Poetry NZ Issue 30
Issue 30

Oz Kraus

James Norcliffe, Raewyn Alexander, Vincent Berquez, Robert James Berry, Rosemary Blake, Erick Brenstrum, Iain Britton, Owen Bullock, Rosalie Calabrese, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, Jennifer Compton, Jen Crawford, Blair Ewing, Jan FitzGerald, Robin Fry, Basim Furat, Bernard Gadd, Nathalie Handal, Siobhan Harvey, Elanna Herbert, Jan Hutchison, Jan Kemp, Moyae Kennedy, Karl Kirchwey, Catherine Mair, Pooja Mittal, Tommy O'Connor, Susan Paterson, Sarah Penwarden, Dennis Phillips, Mark Pirie, Ron Riddell, Jack Ross, Tracey Slaughter, Barry Southam, Sue Stanford, Ginny Sullivan, David Trame, KC Wilder

Nelson Wattie and Jenni Nixon on the 2004 Wellington International Poetry Festival

Alistair Paterson

Issue 30 features the work of James Norcliffe, one of New Zealand's most widely published and anthologised poets, who has won many of this country's most sought-after prizes and awards, and in the year 2000 held the University of Otago's Robert Burns Fellowship.

Three sample poems can be found here: les haricots ne sont pas sales by our featured poet, James Norcliffe, Sophia's lament by Dennis Phillips and Ripples by David Trame.


This is the 30th issue of PNZ and as publisher I feel the time is long overdue for me to express my appreciation to our readers, contributors, and above all to the editor, Alistair Paterson, who breathed new life into a journal struggling to survive in a world of short-lived poetry magazines. The early issues of PNZ had a rotating panel of voluntary editors made up mostly of academics from Wellington, Palmerston North and Auckland. It was in 1993, after the publication of issue 7, that I asked Alistair to consider the position of ongoing editor. The initial remuneration offered was too pitiful to mention but luckily for me and for Poetry NZ, he accepted.

Alistair has proved to be one of the finest editors of our day and perhaps the only editor willing to give generously, freely and unstintingly of his time to attract emerging writers as well as writers of renown, and to encourage new writers who showed merely a spark of talent. His ability to recognize that spark I attribute to his many, many years of experience as a poetry editor, a published writer, and a student of all forms of poetry. Although there are always writers who resent a suggestion that their work may be improved, our files after 12 years of Alistair's editorship are filled with letters expressing thanks for the help he has given them. A number of these letters are from writers whose work first appeared in these pages and who have since become highly regarded professional poets. It was under Alistair's guidance that Poetry NZ developed its distinctive character and gained its current international reputation.

Earlier, in 1990, I received a visit in my Auckland office from David Drummond, a science lecturer from Massey University in Palmerston North. He and his wife Wilhemina (also a lecturer at Massey) were operating a small publishing company called Nagare Press and were seeking a distributor, but David wanted to discuss a concept for a new poetry magazine he was about to launch, called Poetry NZ. It was inspired by Louis Johnson, the founder and editor of the annual publication, New Zealand Poetry Yearbook, of which 11 issues were published between 1951 and 1964. In David's preface to the first issue of PNZ he cites Louis Johnson as one of the 'significant ancestors' and he drew a sketch of Johnson which was used for the cover. I was asked to be the distributor of this new bi-annual journal and was also asked that my company, Brick Row, become the co-publisher. Although we were almost fully committed in our publishing and distribution arrangements, I readily agreed. David insisted that Brick Row be given first place in the imprint and accordingly it was published under the imprint Brick Row-Nagare, Auckland.

David Drummond, I soon learned, was not only a scientist and publisher but also an artist and poet, a true renaissance man in 20th century New Zealand. Sometime before my meeting with David there was an accident in one of the physics laboratories at Massey, involving a radioactive spill. Drummond was one of the first on the scene, and led the clean-up himself. David appeared unwell at our first meeting and I later learned that he had developed aplastic anaemia, a type of leukaemia often induced by exposure to high levels of radiation. His therapy failed to produce results and he entered Palmerston North Hospital just after he completed the preparation for the second issue of Poetry NZ. I remember flying down to visit David in hospital just after I managed to get the issue to press. It was obvious that David was dying when he said he would be eternally grateful if I could see the second issue through. I told him I would.

David Drummond died just before issue 2 was released. The cover design included another sketch by him. I believed in David; I believed in his concept for Poetry NZ and was determined to continue its publication. The cover art of the third issue was a Taniwha for David by John Patterson, 1991. I was going to build a reputation for Poetry NZ and I was going to win an overseas audience as well!

