Youth Poetry Workshop at Newtown Library, Friday 25 August

Are you aged between 10 and 18? Enjoy writing and poetry? Sign up and come along to our Youth Poetry Workshop this Friday 25 August, from 4-6pm, at Newtown Library in collaboration with Landing Press!

We’ll be celebrating National Poetry Day and writing on the theme of ‘generations’, so bring your thoughts, feelings and ideas and come and join a published poet and workshop your poems!

Spots are limited, email to register (put ‘Newtown Poetry Workshop’ in the subject line):


Wellington Writers Walk: Elizabeth Knox

In the lead up to our Wellington Writers Walk Event at Karori Library we’ve taken a closer look at Elizabeth Knox’s typographical sculpture, which features a quote taken from ‘Provenance’, in ‘The Love School’ (2008).

The evening light concentrated, till the city and the
topped-up trembling horizon beyond Pencarrow Head would
begin to look like a seaport in someone’s lost paradise.

Listen to local authors and Wellington Writers Walk Committee members Philippa Werry and Maggie Rainey-Smith chat about Knox’s work along our author-lined waterfront. Knox’s words are subtly embedded underfoot, on the boardwalk between Shed 13 and Michael Tuffrey’s giant kina sculpture at Kumutoto Wharf. Capturing the light and shining up at passersby, the sculpture pays tribute to the significant contributions Knox has made to New Zealand’s contemporary writing scene.

Join us at Karori Library on Saturday 13th May, 11am for a special event celebrating the 21st anniversary of the Wellington Writers Walk, featuring renowned authors Elizabeth Knox and Dame Fiona Kidman in discussion with fellow author and Writers Walk committee member Tanya Ashcroft. Together they will talk about the creation, history and future of this wonderful Wellington institution, and the part they’ve played in making the walk the much-loved success it is.

Please note we expect this event to be very popular and seating will be on a first come first served basis. A New Zealand Sign Language Interpreter will be present at this event.

Explore some of Elizabeth Knox’s books in our collection:

The love school : personal essays / Knox, Elizabeth
“Culled from two decades of nonfiction writing from an original and much-celebrated author, these essays tell the story of important moments and experiences in Elizabeth Knox’s life. From her first literary efforts as a child to the jobs she took to support herself so she could write, these writings provide a brilliant and personal look into the life of an internationally successful writer. Displaying the vivid and rich qualities for which Knox is renowned, these works reveal the process through which Knox creates as well as the purpose behind her work.” (Catalogue)

The Angel’s Cut / Knox, Elizabeth
“A sequel to her award-winning bestseller The Vintner’s Luck, The Angel’s Cut is an evocative and wildly romantic new novel from Elizabeth Knox. Boomtown Los Angeles, 1929: Into a world of movies lots and speakeasies comes Xas, stunt flier and wingless angel, still nursing his broken heart, and determined only to go on living in the air. But there are forces that will keep him on the ground. Forces like Conrad Cole, movie director and aircraft designer, a glory-seeking king of the grand splash who is also a man sinking into his own sovereign darkness. And Flora McLeod, film editor and maimed former actress, who sees something in Xas that no-one has ever seen before, not even God, who made him, or Lucifer, the general he once followed — Lucifer, who has lost Xas once, but won’t let that be the end of it.” (Catalogue)

Wake / Knox, Elizabeth
“One sunny spring morning the Tasman Bay settlement of Kahukura is overwhelmed by a mysterious mass insanity. A handful of survivors find themselves cut off from the world, and surrounded by the dead. As they try to take care of one another, and survive in ever more difficult circumstances, it becomes apparent that this isn’t the first time that this has happened, and that they aren’t all survivors and victims-two of them are something quite other. And, it seems, they are trapped with something. Something unseen is picking at the loose threads of their characters, corrupting, provoking, and haunting them. Wake is a novel about what it really means to try to do one’s best, about the choices and sacrifices people face in order to keep a promise like “I will take care of you.” It is a novel that asks: What are the last things left when the worst has happened? and about extreme events, ordinary people, heroic compassion-and invisible monsters. An invisible…” (Catalogue)

