Poetry Collections

Dark Days at the Oxygen Cafe

Dark Days at the Oxygen Cafe was brought out by Victoria University Press in 2016. It was launched at the Christchurch Word Festival in August. The striking cover is from a painting by Noel McKenna 'Food on table, dog begging' (2015).

The blurb reads: in Dark Days at the Oxygen Cafe, James Norcliffe looks over the shoulders of many characters and creatures, bit real and imagined. Poems about Seneca and James Dean sit alongside poems about a Turkmen dictator and an owl man. We share a portentous UFO sighting, a small celebration for Laika the space dog, and Peter the Great being offered an Air New Zealand lolly. These scenes from myth, history, pop culture and personal experience make for a wryly funny, deeply felt collection that contemplates the quirks of shared and personal histories.


'His poems invariably get us to attend more closely to the spirit of existence, to moments of being.' - David Eggleton.


'A poetry that risks delight.'


The book has had some very nice reviews. Here is one by Clare Barret on the Book Council site:

DARK DAYS AT THE OXYGEN CAFÉ BY JAMES NORCLIFFE REVIEWED BY CLARE BARRETT

There is something inordinately satisfying in reading a volume of James Norcliffe’s poems – in knowing that you have a slim volume of them in your handbag, nestled in there with your hanky, your 10-trip train ticket and any other necessities of life. You’ll be alright, you won’t be alone out there in the city without charm, humour, the delight of shared experience, the unexpected, the expected, the rise in your heartbeat that beautifully placed rhythm engenders and the brandy-like warmth that a subtle and unprepared for placement of rhyme will gift you.

This is James’ ninth collection of poetry and he has appeared many times in notable anthologies. He has written poems, reviewed them, performed them – he is experienced and skilled at the medium and so can say exactly what he wants and as he wants with wonderful skill and finesse.

The poems in this volume have a refreshing directness. You feel comfortable with what he’s depicting – you’ve seen it and recognise it, or you think you do – and then there’ll be a twist, a quirk, an unexpected colour, a wonderful slipping from your experience to something you haven’t experienced. He seems to do this sometimes with the rhythm and sometimes with concept. It pulls you up and you read it through again in delight – or it makes you hoot with laughter (do not read At the hermitage for the first time in a crowded bus – Peter the Great saying “I could die for a hot chicken” cannot be read in polite silence).

National Sandfly Day is a poem with typical Norcliffe flair and fun:

National Sandfly Day ends with a red sky ends it could be said with sandflies’ delight

But with his fun is this wonderful rhythm set up by using repetition of words. Maybe this is just my fancy but I just want to read this poem out loud to enjoy its capering (also dodgy doing this in a crowded bus).

Test Flight is another one where humour is so wryly and simply described, perfectly paced with the two five-line rhythms and the lovely last two rhyming lines, so perfectly understated but underscoring the suggestion.

And don’t miss the eponymous poem, Dark Days at the Oxygen Café. It is a wonderful “grumpy old men and women” outpouring – not a tirade but a familiar café dissatisfaction and yearning for cafés past that those of us who have been around for a bit will totally warm to:

And whatever happened to gingham—red gingham? It’d be on the table, the waitress’s heart apron, like a warm cheerful laugh. God, I love that stuff.

But though James’ humorous poems stand out because he does it so well, he also writes beautifully and movingly, for instance try By the Arnold, The White Sea and Poem/Epithalamium.

One of James Norcliffe’s poems is absolutely not enough. You have to have a whole volume and we are so lucky to get his latest musings. It’s like being with an old friend on holiday, someone you'd idly comment on everything to. If you broke up your own stream of consciousness into subject categories, James Norcliffe would have a perfectly formed poem for every thought. He seems to have quietly cogitated on everything we experience. If I left home without his poems in my bag now, I wouldn’t feel grounded. “Wouldn’t it rip your petticoat” says Doris in Doris’s petticoat. Yes, Doris, it most certainly would.

 And here's one by Emma Shi from BooksellersNZ

Book Review: Dark Days at the Oxygen Cafe, by James Norcliffe

cv_dark_days_at_the_oxygen_cafeJames Norcliffe is a well-known name in New Zealand poetry and the soft, subtle writing of his newest collection confirms why this is so. Norcliffe’s restrained and delicate style crafts Dark Days at the Oxygen Cafe into an atmospherically cohesive collection that portrays a variety of different lives.

His poem Double Indemnity conveys the quick and suave style of the Film Noir movie the piece is based on. The narrator sounds just like a hard-boiled detective of the genre, a man who describes how his “glass / clinked with the sudden ice in my heart”. Norcliffe portrays Phyllis, the femme fatale, as alluring and dangerous as she is in the movie. The poem focuses on a snapshot of images that make up the heart of this classic black and white movie.

Meanwhile, in James Dean, two characters describe the image of this eponymous and captivating figure; the tilt of a grin, the recurring cigarette. Stories become concrete once written, and through this metaphor, the piece acknowledges the permanence of the past. James Dean will forever be immortalised as the man before his death: young, handsome, and always grappling with danger like that perpetually smoking cigarette.

In another poem, Laika, Norcliffe writes about the first animal to orbit the earth, a stray dog from Moscow named Laika. Norcliffe’s note at the back of the book explains how Laika would have probably died after a few hours in space. And so, Norcliffe renders her brief life in the cosmos into something strange and wonderful but also especially sad. It is a world where human achievement happens at the cost of an animal’s life, a world where “we will keep the cosmos company… as what remains of Laika / falls like incandescent snow”.

The Amnesia Aquarium is an especially beautiful piece. In the depth of the aquarium, snippets of memory are like brief flashes of light that reflect off the scales of fish. The accumulation of this memory becomes a whirlpool of images; Norcliffe poignantly describes them as “nebulae you can barely remember / shining in a familiar sky”, mixing the cosmos into his aquarium of memory.

The scope of well-known figures and those less familiar creates a collection of poems that are fragments of both stories and lives. The final life, a poem titled The death of Seneca, closes off Dark Days at the Oxygen Cafe. It portrays the indifference of Seneca who, when ordered to commit suicide, could only go through the motions in a strange, disassociated way, telling his servants to “bring him sharp blades, bring him pomegranates”. Here, Seneca is another character who captures a moment of frailty. This moment is so striking that Seneca has been remembered for thousands of years after his death.

Although death is a common theme for the characters Norcliffe presents, his writing is reassuring in its subtle beauty. Since many of these characters are stuck within concrete events that have already happened, Norcliffe also shows how emotions like longing are timeless. He renders this feeling across multiple stories and lives, each character or creature with their own experience of pleasure and pain.

