30 November 2018

Poem of the Month - November: "Kikoi for sleeping in" by Mary McCallum

With the year nearly over we hitched
north, took a leaky tent, two kikoi
for swimming and for sleeping in,
a kilt pin for protection. Budget of
three dollars a day. Sandra and me.
We climbed the zigzag to be early
at the station, hips out, thumbs
out, first ride to Raumati, and each
ride after taking us further north. We
took turns up front but not the sheep
truck, both of us crammed in there
next to the driver, rigid with the stink
of animal fear. She drew the line,
no more sheep trucks. So it was squads
of station wagons packed to the roof,
‘Shove over, kids. Let the girls in.’
Gritty seats. Sticky legs. Cortinas
with dark windows, soft men with bad
jokes. The kind photographer who
drove us to Gisborne, took our photo
in a field, introduced us to a famous
poet. The hippies who dropped us
at Nambassa, where it rained on the
clothed and unclothed and I got sick,
and Sandra, mud-slick, slid down
a whole bank on her small efficient feet.
Then there was that ute and a side trip
to the satellite dish at Warkworth—
the dish as big as a house, no one in sight,
ute refusing to go. ‘Get on the roof, for
heaven’s sake, jump-start it.’ His voice
whistly, thin with irritation, those
too-light eyes elsewhere. Knowing
nothing—nothing—we climbed up, sat
on our hands on the hot roof, back
to back, legs down past windows, feet
on rims. And we stood and sat and
stood and sat, made it rock like he said,
the satellite dish a blank moon. Fields
and roads blank, too, not a soul out.
And oh, it didn’t fire. And oh, I didn’t
guess. Shiny with sweat, finger to lips,
Sandra leaned down, peered in, eyes
wide, mouthed something. Gestured—
wanker. With one breath we yowled
under that grey dish-moon, leapt
to the ground, blazing, ‘Take us back
to the highway, you prick!’ (The kilt
pin, where was it? Still pinned to my
shorts.) The ute started first turn of the
key. Back at the road we bailed—packs,
tent, kilt pin, kikoi waving like flags—
took off south, incandescent with our
sense of right, a torrent of women
wronged. That’s not the whole
story but it’s the gist. I’m talking
about two trips, both up north, both
on our wits. I packed the kilt pin, we
unfurled the kikoi to wrap around
us when we swam and, dried, to use
as sheets each night. Sandra talked
of Kenya while we fell to sleep. We
took it in turns lying under the leak.

Credit note: "Kikoi for sleeping in" by Mary McCallum is reproduced by permission of the author and publisher from Mary's collection XYZ of Happiness (Mākaro Press, 2018). For more information and to buy copies of XYZ of Happiness, go to https://makaropress.co.nz/submarine-books-2/xyz-of-happiness-by-mary-mccallum/. The book is available from the website and all good bookstores for the RRP of $25.

Tim says: XYZ of Happiness is a collection I read recently with a great deal of pleasure and admiration. While the nominal theme is 'happiness', there are a whole range of emotions and experiences in play, as the wonderful poem above shows. This is much longer than my usual "Poem of the Month" picks, but "Kikoi for sleeping in" is so good I couldn't resist. Thank you for the opportunity to post this poem, Mary!

21 October 2018

Book launch on 5 November in Wellington: Saradha Koirala's new poetry collection "Photos of the Sky"

I'm very flattered that Saradha Koirala has asked me to launch her third poetry collection Photos of the Sky in Wellington on Monday 5 November. Here are the details of the launch. You're invited!

What: Wellington launch of Photos of the Sky by Saradha Koirala, published by The Cuba Press.
When: Monday 5 November 2018, 5.30-7.30pm
Where: The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St, Thorndon, Wellington

I've followed and posted about Saradha's career as a poet and novelist. Her work ticks all the boxes for me: skill, thought, and heart.

Saradha describes Photos of the Sky as follows on her website:

The collection starts with a declaration; ends in realisation. In between is a journey of reaching across the Tasman, shifting to a new home, reaching a place of disquiet and starting again. The full spectrum of emotions brings with it rain, sweat, tears, wildflowers and the promise of snow.

I'm also very happy to support The Cuba Press - a new Wellington press which is really making moves in a range of genres. They are open for submissions until 1 December - check out their submission guidelines.

With Saradha's permission, here is her poem "Confession, confessed". This serves as an excellent introduction to Photos of the Sky. I hope you can make it to the launch!

Confession, confessed

I’ve been the secret and the secret-keeper
the one from whom the secret is kept.

