Poetry NZ Issue 47
Issue 47

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Alistair Paterson

David C Bellusci, Tyler Bigney, Owen Bullock, Adam Clay, Jenny Clay, Alison Denham, Jake Dennis, James Fagan, Jan FitzGerald, Vaughan Gunson, David Ingram, Gail Ingram, Sophia Johnson, Barbara Kamler, Sarah Katherina Kay, Robert Kempen, Leonard Lambert, Jessica Le Bas, Joel LeBlanc, Owen Leeming, Janet Newman, Piet Nieuwland, Heidi North-Bailey, Keith Nunes, Sugu Pillay, Mark Pirie, Vaughan Rapatahana, Ron Riddell, Harry Ricketts, John C Ross, Lisa Samuels, Penelope Sell, Eric Paul Shaffer, Deidre Thorsen-Lavery, Chris Tse, Roland Vogt, Michael Walker, Mark Wilkins, Christena Williams, Rheymin Yau, Mark Young, Karen Zelas

Jack Ross: Trouble in River City
Bill Sutton: Poetry conference gains momentum

Books and magazines in brief:
Alistair Paterson

New Zealand’s foremost poetry magazine, edited by Alistair Paterson onzm, presents the finest new writing from this country and elsewhere. Each edition offers poems by talented newcomers and developing poets as well as those of already acclaimed and established writers. This issue features the poetry of Harry Ricketts. Three sample poems can be found here: 1970 by Harry Ricketts (with Cath Vidler), Contrast in one by Robert Kempen, and My god, you’re getting married by Heidi North-Bailey.


Avant garde poetry has been around for a long time, and since the mid-1970s semiotics could perhaps be considered its most recent variant. Neither semiotics nor avant garde’s earlier varieties show any sign of going away. Their most recent forms lean towards the idea that the words and the symbols they consist of don’t carry ‘meaning’ in the usually accepted sense. Meaning exists in our minds rather than on paper or in phonemes. The signifieds ascribed to them by writers and their readers are influenced by the knowledge and experience they bring to them, while the text is experienced as an accompanying referent through deference. Signifiers are arbitrary. They don’t carry any signification other than what their writers and readers give them or bring to them through their personal experience. And even if as Charles Bernstein once said, ‘It’s impossible to separate prosody from the structure (the form and content…),’ what’s experienced as the sound, colour and form of the language creates the poem and its aesthetic.

This demonstrates that the language of poetry has no meaning unless we ascribe meaning to it, as when we meet a word like the Russian slovo. If we’ve not learned the language we have difficulty in assigning a signified to it—but nevertheless we’ll probably assign one anyway. As Lisa Samuels might say, and if we take it further, language imposes limitations, creates a dichotomy between what we experience and what its forms and structures allow us to experience.

Trying to escape the limitations imposed by formal linguistic structures such as sentence, clause and phrase, subject, object, verb and even words themselves, can pose a threat to the personal, social and community exchange of understandings that have made us what we are. There’s a limit—a limit worth thinking about—as to how far such an escape can be pursued.

But there could be benefits from pursuing it, from recognising the limitations of formal language and reconnecting with the irrational that has always been a major part of our lives, and in recognising the apparent randomness of the ways in which we experience language and the world around us. Poetry can benefit from this and should present an aesthetic which isn’t held together solely by the conventions and formalities of reason and language but by the shape and feel of the total experience that arises from it. If we allow this to happen then we ‘make it new’, enrich and enlarge ourselves through the ways in which we experience poetry as people like Lisa Samuels, Jack Ross and many others who discuss and write on literary theory, encourage us to.

Alistair Paterson

(with Cath Vidler)


A month ago I should have said:
‘White roses touched with snow.’
The flakes that hurry past me now
touch roses turned to red.


The roses that said:




a month ago
with snow

have turned
past white

to red.


I should hurry now.


‘Hurry with me,’
said the white roses.

Roses that I should have touched
turned to snow a month ago.

Now past flakes.
Touch that red.

— Copyright Harry Ricketts, 2013

Contrast in one

Eleven o’ clock in the evening
not quite—
but is with the moon’s night sky-high
Is that appearance
as of where I sit,
a self-accepted area
—a sustenance terrain
Waitemata Harbour—its water,
its air, its space expanse.

Man-made hour’s time subconsciously with
one’s doings/schedules,
still is close to it
as it stands in the vicinity

of ten-thirty

A non-issue to this brilliance,
bright in its full phase—and
the time for it to coincide
with the ever once a year remembrance
a Cross on the bun
eggs in festival colours
from the hands, lands of Europe—‘mouths’
—a never to cease


— Copyright Robert Kempen, 2013.

My god, you’re getting married

like a spark in a dark room
the spike red flame
colour you can dive
you give me your hand

love to run your finger over that band of gold
of sparkle

joy to lift you off your feet

oh oh oh

little breaths of wind
wine that spills
by the bottle bubbles
burst bubbles and bubbles

heat and feet
heels kicked off
someone glittering in the corner

and someone else is crying
in joy of course

so much laughter
and the room may be too bright

but you can take it

— Copyright Heidi North-Bailey, 2013.