Thursday, 17 January 2019

Poetry New Zealand Poetry Prize Winners 2019

Cover design: Jo Bailey

Third Annual Poetry New Zealand Poetry Prize:
Winners 2019

First prize:Wes Lee,
for ‘The Things She Remembers #1’

... Standing looking in the mirror saying:
No, No / The cold orange lipstick of the
Big Nurse / The patient who screamed like
a bird / her mouth wide as the abyss /
The patient who jumped on my back, kicked
in her heels, tried to gee me up like a
donkey / The painful embarrassment of being
thirteen / The laughter of the nurses / At
a terrible time I believed / At terrible times
I still believe / There are still things left to
sell / On the bus a wasp and a homeless man.


Wes Lee lives in Wellington. Her poetry has appeared in The Stinging Fly, New Writing Scotland, Westerly, Landfall, The London Magazine, Cordite, The London Reader, Irises: The University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s Poetry Prize Anthology 2017, and many other journals and anthologies. She was a finalist in the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2018. The url to her website is

Second prize:Brett Gartrell,
for ‘After the principal calls’

... The dogs broke into the hen house
stringing two birds out in bloody feathered scraps.
My son cornered the panting terriers
washed the blood from their lips
as they licked the tears from his eyes.


Brett Gartrell lives and works in the Manawatū, caring for small broken things. He wrote these poems as part of the Master’s of Creative Writing degree at Massey University. His Massey staff profile can be found here.

Natalie Modrich

Third prize:Natalie Modrich,
for ‘Retail’

... I have had a headache for three days
I’ve forgotten what it feels like
to wear my own clothes
I don’t care
how your day has been
or if you have a nice rest of your day
you have no idea
how much I don’t fucking care
but is there anything else I can help you with?
have a nice day rest of your day.


Natalie Modrich has recently returned to studying a Bachelor of Arts in English at Massey University. She took a semester off in 2017 to travel Europe after working in a soul-crushing retail job. The poem featuring in this yearbook is a very therapeutic poem.

You can find the complete texts of all three poems printed on pp. 206-13 of Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2019.

Further remarks on each poem are included in my editorial for the issue, available on the Poetry New Zealand index site.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

10 Questions with Jack Ross [16/1/19]

photograph: Mary Paul

10 Questions with Jack Ross
Editor of Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2019

This interview appeared on the Massey University Press website on 16th January 2019:

  1. Another Poetry New Zealand Yearbook is off to print. What are the strengths of the 2019 edition?

  2. I think this may well be the issue I’m proudest of so far. We have a very strong poetry feature, from one of New Zealand’s most original — though still strangely neglected — poets. We have a nice blend of essays, ranging from the very personal (Elizabeth Kirkby-McLeod’s piece on her father’s suicide) to the profoundly learned (Erena Shingade’s analysis of Richard von Sturmer’s Zen poetics). We have deeply considered reviews of a range of recent books. Above all, though, we have a positive cornucopia of poems by hordes of poets old and new. I defy anyone not to find something to like in there.

  3. How many submissions were there this time around?

  4. 272 email submissions (more or less) , together with 11 mail submissions: averaging four or five poems each — I guess that would add up to something like 1275 poems I had to read through to come up with the 100-odd I was able to include.

  5. Was sifting through them to arrive at your shortlist of 126 any less challenging than usual?

  6. No. It always takes far longer than I think it’s going to. First there’s the reading, and the initial winnowing of as few submissions as possible into the ‘potentials’ file. Those few keep on growing and growing, alas, because so many writers send in so many fine poems. Then there’s the final cutting and slashing at the longlist of poems I’d like to put in, designed to transform that category into poems I simply have to include.

  7. There’s a great spread of age and experience in this book. Does the number of young writers bode well for poetry in New Zealand?

  8. Well, yes, I think it does. Mind you, the subject matter of their poetry tends to be darker than I would like sometimes — but there’s no denying that the intensity of the emotions these young writers feel tends to concentrate their work amazingly. There’s nothing diffuse or self-indulgent about the best of them. But they seem only too aware that they’ve been doomed to live in interesting times. Franklin Roosevelt said in the 1930s that the generation then coming of age had ‘a rendezvous with destiny’ ahead of them. As it turned out, he was quite right. I can’t help feeling that the same may be true of this generation, too.

  9. Why do some poets get two poems?

  10. That’s an interesting one. I guess I start off looking for one poem from each submission, but some writers strong-arm me into taking more than one: the sheer merit of their work demands it. The default setting remains one each, but I can’t deny myself — and our readers — the pleasure of reading two excellent poems if they’re there on the page. It’s certainly got nothing to do with famous names or poetic reputations: just the quality of the work submitted.