A review by Roger Caldwell in London Grip:

Roger Caldwell observes that James Norcliffe makes poetry look deceptively easy

dark_days_at_the_oxygen_cafeDark Days at the Oxygen Café James Norcliffe Victoria University Press ISBN 978-1-77656-083-7 80 pp. $25.00

James Norcliffe, the veteran New Zealand poet, deserves to be better-known in this country. His new collection (his ninth) begins with a series of poems labelled ‘Poème Noir’ in homage to the film noir. The opening of ‘Blue’ is in that Gothic mode in which horror metamorphoses into laughter. The rueful narrator confesses: “I should have had my suspicions / when I discovered that she worked / at the National Poisons Centre.” The name Porphyria, and mention of her mass of golden hair, alert us to a poem by Browning in which Porphyria’s lover relates how he comes to strangle her with three strands of that golden hair. In Norcliffe’s poem, however, it is the woman who is the aggressor, and the man who (belatedly) realizes he is in danger. Her hair falls about her shoulders “in such sweet chords and shrouds”. Her eyes are like “fluted phials”. This surely should serve to give warning enough: “How could I be so disposed,” he asks himself finally, “when her lips were half open / and her eyes half closed?” She is not the only woman to be wary of in this group of poems: in ‘Double Indemnity’ Phyllis, likewise with half-open lips, has a crooked finger, and “fastidious nostrils // scenting the death of a husband”. In ‘Uncanny valley’ where “the rocks looked really like rocks” Chloris might be described as only “slightly scary” but she has a problem (or at least, the narrator does) with reality: the solitaire on her finger may be “real” but Chloris’ finger on which it sits is not. (In this short poem no less than three of its lines end with the word “real”.)

Norcliffe is here playing games with appearance and reality. The grand guignol and a sense of the grotesque are never far away. It is hard to say quite how the bald statement that “under a green moon, the visitors / play croquet’ charms with its oddness but that it does so is beyond doubt. Everywhere in Norcliffe’s work there is a narrative urge – we are always in effect being promised a story but that story is at most implied and never quite told.

In the book’s title poem it is language itself that is slippery. It is not clear why the night is said to “creak” or to be “on its very/ last legs” (as the café itself may be) or even less why it should creak “like the battered waiter with / his varicose veins and garlic”. But to the narrator it is the Oxygen Café which fails him – cold where it used to be warm, playing recordings of Seventies music in place of a live pianist, and giving up on linen. Embittered, he protests: “A man shouldn’t have / to live in a world of Kleenex.” Most of all he complains about the lack of gingham. “It’d be on the table,” he remembers from former days, “like a warm cheerful laugh.” Finally he confesses: “God, I loved that stuff.” This nostalgia for gingham has something comical about it – a passion misplaced, one might think – and yet one finds oneself strangely moved by it.

The book’s second section, ‘National Sandfly Day’, also has its misplaced emotions. Why are we called on to commemorate this tiresome pest? The same solemn language we use in respect of soldiers who died in war is here applied to sandflies whose deaths do not usually make us “penitent”. But here, in the title poem of this section, things are otherwise: bare arms and legs are offered up in “atonement for those smudged / millions who have given their lives / for being simply what they were.”

In the remaining three sections of the book – ‘Topiary at the camp’, ‘What do you call your male parent?’, and ‘The White Sea’ – there is no shortage of further surprises, whether these are of the fairy-tale variety (in ‘The big bride’ the problem is simply that the bride has become suddenly and inexplicably too big) or are based on fact (we are referred to the former dictator of Turkmenistan who ordained that the word for bread should be replaced with the name of his deceased mother). Not that he is beyond tampering with the facts if he so wants: in the last poem in the book ‘The Death of Seneca’ the philosopher, commanded to commit suicide by Nero, asks his servants to run a warm bath, to bring him blades, and – somewhat incongruously – pomegranates (which are absent from the famous account of Seneca’s death by Tacitus). There is a certain insouciance in the way Norcliffe re-fashions or re-interprets reality: in ‘Test Flight’ (presumably based on a domestic incident) a child pushes its younger sibling off the roof in a “pillowslip parachute” then gazes on the result. Norcliffe addresses the child:

you must have stood among the starling feathers wiser, not necessarily sadder before you descended the ladder.

Norcliffe’s debts to surrealism – and the tradition of nonsense – are evident in many of these poems. Many of them make one laugh with their wry humour or incongruous juxtapositions. But the thought occurs: How seriously are we meant to take them? And isn’t poetry supposed to be a difficult art? Norcliffe very much eases the readers task. Indeed, I can recall few collections of poetry so compulsively readable as this one is, or so consistently entertaining. With their simple but supple syntax and immediacy of effect these poems draw us into a world where everything seems a little askew – but joyfully so. Nor does he make great claims to philosophical profundity:

I’m a fool but aren’t we all, wallowing in the sun, the day, with naught to say but fol-de-lay, but fol-de-lay?

In a more serious vein ‘By the Arnold’ offers an analogy with fishing: in art you can make the perfect cast and follow through, but it is unclear what (if anything) you will catch: whatever it is, he tells us, “it can only be lost”. Norcliffe is not exactly an opaque writer but he is allusive, and the result is often less translucent than his stripped-down language would suggest. True, he supplies us with notes, but they are sparse, and don’t tell us all we might wish to know. For example, he informs us that omphalomancy is a method of divination by the navel, but doesn’t explain quite how it works. But maybe we don’t need to know. There are always going to be holes in our understanding. Norcliffe offers us something better. French critics once spoke of jouissance in respect of literature. Norcliffe, supreme entertainer that he is, returns us with a vengeance to the pleasures of the text.


Leaving the Red Zone

The Canterbury earthquakes were, at the same time, a set of universal and deeply personal experiences.   To me the strength of this collection is how it brings these two together: the shared and the personal. Here we have 150 or so very idiosyncratic takes on the events. There are such a variety of responses, of voices, of attitudes, of styles: metrical, prosaic, elevated, colloquial, lyrical, meditative, cynical, elegiac and drop-dead funny.

There are poems that dive under the table capturing the immediacy of the moment and there are reflective pieces that follow Wordsworth’s dictum about recollecting emotion in tranquillity.   The earthquakes spurred creativity. That’s no reason to have them of course, but people riding Fiona Farrell’s horse were shaken up and bucked about, and so were their imaginations, and often their very language.  

Here are amazing poems, open eyed and honest, poems to read and re-read. Like so many other communities in our city and neighbourhoods our poets have come together.

Leaving the Red Zone is edited by James Norcliffe and Joanna Preston and published by Clerestory Press, Christchurch. All proceeds will go to the Mayoral Earthquake Relief Fund.

Packing a Bag for Mars

Packing A Bag for Mars came about at the prompting of Dr Glyn Strange of the Christchurch School for Young Writers. Glyn felt that a number of my poems worked well with young readers although not specifically written for them. He felt that a collection of such poems including glosses and teaching notes would be a Good Idea. He enlisted the aid of well-known artist and illustrator of books for children Jenny Cooper, and Packing a Bag for Mars was born.


