Tag Archives: poetry

Research at the Hocken

I’ve just returned to Auckland from a research jaunt to the Hocken Library in Dunedin. I went there to look at artwork by Cilla McQueen in their pictorial collection.

The forever muffle in my ears (they don’t cope well with the altitude when flying!) provided a kind of sound proofing to concentrate on the huge quantity of work they have by Cilla McQueen. I went to look specifically at her experimental music and sound scores. I had no idea just how many (and how awesome!) artist books McQueen has made. They are often large-scale and short run (between 1 and 10, but usually around 6). The binding is wondrous. Sometimes very conspicuous, such as with ‘Spine-Tingler,’ for others the outside acts as a folder with the binding covered by hessian, silk strips of other fabrics. They are all made with high quality paper with absolute care to binding and presentation. Each one is individually drawn and hand printed using litter stamps. They’re not printed! Every copy must vary considerably.

Most of the artist books are soundscapes with  titles like “Inside the Peninsula, Songs for 5 voices.” Other single page soundscapes have great titles too: “two people fall silent for four seconds during ten seconds of conversation among five people in a crowded room.”

It was an invigorating and inspiring trip, both from academic and creative perspectives. Watch this space for some McQueen inspired artist books.

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Black Mail Press 42

BMP editor Doug Poole has just launched issue 42 and it’s a ripper!

My parents gave me an audio recorder for Christmas and so I put togetther some audio poems and sent them in to BMP. Doug liked them and so they have been included in this issue alongside some super top notch poets.

Ngā mihi nui ki a Doug Poole rāua ko Penny Howard.

Click on the image to go straight to issue 42.

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It’s LOUNGE time of year again! I’m reading alongside amazing poets and writers on March 29th. I’m especially excited to be reading alongside Frankie McMillan. My Dad bought me The Bag Lady’s Picnic and other stories for Christmas in 2001. I got a hammock for Christmas that year too. We set it up and I read every story on Christmas day sitting in that hammock.


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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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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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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

now, however and then

In the dry air
brimming broken rings
to soar the bell beat
autumn beauty
to climb in air and
drift the lake’s edge
made and

The new cold quarrelling
a close stirring
churning ground
as though solid
dead to mind
not being dead
always two
until that thought.

That day loosened them
a swift, more listless blue
of waves cut edges sharp
her little feet
a new arrangement
a blush
two days
blown away.

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To the drying poem: a collage

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White Bark

White Bark


Here she is. All arrival and
no leaving. A shadow. A shadow that sticks.
A shadow that appears. Appears as a shadow. She is a slow sway. A sway. Of performed
elegance. Hips sway. Hips. A sway in the room. A room that
sways. But. A white dog stood. The
white dog. The white dog stood. On her feet. On her feet the white dog
stood. She tripped. She
tripped over the dog. The white dog.
It barked. The white dog barked. The white bark. The white bark
barked. The bark was white.
The white bark barked. Barked at shadows. It barked.
She stood.
She re-stood.
Stood from knees. Stood up. The arrival stood. She
stood. Again. The sway slipped away. Slipped away the sway.
The white bark barked. The dog. The white dog was not small. The white dog was small. Small. The bark. The white bark was
not small. The white bark. The bark grew.
The bark that grew. Grew. The bark swallowed shadows.
The shadow bulked. Bulked against the bark.
Against the dog. Against the feet on her feet.
The white bark barked on feet. On feet the bark barked.
The shadow swayed away. The shadows feet were shadows.
The bark grows against the shadow. The shadow sways away.
Away. The bark barks. Alone.

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Review: My Darling Camel, Selima Hill

selima hill my darling camelAfter first purchasing My Darling Camel from a charity shop in Edinburgh some years ago, I’ve recently rediscovered this unique poetry collection with vigour. Hill’s poetry is strangely and grotesquely erotic. The frequent and intensely vivid descriptions that metaphorically link to reproductive organs and bodily function confuse the reader at the return to the image sex organs were invoked to describe. Inevitably every metaphor takes on an erotic or anatomical hue. The correlations are often startling and produce the effect of arousal followed by intense repulsion such as this excerpt from ‘Queenio’

Sand the risen peach, swollen with lust,
introduce a finger-nail tentatively
under its congested lip;
the juice will coil down her wrists
and lonely open hips, restless
engorged with maggots

(Queenio, p16)

In other cases the imagery, though still erotic in nature, such as the comparrison of phlegm to semen in the excerpt below, the scenes reject arousal through their distance or indifference. These moments are cold though still ‘viscous.’ We are rejected by the moments of arousal just as the characters are: sexually interested but somehow indifferent.

They seem to be trying
to kiss – in air
that’s too viscous for them.
He climbs onto a ledge of rock
and stares at the painted ocean.
she fingers her neglected curls
and looks across at him
as if she’ll never kiss him now.
He’s coughing phlegm.
It slithers down the inside of the glass.
The gang-connector’s not working properly.
It’s getting hot in there.
He dives into the water
like a knife,
disturbing the forests
of green eel-grass.
The lady covers her body
with cream, and wishes
she were happier.
(The Sea-Water Hall, p9)

We, like the lady in the above quote, are left covering ourselves in left over arousal wishing for something else, for something promised but forgot.

Hill’s poems explore this tentative relationship with sex and the body. The moments in which we are simultaneously entranced and yet repulsed. The moments that we are interested and yet disengaged. The poems explore the needy and thirsty nature of relationships of varying kinds and how without intent we often fail to fulfil the expectations placed upon us by the other person in the relationship. Such as in ‘Peggy’ “He wanted so much love, / that was the trouble, / yet, if you tried to smile, / he looked away.” (p17) We cannot provide because the desire changes instantaneously without satisfaction.
These contrasting emotions plague our relationships and are most apparent in sexually involved relationships or relationships the participants want to be sexual but are not, can not, for whatever reason. Arousal becomes a preoccupation where by every poem, often indirectly, makes some reference to arousal, sexual suppression or sexual satisfaction. In a poem about a ‘lovely boy’ and his relationship with his mother the poem turns from her caring actions in part 1, to his distaste and sexual activities in part 2

He’s tired.
He hates the snow.
He can’t stop masturbating.

(Natural Wonders, p18

Part 3 culminates with a secret love-affair. Similarly ‘The Cupboard’ begins with a ‘mother’s boy’: “He was a mothers boy. / He hated everything. His lips were blue, / like cellophone, or iron.” This boy, his mother, his pet peeves, and his sexual activity: “anxious women, swollen seas, / premature ejaculation every time.”(Cupboard, p20) The sexual encounters and experiences contrast with the waxed lyrical poetics of “she wore bright yellow shoes / as if a field of buttercups / lay at her feet.” The boy forms a relationship with this girl ‘an angel’, but disappointment reigns “she was thinking I would rather be alone. // At night be moved towards her / like a ship” this line invokes the phrase “passed like ships in the night;” this relationship, like the one in The Sea-Water Hall, is ultimately dismal and disappointing.

The collection is full of repetitions and retellings  of desire, recognition, regret and disappointment. Like Hill’s characters, we are never quite satisfied: her poems are like an orgasm that never quite peaks.

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