Manifesto update

Thank you so much to all the poets who sent work in for Manifesto. We’ve made our final decisions now – after reading through  over 500 poems submitted.  Our original call out said no correspondence would be entered into: the unexpectedly high number of submissions reinforces that we can’t email declined poets individually. It’s been a massive job whittling the 500+ down to 101 – but ultimately we’re heartened  at the intense level of political engagement the entries show.

The American poet Mark Leidner tweeted recently that “A vote is a prayer with no poetry”: a tangy, memorable aphorism I’ll have playing over and over in my mind at the ballot box.

There are many things that poetry is a vote for. Fittingly, the collection is due out in mid 2017: in time for the elections.

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Billy Bird



After four years in the incubator, Billy Bird, my new novel for adultsis due for release.  The official launch date is  31 August. It’s going to be introduced by Barbara Larson, at the University Book Shop, Dunedin. Before then, I’m heading away to speak at Off the Page in Palmerston North (19 August)  and at the Christchurch WORD Festival (which runs August 25-28); and in September, I’ll be speaking at Going West (which runs September 9-12).

If I had to write an elevator pitch for this book, I’d say it’s about an overly anxious mother and a preoccupied father trying to work out how best to manage their young son, who insists that he’s a bird.

I’ve said in the press release for Penguin Random House that this is the best ‘hard fun’ I’ve ever had writing fiction. I wanted to play around with different literary modes to reflect shifts in mood and emotional development; so the book slides through narrative prose, complete poems, a mock stage script, lists, and even doodles.

Increasingly, as I grew more immersed in Billy’s family, it felt to me that flick-flacking in and out of styles reflected the constantly ducking and diving energy, the swerves of focus, in a busy household: not only its daily kitchen-sink mini-dramas, but the larger drama of three people dealing with how to recalibrate themselves individually and as a family after significant crises – ranging from professional/economic to personal.

Having a bright, quirky kid as one of the main characters in the book meant that  a lot of joy and comedy could lift some of the tougher events that this family confronts. Billy is a fusion of several funny, smart, vulnerable and wonderful kids I’ve met. Recently it’s been hard not to think of him as my own third child — or the book as ‘its own person’. I know it’s got a warm jacket on out there — but I hope it calls home now and then, to let us know how it’s doing.


*The cover illustration is by 14-year-old Abe Baillie; the overall design is by Carla Sy. Harriet Allan and Sarah Ell are my nimble and diligent editors. My highly tolerant literary agents (and manuscript assessors) are Barbara and Chris Else at Total Fiction Services.

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Shut Shop

Submissions for Manifesto are now closed. Thanks to all who sent work in, and for all the creative excuses for why submissions were late, but now it is well past the hour to say, no more. Happy drafts to all.

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Manifesto call

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Thinking Aloud


There is a link below to a radio interview with Vanda Symon – the first half is between Vanda and Diane Brown, about Diane’s absorbing, funny-dark, wry-sad new poetic memoir Taking my Mother to the Opera; the second half is about Tender Machines.

It’s such a strange experience saying aloud some of the things that flicker in and out of thought. Lots of stops and starts as the mind tries to remember the dance steps it’s taken so many times on its own…But the radio seems like one of our more tender machines under Vanda’s supervision.

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A Necklace of Links


Reviews have started coming in for Tender Machines. They can be found here:

And here

And  also here

And also here

And also here

In an era of ever-shrinking space for reviews, today I feel like celebrating all the hard work, dedication, and probably bloody-mindedness of the reviewers and the publications who still get criticism into print and pixels.

It’s also a ‘shout out’ to the publicists at Otago University Press. I’d hazard they have to somehow strike a serene balance between persuasive and pushy. Having spent 2 fairly stomach-knotting years as a glorified telemarketer for a building firm in London, I bet some days, promoting other people’s wares feels like being an ice vendor during a hoar-frost. So my coffee cup is raised to those publications that still cherish and nurture book reviews (swig), and again to all the amazons of doggedness at Otago University Press (cup drained!).

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‘We Are Members One of Another’

I’ve written another piece about Into the River and the extraordinary interim ban it’s undergone this month. The article is up at Pantograph Punch; there is a link here.

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