More Tumblr Poems and SW is finished?

I've got another couple of Tumblr poems for your reading pleasure:

Set Free

I am a man

I've also had a good year for published works so I've updated the sidebar to reflect the new publications. A lot of them are online so you can go read those if you want to. The largest selection of my work that has been put together, ever, is in the current JAAM. That's not online but here's a wee taste. The delightful and lovely Harvey Molloy took five poems from me. It seems totally outrageous but I feel very lucky to have such a great editor in Harvey and Helen Rickerby and Clare Needham who also edited the issue. Harvey said that he liked how the poems all worked together even though they were a mix of SW poems and other stuff. It made me want to make a collection based around that idea and I might still do it. Maybe.

I'm very lucky to have been published again in Cordite. Derek Motion, the editor, published me for the first time in 2007 I think through the mag FourW out of Wagga Wagga.  Cordite has an anonymous submissions policy so Derek selected my poems not knowing they were written by me. Which is pretty ace! There's always excellent work on Cordite so worth a look!

I've also been lucky again to be published by the excellent and lovely Hinemoana Baker in 4th Floor. This is the online journal of Whitireia New Zealand's creative writing programme and publishing programme. It is usually only open to past and present staff and students. However, it was their 20th anniversary and they opened up the gates and let everyone in. I really love the selection of poems in there. A lot wider and more diverse feeling than a lot of publications I think. It was really great that there were activists and artists and musicians and writers all mixed up in together.

Lots of writing luck this year. Perhaps I am making some of it by having more dedicated writing time? Who can say. I'm definitely writing in a different way than I've written for a long time. A much more writing rather than publication focused way. It's weird how once you stop focusing on publishing sometimes it just happens.

I am pretty sure that I finished Sigourney Weaver the other day. I wrote about 35 poems in the end but went through and cut out five and so now I've got 30 poems that are going into a secret project that hopefully will be launched next year sometime. It's pretty fun working on secret stuff. Although I am pretty bad at keeping secrets. So we'll see how far I get with that.


Tumblr Poems and Sigourney Weaver

Cause I like a diversified internet platform I do most of my online interaction through things other than blogs these days. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr mostly. So much so that I've even been posting poems on Tumblr. I haven't posted raw poems on the internet for quite a while. At least since the last time I did NaPoWriMo in 2010. That doesn't count though since I hid them at the end of the month! These ones however are out there for a while. I thought I'd link you to them!

Get High with The Trees Out

Safe and Complicit

It's The Music

Tangle and Snare

Catch and Release

Waiting To Happen

Long Form Thought 

Rhyme Scheme

They're mostly silly and inspired by a case of Spring Fever. Because I'm working so hard on a series of Sigourney Weaver poems I've been jokingly calling these my Feelings poems. Some of these are more successful than others but it has been kind of fun to put them out into the world. And it's funny how working on a series makes me start wanting to write in series. Before these two things I've been a poem to poem person. But these days it is a series that gets me going.

If you want to see some of my Sigourney Weaver stuff you can check out Hue &Cry 7, Cordite and upcoming JAAM and 4th Floor. JAAM especially has been very generous with their selection from my submission and I'm looking forward to reading what sounds like a bumper issue.

On Friday I hit 30 poems in my Sigourney Weaver series. That's the most I've ever written on one particular subject ever. It's been totally amazing to be so engaged with a vision that at times feels like it is coming through me rather than something I'm creating. I know that's just because my writing process now feels a lot more automatic than it used to when I was younger. But the magical feeling is pretty boss. Looking back over the last couple of years I can see how dissatisfied and unhappy I was with writing. After thinking it through and working on it I changed some things up, got rid of my writing rules and just went with what felt good.

Because the reward and recognition in poetry is so small and so irregular I FINALLY came to the conclusion that if I'm not having fun I shouldn't be doing it. Obviously there are times when writing isn't fun. But those times are now balanced against the utter joy I'm experiencing at present and that makes pretty much everything better. Maybe this won't last forever but at least I know that the dissatisfaction with writing can't last forever either. It's funny how the lessons I have learned through managing depression pay off just as much with writing. At least the second time around the lessons are a little easier to figure out.


I occasionally read A Softer World. This one is particularly good, I think.


Tiny Things

Here's a wee list of things that I've been enjoying/enjoyed recently:

Following Hera Lindsay Bird on Twitter.