As the blurb puts it: "The poems, along with Jenny Cooper's witty illustrations, reveal what most teachers and nearly all pupils secretly know - that poetry can be fun to read and fun to write.


Here you'll fin poems that play, poems that pick your pocket, poems that will put a smile on your face and pepper your pizza. For the most part they are easily accessible but in case they do puzzle and perplex at times, there are explanatory notes and a guide to the main poetic techniques used.

Even better, there is a helpful interview with a friendly author and writing prompts for each poem, to encourage you to pack your own bag for Mars - or wherever else that poetry may take you.

The book has been very well received by students, teachers and reviewers alike.

Here's what Paula Green said on her blog Poetry Box:

Packing a Bag for Mars by James Norcliffe with illustrations by Jenny Cooper. Published by Clerestory Press, Christchurch. clerestory@xtra.co.nz  $27

The School for Young Writers in Christchurch commissioned James Norcliffe to write a book of poems for students. This book isn’t just a collection of poems though. It is like a packed suitcase that you can take on your own poetry adventures to the sea, the moon, the city, foreign countries, the zoo, the park, home or school. I think poets are like explorers and our bags are backed with all the books we have read and all the poetry techniques we have played with. So I think this the perfect title for a poetry book.

James has also included an interview where he answers questions about writing; questions about punctuation, new lines, redrafting, whether poems need to rhyme and much much more. Each poem comes with a poetry-launch pad. James comes up with an idea for you to get started on your poem. They are so good, instead of writing this review I wanted to be writing a poem about what I might pack if I were to travel the length of the Nile in case strange and wonderful things happened to me.

At the end of the book there are notes on all the poems. James tells you where he got the idea for the poem from, what some of the words mean and reveals some of the poetry techniques he uses. It is like he opens a window for you to peek through and get a wider and more splendid view of his poem. Usually poems are places where we get to go exploring on our own (and this great too!)  

What I love about James as a poet is that he is prepared to test out all kinds of things when he writes. His poems can make you think about things differently and feel things differently. He writes about all kinds of subjects from sports to celebrations to superstitions to dressing for peace. James has written a book of poems that is full of challenges so it is a book that will inspire many of us to write more and to write in new ways. As a poet I always like to try things I haven’t done before. I like to set myself new and exciting challenges.

I see this book as a real gift for students from Year 5 or 6 right though to Year 13.


Shadow Play

Shadow Play brings together many of the poems written between Villon in Millerton and 2010 or thereabouts. As a result in includes poems written in Tasmania during my time on the Islands of Residencies programme and my time in Iowa during the three months I enjoyed on the International Writing Programme at the University of Iowa. In an earlier incarnation and under a different title, the book was one of the three finalists in the inaugural Kathleen Grattan Award as judged by Fleur Adcock. The winner of that competition was Joanna Preston with her terrific collection The Summer King

I tinkered with the set and sometime later submitted it to the Proverse International Writing Prize at the suggestion of Vaughan Rapatahana who had had success there with Home, Away, Elsewhere and for which I provided an introduction. Shadow Play was a finalist in 2011 and published in 2012. Dr Gillian Bickley of Proverse felt the book should include an audio CD of the contents and while I was at Otago University this year as children’s writer in residence at the College of Education I took the opportunity to record the entire collection at the audio-visual centre in the Owheo Building, Union Street.

The cover design includes a sculpted figure by Salvador Dali which seems nicely appropriate. Proverse volumes include a preface introducing the book and the writer and I was delighted when my old friend and fellow writer Bernadette Hall agreed to provide one for me. It is both warm and judicious. Proverse also asked me to provide ‘garlands’ or blurby endorsements, and I am grateful to various writers and editors who agreed to supply these: Mike Bartholomew-Biggs of London Grip, Don Bogen of Cincinnati Review, David Eggleton of Landfall, Fiona Farrell, Michael Harlow, and Richard Peabody of Gargoyle.

Among the poems – 

After the Foxhead first appeared in Agni in 2007

along the groynes first appeared in JAAM in 2007 and subsequently in Notes for the Translators from 142 New Zealand and Australian poets (ASM, Macao).

at Fossil Gorge first appeared in the Iowa Review in 2008

ATM first appeared in Gargoyle 53 in 2008

the bookman in love and the bookman after love both first appeared in the Cider Press Review, 2005.

By the lake first appeared in Bravado in 2007.         

Caldera  first appeared in the New Zealand Listener in 2007          

cervena first appeared in the Asheville Review in 2005

the colour of tenderness first appeared in Southerly in 2006

the Empress Cixi among the lotuses first appeared in Island in 2006endgame first appeared in the Iowa Review in 2008

Errol Flynn at Battery Point first appeared in Island in 2006Forgiveness at Ramadan’s End first appeared in London Grip, 2012

the frog in the orchid  first appeared in the New Zealand Listener in 2007

Hamlet nurses his beer first appeared in The Fiddlehead in 2010 and was subsequently chosen for the Tuesday Poem by Harvey Molloy

House first appeared in the The MacGuffin in 2005

Ichthyosaurus  first appeared in the Landfall in 2006

kissing Lord Kitchener first appeared in the Main Street Rag in 2007

the knowledge of the case manager  first appeared in JAAM in 2007

Lost in Nineveh first appeared in The Literary Review in and subsequently in                    

Kaupapa: New Zealand poets: world issues in 2008

Lygon Street first appeared in the Main Street Rag in 2007

the man who burnt his hat first appeared in the Coe Review in 2008

the mapmaker’s mistake first appeared in the Yalobusha Review in 2012


Missing the Whirling Dervishes first appeared in Poetry Quarterly in 2010         

my alien vegetable first appeared in London Grip, 2012

nor’west arch  first appeared in the Poesia in 2008

orthography first appeared in the Broadsheet: New New Zealand Poetry in 2009

A Pink Dolphin Made of Glass first appeared in the Sugar House Review in 2011

a pork pie from Montpelier Retreat first appeared in the Alimentum in 2007       

safe passage first appeared in JAAM in 2007 and subsequently in Kaupapa: New Zealand  poets: world issues in 2008

Scaffolding first appeared in the Harvard Review 2007

shadow play first appeared in Puerto del Sol, 2006

Sleeping the sleep of the dead first appeared in the Iowa Review in 2008

Tenniel draws Alice in a sea of tears  first appeared in London Grip in 2012

Towards the mountain appeared in an earlier version in Bravado in 2008 and subsequently in an amended version in Fiddlehead in 2010

trapeze first appeared in Double Jointed collaborations with Jenny Powell-Chalmers (Inkweed) 2004 and in the Raintown Review in 2011.


vindaloo first appeared in the Alimentum in 2007                                                               

when the heart attack came first appeared in Fulcrum: An Annual Of Poetry And

Aesthetics in 2006

yet another poem about a giraffe first appeared in the Cincinnati Review 2009, and subsequently in Best NZ Poems in 2010 and was included in the anthology Best of Best NZ Poems 2011                            

Proverse (Hong Kong) 2012

Villon in Millerton

The poems in Villon in Millerton were largely written in the period following my time in Dunedin  and the publication of Along Blueskin Road and before my time in Iowa with the International Writing Program.