  11. This year’s featured poet is Stephanie Christie. When did you first come across her and why did you decide to feature her?

  12. I think I first met Stephanie in the early 2000s. I’d seen her work in brief, and had in fact discussed it with the then editor, John Geraets. I didn’t really get it at the time, but he said that she lived in the same apartment block, and had shown him some work and he thought it at the very least worth taking a punt on. But then I heard her read at Poetry Live, and it was quite a revelation. I could see that she understood precisely what she was doing in fragmenting and breaking up her words in such an ostentatious and flamboyant way. I do understand why some readers continue to resist this L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E-influenced approach to poetry, but for myself I’ve long since concluded that her body of work has lasting value. To me, in fact, she’s one of New Zealand’s most unsung and undervalued poets.

  13. Not one but two competitions this year! Tell us about the Poetry New Zealand poetry competition winners announced in this edition.

  14. Yes, two quite different competitions. The first was the usual selection of the most outstanding poems submitted for each year’s issue. It’s an invidious choice, but when I first read Wes Lee’s poem ‘The Things She Remembers #1’, it completely transfixed me. When I heard it had already been accepted for publication elsewhere, I felt quite stricken. Luckily, though, the other magazine didn’t follow through, so I was happy to grab it for our pages. Brett Gartrell’s ‘After the principal calls’ was another strong contender for the top spot. Natalie Modrich’s ‘Retail’ is a bit of a change of pace, but it’s very amusing (it seems so to me, anyway). The winners this year are longer than in previous years: but I felt in each case that they needed that length to create the complex emotions their authors were dealing with.

  15. And give us an insight into the student competition entries and winners.

  16. The second competition, for school kids from Years 11, 12 and 13, was a real joy to judge. I chose a winner and three runners-up for each level, and I was spoiled for choice. The first prize winners from each have been included in the issue. There’s nothing naïve or half-formed about these poems, I have to say: they’re strong, confident work, by young writers who have a great deal to say. I hope that this success will help in encouraging each of them to keep writing: these are the kinds of young poets we will need in the future, I feel. I suppose that my personal favourite would have to be Aigagalefili Fepulea‘i-Tapua‘i’s passionate anthem ‘275 Love Letters to Southside’, but I like the slinky sensuality of Amberleigh Rose’s ‘Snake’s Tongue’ and the Joni Mitchell-like idealism of Kathryn Briggs’ ‘Earth is a Star to Someone’ very much also.

  17. Can you see any sort of shift in content between the time six years ago that you took the helm as editor and this edition?

  18. That’s an interesting question, too. Those first two issues look a bit tentative to me now. I hadn’t quite defined how my version of Poetry New Zealand would differ from Alistair Paterson’s — nor (for that matter) how the look of it might diverge from John Denny’s pared-back layouts. Nor did I realise at that stage that opening up the magazine to online submissions would encourage so many younger – as well as so many international — poets to send in work. The main difference, though, is that the poetics section, the essays and reviews, has grown much more varied and interesting — the poetry section was always strong.

  19. Are there poetry books on your beside table at present or something else? What are you reading at the moment?

  20. Well, at present I’m engaged in the rather lengthy task of rereading the greatest of the four classic Chinese novels: the Hung Lou Meng, or Red Chamber Dream (also known as The Story of the Stone). The Penguin translation, which I’m using this time — in preference to the only other complete version in English, from the Beijing Foreign Languages Publishing House — is in five volumes, so you can see that it’s quite an undertaking.

    As for poetry, I have to admit that my bedside book right now is Rudyard Kipling’s Complete Poems. I’d always meant to read him all the way through, and the appearance of the new Cambridge edition — a copy of which I found second-hand in a bookshop in Lyttelton — has encouraged me to do so at last. He’s a bit of an acquired taste to those of us brought up on pared-back Modernism, but he’s still surprisingly readable (and really no more reprehensible politically than T. S. Eliot or Ezra Pound ...)

Friday, 7 December 2018

Poetry NZ Yearbook Student Poetry Competition (2018)

Inaugural Poetry New Zealand Yearbook
student poetry competition:

Winners 2018 - announced on Poetry Day, 24th August 2018

We are thrilled to announce the winners of the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook Student Poetry Competition.

