11 December 2017

New Poem: Present Tense

Present Tense

While I think about my Dad in the present tense, he isn't lost to me.
While I can recall the layout of his house, he isn't lost to me.
While he still gets new email messages, he isn't lost to me.

28 November 2017

Big Book Bash this Saturday + Whitireia News Next Year

Big Book Bash

The Big Book Bash is a festival in Carterton this coming Saturday, 2 December, running from 11am-6pm, with a very full and varied programme.

Harvey Molloy and I will be running a workshop at the Carterton Community Courthouse:

1.30 – 2.30pm (Moves to foyer 1.50pm): Poems of Protest and the Environment, with Tim Jones and Harvey Molloy: Two activist poets and creative writing teachers read their poems and then lead a poetry workshop in the foyer. For 12+ years.
It should be fun!

Further Big Book Bash details are available...

On the web:

On Facebook:


Whitireia Creative Writing Programme has a new home!

I taught two "Writing Short Fiction" courses at Whitireia in 2016 and 2017, and all being well will be doing so in 2018 ... and the programme has a new home! Check out the details:

Creative writing is undergoing a transformation!

From 2018 the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme will be part of Te Auaha, Wellington’s new and visionary New Zealand Institute of Creativity. Writers will be able to work with visual artists, dancers, film makers, photographers, musicians and actors – over the next few years we’ll be developing a ground-breaking collaborative programme.

This is an exciting moment for us but it’s also very much business are usual—except in a purpose built arts campus. And we are still taking applications for our Diplomas in Creative Writing and our new degree, the Bachelor of Creativity (Writing) - you can find out how to apply here.

If you know of anyone who might be interested in pursuing their writing dreams,please be an advocate for our programme and referring them to us or the Whitireia or Te Auaha website 
www.whitireia.ac.nz or www.teauaha.com

01 November 2017

New poem: Pneumonia

About the last few months...

My father

After he fell, he crawled, his bed
an agonising hour away. Next morning,
he wanted nothing more than water.

The ambulance was quick and smooth,
but admission took forever. In ED, we watched
as the trolleys trundled slowly by.

Later, a ward, a bed of his own. Floor 5,
visiting hours, the path to his room
trodden into the base of my skull.

Two weeks of partial progress, then collapse.
Called to Hutt Hospital to watch him fade away.
He rallies, asks about the cricket;

I tell him, smile, hold his hand. He fades again.
“It isn’t looking good,” he says. I nod. The nurses
whisper, “Sleep somewhere close at hand.”

The call comes at 5am. By the time I’ve dressed
and driven over, it’s too late. Five minutes earlier,
he left his ninety-four years of life behind.

They leave me with his body and the gentle push
to clear the room, remove the corpse, pave the path
that starts with mortuary and ends in funeral.

An interlude

So much work. The funeral went well,
after that scare about the payment. The estate:
he chose wisely, bringing the professionals on board.

And his house. It seemed so bare, until we had
to empty it inside a month – that deadline
self-inflicted, an own goal worthy of the Phoenix.

So many journeys in his little car, brave tiny engine
conquering the motorway. Emptying Naenae,
filling Mt Victoria with clutter and memories.

Then me

As soon as we finished, pneumonia got me too,
grace note to a hard spring cold, breath short
and shallowing, heart racing to keep up.

Ambulance, hospital. Gentle and angry nurses,
kindness and rough treatment. A doctor who finally -
finally! – paid attention. Antibiotics prescribed

and a day later I’m discharged, back home
confused, dependent and weak, showing all
the self-control of a fretful baby.

Now perhaps I’m two or three. Emotions
flare and burn and dim. In the sunshine,
I take small steps, sit down, cry

at small and stranger things. A gradual
recovery, while outside, the world
points birds and insects at my ears,

suggests I could be getting on with things,
tests the limits of my energy, invites me to rejoin
the long descending trudge towards my end.

03 October 2017

Poetry Collection Launch: "Homeless", Poems by John Howell, Tuesday 10 October, 5pm, Wellington Central Library

I've heard John read a number of these poems, and discussed others with him. I think this will be a really fine collection of poetry, and I'm looking forward to attending the launch.

What's more, all profits go to a great cause - DCM Wellington.

If you can't make the launch of Homeless, you can order a copy through Mākaro Press.