The book’s blurb announces the three sequences that anchor the collection and goes on: “The title sequence imagines a fifteenth-century French poet, Francois Villon, fetching up in the isolated and deserted West Coast town of Millerton; another sequence brilliantly evokes the mysteries of the Indian Rope Trick, while a concluding group focuses on the contradictory character of the nineteenth-century missionary Samuel Marsden. The range of subjects – from the red admiral butterfly to the attack on Baghdad – and tones – from meditation to satire – along with the poet’s acute ear and sharp eye make this book always unexpected and illuminating.”

Millerton was not completely deserted. It was home at the time to the late Leicester Kyle, poet and Anglican priest, who had invited a group of Christchurch poets to share in a poetry reading there in the local fire brigade garage. At this strange, memorable event I saw that Millerton might just have suited Francois Villon and in fact I met a person at the reading who might just  have been his incarnation. An ‘alpha male’ Leicester called hm.
I am hugely grateful to the New York based artist Klara Tamas who allowed us to use her astonishing image of Villon for the cover which was designed by Christine Hanson.


Among the poems ...
A number of the poems in Samuel Marsden in Glory including Agnus Dei, Ceteris Paribus, Eucharist, Requiem and Wreck of the Brampton were published in Poetry NZ 30 in 2005.

The Albatrosses first appeared in the Artsenta anthology Song of the Belly Button Man in Dunedin in 2002 and was prompted by a painting by K-Dee Marsh called Royal Serenity. It later appeared in Equinox in the UK and Nimrod in the USA in 2005                       

Antigone in the rock pool first appeared in  Dreamcatcher (UK) in 2003.

The Ascent later appeared in Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, edited by Tim Jones and Mark Pirie IP (Brisbane, Australia, 2009)                                

The Attack on Baghdad first appeared in the Christchurch Press, 2004 and later in the Hazmat Review (USA) in 2005 and in Towards The Impossible 3rd Wellington International Poetry Festival Anthology also in 2005.

The Blind sheep of Argentina first appeared in Mobius (USA) in 2004.                                         

Boiled  Sweets first appeared in the Chaffin Journal (USA) in 2005

Confetti first appeared in the Meridian Anthology Of Contemporary Poetry (USA) 2004 and in Poetry NZ in 2005.

Eros in the garden first appeared in Wandering Dog (UK) in 2003.

Festive lentils first appeared in Glottis in 2003 and subsequently appeared in the anthology Swings And Roundabouts (ed Emma Neale) Random House in 2008

A field guide to the wildflowers of the moon first appeared in Many Mountains Moving (USA) in 2004 and in Poetry NZ 30 in 2005.

Finches in the snow first appeared in the Greensboro Review (USA) in 2005 and in Towards The Impossible 3rd Wellington International Poetry Festival Anthology also in 2005.

Fish salad at Latino’s first appeared in Glottis in 2003 and in Mobius (USA) in 2004.

The gentle art of manipulation first appeared in Landfall 204 in 2003 and in The Wolf 5 (UK) 2004

The Great Tortoise of the Galapagos  first appeared in Fulcrum: An Annual Of Poetry And Aesthetics (USA) in 2006.

How to dress for peace first appeared in Wandering Dog (UK) in 2003 and in the Hazmat Review (USA) 2006 and later in Towards The Impossible 3rd Wellington International Poetry Festival Anthology also in 2005. Subsequently it featured in the Dominion Post  Sat June 2, 2007. A Utube clip of my reading this poem at the Medellin International Poetry Festival can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJfwSZmSfrA

How to talk to a peacock first appeared in Glottis in 2001 and in Harpur Palate [USA] in 2003 and Dreamcatcher (UK) in 2003                                               

I Love Blood Donors first appeared in Iron (UK)  in 1993

Inamorata first appeared in Peer Poetry International 2002 (UK) and later in Towards The Impossible 3rd Wellington International Poetry Festival Anthology in 2005.

The Indian Rope Trick first appeared in  Landfall in 2004.                                    

The Issue of Euthanasia first appeared in Poetry NZ 30 in 2005 and in Poetry International 10 (USA) 2005.

Kant’s Dove first appeared in The Macguffin (USA) in 2005 and in New Windows On A Woman’s World : A Festchrift For Jocelyn Harris Ed by Colin Gibson & Lisa Marr, English Department, University of Otago 2005

Les haricots sont pas sales first appeared in  Revival  OUSA - Critic Literary Review in 2002 and later in  Gargoyle  46  (USA) in 2003 and in Poetry NZ 30 2005.

Love in the jam maker's mansion first appeared in  With Our Eyes Open Ed Ruth Unger, Peb Simmons &  Kathleen Gallagher, Chrysalis 2002 and in Orbis 126 (UK) 2002 where it was placed 3rd place in the Orbis 127 Readers Poll. In 2012 it was included in Paula Green’s Dear Heart: 150 New Zealand Love Poems (Random House).

March Days first appeared in Poetry NZ 30, in Poetry Aoteoroa (Australia) in 2005 and later in Towards The Impossible 3rd Wellington International Poetry Festival Anthology in 2005.

Meccano first appeared in Nimrod (USA) in 2005

My mad wife in the attic first appeared in Illuminations (USA) in 2005

Omega first appeared in Poetry NZ 30 in 2005 and in Poetry International 10 (USA) 2005.

Omoto Road first appeared in Wandering Dog (UK) in 2003

Portugal first appeared in Deep South in 2002, in Jones Ave (Canada) in 2003 and in Exit 13 (USA) 2006

Red admiral on the rocks at Sugarloaf first appeared in Revival OUSA-Critic Literary Review 2002 and later in New Zealand Books  2003. In 2009 it was included in Siobhan Harvey’s anthology Our Own Kind, 100 New Zealand Poems about Animals. (Random House).

Sarsaparilla in the carpark first appeared in Poetry NZ 30 2005

Schadenfreude  first appeared in Glottis in 2003, in The Stinging Fly 18 [Ireland] in 2004 and later in Poetry Aoteoroa (Australia) in 2005. The New Zealand composer Jonathan Crehan has set Schedenfreude to music for soprano and piano and a version is here: http://nz.myspace.com/578696582

Song of the Belly Button Man first featured in The Song Of The Belly Button Man an anthology published by Artsenta, Dunedin 2002.,The poem was prompted by the eponymous drawing by Pam Helm and this picture featured in Villon in Millerton as well as the original book.

Squeegee first featured in The Dalhousie Review [Canada] in 2005.