I’ve been a curiosity of connections that don’t concern me
the cause and effect of all that is curious.

I’ve been right and I’ve been wronged
I’ve been righteously wrong.

I’ve been a cut-out shape where I used to be seen
and I too have cut fleshy shapes from my life.

I’ve been the problem and the solution
the floating object of insomnia, rage

a presence off limits
that has in turn been there for me.

I’ve been the reason and I’ve been the excuse.
I’ve been falsely accused, rightly refused.

I’ve been the obsession
the obsessed.

I had an alibi.
I am the reason you needed an alibi.

03 October 2018

Poem of the Month - October: "Into our room", by Trish Harris

Into our room
clanking and rattling
spinning and whirling
sliding and wheeling
come trolleys
       and patients.

Hospitals run
on wheels.

Credit note: This untitled poem by Trish Harris is reproduced by permission of the author from her collection My wide white bed (Landing Press, 2017). For more information and to buy copies of My wide white bed, go to https://landingpress.wordpress.com/upcoming-titles/my-wide-white-bed/ . Books are available from the website and all good bookstores for $22.

Tim says: I would have enjoyed and been moved by the poems in My wide white bed at any time, but it was an especially poignant reading experience for me this year after both my father and I had stints in hospital during 2017 - his, unfortunately, terminal.

My Dad spent the last two weeks of his life in Hutt Hospital, which is the same hospital that provides the closely observed backdrop of Trish's poems. So I can say from personal experience that what Trish Harris describes in this poem, and the confusing mixture of the personal and the impersonal one experiences as a hospital patient or even as a the visitor of a hospital patient, rings very true to life.

19 September 2018

Book Review: Keith Westwater, "No One Home"

Keith Westwater, No One Home (Mākaro Press, Wellington, 2018), RRP $25.00

Reviewed by Tim Jones

"No One Home" is exactly what it says on the cover: "a boyhood memoir in letters and poems". But though this blurb is correct, the book is so much more. It's both a moving story of a childhood marred by cruelty and neglect and a very interesting and effective formal experiment in how to construct a memoir through a variety of poetic forms.

To me, a word is worth a thousand pictures. When it comes to a new book of poetry, I tend to take a quick look at the cover, think "that looks nice", and head straight for the bio, the intro, and the poems. But this time round, I paid attention to the form of the book first. Between the boyhood photo on the front cover and the title poem reproduced on the back, there are reproductions of hand-written letters between family members, newspaper clippings, hand-drawn maps and diagrams, family photos, official letters, poems, prose poems, haibun, short non-fiction narratives - and more.

The great thing is that it all fits together so well to tell a story of a young boy's upbringing and effective abandonment in the wastelands of mid-20th-century New Zealand. That narrative ends with the young boy's entry into the Army, and is followed by a brief coda of poems looking back. Keith Westwater's two previous collections are as focused outwards as inwards, but do tell a lot of the story that followed his entry into - and in many ways, rescue by - Army life.

Even better, the words live up to the concept. Such a variety of forms could cause the book to spiral out of control, but the author does a well-controlled job of marrying the words to the form, and conveying the pain of separation and loss, the cruelty of neglect, and the despair of hopes abruptly dashed. "Learning to ride", with its crushing final line, is a fine example of how Keith Westwater conveys this:

... When I came a cropper
skinned my arms or knees 
you painted them orange
set me up for another go 
until I was able to wobble solo
up and down life’s street. 
If only that were so.

It's hard to convey the full flavour of this book in an extract: it deserves to be read in full, and I recommend that you do so.

11 September 2018

On Sunday 16 September, hear Tim Jones perform poetry about climate change, his father, himself, and the sea

My father and I disagreed about climate change. But not in the way you might expect...

I'm the guest poet at September's "Poetry at the Fringe" on Sunday September 16, 4-6pm, at the Fringe Bar, 26-32 Allen St, Wellington. The event kicks off with an open mike, then Chris Prosser plays, and then I'll be performing.

In my performance, I'm planning to interleave poems from my latest collection New Sea Land, plus other poems both old and new, to tell a story about climate change, my father, myself, and the sea.

I'd love to see you there - and, whether or not you can make it, please share this event with your networks and your Wellington friends.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/287263775421060/

04 September 2018

Rise for Climate on 8 September + Poem of the Month: Standstill

I've been asked to speak and a read a poem at Rise for Climate Wellington this coming Saturday, 8 September. That means the poem needs to be relevant and short! Here's the poem I plan to read:


We fight the sea to a standstill, accept the tide’s
offer of negotiations.

