The 2018 Divine Muses XIV : evening of poetry was held at The Portal, Auckland University of Technology.
2018 is the 21st year New Zealand has recognised National Poetry Day and the 15th year that DIVINE MUSES – An Evening of Poetry has been held to celebrate poetry. Established by Siobhan Harvey in 2004 it provides an opportunity to hear established poets read.
This year was no exception with a selection of some of New Zealand’s finest poets reading from their very recent as well as past poems:
Maualaivao Albert Wendt, Riemke Ensing, Briar Wood, Bryan Walpert, Dr Maris O’Rourke, Siobhan Harvey, Sue Wootton
Sue Wootton and Briar Wood, both finalists in this year’s 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Poetry Prize, read from their recent publications. Maris O’Rourke and Riemke Ensing bought us humour through their poems about life. O’Rourke introduced us to her grandchild with her recent poetry book for children Superbaby illustrated by Helen Bell.
Maualaivao Albert Wendt with his selection of poems rich in detail, music and insight, illustrated why he is a much admired and revered poet. Siobhan Harvey gave another strong reading. She has wonderful voice control exploiting tone to accentuate meaning. Bryan Walpert, Associate Professor in Creative Writing from Massey University’s Albany Campus reminded us of the complexity of love and delighted all with his skills in word play.
Poet Michael Giacon brought a lightness to his role as MC and at the end of the readings invited this year’s judge to announce the winners. Elizabeth Morton, herself a past winner, provided an overview of her reading of the entries and described how she, “… was gobsmacked by the attention and craft of the sixty poems in the menagerie.”. She then invited the commended and highly commended poets to the front to be acknowledged, before announcing and asking Patricia Hanifin, the runner up, to read her poem On being silent too long. Then Morton described the winning poem by Gillian Roach A boy says he has no say as “…a delicate poem, with an enviable lightness of touch” noting “Each time I read it I felt closer to its truth.”
Siobhan Harvey closed the evening and thanked the sponsors, especially AUT for the use of The Portal, a new space in the recently opened WZ building on Symonds Street; Phantom BillStickers for their ongoing support of National Poetry Day and the audience for their enthusiasm for poetry which enables these events to continue.
Siobhan Harvey was then acknowledged for her role in establishing this much-loved event. She was presented with a small booklet of thanks and tributes from poets who had participated across the 15 years the event has so far been held.
Four new poetry broadsheets were also unveiled. To learn more click here.
NEW VOICES- Emerging Poets Judge
2018's judge was someone at the helm who has experience of what it means to win the competition and the value of it to the career of emerging authors.
Elizabeth Morton is an Auckland poet and short story writer. She is published in the USA, UK, Ireland, Canada and Australia, as well as online. She was feature poet in the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017. Morton is included in Best Small Fictions 2016, and has placed second, twice, in the Sunday Star-Times Short Story Competition. Her first poetry collection, Wolf, was published with Mãkaro Press in 2017.
Tonight the Divine Muses celebrates its fifteenth year. Thank you to Siobhan Harvey for rounding up a posse of talented and diverse voices in poetry over this time. Siobhan is a powerhouse, and her work with National Poetry Day has seen the extension of events and opportunities. Thank you too to Jane Sanders, for her organisational prowess and support of the NEW VOICES – Emerging Poets Competition. This competition has been the launch pad for many people in poetry over the years since its inception in 2012. It certainly was for me. Thank you to Phantom Billstickers, Unity Books and AUT for supporting this unique event.
It has been a privilege to judge the 2018 selection. I was gobsmacked by the attention and craft of the sixty poems in the menagerie. There were critters of all types – long, squat, form-driven and free-range. There were beasts of poems, poems that slunk and yowled, poems that tipitoed, and many poems that pounced in the last couple of lines, leaving me whiplashed, winded, awestruck. I found lines that could be printed on t-shirts. I found time-travel – both back and forward – nostalgic reminiscence, to climate change and apocalypse. There were poems that spoke to their creators – poems that had seen terrible things, poems that asserted a finger in the face of dissension and adversity, poems that coexisted with pain. There were poems I wanted to talk to over a cup of tea. There were poems I wanted to hug. There were so many poems that were vulnerable, took risks, ached at my heart – and yet many of these were left without placings, without chairs to sit. There are so many good poems standing awkwardly by the door because I just couldn’t keep adding commendations. There was the occasional bungled grammar and spelling, there were strange line breaks, but I looked beyond this, because a good poem can out-jump these shortcomings. The following is my selection of favourites.
Runner-up: PATRICIA HANIFIN On being silent too long
Lydia Chai – Cypher, a poem on encryption
Daniel Nissen-Ellison – Ginny
Savannah Mouat - Deciduous
Lincoln Jaques - Plague
Sarah Scott - Hydrangeas
This poem is visceral and urgent, thick with the fluids and salts that flesh entails. It is a poem of the untouched and unspoken, of the once ineffable backlog of words that come flooding out with a sort of violent energy. There are old tropes re-fangled and sutured together to create something vital and fabulist – there are wolves at the door, salt in the wounds, a crown of thorns. This poem commands attention and wears its fierceness like a medallion.
Winner: GILLIAN ROACH A boy says he has no say
This is a delicate poem, with an enviable lightness of touch. The movement from one stanza to the next is gentle‚ and the suburban scenes, with hedges and lemon tree‚ are delightfully familiar. But this is also a poem with grit and a sadness ostensible if you rub away at the props. The deeper unfoldings are not explicit‚ but it is clear there is a turn of darkness here – ‘disappointment’‚ the neighbours ‘gathered in mourning’ and the ‘dead duck head down in murky summer’‚ the ‘small sadness … neither fruit nor bud’. This poem is a gut-punch, and kept igniting questions. Each time I read it I felt closer to its truth.