Tchaikovsky enters a new and darker period of his life first featured Dreamcatcher [UK] in 2003.

Towards devotion featured in Other Poetry (UK)  in 2004.

Up in the valley featured in  Deep South in 2002 and in Mobius (USA) in 2004.

The opening section of Villon in Millerton featured in  Verse (USA) and subsequently in Jacket in 2002. The entire sequence first appeared in Poetry NZ in 2003.

  Auckland University Press, 2007

Along Blueskin Road

Along Blueskin Road was largely the product of my time as Burns Fellow at Otago University in 2000. The road in the title is a road on the Otago Peninsula which heads north towards Blueskin Bay. That Canterbury University Press published the book came about as a result of a chance meeting with the late Richard King who was managing editor and Jeff Field the then director of the press at the Raspberry Cafe in Tai Tapu. The cover is a painting Lyric Rider by Eion Stevens. This was doubly appropriate as the painting not only expresses the tone of the many of the poems but also as two poems in the book Sleep Sleep and The Plug were prompted by Eion's paintings.

Among the poems

The AIDS billboard on Labuan first appeared in JAAM 16 in 2001 and later in Illuminations 18 (USA) 2002.

Alone, with cactus first appeared in Poetry NZ 20 in 2000 and later in Flyway, A Literary Journal (USA) 2001.

 The title poem, Along Blueskin Road first appeared in Obsessed With Pipework 12 (UK) 2000 and later in Poem/Place: Dunedin Mapped In Poetry, An Anthology Ed Robin Law, University Of Otago 2001. It maintains a web presence in The Poetry Library South Bank Centre (UK) 2003.

 Along Cave Stream first appeared in The Antigonish Review (Canada) and in Poetry NZ 23 in 2001. It featured in Double Jointed Collaborations With Jenny Powell-Chalmers (Inkweed) in 2004.

 Ampoules first appeared in Wandering Dog (UK) 2003.

 Billy's boat first appeared in Orbis  (UK) in 2002 and in Diner [USA] in 2004.

 Califont first appeared in Tears In The Fence  29(UK) in 2001, in JAAM in 2003 and in Diner [USA] in 2004.

Conspiracy Theory first appeared in Landfall 200 in 2000 and in the Poetry Salzburg Review (UK/Austria) 2001.


The Cow Poem, first appeared in Obsessed With Pipework 12 (UK) in 2000 and subsequently in the Press, Christchurch in 2001. It maintains a web presence in The Poetry Library South Bank Centre (UK) 2003 and on various other websites where it has been ilustrated and animated.                      

 Epithalamium/The sandflies first appeared in Staple (UK)  and Glottis 4 in 2000.

 express, Tientsin first appeared in  Braquemard (UK) in 2000 and in Queen's Quarterly (Canada)   in 2001.

 Fur Elise first appeared in the NZ Listener and the Abiko Quarterly (Japan) in 2000.

 George’s shirts  first appeared in Landfall  201 in  2001 and in The Manhattan Review (USA) 2003.

Gershwin on the car stereo first appeared in North & South and in Staple 51 (UK) in 2001, and in
Porcupine (USA) in 2002.

 The Greatest Show on Earth first appeared in Landfall in 2003.

 Hairline fracture first appeared in the Baltimore Review, USA in 2001 and in Bravado in 2003.

 Here first appeared in Ulitarra (Australia in 2000.

 Jalousie first appeared in JAAM in 2003, in Double Jointed Collaborations With Jenny Powell-Chalmers (Inkweed) and in The Distillery (USA) in 2004.

 Jazz at the Robbie Burns first appeared in Poem/Place: Dunedin Mapped In Poetry, An Anthology Ed Robin Law, University Of Otago in 2001 and in Deep South in 2002. In 2004 it was included in both

Under Flagstaff: An Anthology Of Dunedin Poems ed Murray University Of Otago Press and in
Double Jointed Collaborations With Jenny Powell-Chalmers (Inkweed).

 Lemon Pepper first appeared in Tirra Lirra (Australia) in 2001 and in Peer Poetry International 2002 (UK) in 2002.

 Lone pine at Quarantine Point first appeared in Famous Reporter (Australia) in 2000.

Made objects first appeared in New Zealand Books in 2000, and in Harpweaver (Canada) in 2001 and Flaming Arrows (Ireland) in 2002.

Olivier Messaien in the Dunedin Botanical Gardens first appeared in Poem/Place: Dunedin Mapped In Poetry, An Anthology Ed Robin Law, University Of Otago in 2001.

Planchette first appeared in Psychopoetica 64 (UK)  in 2000 and then in Landfall 201 in 2001 and in the New Delta Review (USA) in 2002. It was subsequently included in Contemporary Poets In Performance ed Jack Ross & Jan Kemp Auckland University Press in 2007 and in Nurse To The Imagination Ed Lawrence Jones Otago University Press in 2008.

Plug prompted by a painting by Eion Stevens was first published in Glottis in 2001 and in an Eion Stevens tribute in Takahe in 2003.

 Richard loves raw mussels was first published in the New Zealand Listener in 2000.

Sad hands was first published in JAAM 16 in 2001 and in Deep South in 2002. It was later collected in
With Our Eyes Open Ed Ruth Unger, Peb Simmons & Kathleen Gallagher, Chrysalis, 2002.

 Seahorses at Portobello was first published in Island [Australia), The Manhattan Review  [USA] and Glottis in 2003.

A sense of direction was first published in Obsessed With Pipework 12 (UK) and Takahe in 2000, and in The Antigonish Review (Canada) in 2001. It maintains a web presence in The Poetry Library South Bank Centre (UK) 2003. In 2004 it was included in Double Jointed Collaborations With Jenny Powell-Chalmers (Inkweed) and included in Nurse To The Imagination Ed Lawrence Jones Otago University Press in 2008.

Sleep sleep  was first published in Takahe in 2003 and subsequently appeared in the Cincinnatti Review in 2005.                          

Snow to low levels was first published in the New Zealand Listener in 2000 and in Heliotrope (USA) in 2001.

Strong  relationships was first published in The Journal  (UK) and JAAM 16 in 2001 and in 2004 it was included in Double Jointed Collaborations With Jenny Powell-Chalmers (Inkweed).

Susie was first published in Glottis 4 in 2000.

 Swiftlets was first published in The Malahat Review (Canada) in 2001.

Vice versa party was first published in Southerly (Australia) in 2001 and after it featured in Along Blueskin Road it was chosen for Best New Zealand Poems 2005 ed Andrew Johnson 2006.

 Wanting to be two dogs  was first published in Jones Av (Canada) in 2001 and in Poetry NZ 30 in 2005.

The Water of Leith  was first published in  Deep South in 2002. In 2004 it was included in 
Under Flagstaff: An Anthology Of Dunedin Poems ed Murray University Of Otago Press.

