Tuesday Poem: Hit and Run, by Michael Jackson


That absolute
and unfeigned stillness
I can’t get used to
even when it’s only the family cat
that’s dead
hit on the road
carried to the bathroom
on a green towel
lying there now
with a set grimace
a smear of blood
a broken leg
freeze-framed against the curtains
moving in the wind, my own reflection
moving in the mirror,
gone – or what we knew of her –
and that evaporation
of what we know as life
impossible to comprehend
so instantaneous
and irreversible
as in the beginning
a child is suddenly
as if from nowhere
and no way back
alive where there was nothing
such passages, so abrupt,
there is no cancelling
as there is with words,
no taking back
a remark that hurt
no revising the manuscript;
these events cannot be
there is no as if
or only if
it has happened
nothing more
and so you leave
a space on the page, a gap
as the only way of alluding
to this emptiness,
the day that began with
a cat going through a door
and ended with clay
spaded into a hole in the yard
and me trudging back to the shed
kicking earth from the sole
of my shoes
and washing my hands
as if that was the end of it.

Credit note: From Michael Jackson’s new poetry collection Being of Two Minds (Wellington: Steele Roberts, 2012) – please follow that link for sales information.

Tim says: On Thursday, I will be posting my interview with the distinguished New Zealand anthropologist and poet Michael Jackson.

That interview focuses on Road Markings, his memoir of a recent return visit to New Zealand, published by Rosa Mira Books. But since Michael Jackson is also a well-published poet, I asked if I could feature one of the poems from his latest collection as my Tuesday Poem this week – and Michael sent this fine poem in answer to that request.

One of the many good things about Road Markings is that, though mostly prose, it also contains a number of Michael’s poems, included where they fit the narrative. Stand by for lots more about Road Markings on Thursday!

You can check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog – the hub poem in the middle of the page, and all the other poems in the sidebar on the right.

An Interview With Mary Cresswell


Mary Cresswell is a Wellington poet who lives on the Kapiti Coast. She came to New Zealand from Los Angeles in 1970, after having lived in various parts of the US, in Germany, and in Japan. She graduated from Stanford University in California with a degree in history and English literature. She is retired from freelance work (science editor and proofreader) and has spent at least one lifetime in the Wellington workplace.

Her first book appearance was with Mary-Jane Duffy, Mary Macpherson, and Kerry Hines, co-authors of Millionaire’s Shortbread (University of Otago Press, 2003). This book is illustrated with collages by Brendan O’Brien, has an afterword by Greg O’Brien, and introduced these four poets to the Wellington scene.

Nearest & Dearest, Mary’s collection of her parody and satiric verse, was published in 2009 by Steele Roberts and is illustrated with cartoons by Nikki Slade Robinson. At that time I interviewed her for the first time.

This is a first for me, Mary – a re-interview, and it indicates that you’ve had success in getting two books published in relatively close succession. Before we get onto your new poetry collection, Trace Fossils, how did things go with your 2009 collection, Nearest & Dearest? Collections of light poetry are still quite rare in New Zealand – do you think that this affected the critical and popular reception of Nearest & Dearest, for either good or ill?

There was no critical notice in NZ, which didn’t surprise me. In the US, I got a very good notice in the well-established print journal Light Quarterly, but the US has a lot of humour written by women – not just Dorothy Parker years ago but many women today. I fondly remember Hen’s Teeth, Crow Station, and lots of good women stand-up comics, but NZ seems to me to have handed written satire and parody over to the boys. (If anyone can tell me otherwise, please get in touch!!)

The publisher and I sold just under 150 copies between us. Most of my sales, many of them multiple copies, were to groups of women who would never browse poetry shelves but who were pleasantly astonished that reading poems could be fun. … On the other hand, I was surprised by a number of people who were nonplussed (embarrassed?) by the contents, didn’t know what to say. Perhaps they had no experience of responding to satire or to sarky women fronting up in print.

Trace Fossils was first runner-up for the Kathleen Grattan Awards in 2009, judged by Fleur Adcock – a notable achievement! Is the published version of the manuscript the same as that submitted for the Kathleen Grattan Awards, or has it changed since then?

It’s exactly the same. The manuscript wandered around some years before that. One reason I am so very glad to see it in print now is that I am starting to have trouble recognising the author – and I’m extremely happy to be on the receiving end of Steele Roberts’ very attractive design and presentation.

Trace Fossils is divided into four sections of roughly equal length. What is the significance of these four sections within the collection? Were most of the poems written with an eye to this particular collection, or did the shape of the collection derive from the type of poems that you had been writing?