Asymmetrical warfare: our fixed positions,
the sea changing its demands twice a day,

but at last we agree: blue lines, green lines,
and in between the contestable beach.

We return to our constituencies
bearing pieces of paper:

ours waving bravely in the airport wind,
the sea’s dissolving even as it speaks.

And what I plan to say is that, on climate change, we're not even at a standstill - we're going backwards. But there is still time to change that, if we act soon, and if we act decisively.

I hope you can make it to the Wellington event, or one in your region.

Rise for Climate, Saturday 8 September

Mark your calendar - on Saturday 8 September find a Rise for Climate event in a city or town near you (or create one!).

Real climate leadership rises from below. It means power in the hands of people not corporations. It means economic opportunity for workers and justice and dignity for frontline communities that are the hardest hit by the impacts of the fossil fuel industry and a warming world.

This September, cities, states, businesses and civil society from around the world are gathering in California for the Global Climate Action Summit.  Local leaders are now leading the fight against greenhouse gases as governments drag their feet. We need to achieve: a fast, fair and just transition to 100% renewable energy; an immediate end to new fossil fuel projects; reforestation for carbon absorption; and an end to unsustainable land and water use.

Before the Summit, 350.org are planning thousands of rallies in cities and towns around the world to demand our local leaders take effective climate action and Rise for Climate!

We are at a crossroads. By acting together, we can end the era of fossil fuels and save the climate we all depend on.

What’s happening in Aotearoa?

You are warmly invited to the 350 events in the main centres.

Not near a major city? Why not set up your own event?!  350 Aotearoa can give you heaps of support & helpful resources
– contact Claudia Palmer claudia@350.org.nz

Check the 350 Aotearoa Facebook page for the most up-to-date info in all centres.  Links go to their Facebook events.
  • Auckland 350 is calling on Auckland Museum not to take dirty money from the coal industry. Rally Sat 8 Sept, 10:30am. Auckland Museum A. The Auckland Domain, Parnell, Auckland
  • Wellington 350 is calling on the City Council not to hire out council–owned conference facilities to the Petroleum Summit. Rally Sat 8 Sept 2:00pm. Civic Square, 101 Wakefield St, Wellington
  • Nelson 350 is launching a new 350 fossil free action group for Nelson. Rally Sat 8 Sept 12:00pm  Church Steps, 45 Selwyn Place, Nelson
  • Christchurch 350 has 2 events, on Friday and Saturday:
    1) Spotlighting Local Climate Leadership – Transitional Cathedral, Friday 7 Sept, 7pm – schools, churches, unions etc
    2) Trees for Climate – rally at Victoria Square, Sat 8 Sept, 1-3pm – seedlings, speakers, music….
  • Dunedin 350 is getting together to celebrate their successes to date and plan the future. Meet Sat 8 Sept at 1pm at the Octagon, Dunedin.
Enjoy!  The antidote to despair is taking action together and there are many ways to do this.

27 August 2018

Bonsai Wellington Launch, Monday 3 September + Poetry at the Fringe, Sunday 16 September

Two more events for you - I hope you can make it to one or both!

Bonsai Wellington launch - Monday 3 September

Monday 3 September, 6.00pm, The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St, Thorndon, Wellington.

I have a prose poem and an essay in Bonsai: Best Small Stories from Aotearoa New Zealand, a long-anticipated New Zealand anthology of small fictions (short-short stories) and prose poems - and there are plenty of other Wellington authors represented, too. Come along and hear readings from the book and discussions of the topics raised in the essay.

Wellington launch Facebook event.

Other events in the Bonsai launch tour:

Christchurch, Sunday 2 September - Facebook event page
Auckland, Thursday 6 September - Facebook event page
Whangarei, Wednesday 12 September - Facebook event page

Poetry at the Fringe - Sunday 16 September

I'm the guest poet at September's "Poetry at the Fringe" on Sunday 16 September at the Fringe Bar (26-32 Allen St, Wellington) . The event kicks off with an open mike, then Chris Prosser plays, and then I'll be reading a mix of poems from New Sea Land plus new and previously published poems.

Even if you have heard me read from New Sea Land before, I'm planning to interleave these poems with others to tell a story about my father, myself, climate change, and the sea. It's a format I'm hoping to take on tour in 2019 - this is your chance to help shape it!

I hope to see you there.