 Yippee  was first published in Gargoyle  44 (USA) in 2001 and in Sport in 2002. It was included in Nurse To The Imagination Ed Lawrence Jones Otago University Press in 2008.

The young governess was first published Takahe 47 in 2002. It was prompted by a painting of that name by the 18th century French artist J.B.S Chardin.

Canterbury University Press, 2005

Rat Tickling

Rat Tickling came out under the imprint of Sudden Valley Press, a poetry dedicated publishing project developed by Christchurch poet John O’Connor with David Gregory’s help. Its confidence and energy was astonishing. On one occasion they must have set a New Zealand record by launching seven books on a single occasion. Among the poets they have published (in addition to themselves) are Graham Lindsay, Helen Jacobs, John Allison, Mark Pirie, Nick Williamson, Helen Bascand, Frankie McMillan and Tony Beyer. I was hugely grateful to my friend, artist Rudolf Boelee who agreed to design the cover and the book and who did so, assisted by Jayne Joyce, with stylised letter forms inspired by the ‘60’s covers of jazz label Blue Note.  Many of the poems were influenced by the time in Borneo as were the poems in the second section of A Kind of Kingdom.

Among the poems...

Accordion Band at the Eventide Home first appeared in the New Zealand Listener, 1998 and later in Stand (UK) September, 2000.

Albeniz from a window first appeared in Centoria (Australia), 1999 and later in Sport (2000)  and the Poetry Salzburg Review (UK/Austria) 2001.

At Franz Josef first appeared in the Christchurch Press, 2000 and later in Terry Locke’s anthology Doors (Leaders Press, 2000), and Contemporary Poems in Performance edited by Jack Ross  and Jan Kemp (Auckland University Press, 2007) which includes both text and my recording of the poem on CD.

Bullrush first appeared in The Fiddlehead (Canada), 2000. 

The Comedians first appeared in Poetry NZ, 2000, and later in Southerly (Australia) 2000,  Fire (UK), 2000 and Pearl (USA) 2003. 

Coupled first appeared in the Antigonish Review (Canada) 1998.

The Discovery of the Map first appeared in Prism International (Canada) 2000.

Gamelan at the Capulet Ball first appeared in the Windsor Review (Canada) and Southerly (Australia) 1999.

Hello is my friend first appeared in Poetry NZ , 1999.

Henri Rousseau first appeared in Grain (Canada) and Envoi (UK), 1999.

History Teacher first appeared in Amelia (USA) 1998 and Tirra Lirra (Australia), 2001.

Honoured Guests first appeared in Litter (OUSA Literary Review ), 2000.

Hororata first appeared in The Dalhousie Review (Canada ), 1999.

In the letter first appeared in Sport, the Wascana Review (Canada) and Seam (UK) 1999. It subsequently appeared in Fusebox and E-Zine division of Rattapallax (USA) in 2003.

Indwell this house with joy first appeared in Ariel (Canada ), 2000.

Julia’s Fish first appeared in the New Zealand Listener, 1999.

The Kids are Smoking first appeared in Queens Quarterly (Canada) and Tears in the Fence (UK) in 1999 and in Sport, 2000. It later appeared in English and in Chinese translation in Ming Dao Literature and Art , a Taiwanese journal in 2001. It was subsequently chosen for Best New Zealand Poems 2003, edited by Bill Manhire, 2004.

Lizards first appeared in Poetry NZ and the Antigonish Review (Canada), 1999.

Motukarara first appeared in The Windsor Review (Canada) and Seam (UK), 1999. It was later anthologised in And Me For All of Those (Clerestory Press) 2000 and in Big Sky – Poems of Canterbury (Shoal Bay Press) 2002.

The Mudfish first appeared in the New Zealand Listener, The Fiddlehead (Canada), The Tabla Book of New Verse (UK), and the Abiko Quarterly (Japan) in 2000.

The Naked Eye first appeared in the Dalhousie Review (Canada) 1999, and later in JAAM, 2001, and in Flaming Arrows (Ireland) in 2002.

The Painter first appeared The Tabla Book of New Verse (UK) in 1999 and subsequently selected as the Tuesday poem in The Independent, 1999.

Pacific Cement first appeared Envoi (UK) in 2000.

Ping Pong first appeared in the North and South and Planet (UK) in 1999, and in Siglo (Australia), 2000.

Photographing Fungi  first appeared Poetry NZ in 1999.

Photo-Journalism first appeared in Litter (OUSA Literary Review) and in Heliotrope (USA), 2000, and in Tears in the Fence (UK) 2001.

Post Coital  first appeared in the Wascana Review (Canada) in 1999.

Rat Tickling  first appeared in The Rialto (UK) in 1999.

Photo-Journalism first appeared in Litter (OUSA Literary Review) and in Heliotrope (USA), 2000, and in Tears in the Fence (UK) 2001.

Remembering Snodgrass first appeared in The MacGuffin(Canada) and Mattoid (Australia)2000, and in The Frogmore Papers(UK), 2001.  It was later anthologised in With Our Eyes Open (Chrysalis) 2002.

Reservoir first appeared in Under the Canopy an anthology published by CfBT (Brunei Darussalam) 1998 and in Redoubt(Australia), 1998.

Returning the Leg first appeared in Fire (UK) 2001 and appears online in The Poetry Library South Bank Centre website (UK) 2003.

Snow first appeared Amelia (USA) in 1998 and in Chinese translation in Ming Dao Literature and Art , a Taiwanese journal in 2001.

The sphagnum moss industry first appeared in Takahe in 2002. It was later anthologised in With Our Eyes Open (Chrysalis) 2002.

Splurge first appeared in Tears in the Fence (UK) in 2001. 

Tango first appeared in Southerly (Australia) in 1999. 

That May first appeared in The Windsor Review (Canada) 1999, North and South, 2000, and Mattoid (Australia) 2001.

Three Canaries first appeared in Confrontation Magazine (USA) 1998,and the New Zealand Listener, 1998.

Tomorrow and everyday thereafter first appeared in Takahe in 2000 and in Poetry Greece (Greece) 2001.

Tycho Brahe’s nose first appeared in Planet (UK) in 1999.

Voyeur first appeared in The Dalhousie Review (Canada) and in Social Alternatives (Australia) in 1999.

Wooden Diseases first appeared in Stand Magazine (UK) in 1998.

Your Mother first appeared in the New Zealand Listener in 1999.

Zam Zam Brilliantine first appeared in Tears in the Fence (UK) in 1998.

