Pōneke poets: Open mic event for Pride 2023

We’re thrilled to be hosting a special free event as part of Wellington Pride Festival’s ‘Out in the City‘ celebrations. Local poets of all backgrounds and experience levels are invited to contribute to the vibrant and dynamic queer poetry scene, in Pōneke poets: open mic. We invite LGBTQIA+ poets and allies to join us and share oral histories, personal stories and creative voices in an open-mic poetry hour, hosted by local poet and comedian (and librarian) Alayne Dick.

This year’s Pride Festival theme is: ka mau ka muri — walking backwards into the future. As one of the oldest literary forms, crossing all boundaries, ethnicities, and time periods poetry expresses an imaginative wandering of culture and experience. We invite you to voice your creative hopes for the future through the engaging medium of spoken word poetry.

What: Pōneke poets: Open mic
When: Saturday 18th March, 1-2pm
Where: Harbourview Lounge, Michael Fowler Center, CBD
Free entry, open to all ages and experience levels
Event info on Facebook

As always, keep an eye out for our ‘Out in the City’ Wellington City Libraries stall! We’ll be there all day handing out our signature queer literary icon badges (as well as the usual rainbow library ones!), and talking about LGBTQIA+ books, movies, online resources and more. Come say hi!

From royalty to rugby, to teletubbies: New biographies

It’s November and we’ve got another bumper crop of biographies hitting the shelves for you all to enjoy.  From royalty to rugby, teenagers to Tellytubbies, saints to sinners, there’s something for everyone.

To see what else is new in our collection, go to what’s new & popular (wcl.govt.nz)

Women like us : a memoir / Prowse, Amanda
“Sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious and always entirely relatable, Prowse details her early struggles with self-esteem and how she coped with the frustrating expectations others had of how she should live. Most poignantly, she delves into her toxic relationship with food, the hardest addiction she has ever known, and how she journeyed out the other side. One of the most candid memoirs you’re ever likely to read, Women Like Us provides welcome insight into how it is possible–against the odds–to overcome insecurity, body consciousness and the ubiquitous imposter syndrome to find happiness and success, from a woman who’s done it all, and then some.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Napoleon : the decline and fall of an empire : 1811-1821 / Broers, Michael
“In 1811, Napoleon stood at his zenith: he had defeated all of his continental rivals, had an heir on the way with his new wife, and his personal life was calm and secure. Within two years all of this was in peril. Broers delivers a dynamic new history covering the last chapter of the emperor’s life. Drawing on Napoleon’s personal correspondence, his history follows Napoleon’s thoughts and feelings as he fought to preserve the world he had created. The sheer determination of Tsar Alexander and the British to bring Napoleon down is a story of compromise and sacrifice.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Acne : a memoir / Chinn, Laura
“Laura Chinn tells her by turns horrifying and hilarious story of growing up with non-conformist, irresponsible parents and countless family tragedies (and really bad, chronic acne) and how she found happiness despite everything.” (Catalogue)

To love and be loved : a personal portrait of Mother Teresa / Towey, Jim
“Author Jim Towey had been a high-flying Congressional staffer and lawyer in the 1980s until a brief meeting with Mother Teresa illuminated the emptiness of his life. He began volunteering at one of her soup kitchens and using his legal skills and political connections to help the Missionaries of Charity. When Mother Teresa suggested he take shifts at her AIDS hospice, Towey realized he was all in. Soon, he gave up his job and possessions and became a full-time volunteer for Mother Teresa. To Love and Be Loved is a firsthand account of Mother Teresa’s last years, and the first book ever to detail her dealings with worldly matters. We see her gracefully navigate the opportunities and challenges of leadership, the perils of celebrity, and the humiliations and triumphs of aging. We also catch her indulging in chocolate ice cream, making jokes about mini-skirts, and telling the President of the United States he’s wrong.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Diana : remembering the Princess : reflections on her life twenty-five years on / Wharfe, Ken
“On the twenty-fifth anniversary of her death, this intimate and enlightening book explores the legacy of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her influence on the monarchy, on her sons and on wider social attitudes. An authoritative book, written with two close friends of Diana: Inspector Ken Wharfe was Diana’s police protection officer for six years during the most turbulent period of her marriage to Prince Charles. Ros Coward was chosen as author of the official book by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Trust.” (Catalogue)

Over the hills and far away : my life as a Teletubby / Smedley, Nikky
“Say ‘Eh-Oh’ to the performer behind the beloved Teletubby Laa-Laa … When children’s TV programme Teletubbies first aired in 1997, no one expected the cult status it would achieve. Propelled by a unique blend of educational theory, child psychology and linguistics, the show went on to air in 45 languages in 120 countries, win multiple BAFTA Awards, and achieve viewing figures of three billion a year. In a memoir as lively and funny as the programme itself, Nikky Smedley lifts the curtain on what it was like to be a Teletubby and takes us behind the magical scenes of a global phenomenon.” (Catalogue)

Billy Wallace : a true rugby legend / Dwyer, Denis
“In 1905 Billy Wallace was selected to represent New Zealand, touring the British Isles, France and North America, as part of a rugby team that became known as The Original All Blacks. It was during this landmark tour that Billy Wallace showed the rest of the world how the game should be played. Wallace’s rugby career highlights include: scoring the first points for New Zealand in an international test match; being the first Kiwi to score 500 points in first-class rugby; holding the New Zealand record for the most points scored in a single All Blacks match for 46 years. To this day Wallace holds the world record for the most points scored on a rugby tour by any player. Including previous unseen rugby archive and family photographs, this fascinating biography tells the complete story of the life and career of Billy Wallace, a true rugby legend.” (Catalogue)

