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

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.

Tuesday Poem: ‘Addis Ababa’ from WORK


This excerpt is from ‘Addis Ababa,’ which is one of six long poems in my forthcoming collection, WORK. The poem is about a man who is trying to rebuild his life after his wife dies in the final skirmish of the Ethiopian Civil War. It first appeared in Sport 43, and on RNZ reviewer Harry Ricketts called it the standout poem of the issue.’ I actually made one of those excited half-squeals, the embarrassing kind you can’t keep in. Anyway, another excerpt from WORK was on Up Country last week (along with a little piece I wrote about Canadian moose being released in Fiordland in the early 1900s).

WORK will be released on Thursday 22 October. EXCITING launch details to come!

Tuesday Poem: ‘Mason’ by Scott Lindsay


I like to walk in these hills.
I enjoy the sense of isolation,
as if I really could be
the only person
for miles around.

The landscape is rugged here,
tufts of thin grass clumped around
rocks, stones, boulders.
Red flowers bloom in stark contrast
to the browns and muted greens of
the other alpine plants.

Should they make me less lonely?
These flowers, these symbols
of life, and continuity?
Should they make me rejoice
in the beauty of life,
and of nature?

I held you for a brief moment.
You were limp in my hands,
your arms and legs splayed wide
like a living rag-doll.
Ragged breathing.
Tiny gasps of air.

The labour had taken days,
my wife was exhausted,
and I couldn’t stay awake for long.
And when my eyes opened once more
you were gone.

I look from the blooms to the town below,
curls of smoke rising skyward from chimneys,
warm golden light
shining from windows, my heart
across gardens now turning deep blue,
the fading light of day.

I was so moved when I read Scott’s poem, and spent some extra time writing my feedback to him, basically because I couldn’t help myself. There’s a weight that comes when responding to very personal poems – those of love and grief, or most often both. How do I tell someone to cut lines about their loss because they’re too clunky or abstract? I didn’t have to do much of that with ‘Mason’ and reading it out loud to a friend last night, it still affects me. It makes me sad and thankful, and it also makes think, this is why I teach creative writing.

This is what Scott sent me for his bio: Scott has a wonderful wife and three amazing daughters. He also had a son briefly, and this event served as the inspiration for his poem ‘Mason’. Even though this was a traumatic time, he learned a lot about love and family. If you, or someone you love, ever have to face similar adversity in your life, please reach out for help as soon as you can. The pain is real and you don’t have to suffer by yourself. No one is alone in dark times like these, even though it certainly feels like you might be.

I’ve posted two other poems by 2015 students: ‘Jam Jar’ by Mary Fisher, and ‘My Mother in the Kitchen’ by Joel Pearson.