 
Sudden Valley Press, 2003

A Kind of Kingdom

Whereas Letters to Dr Dee was an especially skinny book A Kind of Kingdom turned out to be a somewhat fat collection. I had sent Fergus Barrowman of Victoria University Press a manuscript I’d called Blue Heart which he liked an agreed to publish. This corresponded with our leaving for Brunei Darussalam and my entering quite a creative period and my beginning to send my work beyond New Zealand. This was partly prompted by my friend and fellow poet John Allison’s successes in having his work accepted offshore. Thus we entered a friendly competition and to this day I continue to send much of my work to journals in the USA, the UK and elsewhere. There were eventually so many new poems that Fergus contemplated a second book, but then had the idea of a breaking with the tradition of a “slim volume” and adding the new poems to the original  collection, albeit in two parts Blue Heart and Disney Fingers, corresponding largely with pre Brunei and Brunei periods. The title comes from a line in the poem June which is in the collection.

Among the poems...

Above the Estuary first appeared in Plainwraps 5, 1991 and was subsequently included in two Canterbury anthologies: Big Sky (ed. James Norcliffe & Bernadette Hall) Shoal Bay Press, 2002, and Land Very Fertile: Banks Peninsula in Poetry and Prose (ed David Gregory and Coral Atkinson) Canterbury University Press.

Accidents of History first appeared in Illuminations  14 (UK/USA), 1998

Art Lovers first appeared in Takahe 33 and later, much later in Krax Magazine (UK), c2008

The Assassination of Marion Dufrene first appeared in Sport 20, 1998 and also online in Trout 3 1998. It was republished in 2006 in Bill Direen’s Percutio and New Zealand / French journal.

Attention having been drawn to the chin first appeared in Takahe  4, 1990.

Back of Our place later appeared in English and in Chinese translation in Ming Dao Literature and Art a Taiwanese journal in 2001.

Black Shoes first appeared in Plainwraps 5, 1991 and later in Nexus 28 (USA) 1993.

Boat Shoes first appeared in Takahe 33, 1998 and in Parnassus Literary Journal (USA) 1998.

Buffalo Bill Codeine first appeared in Sport, 1998 and in Illuminations  14 (UK/USA), 1998.

Cat City first appeared in New Hope International (UK), 1997.

Cat/Dog  first appeared in Plainwraps 1,  1988 then in Voiceprints (Canterbury Poets Collective anthology), 1990, and in Iron 69 (UK) 1993.

Chalk first appeared in Takahe 33 , 1998 and later in the London Magazine (UK) 2004.

Conscious of Security first appeared in Redoubt (Australia), 1998.

Copper Bracelet first appeared in Outposts(UK), 1999. Later it appeared in English and in Chinese translation in Ming Dao Literature and Art a Taiwanese journal in 2001 and in Owen Marshall’s anthology of writing about fishing Spinning a Line (Vintage, 2001).

Crocodile Beach first appeared in Overland (Australia), 1998 and later in Vaughan Rapatahana’s Brunei anthology Under the Canopy, 1998.

Disney Fingers first appeared in Paris/Atlantic 19 (France), 1997and later in Trout 3, 1998

The Dobson Straight first appeared in Trout 3, 1998. Later it appeared in English and in Chinese translation in Ming Dao Literature and Art a Taiwanese journal in 2001.  

Dog Days first appeared in The University of Windsor Review (Canada) and in New Zealand Books Vol 8 #2, 1998.

Easy Thai Cookery first appeared in Southerly (Australia)  and in Smith’s Knoll (UK) 1998. It was later anthologised in New Zealand Love Poems: An Oxford Anthology edited by Lauris Edmond (2000).

Echo first appeared in Takahe 33 in Trout 4, 1998.

The end of ideology first appeared in Plainwraps 5, 1998.

Examination, Science School first appeared in The Antigonish Review (Canada), and Trout 4, 1998.

Fedora first appeared in Quote Unquote, and Voiceprints 3, 1995.

Floating in the Dead Sea first appeared in JAAM 8, 1997.   

Ginger Stardust was first equal in the New Zealand Poetry Society’s International Competition, 1992, as judged by Cilla McQueen and later featured in the collection Ginger Stardust in 1992.

Hang-gliders off Whitewash won the New Zealand Poetry Society’s International Competition, 1993, as judged by Leonard Lambert and later featured in the collection Black Before the Sun in 1993, the title line being drawn from the poem. The poem was later included in Voiceprints 2, 1995; in Doors edited by Terry Locke (Leaders Press, 2000) and in Land Very Fertile: Banks Peninsula in Poetry and Prose (ed David Gregory and Coral Atkinson), 2008.

In Tongues first appeared in Plainwraps 5, 1991.

In the Food Court first appeared in LinQ 25.1 (Australia , and Trout 4, 1998. It was later anthologised in New Zealand Love Poems: An Oxford Anthology edited by Lauris Edmond (2000).

 Jeans first appeared in Headlock 8 (UK), and Southern Ocean Review, 1998.

June first appeared in New Hope International (UK), and Whetstone (Canada), 1998. The book’s title comes from a line in this poem.

Last Confession of a Bivalve first appeared in Takahe 2

Leaping Frenchmen from Maine first appeared in Veranda 12 (Australia).

Moo first appeared in Confrontation Magazine (USA), 1998.

November was commended in the New Zealand Poetry Society’s International Competition, 1992, as judged by Cilla McQueen and later featured in the collection Ginger Stardust in 1992. It later appeared in Nexus (USA) in 1993 and in Island (Australia) 1994.

Old Movies first appeared in the University of Windsor Review (Canada), 1998.

Paradigm Shift first appeared in the Left Hand Up a Bit: A Festschrift for Hugh Lauder, 1990 and later in Poetry NZ 4, 1991.

Partial Eclipse first appeared in Vigil 14 (UK), 1997. It was later included in Essential New Zealand Poems edited by Bill Sewell and Lauris Edmond (Random House, 2001).  

The Poem of Denial later appeared in English and in Chinese translation in Ming Dao Literature and Art , a Taiwanese journal in 2001.

The Poem of the Mechanical Parrot first appeared in Iron 69 (UK) 1993, and Poetry NZ 8, 1994.

Poppy first appeared in Voiceprints,  1990.

School in the Lodge first appeared in Prism International (Canada), 1998, and later appeared in English and in Chinese translation in Ming Dao Literature and Art , a Taiwanese journal in 2001.

Setting the tree on fire first appeared in Sport, 1998.

Shells first appeared in Printout 10, 1995/1996.

Sing Bing  first appeared in Prism International (Canada), and in Spin 15, 1992.

Something Squishy first appeared in Printout 7, 1994.

Swedish Matches first appeared in Landfall 194, 1997.

 Trapped by Ritual first appeared in LinQ 25.1 (Australia) in 1998, and in Krax Magazine (UK) 2005.

Up on Waltham Bridge was later anthologised in Big Sky (ed. James Norcliffe & Bernadette Hall) Shoal Bay Press, 2002.

Very Like a Whale first appeared in Poetry NZ 10, 1998.