The section names are intended to be vaguely geological and to suggest eras, different from each other and long in time. Trace fossils themselves may or may not represent anything, and they are a geological construct, a fascinating one (they also have a very funny classification system – take a look). In the introduction, I nominate trace fossils as a metaphor for our memories of loss and our ways of observing loss.

The poems themselves were written at various times and in various forms: counted syllables, sonnets, prose poems, ghazals, concrete poems, ovillejo, accentual poems, free verse in a variety of lengths and shapes. I assembled them more with an eye to connection than to form; they were none of them written with a particular book in mind.

I spent some time recently talking with a fellow poet about the marketing and distribution of poetry collections – that is, letting people know about new poetry collections, and getting poetry collections to places, whether physical or virtual, that people can buy the books if they wish. I imagine the poets reading this interview, at least, would love to know whether you have any innovative ideas on either of those topics!

I wish. Virtual: I have no clue. Finding more about this side of things is my next project. Physical: The books I have sold were sold by word of mouth – people rang me. Local museums, educational groups and art galleries are sometimes prepared to handle books by local authors, especially if the books can be tied in with current shows, if you do the record-keeping and paperwork, and if you are prepared to donate some of your profit to the organisation. (And if you accept it as a one-off, not a continuing relationship.) I suspect special-interest groups, like writing classes, might be worth trying if you’re prepared to give a reading. I expect any reading is a place to sell books.

Do you have any poetry readings planned around the publication of Trace Fossils – and if so, where can people hear you read?

No, no readings. As you know, there are poets who perform with panache and poets who potter on paper. There is a lot of overlap, I’m glad to say, but I generally prefer not to do solo readings. The main reason for this is that a lot of my poetry is based on word play (both visual and syntactic) and shifts of register. I think that much of this goes west when people hear the poems read out loud and only once. I write page poetry that is to be looked at and re-read. I wish I could bounce and rap, but I can’t.

If you don’t mind me asking, what projects are you working on now?

No, I don’t mind, but there’s nothing all that coherent. It’s been years since I finished the poems included in Trace Fossils, and I have shifted more and more to formal patterns, particularly ghazals (at the moment) but also other repeating structures. I enjoy working in accentual (as opposed to accentual-syllabic) forms. Somewhere down the line I would like to end up with a book built on a skeleton of ghazals but fleshed out with a variety of other poems. I’m still writing light verse and publishing it in the US and the UK, but as always this is a separate department. My main immediate project will be trying to get my head around what might be useful in the world of e-publishing.

Book Availability

Trace Fossils can be ordered from the publisher, Steele Roberts, and is available at independent bookshops.

Nearest & Dearest can also be ordered from Steele Roberts.

Sample Poem

I published Mary’s poem “The Sound Of Now” as my Tuesday Poem this week – check it out!

Tuesday Poem: choosing, by Owen Bullock


we didn’t realise
we chose the day
of the accident

what it woke up like
what you could see
from the window

what you read
in the newspaper

how the ticket collector
was towards you
before you spoke

Napoleon didn’t see the trench
when he rode out that morning
because he needed to be beaten

and when I was eight
and got run over
the lady visited me

gave me books, toys
remembered to call
for several months

Credit note: Choosing is from Owen Bullock’s new collection sometimes the sky isn’t big enough, published by Steele Roberts, and is reproduced with permission.

Tim says: This fine poem is a taster for my interview with Owen Bullock, which will run here on Thursday. Keep an eye out for it!

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog.

Tuesday Poem: Take me back to the Bay, by Kerry Popplewell

Take me back to the Bay


Take me back to the Bay,
back to the Sixties too —
when what was to come
was certain to be
as bright and wide as the sea.


Dust tastes concrete-white;
feet flinch on riverbed and beach.
Heat haze deletes the hills.

Mushrooms erupt in damp paddocks
alongside the distraction of blackberry,
the leaf shoals on shingle roads.

There’s a nip in late afternoon air,
snow on Kaweka. In August
bare willows burn orange.

Pink and tentative, flowers
put out feelers on fruit trees,
querying their cue.

Tim says:

“Take me back to the Bay” is reproduced, with permission, from Kerry Popplewell’s first poetry collection Leaving the Tableland, published by Steele Roberts (2010) and available from the publisher or in selected bookshops for $19.99 (RRP).

My next post this week will be an interview with Kerry Popplewell.

