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This week’s poem is by Dr Peter Clayworth, who is an historian and my partner, as well as a fine poet.   He wrote the poem after spending a night on Smoky Beach on Rakiura (Stewart Island).  According to southern legends, Rakiura is the anchor stone of Aoraki’s canoe.

November 1992.

Full Moon on Smoky Beach,
Rakiura, Lakiula, the Anchor Stone,
Coming up like they told us,
When we were kids,
They say it moves the tides,
And the salt sea within,
Seeing we are mostly water,
I could see the Moon there,
Marama letting down her lines,
Like Maui with his fish,
Dragging the ocean up,
Pulling it into the sky,
I felt that if I didn’t,
Have so much love for my mother,
And feel her loving hold on me,
That embrace Isaac Newton felt,
Sitting under the apple tree,
If not for that I’d join,
Old Rona up there,
Riding along watching the tides,
On this pebble way down here,
Anchor to Aoraki’s canoe,
Smoky Beach on Lakiula.


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Tuesday Poem


Katherine Mansfield wrote this in 1916.  Sanary (or Sanary-sur-mer as it is now known) is a village on the Côte d’Azur.  Katherine Mansfield first went to stay at nearby Bandol in 1915, for health reasons.  In later years, Sanary attracted other writers such as her friends D H Lawrence and Aldous Huxley.  Many German writers (such as Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann) went to live there in the 1930s, escaping the rise of Nazism in Germany.  I love the sense of menace in this poem.

In her notebook, in 1916, as she answers her own question ‘Now, really, what is it that I do want to write?’ she writes “….Then I want to write poetry. I feel always trembling on the brink of poetry.  The almond tree, the birds, the little wood where you are, the flowers you do not see, the open window out of which I lean & dream  that you are against my shoulder & the times that your photograph ‘looks sad’ “. [from The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks, Vol 2 pp32-33 edited by Margaret Scott.]




Her little hot room looked over the bay
Through a stiff palisade of glinting palms,
And there she would lie in the heat of the day,
Her dark head resting upon her arms,
So quiet, so still, she did not seem
To think, to feel, or even to dream.

The shimmering, blinding web of sea
Hung from the sky, and the spider sun
With busy frightening cruelty
Crawled over the sky and spun and spun.
She could see it still when she shut her eyes,
And the little boats caught in the web like flies.

Down below at this idle hour
Nobody walked in the dusty street
A scent of dying mimosa flower
Lay on the air, but sweet—too sweet.

I was very pleased to find out recently that one of my poems will be performed at this year’s  Manawatu Festival of New Arts, having come third in Massey’s “Poetry for Performance” competition. The festival (which is biennial) will run from 2nd – 10th October 2010 in Palmerston North. You can read a review of the last festival here: Manawatu Standard

The poets whose work will be performed are:

Elena de Roo (1st)
Robynanne Milford (2nd)
Janis Freegard (3rd)
Rex McGregor (highly commended)
Jim Lindsay (highly commended)
Sacha Norrie (highly commended)

Judge Karlo Mila also awarded distinction to Aleksandra Lane and Donna Banicevich Gera.  Here’s a link to the judge’s report. 

There was also a competition for playwrights and the following will have their plays performed at the festival:

Div Collins
Sally Sutton
Jan Watts
Tristan Domican
Denis Edwards
Isla Borrell

Judge Gary Henderson’s report here.

A requirement of the competition was to provide an “outline of the performance concept” which really made me think about the poem in a different way.  Usually I only consider how a poem looks on the page, so it was quite a luxury to be musing on possible visual/musical accompaniments.  I’m really looking forward to attending the performance in October and seeing how everyone’s work has been interpreted.

City Living

Two middle-aged goldfish
tirelessly circle their tank

In the bars on Courtenay Place
twenty-somethings text each other

Apartment-dwelling cats
eye the trolley buses below

I cooked chicken for dinner
but you didn’t come home

The beautiful open window
admits moths, as well as air

This is another of mine, first published in ‘An Exchange of Gifts’ (NZ Poetry Society anthology); it also appears in ‘AUP New Poets 3’ (Auckland University Press).

