Author Interview: Poet, novelist & short story writer Maggie Rainey-Smith

Amongst many other things Maggie Rainey-Smith is a poet, novelist, and short story writer. And just recently Maggie released her latest collection of poetry called Formica.

Formica is an honest and humorous collection of poems written in an unsentimental fashion that both speaks of Maggie herself and her individual history but also the wider issues that envelope individual lives. The poems in the collection are rooted in the 1950s, avoiding the pitfalls of nostalgia, the poems instead give the reader a more precise and unsentimental look at life.

The collection moves from youth to warrior crone and also pays homage to love in its various forms.

Maggie uses as her raw material the lives of all women of her generation –  “lives too often defined by their fertility and kitchen appliances when there was fun and fulfilment to be had elsewhere. Not that Maggie doesn’t adore her Kenwood mixer, but it lines up with abiding friendships, granddaughters, travel, sex and the joy of words.”

She is a remarkable talent and when the opportunity to interview her about Formica arose, we leapt at it. This interview with  was done in conjunction with the Caffeine and Aspirin arts and entertainment review show on Radioactive FM and was conducted by Caffeine and Aspirin host, Tanya Ashcroft. Below is the podcast of that interview for your enjoyment:

We are thrilled that Maggie took time out from her very busy schedule to talk to us about Formica, her life, and her writing career. We wish to extend our heartfelt thanks.

Content warning: interview includes adult themes

Maggie’s books are available to borrow from the library.

About turns: a novel / Rainey-Smith, Maggie
“Irene has a secret. It slips out inadvertently during book club when the wine has been flowing too freely. Her teenage years as a marching girl are not something she had wanted her friend Ferrida to know about. She’s always wanted Ferrida’s approval, for her friendship is as important and fraught as the one with Paula, when they marched together all those years ago. But friends don’t necessarily march to the same beat, and Irene finds it hard to keep step. ABOUT TURNS, with its humorous insights into New Zealand women and their allegiances, will have you and your friends laughing in unison.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

Turbulence / Rainey-Smith, Maggie
“Adam is fortyish, coasting along and relatively content while his glamorous partner, Louise, takes centre stage. But half a lifetime ago, his aspirations were higher and he was certain about the future he’d share with Judy. When an unexpected invitation arrives, uncomfortable truths resurface and the secrets of the past spill out. How will Adam manage to attend a reunion in the company of both Louise and Judy – not to mention stepfatherhood and a state of siege at work? ” (Catalogue)

Daughters of Messene / Rainey-Smith, Maggie
“Your history, Artemis, is full of female warriors.” Artemis has the name of a goddess, but she has trouble living up to it. Instead she usually just runs away. She’s running now … away from the married man she’s been seeing, and the Greek community in New Zealand who think they know what’s best, and into the arms of family in the Peloponnese that she’s never met. She carries her mother’s ashes and an ipod with recordings, which bit by bit tell the shocking story of what happened to Artemis’ grandmother during the Greek Civil War.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Interview: Sam Duckor-Jones on his new work “Gloria”

Image of the very pink inside of Gloria


The fabulous local poet and artist Sam Duckor-Jones made waves across international headlines recently, following his ongoing five-year transformation of an 83-year-old church in Greymouth. Designed as a “queer place of worship”, Duckor-Jones is in the process of turning the church into an innovative, immersive work of art. The space, which Duckor-Jones refers to as Gloria, is coloured in a resplendent, veritable explosion of pink hues and tones. It also, delightfully, includes a huge pink neon “Gloria” sign over the altar. The work also features a unique congregation of 50 Papier-mâché people.

Sam says in the Guardian piece about the work that he wants Gloria to “belong to the community”. It has already become a destination for visitors within our shores, and one suspects that when our borders eventually open will attract a lot of visitors from further afield. We were very fortunate to be able to interview Duckor-Jones last year (in conjunction with Radioactive FM), when he talked to us about his poetry and his plans for Gloria (long before word of the work had reached the international media).

You can listen to that interview conducted by Liam Wild below, and read the Guardian piece here.  If you’d like to know more about Duckor-Jones’ work, you can follow this link to his profile at Bowen Galleries.

As well as his artistic practice, Duckor-Jones is also an acclaimed poet. You can borrow his poetry collections from us, which we have collated into a handy booklist at the end of this blog post.

We wish to extend our heart felt thanks to Sam Duckor-Jones and interviewer Liam Wild for this wonderful interview. All photographs in this blog are copyrighted and reproduced with the kind permission of Sam Duckor-Jones


Party legend / Duckor-Jones, Sam
“Sam Duckor Jones’s first poetry collection was a tour of small towns, overgrown lawns, and giant clay men. In Party Legend he turns once again to questions of existence but at an even bigger scale. These are poems about creation, God, intimacy, the surreality of political rhetoric, misunderstandings at the supermarket – and they are fearless in form and address. Though Party Legend is often wildly funny, it is also, in its Duckor-Jonesian way, tender-hearted and consoling.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

People from the pit stand up / Duckor-Jones, Sam
“This is the voice of someone who is both at home and not at home in the world. Sam Duckor-Jones’s wonderfully fresh, funny, dishevelled poems are alive with art-making and fuelled by a hunger for intimacy. Giant clay men lurk in salons, the lawns of poets overgrow, petrolheads hoon along the beach, birds cry ‘wow-okay, wow-okay, wow-okay’.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 

Out here : an anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writers from Aotearoa
“A remarkable anthology of queer New Zealand voices. We became teenagers in the nineties when New Zealand felt a lot less cool about queerness and gender felt much more rigid. We knew instinctively that hiding was the safest strategy. But how to find your community if you’re hidden? Aotearoa is a land of extraordinary queer writers, many of whom have contributed to our rich literary history. But you wouldn’t know it. Decades of erasure and homophobia have rendered some of our most powerful writing invisible. Out Here will change that. This landmark book brings together and celebrates queer New Zealand writers from across the gender and LGBTQIA+ spectrum .” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Short poems of New Zealand
” Funny, startling, poignant, illuminating, and always succinct, this anthology celebrates the many moods and forms of the short poem and demonstrates its power in holding our attention. Included here are famous names like Manhire, Glover, Hulme, Bethell, and Cochrane, amongst many new and rediscovered gems.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 

