Friday, March 27, 2015

'Punch' In Phantom Billstickers

My poem ‘Punch’ has been published in Vol5 5 of the Phantom Billstickers Cafê Reader along with poems by Cliff Fell and MichaelO’Leary.  The design, by CONJURE, is a treat and Phantom Billstickers sent me a t-shirt in the mail along with a cheque. I’m very happy to be published by them—the Reader is a great piece of design, intriguing content and free.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

The NZ Poetry Society Annual Poetry Competition is open

I’m delighted  to be judging the open section of the New Zealand Poetry Society’s Annual Poetry & Haiku competition which closes on 31st May. Entry forms, including those for schools, are available on the website, at :

Cash prizes include $500 for the top poem (judged by me) and $100 each for the top 5 haiku (judged by Elaine Riddell), plus an extra $150 from the Jeanette Stace Poetry Trust for the First Prize winning haiku. There are also junior sections for both types of poem, with top prizes of $200 (verse) and $150 (haiku). The junior sections are further divided into age groups: up to 13 years, and 14-17 years.

For 2015 only, there is an extra section: in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, the NZPS invitse you to write poems on the theme of Gallipoli. Unless otherwise directed, we'll enter all poems on this theme into the extra section. There will be a single prize of $100 for senior entries and $50 for the junior entry (17 years or younger).

Prize-winning poems will be published in the NZ Poetry Society's annual poetry anthology, to be released in November 2015. All entries are eligible for selection for the anthology, which will be carried out by an independent editor. Purchase of the anthology is not a requirement for having a poem included.

Our mailing address is:
The New Zealand Poetry Society Inc.
PO Box 5283
Lambton Quay
Wellington, Wellington 6145
New Zealand

Friday, February 27, 2015

Playlist: Sausages & Oil

  1. Don't Go    Lonesome Sundown
  2. Time Passes Slowly #1 [Alternate Version]   Bob Dylan 
  3. On Battleship Hill   PJ Harvey
  4. You And Me    Damon Albarn 
  5. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards   Tame Impala
  6. Iota  Angel Olsen
  7. Just Make It Stop   Low
  8. A Dog's Life    Wild Beasts
  9. A Dash Of Salt (Ludwig's Theme)   Alexandre Desplat
  10. Violin Concerto In D, Op. 61 - 2. Larghetto     Beethoven.
  11. I Know Why Red Garland
  12. Gone Again (from"Groovy")     Red Garland
  13. My One And Only Love Grant Green
  14. I Will    Sky Ferreira     

The sinus cold became an infection and my voice crashed. I went to the docs on Wednesday and was ordered bed rest and antibiotics.  The year has got off to a wobbly start.  I slept so much.  I’m just looking forward to getting back onto the swing of things. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

First Week Back

All was going well until yesterday I ran smack into a nasty sinus cold which has turned my voice to sandpaper—and I'm still recovering from surgery.  Rats.  But, still, it's a cold not a flu, so I'll be OK. This I finished another Fables album Storybook Love and Charles Simic’s brilliantly understated Master of Disguises. (Here's a review of Simic’s book by Robert Winkler at the New York Journal of Books.) At least I wasn’t crook for the Summer Shakespeare Timon of Athens;  this is an odd, very philosophically-driven piece somewhat hampered by the lead character being a bit of a plonker and the old deus ex machina ending of the ‘now the army’s taken over everything’s gonna be alright.’ Yet for me it has a certain charm; I remember reading the play as an undergraduate back in the early 80s and being stuck by how important the ideas were in the play; it's like a performed Socratic dialogue. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

In Real Life

I’ve seen the proof for my poem ‘Punch’ which is to be published at the end of March in the Phantom Billboard Café Reader.  I’m very excited by the designer’s choice of a creepy colour illustration, I suspect Victorian, of Punch and Judy—it’s perfect for the poem.  I finished Cory Doctorow and Jen wang’s InReal Life which addresses online and real Life economics and I’m struck by how the depiction of gaming matches those mid-90s ideas we had of the combination of VR and The Net (it was ‘The Net’ back then, not just ‘apps’ or ‘social media’).  I never really bought into VR as I suspect that there would be innumerable snags. It’s the more subtle technologies that sometimes pack the biggest punches to life as we know it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tuesday Poem: Sylvia Plath reads 'The Stones.'

