11 December 2017

New Poem: Present Tense

Present Tense

While I think about my Dad in the present tense, he isn't lost to me.
While I can recall the layout of his house, he isn't lost to me.
While he still gets new email messages, he isn't lost to me.

28 November 2017

Big Book Bash this Saturday + Whitireia News Next Year

Big Book Bash

The Big Book Bash is a festival in Carterton this coming Saturday, 2 December, running from 11am-6pm, with a very full and varied programme.

Harvey Molloy and I will be running a workshop at the Carterton Community Courthouse:

1.30 – 2.30pm (Moves to foyer 1.50pm): Poems of Protest and the Environment, with Tim Jones and Harvey Molloy: Two activist poets and creative writing teachers read their poems and then lead a poetry workshop in the foyer. For 12+ years.
It should be fun!

Further Big Book Bash details are available...

On the web:

On Facebook:


Whitireia Creative Writing Programme has a new home!

I taught two "Writing Short Fiction" courses at Whitireia in 2016 and 2017, and all being well will be doing so in 2018 ... and the programme has a new home! Check out the details:

Creative writing is undergoing a transformation!

From 2018 the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme will be part of Te Auaha, Wellington’s new and visionary New Zealand Institute of Creativity. Writers will be able to work with visual artists, dancers, film makers, photographers, musicians and actors – over the next few years we’ll be developing a ground-breaking collaborative programme.

This is an exciting moment for us but it’s also very much business are usual—except in a purpose built arts campus. And we are still taking applications for our Diplomas in Creative Writing and our new degree, the Bachelor of Creativity (Writing) - you can find out how to apply here.

If you know of anyone who might be interested in pursuing their writing dreams,please be an advocate for our programme and referring them to us or the Whitireia or Te Auaha website 
www.whitireia.ac.nz or www.teauaha.com

01 November 2017

New poem: Pneumonia

About the last few months...

My father

After he fell, he crawled, his bed
an agonising hour away. Next morning,
he wanted nothing more than water.

The ambulance was quick and smooth,
but admission took forever. In ED, we watched
as the trolleys trundled slowly by.

Later, a ward, a bed of his own. Floor 5,
visiting hours, the path to his room
trodden into the base of my skull.

Two weeks of partial progress, then collapse.
Called to Hutt Hospital to watch him fade away.
He rallies, asks about the cricket;

I tell him, smile, hold his hand. He fades again.
“It isn’t looking good,” he says. I nod. The nurses
whisper, “Sleep somewhere close at hand.”

The call comes at 5am. By the time I’ve dressed
and driven over, it’s too late. Five minutes earlier,
he left his ninety-four years of life behind.

They leave me with his body and the gentle push
to clear the room, remove the corpse, pave the path
that starts with mortuary and ends in funeral.

An interlude

So much work. The funeral went well,
after that scare about the payment. The estate:
he chose wisely, bringing the professionals on board.

And his house. It seemed so bare, until we had
to empty it inside a month – that deadline
self-inflicted, an own goal worthy of the Phoenix.

So many journeys in his little car, brave tiny engine
conquering the motorway. Emptying Naenae,
filling Mt Victoria with clutter and memories.

Then me

As soon as we finished, pneumonia got me too,
grace note to a hard spring cold, breath short
and shallowing, heart racing to keep up.

Ambulance, hospital. Gentle and angry nurses,
kindness and rough treatment. A doctor who finally -
finally! – paid attention. Antibiotics prescribed

and a day later I’m discharged, back home
confused, dependent and weak, showing all
the self-control of a fretful baby.

Now perhaps I’m two or three. Emotions
flare and burn and dim. In the sunshine,
I take small steps, sit down, cry

at small and stranger things. A gradual
recovery, while outside, the world
points birds and insects at my ears,

suggests I could be getting on with things,
tests the limits of my energy, invites me to rejoin
the long descending trudge towards my end.

03 October 2017

Poetry Collection Launch: "Homeless", Poems by John Howell, Tuesday 10 October, 5pm, Wellington Central Library

I've heard John read a number of these poems, and discussed others with him. I think this will be a really fine collection of poetry, and I'm looking forward to attending the launch.

