Flash Frontier

April 2017 Features: Gail Ingram, Bay of Islands Flash and more

Interviews and Features

Meet Gail Ingram, Flash Frontier’s new Associate Editor!

In June this year, we bid farewell to Nod Ghosh as our Associate Editor and welcome Gail Ingram to our team. We will be sorry to see Nod go; her astute editing skills have helped us keep the bar high here at Flash Frontier, and her contributions have made our pages stronger. So here we say a heartfelt thank you and goodbye to Nod as an official member of the Flash Frontier editing team (though we know it’s not the last we’ll see of her!) and welcome Gail Ingram, another dedicated and talented supporter of poetry and flash fiction.

About Gail Ingram

Gail WritingGail’s poetry, flash fiction and short stories have appeared in journals and anthologies in New Zealand and overseas, including Takahē, Poetry New Zealand, Blackmail Press, Penduline Press, Cordite Poetry Review and Atlanta Review. In 2016, she won the NZPS international poetry competition, was a finalist for Best Small Fictions 2016 and was short-listed in the 2016 Fish Short Story Prize. In 2015, she was nominated by the Editors of Flash Frontier for the Pushcart Prize with her flash fiction, ‘Whispers’ and was runner-up in 2015 Takahē international poetry competition.

She has been a member of South Island Writers Association for ten years and was Chair for three. In this time, along with Barbara Strang and Mary Ridge, she started up “Poetic Licence”, an open mic event for National Poetry Day, which has been running successfully for four years now.

Gail teaches at the School for Young Writers in Christchurch, and last year completed her Masters degree in Creative Writing at Massey University, achieving First Class Honours. For part of her degree she submitted a manuscript of poetry on a fictional graffiti artist, which explores the turbulence of living in post-quake Christchurch and the role art plays on personal, social and political levels.

She lives on the rim of a rocky crater in Christchurch with her family, and is establishing a tussock garden to blend in with local skinks.

In Her Words

On Becoming an Editor of Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction

I am thrilled to be joining an awesome team of editors. I love that the stories at Flash Frontier often push the boundaries of narrative and poetry, and I am really looking forward to reading your stories and being inspired.

On writing and editing her own poetry and flash

Writers don’t often have the chance to revise their published work, so I’m taking this one! I wasn’t entirely happy with the ending of the version of ‘The Canvas’, which then went on to win the 2016 NZPS Poetry Competition. I’d taken it to my critique group after handing in my entry and got the feeling the others thought it wasn’t quite complete as it stood. I agreed with them and so added a last line. The original poem, which won, ended at paint-stained fingers. As an editor who had both versions in front of me, though, I think I’d chose this newer version. Wouldn’t you?

The canvas

Prefabricated tilt-slab with steel reinforcing
shipped from a Guangzhou factory a city street
long. Delivered by a bevy of cranes
criss-crossing a hung sky. Slung with ropes hauled
by fat-muscled builders driving aluminium SUVs
splattered with spun-patterns of river-mud.
Pulled vertical, it blocks the U-line of the hills
between Mt Cavendish and Castle Rock, shines a
white burr on the retina. The press applauds.

Up close, at night, the slanted shadow, fallen
across a security-lit carpark, cloaks her silhouette,
the concrete wraps cold around her
paint-stained fingers. She sways against the wall,
a weed scratching sounds in the wind.

Here’s the flash fiction that has travelled furthest for me: ‘Whispers’, from the pages of Flash Frontier. One of the reasons it has done so well, I think, is because when I was writing it I had no idea what it was going to be about or how it would develop; it completely came from the subconscious. The only conscious drive I had as I was writing was that it must interest my teenage son – one of the hardest audiences for a writer of literary fiction, don’t you think?! If I was starting to write something that I thought wouldn’t keep him listening, I would say “NO, that’s not the right direction.”

