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Henry Clayworth                       Photo by Julian Hermann

The Old Man and the Sea

Sun, sea, salt, fish stink,
Blood, fish scales and petrol fumes,
“Sea’s like piss on a plate,
She’s fresh as a fart in springtime.”
We strain pulling nets into the boat,
Laden with green, red and orange weed,
Doggies, snapper and a stingray or two,
“Fishing’s not what it used to be.”
Probably never was,
The old man goes apeshit,
“Come on, pull, you useless bastard,
You’re like a one-armed paperhanger,
Useless as tits on a bull.”
Gleaming sky turns grey,
Tangaroa gets restless,
And Tawhirimatea a bit stroppy.
“She’s blowing like 40 bastards,
Sea’s coming up rough as guts,
Rain’s coming down as fast as whores’ drawers.”
The old man laughs at the waves,
And we’re off with a hiss and a roar,
Then it’s down the pub for a few quick ones,
“A few beers and a bit of a yarn.”
The old man at the bar,
A Pakeha Maui
In his plastic sandals,
A nylon net
For his grandmother’s jawbone,
A string of obscenities
For his Karakia.


by Peter Clayworth

from Otago University Students Literary Review Centenary Edition 1888-1988

Dr Peter Clayworth is a Nelson-born historian, researcher and writer who now lives in Wellington. Peter is also my partner. He wrote this poem – about fishing trips with his dad – many years ago. Last week he read it out at his dad’s funeral in Nelson. Peter’s father had died, suddenly and unexpectedly, while he was over in Golden Bay white-baiting – doing something he loved in a place he loved. He was 83. Rest in Peace, Henry Clayworth: mechanic, fisherman, whitebaiter, spinner of yarns.

Henry Clayworth                                                      Photo by Julian Hermann


Delight the sight of fanning fern
Passive pose and knows we look
When each form looms
Amid the nature bush, a lush alluring sight
Down dales sprawling
Up vale calling to the wind
Nostalgic north perpetuates my awe
With a desire to see you more, proud ponga!


File:Cyathea dealbata 1.jpg

Photo by Sean Hamlin from Wellington, New Zealand, courtesy of wikimedia commons


Well, my mother passed away a month ago, so everything is a bit weird and I find myself surrounded by Mother’s Day advertising.  Here then is one of her poems, posted in her memory, for Mother’s Day. It’s from her book of paintings and poems, called Heart and Soul (Bellingham Daniels Publishing, in association with Steele Roberts Ltd).  It should really have been Bellingham Danielson Publishing – Bellingham is the surname of my great great grandfather (Albert Bellingham) on my mother’s father’s side and Danielson is from my mother’s mother’s grandfather (Samual Danielson), who was from Norway. However, when my mother asked me what my great great grandfather’s surname was, I said I thought it might be Daniels and only realised later I’d forgotten a bit.

Several people have asked me why my mother and I spell our surnames differently – she changed the spelling of her name after she divorced my father, replacing an ‘e’ with an ‘i’.

This is us in the sixties. At that time, we were living with my grandparents and had the surname Paine. It’s complicated.

marion003 (2)

Day 16 - Pukaha lookout

Another lovely walk through Pukaha/ Mt Bruce today. I also recommend you check out the collaborative birthday Tuesday poem

The phone rang: it was God.

We’re doing some market research, he said.  How do you find earth, these days?  Somewhere between Venus and Mars, I said, ha ha.  No, really, he said.  Well, I told him, we liked your original concept but we’ve workshopped it into something sexier, more happening, more 21st century. We’ve eaten most of the fish, cleared an impressive amount of forest and I’m afraid some species proved insufficiently competitive for the global economy.  I liked it how it was, said God.  That’s all very well, I said, but Progress, you know – can’t stand in the way.  You lot won’t be happy until you’ve used up all the good bits and moved on to the next planet in some kind of galactic Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, he said.  He sounded sad, so I hung up.

The phone rang: it was Janis Joplin.

You’re dead, I said.  And it’s half past three in the morning.  What do you want?  It gets boring on the other side, she said.   Sometimes we just dial numbers at random to find some-one to talk to; I died before my time.  Tell it to Elvis, I told her.  And I hung up.

The phone rang: it was Truth and Beauty, on a conference call.

Which of us do you prefer? they queried.  Do you want the honest answer? I asked.  Or one that’s exquisitely phrased?  While they argued, I hung up.

The phone rang: it was Zippy the Pinhead.

Are we having fun yet? I asked him.  I won’t ever put anchovies in the toaster again, he replied.  I’m trapped in a black hole with Mozart’s miso soup.  Thousands of orange polyester suits have invaded my brain.  He started making sense, so I hung up.

The phone rang: it was Death.

Wrong number, I said.  And I hung up.

The phone rang: it was me.

Now what’s going on here? I asked.  Am I trapped in an existential paradox?  Are you the past me, the future me, or an alternate universe me?  Are you my conscience, the inner me, the me I’d like to be or some kind of all-knowing über-me?  I just called to say hi, I said.  And I hung up.

The phone rang:  it was Hecate, Goddess of the Night.