An unreal house filled with real storms / Knox, Elizabeth
“Elizabeth Knox discusses the process of writing her memoirs as a recipient of the Michael King Fellowship.” (Catalogue)

Black oxen / Knox, Elizabeth
Black Oxen is the story of Carme Risk’s pursuit of her beautiful and not quite human father through two worlds and three changes of identity. In her forties, in the year 2022, Risk has entered narrative therapy. Her memories and her father’s journal take her from the Eden of her earliest childhood to dusty, poor Lequama, a Latin American country, where she and her father become involved with the slightly mad young leaders of a recent revolution and where everyone seems to practice black magic – and, finally, to life in Northern California, where Risk, still in thrall to her elusive father, is now the widow of Lequama’s most notorious torturer.”  (Catalogue)

Billie’s kiss / Knox, Elizabeth
“In the spring of 1903, a ship explodes as it docks on a remote Scottish island, drowning many of the passengers and crew in the icy waters of the harbor. Young, pink-haired Billie Paxton is among the only survivors. Clumsy, illiterate, and suddenly alone, she will not say why, moments before the explosion, she leapt from ship to shore – and so she falls under the immediate suspicion of her fellow passenger, Murdo Hesketh, who is determined to discover the truth behind the ship’s fate. As she attempts to come to terms with an uncertain future, Billie acquaints herself with the eccentric inhabitants of Kiss Castle: the enigmatic Lord Hallowhulme, who owns the island; his beautiful wife and worldly children; Geordie Betler, a spinsterish gentleman’s gentleman; and the fierce, fair-haired Murdo Hesketh, who inspires in Billie equal amounts of rage and passion.” (Catalogue)

Daylight / Knox, Elizabeth
“Set on the Mediterranean coast from Avignon to Genoa, Daylight begins with the discovery of a body in a flooded cave. Is she connected to the story of Martine Raimondi, a WWII resistance heroine and martyred nun?” (Catalogue)

Paremata / Knox, Elizabeth
“Paremata summons up with diamond-bright particularity of detail, a place, the coastal suburb north of Wellington, and a time, the summer of 1969. It is a powerful and affecting story about transition, about codes being broken, sexuality, the vulnerability and the toughness of the charged world of children. Around this world move the figures of the adults, sometimes shadily – as in the case of the mysterious Pavel – and always on the outside.” (Catalogue)

The vintner’s luck / Knox, Elizabeth
“One summer night in 1808, Sobran Jodeau sets out to drown his love sorrows in his family’s vineyard when he stumbles on an angel. Once he gets over his shock, Sobran decides that Xas, the male angel, is his guardian sent to counsel him on everything from marriage to wine production. But Xas turns out to be a far more mysterious character. Compelling and erotic, The Vintner’s Luck explores a decidedly unorthodox love story as Sobran eventually comes to love and be loved by both Xas and the young Countess de Valday, his friend and employer at the neighboring chateau.” (Catalogue)

After Z-hour / Knox, Elizabeth
“Stranded by a South Island storm, six people usurp the stillness of an old house. As they tell the fragments of their story, a seventh voice responds: a young New Zealand serviceman who died in 1920 soon after his return from France. As the storm deepens, the hauntings of the mind and the hauntings of the house become one”–Back cover.” (Catalogue)

The absolute book / Knox, Elizabeth
“Taryn Cornick believes that the past is behind her – her sister’s death by violence, and her own ill-conceived revenge. She has chosen to live a life more professional than personal. She has written a book about the things that threaten libraries – insects, damp, light, fire, carelessness and uncaring. The book is a success, but not all of the attention it brings her is good. There are questions about a fire in the library at Princes Gate, her grandparents’ house, and about an ancient scroll box known as the Firestarter. A policeman, Jacob Berger, has questions about a cold case. There are threatening phone calls. And a shadowy young man named Shift appears, bringing his shadows with him. Taryn, Jacob, Shift – three people are driven towards a reckoning felt in more than one world.” (Catalogue)

Mortal fire / Knox, Elizabeth
“When sixteen-year-old Canny of the Pacific island, Southland, sets out on a trip with her stepbrother and his girlfriend, she finds herself drawn into enchanting Zarene Valley where the mysterious but dark seventeen-year-old Ghislain helps her to figure out her origins”–Publisher information. Suggested level: secondary.” (Catalogue)

The poets among us: Our literary librarians

Today is the 25th anniversary of Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day, and as part of our celebration we’re highlighting the emerging talents within our own ranks. When these writers aren’t penning new poems or performing live, they double as our Librarians, who help connect their local communities to the literary world they are a part of.