I finished Anne Stevenson’s Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath this afternoon.  Stevenson received a great deal of flak for this biography which dared to portray Plath as less than perfect. Yet the Plath that emerges here is complex, flawed, crazy, impossible, ambitious, brilliant and burning a little too brightly for this world. Even Dido Merwin’s incredible account of Plath and Hughes stay with them in France—a vitriolic, frank, compelling piece of writing that notes how Plath wolfed down a whole stash of foie gras ‘liked Aunt Dot’s meatloaf’—only serves to make Plath all the more real to me.  Read Plath at eighteen and you are marked for life. Well, I was anyway. This year I’m putting together a unit of work for Scholarship students introducing them to Plath’s work,  And my surgery?  I went to Outpatients this afternoon and had the dressing removed. It’s tender but looking fine.

More poems at Tuesday Poem.

Friday, February 06, 2015

John Coltrane

I first heard Coltrane back in 1981.  My friend Scot had just moved into a flat behind the Greengrocers in the Kelburn shops. It was a fantastic flat with a bunk bed in the lounge that you could kip in. Scott had an eclectic, comprehensive musical taste embracing jazz, post-punk, disco, musical soundtracks, avant-garde composers and the classics as well as more money for records than me. I was really quite skint back then. I really owe my introduction to both Coltrane and The Fall to Scott; it was from these sessions that my own small world of music was greatly expanded. Sure, I’d heard jazz before—I remember that I had a Glen Miller hits record I’d thrashed through 1979 as we came off the tail-end of a swing retro vibe that was oddly co-emergent with punk —fr’instance the 'Glen Miller is Missing’ song in Rock Follies—and I’d loved the Benny Goodman Story film I’d seen on TV a few times.  Scott put on Trane’s Bye Bye Blackbird recorded live in Paris and within forty minutes my understanding of music was changed forever. The following year he would play me The Fall's ‘Fiery Jack’ the night before I would leave his flat to go to travel to India for a few months.  I finished Paolo Parisi’s graphic biography Coltrane this afternoon. I like the drawings but the narrative is here is too thin and I suspect the book would mean little to uninitiated readers.

I changed the dressing again today and I am going to have a massive scar on my neck.  

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Are you my Mother? Alison Bechdel

This is the companion volume to Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.  Here Bechdel presents a hall of mirrors ‘meta-book’; a reflection on writing about her mother, her relationships and her analysis.  The mother is one figure in a series of mother-daughter relationships played out through transference in analysis: it’s all finally about the re-working of experience into a highly biographical art.  It’s intelligent, engaging and at times a little hard-going: this is an unusual combination of scholarly research—I learnt a great deal about Winnicott—and autobiography. It’s staggeringly brilliant and has started me reflecting on my own relationship with my parents.  It’d taken me quite a while to read the book.  I had my dressing changed by the nurse at the medical centre.  I wasn't sure I'd changed it right and when I called the hospital they said to go and see the nurse.  She changed the dressing and said that it looked fine.  I’m feeling more energetic though I have slept an awful lot today.  

Tuesday Poem: Being Christlike by Ted Hughes.

This is from Ted Hughes’ The Birthday Letters which I’m reading alongside Anne Stevenson’s biography of Plath.

Off to see the nurse this afternoon to make sure that the dressing over the wound is OK. I changed it yesterday but I think I should have removed some transparent tape and I've not sealed the dressing properly.  I’m feeling pretty good but when I sleep it’s like diving into a dark pool – relief when you resurface.

More poems at Tuesday Poem.

Monday, February 02, 2015


Well, the surgery is over and done with and now I’m at home, resting, sleeping during the daytime, reading, keep up with work email, trying to focus on the school year ahead.  Food tastes OK so I guess I’m managing just fine without one of my salivary glands.  I’m in remarkably little pain and I have boxes of panadol and ibuprofen that I’m not using.  I read Ian Rankin’s Let it Bleed in hospital and while the atmosphere is great I confess to not being able to follow the tangled thread of the plot.  I’ve been able to work on a poem—tentatively entitled ‘Aeon’—during this time.  I finished Guy Delisle’s Shenzen: A Travelogue from China which Latika has also read and enjoyed. The book was a present from my family secret Santa (who I suspect to be Rohan.) We have set up a graphic novel shelf on out bookcase.  Let the collecting begin!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fables: Animal Farm

