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Rona remembers sorrow

He covers my eyes with his downy pelt,
he rolls me into his marsupial pouch.

I taste the dirt and tang of earth and sex.

My heart lies thumping in its cage.

Now and then I stick my neck out
and deflect my lover’s prowess.

He shudders his love into me, knowing
I am absent.

He strokes me as if I were made of feathers
and hollow bones, as if I were the only
fragile invention.

We both know there is nothing to be done.

In a swivel of space I see
half of earth.

She moves in a daze, understanding
only the animals.

She is wondering if she will make it to the
millennium party.

She coughs
like in the old days.
For this I stick my neck out.

Reihana Robinson

A couple of weeks ago,  I went to the Skyline in Wellington (top of the cable car, stunning views of the harbour) for the launch of Reihana Robinson’s new poetry book, Auē Rona, published by Steele Roberts.  There was wonderful poetry, delicious food, fine company and a most entertaining speech by Roger Steele who pointed out that all three winners of the PM’s literary awards this year (Sam Hunt, Greg O’Brien and Albert Wendt) are poets.  There was even the chance to buy one of Noa Noa von Bassewitz’s woodcut prints, which feature in the book (and yes, there’s now one on our wall).  It was lovely to meet Reihana, finally.  We featured together in AUP New Poets 3 in 2008, but had never actually met.

Auē Rona is a re-telling of the legend of Rona and the moon, but it’s also more than that.  These are poems of love, grief and defiance, poems that move from the moon to Cape Reinga, to the wider Pacific.  In her notes to the collection, Reihana writes:

“The traditional story of Rona and the moon opens as she is collecting water for her children. A cloud covers the moon; she falls, spilling the water, and she curses. As punishment she is torn from earth and taken to the moon, still clutching her calabash and holding a ngaio tree.  Auē Rona. Oh Rona. Oh grief. Oh sorrow.”

Reihana Robinson’s writing has also been published in a number of journals including Landfall, Cutthroat, Hawai’i Review, Trout, Melusine, JAAM,  Takahe, Cezanne’s Carrot and Blackmail Press.  She lives in the Coromandel. You can listen to a Radio NZ podcast featuring Reihana here and visit her website here.

Other Tuesday Poems here.

Aue Rona cover

Flax, Tui

you can see they belong together:
the upthrust floral tube
clearly shaped to fit a bill
pollen-dusted anthers
tantalising on slender filaments

the stem yields under the weight
as she lands with a fluster
white bow-tie shining against her breast
she plunges into the burnt orange
takes her fill

English: Mountain flax flower (Phormium cookia...

I spent last weekend at a highly enjoyable and productive poetry workshop led by Vivienne Plumb and attended by a lovely group of fellow poets.  This is what I wrote after our nature walk exercise.

Don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday poems.

Which Way?

Where do you think you’re going?
Your smile has many teeth.

Who do you think I look like?
He wondered if he would ever make it home.

How could you do that to me?
I hide my frown in my drink, but no-one notices.

What month were you born?
The sun is hot and my skin sighs.

Why did she wave to him?
The smudge of fingerprints on glass.

What’s your favourite type of weather?
The shadows on the ceiling look like owls’ eyes.

What kind of animal do you like best?
Blue stars twinkle in the vase.

Are we nearly there yet?
I am in love with someone, but I do not know what will happen.

An hour passed,
but which way?

Horse, Chair, Denver

‘Which Way?’ is a group poem written by Sarah, Jen and Mark from one of the writing groups I belong to.  Usually in this group we write fiction or non-fiction, but this month, we decided to try something different.  The exercise was based on one I did with Bill Manhire when he stood in for Greg O’Brien once, in a poetry workshop I attended.  The idea is for each member of the group to write a couple of questions and a couple of statements on separate pieces of paper, after which the questions and answers are matched at random. I stuffed up the order a bit when I was assembling our poem, which is why it ends in a question.  But I think that works.

Exercises like this can be a great way to get the ideas flowing.  By juxtaposing things which weren’t originally intended to be together, you can find some unexpected connections and tangents to follow.