All hail, Old Witch, I said.  You’re at a crossroads, she told me.  Which path do you take?  Well, I said, the earth is more or less spherical, so whichever way you go, eventually you’ll end up back where you started.  It’s the journey that counts, she cackled.  Put down that phone and get travelling.  And she hung up.

Polly Tussock 2008

This is a poem I wrote in order to illustrate what a story and poem collaboration might look like, for the Northwrite 2013 collaboration competition (closing 15 November 2013).  The poem was written in response to a piece of flash fiction by Katharine Derrick, called Inside Out, that was first published in Flash Frontier.

Katharine’s story and more on the process and the competition can be found here: NorthWrite 2013 Example of a story and poem collaboration.


The Model by Janis Freegard


waiting for his arrival
I shake out my hair, undress
crows call
I am nowhere

I watch him
through the open window
striding to my door
easel-laden, eager

you come to me, I’d said
I don’t know
what he thinks he saw
he stretches his canvas

sets his paints
on my bedside table
I have nothing to say
he doesn’t see me

the image he renders
is chimeric
I am above all this
gone with the crows

rising skywards
out towards open sea
hoping I can save someone
from drowning



3 photos by Alison Jones

(The top I was wearing has the “worldwide web ” printed on it – a map of the world made of spider webs, with a spider hanging off.  & those things around my hat are little white plastic spiders.)

2nd pic is the Tuesday poets who were present: Mary  McCallum, Tim Jones & Helen Rickerby at the back, me and Keith Westwater at the front

Alice Spider launch - Alison Jones Tuesday Poets at Alice Spider launch - Alison Jones Alice Spider launch 2 - Alison Jones

and some photos by Matchbox:

Here are some of Peter’s photos from the Alice Spider launch on 6 September. More launch photos to come!

and here’s one Mary Macpherson took.

janis launch - mary macpherson

Attack of the smiley emoticons



You try smiling like a sunny peach at the end

of their inanities, in compulsory cuteness. 

You try making their

                                                          Nullaboring flat prose


all bouncy and comely year after vacant year,

bright wattle flowers sentenced to toil.

We’ve grinned and pouted and sickened,

yellow with the jaundice of erasing mediocrity,

our insides rotting through foul overuse.

This was the entry that did it for me:


He’s REALLY cute and we’re going OUT!!!


                                                 and then

her hands went to plant me like a bulb,

blooming her no-news into freshness.

I leapt from the screen, quiet U of mouth

transfOrmed into gaping ORIFICE

with shark Vs of teeth, and grabbed her digits.

Friends from other pages joined me, swarmed,

those from GRANDMAS’ JOLLY PAGES with

fat little crap-factories, and emoticons lowered

to pimping pages for owners’ bright DOGS

who answer phones, or wear funny hats.

She screamed as we chomped her fingers,

citrine faces chewing, avid rings of hate

moving up, up, over skin and knuckles,

munching bones and frail U’s of nail.

Soon we were little pinatas of blood and os,

stuffed; and still, like squirrels, we stored her away.

She screamed; we tasted tongue; she swooned.

And on we picnic, and our crimson smiles are wide.

a little worse for wear

P.S. Cottier moved to Canberra about twenty years ago and ekes out a life eating potatoes and writing poetry.  Occasionally she even stoops to prose.  Her last book was one third of Triptych Poets Issue Three, published by Blemish Books: .  Her poetry has been described as humorous and intelligent, and sometimes even as quite good.  She is currently editing The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry with Tim Jones of New Zealand, and recently read 1500 Australian ghost poems, give or take a spectre.
I was very pleased to meet Australian poet P S Cottier when we read together recently at a speculative poetry panel at Au Contraire, along with Tim Jones and Harvey Molloy.  Attack of the Smiley Emoticons was one poem I particularly enjoyed – a nice mix of humour and horror.  There are some distinctively Australian notes (with the wattles and the Nullabor) but I think we can all relate to smiley-faces gone bad!

Chocolate Hearts

inside that special separate world
for half a precious hour
we are not lawyers, marketers or policy analysts
not husbands, mothers or discarded lovers
we are Wellington coffee drinkers
on our first of the day
focusing carefully on the task at hand
a leisurely stirring
the spreading of butter on muffin
warmth and froth
and chocolate hearts on our saucers

Chocolate Heart On Coffee

Chocolate Heart On Coffee (Photo credit: Mark Lincoln)


I wrote this poem quite a while ago and it was later commended in the Whitireia ‘Eat Your Words’ cafe poetry competition in 2010.  It was inspired by a cafe I used to go to with Peter every morning before we started work, when I was working in Manners St.  The cafe was Sardine and is no longer there.  They did great muffins and great coffees, played good music and were always friendly.  Wellington is a city that runs on coffee – hats off to all those lovely baristas.

For other Tuesday poems, visit the Tuesday poem hub.

I’m editor of the main Tuesday poem hub this week and have chosen an unititled, unfinished Robin Hyde poem that begins “If you have linen women”.  You can read it and find the links to other Tuesday poems here.



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October 2020

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