31 July 2018

Poem Of The Month: The Final Lap

Rimutaka Hill. Image credit: Michal Vitásek

Another of my poems has been published on the Talk Wellington blog, which specialises in covering transport and infrastructure issues around the Wellington region. This one describes a car journey I took through the Wairarapa on my way back to Wellington from being the guest reader at a Hawke's Bay Live Poetry Society meeting a few years ago:

The Final Lap

The Wairarapa strings moments on the tracks of afternoon,
accelerations, plains spreading southwards from Pūkaha,
where a solitary ferret stalks the wind.

This is the journey warned against by roadside signs,
long straights developing their own momentum,
desire for home outweighing caution,

eyelids drooping as the land’s horizons widen...

Read the rest of "The Final Lap" at Talk Wellington, or in my latest poetry collection, New Sea Land.

My previous poems on Talk Wellington:


But wait ... there's more!

What I've been reading

I've recently completed reading two fine poetry collections, No One Home by Keith Westwater and My Wide White Bed by Trish Harris. I hope to have more about  these collections for you soon, but in the meantime, I published Keith's poem Learning to ride as my "Poem of the month" in April.

Coming up

I'll be reading poems from New Sea Land, plus some newer poetry, at these upcoming poetry events:

Friday 24 August, 1-3.30pm: National Poetry Day event, Wellington Central Library. (I'll put up a separate post about this event - which features poets published by three local presses.)

Sunday 16 September, 4-6pm, Fringe Bar, 26-32 Allen St, Wellington: I'm the guest reader at the monthly Fringe Bar reading

Saturday 27 October and Sunday 28 October: East-West Poetry Fest, Palmerston North City Library.

28 June 2018

Poems of the Month - May and June: Two by Tim on Talk Wellington: "All That Summer" and "Dominion"

Talk Wellington: Kōrero Shaping Wellington was set up in 2017 to be a blog focusing on many aspects of life in the Wellington region, but with an emphasis on geography, climate change, urban design and transport. This year, their focus is on transport:

Region-wide, 2018 is a big year for transport.
So this year Talk Wellington is focussing on how transport is influencing people’s quality of life – from our streets, neighbourhoods, suburbs, to our towns and region.

One of the varieties of kōrero on the site is poetry, and Talk Wellington has been kind enough to carry a couple of my poems with a climate change and transport focus recently: "All That Summer" and "Dominion". You can read them both in full on the site, and then stay for all the other interesting comment Talk Wellington has to offer.

All That Summer

There’s a lot of great kōrero in Wellington about climate change, but what could happen if that talk doesn’t translate to action? This Friday poem is a portal into our city’s future.


How cars take our souls as well as our lives.

Credit note - and where you can find more poems on similar themes:

From Tim Jones’s latest poetry collection New Sea Land (Mākaro Press, 2016): https://makaropress.co.nz/submarine-books-2/new-sea-land-by-tim-jones/

28 April 2018

Poem of the Month: Learning to ride, by Keith Westwater

I attended the very successful launch of Keith Westwater's new book No One Home at Unity Books Wellington last Thursday night. No One Home is described on the front cover as "a boyhood memoir in letters and poems", and lest that and the front cover image appear to paint a picture of an idyllic youth, that's far from the case.

I'm just beginning to dip into this fascinating mixture of memoir, record of Army life and poetry collection, but here is one poem that caught my eye right away. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this collection, and then reviewing it!

Learning to ride

Not long after my complaints
about the long walk to school

how everyone had one
so why couldn’t I

you came home one night
with a two-wheeler bike –

a Monarch (boy’s, second-hand)
front handbrake, rear pedal –

no bell, chain-guard or gears.
You bought it, no doubt

off a ‘for sale’ ad in the local rag
painted it fire-engine red

showed me how to use the pump
oil the chain, crank and hubs

told me to level the pedals
before I stood on one

straddled the cross bar
sat on the black saddle seat

while you palmed my back
steadied the handle bars

said to push with my feet –
one then the other – coaxed me

to steer straight, keep upright
as we practised setting off.

When I came a cropper
skinned my arms or knees

you painted them orange
set me up for another go

until I was able to wobble solo
up and down life’s street.

If only that were so.

Credit: "Learning to ride" by Keith Westwater is reproduced by permission of the author and the publisher, Mākaro Press, from Keith's new book No One Home (Mākaro Press, 2018).

Tim says: Very like my own experiences of learning to ride a bike (in my case, in Otatara, south of Invercargill) - until the brutal end.

06 April 2018

Science Fiction At The Auckland Writers' Festival, 19-20 May: Neal Stephenson, Karen Joy Fowler, tribute to Ursula Le Guin

This looks like quite a weekend at the Auckland Writers' Festival for science fiction, fantasy (and literary fiction) fans: with Neal Stephenson, Karen Joy Fowler, and, even better, a tribute to Ursula Le Guin. Not sure I can be there, but I hope you can!