What's more, all profits go to a great cause - DCM Wellington.

If you can't make the launch of Homeless, you can order a copy through Mākaro Press.

19 September 2017

I'm Guest Poet at Poets to the People: Sunday 24 September 4–6pm, Hightide Cafe, 43 Marine Parade, Paraparaumu Beach. Should be fun!

From Poets to the People Newsletter

Our next event: Sunday 24 September 4–6pm, Hightide Café, 43 Marine Parade, Paraparaumu Beach

We welcome Tim Jones as our guest poet. His poetry collections include Boat People, All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens and Men Briefly Explained, and his latest, New Sea Land (Makaro Press, 2016). He was the guest poet in Takahe 89 (April 2017). His interest in science fiction is reflected in short story collections and poetry anthologies Voyagers and most recently The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry, co-edited with P S Cottier (Interactive Press, 2014). He was the recipient of the New Zealand Society of Authors Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010.

Open mic from 4pm.

$5 entry.

P2P dates for your diary

October 29: guest poet Chris Tse

November 26: guest poet Mary Cresswell

We look forward to seeing you all there.

Elizabeth Coleman and Michael Keith

15 September 2017

Why I've decided to party vote Green this election

After some careful thought, I've decided to party vote Green this election - and give my electorate vote to my excellent local MP, Labour's Grant Robertson.

In my view, the present National Government has exhibited a disastrous combination of complacency and stupidity, especially on issues such as the environment, climate change, water quality, poverty, transport and housing, and I'm desperate to see the back of them. At this election, for the first time in nine years, it seems they face the real prospect of defeat - now Labour has finally selected a leader that stands for the future rather than the past.

So why am I going to give my party vote to the Green Party, not Labour?

Because, on the issues I care about most, the Labour Party's actual policies still lag well behind Jacinda Ardern's exciting rhetoric. And because Labour's past record in Government has shown that, given the choice, they usually back off from making the big changes that are needed, for fear of offending one constituency or another.

Jacinda Ardern has called climate change 'the "nuclear free moment" of this generation. I agree. In my view, we are now in a climate emergency. But Labour's climate change policy tells a very different story.

In 2009, James Hansen wrote a book titled Storms of My Grandchildren, about the massive storms he expected his grandchildren to have to endure if greenhouse gas emissions weren't sharply reduced. But if he re-released this book in 2017, he'd need to call it "Storms of Us", because - in Edgecumbe, in Mumbai, in Bangladesh, in Houston, in the Caribbean and in Florida - we are now experiencing those storms.

They are already bound to get worse in response to continuing greenhouse gas emissions, but the world still has a chance to prevent them - and sea-level rise, and fires, and sheer heat - become civilisation-ending. But we must act to quickly reduce emissions, act to prepare ourselves for the consequences of climate change, and act now.

And while leadership matters, policy - the things a party says it would actually do in Government - matters too.

Sadly, Labour's climate change policy and its more detailed climate change manifesto come nowhere near matching up to Jacinda Ardern's inspiring rhetoric. Far from a vision of bold action, this is a cautious, incremental, not-stepping-on-any-toes policy, a policy that allows the mining and drilling of the fossil fuels that are cooking the planet - coal, oil and gas - to continue unchecked.

In contrast, the Greens' climate change policy captures the necessary urgency. A Labour-Greens Government is much more likely to take the necessary action on climate and a range of other issues than a Labour Government with Winston in its ear.

Every vote for the Greens helps the election of a Government that will tackle the major challenges facing this nation. And that's why I've decided to party vote Green this election.

08 September 2017

Readings This Month: Poetry At The Fringe on the 17th, Poets To The People on the 24th

Just before we get to the readings: My review of James McNaughton's New Zealand science fiction/climate change novel Star Sailors is now up on Landfall Review Online.

I have two readings coming up this month: First, I'm reading with Harvey Molloy at September's Poetry At The Fringe in Wellington - Sunday 17 September, 4-6pm, Fringe Bar, 26-32 Allen St., with Paul Stewart as the guest musician and an open mike to kick things off.