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Tuesday Poem

I’ve just finished a great Continuing Education course , offered through Vic – ‘Poetry on the Page’. It was run by the inspiring and talented Dr Sydney Shep, Senior Lecturer and Printer at Wai-te-ata Press .

For the first lesson, we each set a few lines of poetry (using little metal letters) and printed them on an old manual printing machine – I managed to get my p’s and q’s the wrong way around, not to mention the b’s and d’s.  After that, each of us (all women, as it turned out) worked on our individual projects – typesetting and printing a poem, and designing and making the booklet it was printed in.   And what a creative bunch my classmates were – embossing and engraving, folding and sewing.  Each booklet looked quite different.

One thing I learned along the way was that every part of the process took longer than I thought it would – from picking each individual letter from its case and setting it in a ‘chase’ (& then putting it all back at the end – ‘diss-ing’) to cutting out the printed ‘colophon’ (that says where and when and in what typeface the poem was printed) to stick on the outside cover. But I enjoyed all of it: choosing the paper, setting the poem, inking the letters, watching the printed copy roll off the printer, and folding the finished pages into a booklet. I even enjoyed diss-ing, once I got the hang of where all the letters belonged.

It’s been very interesting participating in the whole process from go (writing the poem) to whoa (seeing it printed). It’s making me think more about line length and layout in poetry. Generally I write to an A4 format in 12 pt Times New Roman. But what if the page could be any size I wanted? How would a poem look in 14 pt Garamond or 10 pt Bodoni? What is the right size, typeface and format for each particular poem? Having I been arranging line breaks according to constraints of  A4 paper, rather than where they ought to be?  Hmmm…

Tuesday Poem

I’ve chosen a poem by (Mary) Ursula Bethell this week (1874 – 1945).  She was born in England, moved to New Zealand as a child, returned to London as an adult, but finally settled  in Christchurch with her close companion, Effie Pollen.   The poem is ‘Detail’ and it was first published under the pseudonym Evelyn Hayes in From a Garden in the Antipodes (Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1929)

You can read more about Ursula Bethell at the following links 

My garage is a structure of excessive plainness,
It springs from a dry bank in the back garden,
It is made of corrugated iron,
And painted all over with brick-red.

But beside it I have planted a green Bay-tree,
– A sweet Bay, an Olive, a Turkey Fig,
– A Fig, an Olive, and a Bay.

On the international front recently, we’ve had Clive James refusing to take part in the “sad little contest” for Oxford poetry professor and female Saudi poet Hissa Hilal coming third in the Arab world’s largest poetry competition, the “Million’s Poet contest“.  Her success was notable because she was the first woman to reach the finals (since the annual competition started in 2006) and because her poetry spoke out against extreme religious laws that discriminate against women.  Well done Hissa Hilal!  She took home $800,000 for her prize.  Perhaps TVNZ would like to follow suit – surely it’s time for “NZ Poetry Idol”?

While Auckland is getting ready to enjoy their writers & readers festival, coming events in Wellington include:

Jenny Bornholdt at Massey’s Writers Read Series 2010

Thursday 13 May, 6pm
Theatrette (10A02) Museum Building, Massey University, Buckle Street; Entrance D, (access Theatrette from East side of Building).

Jenny Bornholdt (current writer in residence at Victoria University) will be reading and discussing her creative work, followed by Q & A and refreshments. All welcome, entry is free. Poet Bryan Walpert will chair.

PLEASE RSVP to by Tuesday 11 May.

Poetry @ The Ballroom Cafe, Wellington

Sunday 16 May, 4pm-6pm
Ballroom Cafe, junction of Adelaide Rd and Riddiford St (upstairs, next to the 4 Square)

Guest poets: Gerald Melling & Geoff Cochrane, with music from Terry Shore.

NZ Poetry Society May meeting

Monday 17 May, 7.30pm
The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St

Open mic to start, followed by guest poet: Pat White (Wairarapa), current Writer-in-Residence, Randell Cottage. Entry: $5 (NZPS members $3).



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Tuesday Poem

Tuesday Poem


May 2010

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