Tuesday Poem: ‘Nora’s Funeral’ by Sue Hansen

Nora’s Funeral
For Ray & Nora Doogue, married 1941-1993

I expect rain, the day we bury my Grandmother.
Yet, as mourners gather on the cobbled yard
we squint into the sun’s light,
and the wool of my jacket itches my neck.

I sit at the end of the pew
next to Grandad’s gaunt form,
strapped upright in the wheelchair.
He cannot genuflect – Parkinson’s.
So I cross the translucent skin
of his forehead.
Wipe the rivulets of spit
that traverse down his badly shaven chin,
tissue catching in the stubble.

His blue eyes stare at the pulpit;
would he realise at the hospice,
that the person feeding him potato
was a nurse, not his wife?

We sing, ‘Enfold me in your love’.
My voice swells with the congregation
and there we are, Grandma,
on your threadbare orange sofa
where we read together,
tucked under the cashmere rug.
You would ask,
‘Are you warm enough, dear?’

During the final eulogy
Grandad coughs loudly;
I pull his large hand into mine.
The hand that taught me
fishing knots and chess moves
is cold; like the
snapper we would throw
onto the boat floor
in Ohope.

The pallbearers stride up the aisle.
My uncle and some second cousins.
Grandad’s eyes rove over the casket
as though a blind person seeking ballast.
I stand to wheel him out.

While he sits
covered in prisms of pink cast by the lead light
touching his wet, grey stubble –
incarnations of Mary’s hand
reaching down from her assumption.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to post poems by students of Massey’s 139.229 creative writing paper. Massey University doesn’t (yet) have an online journal like Turbine or 4th Floor, and these poems should be read beyond my dining room table. During the course students write contemporary elegies, odes, and love poems.

I was moved by Sue’s poem about her grandparents, Ray & Nora Doogue. My own grandfather had Parkinson’s, and I’ve always thought that the mental decline of the disease creates a particular type of heartbreak for the partner who remains. There is a subtle redemption at the end of Sue’s poem; while the grandfather is ‘covered in prisms of pink cast by the lead light’ as though in ‘assumption,’ I read the ending as the granddaughter being freed from seeing her grandmother care for a man who is lost to her.

Sue Hansen lives at Narrowneck beach in Auckland with her husband and two extremely beautiful children. Her paternal grandparents, Ray and Nora Doogue, had a large part to play in Sue’s childhood, as her father died when she was aged two. Sue was always in awe of her Grandparents bond with one another.

The launch

Thank you to everyone who helped me launch my second collection into the world. Below I’ve included publisher Chloe Lane’s welcome speech. All photos by Matt Bialostocki.

I’m very sorry I can’t be with you tonight to help Sarah celebrate the launch of WORK. This one is a particularly difficult one to miss because Sarah is such a dear friend, and I’ve witnessed up close how much time, energy, and heart has gone into making this book.

Additionally tonight is also a big night for Hue & Cry Press. Because WORK, which is Sarah’s second book after her NZ Post Book Awards nomination for A Man Runs into a Woman, is our first “second book.” So for me the publication of WORK also feels like a coming of age of sorts for Hue & Cry Press.

I only have a few thank yous before Sarah, Hinemoana, and guests take over: Firstly, thank you to Sarah for the years of poems you’ve published with us in Hue & Cry Journal, and for trusting us with your first book and now your second. I’m constantly impressed by how much you’re willing to push the boundaries between poetry and fiction, and I’m always bowled over by the depth of feeling and humanness in your writing. I’m excited that this book exists and I have no doubt it’ll find many intrigued and captivated readers.

Secondly, thank you to Amy Brown whose generosity, enthusiasm, and edits helped to make WORK its best possible version of itself. I’m sure Sarah would agree with me here. And Hue & Cry Press simply wouldn’t be Hue & Cry Press without the friendship of designers Duncan Forbes and Elaina Hamilton. Once again, Duncan has given us a book of stunning and sensitive design. So, thank you Duncan.

Lastly, thank you to Vic Books for hosting, and for their support and enthusiasm for independent publishing, to Creative New Zealand for helping to fund this book, to Rachel for reading this for me, and to the extended Hue & Cry Press family for making long-distance publishing possible.