Auckland Writers' Festival link: http://www.writersfestival.co.nz/

Tickets available at ticketmaster.co.nz, 0800 111 999, or at TM Box Office: Earlybird $37.50, Standard (15 Mayonwards) $42; Students $20.00
New York Times bestselling author Neal Stephenson is renowned for works seething with big ideas, both innovative and complex in their genius, including Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Anathem, and his latest Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O co-written with Nicole Galland. Stephenson is also one of the world’s leading designers of augmented reality in his role as “Chief Futurist” at Magic Leap, a company that is transforming the way humans interact with story. David Larsen unpicks Stephenson’s boundless imagination and creativity.

Earlybird $20, Standard (15 May onwards) $25; Students $12.50; Concession Pass (multiple buy, shareable): $16/$17
Best-selling author Karen Joy Fowler is a maverick, with novels and short stories spanning science fiction, fantasy and literary fiction, including the Man Booker Prize finalist We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, The New York Times bestseller The Jane Austen Book Club, and the PEN/Faulkner fiction finalist Sister Noon. She is the co-founder of the James Tiptree Jr. Award – given to works which increase understanding of gender – and is the president of the Clarion Foundation which supports the teaching of sci-fi and fantasy writing. She speaks with Kate De Goldi. Supported by Platinum Patrons Pip Muir & Kit Toogood.
Earlybird $20, Standard (15 May onwards) $25; Students $12.50; Concession Pass (multiple buy, shareable): $16/$17
In memory of the extraordinary Ursula Le Guin, writers and fans Karen Joy Fowler and Elizabeth Knox join David Larsen to share stories of their first encounters with her work and explore the legacy of the writer David Mitchell describes as a “crafter of fierce, focused, fertile dreams”.

25 March 2018

Poem of the Month: "The Rabbit", by Peter Rawnsley, from his new collection "Light Cones"

His mother was the Wing Commander’s wife.
Had some ladies for high tea. She had brushed
and straightened him to be presentable. What
are you going to do when you grow up,
they asked between their sips from china cups.
The question and its demand for answer
to the high bench of grown-up is all that he remembers
of the conversation. When allowed, he escaped
from the drawing room, running, to a shed outside,
unlocked. Inside he found a dead rabbit,
meat to supplement the wartime ration. Shot
and hung up on a peg upon a wall. How the blood
glistens on the touchable fur! The craft
of the creature spread in death’s still life.
He must unpeg it and almost unaware,
such his absorption, fondle it taking up
the blood and stench to hand and face and clothes.
Unknown to himself, he holds the answer.
He enters the drawing room to show the wonder,
dangling the dead rabbit from his hand.
 A fuss, a dropped cup, cries of accident.
The bleak anger in his mother’s eyes.
The world’s perfect soirée lies in ruins.

Credit: "The Rabbit" by Peter Rawnsley is reproduced by permission of the author and the publisher, Mākaro Press, from Peter's new collection Light Cones (Mākaro Press, 2017).

Poet's note: Peter tells me: "This poem is autobiographical and truly happened as described, or at least as I remember about 75 years after the event! The locale, as I recall, is an air force base near Blenheim during WW2."

Tim says: As Cyclone Gita approached, its outermost rain bands already darkening the northern horizon,* I made the long and perilous journey to Plimmerton for the launch of Peter's new collection Light Cones. I wasn't sure about making the trip, but I'm very glad I did, because it was an excellent launch and this is a fine collection. Following my usual practice, I have been reading a few poems at the time, and of those I've read so far, "The Rabbit" is my very favourite. There are so many wonderful lines here, but what resonated with me most of all is that remembered sense from childhood of being arraigned at the high bench of grown-up expectation and judgement.

*Cyclone Gita actually took another two days to make landfall... it's a fair cop, guv.

20 February 2018

The 2018 National Flash Fiction Day Competition is open!

The 2018 National Flash Fiction Day 
competition is open!

This year, we introduce three categories for submissions: 

Adult (19+)
First Prize: $1000
Second Prize: $400
Third Prize: $100
Judges: Tracey Slaughter and Sue Wootton
Youth (18 and under)
First Prize: $200
Second Prize: $100
Third Prize: $50
Judges: Tim Jones and Patrick Pink

Te reo Māori Prize
Judge: Vaughan Rapatahana
Details at the NFFD site -- send your best 300-word stories by April 30!

Good luck to all!