You can read other poems from this collection which have previously been selected as Tuesday Poems, Portrait: Pahiatua, 1942 on Helen Rickerby’s blog, and Leaving the Tableland on the Tuesday Poem hub blog.

Check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem hub blog.

An Interview with Tim Upperton

Tim Upperton’s poetry and fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, Bravado, Dreamcatcher, Landfall, New Zealand Books, New Zealand Listener, North & South, Reconfigurations, Sport, Takahe, Turbine and Best New Zealand Poems 2008.

Tim has won first prizes in the New Zealand Listener National Poetry Day Competition, Takahe magazine’s poetry competition, and the Northland and Manawatu short story competitions. He is a former poetry editor for Bravado, and tutors creative writing, travel writing and New Zealand literature at Massey University.

Tim, your first collection, A House on Fire, was launched on Montana Poetry Day, Friday 24 July, in Palmerston North. What are the key things that you would like prospective readers to know about this collection?

It’s a various collection, ranging across different forms and engaging with familiar aspects of domestic life as well as with things that interest me but which are remote from my daily concerns. So one poem is about making lunches each day for my four children, and another is about history as successive erasure, one forgetting piled on top of another. The first poem I ever published is in the collection, and that was ten years ago. And the most recently published poem, “History”, is also there, and appeared in New Zealand Books in June. So the collection is a record, I guess, of my published writing over a decade.

Is the collection representative of your poetry as a whole, or does it focus on one or more particular aspects of your poetry?

It’s representative in that most of my poems have found their way into it! Though there are exceptions: a few poems that have been previously published in magazines didn’t seem to belong, and have been omitted.

How did you become involved in writing poetry? Which, if any, poets have been most influential on your writing?

I studied literature – mostly English – at university, and had some ambition to be a writer, without actually writing very much. I wanted to write fiction, but the first piece of writing I submitted was a poem, and I was lucky to have it published in Sport. So of course I submitted a further batch of poems to Sport, which were duly rejected. And that was the start, for me – I kept writing, kept submitting, and the rejections and the acceptances came in. Fail better, as Beckett says. It took me a long time to realise that you don’t have to be very smart to write poems. I don’t think I have any particular wisdom to offer, and I’m bored generally by poets who do. Language is smart, so I don’t have to be – I try to listen to language, alert to the wisdom that’s inherent in it. And I arrange it on paper, a bit like shaking a kaleidoscope and looking to see what patterns emerge.

I often look to overseas models – British and American – when writing my own poems, and often not-so-recent poets with a formalist bent – Elizabeth Bishop, Weldon Kees, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Theodore Roethke. But lately in my capacity as poetry reviewer for Bravado I’ve been reading and enjoying a lot more contemporary New Zealand poetry. And I’ve been teaching New Zealand literature at Massey University this year, so I’ve been reacquainting myself with Curnow, Bethell, Baxter and so on. I admire the sense of place in contemporary New Zealand writing – there’s an ease and confidence there that I would wish to emulate.

I very much enjoyed my introduction to the Palmerston North poetry scene in June, when I visited to read as part of the Stand Up Poetry series. Do you regard yourself as an active member of that scene, or do you prefer to work away on your own for the most part?

Well, I’m active in that I attend most poetry gatherings, and there is a lot going on – tonight, for example, I’m reading with half a dozen other poets at Te Manawa, the Palmerston North museum, and that will be the third poetry event I’ve attended this week. Such events are fun, and they draw surprisingly large audiences, but they’re in stark contrast with the actual business of writing, which is generally solitary and difficult.

On July 20th, you and many of the other poets whose work is included in Best New Zealand Poems 2008 read together in Wellington. What did it mean to you to have a poem chosen for this collection, and did you enjoy the reading?

I was very pleased to have a poem included in Best New Zealand Poems. It is of course one person’s – in this case, James Brown’s – take on what is best; the selection process is hopelessly subjective. But I found myself in good company, and I caught up with a few friends on the day, including you! It’s a pleasure – and this is true also of the local events I mentioned previously – to be among people who take poetry’s importance and centrality as a given.

You teach creative writing at Massey University. Does working as a creative writing teacher have a good (or even a bad) influence on your own practice as a poet?

It must be a good influence, as I’m writing more these days than I did when I worked as a manager in local government. Writing is a series of delicate decisions, and as I review the decisions my students have made, I can’t help but reflect on my own.

You have been a poetry editor, and judged poetry competitions. I’ve enjoyed the editing I’ve done, but found that I don’t write much poetry while I’m looking at lots of other people’s poetry submissions. Has this been a problem for you?