Reading, and reading about Kim Hyesoon.

Being part of Poetry In Motion and being exposed to different, new and exciting poets from NZ and around the world.

Witnessing a performance by Luka Lesson.

Hearing Teju Cole speak at Unity Books and say: Death is the only subject.

Being introduced to people and them knowing me and my work.

Eating Cos Lettuce.

Intense conversations in cars.

Hearing Australians say "Wood".

Hearing Anne Kennedy, Anna Jackson and Helen Rickerby read together. They intertwined their poems and read each others work and it was all the bone people, batman and purple.

Reading Helen Lehndorf's blog.

Remembering the warm water on Waiheke Island and creating a 1km long poem. There's a picture of one of our words in John Tranter's tapas notebook that will be stored away somewhere in the NZEPC for posterity.

My excellent writing group.

Breaking my long running rejection streak with a poem in Snorkel 15.

And to finish off the list, something I'm looking forward to:

Hearing Helen Lehndorf, Harvey Molloy, Janis Freegard, Hera Lindsay Bird and others read in the 2011 Best New Zealand Poems reading. Harvey's Poem appeared in the last Enamel. So I am especially looking forward to hearing him read.


Take all river crossings seriously; the risks are great.

My father, the mountain man. He had a beard for birds to nest in and log legs to hold him up. He made puttees out of duct tape and socks. He wore flannel shirts and short shorts. Once he dealt with two punctures of two separate tyres on one day. Another time he fixed everything with a mouth full of swearing. His hair was a lion’s ruff. This

father taught me to cross a river in a hot summer of a childhood or two. In summer hypothermia walks a little slower, bends at the knees creaking and moaning. The river is still wide and full and going and lifts your feet off its floor. This river is cheeky rather than determined, a trickster instead of the boa constrictor in your bed. You can laugh when you are uprooted. You swim out the bend

and run back up to where you started. With each foot placed there is a rush of water leaping off you. You are new and laughing. You are laughing. You go alone with a stick to push against the current with. You go together holding waistbands or tied together with packs. One of you floats up but can stand again. You know the order and placement of strength to weakness. Top, second, middle,

middle, bottom. If you are the littlest you float between in the deepest parts. If you are the strongest you are bracing either side of you. If you are swept away the father tells you ‘Feet First!’ You practice in a rubber ring, an inner tube. You lift your butt out going over the shallows to avoid gravel rash. You squeeze the inner tube with your hands and smell the hot, wet rubber. Then you try it by

yourself. You, little fish, wrapped yourself around his back. He would wade through the water with you floating behind him. He would help you dive into the swimming hole, or throw you from his arms. He would hold the current back for you. In the polaroid you are in a red swimsuit you are leaning into his neck, hiding from the camera. He has his arm around you, his ruff ready and is smiling into the sun.


Speaking of Slam Poetry

So I dipped my toes in the Slam Poetry pool and I made it through to the Wellington Regional Final. That's tomorrow night. You can find out more information here: NZ Poetry Slam

I got 5th in the last round with an angry and political poem. Tomorrow night I'm taking it a bit easier both on myself and the crowd with a simpler and less angry poem.

If you're around and into poetry you should come and watch. I don't know if there are any spots left in the final heat but you could contact the organisers and ask.

The National Final is going to be held on the 29th at Fringe Bar in Wellington. There are some amazing poets who have already made it through to the finals from Christchurch and Auckland and even if I don't get through to the final I reckon I'll go along and see what it's all about. The audience is just as important as the poet in my opinion when it comes to slam.


Angst and Slam Poetry

I am going through a bit of poetry angst at the moment. Well, perhaps life angst. Those periods where you question what is going on, what you're doing, why you're doing what you're doing. It's pretty much the usual in my brain, but sometimes it gets a bit more, well, serious.

The last couple of months have been serious. In an attempt to make myself feel better about life, the universe and everything I've been attending a lot more live events than I usually would, both poetry and music. I've seen The Adults and Liam Finn live recently and both gigs were excellent, although I loved Liam Finn a little more. I was right up the front beside the two drum kits and was able to really get into the experience (even if it involved a little more touching from high gig-goers than one would perhaps like, I was practically snuggled at one point!). Liam and his younger brother Elroy were captivating in their enthusiasm and talent. I had forgotten how live music is just better than headphones or my shitty stereo. The drums! The bass! The heart pounding! Julia Deans did an amazing version of that song I've linked above. Much grittier and intense than the Ladi6 version I linked. Best song of the night in my opinion.