Again, I’m sorry I can’t be there, but I hope you all have fun and please make sure Sarah’s drink is constantly topped up. Oh, and buy the book!

Better Off Read recording with writers Therese Lloyd and Pip Adam

Better Off Read recording  with Therese Lloyd and Pip Adam on the afternoon of the launch.

Better Off Read recording with writers Therese Lloyd and Pip Adam

Better Off Read recording.

Luke from Vic Books setting up the mics

Luke from Vic Books setting up the mics.

My husband Jim and son Sam reading before the launch

My husband Jim and son Sam reading before the launch.

WORK launch

Vic Books getting packed!

WORK launch

Novelist Carl Shuker in the crowd.

Books and snacks.

Books and snacks.

Rachel O'Neill doing a beautiful job of reading a short welcome from publisher Chloe Lane who is currently based in Florida.

Rachel O’Neill reading a short welcome from Hue & Cry Press publisher Chloe Lane who is currently based in Florida.

Hinemoana Baker launching WORK

Hinemoana Baker giving an amazing launch speech.

Sam and I listening to Hinemoana launch WORK

Sam and I listening to Hinemoana’s launch speech.

Reading from the poem 'Ghosts'

Reading from ‘Ghosts,’ a long-form poem set in 2035 in Norway’s northernmost town Longyearbyen, which houses one of the world’s doomsday seed vaults. The poem includes dialogue between the characters Diane and Fowler which was read by Therese Lloyd and Matt Bialostocki.

Matt Bialostocki and Therese Lloyd reading from the poem 'Ghosts'

Matt and Therese reading from ‘Ghosts.’

Reading from the poem 'Ghosts'

Reading from ‘Ghosts.’

Signing books and serious book conversations with novelist, Thom Conroy.

Serious book conversations with novelist, Thom Conroy.

The design

I remember opening the design mockup for my first collectionThere I was, my giant face on the back cover. The front cover was a minimalist red plane. I wondered if the design was uncompromising or too bold. Or, and this is probably the truth, that people would think I was too bold. Later, reviewer Tim Upperton said, ‘The back cover is a photographic portrait of the author, with what might be a smile, and a level, challenging gaze. It’s a visual analogue of the effect of these unsettling poems.’

Early on I realised that my publisher Chloe Lane and designer Duncan Forbes see Hue & Cry Press publications as art objects. The design, the paper stock, the typeface, the modern margins: they might not be as important as the words on the page, but they add layers and meaning to the reading experience. The influence of design is obvious for a book such as Here by Richard McGuire (Random House), which is almost entirely illustration, yet poetry also relies on visual elements. Think about All Patients Report Here by Rachel Bush and Alan Knowles, where Bush’s poems about premature babies are in the tiniest of type, and Knowles’ sepia photographs of Wellington hospital remind me of spilt iodine. Or the manilla and red cover of Steven Toussaint’s Fiddlehead which makes me think of the folders my father, a geographer, once used, and in between the covers Toussaint plots his own geography.

Design can magnify the elements and themes of a text. Nearly all of the poems in WORK use typographical arrangement to convey emotion and transformation; the poems often switch from free verse to prose and then to concrete poetry. This meant the inside of WORK went through seven painstaking revisions.


The printer’s proof of WORK. It was sent to publisher Chloe Lane who currently lives in Florida.

The cover, though, was perfect first time. Duncan told me he wanted the design to echo my first collection so on a shelf they would look related. This was insightful because the poetry in WORK continues the obsessions of my first collection. A Man Runs into a Woman is about collisions and how they change a person’s life; WORK is about how people move on from those collisions and find their way back to normal. When Duncan asked what colour range I wanted for the cover I suggested yellow as it’s both a colour of hope and of warning.

In writing this, I think I’ve begun to disagree with myself. The best poetry design is more than a ‘visual analogue’ or a way to magnify a text: it is inseparable from the text. WORK is not simply my words, but the book as object. In the best way, WORK is a collaboration and one that I’m grateful for. Yet, there are analogies. The yellow slice makes me think of a hill, the metaphorical one that my characters have to climb. The type is bold — ‘Much bolder than your first,’ Duncan warned — which is, I’d say, how a second collection should be. Here are the two covers together.