The Fables epic continue with a gun-toting revolutionary Goldilocks, hungry for show trials and total control, inciting a riot on Animal Farm, a haven for non-human fables in exile.  It’s great fun but not without flashes of insight as when the razor-sharp Reynard the Fox throws Goldy the question: “Why is it you intense political types insist on living entirely in the symbolic world?’  Wow.  I’m in for surgery next week, so fingers crossed.  What to take into hospital?  An Ian Rankin Rebus novel; that’s the ticket.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Books in: December-January

Books in :December-January in no particular order; goodness me!

Derrida. Benoît Peters.
Ghosts and Other Plays. Ibsen.
Iris. John Bayley.
The Distance Plan #2. Abby Cunnane et all.
Girls of the Drift. Nina Powles.
Beowulf: A Student Edition.  George Jack (ed).
Shenzen: A Travelogue from China.  Guy Delise.
Darwin: A Very Short Introduction.  Jonathan Howard.
The Complete Roderick. John Sladek
Words that Matter: 10 years of Seraph Press. Helen Rickerby (ed).
DMZ: On the Ground.  Wood, Riccardo, Burchielle.
Phoenix without Ashes.  Harlan Ellison & Alan Robinson.
Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah. Tim Footman.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fables: Legends in Exile

A busy cover—but I do like how Little Boy Blue blows his horn to the Fables  crew.  Do I want to read more? Of course.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday Poem: Ariel by Sylvia Plath

On listening I hear the shock of ‘nigger-eyed’ and its stark contrast to the white Godiva riding; the bitter half-laugh of the final pun of morning/mourning.

The poem is available online at the Poetry Foundation.

More poem at Tuesday Poem.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

from Animal Farm by George Orwell

The farm was more prosperous now, and better organised: it had even been enlarged by two fields which had been bought from Mr. Pilkington. The windmill had been successfully completed at last, and the farm possessed a threshing machine and a hay elevator of its own, and various new buildings had been added to it. Whymper had bought himself a dogcart. The windmill, however, had not after all been used for generating electrical power. It was used for milling corn, and brought in a handsome money profit. The animals were hard at work building yet another windmill; when that one was finished, so it was said, the dynamos would be installed. But the luxuries of which Snowball had once taught the animals to dream, the stalls with electric light and hot and cold water, and the three-day week, were no longer talked about. Napoleon had denounced such ideas as contrary to the spirit of Animalism. The truest happiness, he said, lay in working hard and living frugally.
Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer–except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs. Perhaps this was partly because there were so many pigs and so many dogs. It was not that these creatures did not work, after their fashion. There was, as Squealer was never tired of explaining, endless work in the supervision and organisation of the farm. Much of this work was of a kind that the other animals were too ignorant to understand. For example, Squealer told them that the pigs had to expend enormous labours every day upon mysterious things called "files," "reports," "minutes," and "memoranda." These were large sheets of paper which had to be closely covered with writing, and as soon as they were so covered, they were burnt in the furnace. This was of the highest importance for the welfare of the farm, Squealer said. But still, neither pigs nor dogs produced any food by their own labour; and there were very many of them, and their appetites were always good.

As for the others, their life, so far as they knew, was as it had always been. They were generally hungry, they slept on straw, they drank from the pool, they laboured in the fields; in winter they were troubled by the cold, and in summer by the flies. Sometimes the older ones among them racked their dim memories and tried to determine whether in the early days of the Rebellion, when Jones's expulsion was still recent, things had been better or worse than now. They could not remember. There was nothing with which they could compare their present lives: they had nothing to go upon except Squealer's lists of figures, which invariably demonstrated that everything was getting better and better. The animals found the problem insoluble; in any case, they had little time for speculating on such things now. Only old Benjamin professed to remember every detail of his long life and to know that things never had been, nor ever could be much better or much worse–hunger, hardship, and disappointment being, so he said, the unalterable law of life.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Highlights of 2014

Highlights of 2014

Writing:  I was chuffed to have my poem ‘Battle of San Romano’ included in the anthology Essential New Zealand Poems and to also be the featured poet in Takahe—I’ve never had seven poems published in a single periodical. 