The Visit of the Dalai Lama first appeared in Printout 9,  1995 and was later anthologised in With Our Eyes Open edited by Ruth Unger, Peb Simmons and Kathleen Gallagher (Chrysalis, 2002) and in Contemporary Poems in Performance edited by Jack Ross  and Jan Kemp (Auckland University Press, 2007) which includes both text and my recording of the poem on CD.

The Waiting Field first appeared in Vigil (UK), 1998.

With the birdman first appeared in Outposts (UK), 1999.

Without seasons first appeared in Sport 20 and Trout 4, 1998.

Yellow Formica first appeared in The Rockford Review(USA), 1997 and in Southern Ocean Review, 1998.

Victoria University Press, 1998

Letters to Dr Dee

Comment

I am still very fond of this collection. It was published as one of an ambitious series of collections Hazard Press was issuing of NZ and Australian poetry. Rob Jackaman was the series and NZ editor and Philip Mead the Australian editor. In the event, not too many Oz poets  featured – I recall Pete Hay and Jill Jones, but a long list of New Zealand poets had their work included:  Rob Jackaman himself and, among others, John Allison, David Howard, Riemke Ensing, Kevin Ireland, Alan Loney, Graham Lindsay, Peter Olds, Stephen Oliver, Alan Riach, Own Marshall, Bill Sewell, Kon Kuiper and Tom Weston.


I first met Quentin Wilson not long after returning from China. He gave a talk to a NZSA-Pen group at Christ’s College and bubbly, infectiously confident, invited anybody with mss to consider his new publishing house, significantly called Hazard Press. I took a chance and offered him a set of poems and a collection of stories I’d written in China. In the event he accepted both but before either came out he accepted and brought out my first children’s book Under the Rotunda. Heady days. Quentin was to publish my next four books and would have published more but, alas, the receivers moved in and took over the firm in 2007 to liquidate the assets.

Letters to Dr Dee
was launched at a book festival in Dunedin in 1994 in the beautiful Staff Club at the university. For some reason Quentin had used a very lightweight paper so the book appeared flimsy to say the least and this was disappointing. Not disappointing was the cover which used an image of a feather, in fact the huge Neil Dawson feather which hangs in the Aotea Centre in Auckland. Neil was a good friend and happy to let us use the feather. He had been a party to the crowd who holidayed at Oaro near Kaikoura, the setting of the opening sequence, dedicated to the memory Jossie Craig another of the party, who had died before the book came out.

The book was one of the three shortlisted for the Poetry Award  at the NZ Book Awards the following year.

Among the poems...

The title is drawn from two sequences of poems, Letters to Dr Dee from Oaro and Letters to Dr Dee from Fangshan. The Dr Dee of the title was the Elizabethan magus. Many of the poems in the book were written during or after our time in Tianjin, China.


 Most of the poems have weathered well, including:


At the 100% Café first appeared in Takahe 2, 1990.

Bohai Gulf  first appeared in Takahe 2, 1990.

Coal Frog  first appeared in Matrix, 1988.

Dance of the Castaway  first appeared in Plainwraps 5, 1991. Plainwraps was a relatively short-lived journal devised and edited by John O’Connor.

Dump Toad  first appeared in Plainwraps 1, 1988.

The Frogs at Beidaihe  first appeared in the New Zealand Listener, 1988.

Getting Back  first appeared in Matrix, 1988.

Harpo Speaks  first appeared in Takahe 2, 1990.

In the French first appeared in Landfall, 1986. It was republished in 2006 in Bill Direen’s Percutio and New Zealand / French journal.

Letters to Dr Dee from Oaro (sections i,iv,,vi,& vii)  first appeared in Poetry Australia, 1987

Letters to Dr Dee from Fangshan (sections ii,iii,& viii)  first appeared in Plainwraps 5, 1993

The Liechtenstein Stamp  first appeared in Poetry NZ 1, 1990

Treatment  first appeared in Cornucopia 9, 1988

Whole Fish(Sichuan Style)  first appeared in the New Zealand Listener, 1988.

The True Story of Soap which first appeared in Letters to Dr Dee was later selected for inclusion in The Oxford Book of New Zealand Poetry (ed. By Jenny Bornholdt, Greg O Brien & Mark Williams) 1996.

 

Hazard Press, 1993.  Shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards, 1994

The Sportsman & Other Poems

Hard Echo Press, 1986. Shortlisted for the PEN Jessie McKay Award

ISBN: 0-908715-90-0

Comment:

My first book...

It was published by Warwick Jordan whose Hard Echo Press in Auckland produced a number of books through the 80’s. I only met Warwick once, when  I called in to his second hand bookshop Hard to Find Books in Onehunga. Because it contained the sequence The Sportsman and because the first rugby world cup was being staged in Auckland in 1986, Warwick designed a cover with thumbnail images of rugby players and a central image of a guy kicking a head over the crossbars. It may not be the least attractive cover ever produced in NZ, but it’s up there. For all that, I’m hugely grateful to Warwick’s enthusiasm for the work and care for the text which was entirely hand set on an elderly press.

I was living in China when he sent me the proofs which were on sheets of thick yellow card with the text from the lead letterpress embossed.  I’ve handled many proofs since, but none so magical. It was kind and no doubt expensive for Warwick to have afforded me this courtesy.

Among the poems...

While some of the poems make me cringe a little today, inter alia the book included some poems of note.

Advice to a young angler first appeared in Landfall 145 in 1983.

Deaths of the Bobbsey Twins first appeared in Untold 4, 1985. (Incidentally in this poem I wrongly assumed that the Bobbsey twins were both female!)

The Door first appeared in Landfall 151 in 1986. Later I used the poem as part of my commentary on Chesney's Chainsaw a short story published in The Body in The Driveway edited by Penny Scown, Ashtons, 1995.

Grandfather’s Shovel  first appeared in Landfall 141 in 1982.

Greenfingers first appeared in Landfall 141 in 1982.

Hock and Soda Water first appeared in Untold 1 in 1986.

Incident first appeared in Landfall 151 in 1986.

The Sportsman sequence including The Sportsman Drops a Goal ; The Sportsman’s Last Try; The Sportsman Plays the Man;  The Sportsman Trains & The Sportsman Contemplates the Almighty was first published in Robin Dudding’s Island 36 in 1986. The Sportsman Drops a Goal & The Sportsman Plays the Man were included in Terry Locke’s anthology Jewels in the Water (Leaders Press, 2000), and The Sportsman Drops a Goal was included in Essential New Zealand Poems edited by Bill Sewell and Lauris Edmond (Random House, 2001). The Sportsman Drops a Goal was also translated into German and included  inWildes Licht: Poems / Gedichte aus Aotearoa Neuseeland. Englisch–Deutsch  edited and translated by Dieter Reimenshneider (Stauffenburgverlag, Tubingen. Germany 2008.

Telephone at the Clinic first appeared in Landfall 151, 1984.

The Widow’s Lament first appeared in Landfall 146, 1983.