Sacred Economies Poetry Reading

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to go sharper” – W. B. Yeats. 

The exhibition Sacred Economies and its accompanying poetry reading draw our attention to how experiences of the sacred manifest through social transactions. It is interested in how rituals give life to events and objects that can transform our ordinary ways of thinking about and participating in the world. How do transactions of forms like poetry or folklore, which hold little monetary value, create an economy of sacred moments?

I have written a couple of poems in response to Philippa Emery’s work in the show and I will be performing these poems at the reading on Thursday. The poets I will be reading with have each been assigned an artist and their work to respond to. You will be able to take a look and experience the work the poetry is responding to as the poet reads or afterwards.

Looking forward to hearing from the other poets!!poetry-reading-sacred-economies


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Cats in Cilla McQueen’s ‘Markings’

Pirate and Lucille and Wombat

Markings is a collection of maps. The poems are the markings of record keeping, of laying out the land and laying out memory. At its core is ‘The Autoclave;’ a poem that crosses the globe back and forth across 18 pages. Journeying through a burnt out home in Dunedin to Madrid and the Mediterranean via objects lost in the fire, to St Kilda in the Scottish Hebrides, aboard the Priscilla to St Kilda in Melbourne Australia, and to Bluff where the anchor of the poem holds steady. It is a wayward map of memory and time conflated and interwoven. Throughout the journey is Lucille, a refined marmalade coloured cat. Two more cats, Pirate and Wombat bookend the collection.

The collection begins with ‘Pirate and the Mirror.’ He is totally uninterested in the mirror or its gold frame, despite his piratical name. Ultimately though, he is uninterested the mirror’s reflection and its ability to reflect. When he walks behind it he “forgets / the image thin as ice.” (5) It has no meaning. His attitude to the mirror guides the question of what we do with reflection, particularly when we reflect on a memory, one worthy enough to be kept in a gold frame. How accurately can we reflect upon a memory? What is a memory’s truth?

‘Pirate and the Mirror’ is immediately followed by ‘Lucille in Winter;’ she is the second cat to be found in Markings. She is thick furred and sleeping. She ‘might be dreaming of Te Rauone,’ a bay in Dunedin. She is dreaming and remembering of a place where she once lived. Unlike Pirate, she elegantly peers into the reflection for its memory.

The third cat, who appears in the same poem, is Wombat. This is the only poem in which all three cats appear, although it is clearly focussed on Lucille and the interactions between her and each of the other cats. Wombat “cleans his toenails with his tongue” in contrast to Lucille who elegantly “licks her white wrist.” Wombat “gazes at her absently,” while Pirate “pounce[s] around her, lunging with bared fangs.” (6) Each of these cats is clearly personified in their behaviour and ultimately symbolise very distinct reactions to the act of remembering. These three cats are the three faces of memory. Lucille is the face that remembers without intending, Wombat is the face that unabashedly picks through memory and Pirate is the face that oscillates. He does not ignore the past altogether but cannot seem to look at it. Pirate rejects the act of memory in ‘Pirate and the Mirror’ and reacts badly to Lucille who elegantly lounges in the act of remembering.

Lucille, the cat that remembers, appears in the middle of the epic poem ‘The Autoclave,’ and again nearer the end. Each time she is warm and comfortable; she’s  “curled up on the sheepskin” on page 26, and later

by the fire Lucille
little light
marmalade and white
purring into the flames
with her clean white front
like an unruffled duck (31)

Lucille’s character is extended by the knowledge that she survived the burning of the house. That she settles into memory having lived through it. “She is not afraid.” (31)Pirate and Wombat regard it diffidently.

In ‘Two Biscuits on a Stump,’ Wombat eats through his biscuits quick smart and goes after Pirate’s that have been carefully stashed. In carrying through with this notion of memory: it is Pirate who stores up the past with the expectation that he will return to it, but never does. He hides them away like biscuits. At the beginning of the collection, Pirate pretended such things did not exist. By the end of the collection he is starting to see the value in acknowledgment of the past. Wombat is unchanged; he eats them immediately. He is not bothered by the past, interested only in the present. That Pirate plays with his memories without experiencing them, means he never fully sees them, “Pirate makes a dash at the biscuit / Wombat gets there first” (59). The past is lost to Pirate, his delay in addressing it means an ongoing anxiety that he should have just looked at it properly before it was lost.

Having appeared in the very first poem, Pirate bookends the collection with his appearance in the final poem ‘Slinky’ in which “Pirate rests his chin on the windowsill / considering the sky” (64). After losing his catch of memories in the earlier poem ‘Two Biscuits on a Stump,’ perhaps Pirate’s attitude has become more like Lucille’s. A slow look at the sky as an overarching reflection of the land beneath it. The change in Pirate maps out how differently we can feel about the past. Lucille is almost lost in it completely; Wombat is little concerned by it. But Pirate cannot decide whether a foray into the past would be useful. His contemplation at the end here contrasts with his disinterest in ‘Pirate and the Mirror.’ The changes in his interaction, depicts a changeable attitude to memory and how situation colours not only the memory but our ability to face it.

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my poems in spanish!

The amazing Andrea Rivas has translated three of my poems into Spanish for the journal CÍRCULO DE POESÍA.