We open with Emma Rattenbury’s swirling and almost melancholic interior insights, before diving into Jo McNeice’s subtle and tender homage to Aro Valley. Rogelio Guedea’s work follows, which intimately speaks to bridging the gaps between countries, language and the fissures of love. Alayne Dick takes us on a comedic trip, wryly losing keys and thoughts along the way, as she careens through an endless stream of apt questioning. Belinda Davis then turns a familiar and mundane suburban sight into a sweeping story that you can feel twisting and turning around you. And be sure to catch Tarns Hood’s slam poem finale, it’s truly epic. Full of building energy, she hits the nail on the head of all our frustrations and knocks her performance out of the park.

Enjoy the broad array of voices and styles that these six creatives embrace, as they perform an original work for National Poetry Day. We encourage you to discover, support and enhance Wellingtonian voices across the city today, to share in the joys and power of poetry.

To experience a bi-lingual poetry reading today, drop by Waitohi Johnsonville Library at 3:30pm, to see Rogelio Guedea perform works from his new poetry collection ‘O me voy o te vas / One of us must go’ (2022) in Spanish and English, accompanied by live music.



Belinda Davis (she/her/ia) is a long-time librarian, singer, poet, writer and comedian. Performing regularly at the Fringe Bar and elsewhere, she is published in journals all over her house.

Alayne Dick is  is a writer and performer based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara/ Wellington, New Zealand. Her poems have been featured in Cordite Poetry Review, Sport and Stasis. She has performed her poetry live on Radio New Zealand and had a poem featured on musician Pickle Darling’s album ‘Cosmonaut’. Alayne will be performing her set ‘Deep and Meaningful’ at Sydney Fringe Festival on 13 -17 September 2022.

Rogelio Guedea is a Mexican-born poet and novelist of more than 40 books. His poetry collection ‘Kora’ was awarded the prestigious Spanish Premio Adonáis de Poesía in 2008, and in 2013 his novel, ‘El crimen de Los Tepames (Mondadori)’, was one of the top five best-selling novels in Mexico. Rogelio is currently based in Wellington and is the director of The New Zealand Hispanic Press.

Tarns Hood is a Wellington based Performance Poet and the 2019 AND 2020 Wellington Regional Poetry Slam Champion! Her poetic works focus around addiction, mental health, being oddly observant and general irreverence. Tarns performs at festivals, variety shows, fundraisers, competitions and corporate events. She’s a frequent contributor to NZPS and Regenerate Magazine and her words have been heard across local and national radio.

Jo McNeice has a Masters in Creative Writing from Te Pūtahi Tuhi Auaha o Te Ao, Te Herenga Waka/International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington.  Her poems have appeared in Turbine/Kapohau, Sport, Mayhem and JAAM.

Emma Rattenbury was born and bred in Taranaki, is a graduate of VUW’s MFA Theatre Programme and is now living in Pōneke. Emma’s work includes ‘The Secret Lives of Sixteen Year Old Girls’ (BATS Theatre), and ‘Wonderkind’ (Circa Theatre) from the newly established Wonderlight Theatre Aotearoa. Her play ‘Weed Wacker’ won ‘Best Original Script & Production – New NZ Short Plays’ at the Manawatu Theatre Awards. She is a member of Long Cloud Youth Theatre.


Poet Interview: Sudha Rao

Photographer credit: Ebony Lamb

Sudha Rao is a Wellington based poet and dancer, originally from South India. She recently released her debut poetry collection, On elephant’s shoulders, published through The Cuba Press.

We were lucky enough to get to catch-up with Rao about her new book, her writing process and living the life of a mouse. You can watch the interview below, and then reserve a copy of her book through our online catalogue. Rao’s writing can also be found in Ko Aotearoa tātou, we are New Zealand : an anthology, More of us, and Meowing. Part 1, The Meow Gurrrls’ little book of poetry. We’ve also including a list of some of the many writers Rao mentions during this interview, which you can find below.