Annual. 2
“Annual 2 contains all-new material for 9- to- 13-year-olds. The result is a highly original, contemporary take on the much-loved annuals of the past – all in one beautiful package. Alongside familiar names publishing for children – Gavin Mouldey, Sarah Johnson, Ben Galbraith, Barry Faville, Giselle Clarkson, and Gregory O’Brien – you’ll find the unexpected, including a new song by Bic Runga, a small-town mystery by Paul Thomas, and a classic New Zealand comic illustrated by new talent Henry Christian Slane. Smart and packed with content, a book for the whole family.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Phantom National Poetry Day: Librarians’ Picks

Today is Phantom National Poetry Day – a one-day national poetry extravaganza to celebrate the poetry of Aotearoa. We’re always in the mood for poetry and we love the opportunity to revisit old favourites and discover new gems. Here, our librarians have shared some of their picks:

Celeste’s Pick:
Big weather : poems of Wellington
“Since the nineteenth century, Wellington has been the site and object of much literary activity and never more so than now. Where many of New Zealand’s leading poets once wandered, frequenting bars, delivering mail up the steepest of streets, raising their children in the suburbs, today’s XY generation are now vividly, energetically present, and recent poetry has kept track of the changing inner and outer life of the city. BIG WEATHER: Poems of Wellington captures the vivacity and diversity of the capital.” (adapted from catalogue)

Fiona’s Pick:
Other animals / Lloyd, Therese
“Focused on the theme of a well-lived life, Other Animals is the powerful and provocative first book from one of New Zealand’s most exciting new poets. With a uniquely lyrical voice, these works find their ways towards ideas of beauty, wisdom, and, ultimately, to a sense of joy in the world that only poetry can bring.” (Catalogue)

 

Susannah’s Pick:
Cat world : poems on cats / Jeune, Margaret
“Cat World by Margaret Jeune is a collection of poems about cats drawn from the author’s personal experiences as a cat owner and carer over many years.” (Catalogue)

This is Susannah’s cat Kedi, who is not included in the collection but who seconds Susannah’s purrrrfect choice.


Paige’s Pick:

Head girl / Sadgrove, Freya Daly
“‘The first time I read Freya’s work I thought . . . uh oh. And then I thought, you have got to be kidding me. And then I thought, God dammit. And then I walked around the house shaking my head thinking . . . OK – alright. And then – finally – I thought, well well well – like a smug policeman. Listen – she’s just the best. I’m going to say this so seriously. She is, unfortunately, the absolute best. Trying to write a clever blurb for her feels like an insult to how right and true and deadly this collection is. God, she’s just so good. She kills me always, every time, and forever.’ -Hera Lindsay Bird” (adapted from catalogue)

Alex’s Pick:
Under glass / Kan, Gregory
“A dialogue between a series of prose poems, following a protagonist through a mysterious and threatening landscape, and a series of verse poems, driven by the speaker’s compulsive hunger to make sense of things”–Publisher information.” (Catalogue)
Also available on Libby as an eBook.

 

Gábor’s Pick:
Postscripts / Sturm, J. C
J. C. Sturm was the writing name of Jacquie Baxter who for many years was the New Zealand Room librarian at the old Wellington Central Library. Postscripts is Sturm’s second book of poetry after Dedications (1996), though her work had appeared in numerous anthologies and journals as far back as 1947. Her poems cover a wide range of human experience, are often compelling, largely autobiographical and sometimes have a profoundly emotional impact as she reviews a life of loss and love, youth and age as seen from both Māori and Pakeha perspectives.

Neil’s Pick:
Reading the signs / Freegard, Janis
“The poems in Janis Freegard’s new collection take their starting point from the poet’s daily ritual of reading the tea leaves while writing in the Ema Saiko room in the Wairarapa. Reading the Signs is a series of linked poems that are thoughtful and humorous, provocative and tender, and come together as a quiet epic about a planet that is fast running out of puff.” (adapted from catalogue)

 

Steph’s Pick: (an old favourite and a new favourite, because choosing only one is impossible)
Fast talking PI / Marsh, Selina Tusitala
“‘Tusitala’ means writer of tales in Samoan, and Marsh here lives up to her name with stories of her life, her family, community, ancestry, and history. Her poetry is sensuous and strong, using lush imagery, clear rhythms and repetitions to power it forward. Her work deals specifically with issues that affect Pacific communities in New Zealand and indigenous peoples elsewhere, most recently focusing on the challenges and triumphs of being afakasi.” (adapted from the catalogue) – Also available on Libby as an eBook.

The savage coloniser book / Avia, Tusiata
“The voices of Tusiata Avia are infinite. She ranges from vulnerable to forbidding to celebratory with forms including pantoums, prayers and invocations. And in this electrifying new work, she gathers all the power of her voice to speak directly into histories of violence. The Savage Coloniser Book is a personal and political reckoning. As it holds history accountable, it rises in power.” (adapted from catalogue)

 

Special Mention:
Our very own poetry publication, Tūhono, is full of poems written by children and young adults of Pōneke on the theme of tūhono – connection, and we could all do with more of that right now. Find this heart-warming collection on Libby, there are 500(!) available to lend.

