Tuesday Poem: “Statues” by Sarah Jane Barnett


Anna asks me to help her move the garden statues:
the petite Grecian woman bent over the well
is to stand beside the front door; the matching
Grecian man sits opposite; a gift from her husband.
I don’t like him: he is badly cast and his white pockmarked
hands pour a bucket of nothing into nowhere.
Anna tells me from a distance the pair seem graceful.
I imagine water, and the woman watching
continents of clouds slide across the well’s surface. And the man,
if he was kind, would look to the curve of his wife’s back,
see her hand’s small efforts, before hauling his own bucket
to the fields where only that morning
he’d planted radishes, and carefully soak the tilled earth to black.
For their sake, I hope they are labouring
in the mild evening, out of the heat of the day;
that they’re able to talk of family business in a language
that only the two of them know. Is this what my friend
sees from her kitchen window? A man and a woman,
their deep comings and goings? Or does she see two figures
frozen in a moment of emptying and emptying?
As I bend under the man’s weight, Anna asks me to speak plainly—
Do they work together?
Her voice pours like water over stone.

It’s been a few months since I posted one of my own poems as a Tuesday Poem. “Statues” has gone through a couple of revisions and will be part of my doctoral thesis. For me, I like the quietness of the poem, and the subtleties that come with that.

For more Tuesday Poems check out the hub.

One Human in Height by Rachel O’Neill

My publisher, Hue & Cry Press, have a new book coming out: One Human in Height by poet Rachel O’Neill. I can’t wait to read this collection which is described as “a collection of dramatic, exuberant and at times irreverent prose poems that explore how we might describe the bewitching strangeness of ordinary experience.” Hue & Cry Press are using Pledge-me again to raise funds for printing. There are lots of great rewards. Check it out their pledge page!


New Zealand Post Book Awards: Finalist!


I am excited to announce that my debut collection, A Man Runs into a Woman, has been selected as a finalist in the poetry category for the New Zealand Post Book Awards. There are three first-time authors out of sixteen finalists (myself, Gigi Fenster for The Intentions Book, and Jarrod Gilbert for Patched: The History of Gangs in New Zealand). It’s an incredible honour and, as the judges described it, “an amazing achievement.” You can also vote for my collection in the People’s Choice Award.

I found out that I was a finalist about a month ago (and signed a confidentiality agreement until the official announcement date) so I’d spent some time getting used to the idea. It still didn’t prepare me for yesterday when the finalists were announced. I have never had so many texts, emails, tweets, and phone calls of support, including on the occasion of my son’s birth. I think this shows the incredible community and support network that is New Zealand writing.

While being short listed for a writing award (and the associated publicity and book sales) is what every author wants, for me it means that readers are connecting with my work; that my poetry is in dialogue with the world. I remember writing the death row poems, most of which were written in an internet cafe during precious time off work, and wondering what the hell I was doing. It seemed insane at the time. I thought no one would publish the series, but the poems were in my head and wouldn’t shut up. My manuscript was rejected by two publishers – admittedly in different and much weaker incarnations – before my publisher, Hue & Cry Press, worked with me to shape it into the current collection. They took such great care with my work. I feel that this book is as much theirs as it is mine.

I was interviewed yesterday about being a finalist, and the interviewer asked me what the recognition means to me. Not to be melodramatic, but it means everything. Writing is an inherently solitary activity. Most of my time is spent alone. I’ve learned that following my voice, instincts, and ideas that excite me leads to interesting work, but being shortlisted validates that impulse. I suddenly have permission to continue to write what excites me. Poet and critic, Lesley Wheeler elegantly summed up the idea on her blog:

If something about the jostle of the words in a poem doesn’t delight, confuse, or outright alarm you, why are you writing it? Who knows if you’ll ever have readers, so you have to imagine them and forget them. You have to please yourself.

Although I whole heartedly agree, I’ve also learned that its essential for my work to be part of a writing community. I have a group of trusted readers (who are also writers) that I could not do without. For me, it is the tug of war that happens between trusting my voice and trusting my readers that pushes my poetry to a better place.

Flash Fiction Competition 2013

It’s that time of year again! The Flash Fiction Competition is open for submissions until May 31. You can find out more info and submission guidelines on their website. There are regional events which are also listed on the website. The short of it: 300 word stories, the competition is open to all NZ citizens and residents, and the work must be unpublished.

I don’t think I’ll enter anything this year, but I wanted to post the details here to encourage everyone – even non-writers – to give it a try.

Image sourced from the Attic Institute.

And Hue & Cry said, Let there be light

Last week the Hue & Cry Public / Collisions issue, Against the Prevailing Winds, went up in the Courtney Place Park. Today my son and I went to check it out. It is impressive: bold, gutsy, intriguing, and like all H&C publications, beautifully produced. I especially like the way a phrase from each piece has been enlarged at the top of the light box. It means that, even from across the road, people are drawn into the work. The official launch is 6pm, Friday 19 April at the light boxes. As the invite says, if it’s raining wear a raincoat!




Hue & Cry at Dog Park / Christchurch

What a night! Here are the photographs from the Christchurch launch of A Man Runs into a Woman, with a reading by Kerrin P. Sharpe, author of Three Days in a Wishing Well. This was also Hue & Cry’s first South Island event. Thanks to Dog Park Art Project Space for hosting and to Dan Melbye for the great photos.

From top to bottom: the crowd listens to introductions, talking to Kerrin while holding my book, Chloe introduces us before our readings (that’s my nervous face), Kerrin reading, signing books, a launch-goer reading my book, Chloe, one of the Dog Park directors.

Christchurch Book Launch!

Get ready for a party! The Christchurch launch of A Man Runs into a Woman will be held at Dog Park Art Project Space, 3/375 Wilsons Road North, in Waltham, Christchurch. While the event starts at 5.30pm, the readings will start sometime after 6pm. I’m excited to have poet Kerrin P. Sharpe read at the event. Her collection, Three Days in a Wishing Well, has just been released by Victoria University Press.