Yes, my experience has been similar. I enjoyed editing, and also judging the Bravado poetry competition last year. But the work seemed to use up the writing part of my brain, and I didn’t produce many poems of my own at that time.

Turning away from poetry for a moment, I was intrigued by some comments you made, when we talked in Palmerston North, about your dislike of narrative in short fiction. Would you care to elaborate?

It’s of course a very general comment, and I can immediately think of exceptions. I’ve just reviewed Charlotte Grimshaw’s volume of linked short stories, Singularity, for example, and I admired it very much. But as a general comment, it’s true – narrative doesn’t particularly interest me. All that cause-and-effect, establishing motive, character development, the workings of plot – it’s like some rusted, obsolete machine cranking away. I love the economy of poetry – a short lyric poem can convey an effect that it may take a whole novel to produce. I can see that this is a personal prejudice. The contemporary fiction that interests me most is the kind that upsets our expectations of narrative – W.G. Sebald’s work, for example.

Finally, what literary project or projects are you now working on?

I’ve started writing poems again, which is a relief after some months of grooming my already-written poems for book publication. I sincerely hope my next collection won’t take as long to write as my first one.

by Tim Upperton

Evening light, olive oil
poured from a high jug: streaming
over the burnished back of the cricket
riding its bowing grass stem; glossing
the spade with its broken handle
leaning on the strainer-post that is itself
leaning, its crumbly lichen glowing,
the wire tired and slack; pooling
on the surface of the leylandii stump,
with its surround of buttery chips
from inexpert swipes of the axe.

Light is light, it is not kindness,
but if kindness had a colour, perhaps
it would be this – yes, you turn away
impatiently, yet it’s you who cannot
bear to crush a snail; who once, in heavy
traffic, abandoned the car, and in tears
strode to a maimed pukeko that fluttered
beside the wide road; you who killed
that bird with a swing and a crack –

stay with me, as the light goes
from gold, to grey, to black.

Book availability

A House on Fire, by Tim Upperton, Steele Roberts, 61pp, $19.99, ISBN 987-1-877448-68-3
Available from:

  • The publisher (www.steeleroberts.co.nz)
  • Bruce McKenzie’s, Palmerston North
  • The author (t.l.upperton (at) massey.ac.nz)
  • Or by ordering through your local bookshop

An Interview with Mary Cresswell

This is the first of three interviews I will be running over the next few weeks with New Zealand poets whose first solo books of poetry are being launched on or near Montana Poetry Day on Friday 24 July.

Mary Cresswell is a Wellington poet who lives on the Kapiti Coast. She came to New Zealand from Los Angeles in 1970, after having lived in various parts of the US, in Germany, and in Japan. She graduated from Stanford University in California with a degree in history and English literature. She is a freelance science editor and proofreader and has spent at least one lifetime in the Wellington workplace.

Her first book appearance was with Mary-Jane Duffy, Mary Macpherson, and Kerry Hines as co-authors of Millionaire’s Shortbread, published by the University of Otago Press in 2003. This book is illustrated with collages by Brendan O’Brien, has an afterword by Greg O’Brien, and introduced these four poets to the Wellington scene.

Mary, your first solo book of poetry, Nearest & Dearest (Steele Roberts, 2009, NZ RRP $19.95, illustrated by Nikki Slade Robinson) is a book of humorous poetry, which is a side of your work I’ve not seen before. Have you always written humorous poetry alongside your serious poetry, or has that been a recent development?

The opposite, actually. I stopped writing serious poetry when I was about 17 and only took it up again the year I turned 60. All the years I didn’t write serious poetry, I’ve frequently come up with silly stuff for friends, for occasions in the office, or for family. That’s been a constant. I just wish I’d kept copies!

How did you become involved in writing poetry? Which poets have been most influential on your writing?

I was raised in a family where capping verses (usually limericks) was a standard indoor sport, so I have emitted poetry as long as I remember. Important poets? My sense of rhythm owes a lot to Anon. and to Cole Porter. My parents lived on folk songs and cabaret songs, hence my need for accentual (rather than accentual-syllabic or free) verse. Individual poets: Lewis Carroll, Auden, Eliot, Poe, Dorothy Parker, Donne, Walter Scott, Byron, Longfellow, Ogden Nash, Sidney Lanier… for starters. These days I’m reading Kay Ryan, Marie Ponsot, Robert Alter’s new translation of the Book of Psalms, among others.