Tūhono. a journal of poetry by children and teens / 2020 :
“Tūhono : connection. This is the theme that binds together all 197 poems you are about to read, which were contributed by young Wellington writers aged 5-18 and collected by Wellington City Libraries throughout the month of November 2020. The year 2020 was challenging for many people. Some had to spend time apart from their friends and the people they love. Some had to find ways to live with uncertainty and the sense that everything might not be okay in the world. But taken together, these poems represent a constellation of thoughts, ideas, worries, anxieties, hopes, loves, and dreams about how we find ways to connect, even in the face of adversity.” (Catalogue)

Poet interview: Sam Duckor-Jones

Poet / artist Sam Duckor-Jones has so far released two collections of poetry; People from the Pit Stand Up and the recently released Party Legend. As a poet his works are widely varied, wickedly clever, often poignant in an understated way and often displaying Sam’s mischievous sense of humour.

The starting point for his poems is often eclectic:- from dissections of lying, and overhead commuter conversations, to the subtle sensibilities of the works of Maurice Sendak or poetic allusions to Bach’s Allemande in G, not to mention the tensions between the options of lustful pursuit or putting your feet up in front of a warm comfy cosy fire. Sam has a natural poet’s awareness of rhythm and line and a razor-sharp intellect as this interview shows and is a radical, fresh, and distinctive voice in the poetry world.

His artwork shows the same breath of intellect and consideration and is unbounded by convention or the desire to follow any movement or school. You can see more of Sam’s artwork by clicking here.

We recently had the great pleasure of interviewing Sam to ask him all about his latest collection of poetry Party Legend and the various other projects he is involved in, including his Greymouth church project, not to mention doing a fabulous poetry reading for us.

This interview was done in conjunction with Caffeine and Aspirin arts and entertainment review show on Radioactive FM. The interview was conducted by Caffeine and Aspirin host Liam Wild.

 

Party legend / Duckor-Jones, Sam
“Sam Duckor Jones’s first poetry collection was a tour of small towns, overgrown lawns, and giant clay men. In Party Legend he turns once again to questions of existence but at an even bigger scale. These are poems about creation, God, intimacy, the surreality of political rhetoric, misunderstandings at the supermarket – and they are fearless in form and address. Though Party Legend is often wildly funny, it is also, in its Duckor-Jonesian way, tender-hearted and consoling.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 

People from the pit stand up / Duckor-Jones, Sam
“This is the voice of someone who is both at home and not at home in the world. Sam Duckor-Jones’s wonderfully fresh, funny, dishevelled poems are alive with art-making and fuelled by a hunger for intimacy. Giant clay men lurk in salons, the lawns of poets overgrow, petrolheads hoon along the beach, birds cry ‘wow-okay, wow-okay, wow-okay’.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Our Festive Panoply of  Poets….Ruby Solly

As a special seasonal treat we’ve joined with author and music critic Simon Sweetman to curate and present to you a festive panoply of poets reading their works for Wellingtonians — one a day until Christmas.

Our final fabulous poet is Ruby Solly, who will be reading from her forthcoming collection Tōku Pāpā.


Ruby’s first solo collection of poetry, Tōku Pāpā is due to be released in February 2021.

About Ruby

“Ruby Solly (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) is a writer, musician and taonga pūoro practitioner living in Pōneke. She has been published in journals such as Landfall, Starling and Sport, among others. In 2020 she released her debut album, Pōneke, which looks at the soundscapes of Wellington’s past, present and future through the use of taonga pūoro, cello, and environmental sounds. She is currently completing a PhD in public health, focusing on the use of taonga pūoro in hauora Māori. Tōku Pāpā, due to be published in Februrary 2021, [will be] her first book.”

From VUP

More from Ruby

Covid colab : a NZ lockdown music collaboration.
“Created during Alert Levels 4 and 3, Covid Colab is a gender-balanced, seven-track LP teeming with local talent. It features 37 Pōneke-based musicians.” (Description by Museums Wellington)

You can find Ruby’s debut album Pōneke on Bandcamp

During lockdown, Ruby was kind enough to speak to us about her work and her process. Have a listen to Ruby, speaking to our librarians Louise and Paul, below:

Our Festive Panoply of  Poets….. Maggie Rainey-Smith

As a special seasonal treat we’ve joined with author and music critic Simon Sweetman to curate and present to you a festive panoply of poets reading their works for Wellingtonians — one a day until Christmas.

Next up we have Maggie Rainey-Smith, reading a new work.

About Maggie

“Maggie Rainey-Smith is a novelist, poet, short story writer, essayist and book reviewer. Her latest novel Daughters of Messene is about immigration and the Greek Civil War. The Greek translation of this novel came out in June 2019 and is a best seller in Greece. In her working life she teaches Workplace English to migrants and refugees.”

From Maggie’s website

More from Maggie

About turns: a novel / Rainey-Smith, Maggie
“Irene has a secret. It slips out inadvertently during book club when the wine has been flowing too freely. Her teenage years as a marching girl are not something she had wanted her friend Ferrida to know about. She’s always wanted Ferrida’s approval, for her friendship is as important and fraught as the one with Paula, when they marched together all those years ago. But friends don’t necessarily march to the same beat, and Irene finds it hard to keep step. ABOUT TURNS, with its humorous insights into New Zealand women and their allegiances, will have you and your friends laughing in unison.” (Catalogue)

Daughters of Messene / Rainey-Smith, Maggie
“‘Your history, Artemis, is full of female warriors.’ Artemis has the name of a goddess, but she has trouble living up to it. Instead she usually just runs away. She’s running now … away from the married man she’s been seeing, and the Greek community in New Zealand who think they know what’s best, and into the arms of family in the Peloponnese that she’s never met. She carries her mother’s ashes and an ipod with recordings, which bit by bit tell the shocking story of what happened to Artemis’ grandmother during the Greek Civil War. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Still to come…

Still to come is a reading from Ruby Solly.

We’ll be posting up the latest in the series of poems every day until Christmas on the Library homepage and on our blog here, so keep an eye out!

