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The 2019 Divine Muses XVI : An Evening of Poetry

Michael Giacon, MC, opened the evening and eloquently introduced each of the poets – Bob Orr, essa may ranapiri, Albert Wendt, Raewyn Alexander, Vana Manasiadis and Siobhan Harvey – and invited them each to read. With seven talented poets the evening was a night of richly diverse and inspiring poetry to which the audience responded warmly. At the close of readings the winners of the 2019 NEW VOICES - Emerging Poets Competition were announced by, judge, Elizabeth Welsh and the winner read their poem. (scroll down to read the judge’s full report below)

2019 was the first year poetry postcards have been available to fundraise for the evening events. essa may ranapiri, Michael Giacon, Helen Rickerby and Elizabeth Welsh had each kindly given both their time and a line from a poem to enable the Divine Muses to work with Auckland based letterpress printer, Graham Judd, to produce four postcards. Helen Rickerby’s featured a line from Notes on the Unsilent Woman from How to Live which was recenly launch by Auckland University Press. essa may ranapiri provided a beautiful line from a poem written this year. Michael Giacon’s line was from a narrative in remembrance from the Isthmus Poets’s chapbookCityscapes. Elizabeth Welsh’s line was from the poem The mountain–daughter’s childhoodfrom her 2018 Makaro Press publication Over There a Mountain.

To learn more about the postcards please click here.

NEW VOICES- Emerging Poets Judge’s Report, 2019

It was an absolute honour to be entrusted with the role of judge for this year’s NEW VOICES – Emerging Poets Competition. I want to say a huge thank you to both Siobhan Harvey and Jane Sanders for granting me the privilege of being exposed to so many diverse and truly wonderful poets. This year’s entries took me on a wild journey from Santiago to Sandringham, from the Ganges to Taranaki. Diverse in scope, they dwelt on women’s rights, the environment, immigration, motherhood, family, mental health, illness and so much more. I would like to take a moment to give special mention to the raw intimacy of so many of the poems that I encountered. To write from a place of deep, personal experience is challenging, and I commend all those poets who were brave enough to share, through their writing, often visceral, truthful and vulnerable confessions.

Highly Commended

It was extremely hard to choose a couple of highly commended poems this year, as there were a multitude of treasures to be found among the entries, but I eventually settled on two that I kept returning to, drawing out richer readings each time I encountered them.

The first highly commended poem is Lily Holloway’s una planted a garden, which dances in its evocation of a rich, fertile, bursting space that brims with life. The experimentation with form immediately intrigued me, with squat mirroring stanzas, almost like a call and response, reflecting the choric notes of the birds flitting throughout. This was an accomplished, primal, vital, buzzing poem that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The second highly commended poem is Patricia Hanifin’s Without the Scaffold of Words. A confessional poem, it sings delicately and gently of the loss of the poet’s mother and how it feels when language fails us. The unfolding image of the ‘vibration’ that hauntingly remains is perfectly formed and highly skilled. There is an elegance and a quiet, assured beauty to Hanifin’s words.

Second Place

Second place for 2019 goes to Jessie Puru for her intimate and powerful poem Mirrors. Mirrors charts the growth of a child into womanhood, tracing a collective and connective responsibility for the creation of the self in relation to the greater supporting forces of our families and ancestors. There is deep respect in this poem for the stories, beliefs and love that we inherit. Small, daily observances become imbued with meaning as a child encounters the object of a mirror over the course of her growing up, becoming a conversation about the fear of confrontation of our dark, unstable places. Mirrors whispered to me, full of warmth, connection, darkness, growth and the passing of time.

First Place

Finally, the winning entry tonight goes to Sarah Scott for her glorious poem Blue. Celestial, otherworldly, revelatory, there is an expansive, shimmering reverence to this poem that had me mesmerised. Opening with a wistful, colloquial tone, Blue slowly unspools to sprout with ideas of loss, regeneration, remembrance, nature and how we let go of those we love. The unrushed, measured pace is exacting and expertly achieved, but there is equally a whimsicality that is unexpected and refreshing, shaking up the poem. An enviable ‘unveiling’ quality to Blue is tied tightly together with numinous profundities, with lines such as ‘out of her sockets came something quiet and small’ blowing me away. There is a sense that the poet, Sarah, understands that the epiphanic quality of light is inevitably yolked to darkness, and Blue celebrates this, rises with this knowledge. It is with great joy and respect that I award Blue the first place honour.

Elizabeth Welsh - Judge 2019

A poet, short fiction writer and academic editor. Her debut poetry collection, Over There a Mountain, was published by Makaro Press in 2018 as part of the Hoopla series. She has been an academic editor for university presses for the past ten years. In addition to this, she has been creative editor and founder of The Typewriter - an online poetry magazine for emerging poets – as well as co-editor of Flash Frontier. Her poetry has been published in Landfall, Takahe, Poetry NZ, Hue & Cry, JAAM, Sweet Mammalian, Turbine, Magma and South Bank Poetry. In 2012, she was the winner of The Divine Muses – NEW VOICES – Emerging Poets Competition. She has called both London and Auckland home and now lives in Titirangi with her husband and daughter.


Sarah Scott
First place






Ages ago I imagined some plant

we would name after your mother.

It sang itself like someone

stirring in the borage patch, as though

there were angels in the dirt.

Out of her sockets came something quiet and small.

She would stare blankly through the soil

careful not to disturb the borage babies starting their ascent.

Hovering under so they grew on her thinking.

She would rise slowly making sweeping gestures

with her arms. Her eyes fogged down with clouds.

The cold sun glancing her robes. We dreamt

she was already risen, the way a statue rises

as you walk towards it, eyes upturned to the stars.

Sarah Scott


Jessie Puru
Second Place





Nan is holding baby

the little hands tutu with the paua necklace

Nan pretends it doesn’t hurt her neck,

she turns away from the dresser

it’s not good to let such young babies

look into mirrors

she says

Six years old

large mirrors cover two walls in the bathroom

her feet tip toe on the little stool

she used to sneak into the drawers

and pull out aunties’ makeup

to make a mess with on the counter

she stares into her own eyes

and they are no longer hers

looking from outside her body

and it is just like the empty nail polish bottles


skin, freckles, spiritless

As a teenager

she would sit on the floor

and run the straightener along her fried hair

it smokes and sizzles

she can’t count how many times

she has burned her ears,

the smoke rises above her head

she watches it dissipate

and makes eye contact with herself again,

seeing her husk from outward

doesn’t have the same effect that it used to.

Her elders swear

that they have seen dead loved ones

appear from behind their reflections

she only hears these stories through her mother

A friend once told her

that some of their family cover mirrors at night

and even now, she remembers this sometimes

when she works herself up into fear of the dark

during early morning hours

and she runs past the bathroom mirror with her head down

when going to the toilet

The mirror in her bedroom

that once hung on the wall

now sits on the floor propped against a shelf

grey with sticky dust,

and the time between each special occasion

for which she pulls it out

gets longer and longer.

Jessie Puru


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