Thank-you to Sudha Rao for taking the time to chat with us and for providing such insightful answers to our questions. We’d also like to thank The Cuba Press for hosting us in their lovely office.

Super model minority / Tse, Chris
“From making boys cry with the power of poetry to hitting back against microaggressions and sucker punches, these irreverent and tender poems dive headfirst into race and sexuality”–Back cover.” (Catalogue)

Body politic / Cresswell, M. M
“Fifty years after she arrived in New Zealand from Los Angeles, Mary Cresswell’s focus is unchanged. As a poet with a scientist’s concern for detail she is still drawn to nature and what humanity has done with it. Seascapes are rocky and forbidding, landscapes are arid and treeless, and drones keep an eye on us. The few surviving animals-one frog and two birds-speculate on ‘extinction’ even as it is happening to them, just as the poet describes the strange paradox of the pandemic that on one hand threatens humanity and on the other allows the planet to breathe again. Mary uses wordplay, satire and absurdity to tell her story, and puts the body politic centre stage as the cause of and agent for repairing the mess we are in.” (Catalogue)

House & contents / O’Brien, Gregory
“Our mother’s clouds and insects fly to embrace your clouds and insects. Her architecture, roads, bridges and infrastructure rush to greet yours. Her molecules on their upward trajectory entwine with yours, the colour of her eyes, hair and skin. Her language, with its past participles, figures of speech, the sounds and tremors which are its flesh and bones these words go out to greet your words and to greet you – these words which will never leave her. House & Contents is a moving meditation on earthquakes and uncertainties, parents and hats, through Gregory O’Brien’s remarkable poetry and paintings.”–Publisher information.” (Catalogue)

Lost and somewhere else / Bornholdt, Jenny
“In Lost and Somewhere Else, Jenny Bornholdt finds many places to stand: at home, in memories of places and people, and in the Ernst Plischke-designed Henderson House in Alexandra, Central Otago, in which she lived while writing these poems. This graceful, witty and unsettling book is Bornholdt at her very best: her language at once bold and subtle, and even her smallest insights profound.” (Catalogue)

Tender machines / Neale, Emma
“In this follow-up to the award-winning The Truth Garden, Emma Neale explores the state of the human condition in the second decade of the 21st century, when a post-humanist future looms large and our machines seem to know more than we do. In poems that are engaged, compelling, witty and moving, she looks at how we navigate a true line through the psychological, environmental, social and economic anxieties of our times.”–Back cover.” (Catalogue)

Selected poems / Manhire, Bill
“This generous selection of Bill Manhire’s poems moves from playful early pieces like “On Originality” and “How to Take off Your Clothes at the Picnic” to major works of recent years such as “Hotel Emergencies”–a powerful response to contemporary atrocities–and “Erebus Voices”–written to be read by Sir Edmund Hillary at the 25th anniversary of the Mt. Erebus tragedy. The poems featured in this definitive collection of New Zealand’s most important poet are deceptively simple, often funny, and always revelatory of his own and his country’s history.” (Catalogue)

Collected poetry and prose / Stevens, Wallace
“”Undoubtedly, the single finest collection of Wallace Stevens ever produced.” — Library Journal Wallace Stevens’s unique voice combined meditative speculation and what he called “the essential gaudiness of poetry” in a body of work of astonishing profusion and exuberance, poems that have remained an inspiration and influence for generations of poets and readers. Now, for the first time, the works of America’s supreme poet of the imagination are collected in one authoritative Library of America volume.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

When I grow up I want to be a list of further possibilities / Chen, Chen
“In this ferocious and tender debut, Chen Chen investigates inherited forms of love and family — the strained relationship between a mother and son, the cost of necessary goodbyes — all from Asian American, immigrant, and queer perspectives. Holding all accountable, this collection fully embraces the loss, grief, and abundant joy that come with charting one’s own path in identity, life, and love. When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities. To be a season of laughter when my father says his coworker is like that, he can tell because the guy wears pink socks, see, you don’t, so you can’t, you can’t be one of them. To be the one my parents raised me to be. A season from the stormiest planet. A very good feeling with a man. Every feeling, in pink shoes. Every step, hot pink.”– Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)

Poet Interview: Khadro Mohamed

Khadro Mohamed is a writer and poet residing on the shores of Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Her poetry collection, We’re All Made of Lightning, is an incredible debut book and a rich exploration of nature, food, family and identity. This book is “a love letter to her homeland, her whakapapa, and herself” -quoted from We Are Babies.