Although I had published many slim volumes of poetry I never felt competent enough to judge or assess the poetic work I published, and always used outside editors. Brick Row continued to produce and publish Poetry NZ, but by issue 7 energy began to flag. I implemented many of my promotional strategies to build up our subscription list but the academic editors had many other responsibilities and, understandably, could not devote the additional time required to sustain the very high standard they had achieved. It was then I sought an ongoing editor to carry on the good work begun by David Drummond. Alistair Paterson as editor of Poetry NZ gave the journal, through his tireless efforts, a unique personality and a new direction. Every submission was given a sympathetic reading. For the first time, I believe, since the days of Max Perkins, new and emerging writers were coached by an editor. Millions of Alistair's words may be found in the archives of Poetry NZ. Under Alistair's steadfast guidance PNZ grew, and the text was gradually expanded from the original 50 pages including ads to 112 pages with advertising prohibited. Reviews, articles and occasional correspondence were added, enabling me to realize my dream to make PNZ a truly international magazine. Long may Alistair's steady hand continue!

My thanks also to John Denny, handcraft printer and book designer, for his careful and outstanding production of every issue since number 7, and of course to my friend and former fellow Californian Bill Wieben, for the PNZ logo and his brilliant cover designs from issue 8.

Last but hardly least of my expressions of gratitude must go to Creative New Zealand, successor to the Literary Fund of Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, for their generous and ongoing support of Poetry NZ.

Oz Kraus, February 2005

les haricots ne sont pas sales

the origin of Zydeco

he claimed he had played in a wild zydeco band
back in high school in Monticello Texas

but nobody believed him: he had no rhythm
he was all clean beans & fastidious tendrils

& no mean machine either with thighs to slap
but elongated & stringy with a fiddler's neck

& nor was he creole but he did have the clipped
drawl that knew it all & the superior smile

that was aware that the Great Khan had conquered
the west because his cohorts could ride no hands

& there he would stand on the grass his ear cocked
for hooves drumming across the frozen steppes

& he'd be riding too pumping his wild accordion
oblivious to all the arrows black in the sky like rain

— Copyright James Norcliffe, 2005.

Sophia's lament


Can a book read a book?
Then why do they tell me I'm beautiful?
And what are these clouds that mask my eyes
and this strange thing they call air and insist on?

I tell you often that I like to hurt myself.
I mean what I say but it's not what you think.
I mean that I too insist on air now,
more and more as my eyes see clouds I once passed through.

What are those noises above us?

Does food drop straight to your feet?
I thought I told you this before.


There are night birds in my house
and the old woman begs me for a kiss.

There were squirrel-birds and jackal-birds
and the old woman wore a vermilion jacket.

She sits on the edge of a resting ladder.
Her arms rehearse a dance but she can't stand.

If you clap your hands the birds will go away.
Or at night the cold air slows them to be gathered.

I try to make the old woman stay
but she's looking somewhere else.

I hit my pillow. I throw my hundred creatures.
You ask me why I can't sleep alone.


What has changed in their voices?
Don't be afraid to answer.
Just because I once fed on air
doesn't mean I'm fragile.
I'm not like the beards of Spanish moss
hanging from trees by the ocean.

There was an animal but it was clothes.
That's what the dark is like
The air and the dark are not the same.

Is this a dream?
Is that what happened?


It's still dark but is it morning?
Does that make it the day?
A day can be where letters and numbers
are carried by the same breeze.

I can hear clouds passing.
There are sparks and sweeps of light outside.
Inside, the darkness looks like grey flannel, but moving.
Then I see pink on the curtains.

What is it that they expect of me?
Why do we need to sleep?
When can I know what it is they do
who drive at night?


I'm not tired. I sit on the porch
and watch the world pass by.
The world is cars, birds, helicopters
and someone who brings letters.

Palm fronds play in the wind
but what are fronds?
Crickets pulse and the night is hot.
Will this be my memory of summer?

There's a vacancy I feel
but they can't tell me why.
And only crickets come.

I wonder about the wind.
It whistles or the house does.
Something looms in the voices they speak with,
something unknowable that will never be enough.

— Copyright Dennis Phillips, 2005.


The slits of Buddha's eyes,
the symmetry of the long ears,
and the legs fully stretched, although crossed,
at one with stone and sky.
The palm of one hand, fingers tight,
facing you in the travelling air
with the 'abhaya mudra', the gesture
sealing off fear
and yourself
and all the rest,

your sea stretch
with ripples in the breeze
and you sailing on them
with no boat underneath.
But be sincere, there's a lot of fear,
you, plunged with no ground, no body,
in the absolute passing,
ripple after ripple marking
your nowhere.

The sun is bright on the sea
and humble and serious in the blue
the shadow of your gaze, the slits
of your eyes in the breeze.

— Copyright David Trame, 2005.