Read all Festive Panoply posts

We’d like to extend our deepest gratitude to Simon Sweetman for curating these daily poems, and to the lovely people at Book Haven for allowing us to record in their bookshop. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

The death of music journalism / Sweetman, Simon
“Simon’s been writing poems since he was first listening to bands on his Walkman, but then he started sharing them via social media and open mic nights.  Marking a pivot from the razor-sharp and sometimes controversial music writing he is best known for, Simon’s collection is as wide-ranging as his career to date.  A natural storyteller whose poetry is filled with characters both famous and ordinary, this eagerly awaited collection is unpredictable, anarchic, playful and surprisingly heartfelt.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Our Festive Panoply of  Poets….. Michael Fitzsimons

As a special seasonal treat we’ve joined with author and music critic Simon Sweetman to curate and present to you a festive panoply of poets reading their works for Wellingtonians — one a day until Christmas.

Next up we have Michael Fitzsimons, reading an exclusive new poem.

About Michael

“Michael Fitzsimons is a writer and co-founder of Wellington communications and publishing company, Fitzbeck Creative. He’s a proud member of the three- person South Wellington Poetry Society and his first collection, Now You Know, combined poems with photography and was recommended in Radio New Zealand’s annual poetry highlights. Michael’s latest publishing project is Joy Cowley’s Veil Over Light. He lives in Seatoun with his wife, Rose, in a hillside house overlooking Wellington Harbour.”

Sourced from Cuba Press

More from Michael

Michael, I thought you were dead / Fitzsimons, Michael
“My favourite poet with a ponytail greets me warmly at the launch of his latest book of poems. Michael, he says, I thought you were dead. A pragmatic, intelligent, irreverent, and searching collection.” (Catalogue)

Still to come…

Still to come are readings from Maggie Rainey-Smith,  and Ruby Solly.

We’ll be posting up the latest in the series of poems every day until Christmas on the Library homepage and on our blog here, so keep an eye out!

Read all Festive Panoply posts

We’d like to extend our deepest gratitude to Simon Sweetman for curating these daily poems, and to the lovely people at Book Haven for allowing us to record in their bookshop. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

The death of music journalism / Sweetman, Simon
“Simon’s been writing poems since he was first listening to bands on his Walkman, but then he started sharing them via social media and open mic nights.  Marking a pivot from the razor-sharp and sometimes controversial music writing he is best known for, Simon’s collection is as wide-ranging as his career to date.  A natural storyteller whose poetry is filled with characters both famous and ordinary, this eagerly awaited collection is unpredictable, anarchic, playful and surprisingly heartfelt.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Our Festive Panoply of  Poets….Rachel McAlpine

As a special seasonal treat we’ve joined with author and music critic Simon Sweetman to curate and present to you a festive panoply of poets reading their works for Wellingtonians — one a day until Christmas.

Next up we have the lovely Rachel McAlpine, who will be reading from her collection How to be old.

How to be old : poems / McAlpine, Rachel
“Wellington writer Rachel McAlpine blogs and podcasts about living and ageing and is celebrating her 80th birthday with a book of poems. How to Be Old is an explosion of humanity on the page with some practical tips from the author and sage advice from Elsie aged five.” (Catalogue)

About Rachel

Rachel says about her writing:

“Why do people hate and fear old age? Why is it so hard to see ourselves as belonging to the kingdom of old? Why does my own ageing seem overall a positive thing? What should I do with these age-related changes? What do other people think and feel and do? What am I for? How can I help?”

“Those questions puzzle me as I meander past my 80th year, and I explore them through poems, books, podcast and blog.”

Read more about Rachel, on her website writeintolife.com

More by Rachel

Scarlet heels : 26 stories about sex / McAlpine, Rachel
“Twenty-six women, young and old, talk about moments when sex (or abstaining from sex) changed their lives somehow, brirnging clarity, change, or love. Their stories happened decades ago or yesterday, in Alaska, California, England, Nigeria, Ascension Island or New Zealand – in a pulpit, garden, airport, cupboard, train or bed.” (Catalogue)

Templates / McAlpine, Rachel
“Touching insights into growing older. Six poems, six old photos of six little girls. A precious gift for contemplating life.” (Catalogue)

Tactics / McAlpine, Rachel
“Adorable poems with advice from a five-year-old life coach. Useful tips on breathing, voting, and killing zombies. A charming gift for anyone who interacts with children.” (Catalogue)

Another 100 New Zealand poems for children
“From computers and robots to moa and tuatara, from popcorn and mud pies to drought and howling wind, this sequel to 100 New Zealand Poems for Children speaks to New Zealand children today.” (Catalogue)

Still to come…

Still to come are readings from Maggie Rainey-Smith, Michael Fitzsimons,  and Ruby Solly.

We’ll be posting up the latest in the series of poems every day until Christmas on the Library homepage and on our blog here, so keep an eye out!

Read all Festive Panoply posts

We’d like to extend our deepest gratitude to Simon Sweetman for curating these daily poems, and to the lovely people at Book Haven for allowing us to record in their bookshop. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

The death of music journalism / Sweetman, Simon
“Simon’s been writing poems since he was first listening to bands on his Walkman, but then he started sharing them via social media and open mic nights.  Marking a pivot from the razor-sharp and sometimes controversial music writing he is best known for, Simon’s collection is as wide-ranging as his career to date.  A natural storyteller whose poetry is filled with characters both famous and ordinary, this eagerly awaited collection is unpredictable, anarchic, playful and surprisingly heartfelt.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Our Festive Panoply of  Poets….. Richard Langston

As a special seasonal treat we’ve joined with author and music critic Simon Sweetman to curate and present to you a festive panoply of poets reading their works for Wellingtonians — one a day until Christmas.

Next up we have Richard Langston, who will be reading from his collection Five o’clock shadows.