The second part that made that story strong came about because the first drafts were too long to send to Flash Frontier. I had to cut a pretty good draft down from 300 words to 250. Taking out words forced me to rethink every word and whether it was necessary, as well as rewrite sentences in more pithy ways. I remember Owen Marshall saying this is primarily how he edits; he just cuts and cuts. Here is the story as it was published in Flash Frontier in February 2015:


A rabbit pops out of a hole. A mangy hare, in fact, her eyes glassy, looking for escape.
She has six kits in the warren below.  Their fur is mangy too, stiff. Death is on her tongue, a taste that seems to come from inside, rather than, say, some dropped poisoned carrot, blanched like the landscape.
The wind catches the willows out left. There. She bounds from the dust-bowl entrance. Darts left, right, her gait uneven. Stops as suddenly as she began. Here. Her coat blends tan-grey into tussock. Her nose quivers, for the first time, her eyes look interested.
Dark clouds press the horizon. A rumble. The hills look closer. Watch. They open like a walnut-shell cracks. And the ground, where the hare sits, blows like breath.
The horizon has split. Two nut-halves. Lightening crackles between the broken hill. A crack begins to run across the earth towards the hare. Her whole being shifts towards it; her ears lean into it, she trembles. The crack has singular direction, and tussock, stone, tree fall into its wake.
It travels more quickly than you think. She reacts now. Uses her hind legs to propel herself. For a moment she is high above the crack. Her fur is no longer dull but sleek, her front-legs reach skyward, she is in motion.
We can remember her like this. We don’t need to imagine the rush downwards towards the open earth into crumbling, crunching mineral. Let us recall her fine last leap towards her kittens.

The last short piece is probably a prose poem because that’s how I think of it. It probably also works as flash fiction because it has narrative movement, if very small. It also uses found language from Wikipedia. I love work that explores form and crosses boundaries because I think it’s important to look for new ways to express personal experience because it is personal, particular and unique to you. For my thesis I was exploring what happened when you put two very different pieces of discourse together – in this poem, the technical language of psychology with the alarming dream language of a person caught up in the effects of a psychological disorder. I thought this technique might work similarly to how a metaphor works when you put two dissimilar images together to capture a complex and particular experience, in this case an experience that eludes either one discourse or the other. Blue Fifth Review published this as part of its Blue Five Notebook series last year. Blue Five Notebook is an eclectic journal of poetry, flash and art for emerging and established artists, traditional and experimental work (and, best of all, Michelle is one of the co-editors).

A dissociative episode (psychology)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
In psychology, the term dissociation describes a wide array of experiences from mild detachment to more severe detachment like television sobbing from physical and emotional experience like being. In mild cases, it can be regarded as a coping mechanism on the outside seeking to master stress of thick glass.  At the nonpathological end, it describes looking in at common events such as a son running, daydreaming while driving a vehicle out of air, alterations in personal identity or sense of self, her son the world is unreal running into separate streams of zigzag across the screen in search of startling autonomous intrusions of definition.

The Editors thank Nod Ghosh and Gail Ingram. We are privileged to have such fine Associate Editors.

Interview: Bay of Islands Writing Group

This month, we feature a new flash fiction writing group in Northland, way up in the Bay of Islands. The group includes founders Angela Shaw and Vivian Thonger, as well as Imogen Rider, Kelly Stratford and Syreeta Hewson.

Flash Frontier: Thank you for this chance to speak with you about Northland writing – and flash fiction in Northland. Let’s begin with how your group began. Why did you decide to start a new writing group in Kerikeri? Tell us about your origins.

Angela: Hi Michelle, it’s great to chat with you. Three thoughts occurred to me late last year. First, I was researching and thinking about writing a lot more than I was actually writing; second, there hadn’t been a meaningful writing deadline in my life for some time; and third, no one else in my life liked to write. I’ve been part of an online writing community for a few years, collaborating to build short stories 500 words apiece, but creating whole stories and applying the breadth of fiction-writing technique became more important to me – as did personal contact with other writers.

Vivian: I’d been a member of Whangarei’s flash fiction group for over a year and, like Angela, wanted more. Through the Writers Up North Facebook page, I picked up Angela’s query; a week later, four of us were drinking flat whites at the Cinema Cafe: Angela, Imogen, Kathy Derrick of the NZSA (offering support and publicity for the new group) and me. We discovered we were all writers already – memoir, poetry, short story, journalism, ghosting – wanting to improve; we agreed to focus on flash. Within a couple of weeks, we’d shared and co-critiqued our first assignment. We’re now up to six members and rising, and our fourth prompt. Bay of Islands Writers Group is go!