Year 11 category winners:

1st: ‘275 Love Letters to Southside’ by Aigagalefili Fepulea‘i-Tapua‘i, Aorere College
2nd: ‘Madras’ by E Wen WongBurnside High School
3rd: ‘An Acrostic Poem About Money’ by Leila Barber, Samuel Marsden Collegiate School
4th: ‘Just Passing Through’ by Sophie Newton, Glendowie College

Year 12 category winners:

1st: ‘Earth is a Star to Someone’ by Kathryn Briggs, Baradene College of the Sacred Heart
2nd: ‘a thank you letter to my therapist’ by Fiona HoangAuckland International College
3rd: ‘Empty Boxes’ by Sophie Mance, Wellington High School
4th: ‘My Cotton Skin’ by Jessica Tibbs, Motueka High School

Year 13 category winners:

1st: ‘Snake’s Tongue’ by Amberleigh Rose, Kuranui College
2nd: ‘To the boy who will eventually fall in love with me’ by Katriana TaufaleleMcAuley High School
3rd: ‘Untitled’ by Phillip Toriente, Dilworth School
4th: ‘Unfinished Poems’ by Mele Toleafoa, McAuley High School

To read all the winning entries, click here.

To listen to the judge's remarks on the winning entries, click here.

Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to everyone who entered!

The first-prize winners in each category will be included on pp.214-19 of the upcoming edition of Poetry New Zealand Yearbook, published in March 2019.

For further comments and details, please consult the following online links and articles:

  1. Anna Bowbyes, Poetry New Zealand Student Poetry Competition Winners. Massey University Press (24/8/18):

    We are thrilled to announce the winners of the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook Student Poetry Competition, judged by Jack Ross.

    To read all the winning entries, click here.

    Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to everyone who entered!

    The first-prize winners in each category will be published in next year’s edition of Poetry New Zealand Yearbook, publishing in March 2019.”

  2. Aorere College Facebook Page (13/9/18):

    A huge congratulations to Fili Fepulea'i-Tapua'i who has won the Year 11 category of the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook Competition.

    Described as “hard-hitting,... from the heart" by competition Judge Jack Ross, Fili's winning poem- "275 Love Letters to Southside" will be published in the 2019 edition of the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook. What an awesome achievement!.

  3. Amberleigh's winning way with words. Kuranui College Online Newsletter (19/9/18):

    Kuranui Deputy Head Girl, Amberleigh Rose, has won first place in the high school section of the Massey University Press Poetry Yearbook competition, designed to foster a love of words.

    Amberleigh’s poem entitled Snake’s Tongue is an unconventional poem about love, causing one of the judges to comment in their feedback that they liked it because “It was a bit different and showed wisdom beyond her years”.

    “It’s what I call my weirdo poem,” explained Amberleigh. “It’s not straightforward and it twists and flicks, keeping you guessing.”

    The poem is going to be in next year’s edition of the yearbook and someday she would like to write a book of poems herself. For Amberleigh, poetry is a passion, especially slam poetry. “I love the way the words feel and their sound, the meaning behind how you speak and what message you’re trying to send.”

    Growth, another one of Amberleigh’s poems, was chosen to be a part of Christine Daniell’s ‘Poems Around Town’. The street art project focuses on fostering a love of words. A panel chose poems from Wairarapa to hang up around the community and Amberleigh’s poem has pride of place on the side of the Trust Lands Trust building in Masterton.

    Writing comes naturally to Amberleigh, but it wasn’t until she experienced poetry that her creative side really took off. “It was like a key had turned inside me and there was no going back.”

    Kuranui’s Head of English, Kathryn Holmes, said her work ethic and natural ability has meant that she has excelled at the college. “However, it is her heart that makes her very special; this adds depth to her poetry which means her message can resonate with the reader.”

    Apart from writing poetry, Amberleigh also excels in the sciences and her love of environment and communities has seen her enrol in Canterbury University, where she will study Natural Resource Engineering. “I am interested in making our world a cleaner, better place.”

  4. Baradene College of the Sacred Heart Business Page (1/11/18):

    Congratulations to Year 12 student and creative writing club member Kathryn Briggs. Kathryn's poem “Forgetting” has been chosen for publication in the Young Writers Programme journal Signals 2018 for secondary schools and libraries in Auckland. Her poem "Earth is a star to someone" is also to be published in next year’s edition of Poetry New Zealand Yearbook:
    Published Poems
    Congratulations Kathryn Briggs
    2018 10 31 K Last Day Baradene

    Year 12 student, Kathryn Brigg's poem “Forgetting” has been chosen for publication in the Young Writers Programme journal Signals 2018 for secondary schools and libraries in Auckland. The Young Writers Programme is based at the Michael King Writers’ Centre, The National Library, Auckland and publishes Signals, a literary journal that showcases a selection of work students have produced during the year. These pieces may be poetry, prose, comic-art or journalistic writing.