Five o’clock shadows / Langston, Richard
“Poems that return over and over to the land – an offering to the country of Richard’s bones and of his heart. From a longdrop that demands binoculars to Caberfeidh in the Catlins where his father picked plums from the passing train, Richard Langston writes poems that return over and over to the land. Born to a Lebanese immigrant family in Dunedin, and a Country Calendar director by trade, he is constantly refreshing his acquaintance with the country he calls home. Somehow writing it down seals the deal. ‘We make marks in ink,’ he says. ‘We are here.’ Poetry is incantation too, and Richard uses it to call family from the shadows and sing ancestors into being, a tentative offering to the country of his bones and of his heart.” (Publisher description)

About Richard

“Richard Langston is a veteran broadcasting journalist and director, who comes from Dunedin, and was a driving force in the city’s music scene in the 1980s. He lives in Wellington and is a proud member of the three-person South Wellington Poetry Society.”

From The Cuba Press website

More by Richard

The newspaper poems / Langston, Richard
“`Regard this as a bouquet to ink  this is Richard Langston’s paean to the world of newspaper to the world of newspaper reporting and reporters. To the gone age of the setting of metal type, the sound of a roomful of typewriters. To the past age of the afternoon city newspaper. This was the age of journalism before it went to university, the time of journalist as character.” (Catalogue)

The trouble lamp / Langston, Richard
“A collection of poems by Richard Langston some previously published.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

Things lay in pieces / Langston, Richard
“Poet / Journalist Richard Langston’s fifth collection Things Lay in Pieces features 50 poems written about the Christchurch earthquake. These are poems of invention and witness that mix the everyday with the lyrical.” (Catalogue)

Still to come…

Still to come are readings from Rachel McAlpine, Maggie Rainey-Smith, Michael Fitzsimons,  and Ruby Solly.

We’ll be posting up the latest in the series of poems every day until Christmas on the Library homepage and on our blog here, so keep an eye out!

Read all Festive Panoply posts

We’d like to extend our deepest gratitude to Simon Sweetman for curating these daily poems, and to the lovely people at Book Haven for allowing us to record in their bookshop. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

The death of music journalism / Sweetman, Simon
“Simon’s been writing poems since he was first listening to bands on his Walkman, but then he started sharing them via social media and open mic nights.  Marking a pivot from the razor-sharp and sometimes controversial music writing he is best known for, Simon’s collection is as wide-ranging as his career to date.  A natural storyteller whose poetry is filled with characters both famous and ordinary, this eagerly awaited collection is unpredictable, anarchic, playful and surprisingly heartfelt.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Our Festive Panoply of  Poets….Mary McCallum

As a special seasonal treat we’ve joined with author and music critic Simon Sweetman to curate and present to you a festive panoply of poets reading their works for Wellingtonians — one a day until Christmas.

Next up we have Mary McCallum who will be reading from her collection XYZ of happiness.

XYZ of happiness / McCallum, Mary
“These are poems of happiness… as it comes, when it’s missing and when it is hoped for. Pastel and glib or orange and high-vis, it is almost invisible in a chemical cocktail and strangely visible – but unreachable – in an equation etched into glass. It is a dog unleashed on the grass and a man going about measuring the Earth. It can be heard at the end chemotherapy and in a conversation in the kitchen while a boy drowns in the harbour outside. It wears a pink T-shirt, spins with sycamore seeds and spends a whole poem finding a yellow it can live with.” (Description from Mākaro Press)

About Mary

“Mary McCallum is a novelist, poet, songwriter and publisher. Her novel The Blue won two national book awards in 2007, she is the inaugural winner of the Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize and her children’s novel Dappled Annie and the Tigrish won a Kirkus Star in the US. She founded Mākaro Press in 2013 and her band The Brooklyns plays around Wellington. She has three adult children and lives with her husband and his selection of yellow socks in Wellington and the Wairarapa.”

From Mākaro Press

More by Mary

The blue / McCallum, Mary
“Lilian lives in an isolated island community at the mouth of Tory Channel trying to make the best of a life that has at its core a secret grief. It is 1938 and for three months of every year the men take to the sea to hunt whales with fast boats and explosive harpoons. This year, the whales aren’t the only ones returning – Lilian’s troubled son Micky has come home too. In this rugged, unsettled world, things are not always what they seem.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Dappled Annie and the Tigrish / McCallum, Mary
“A beautifully written novel about nature, siblings, bravery, and a touch of something magical. There are faces in the hedge at the end of the garden, and a nest of tiny fantails, and that’s where 9-year-old Annie goes to play one hot summer while her father works up at the lighthouse. One after another, an earthquake and a terrible wind leave Annie with losses that seem irreplaceable, and her little brother Robbie emerges as the only person who can help her find what she’s lost. Him and the tigrish.” (Catalogue)

Still to come…

Still to come are readings from Richard Langston, Rachel McAlpine, Maggie Rainey-Smith, Michael Fitzsimons,  and Ruby Solly.

We’ll be posting up the latest in the series of poems every day until Christmas on the Library homepage and on our blog here, so keep an eye out!

Read all Festive Panoply posts

We’d like to extend our deepest gratitude to Simon Sweetman for curating these daily poems, and to the lovely people at Book Haven for allowing us to record in their bookshop. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

The death of music journalism / Sweetman, Simon
“Simon’s been writing poems since he was first listening to bands on his Walkman, but then he started sharing them via social media and open mic nights.  Marking a pivot from the razor-sharp and sometimes controversial music writing he is best known for, Simon’s collection is as wide-ranging as his career to date.  A natural storyteller whose poetry is filled with characters both famous and ordinary, this eagerly awaited collection is unpredictable, anarchic, playful and surprisingly heartfelt.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Our Festive Panoply of  Poets….Simon and Oscar Sweetman

As a special seasonal treat we’ve joined with author and music critic Simon Sweetman to curate and present to you a festive panoply of poets reading their works for Wellingtonians — one a day until Christmas.

Next up we have a very special double bill — Simon himself and his son Oscar Sweetman. Simon will be reading from his collection The Death of Music Journalismp, while Oscar will be making his poetry reading debut. Have a listen below, and enjoy!