WORK_full coverMAN_WOMAN

WORK will be launched at Vic Books, Thursday 22 October at 5.30pm. All welcome.
If you can’t make the launch, WORK can be pre-ordered from Hue & Cry Press store.

Tuesday Poem: Two triolets by Janis Freegard


The sound of dropped silverware is, like, really loud.
I think I’ll do that gamelan course
next semester. When there’s no crowd,
the sound of dropped silverware is, like, really loud.
I’ve uploaded all my tunes to the cloud.
Did I tell you my parents are getting divorced?
The sound of dropped silverware is, like, really loud.
I think I’ll do that gamelan course.

The Alpine Zone

We rose up into the alpine zone
taking the path of least resistance.
Gliding where harrier hawks have flown,
we rose up into the alpine zone.
The landscape dwindled, bare as bone.
Perspective always comes with distance.
Rising into the alpine zone,
we took the path of least resistance.

I heard Janis read some of these triolets (a French poetic form with repeated lines) on National Poetry Day. They are from her new collection The Glass Rooster (AUP) and appear at the start of each of the eight sections (or ‘echo-systems’) – The Damp Places, Forest, Cityscape, The Alpine Zone, Space, Home & Garden, Underground and In the Desert. There is so much curiosity in this collection, wielded by Janis’s sharp intellect.

Janis Freegard lives in Wellington, with an historian and a cat, and works in the public service. Her first full-length poetry collection, Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus, was published by Auckland University Press in 2011. She is also the author of a chapbook, The Continuing Adventures of Alice Spider (Anomalous Press, 2013), and co-author of AUP New Poets 3 (AUP, 2008). Her poetry has appeared in a wide range of journals and anthologies in New Zealand and overseas, including Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page (Random House, 2014), Best NZ Poems 2012 and Landfall. In 2014 she held the inaugural Ema Saikō Poetry Fellowship at New Pacific Studio in the Wairarapa. She also writes fiction, is a past winner of the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award. Her first novel was published with Mākaro Press in 2015. She blogs at http://janisfreegard.com.

Tuesday Poem: ‘The fallings’ by Morgan Bach

The fallings

I wake and watch the planes
from my bed — each one an uncalled
number. An unspilled cup of tea,
covers still clean, hands
unscalded and reaching
under the sheets to the cool patch
on the other side where you were,
and you were and you
and you too, though none
of you now. Out my window
the planes take off at different angles,
some keep low and rise slowly
but others are full-tilt
to the heavens
hoping the weather
is better there, with clouds below
to give the illusion of being pillowed
should they find themselves
alone, so suddenly,
in the cool patches.

In 2013 Morgan Bach undertook an MA in Creative Writing at the IIML. She was the recipient of the Biggs Family Prize in Poetry, co-editor of Turbine 2013, and has had work published in Sport, Landfall, and Hue & Cry. ‘The fallings’ is from her debut collection Some of Us Eat the Seeds (VUP). There are some photos of the book launch on the Unity Books website.

I heard Morgan read this poem on Radio New Zealand in her calm and self-assured way. During the show, Greg O’Brien called her a ‘good, strong, mature, independant poet’ and stated that her collection is ‘an amazing book.’ He’s right — I couldn’t stop thinking about ‘The fallings,’ especially the lines, ‘on the other side where you were, / and you were and you / and you too, though none / of you now.’ I felt the disappointment that came with each ‘you,’ but also the sadness that is part of the speaker’s quiet acceptance (an experience of many women in their 30s, maybe, myself included), that they’ve again found themselves alone in their bed, watching someone fly away.

The author photo

A few months ago my friend and photographer Matt Bialostocki took the author photo for my second book. I trust Matt. He’s a good photographer and a reader of my poetry so I knew he wouldn’t make me look too pretty. This seems a funny thing to want, to not look pretty, when I spend what is probably too much of my time (smoothing clothes, checking teeth, concealing blemishes and greys) in that attempt.