19 September 2017

I'm Guest Poet at Poets to the People: Sunday 24 September 4–6pm, Hightide Cafe, 43 Marine Parade, Paraparaumu Beach. Should be fun!

From Poets to the People Newsletter

Our next event: Sunday 24 September 4–6pm, Hightide Café, 43 Marine Parade, Paraparaumu Beach

We welcome Tim Jones as our guest poet. His poetry collections include Boat People, All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens and Men Briefly Explained, and his latest, New Sea Land (Makaro Press, 2016). He was the guest poet in Takahe 89 (April 2017). His interest in science fiction is reflected in short story collections and poetry anthologies Voyagers and most recently The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry, co-edited with P S Cottier (Interactive Press, 2014). He was the recipient of the New Zealand Society of Authors Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010.

Open mic from 4pm.

$5 entry.

P2P dates for your diary

October 29: guest poet Chris Tse

November 26: guest poet Mary Cresswell

We look forward to seeing you all there.

Elizabeth Coleman and Michael Keith

15 September 2017

Why I've decided to party vote Green this election

After some careful thought, I've decided to party vote Green this election - and give my electorate vote to my excellent local MP, Labour's Grant Robertson.

In my view, the present National Government has exhibited a disastrous combination of complacency and stupidity, especially on issues such as the environment, climate change, water quality, poverty, transport and housing, and I'm desperate to see the back of them. At this election, for the first time in nine years, it seems they face the real prospect of defeat - now Labour has finally selected a leader that stands for the future rather than the past.

So why am I going to give my party vote to the Green Party, not Labour?

Because, on the issues I care about most, the Labour Party's actual policies still lag well behind Jacinda Ardern's exciting rhetoric. And because Labour's past record in Government has shown that, given the choice, they usually back off from making the big changes that are needed, for fear of offending one constituency or another.

Jacinda Ardern has called climate change 'the "nuclear free moment" of this generation. I agree. In my view, we are now in a climate emergency. But Labour's climate change policy tells a very different story.

In 2009, James Hansen wrote a book titled Storms of My Grandchildren, about the massive storms he expected his grandchildren to have to endure if greenhouse gas emissions weren't sharply reduced. But if he re-released this book in 2017, he'd need to call it "Storms of Us", because - in Edgecumbe, in Mumbai, in Bangladesh, in Houston, in the Caribbean and in Florida - we are now experiencing those storms.

They are already bound to get worse in response to continuing greenhouse gas emissions, but the world still has a chance to prevent them - and sea-level rise, and fires, and sheer heat - become civilisation-ending. But we must act to quickly reduce emissions, act to prepare ourselves for the consequences of climate change, and act now.

And while leadership matters, policy - the things a party says it would actually do in Government - matters too.

Sadly, Labour's climate change policy and its more detailed climate change manifesto come nowhere near matching up to Jacinda Ardern's inspiring rhetoric. Far from a vision of bold action, this is a cautious, incremental, not-stepping-on-any-toes policy, a policy that allows the mining and drilling of the fossil fuels that are cooking the planet - coal, oil and gas - to continue unchecked.

In contrast, the Greens' climate change policy captures the necessary urgency. A Labour-Greens Government is much more likely to take the necessary action on climate and a range of other issues than a Labour Government with Winston in its ear.

Every vote for the Greens helps the election of a Government that will tackle the major challenges facing this nation. And that's why I've decided to party vote Green this election.

08 September 2017

Readings This Month: Poetry At The Fringe on the 17th, Poets To The People on the 24th

Just before we get to the readings: My review of James McNaughton's New Zealand science fiction/climate change novel Star Sailors is now up on Landfall Review Online.

I have two readings coming up this month: First, I'm reading with Harvey Molloy at September's Poetry At The Fringe in Wellington - Sunday 17 September, 4-6pm, Fringe Bar, 26-32 Allen St., with Paul Stewart as the guest musician and an open mike to kick things off.

I'll be reading some poems from my latest collection, New Sea Land (about climate change and sea level rise), plus some of my new poems about music and musicians. Come along!

A week later, on the 24th, I'll be the guest poet at Poets to the People - which starts at 4pm at Hightide Cafe, 44 Marine Parade, Paraparaumu. I'm told there's a great open mike at Poets to the People - I hope to see you there! (Poster and further info to follow for this one.)