The death of music journalism / Sweetman, Simon
“Simon’s been writing poems since he was first listening to bands on his Walkman, but then he started sharing them via social media and open mic nights. Word got around and he was a sleeper hit at LitCrawl’s Lit-Sync For Your Life and the 2020 Variety for Fierys. Marking a pivot from the razor-sharp music writing he is best known for, Simon’s collection is as wide-ranging as his career to date. A natural storyteller whose poetry is filled with characters both famous and ordinary, this eagerly awaited collection is unpredictable, anarchic, playful and surprisingly heartfelt.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

About Simon

“Simon Sweetman is a music journalist, short story writer and poet. He blogs at Off The Tracks. Simon was born in Hastings in 1976.”

From Simon’s profile on The Spinoff

You can find more of Simon’s music journalism over at offthetracks.co.nz

We’d like to extend our deepest gratitude to Simon for curating these daily poems, and to the lovely people at Book Haven for allowing us to record in their bookshop. We hope you enjoy Simon and Oscar’s wonderful work as much as we have!

More books by Simon

OnSong : stories behind New Zealand’s pop classics / Sweetman, Simon
“On Song is a lively journey through New Zealand’s diverse pop landscape. Prolific music journalist Simon Sweetman has interviewed the writers and performers of beloved Kiwi classics, presenting ‘in conversation’ text that illuminates the fascinating stories behind the pop songs we all know and love, all complemented with a plethora of artists’ personal imagery and archival photography. A stunning portrait of modern New Zealand through music.” (Catalogue)

Still to come…

Still to come are readings from Mary McCallum, Richard Langston, Rachel McAlpine, Maggie Rainey-Smith, Michael Fitzsimons,  and Ruby Solly.

We’ll be posting up the latest in the series of poems every day until Christmas on the Library homepage and on our blog here, so keep an eye out!

Read all Festive Panoply posts

Our Festive Panoply of  Poets….Sam Duckor-Jones

As a special seasonal treat we’ve joined with author and music critic Simon Sweetman to curate and present to you a festive panoply of poets reading their works for Wellingtonians — one a day until Christmas.

Next up is the wonderful Sam Duckor-Jones who will be reading from his collection People from the pit stand up. Have a listen below, and enjoy!

People from the pit stand up / Duckor-Jones, Sam
“This is the voice of someone who is both at home and not at home in the world. Sam Duckor-Jones’s wonderfully fresh, funny, dishevelled poems are alive with art-making and fuelled by a hunger for intimacy. Giant clay men lurk in salons, the lawns of poets overgrow, petrolheads hoon along the beach, birds cry ‘wow-okay, wow-okay, wow-okay’.” (Catalogue)

About Sam

“Sam Duckor-Jones is a sculptor and poet who lives in Featherston. In 2017 he won the Biggs Poetry Prize from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. People from the Pit Stand Up is his first book.”

From VUP’s website

Find more of Sam’s work in…

Annual. 2
“Annual 2 contains all-new material for 9- to- 13-year-olds. The result is a highly original, contemporary take on the much-loved annuals of the past – all in one beautiful package. Alongside familiar names publishing for children – Gavin Mouldey, Sarah Johnson, Ben Galbraith, Barry Faville, Giselle Clarkson, and Gregory O’Brien – you’ll find the unexpected, including a new song by Bic Runga, a small-town mystery by Paul Thomas, and a classic New Zealand comic illustrated by new talent Henry Christian Slane. Smart and packed with content, a book for the whole family.” (Catalogue)

Short poems of New Zealand
“I’ve begun to think of short poems as being the literary equivalent of the small house movement. Small houses contain the same essential spaces as large houses do. Both have places in which to eat, sleep, bathe and sit; they’re the same, except small houses are, well, smaller. This anthology celebrates the many moods and forms of the short poem and demonstrates its power in holding our attention. Included here are famous names like Manhire, Glover, Hulme, Bethell, and Cochrane, amongst many new and rediscovered gems.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Still to come…

Still to come are readings from Mary McCallum, Richard Langston, Rachel McAlpine, Simon Sweetman, Oscar Sweetman, Maggie Rainey-Smith, Michael Fitzsimons,  and Ruby Solly.

We’ll be posting up the latest in the series of poems every day until Christmas on the Library homepage and on our blog here, so keep an eye out!

Read all Festive Panoply posts

We’d like to extend our deepest gratitude to Simon Sweetman for curating these daily poems, and to the lovely people at Book Haven for allowing us to record in their bookshop. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

The death of music journalism / Sweetman, Simon
“Simon’s been writing poems since he was first listening to bands on his Walkman, but then he started sharing them via social media and open mic nights.  Marking a pivot from the razor-sharp and sometimes controversial music writing he is best known for, Simon’s collection is as wide-ranging as his career to date.  A natural storyteller whose poetry is filled with characters both famous and ordinary, this eagerly awaited collection is unpredictable, anarchic, playful and surprisingly heartfelt.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A Festive Panoply of  Poets… a Reading from Janis Freegard

As a special seasonal treat we’ve joined with author and music critic Simon Sweetman to curate and present to you a festive panoply of poets reading their works for Wellingtonians — one a day until Christmas.

Next up is the wonderful Janis Freegard, reading a poem from her recently published collection Reading the signs. Have a listen below, and enjoy!