Angela: The 300-word monthly flash assignment is the linchpin of our group, as it gives us something practical to do and tangible to discuss. It also provided us common ground as a new group, and we each receive valuable feedback that has relevance to our individual writing. I am really pleased that I reached out – who knew that Vivian only lived a block away from me?

FF: Why focus on flash?

Angela: I find a more immediate gratification with flash than other writing forms, as it allows you to create a whole story in a relatively short timeframe. By trade, my writing needs to be explicit and succinct, and relies upon using language that is accessible to most and words where people likely share the same frame of reference, so those aspects of flash fiction suit me. I also enjoy the challenge of applying fiction writing techniques in such a tight word count in a way that adds something to the reader’s day. There is no room for complacency – every word must count and the reader needs to care long after.

Vivian: Yes to all of the above, plus one: it’s quick to read. Ideal for people with tight schedules. And those who leave everything to the last minute and beginners who don’t know where to start and self-doubters wanting to break a block. It’s like making a tiny salad or a single muffin: how difficult can it be? Your kitchen doesn’t get destroyed, it’s light enough to be easily digestible and everyone’s ready for the next bite within minutes. You need all the ingredients that a whole batch requires (really stretching this simile), and most of the skills. Perfecting the recipe (editing) is the part that takes time. Flash enables a small group to produce work, get it critiqued and critique others – all of which form the bedrock for improvement.

FF: Can you each tell us a little more about yourselves, and how you balance as a group?

Photo by Vivian Thonger

Angela: I live in Kerikeri with my husband Russell and son Andrew, three. I have always enjoyed writing as hobby and for work, providing specialised communications support for organisations who can find it challenging at times. I really enjoyed working in communication, as it is one of the most basic, yet complex, foundations of any interaction between individuals, groups or a mix. It’s something that has always come naturally to me – in the written form, anyway. Nowadays I spend a lot of time with my family, so I am looking for ways to write more without intruding on these precious moments. It’s a real joy to encourage my son’s curious mind – right now, we are having fun with Margaret Mahy’s rhymes and words that sound the same, but mean different things (homophones).

Vivian: After a career in psychology, I switched track and took an Open University degree in 20th-century art and creative writing/poetry. So I have tips to share on writing and critiquing skills, plus an eye for grammar and spelling basics (I’ve been a proofreader). I got hooked on flash after a couple of pieces were published online. I’m slow, editing endlessly, so flash enables me to have several pieces and poems on the go at once. I love whittling pieces down to short and shortest versions.

Kelly: I have started many courses and life has pushed those goals to one side. I have always kept journals. When I look back in some of them I am astonished to see some of the poems and fictional creations I’ve dabbled with, but I’ve never given myself any serious credit. Since joining this group I am gaining confidence in my writing and learning how to write better. I must admit on the first evening of our group, feeling terrified and totally out of my comfort zone! Now I’m 40, I keep telling myself: cut it out, you’re big enough for this, just do it! So I have survived and hope that I continue to push myself to great creations and to learn more!

Syreeta: While I am new to the group, I’ve had a lifelong love of both reading and writing. I find language can be incredibly painterly, evocative, and a wonderful tool for self-expression and deep exploration, of both external and internal worlds. My past experience is really just a vast amount of reading and writing over the course of my life. I have also had blogs, one written while walking the Camino de Santiago, and contributed to a few online journals over the years, but am relatively new to group writing and wishing to push my growth via having feedback from other writers in my local area, as well as enjoying others’ work.

Photo by Imogen Rider

Imogen: Both my parents had careers as journalists; I studied journalism and worked as a feature writer. My mother, my sister and I share a love of creative writing. I have always had a fascination with language and the power of its rich complexities. As a teacher, my students and I have written and performed many small plays. I find inspiration for my writing in both the mundane and the extraordinary. Stories pop into my head all the time, in the supermarket, while reading a news item, people-watching, daydreaming. The seed is sown and stories begin to grow and take on a life of their own – now to get more of them down on paper!  Our BOI Writers Group is a great motivation and learning curve for this.