“Humour” and “playfulness” are not words often used to characterise the literary scene in New Zealand. Indeed, there seems to be a view here that purse-lipped seriousness is the only acceptable literary stance. Have you run foul of such attitudes, or is this just me being paranoid?

I think “literary” is the operative word here, and no, you’re not paranoid. But this isn’t poetry’s fault: A lot of people last thought seriously about poetry in the fifth form and settle for genteel obeisance to Beauty and Nature when they think of it at all; light verse is for greeting cards, and they can’t imagine a serious message coming via humour. — And there’s also literary fashion. Humour is difficult in personal-experience poetry written in free verse, with no formal aspect. In New Zealand, we have to go back a generation to, say, Denis Glover to find a top poet writing humour, especially black humour, with a sting in it. Was Glover ever considered literary? I don’t know; I wonder if his contemporaries kept him in a category of his own.

Not many Americans write poems that feature cricket, such as “Willow Green Willow” in Nearest & Dearest. Do you now feel thoroughly ‘acclimatised’, if I may use the term, as a New Zealand poet?

After forty years in New Zealand, I’m about as acclimatised as I’ll ever be. I switched to correct [sic] spelling early on, though my spoken accent will never change much. I’m not sure, though, if any poet can or should aim for the mainstream. I know that both Americans and Kiwis think I don’t really belong, and the discomfort that comes from this seems to keep my satiric side alive and healthy.

Several of the poems that I most enjoyed in Nearest & Dearest are parodies of or based on other poems, several from the Victorian era. I know I like reading these – what attracts you to writing them?

They’re easiest to get started. Many of them (like the office manager’s Shakespeare sonnet (see below) or playing games with Wordsworth in the ‘Pass at Grasmere’) are based on poetry I read years ago, and they’re part of my sensibility in a way more recent poems aren’t. So a phrase—a few lines—perhaps a rhyme for ‘schadenfreude’— will pop into my mind by surprise; then I spend hours and hours trying to polish a humorous poem that also is a credit to the original.

Your poem “Metastasis” appears in Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, and you work as an editor of science publications. How much of an influence has science had on your poetry? Would you describe yourself as a “science poet”?

Not a “science poet” in that I rarely take scientific principles into account; “Metastasis” is a bit aberrant. I take notes of and am definitely influenced by goofy-sounding phrases I run across in the course of proofreading fearsomely technical material. (Who would be a “ring-based indole”, I ask you?) The US magazine Umbrella publishes an annual light supplement, Bumbershoot. This poem: http://www.umbrellajournal.com/summer2009/bumbershoot/light_verse/LabNote.html reflects a temporary passion for technical terms beginning with “Sq”.

Are copies of Nearest & Dearest available in bookshops yet? If so, where can people find it?

Absolutely. In Wellington, try Unity Books; Moby Dickens and Paper Plus in Paraparaumu; Bruce Mackenzie’s in Palmerston have it for sure. Books a’ Plenty in Tauranga. If you don’t see it on the shelf, ask for it. Supporting your local bookseller is admirable, virtuous, and a sign of high intelligence. If all else fails, the book’s available from the publisher and from Fishpond.

Finally, what’s next for Mary Cresswell as a poet?

Write more. Read more. Read more. Write more.

Watch this space.

by Mary Cresswell

Shall I wear the Gucci scarf today?
It’s far more lovely and more corporate
than what sleek young managers affect
in all the offices up and down the way.

It gives an air of strength, they always say,
classic looks for classic power dressed,
Look and feel and act as though you’re best
and the rest will follow, as the night the day.

No dangly earrings! What women call
postmenopausal zest, in other places
gives a bad impression overall.
I will notice all their airs and graces,
a quiet woman, not looking to outwit them…
I shall run the show before they know what hit them.

This interview is the first stop in Mary’s “virtual book tour” for Nearest & Dearest. The next stop is on Janis Freegard’s blog.

An Interview with Harvey Molloy

Harvey Molloy is a Wellington teacher and poet whose first collection of poetry, Moonshot, has just been published – which made this a very good time to interview him by email.

First of all, congratulations on the publication of Moonshot. What can you tell me about the book, and where can interested readers find more information, and copies to buy?

Moonshot is my first book of poems. It’s divided into two sections. The first ‘Gemini spacewalk’ explores space, the universe, and how space features in the imagination. The second section ‘Learning the t’ is down to earth and concerned with travel, particularly my time in Singapore, and family relationships. The book is orchestrated to follow these themes but some poems don’t fit this pattern and I’ve included them because I like the poems. You can find out more about the book over at my blog at http://harveymolloy.blogspot.com and you can order the book from me from the blog.