As for poetry I went and saw a wonderful reading by Selina Tusitala Marsh and Lynn Jenner. The next morning I was sitting in Fidel's reading Selina's book Fast Talking PI and who should walk in but the author. It was the first time I've had that happen. I'm sure I blushed, but she seemed happy and I later went and asked her to sign my book. Selina was really lovely and enthusiastic about writing. Good vibes. She read in a more lively manner than I'm used to and it was really enjoyable. She read a poem about her mother that was just amazing. Intense emtionally and very beautiful. Sadly I have forgotten the name of the poem.

Then last week I went to the regular reading at The Ballroom. It was an interesting reading, one that left me with mixed feelings. The rest of the event was the usual mix of readers. Some highlights were Mike Eager and Alina Siegfried. On this occasion there was a mike which helped immensely. It meant I could actually hear some of the readers who are usually too quiet to be heard. These days I find myself drawn to poetry that makes me laugh. And there were some good laughs to be had that day.

In the same week I was also very lucky to attend a poetry slam event "Poetry in Motion" at Happy. There was a selection of local writers/performers and a duo of touring slam poets from The US: Ken Arkind and Carrie Rudzinski. Prior to the event I had watched videos of both performing. Carrie grabbed me with her surreal imagery and her tense emotional poems. Ken's charms weren't totally obvious to me in the videos, but live he was charming, acerbic, hilarious and politically engaging as well as impressively bearded. Carrie managed to take the audience to striking emotional heights and then go even higher. After the event I felt oddly drained from it just because they were both so intense I couldn't help but be a little enthralled by them. They were especially complimentary about both the good looks of the audience (and Wellington in general) and the city. I couldn't tell if it was a practised trick or sincere. It didn't matter much though the audience loved it!

Slam poetry is such a different beast to its more sedate counterpart. I find myself wanting poets to have memorised their work and wanting them to engage with me as they read. I've feel I've known all these things for years but only just grasped the concept. Sometimes slam poetry grabs you and won't let go, but just as easily can fail to come off. It's a knife edge and I think that's what I like about it. It's hard work to get the audience connecting with you, but when you do it transforms the whole event. I feel like everything that I've written in that last paragraph is cliché, which is appropriate for slam poetry I think. It operates in different territory to poetry for the page and even more traditional New Zealand performed poetry. Cliché does have a place. But I much more enjoy the surprise and loops that much poetry, slam or not, uses. Both Carrie and Ken surprised with their language use and their clever tricks. Both had emotional depth and Ken especially had really good jokes.

The local poets ranged from starkly political (giving me goosebumps) to some who were wryly observant or amusing. There was one young man, Duncan Hope, whom I look forward to seeing perform again in future. I was also pleased to see the P Town Poets read again. I saw them at their last Te Papa gig and thought it was a bit of a crime that the audience was so sparse. I look forward to seeing them again and hope that their audience improves. There was a general air from the audience and some of the local poets that they were slightly embarrassed by poetry or thought it a bit ridiculous. Perhaps that doesn't convey it quite right. They just seemed surprised about poetry. The audience was much, much younger than any poetry audience I've seen in Wellington before (bearing in mind my three year tenure so far, but definitely one of the youngest audiences I've ever seen). I wanted to talk to these young poets and let them know that there are other people writing in Wellington. In fact there are heaps of people writing in Wellington. I hope that as more Poetry in Motion events occur it will become obvious to them that there's a wealth of talent out there.

Alina Siegfried organised this event and is looking to start regular slam poetry events in Wellington. I think I'm going to try my hand at it and see how I do. Can't hurt and might help me get through this poetry weirdness I'm feeling. I was into theatre sports and drama at high school, even performing in the 1997 Christchurch Art's Festival. After that I gave it all up for poetry. But maybe it's time to mix the two together and get up on stage and perform again.