Vivian: There’s already a lot of trust: it takes courage to read out your first ever story to five strangers in a strange house. Our sessions are timed to discuss everyone’s piece. We make space for serendipity: with flash, there’s always the chance that someone inexperienced will nevertheless write a stunning piece – so motivating! Don’t worry, you’ll come down to earth later. There’s illumination in every flash piece, whether in technique, angle or style; it only takes a few minutes to discuss and pinpoint where potential lies.

Angela: I think it is safe to say that our members are all quite different people and bring contrasting writing styles, backgrounds and interests to the group. This makes our readings exciting and critiques invaluable, as we each have a different perspective. Our group is new, but I really enjoy the enthusiasm, care and respect we show for each other and the work.

FF: Some of you are poets as well as fiction writers. We spend quite a lot of time pondering the connections between flash and poetry here at Flash Frontier – and in other projects the editors are involved with. Tell us where you see overlaps, and how you view the continuum between poetry and compressed fiction?

Photo by Syreeta Hewson

Angela: I am still pondering the borders of flash fiction and poetry, but the discussion has put poetry writing on my radar for the first time. At times my writing can have a rhythm, voice or an intended outcome for the reader that is quite different from usual, so I am exploring the idea that these pieces may lean more towards poetry. But then again, they make for quirky, rhythmic flash. The question I ask is: does one form over another create a particular effect in the reader that the writer desires?

Vivian: I’ll paraphrase Marcel Duchamp and say poetry is like art: it’s poetry because I say it is. Poetry forms with limitations such as line/word count and line length (sonnet, villanelle, haiku) are closest to flash conceptually: the need to compress what you want to say into a small space. In practice, both poetry and flash are condensed, pared back (I like food metaphors), leaving a flavour-packed mouthful. The language of flash must squeeze the most out of every word, often making it lyrical, expressive – what many people consider poetic. By contrast, modern poetry’s language is becoming more like normal speech or texting in its rhythms – which many people consider unpoetic. Where does a prose poem end and poetic flash begin? Let either the writer or the editor decide – as long as it sets off brain sparks in the reader.

Syreeta: Flash fiction was a new term to me, and one I was delighted to stumble upon, as I love to absorb something that hits you quick and deep. I think prose and poetry lend themselves well to this genre, although I am still getting to grips with what flash fiction encompasses.

FF: What is your favourite thing about the compressed form – reading or writing it?

Angela: Just one thing? OK, being able to write-edit-complete work in such a short timeframe is quite fulfilling. The other joys include the challenge of crafting a story in a clever and meaningful way in such a tight word count. Reading flash is also a short and snappy treat that can stay with you long afterwards.

Vivian: Reading tiny stories for an hour is delicious, a plate of varied tapas. But nothing beats working hard to create one of those snacks, being able to say: I made that.

Syreeta: I like the succinctness of flash fiction, I find the brevity refreshing but not shallow, and see it’s capable of leaving the reader with something to ponder, muse over, or perhaps leave you with a chuckle and a smile.

Imogen: The impact it can create with relatively few words; one piece can influence one’s thoughts and emotions and be remembered forever. We all have such different approaches to themes when writing, and I’m surprised by our varied perspectives on underlying themes and symbolism. 

FF: You recently attended the flash fiction workshops offered by Martin Porter. Can you each tell us something you learned in those?

Photo by Syreeta Hewson

Angela: Martin’s workshop was delivered in a way that really made you think for yourself and develop your own perspective and approach, even though he also provided clear direction on what is expected of flash from a competition judge’s perspective. I came away thinking about structure, layering, ambiguity and how stories can be shaped (i.e., linear or circular), which has already added great depth to the enjoyment that I get designing stories.

Vivian: We are writers and co-authors alongside our readers, says Martin. Readers expect story or meaningful flow – something should happen, at least. But is there such a thing as narrative? It’s probably an illusion, the same process our brains use to fill in the gaps along our sensory pathways. Flash provides an ideal opportunity to allow/force the reader to fill in those gaps, consciously or otherwise.

