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Neil Roberts Day Fireworks - Fleur took the photo

I’ve read a lot of poetry over 2009.  Here are some of the books that have made their way into my collection and enriched my year (in no particular order): 

‘Africa: Kabbo, Mantis and the Porcupine’s Daughter’ by Alistair Paterson (Puriri Press) – a long poem that explores humanity’s African origins.  Click here for a useful review by Terry Locke). 

Here’s an extract from ‘Africa’: 

They’re alive
            our ancestors are alive 

they live through us & yet
         there’s a sense in which 

what’s happened seems
         never to have happened 

in which thinking about it
          what’s gone, what’s over
is like looking at a church
        examining it (the church) 

from a distance, admiring
        the lift & luft of the spire…” 

‘The Rocky  Shore’ by Jenny Bornholdt (Victoria University Press) – long autobiographical poems, which sparked an interesting discussion about what constitutes poetry between Iain Sharp (writing in Landfall) and Joanna Preston (on her blog).  Personally, I take a pretty liberal view regarding what is and isn’t poetry.  (I wrote about this last year. )   I’m more interested in whether it’s writing that I enjoy (and I always enjoy Jenny Bornholdt’s).  

‘Moose Beetle Swallow’ by Estonian surrealist poet Andres Ehin (Southword Editions) – beautifully translated by Irish poet Patrick Cotter (see Patrick Cotter’s website).  There’s a review here from Penniless Press.  One thing I found very interesting about this collection was how the translations differ from other translations of the same poems.  Consider this opening extract of ‘To be a Dog Apartment’ 

“to be a dog-apartment with three barking rooms
with a snout-bathroom
where one tap dribbles cold
and the other hot slobber” 

and Patrick Cotter’s version: 

Imagine an apartment made of dog
three rooms of bark, a bathroom of snout

 the cold tap dribbles, the hot tap slobbers” 

Both are great, but each paints a very different picture. 

 ‘Making Music’ by Patrick Cotter (Three Spires Press).  Quirky, fun in that dark way, full of angels. 

‘Nearest and Dearest’ by Mary Cresswell (Steele Roberts) – poems full of satire and humour. (I interviewed Mary on this blog). 

‘My Iron Spine’ by Helen Rickerby (Headworx).  Includes very entertaining poems about Katherine Mansfield, Joan of Arc, Emily Dickinson and other famous women. 

‘through windows’ by Susana Lei’ataua (Steele Roberts).  I saw Susana perform this as a one-woman show at Bats a few years ago.  It’s based on her time in New York and has the sounds of the subway running through it: 

                                    “I am a train 

tearing through neighbourhoods 

this and that 

this and that 

this and that 

side of the state line.” 

(to be continued…and apologies for the spacing – I just can’t get it to work) 

I’ve been making jewellery.  On Thursday evenings at Inverlochy house in Aro Valley with jeweller Sue Shore.  Unfortunately, the course is finished now, but I hope to do more next year.  Last week, I made a pair of copper spaceship earrings, and the week before I made silver earrings, heating strips of silver until the surface melted into folds.  Polished up in the tumbler, they ended up looking a little like leather, I think.  It’s been enormous fun – all the hammering and soldering and sawing – a good antidote to sitting in front of a computer all day.

Here are the little ships, floating in space, and celebrating the fact the Voyagers science fiction poetry book made it into the Listener’s Top 100 books for the year.


I always knew I was home because of the china ducks on the wall.  I bought them in the mid-eighties, from a second hand shop in Wellington, near the Manners St Post Office. The first thing I did in a new flat was to nail them up – in the lounge, if the flatmates were amenable, or in my own room if they weren’t. 

 The next thing I did was reassemble my bed.  The wire base had to be reconnected with its solid wooden headboard and footboard by means of a spanner.  This made me feel like an independent woman.  A woman who could do anything.  I could, for example, move heavy furniture around the room by bracing my feet against the wall and pushing things with my back.

 And I would set up my record player and play ‘Colossal Youth’, the Young Marble Giants’ only album (though there have been CD reissues and live versions since). 

 Eventually, I gave the ducks away, but found I missed them.  When I bought my house, the place Peter and I live in now, I bought the house a present – three china seagulls.  They fly up the living room wall, telling me I’m home.



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December 2009

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