What I've Been Up To

I recently read at Te Papa as part of the annual Writers on Mondays series for the Best New Zealand Poems 2010 reading. I read with 9 other poets, some of whom I am a big fan of and one of whom was a lecturer of mine at Canterbury University. I ended up reading The Totally Artificial Heart by Kate Camp. I had five poems I was attempting to choose from on the day. I was experiencing a little doubt about the one I wanted to read. The moment I knew I was going to be reading I wanted to read Kate Camp's poem. But I was sure it would be weird to read it with the poet watching me. I trawled through book after book looking for the right poem. So many poems I like have rude words in them or are a bit depressing for a Monday lunch time. The rest had words I didn't trust myself to pronounce under pressure or were simply too long. Just as I got up to read I decided and left the other books behind.

It did feel a bit weird reading a poem by someone who was also reading. But I sucked it up and got to read one of my favourite poems with the author in the room. That's pretty cool if you ask me.

It was a really enjoyable reading. Hinemoana Baker read a great poem I'd read before but can no longer remember the writer or the name of the poem. I will have to chase that up because it was political and funny. Anna Jackson read in a rather amazing manner, harnessing nervous energy and using it admirably. Geoff Cochrane read a David Mitchell poem by heart. It was so lovely to hear a poem read by heart. I should do more of that. Jennifer Compton read her excellent and hilarous poem which made the audience laugh out loud many times. She's another great reader. I feel like she's telling stories rather than reading poems, but at the same time her language and poetic style is clever and often catches me unawares. The reading was a feast and I felt very lucky to be a part of it. It was also a bit of a treat to have Bill Manhire introduce me.

I've got a few other sessions I'm planning to go to from the Writers on Mondays series. It looks like there's some great stuff in there!

In other writing news I'm doing my best to get Enamel out ASAP. I won't go into the details of the whys and the issues. I will say that this will be the last Enamel. Head on over to the Enamel blog to see a bit more about it. At this stage it looks to be a Spring arrival. There's some great stuff in there and I can't wait to get it out so all the writers with work inside it can see their words on its pages.

I'm in the midst of reading Anna Jackson's Thicket. It's a lovely book. I'm really liking what Anna is doing in it. I've been thinking a lot about how poetry collections are put together and how they stand up or fall over. At the DCM bookfair this year I was very lucky to pick up a lot of relatively recent New Zealand poets' work. Some of it is fabulous and some of it is not to my taste. All of it has been helpful in this thinking about books and how to write them. One of my favourites so far (which isn't recent) is a 1988 Rachel McAlpine collection. Not only is it a beautiful object, there's some lovely work in there.

I still have to admit to being slightly bewildered about books I might write. I love the books of people who are not me. Beside my bed is a towering pile of poetry and fiction that I fall in and out of. But books I might write? Well I'm not sure. When Bill Manhire introduced me at the reading he intimated that a book should really be forthcoming from me soon. We'll see what happens.


Best New Zealand Poems 2010

Oh poor little neglected blog. Sometimes I want to write in you, but mostly I don't. I am much more present on Twitter. A place where it's hard to go back in time and I exist mostly in the present. That's something I like.

Since my last update I've been putting together the next Enamel, writing and getting my work out there. It has been a time of upheavals, funerals and change. We bought our first house, lost a family member, a close friend and a beloved pet and went for a two week road trip around the South Island. September feels like much longer than six-ish months ago. We have been packing the living in tightly.

But amongst all this I've been published in Best New Zealand Poems 2010 and had other acceptances for magazines and journals that I'm happy to be published in. I've been writing and would say that I am pretty much finished my book. I am procrastinating on the last stages of final edits before I print it out to find its way in the world.

I hope that the next time I have the occasion to write here it will be to talk about it being published.



On the 1st of September I was the featured poet at Stand Up Poetry in Palmerston North. It was my first time being the main reader and it was basically awesome. My friends Johanna Aitchison and Helen Lehndorf had invited me up to read and eased me through the process by being encouraging and accommodating.

Johanna hit upon the idea to do the reading more in the style of the Writers On Mondays series that is held at Te Papa throughout winter. And so we had two periods of me reading bisected by a question and answer session. The crowd started out small but by the end of the reading it had filled up and I found the audience warm and encouraging with appropriate laughter and at one stage even some loud shouts of "Yeah!". I loved it of course, not being one to shy away from talking either about myself or my passions.

I read more of what I consider my scary confrontational work and the audience loved it. It's quite a liberating feeling to unleash yourself in front of an audience. Having lived in Palmerston North for a couple of years I wasn't unfamiliar with the location and so found myself quite comfortable. The library staff we friendly and awesome too. An excellent night.