Syreeta: I enjoyed and learned a lot with Martin, particularly what makes flash fiction work, and what doesn’t, with some great examples provided.

Imogen: I have been bound by writing short stories that have a start, a middle, and an end in a very traditionally structured way. Martin’s tips and hints have opened my eyes to the real creativity and crafting that flash allows and I am excited to explore these possibilities.

FF: And finally: We see a lot of discussion around the connection between the physical landscape and New Zealand writing. What in your Northland environment inspires your writing? How do you see landscape or scenery or coastline or forest or climate (or anything else) in your own work? Do you think there is a real connection between your geography and how/ what you write?

Angela: I have a great interest in capturing the places where I have lived and the experiences that I have had there, to remember them through my senses and be able to invoke particular feelings. It’s memoir writing, I guess. So I am jotting “flashes” of these as they come to mind, in between other writing activities. In the past I have tried to make them work together and flow from one to another, but the flash format has given me the comfort of simply getting them down and enjoying each one for what it delivers.

Photo by Vivian Thonger

Vivian: This Northland landscape is breathtaking, rampant, surprising, damaged. It’s all about occupation by relatively new peoples: tensions lie close to the surface in the Bay of Islands. Conflicts and settlements between Maori and Europeans are still hot topics today. Old vs. new immigrants. Frail ancient trees; tough new weeds. Old habits/truths; new imperatives. Freedoms for some; traps for others. It’s entirely congruent how our group responded to our most recent random prompt word, ‘Treaty’, in ways that refer specifically to life here: I’d say the spirit of place is alive and well as you’ll see when you read them and cast an eye over some of our photos.

Syreeta: The natural landscape around me absolutely informs and inspires a great deal of my own writing, I spend a lot of time in the local bush where I live, and have a passion for the beauty and clarity it brings me in all seasons, on myriad levels.

Imogen: Working at New Zealand’s most important historical site, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, has developed a desire in me to write historical fiction based on both our landscape and the characters, mythical and actual, past and present, who make up our unique heritage.

For stories by the Bay of Islands writers, inspired by their first group prompt: treaty, read on!

Northland Flash: Treaty

Waitangi Day

Angela Shaw

I try to hold my line as the crowd draws me towards the Treaty grounds.

It’s my journey, my pilgrimage.

I soak up the scene, now familiar to me: blue waters and golden beaches, rocky islands and then open water beyond. High above us all, the flagpole stands sentry, overlooking the bay.

Adjective-laden utterances sound out and cameras flash. The crowd jostles right, vying for the best view. It’s postcard perfect, but it’s the scene to our left that captures me.

Tall, wooden Pouwhenua tower over gatherings of stoic elders. Barely clothed children play chase, laughing then disappearing into the thicket of tents and make-do lean-tos. Aunties and uncles sit, watching us. Uneasily, I realise that we are the spectacle.

But, I think, aren’t I one of you?

The crowd compresses to cross the bridge and I am crushed into a hard-looking man with fiery red hair. He’s wearing a blue tartan kilt and I pigeon-hole him. Then, I see the koru tattoo coloured with Black Watch.

He has identity.

I consider breaking away toward the festival ahead, but hesitate. Beautiful voices accompany acoustic guitar and the sweet smell of fry bread hangs in the humid air. Local children run from stall-to-stall, caught up in quaint show day magic and I decide not to intrude.

“There it is,” says an old guy. “NR734, the first Norfolk Pine in New Zealand. Isn’t he a beauty!

I look hard and spot the spiked top towering over the Pohutukawa. It’s a slim, dark cross against the bright sky.

“It pre-dates the Treaty,” he said, his eyes sparkling. “And it’s as tall as a kauri.”

I smile back politely, but the tartan warrior nudges me conspiratorially.

“Yeah, but it’s not native,” he says.

Angela Shaw: Embracing my 40th year and making time for the things that bring me joy, such as writing, reading, running and fun times with family. Goals on the horizon include a short story anthology, a collection of flash fiction and the Auckland Marathon – my first!