Book coverReading the signs / Freegard, Janis
“The poems in Janis Freegard’s new collection take their starting point from the poet’s daily ritual of reading the tea leaves while writing in the Ema Saiko room in the Wairarapa. This leads to unexpected discoveries about the world around her, from spider visitors to the writing room and a papyrus-fine gecko skin in the nearby wildlife sanctuary, to news of the ancient bdelloid rotifers that defy natural disasters and the recently extinct amphibians that did not. Then a gender- and species-fluid interpreter turns up to help the poet work her way through the daily revelations in her tea cup … Reading the Signs is a series of linked poems that are thoughtful and humorous, provocative and tender, and come together as a quiet epic about a planet that is fast running out of puff.” (Back cover)

About Janis

“Janis Freegard is a New Zealand writer of fiction and poetry. She was born in South Shields, England, and spent part of her childhood in South Africa and Australia before her family settled in New Zealand when she was 12. Her latest publication is a poetry collection, Reading the Signs (The Cuba Press, 2020). Her novel, The Year of Falling, was published by Makaro Press in 2015.”

Excerpted from Janis’s website

More from Janis

Kingdom Animalia : the escapades of Linnaeus / Freegard, Janis
“The poems in this first full collection from New Zealand’s Janis Freegard are categorized by Linnaean taxonomy: the six sections Mammalia, Aves, Amphibia, Pisces, Insecta, and Vermes are interspersed with a seven-part poem on the topic of Carolus Linneaus himself. Here Freegard catalogs the various fantastic and artistic, anthropomorphic and objective, rational and self-serving ways that humans draw on the animal world: as symbol and allegory, food and friend, ravening enemy, and sacred icon. From surreal prose poems to gorgeous lists–featuring a stuffed Maori dog, murderous magpies, and cake-shop cockroaches–Freegard’s verse reflects the diversity of the animal kingdom and its light-hearted fancifulness belies a strong commitment to conservation.” (Catalogue)

The glass rooster / Freegard, Janis
“The poems in The Glass Rooster explore the spaces inhabited by humans and other creatures–from natural ecosystems to cities and even to outer space. Our guide on this journey is a glass rooster–observer of stars and lover of hens–who first popped up in Janis Freegard’s poetry years ago and wanders unchecked through the book. Each of the eight sections (or “echo-systems”) in the book–the Damp Places, Forest, Cityscape, the Alpine Zone, Space, Home & Garden, Underground, and In the Desert–is introduced by a triolet: a French poetic form with repeated lines. Other poems are arranged in pairs, each echoing something about the other, whether desert plants, the presence of balloons, or the dangers of working in a mine. The result is a tremendous, riotous exploration of an interconnected world.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The year of falling / Freegard, Janis
“When the porcelain dolls start turning up on Selina’s doorstep, she knows it’s a bad sign. Shortly afterwards she embarks on an ill-judged affair with a celebrity TV chef. Both events, and the lies an untold truths at their heart, precipitate a spectacular fall from grace for high-flying graphic artist, Selina.” (Catalogue)

Still to come…

Still to come are readings from Mary McCallum, Richard Langston, Sam Duckor-Jones, Rachel McAlpine, Simon Sweetman, Oscar Sweetman, Maggie Rainey-Smith, Michael Fitzsimons,  and Ruby Solly.

We’ll be posting up the latest in the series of poems every day until Christmas on the Library homepage and on our blog here, so keep an eye out!

Read all Festive Panoply posts

We’d like to extend our deepest gratitude to Simon Sweetman for curating these daily poems, and to the lovely people at Book Haven for allowing us to record in their bookshop. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

The death of music journalism / Sweetman, Simon
“Simon’s been writing poems since he was first listening to bands on his Walkman, but then he started sharing them via social media and open mic nights.  Marking a pivot from the razor-sharp and sometimes controversial music writing he is best known for, Simon’s collection is as wide-ranging as his career to date.  A natural storyteller whose poetry is filled with characters both famous and ordinary, this eagerly awaited collection is unpredictable, anarchic, playful and surprisingly heartfelt.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A Festive Panoply of Poets…. a Reading from Chris Tse

As a special seasonal treat we’ve joined with author and music critic Simon Sweetman to curate and present to you a festive panoply of poets reading their works for Wellingtonians — one a day until Christmas.

First up is the wonderful Chris Tse, reading a poem from his collection he’s so MASC. Have a listen below, and enjoy!

he’s so MASC / Tse, Chris
he’s So MASC confronts a contemporary world of self-loathing poets and compulsive liars, of youth and sexual identity, and of the author as character — pop star, actor, hitman, and much more. These are poems that delve into worlds of hyper-masculine romanticism and dancing alone in night clubs. With its many modes and influences, he’s So MASC is an acerbic, acid-bright, yet unapologetically sentimental and personal reflection on what it means to perform and dissect identity, as a poet and a person.” (Library Catalogue)

About Chris

“Chris Tse was born and raised in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. He studied film and English literature at Victoria University of Wellington, where he also completed an MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters.”

“His poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction have been recorded for radio and widely published in numerous journals, magazines and anthologies, including Best New Zealand Poems, Sport, Turbine, The New Zealand Listener, Fishhead, Landfall, Cha, Poetry NZ, Takahe, JAAM, Snorkel, Sweet Mammalian, Glitterwolf, Cordite Poetry Review, Ika, Cyphers, Poetry, Capital Magazine, The Spinoff, and Mimicry.”

Excerpted from Chris’s website

More from Chris

How to be dead in a year of snakes / Tse, Chris
“In 1905, white supremacist Lionel Terry murdered the Cantonese gold prospector Joe Kum Yung to draw attention to his crusade to rid New Zealand of Chinese and other east Asian immigrants. Author Chris Tse uses this story–and its reenactment for a documentary a hundred years later–to reflect on the experiences of Chinese migrants of the period, their wishes and hopes, their estrangement and alienation, their ghostly reverberation through a white-majority culture. How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes” is a welcome poetic addition to New Zealand literature.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

New Zealand’s China experience : its genesis, triumphs, and occasional moments of less than complete success
New Zealand’s China Experience collects fiction, poetry, personal accounts, historical narrative, anecdotes, transcribed oral narratives, newspaper articles and more, all bearing in one way or another on New Zealand perceptions of China and contacts with China and the Chinese. The book is richly illustrated with photographs, paintings, posters, and cartoons, and includes photographs by Brian Brake, George Silk, and Tom Hutchins, and three works by the contemporary artist Kerry Ann Lee. This unique collection brings together history from an 1823 report pointing to the importance of the Chinese market, to firsthand reports of the bombing of Shanghai from Yunan caves. The book also marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and China in December 1972.” (Catalogue)

Browse everything by Chris

Still to come…

Still to come are readings from Mary McCallum, Richard Langston, Sam Duckor-Jones, Rachel McAlpine, Simon Sweetman, Oscar Sweetman, Maggie Rainey-Smith, Michael Fitzsimons, Janis Freegard,  and Ruby Solly.