Khadro was kind enough to drop into Te Awe library to chat about her new book, her writing process and how we can only hope to cook as well as our mum. You can check out the interview, and the books mentioned, below! Thank-you to Khadro and also We Are Babies for letting us feature a poem from this collection.

We’re all made of lightning / Mohamed, Khadro
“Khadro Mohamed expertly navigates the experience of being a Muslim women in Aotearoa, bringing us along on her journey of selfhood. Shifting between Aotearoa, Egypt and Somalia, we get a glimpse into her worlds, which are rich and full of life. Mohamed has a sense of wonder for the world around her, exploring nature, food, family and identity. This book is a love letter to her homeland, her whakapapa, and herself.” (Catalogue)

Homie : poems / Smith, Danez
“Homie is Danez Smith’s magnificent anthem about the saving grace of friendship. Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes up to the window, and family–blood and chosen–arrives with just the right food and some redemption. Part friendship diary, part bright elegy, part war cry, Homie is the exuberant new book written for Danez and for Danez’s friends and for you and for yours.”– Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)

Don’t call us dead : poems / Smith, Danez
“Smith’s unflinching poetry addresses race, class, sexuality, faith, social justice, mortality, and the challenges of living HIV positive at the intersection of black and queer identity. The collection opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved on earth. “Dear White America,” which Smith performed at the 2014 Rustbelt Midwest Region Poetry Slam, has as strong an impact on the page as it did on the spoken word stage. Smith’s courage and hope amidst the struggle for unity in America will humble and uplift you.” (Catalogue)

Small hands / Arshi, Mona
“Mona Arshi’s debut collection, ‘Small hands’, introduces a brilliant and compelling new voice. At the centre of the book is the slow detonation of grief after her brother’s death, but her work focuses on the whole variety of human experience: pleasure, hardship, tradition, energised by language which is in turn both tender and risky. Often startling as well as lyrical, Arshi’s poems resist fixity; there is a gentle poignancy at work here which haunts many of the poems. This is humane poetry. Arshi’s is a daring, moving and original voice. – Publisher’s description.” (Catalogue)



Author interview: Jordan Hamel

Jordan Hamel is a Pōneke-based writer, poet and performer. He was the 2018 New Zealand Poetry Slam champion and represented NZ at the World Poetry Slam Champs in the USA in 2019. He is the co-editor of Stasis Journal and co-editor of the climate change poetry anthology No Other Place to Stand (Auckland University Press). He was a 2021 Michael King Writer-in-Residence and placed third in the 2021 Sargeson Prize judged by Patricia Grace. He has had poetry, essays and stories published in The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Newsroom, Sport, NZ Poetry Shelf, Landfall, Turbine | Kapohau and elsewhere.

Hamel’s debut collection, Everyone is everyone except you has just been published by Dead Bird Books and is an excellent, deeply intelligent and entertaining collection. We were lucky enough to have Hamel drop by to talk about his new book, New Zealand poetry, Briscoes and much more. Check out our delightful interview with him below!

Reserve Hamel’s book, as well the other collections mentioned in this interview, via the booklist below!

Everyone is everyone except you / Hamel, Jordan

National anthem / Hassan, Mohamed
“National anthem is a menagerie of exiled memories. A meditation on the beauty and madness of migration, nationalism and the enduring search for home.” (Catalogue)

Conventional weapons / Slaughter, Tracey
“Conventional Weapons is lyrical and dirty, sexy and dark – it is cul-de-sac life, viewed through a grimy ranch slider. These poems closely observe the beauty and depravity of human nature, revealing lives that are hard-bitten and sometimes tragic, but in Tracey Slaughter’s hands they become radiant.” (Catalogue)

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 fucking 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’s the best. She kills me always, every time, and forever.’ –Hera Lindsay Bird” (Catalogue)