Poetry: Charles Simic's Selected Poems; Alice Millar’s The Limits and the Essential New Zealand Poems Anthology —the Hoopla series of poetry (Michael Harlow, Helen Rickerby, Stefanie Lash),  Turbine2014Phantom Billboard Café Reader, Sweet Mammalian (totally brilliant!), and, as ever, The Page

Novels of the year:  NW by Zadie Smith which I followed by reading her earlier novel On Beauty.  I also stumbled across Graham Joyce’s Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit

Non-Fiction:  This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein; Dirty Politics by Nicky Hagar and John Gray’s provocative, bitterly pessimistic Straw Dogs and Silence of Animals.

Graphic Novels: Charles Burns X'ed Out, The Hive, Sugar Skull and Black Hole; Climate Changed by Phillpe Squarzoni; Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis.

TV: Game of Thrones and Broadchurch—on a lighter note I do enjoy ‘The Chaser.’

Live Performance: the school production of Spamalot was superb and The Bacchanals production of ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ has stayed with me all year.
Film: The Grand Budapest Hotel and Alister Barry and Abi King-Jones' superb NZ Documentary Hot Air.

Music: Damon Albarn, First Aid Kit, Alisdair Roberts & Robin Robertson, Jenny Lewis, Morrissey, Angel Olsen, Dylan (Another Self-Portrait, Bootleg Series Vol 10), The War on Drugs. The song of the year, though, has to be Darren Watson's Planet Key.

Thanks to Helen Lowe whose blog spurred me on to write this . . .

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Saturday, January 03, 2015

from The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce

        “You can’t come in.  I’ll have a good look for you and bring it to you later.”
        I resisted all of his protests until finally he went away.  We heard him go out of the building, blathering incomprehensibly.  I lifted back the curtain to see him trotting across the yard away from us, still prattling to himself.
        “Is he on drugs?” Terri asked me.

        “No, he’s from Manchester.”

Joyce was, for me, one of the great finds of 2014 and it's a pity I discovered his work in the year of his death.  I'm looking forward to working my way through his work which speaks to me so directly.

Monday, December 29, 2014

from Logicomix

by Apostolos Doxiadis,  Christos Papadimitriou, Alecos Papadatos and colour by Annie Di Donna.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

from number9dream by David Mitchell

‘Reality is the page. Life is the word.’

'Maybe the truest difference between people is exactly this: how they see why they are here."

David Mitchell

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tuesday Poem: December 26 by Kenn Nesbit.

My Tuesday Poem for this week is December 26 by Kenn Nesbit  . . . but you’ll have to pop over to the Poetry Foundation to open this one.

Oh . . . and have a great holiday and all the best for the New Year!  I’m looking forward to a nice family get together in Otaki, messing around with my ukulele and banjolele (both of which I cannot really play at all), reading Summer thrillers (I’m greatly enjoying Directive 21 by John Barnes), gardening (the heke heke will be tamed!) and listening to the tuis.

More poems at Tuesday Poem.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Heads in the Sand

Wow, what a crazy month it’s been.  My poem ‘Heads in the Sand’ was published in Poetry 24; this is an unabashed protest poem to accompany and promote the ‘Heads in the Sand’ climate protest action which I helped to organise in Wellington—I also had fun writing the script for a short silly film I acted in promoting the event.  The event was a great success with lots of media coverage—it was a satisfying to work with people from all different climate action groups to get our message across that we want to transition away from fossil fuels.

I have to have an operation at the end of January which is a bit of drag.  Looking back on the year, 2014 has been really good for me.  Teaching has gone well, I keep scribbling away with my writing, and I've worked with some great people in the community. The election was a disappointment, but, hey, that's the way it goes and I accept the result.  I appreciate the help and advice that editors and friends have given me regarding my poetry--a new book is on the way but not for a while! All the best to everyone for the holidays.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Midsummer Forest

I've taught A Midsummer Night's Dream for many years now and the play has almost become a part of my year.  It's so heady and full of scents; so unapologetically lush.  I remember, too, those busy streaks when I worked in design and some days we'd rush around town from meeting to meeting. I'd try to get out on my own for a pause in a park and this whole other world, running at a slower speed would open up to me for just a few moments. Then I'd head back to figure out site architecture or write an analysis report.  One day I didn't come back.

More poems at Tuesday Poem.