We’ll be posting up the latest in the series of poems every day until Christmas on the Library homepage and on our blog here, so keep an eye out!

Read all Festive Panoply posts

A big thank you to Simon Sweetman for curating these daily poems, and to the lovely people at Book Haven for allowing us to record in their bookshop. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

The death of music journalism / Sweetman, Simon
“Simon’s been writing poems since he was first listening to bands on his Walkman, but then he started sharing them via social media and open mic nights.  Marking a pivot from the razor-sharp and sometimes controversial music writing he is best known for, Simon’s collection is as wide-ranging as his career to date.  A natural storyteller whose poetry is filled with characters both famous and ordinary, this eagerly awaited collection is unpredictable, anarchic, playful and surprisingly heartfelt.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Reading the signs. Our exclusive Janis Freegard poetry reading

I am blue. I am a deep, electric shade of blue and I sound like waves crashing. My colour is so intense it has substance even though it lacks mass.”

Except from by Perhaps the spider on my pillow is spinning me a dream by Janis Freegard

Editors note: – this blog is from Neil Johnstone our fiction specialist who also works as an artist and supplied the artwork for Reading the signs.  

Photo by James Ogle

Janis Freegard is regarded as one of the most unique and distinctive voices in the New Zealand literary World at the moment.

Known for her works as both a poet and as a novelist, Janis moved to New Zealand when she was aged twelve and has degrees in botany, plant ecology and public management, the first two of which very clearly influence her writing and certainly her interest in spiders!

She was the winner of the 2001 BNZ Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award.

And in 2014, she held the inaugural Ema Saiko Poetry Fellowship at New Pacific Studio in the Wairarapa. Which is where she commenced work on her current prose poem sequence Reading the signs.

Janis was also the winner of the 2019 Geometry/Open Book National Poetry competition.

Her work has been in numerous poetry collections and three previous solo collections Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus, The Continuing Adventures of Alice Spider and The Glass Rooster.

“I first met Janis when I emigrated to New Zealand three years ago and was thrilled when Madison Hamill her editor at Cuba Press suggested that Janis included some of my artwork in Reading the signs. We both share some common themes and interests in our recent works.” says Neil.

We were delighted when Janis invited us along to the launch of her latest collection Reading the signs to record the first ever recitals from the Reading the Signs collection . Enjoy!



Kingdom Animalia : the escapades of Linnaeus / Freegard, Janis
“The poems in this first full collection from New Zealand’s Janis Freegard are categorized by Linnaean taxonomy: the six sections Mammalia, Aves, Amphibia, Pisces, Insecta, and Vermes are interspersed with a seven-part poem on the topic of Carolus Linneaus himself. Here Freegard catalogs the various fantastic and artistic, anthropomorphic and objective, rational and self-serving ways that humans draw on the animal world: as symbol and allegory, food and friend, ravening enemy, and sacred icon. From surreal prose poems to gorgeous lists–featuring a stuffed Maori dog, murderous magpies, and cake-shop cockroaches–Freegard’s verse reflects the diversity of the animal kingdom and its light-hearted fancifulness belies a strong commitment to conservation.” (Catalogue)

The glass rooster / Freegard, Janis
“The poems in The Glass Rooster explore the spaces inhabited by humans and other creatures–from natural ecosystems to cities and even to outer space. Our guide on this journey is a glass rooster–observer of stars and lover of hens–who first popped up in Janis Freegard’s poetry years ago and wanders unchecked through the book. Each of the eight sections (or “echo-systems”) in the book–the Damp Places, Forest, Cityscape, the Alpine Zone, Space, Home & Garden, Underground, and In the Desert–is introduced by a triolet: a French poetic form with repeated lines. Other poems are arranged in pairs, each echoing something about the other, whether desert plants, the presence of balloons, or the dangers of working in a mine. The result is a tremendous, riotous exploration of an interconnected world.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The year of falling / Freegard, Janis
“When the porcelain dolls start turning up on Selina’s doorstep, she knows it’s a bad sign. Shortly afterwards she embarks on an ill-judged affair with a celebrity TV chef. Both events, and the lies an untold truths at their heart, precipitate a spectacular fall from grace for high-flying graphic artist, Selina.” (Catalogue)

Specimen : personal essays / Hamill, Madison
“A father rollerblading to church in his ministerial robes, a university student in a leotard sprinting through fog, a trespass notice from Pak’nSave, a beautiful unborn goat in a jar . . . In scenarios ranging from the mundane to the surreal, Madison Hamill looks back at her younger selves with a sharp eye. Was she good or evil? Ignorant or enlightened? What parts of herself did she give up in order to forge ahead in school, church, work, and relationships, with a self that made sense to others? ” (Catalogue)

 Reading the Signs / Freegard, Janis
“Reading the Signs is Janis Freegard’s most recent poetry collection. The work is a prose poetry sequence which explores our inner and outer world’s through various means such as divination and the rich diversity of life as viewed through a poet as biological scientist lens. The core themes behind this  often humorous  but also serious collection are loss and recovery, climate change and gender fluidity not to mention spiders, piglets and Tasseography (tea leaf reading) . The publication includes accompanying art works by Neil Johnstone” ( Adapted from catalogue)