I'll be reading some poems from my latest collection, New Sea Land (about climate change and sea level rise), plus some of my new poems about music and musicians. Come along!

A week later, on the 24th, I'll be the guest poet at Poets to the People - which starts at 4pm at Hightide Cafe, 44 Marine Parade, Paraparaumu. I'm told there's a great open mike at Poets to the People - I hope to see you there! (Poster and further info to follow for this one.)

05 August 2017

Poetry Day 2017, 25 August: Wellington and Hutt City Events


Hutt City

06 July 2017

Dan Davin Literary Foundation – Short Story Conference September 2017

I'm presenting a paper at this conference - alongside some rather distinguished writers and academics - scary but hopefully fun! I'm really looking forwards to it.

Dan Davin Literary Foundation – Short Story Conference September 2017
The Dan Davin Conference on the New Zealand Short Story – its traditions and departures – will be held 1-3 September 2017.

The conference is an opportunity to celebrate Southland-born author Dan Davin as one of the fathers of the modern New Zealand short story, and the development of the New Zealand short story to today. The short story has always been of significance in New Zealand literature, and continues to be an important form of writing.

Some of New Zealand’s foremost writers of the genre including Owen Marshall, Dame Fiona Kidman and Tracey Slaughter will attend.   Janet Wilson will be key note speaker. It will be the first conference for many years devoted entirely to the short story and its place in New Zealand literature.

The programme will begin on Friday 1 September with the annual Dan Davin Award presentation – this is a local Award in three categories – junior and senior student and adult. Janet Wilson will give the key note address focusing on Dan Davin’s war stories while also touching on Katherine Mansfield and examining the New Zealand-overseas and international frames for reading and interpreting short stories with a local origin.

Saturday 2 September
will be held in the drawing room of Invercargill’s majestic Civic Theatre. Throughout the day papers will be presented from a variety of writers and academics. Dame Fiona Kidman, Owen Marshall and Tracey Slaughter will present papers as well as participate in a panel discussion with Janet Wilson. Saturday evening will be a chance to relax and enjoy some local entertainment and cuisine.

Sunday 3 September
will begin with a bus trip to Bluff and the magnificent Te Rau Aroha Marae where you will be welcomed onto the Marae and into the Wharenui and treated to the stories of the carvings. This will be followed by several more papers and finally a delicious lunch featuring Bluff’s famous seafood.

For those able to stay into the afternoon (which we highly recommend) the bus will take you to Stirling Point and Motupōhue (Bluff Hill). And then you will head out to Riverton to visit Southland’s thriving coastal community.

For more information and to register visit our website: www.dandavin.org.nz

Dan Davin Short Story Conference 1-3 September 2017

Presenters List

Majella Cullinane
A Foot In Two Countries: Writing Short Stories as an Irish-Kiwi

Paula Morris
Short Story Writers or Readers?

Tom McLean
The intended audience of mid-twentieth century New Zealand short stories have been relatively little discussed.

Thom Conroy
‘Images that Wouldn’t Leave’: A Typology of Pleasure in Tracy Slaughter’s Short Fiction

Anna Smith
Ghosts on Dee Street: Scaring the crap out of the short story

Tim Jones
“Below the Thunders of the Upper Deep": The Visibility and Invisibility of New Zealand Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

Frankie McMillan
'Every sentence, every phrase, every word has to fight for its life.' - Crawford Kilian

Craig Cliff
The moves in contemporary New Zealand short stories

Rebecca Styles
‘Show don’t tell’ and endings

Katie Wilson
Short stories of Phillip Wilson

James Eunson
Ballard of a Scarfie: A Love Letter to the Dunedin Literary Scene

Maggie Rainey-Smith
Reading short stories in prison

Kevin Ireland
Putting a gloss on a glossary

Keynote Speakers:

Dame Fiona Kidman
Digging for Truffles: Why New Zealand short story anthologies are important.