Zelensky : a biography / Rudenko, Serhiĭ
“Three years after the political novice Volodymyr Zelensky was elected to Ukraine’s highest office, he found himself catapulted into the role of war-time leader. The former comedian has become the public face of his country’s courageous and bloody struggle against a brutal invasion. Born to Jewish parents in central Ukraine, Zelensky campaigned for the presidency in the 2019 election on the promise to restore trust in politics. After his landslide victory, he told jubilant supporters ‘I will never let you down.’ Little did he know that he would be called upon to serve his people in the most demanding circumstances imaginable, fighting for the very survival of his country in the worst war on European soil since 1945. Zelensky’s leadership in the face of Russia’s aggression is an inspiration to everyone who stands opposed to the appalling violence being unleashed on Ukraine. This book tells his astonishing story.” (Catalogue)

Jersey breaks : becoming an American poet / Pinsky, Robert
“In late-1940s Long Branch, an historic but run-down Jersey Shore resort town, in a neighborhood of Italian, Black, and Jewish families, Robert Pinsky began his unlikely journey to becoming a poet. Descended from a bootlegger grandfather, an athletic father, and a rebellious tomboy mother, Pinsky was an unruly but articulate high-school C-student whose obsession with the rhythms and melodies of speech inspired him to write. Pinsky traces the roots of his poetry, with its wide and fearless range, back to the voices of his neighborhood, to music and a distinctly American tradition of improvisation, with influences including Mark Twain and Ray Charles, Marianne Moore and Mel Brooks, Emily Dickinson and Sid Caesar, Dante Alighieri and the Orthodox Jewish liturgy. Jersey Breaks offers a candid self-portrait and, underlying Pinsky’s notable public presence and unprecedented three terms as poet laureate of the United States, a unique poetic understanding of American culture.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Dinners with Ruth : a memoir on the power of friendships / Totenberg, Nina
“Dinners with Ruth is an extraordinary account of two women who paved the way for future generations by tearing down professional and legal barriers. It is also an intimate memoir of the power of friendships as women began to pry open career doors and transform the workplace. At the story’s heart is one, special relationship: Ruth and Nina saw each other not only through personal joys, but also illness, loss, and widowhood. Ruth drew Nina out of grief during the devastating illness and eventual death of Nina’s first husband; twelve years later, Nina would reciprocate when Ruth’s beloved husband died. They shared a love of opera and shopping, as they instinctively understood that clothes were armor for women who wanted to be taken seriously in a workplace dominated by men. During Ruth’s last year, they shared so many small dinners that Saturdays were “reserved for Ruth” in Nina’s house.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

All signs point to Paris : a memoir of love, loss and destiny / Sizlo, Natasha
“Divorced, broke, and heartsick, it seems like things can’t get worse for Natasha Barrett-then she learns her beloved father is dying. So when she’s gifted a session with LA’s most sought-after astrologist, Natasha has nothing to lose. She doesn’t believe in astrology, but the reading is eerily, impossibly accurate. As her misgivings give way, Natasha asks about her emotionally unavailable, yet terribly handsome ex-boyfriend, the one she can’t seem to get over. To Natasha’s surprise, the astrologist tells her he is The One. His birthdate and birthplace-November 2, 1968 in Paris, France-line up with Natasha’s astrological point of destiny. The word husband comes up in the reading. Natasha feels faint. Was her ex really the big soul love she was destined for? Then, she has a lightning bolt of an idea: he couldn’t possibly be the only available man born on November 2, 1968 in Paris. Her soulmate is still out there-she just has to find him.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Life’s work : a memoir / Milch, David
“From the start, Milch’s life seems destined to echo that of his father, a successful if drug-addicted surgeon. Almost every achievement is accompanied by an act of self-immolation, but the deepest sadnesses also contain moments of grace. Betting on race horses and stealing booze at eight years old, mentored by Robert Penn Warren and excoriated by Richard Yates at twenty-one, Milch never did anything by half. He got into Yale Law only to be expelled for shooting out street lights with a shotgun. He paused his studies at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop to manufacture acid in Cuernavaca. He created and wrote some of the biggest, most lauded television series of all time, made a family and pursued sobriety, and then lost his fortune betting horses just as his father had taught him.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

An accidental icon : how I dodged a bullet, spoke truth to power and lived to tell the tale / Scott, Norman
“In October 1975 an assassin tried to murder Norman Scott on Exmoor but the trigger failed and he only succeeded in shooting Scott’s beloved dog, Rinka. Scott subsequently found himself at the centre of a major political scandal and became an unlikely queer icon. But this was never his intention… He was born in 1940 into a poor, dysfunctional and abusive family. Aged sixteen he began an equestrian career, animals having been the one source of comfort in his childhood. By the age of twenty he had run into debts and had suffered a nervous breakdown. In 1960 Scott began a sexual affair with Jeremy Thorpe. By the time of the attempted assassination of Scott, Thorpe was married, leader of the Liberal Party and a figure at the heart of the establishment. He was embarrassed by their former relationship and wanted to cover it up. But he failed. The assassination attempt culminated in a sensational trial in 1979, where Thorpe was tried for conspiracy to murder. The press labelled Scott a madman and the establishment protected Thorpe, who was acquitted. Only recently has Scott’s version of events been vindicated. An Accidental Icon tells a story that is inspiring and jaw droppingly unbelievable: it is the tale of the courage and survival of one man who took on the establishment” (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.