(People familiar with Bill Manhire’s poetry may notice that the horse in the photograph is naked.)



Though Frosts Come Down

Though frosts come down
night after night,
what does it matter?
they melt in the morning sun.
Though the snow falls
each passing year,
what does it matter?
with spring days it thaws.
Yet once let them settle
on a man’s head,
fall and pile up,
go on piling up –
then the new year
may come and go,
but never you’ll see them fade away


translated by Burton Watson


Taigu Ryokan(1758-1831) was a Japanese poet in a tradition of radical Zen poets or “great fools”. Ryokan had no disciples and ran no temple, preferring a penniless life as a monk. [Source:]

You can read more Tuesday poems at the Tuesday Poem hub.

This week I am the guest editor at the Tuesday Poem site where I have posted a poem by the wonderful US poet Aracelis Girmay (it’ll be up just after midnight).  Well worth checking out!  

This is a poem of mine that was originally published in the wonderful Blackmail Press.  I wrote it after a visit to Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.  Joseph Plunkett, one of the Irish rebels who took part in the 1916 rebellion (or “Easter Rising”), was executed hours after marrying his sweetheart, Grace Gifford.

Joseph Mary Plunkett

Easter Rising (Joseph Plunkett, 1916), by Janis Freegard

they blindfolded him
our guide explains
for the benefit of the soldiers
(six standing, six kneeling)
so they wouldn’t see his eyes
when they shot him –
a piece of white paper
marking his heart
the day before, he’d married
in Kilmainham Gaol –
the proposal’s on display
You will marry me and no-one else
he’d written to his Grace
I’ve been a blind fool

Cross marking the place of execution of the le...

English: Postcard picture of Branchville Railr...

English: Postcard picture of Branchville Railroad Station, Connecticut, USA, ca. 1900 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Small towns
Crawling out of their green shirts…
Tubercular towns
Coughing a little in the dawn…
And the church…
There is always a church
With its natty spire
And the vestibule–
That’s where they whisper:
Tzz-tzz… tzz-tzz… tzz-tzz…
How many codes for a wireless whisper–
And corn flatter than it should be
And those chits of leaves
Gadding with every wind?
Small towns
From Connecticut to Maine:
Tzz-tzz… tzz-tzz…tzz-tzz…

Lola Ridge (Rose Emily Ridge, 1873 – 1941) was an anarchist poet and political activist. She was born in Dublin and lived in Australia and New Zealand before moving to the United States.  She was well known in her day as an advocate for immigrants and the working class, as well as for her poetry.  She wrote five books of poetry and edited for avant-garde magazines Others and Broom.
English: Image of the Full Moon rising over Te...

English: Image of the Full Moon rising over Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand) taken by Paul Moss 2002. Camera Pentax ME super, positive transparency. Deutsch: Vollmond über dem neuseeländischen Nationalmuseum Te Papa in Wellington. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next Monday (23rd July 12:15pm), I will be in fine poetic company, reading at Te Papa in a curtain-raiser for National Poetry Day.  (OK, the moon won’t be rising in the night sky, but I liked the photo and it was in the public domain).  The other poets are Hera Lindsay Bird, Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle, Rob Hack, Dinah Hawken, Anna Jackson, Helen Lehndorf, Kate McKinstry, Bill Manhire, Harvey Molloy, Marty Smith, Ranui Taiapa and Tim Upperton, and we will be reading our Best New Zealand Poems from the 2011 online collection.

The event has previously been advertised as being in the marae at Te Papa, but please note there has a venue change and it will instead be held in the Telstra Clear Centre at Te Papa: go to Level 3, turn left out of the lift and walk over the bridge.  Hope to see you there!  This part of the IIML’s “Writers on Monday” series, which features many other fine lunchtime events.

Friday 27th, National Poetry Day, will see many other events around the country – NZ Booksellers has a list of what’s on.

So, no poem from me today, but there is always the Best NZ Poems site and of course, the other Tuesday Poems.





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November 2020

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