things’ are palpable. They send you on a goose-bump trail such as with paper or sugar or biscuits. At the start of ‘First loss’: ‘When we met, all the songs were about loss,/ all the television shows contained it,/ it was in everything, like sugar.’ And then a little later: ‘your eyes gone hurt and biscuity with broken/ light and hunger.’ What do you want things to do in your poems?

Sometimes I want things to be persons. To have personhood, agency, worldview. Or be receptacles for emotional energies that can’t possibly be named.


At the heart of the book – love. Like a word repeated to the point it is drained of meaning and vitality, love can be elusive. Reading the poems love felt like a human glue. To know love is to have lost love, could that be true? To lose love, is to know love. To have lost love is to invent love, could that be so? What discoveries did you make as you wrote? Or is this only to be discovered as you live?

There is one monstrously important relationship whose aftermath I put to rest in these poems. There are still poems in the book I can’t re-read without getting choked up. I know confessional poetry is unfashionable, but candid, passionate, stirring writing is what I am always looking for. Those are the poems I value. That particular relationship was a ‘failure’ according to the standard narrative. We were together for years, but we didn’t marry, we didn’t have children, it didn’t end when one of us died. But it’s impossible to call it a failed relationship. It was a success. It didn’t last, but in the end (the last sequence in the book is named as much, “The End,”), it made us both larger and more capable of giving and receiving love.


I loved the proseness of the poetry/ the poetry of the prose. Would you write a novella or a novel?

I tried to write a novel a couple of years ago, but it was a dreadful, a plot-less, cringingly autobiographical mess. I’ve entertained the idea of writing a pulp novel about non-monogamy, Confessions of a Call Girl–style (surely it would be a bestseller!?), or a historical novel about my grandparents’ time as missionaries in Central Australia. Though I worry about becoming one of those writers who dilutes her craft by spreading it too thinly. Fiction is an art form I have huge admiration for, but I’m a total novice at it until further notice!


You recently spent time in the Outback. How did that vastness and colour infiltrate your writing?

Yes! Absolutely it has. That time helped strengthen my intuition. Weeks on end in the desert will do strange things to your body-perceptions. The land starts to talk to you, and you can’t help but listen, because it is working on your moods and your dreams.

I’m writing about that time in the Outback now. About my relationships with Yapa (Aboriginal) friends and worldview. I suppose the full effect of that desert-infiltration will show itself in time.


What New Zealand poets are you drawn to now?

Some of the New Zealand poets I’m most excited about haven’t even published full collections yet: Hera Lindsay Bird, Loveday Why, Nina Powles, Lee Posna, Bill Nelson, Emma Barnes, and Sugar Magnolia Wilson. I also want to read everything written by Ashleigh Young, Sarah Jane Barnett, Rachel O’Neill, and Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle. It’s the next generation I’m most drawn to, though poets Jenny Bornholdt and Dinah Hawken still loom large.


Joan Fleming’s webpage

Victoria University Press page

Poetry Shelf interviews Morgan Bach: ‘finding my way into a poem is not something I can force’

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Morgan Bach’s debut poetry collection, Some of Us Eat the Seeds, is to be launched today by Victoria University Press at Unity Books (details here). A graduate of the IIML MA in Creative Writing Programme, Morgan was awarded the Briggs Family Prize for Poetry. She currently lives in Wellington. To celebrate the arrival of this terrific new collection, Morgan agreed to be interviewed by Poetry Shelf.


Did your childhood shape you as a poet? What did you like to read? Did you write as a child? What else did you like to do?

I suppose it must have… I think being a shy child (because of living in the wops when I was very small) who kind of watched everyone set me up as both a bit of an outsider and definitely an observer. I suspect I came across as a bit of a creep! I certainly didn’t really meet any other kids I actually felt a proper kinship with until I met my friend who’s an amazing writer… That seems more significant than ever now.

I remember reading a book called Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present (which Sendak had illustrated I believe, but I can’t remember who the author was… Charlotte someone I want to say), and finding it made me sad for a reason I couldn’t understand, and I think now it might have just been the tone of the whole thing, the miniature story that almost worked like a simple narrative poem, with an undercurrent of sadness and isolation that (now I think of it) would have resonated with me. Of course, it was a child’s picture book and I was about 3… but I suppose I found that story cathartic in a way and so I’m therefore assuming words were important to me early on. I remember singing a lot as a child, and it always being more about the words for me.

I did write, but not with any great purpose. Or rather, everything I started (outside of school) got abandoned pretty quickly. There are some hilarious bits and pieces though that have survived in family archives and prove me to have been a cynical and doomy child.

I always read a lot, all sorts, mostly fiction though in the first couple of decades of life.


When you started writing poems, were there any poets in particular that you were drawn to (poems/poets as surrogate mentors)?