Gendered Poetics / Poéticas de género

How we land / Cómo llegamos a tierra

Mother / Madre

I don’t have a word of Spanish. But I do know that translation is quite a feat. I know what goes into it, and how involved with a poem the translator has to be. And so I am honoured that Andrea has given my poems that attention and that energy to bring them to a new audience.

Aurally, it is quite fun to look at these new poems (because they are new poems, these versions are as much by Andrea as they are by me – co-authored!)

In particular the ending of ‘Mother’ which ends




and ‘Madre’ ends




Which becomes less sinister and more guttural. I love it!


I am in good company in Andrea’s translations of NZ poets:
Ria Masae
Mariana Isara
Kiri Piahana-Wong
Anne Kennedy
Louise Wallace
Amber Esau
Kim M. Melhuish
Hera Lindsay-Bird


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Abstract Comics

Defining genres usually means drawing a box around it. Like a comic frame. The frame defines the moment and the frames butting up against it influence and further determine the frame in focus.

Abstract comics can be defined as sequential art consisting exclusively of abstract imagery [and also comics that] contain some representational elements, as long as those elements do not cohere into a narrative or even into a unified narrative space. – Andrei Molotiu

Molotiu’s frame around abstract comics seems somewhat limiting. We find stories and narratives everywhere. We can’t help it. And unless in my quest to create some abstract comics I try to thwart our constant need for stories at every turn (with no guarantee of success) how do I make a comic abstract?

line drawing comic blue bg

Instead – I suggest that the term ‘abstract comics’ is a permission slip to borrow the aesthetic of the comics, the sequential storytelling mode of framing, and combine them with my own preoccupations in line drawing, mark making, asemic writing and other not necessarily representational modes. Or rather, that these modes are self referential. For me abstract comics are sequential storytelling of imagery that is concerned with its method of creation and the act of making a mark both literally and figuratively.

The permission slip of ‘abstract comics’ opens up the page of potential for me. The frames offer me no end of inspiration. The page is never empty. I can always begin with the frames and play from there.

abstract comic three row

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Mapping the Coast

I’ve been thinking a lot about mapping, map-making, cartography and mark-making recently. A whole bundle of thoughts going into reading poems as verbal maps. But I’ve also been thinking about the futility of mapping. There are quandaries as to what we consider mappable. The biggest obstacle in our way of thinking about maps is our insistence on a ‘true map.’ Such a ‘true map’ must be of a physical place and must fit within our expectations what a map -is- and also what is should look like, i.e. like google maps or wises road maps.

This is a very rigid way of looking at space but also a rigid way of looking at time and experience, which are also very mappable.

This is a recent poem that regards the futility of the ‘true map’.

Mapping the Coast

I walk toe to heel along the lines drawn
from memory

of the place in which I now stand. The lines’ representation
is askew.

I know that the line I am on was meant to be
a coastal line.

But the coast is neither here nor there. The tracing
of a pencil

craggy along an un-walked shore
hides the tides.

Beneath my feet is the intermediary of
land and sea.

The lapping of white frothed seawater licks
at my feet

as it does, the coastal line is drawn closer
to the shore

as the sea recedes, leaving bubbles between my toes, the line
goes with it.

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KMKO #14 is now live

and it includes my honours dissertation!

Ngā Toikupu o Ngā Reo Taharua: e Tākiri ana te Aroā Pānui/  The Poetics of Bilanguaging: an Unfurling Literacy

Click the image below to link through to KMKO online.

KMKO14 now live

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Poetry Reading

Totally stoked to be the guest poet at the home of poetry in Auckland, Tāmaki: Poetry Live. Tonight! Come along, it’s koha entry with an open mic. I’ll be performing a series of poems around language, place and identity.

Poetrylive poster 16aug16

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Tika Tonu a Tu ki a Koe: A Poetry Reading

TikaTonu 12 Aug 16 - Poetry Reading

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26/07/2016 · 1:01 pm

New Zines

jul16 zines

Auckland Zinefest is tomorrow, 11am-4pm at the Auckland Art Gallery and these are my new zines finished this evening just in time.

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Case layout mō te tātai reta Māori

So this is my initial design, well, it’s about the fourth design so far – but it’s the initial design before trying to set type with it.

maori lay out design mcurtis 0716

I originally wanted to leave as many letters in the same place as in the NZ Printing Museum lay. But, in the end, having the ‘g’ so far away from the ‘n,’ just doesn’t make sense.

But I have kept the uppercase in alphabetical order.* And I have kept the vowels in place, and moved whatever was next to them to allow for the tōhuto (macron) version.

A wee quandary I am having about what to include, punctuation wise, is the ampersand. As someone who loves printing, is interested in typography, as well as someone who is interested in mark making and the forms of lines, I LOVE the ampersand. But is it needed in te reo Māori? There are so many ways of saying ‘and’ for different contexts, that a single ampersand doesn’t really cut it. And the ampersand is also a symbol for a whole word, rather than a sound. Perhaps it can be used in place of ‘me’ as ‘and’ or ‘with’ when listing? I’m not sure. Any thoughts from fluent speakers would be very welcome!!


* I wonder what order the alphabet would be in if it had been designed by Māori?

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