    In Term 3, Kathryn's poem "Earth is a star to someone" received 1st place for the Year 12 category of the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook competition run by Massey University. This poem will be published in next year’s edition of Poetry New Zealand Yearbook.

    Click here to read 'Earth is a star to someone'.”

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Upcoming events: Massey University Poetry Day Reading [24/8/18]

Title: Massey University Reading for National Poetry Day!
Description: Come hear an hour of poetry from emerging, up and coming local poets.
Entry details: Free and open to the public
Time/Date: 12-1.30 p.m, Friday 24 August 2018
Location: AT2, Atrium Building, Massey University Albany Campus
Contact: Bryan Walpert ( or Jack Ross (
Further info: For further information, please contact Bryan or Jack.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Submissions closed for Poetry New Zealand 53

Poetry New Zealand on Fouras beach, côte Atlantique
[photographs: Michael Dean]

Yes, I'm afraid that time has come again: time to fold up your towels and come in out of the sun - submissions for Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2018, issue no. 53, due out in early 2019, are now officially closed.

Fold up that towel!

I'll continue to add various commissioned reviews and other bits and pieces to the text, but any unsolicited work that's sent to me from now on will have to be sent back. You're welcome to start preparing your material for Yearbook 2020 [Issue 54], but it might be better to hold off on that until mid-2019. Once again, we'll be following the convention of accepting entries from Mayday until the end of July.

Some of you may have been feeling a bit uneasy about the lack of a reply to the work you've sent. It's not really practical to acknowledge each submission as it arrives. I do hope that only a very few of you will be kept waiting more than three months from the date of receipt, however.

So please do rest assured that we're working through them all, and that each of you will receive a reply in the very near future.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Paula Green's Review on NZ Poetry Shelf [10/4/18]

What I want from a poetry journal

More and more I witness clusters of poetry communities in New Zealand – families almost – that might be linked by geography, personal connections, associations with specific institutions or publishers. How often do we read reviews of, or poems by, people with whom we don’t share these links? Poetry families aren’t a bad thing, just the opposite, but I wonder whether the conversations that circulate across borders might grow less and less.

I want a poetry journal to offer diversity, whichever way you look, and we have been guilty of all manner of biases. This is slowly changing.

When I pick up a journal I am on alert for the poet that makes me hungry for more, that I want a whole book from.

I am also happy by a surprising little diversion, a poem that holds me for that extra reading. Ah, this is what a poem can do!

Editor Jack Ross has achieved degrees of diversity within the 2018 issue and I also see a poetry family evolving. How many of these poets have appeared in Landfall or Sport, for example? A number of the poets have a history of publication but few with the university presses.

This feels like a good thing. We need organic communities that are embracing different voices and resisting poetry hierarchies.

Poetry NZ Yearbook Annual offers a generous serving of poems (poets in alphabetical order so you get random juxtapositions), reviews and a featured poet (this time Alistair Paterson). It has stuck to this formula for decades and it works.

What I enjoyed about the latest issue is the list of poets I began to assemble that I want a book from. Some I have never heard of and some are old favourites.

Some poets I am keen to see a book from:

Our rented flat in Parnell
Those rooms of high ceilings and sash windows
Our second city
after Sydney
Robert Creeley trying to chat you up
at a Russell Haley party
when our marriage
was sweet

from Bob Orr’s ‘A Woman in Red Slacks’

Bob Orr’s heartbreak poem, with flair and economy, reminds me that we need a new book please.

There is ‘Distant Ophir’, a standout poem from David Eggleton that evokes time and place with characteristic detail. Yet the sumptuous rendering is slightly uncanny, ghostly almost, as past and present coincide in the imagined and the seen.  Gosh I love this poem.

The hard-edged portrait Johanna Emeney paints in ‘Favoured Exception’ demands a spot in book of its own.

I haven’t read anything by Fardowsa Mohamed but I want more. She is studying medicine at Otago and has written poetry since she was a child. Her poem’ Us’, dedicated to her sisters, catches the dislocation of moving to where trees are strange, : ‘This ground does not taste/ of the iron you once knew.’

Mark Young’s exquisite short poem, ‘Wittgenstein to Heidegger’, is a surprising loop between difficulty and easy. Again I hungered for another poem.

Alastair Clarke, another poet unfamiliar to me, shows the way poetry can catch the brightness of place (and travel) in ‘Wairarapa, Distance’. Landscape is never redundant in poetry –  like so many things that flit in and out of poem fashion. I would read a whole book of this.