Syreeta Hewson

Only vestiges remained of the treaty terms between their worlds.

Like the torn sail of a ship marooned long ago, ragged and threadbare, but still beautiful somehow. Silken and fragile flutterings.

He had come in such a ship himself, from distant lands, vessel undone by tides, hardship, and hunger. Both man and boat, whittled down to ribs, to bone.

He was an explorer in uncharted terrain, gone off the edges, his hair wild from years at sea.

She was the land he had washed up on.

At first she was only the shape of hopeful hills seen from a distance, through fog and delirium. Her hips like undulating sand dunes, green and fecund pastures, while the water for him had become an arid desert.

He was a crash landing under a full-blown fully flowered moon, the kind that envelops then melts into horizons.

He had to swim in the end, the storm claiming all but his body. He had to swim to her shores and let her hands pull him in.

She plucked him from the seas, wading in thigh deep, surf swirling around her bare legs, skirts tucked in around her waist.

Two worlds, earth and sea, meeting under the starry night, making love with no language shared but the ache for touch. A burning mutual need.

Their treaty was made in the heat of their bodies, the meeting of their eyes, his hands on her skin. 

Eventually, the sea called him back, her lands too wild, too untameable, and his longing for the waves once more beckoning him in.

The agreements like ribbons, of flesh and heart, gracefully unravelled.

She walked him down to the shores.

Syreeta Hewson: 41-year-old artist living in Northland.


Kelly Stratford

Planted a mere three feet by a Lord. I am the first. My limbs are thin, my leaves are many. The seasons change me. Losing my green into a shade of orange and sometimes red, then brown. Moving my limbs and snapping off fresh growth, the wind, she hurts. Winter submerges me down to my roots. In this lonely wet, I am comforted by a warm application of compost. I feel loved.

An energy begins to show. As my leaves replenish, my limbs lengthen. I am reaching. I am gaining height.

With each day, the people, they are many. Filing into the house, with their clunky black cameras, speaking in whispers, in and around the gardens they pose. They click. They take no notice of me.

In the heat, with more people daily. I am dry, part of my leafage is brown and crisp. I long for the gardener to protect me as he does the roses, I see him water and lay their beds with compost. I miss the nature of winter and its wet relief.

One day, there are a great many people about. People holding banners over at the flagpole. Horns sounding. Drummers drumming. Cannons blasting.

A well-dressed man stands along from me as the gardener approaches carrying a shovel. A young girl comes towards him carrying a tree, smaller than me. Words are spoken. There are cheers and applause. The man plants the tree and the gardener waters it. The girl picks up the watering can, “Please Mister, water that other tree, it’s half dead.”

The crowd turn towards my dry neglected self. Immediately, the gardener rushes to fill the can and assists the girl to wet my roots as a voice bursts from the crowd, “Just like the forgotten promises in the Treaty!”

Kelly Stratford: I’m an ambitious Capricorn and although I like everything in its place and everything accounted for, somewhere deep down is the creative writer.


Imogen Rider

Tattooed tribal leader stands before his people.

“Aue, aue!

“Whakarongo mai, better the Englishmen than the marauding Frenchmen. Better the Englishmen than the lawless American whalers and sealers, with their grog shops and brothels. No longer will Kororareka be known as the Hellhole of the Pacific. Aue! Let the English come and control these troublemakers, as well as their own convicts who think they can hide out here forever. The great Queen Wikitoria, who is ruler of a mighty nation and a great fleet of ships, will protect us.”

Hinenui te Po floats, black-as-night hair fans out, fingers flutter like feathers by her side. Bulging eyes turn up to the stars.  

Aue, aue!

Whakarongo mai, my children. I see you trapped in grey unyielding spaces. I hear wails as your tamariki die at your hands. I taste strange poisons you eat and drink that corrupt body and mind. Aue! 

Now Hinenui te Po is submerged, slowly sinking, her lament vanishing in a thin bubble as her whirring fingers are stilled, never to wiri wiri again.