Oh heck, I can’t remember now… So many over the years it all just kind of layers up as compost on the brain – turn it over and you can’t distinguish the origins of the matter anymore.


I love the way your poems have anchors in the real world (such sumptuous detail) but are unafraid to negotiate things less physical (states of mind, philosophical ideas). In other words, your poems take root in the world you inhabit and that includes inchoate worlds within the mind. They are inventive, suggestive, intelligent, at times puzzling (I like that!). What are some key things for you when you write a poem?

Thank you! I think that’s right – or at least that’s a balance I hope to strike. I wonder if that approach comes from how active my dream life can be. Sometimes it almost dominates with its use of my energy – waking up can be relaxing.

I think the key thing for me finding my way into a poem is that it’s not something I can force. It has almost never yet worked when I’ve tried to force it – I imagine most writers feel the same? I think that’s why I seem (to this point in time) to be incapable of writing to traditional form. The results are fit only for burning.

What I have realised over the process of writing this book is that I actually don’t write a lot on paper… most of it seems to happen in my head. But once it’s on paper not that much gets thrown away… the survival rate of poems is pretty high so far! I’m sure that will change over time. But yeah, currently I find it takes a phrase or idea to kind of catch in my head (like getting a song stuck) and then weaving my way out from that point. I say weaving as it’s then a process of tying the more ephemeral aspects to the concrete world. That’s my preferred space I guess.


Your debut collection, Some of Us Eat the Seeds, struck several intoxicating chords with me. I stalled in the first section, with the evocative family poems catching me at every turn. What are the pitfalls and the benefits of drawing family, familial relations, into poems?

Pitfalls – I’m already worried that some of the family will think I’m talking about them when I’m not. I’m a little worried they’ll think I’m claiming things they’ve experienced differently with too much authority. But the thing is, you can’t think about that or you’re censoring from the brain and that’s crippling. And as I’ve said to my mother – the poems they’re in aren’t actually about them, or if they are, they’re about my memory of them… they’re inevitably about me. Benefits – It’s just that they’re the people that populated my world back then… I’m not sure why I wrote about it. I didn’t set out to write poems about family or familial relations but it worked out that way anyway… I’m kind of hoping I’m done with it though. I prefer (or am more comfortable with) the poems in that section that aren’t about my family.


In a poem that took me back to games of spotlight, ‘Night in the forest,’ the power of the dark for a child with a torch, on and then off, became the power of the dark for a poet for me. Would you agree there are ways in which your poetry nudges the dark (dread, for example)?

Yeah definitely – and nudging is the right word, in that it’s both rubbing up against and gently testing. I adore this quote from Rebecca Solnit (the essayist) on Woolf (who I also love): ‘It’s the job of writers and explorers to see more, to travel light when it comes to preconception, to go into the dark with their eyes open.’ I feel like that’s a motto to live and write by.


Going back to the notion of poetic strands (physical, thematic, abstract for example), I loved the way ‘thought’ bravely makes itself visible in lines and phrases. (‘The past is a tether/ you don’t need to wear’). Do you think poems can be enhanced by ideas flickering on their hems?

Yes I feel like ideas (as visible thoughts) can often do something good in a poem. I seem to be unable to avoid doing my thinking on paper… But more than that, I feel like reading into a poem where there is active thinking presented, that you then relive in your own temporal experience of reading, can at times walk you into a space where you’re staring the writer bang in the eyes – or it can feel that way. Like getting lost in the eyes of someone in a portrait (I mean in a painting or photograph) – the static art object or defined collection of words expands somehow, and you’re in a little world of connection through that thought (which I’m equating here to a brain-stare haha – see what happens when I think as I write?!)


The final section of poems brings to life states of mind of the adult (love, desire, discovery, betrayal, heartache, recognition). What difference does it make when you write the adult as opposed to writing the child?

Unfortunately I think there’s a bit of a cynical streak across the whole lot… I suppose that’s because the adult is remembering (re-membering even) the child, and so colours experience a certain way (‘memory makes its own myths’ to quote myself). What difference does it make … Well I think I feel more comfortable writing the adult, because something about childhood makes me uneasy. I think it did at the time. I would certainly never go back. I don’t think I was ever a comfortable child, and I’m really enjoying aging. I feel like the ‘adult’ poems here are still kind of young though… I’m looking forward to seeing what I’m writing in another 10 years. The other thing is I suppose there’s more risk in writing the adult. Everyone’s inventing childhood through memory, but the adult carries an implication of self (even if it’s a fiction). I quite enjoy that risk though, so far…


Yes, a different implication of self than the smudgy thing a child navigates. Are there filters at work? A need to conceal for the sake of the poem and for the sake of self?

Heck yes. I’d say that seeming to reveal a great deal can be the best way to conceal what is most private. That said, most of my filters are for the sake of the poem. There are plenty of fictions or elaborations, which hopefully get to a more truthful truth.