Tracey Slaughter
‘Something Very Red Comes Very Close’: Intensity and Short Fiction

Janet Wilson
Imagining New Zealand/Aotearoa; A Century of the Short Story

Panel Discussion:

Topic: Short Stories – How We Make ThemChair – Paula Morris
Panel – Dame Fiona Kidman, Tracey Slaughter, Janet Wilson and Owen Marshall
Register here: http://www.dandavin.org.nz/dan-davin-conference-2017.html

13 June 2017

My story "The Bycatch Child" is in Sponge Issue 1

I've been so busy lately that there are various bits of news I haven't blogged. Time to start catching up!

* My story "The Bycatch Child" is published in the first issue of Sponge, a new New Zealand speculative fiction magazine. Check out the lovely cover:

I've also recorded an audio version of the story for Sponge - I'll update this post once that's up.

You can also follow Sponge on Twitter.

30 May 2017

Tuesday Poem: Messiaen Among The Dinosaurs

Messiaen Among The Dinosaurs

1. Old man with a notebook

They find Messiaen entranced in the magic hour
between dawn and the day’s heat
wandering the woodlands, skirting marshes,
annotating the contrasting calls

of pipit and nightjar. For many hours
he has been walking the forest fringes, lost
in the ecstasy of birdsong, until scientists,
deferential, insistent, come to fetch him home.

“Tell me again,” he says, Loriod
holding his hand. “Your Institute’s machine
will carry us backwards in time
to the epoch of dinosaurs, yes?

And you wish me to join you,
travel back, transcribe their calls?”

2. Such exotic birds

In the fern-enchanted glade, the composer
transcribes the calls of these gigantic birds,
their plumage flaring glamorously
along high necks and feathered rumps.

His guards are restless, watches
synchronised to the end of their brief window,
when time will snap back 120 million years
to the basement of the Institute,

fluorescents crackling overhead, experimenters
blinking like owls in the light of their return.
But Messiaen sits timeless, notebook on his lap,
oblivious to danger, the forest alive

with death’s roar, life’s fluting cry,
the staves and quavers of the dinosaurs.

3. At Clichy-la-Garenne

Death, three-clawed, yellow-eyed,
stalks the garden at Clichy-la-Garenne.
In the pale spring sunshine, notebook
fallen at his feet, sleeps Messiaen.

Loriod is at the piano, practising
Réveil des dinosaures for her next recital.
The notes attenuate among the cries
of great and lesser birds.

The authorities closed down the experiment
when the consequences became known.
Messiaen kept only memories, scores, scales,
the eggs he grew to fierce companions,

and the hymns of praise that throughout time
have soared from feathered throats.

Credit note: "Messiaen Among The Dinosaurs" was published in takahē 89. I'm reading that issue right now and there is lots of good stuff in there!

Tim says: After my poem about Dmitri Shostakovich's visit to America, which actually happened, I take the bird-obsessed Olivier Messiaen on a more science-fictional journey this time round. Why do I do these things to my favourite composers??

The real-life Messiaen, Yvonne and Jeanne Loriod, and Messiaen's remarkable music are all well worth exploring!

10 May 2017

My First Three Books Now Available As Ebooks: Extreme Weather Events

As I posted a month or so ago, Headwork has made my first three books available as ebooks through Lulu.com. Time to look at them individually:

Extreme Weather Events

Tim Jones – Extreme Weather Events Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

Extreme Weather Events was my first short story collection. It was published in 2001 by HeadworX, as part of their now-discontinued Pocket Fiction Series. There are twelve stories in Extreme Weather Events:

Maria and the Tree
Wintering Over
The New Land
The Kiwi Contingent
My Friend the Volcano
The Pole
The Lizard
Tour Party, Late Afternoon
Black Box
The Man Who Loved Maps
The Temple in the Matrix

To introduce a few, “Wintering Over” is set in Antarctica, where an isolated scientific party has an unusual visitor from the past: Titus Oates, that very gallant colleague of Captain Scott who went for a walk, and proved to be quite some time indeed. “The Pole”, also set in Antarctica, rewrites the struggle to be first to the South Pole. “Black Box” sees strange developments on the Wellington skyline, while “My Friend the Volcano” blows her top in Taranaki.