“This Tiriti is good for everybody. The Englishmen promise that we will always be the guardians of the land, the sea, the rivers, the forests, the mountains. We, the tangata whenua, understand the land does not belong to us, but that we belong to the land. Nothing can change that. The Pakeha can never fully belong to this land as we do, but they can live here as friends and partners. We can share. Come, come make your mark here and get your musket and two red blankets. They are very good blankets I hear. Ka pai!”

Imogen Rider: I was born in South Africa and grew up in Zimbabwe. I moved to New Zealand in 2000 with a reluctant husband, four children between the ages of 4 and 14 and little more than our suitcases. I am eternally grateful to be a Kiwi now and love this beautiful country, especially our Bay of Islands paradise. I enjoy kayaking, walking and beach-combing along our stunning coastline. Flash fiction, short stories and children’s picture books are where my writing interest lies.


Vivian Thonger

They co-signed a piece of paper, simple. And fought over it immediately – that’s the big drag about translating: you’d think people would be grateful for light cast on what the other lot says, but no, they get upset and shoot the messenger. Figuratively speaking, fortunately for me.

Words are unreliable. With my training, I know origins, in this case tractatus, from the Latin, a long text. There’s more: this multifarious word turns up in traiteur, a French deli, specialising in readymade take-home dishes – what’s not to like? – and in tract, a chunk of land, and in the Dutch traktatie, when someone with a birthday treats relatives to cake and coffee. Fascinating, in a can-of-worms way.

We were rustled up to sort out this one-page document. I objected to the word ‘treaty’ and was shouted down, the old Treaties of Tordesillas and Paris cited as precedents. I was offended: why ask a philologist if you ignore them? Misunderstandings were inevitable, I warned: the other language wasn’t even written. You should’ve heard the Sovereign’s reps sniffing: what, a formality without unfurling parchment and flourishing quills? Impossible!

The long-time locals took that word to mean haumi: friendly association, collaboration, partnership, support. Royal protection sounded useful.

The Queen’s lot defined it as you’d expect: contract, adjudication, covenant, bargain – basically, a business deal – with sovereignty shoved in: “Her Maj owns you now, whatever you own.” Protection as in safeguarding stock.

The antonyms came quickly: antagonism, disagreement, discord, misinterpretation, refusal. What did I tell you?

Vivian Thonger: Kerikeri poet, writer, performer and musician who hones work at Whangarei’s Dirty Word evenings and as a member of Northland’s Poetry Posse. This year’s highlight: resident poet at biennial international art event CollaboratioNZ 2017.

Manifesto Aotearoa: 101 political poems

Book launch May 10 at the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival! Information here.

From the Otago University Press media release, April 10

A poem is a vote. It chooses freedom of imagination, freedom of critical thought, freedom of speech. A collection of political poems in its very essence argues for the power of the democratic voice.

These explosive new poems arrive in election year, at a time when global and domestic politics are in turmoil. Featuring David Eggleton, Cilla McQueen, Vincent O’Sullivan, Tusiata Avia, Frankie McMillan, Brian Turner, Paula Green, Ian Wedde, Vaughan Rapatahana, Ria Masae, Peter Bland, Louise Wallace, Bernadette Hall, Airini Beautrais and 84 others, and with original cover and interior artwork by Nigel Brown, this is a landmark work.

Here New Zealand poets from diverse cultures, young and old, from established and new voices, from the Bay of Islands to Bluff, rally for justice on everything from a degraded environment to systemically embedded poverty; from the long, painful legacy of colonialism to explosive issues of sexual consent.

Edited by celebrated New Zealand writers Philip Temple and Emma Neale, this collection shows how political poems can be the most vivid and eloquent calls for empathy, for action and revolution, even for a simple calling to account.

American poet Mark Leidner tweeted in mid-2016 that ‘A vote is a prayer with no poetry’. Here, then, are 101 secular prayers to take to the ballot box in an election year. But we think this book will continue to express the nation’s hopes every political cycle: the hope for equality and justice.

Two small but potent words. 101 potent poems. Stand up, write back!