Moonshot is your first poetry collection: a significant milestone for any poet. How long have you been working towards having this first collection published?

I started to write poetry again back in the mid 90s. In 2000 I moved to Singapore to work at the National University of Singapore. At this time I became interested in Asperger Syndrome, which is an autism spectrum disorder, and wrote some research articles in this area. After Latika and I finished our book Asperger Syndrome and Adolescence: Looking Beyond the Label, which was published in 2004, and moved back to New Zealand, I began to focus more seriously on the poetry. About four years ago I decided that I had enough poems published in different journals to put together a manuscript. So I guess I’ve been working on it seriously for four years or so although it’s been on my mind for around eight years.

They say “It’s tough oop North”, and if it is, the two of us should know, since you were born in Oldham and I in Grimsby. Though you’ve lived in many countries since then – the States, Singapore, New Zealand – do you think there’s a Northern English sensibility to your poetry?

Yes, I do. The northern sensibility comes through in the sound of the words. Living right on the Pennines also has a powerful effect: the northern landscape is incredibly varied: it’s both ruggedly rural and horribly industrial all within the same borough. I think that there’s a particularly Manchester sensibility: it’s part humour, part gothic horror, and part self-parody. Lancastrian is the only accent that sounds as if it’s mocking itself or refusing to take itself seriously whilst also sounding out the very roots of the language. And I also think there’s a ‘Lancastrian male hysteric’ element in the culture; northern masculinity is very different and more feminine than the ‘kiwi bloke’ culture: you see this in Billy Liar, in Alan Garner’s novels, in Amis’s Lucky Jim, and in bands like The Fall, Joy Division, Magazine and The Smiths, etc.

We have something else in common: an interest in science, and in science fiction. I was intrigued and impressed to see that you’ve put the science and science fiction poetry up front in “Moonshot”, whereas in my books, it’s been tucked discreetly down the back. What made you decide to put this section first?

Part of this has to do with Helen Rickerby’s advice. I sent an early version of the manuscript to her and she suggested that I organise my material more thematically and write more about space. Although all the threads were there until I had her help I couldn’t see the shape I wanted. I’m not that fixated on SF or space – the new work is different – but I am committed to what I very loosely think of as a SF or fantasy sensibility that I clicked on around age 12. I remember seeing J.G. Ballard on a BBC book programme when I was 13, talking about his novel Crash. It just reprogrammed me in much the same way that Alan Garner’s Redshift changed my life. Garner’s and Ballard’s work aren’t SF or fantasy but they are deeply concerned with ‘psycho-landscapes’ or unusual geographies. I wanted the astronomical poems up the front as many poets write about their families and their childhoods but few write about astronomy.

When I jotted down the recurring themes of this collection, the words “astronomy”, “history”, “geography” and “myth” appeared. Have I made them all up? Have I missed any? Why do these areas especially interest you?

No, I think that’s accurate but “history”, “geography” and “myth” are also connected with family life. I’m married to an Indian New Zealander and part of me lives in an Indian world and this hopefully comes through in some of the poems. In some ways, I think each individual is a culture with their own myths and I’m trying to explore some of these myths. But I’m also trying to include a variety of different voices and concerns in the poems.

Which poets have had the most influence on your work, and which poets do you most enjoy reading? (Of course, these might be one and the same.)

The following are a selection of poets I love to read and who have moved me: Hone Tuwhare, James K. Baxter, Elizabeth Smither, Sylvia Plath, Seamus Heaney, T.S. Eliot, Adrienne Rich (marvellous), Philip Larkin, etc. and I’m particularly fond of Alistair Paterson’s Qu’appelle (talk about a SF sensibility: Wellington gets nuked!). Recent books I’ve enjoyed are Sue Wootton’s Magnetic South and Helen Rickerby’s My Iron Spine.

How about prose writers?

Alan Garner’s an amazing writer and I think Neil Gaiman’s brilliant: it’s a pity that Gaiman’s film work doesn’t match his prose. And Samuel R Delany’s Dhalgren has a lot to answer for! I also enjoy reading good science writing and have wide ranging reading habits: I’m currently on the last chapters of George Eliot’s Middlemarch and next up will be Mary McCallum’s The Blue.

A tough one to end on: if you had to choose three words to describe your writing, what would they be?

On the line