What do you want readers to take away from your debut collection?

A feeling of resilience and self-reliance perhaps. It’s not a particularly cheery book but I think it’s kind of hopeful…


I can see those threads. You definitely fall upon nuggets of hope (light). You have studied Creative Writing at IIML at Victoria University. What key things did you take from this experience?

That reading and critiquing other people’s work is often the best way to work out what you need to do to your own work. That it’s a hell of a lot of work to write a book in that short span of time, but it’s so very worth giving yourself the opportunity to do it if you can. I loved the MA year at the IIML. It was the kind of experience I’d hankered after for so long and such a rare opportunity to just focus on reading and writing with a bunch of people who are as nerdy about it as you are. I wish I could do it again, really.


You acknowledge a writing group in your endnotes. How does this nourish your writing?

I’ve been in a few writing groups since doing the MA. One with my MA class… though we’re currently flagging! Come on guys!

My most productive one of late is with a bunch of damn fine and interesting Wellington poets at various career ‘stages’ or perhaps spaces is a better word, and with different kinds of poetry goals. It’s exciting to see their new work in early and sometimes quite raw form, and to be spurred on to write for our little deadlines. Also the camaraderie – I think that’s important.


What irks you in poetry?

Abstraction that isn’t tied to anything concrete, too much of a cerebral remove, or if it’s so academic as to be exclusive of almost everyone. Word play for the sake of sound alone – I understand that it has merit but I just can’t take it myself – you know what I mean, that stuff that is a bit like a toddler practicing with their tongue and vocal cords but is just essentially human white noise. I guess that’s my wanting a brain-stare again.


What delights you?

When you encounter poems that make you feel like your brain has been through a car wash. I don’t mean some ‘great revelation’ has occurred but just a combination of sense/sound/image/thought that creates that almost magic adrenalin behind the eyes feeling. I really hope I can make something like that one day…


What New Zealand poets are you drawn to now?

Oh I never know how to answer these questions, partly because there are too many and partly because ‘favourites’ lists feel too intimate/revealing to me. I know that’s weird… I’d rather tell you my full medical history or something. HA!

There are so many NZ poets that I love – I still read more NZ poetry than stuff from overseas. I’d basically just list everyone.

I will say that I am so excited about Joan Fleming’s forthcoming collection, if her recent poems are anything to go by. We have a few in Issue 2 of Sweet Mammalian and they are so good. I love how she has these little turns in some of her poems, a really interesting movement, and lines that just kind of kick you in the guts. Can’t wait.

I stand by my many previous claims that Ashleigh Young is the most interesting writer (poetry included) of our generation. I, like a lot of people, am hankering after another collection from her.

I’d like to shout out to what my Sweet Mammalian co-eds do too, Hannah Mettner and Sugar Magnolia Wilson, who are both wonderful clever and gutsy poets (though very different) and are constantly blowing me away with their delicious brains.


Any other reading areas that matter to you?

Yes, all of them… Who does not love a good essay? And nothing is more transporting than a novel that’s so good you forget to get up from your seat for hours even to eat. Also music – I mean good lyrics. I can’t listen to music unless I like the lyrics. It’s a totally different craft than poetry of course but it’s still important to me for the brain-compost.


Some poets argue that there are no rules in poetry and all rules are to be broken. Do you agree? Do you have cardinal rules?

The only rules I’ve tried to set myself so far are:

  • Don’t censor from the brain
  • Don’t try to make ‘yourself’ look good to the detriment of truth
  • Everything is layered – language, interaction, assigned meaning, just actual life – and so should a poem be.

I just made those up now, but I reckon they’ve been in there, unspoken.


Do you find social media an entertaining and useful tool or white noise?

To be honest I find it a bit overwhelming. I personally don’t feel I have time for both life and Twitter, though I see that it’s productive and enriching for other people. I’m only ever lurking or dutifully responding there. I use Facebook sometimes willingly and sometimes with a feeling of entrapment. I find it more conversational and so more useful, though I just duck in and out these days. I actually like Instagram the best, as I find it the least taxing. Perhaps when life is less busy I’ll find it all useful…


The constant mantra to be a better writer is to write, write, write and read read read. You also need to live! What activities enrich your writing life?

I think travel is the main one for me. It’s always been my default day dreaming space. I suppose it puts me into that outsider/observer role and also just bombards the senses with the new. I’ve been craving it so much… I’ve been waiting to get the book out before heading off again, for an as yet undecided ‘while’. I’m hoping somewhere along the way I’ll find my way into whatever the next project is.


Finally if you were to be trapped for hours (in a waiting room, on a mountain, inside on a rainy day) what poetry book would you read?

Just one? Too hard… I’ll stare out the window being indecisive instead.


Victoria University Press author page

My review of Some of Us Eat the Seeds.

Friday Poem on Poetry Shelf; Morgan Bach’s ‘In pictures’