Featuring: Johanna Aitchison, Ivy Alvarez, Catherine Amey, Nick Ascroft, Bridget Auchmuty, Tusiata Avia, Serie Barford, Nell Barnard, Airini Beautrais, Victor Billot, Peter Bland, Michael Botur, Elizabeth Brooke-Carr, Diane Brown, Nigel Brown, Janet Charman, Mary Cresswell, Majella Cullinane, Jonathan Cweorth, Alison Denham, Doc Drumheller, Nicola Easthope, Lynley Edmeades, Murray Edmond, David Eggleton, Chris Else, Michelle Elvy, Jessie Fenton, Sue Fitchett, Janis Freegard, Kathleen Gallagher, Rhian Gallagher, Jane George, Anahera Gildea, Paula Green, Sandi Hall, Bernadette Hall, Ruth Hanover, Michael Harlow, Siobhan Harvey, Trevor Hayes, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, David Howard, John Howell, Gail Ingram, Kevin Ireland, Adrienne Jansen, Benita Kape, Koenraad Kuiper, Beverly Martens, Ria Masae, Carolyn McCurdie, Melanie McKerchar, Frankie McMillan, Maria McMillan, Cilla McQueen, Elizabeth McRae, Harvey Molloy, Martha Morseth, Emma Neale, Janet Newman, James Norcliffe, Vincent O’Sullivan, Peter Olds, Stephen Oliver, Sarah Paterson, Amy Paulussen, Vivienne Plumb, Maraea Rakuraku, Vaughan Rapatahana, Richard Reeve, Reihana Robinson, Paul Schimmel, Carin Smeaton, Marty Smith, Luke Sole, Judith Stanley, C.K. Stead, Michael Steven, Mere Taito, Zoe Taptiklis, Alex Taylor, kani te manukura, Nicola Thorstensen, Philip Temple, Anthonie Tonnon, Brian Turner, Louise Wallace, Mercedes Webb-Pullman, Ian Wedde, Keith Westwater, Pat White, Helen Watson White, Andrew Paul Wood, Sue Wootton, Aroha Yates-Smith, Liang Yujing.

About the editors

Emma Neale, who was born in Dunedin, has written six novels – Night Swimming, Little Moon, Relative Strangers, Double Take, Fosterling and Billy Bird – and a number of poetry collections, and has edited anthologies of both short stories and poetry. Neale won the Todd New Writers’ Bursary in 2000, was the inaugural recipient of the NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature (2008), and was the 2012 Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago. Her poetry collection The Truth Garden won the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award in 2011, and Tender Machines (OUP, 2015) was longlisted for the inaugural Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She teaches, works in publishing and looks after her two young children. Emma blogs at emmaneale.wordpress.com
Philip Temple is an award-winning author of fiction and non- fiction, often on subjects associated with New Zealand history and the natural world. He also won an award for his influential writing on electoral reform during the 1992–93 MMP campaign. Philip was the recipient of the 2003 Creative New Zealand Berlin Writers’ Residency and, earlier, held both the Menton Katherine Mansfield Fellowship and the Robert Burns Fellowship. He has received a Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement and been appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for his services to literature. www.philiptemple.com

People In Our Pages: Leanne Radojkovich’s first collection of stories

The Emma Press will be launching First Fox by Auckland writer Leanne Radojkovich, a collection of short stories set in a world “tinged with the dreamlike qualities of fairytales”. The book is illustrated by Auckland writer and graphic artist Rachel Fenton, aka Rae Joyce. In these stories, disappointments and consolations meet with fantastical moments that wind their way into the realm of possibility.

The book will be launched at the Auckland Readers and Writers Festival in May. Details here.

Leanne Radojkovich lives in Auckland, New Zealand, and holds a Masters in Creative Writing. In 2016 one of her stories was translated into Chinese for the 14th International Conference on the Short Story in English, held in Shanghai, where she also read. Her flash fiction street art has popped up around the globe from USA to Sweden to Tanzania. First Fox will be her UK debut.

The Emma Press is a UK-based independent publisher dedicated to producing beautiful, thought provoking books, founded by Emma Wright in 2012. In 2016, they won the Michael Marks Award for Publishers. More here…

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