"Flensing" and "The Lizard" are pretty much the only two horror stories I’ve ever written. "Flensing" is set in South Georgia, which gives it a slight edge, I think. And "The Temple in the Matrix" pokes a few toes into the interstitial pond in a William-Gibson-meets-HP-Lovecraft-uptown kind of way.

The book got some good reviews and I still come across satisfyingly dog-eared copies in public libraries. Now you can buy it from Lulu.com.

19 April 2017

Takahē 89 Is Out And I'm Guest Poet

In late 2016, then-poetry editor Joanna Preston of takahē magazine asked me to be a guest poet for a forthcoming issue, and now that issue has been published! I really like the cover:

While I haven't seen the issue yet, I'm expecting the following poems of mine will appear in it:
  • Messiaen among the Dinosaurs
  • Composer
  • The Leningrad Symphonies
  • The Home of Country Music
  • Early Summer Music
  • The Hired Hand
They are all on a common theme (with variations), and as might be apparent from many of the titles, that theme is music. My musical tastes run from Schoenberg to Stormzy, but as I haven't a shred of musical talent, I'm much better suited to writing about music than making it. My first three collections all feature poems about music and musicians, but I took a break from that theme for my latest collection New Sea Land.

I was delighted to be asked to be the guest poet for takahē, and especially pleased that "The Hired Hand" was among the poems they accepted, as it's the longest poem I've written (84 lines) and my most sustained attempt at narrative poetry. Below, as a teaser for the issue, is the first stanza of "The Hired Hand". Subscribe to takahē to see the full poem and all the other fine work in this issue.

The Hired Hand [first of six stanzas]


The news breaks along the Oregon Trail, their van
panting up I-84 in the thin continental air,

coverage intermittent, Suzie snoring
last night’s last three drinks away.

Whether to call, or text, or let things
simmer for a while. Whether to bang her head

against the dashboard. Whether to look at the road
instead of synching and resynching her phone.

Boise: gas, toilet, then McDonalds. Suzie mumbling
like a broken boxer, mountain light stinging her eyes.

Then as coffee takes hold: “An album and a reunion tour?
And they didn’t call you about it? Again?”

“They might have kind of called,” she says.
Suzie calls her a fool and takes her hand.

Read the rest in takahē 89!

06 April 2017

My First Three Books Are Now Available To Buy As Ebooks, Thanks To HeadworX

Tim Jones – Extreme Weather Events Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

Tim Jones – Boat People Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

Tim Jones – All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

My first three books were all published by Wellington publisher HeadworX:

Extreme Weather Events (short story collection, 2001)
Boat People (poetry collection, 2002)
All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens (poetry collection, 2007)

Other than a few copies of each that I produce with a flourish* to put on the sales table when I do readings, these books have been long out of print. But I'm pleased to say that, through the tireless work of HeadworX publisher Mark Pirie, these books and a number of other have now been made available as ebooks in epub format, and you can buy them at Lulu.com.

(Epub format won't work on an Amazon Kindle without version conversion, but it will work on most other ebook readers, laptops and tablets.)
You can buy these books, plus cricket anthology A Tingling Catch, edited by Mark Pirie, which contains my poem "Swing":

Mark Pirie – ‘A Tingling Catch’: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009 Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

For a full list of the books by HeadworX authors available on Lulu/com, visit the HeadworX shop.

Books by the following authors - including hardbacks, paperbacks and ebooks - are currently available:

Alistair Te Ariki Campbell
Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and Meg Campbell
Tony Chad
Andrew Fagan
Michael O'Leary
Alistair Paterson
Mark Pirie
Vivienne Plumb
Jenny Powell
Helen Rickerby
Harry Ricketts

MaryJane Thomson
F W N Wright

That's quite a list, and shows what a great contribution HeadworX has made to publishing New Zealand poetry and fiction.

With all but one of my published books now available in at least one format, this seems like a good time to run through them all, from oldest to newest - so over the next few months I'll put up a series of posts that take you all the way from Boat People (2001) to New Sea Land (2016).

*for a given value of flourish.