Another unknown: Harold Coutt’s ‘there isn’t a manual on when you’re writing someone a love poem and they break up with you’ is as much about writing as it is breaking up and I love it. Yes, I want more!

Two poets that caught my attention at The Starling reading at the Wellington Writers Festival are here: Emma Shi and Essa Ranapiri. Their poems are as good on the page as they are in the ear. I have posted a poem from Essa on the blog.

I loved the audacity of Paula Harris filling in the gaps after seeing a photo of Michael Harlow in ‘The poet is bearded and wearing his watch around the wrong way’. Light footed, witty writing with sharp detail. More please!

I am a big fan of Jennifer Compton’s poetry and her ‘a rose, and then another’ is inventive, sound-exuberant play. I can’t wait for the next book.

I am also a fan of the linguistic agility of Lisa Samuels; ‘Let me be clear’ takes sheer delight in electric connections between words.

Finally, and on a sad note, there is Jill Chan’s poem, ‘Poetry’. I wrote about her on this blog to mark her untimely death. It is the perfect way to conclude this review. Poetry is everywhere – it is in all our poetry families.

Most poetry is unwritten,
denied and supposed.
Don’t go to write it.
Go where you’ve never been.
And it may come.
Behind you,
love rests.
And where is poetry?
What is it you seek?

Jill Chan, from ‘Poetry’
Poetry NZ Yearbook page

Paula Green: NZ Poetry Shelf (10/4/18)

Friday, 23 March 2018

Laine Moger's Review in Stuff [22/3/18]

Poetry alive and in progress: Poetry NZ Yearbook 2018 published

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2018 is officially launched at an event in Devonport, with special guest Alistair Paterson.

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2018 is officially launched at an event in Devonport, with special guest Alistair Paterson. [photos: Laine Moger]

A collection of new poetry has been metaphorically launched into the "literary waters" of New Zealand for the 52nd year in a row.

Distinguished poet and Massey creative writing teacher Bryan Walpert officially declared the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2018 launched, at an event at Auckland's Devonport Library on March 20.

Walpert noted the word "launch" was a metaphor, used first by Mark Twain in 1870 and, as poets deal in metaphor, it was fitting to begin such an event with such a word.

Some of the poetry readings elicited a few giggles from the crowd.

Some of the poetry readings elicited a few giggles from the crowd.

The theme of the book was "traditions", and the diversity of poems in it had Walpert describing it as "moving through an interesting and vivacious cocktail party".

Devonport Library launches Poetry New Zealand Yearbook with a slam
Online poetry collection reflects ethnic diversity of New Zealand

The book is filled with image, connotation, figure and form - a variety of poetry, he said.

Alistair Paterson's presence at the event was somewhat of a treat for the poets, many of whom owe him their first ...

Alistair Paterson's presence at the event was somewhat of a treat for the poets, many of whom owe him their first published poem.

"The life of poetry in progress," he said of the book.

Alistair Paterson was the featured poet of the book, and esteemed guest at the launch. For many poets reading at the event, it was Paterson who gave them their first published poem.

He was the previous editor before Massey University Press, for 20 years from 1994 to 2014, and one of his poems was published in the very first publication in 1951.

Poet Devon Webb was asked to return to the event to deliver her slam poetry, a hit at last year's launch.

Poet Devon Webb was asked to return to the event to deliver her slam poetry, a hit at last year's launch.

But Paterson said he was humbled by the poets and flattered Ross had published his poetry in the book.

"I am still learning my craft and learning it from the poets of today," Paterson said.

The privilege was not given by the poet, rather it was the reader who privileges the poet, he added.

Editor Jack Ross said he has been a fan of Richard von Sturmer for as long as he has been interested in poetry.

Editor Jack Ross said he has been a fan of Richard von Sturmer for as long as he has been interested in poetry.

Paterson said the poetry in this book was as good as any one could find overseas in US or Britain.

Editor Jack Ross said the variety and diversity of form in the book was a way to "gauge the temperature" of poetry.

Issue 52 of the yearbook features 130 new poems by 87 poets. The poetry yearbook has been continuously published since 1951.

The yearbook is now available for purchase.

The yearbook is now available for purchase.

Callum Gentleman read two of his poems.

Callum Gentleman read two of his poems.

A selection of poets, including the three winners of the Poetry New Zealand competition, were invited to read at the event in celebration of their craft.

The winners for 2018: 
  • 1st Prize: Fardowsa Mohamed
  • 2nd Prize: Semira Davis
  • 3rd Prize: Henry Ludbrook