Looking back on what I wrote about the photo for my first book I was interested in looking ‘serene,’ as though those six years of hard slog to get the book written and published hadn’t actually happened. I think that’s what women do sometimes. We hide the struggle. There’s probably a reason why my second collection ended up being called WORK, and such a short title required a ridiculous number of emails between myself, the book’s editor Amy Brown, and publisher Chloe Lane. But that’s it — even the title took work, as did raising my kid while writing the book, and finishing my PhD. I still feel an ache in my chest when I think about it all. My first author photo ended up being confrontational, or as my publisher said, ‘A bit rock chick.’ In other words, perfect.

author photo

Photograph by Duncan Forbes.

The poems in WORK are all about work. The emotional kind; the dedication the characters have to their vocations. The people in my poems have come through some event and are working their way back to normal. Many of the poems are about womanhood and what that can look like: motherhood, loverhood, intellectualism, gender — the brawl of it all. I wanted a photo that would not compromise any of this.

Novelist Amanda Filipacchi wrote a piece recently about her author photo called ‘How to Pose Like a Man.’ Of preparing for her photoshoot she said, ‘I flipped through a book of Ms. Ettlinger’s photos to get a sense of how authors typically dressed for their portraits. I made a startling discovery: The male and female authors posed differently. The men looked simpler, more straightforward. The women looked dreamy, often gazing off into the distance. Their limbs were sometimes entwined, like vines…I decided that I wanted to pose like a man.’


Novelist Amanda Filipacchi. Photo by Marion Ettlinger.

I loved this article, in part because it sparked conversation and camaraderie on Twitter between female writers. The thing is, Filipacchi is posing like a man, but she’s also posing like a woman. The article reminded me of a conversation I’d had with a friend years ago. She said she avoided appearing feminine at work because she wanted to be taken seriously. I also want to be taken seriously, but to so without diminishing myself. I want to be unapologetically feminine and also be seen as having something important to say. I think about my contemporaries, the female authors that inspire me with their writing and also their determination and complex inhabiting of the world. There are so many – but here’s four.

Anna Smaill

Anna Smaill, author of The Chimes.

Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle

Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle on the back cover of her collection, Autobiography of a Marguerite

Joan Fleming, author of Failed Love Poems

Joan Fleming, author of Failed Love Poems and The Same as Yes. Photo by Kate van der Drift.

Morgan Bach, author of Some of Us Eat the Seeds. Photo by Grand Maiden.

The final photo was one that Matt shot between poses. We were standing on my deck which is right beside the trampoline and sandpit. Our property rambles down into a council reserve, so the photograph looks as though I’m standing in the bush. I remember I was tired that day, and a little rumpled and self-conscious. The book wasn’t entirely finished, but I felt a new surety about the poems I’d been writing. Matt caught me off guard — mid-gesture, my attention drawn by mess or noise, or undone tasks, or, and this is what I’d like to think, by how big and mighty it felt to be writing the book, how superbly terrifying.


WORK Book Launch!

WORK_full cover

You are warmly invited to join Hue & Cry Press and Sarah Jane Barnett in launching WORK.

Thursday 22 October at 5.30pm, reading 6-6.15pm.
Vic Books, Victoria University, 1 Kelburn Parade, Wellington.
All welcome!

In these six long poems Sarah Jane Barnett explores how people fight for a normal life. Set in Ethiopia, Paris, Norway, and New Zealand these astonishing poems take you into the lives of others—a grieving man leaves Ethiopia at the end of the civil war; a polyamorous couple have a child; a woman hunts a black bear on a New Zealand sheep station. Original and spellbinding, these poems walk the line between poetry and fiction.

During the launch Sarah will read from ‘Ghosts,’ a speculative poem set in Norway’s northernmost town, Longyearbyen. The poem includes dialogue between the characters Diane and Fowler, who will be read by Wellington writers Therese Lloyd and Matt Bialostocki. Get ready for a performance!

Read an excerpt of ‘Addis Ababa’ on this website. 
Read an excerpt of ‘The Woman who Married a Bear’ on Up Country.
If you can’t make the launch, WORK can be pre-ordered from Hue & Cry Press store.