Highlight: Helen Lowe

National Poetry Day Series

The Wayfarer:  Odysseus at Dodoma

Acorns lie strewn with old leaves, thick
as years beneath the shadow of spreading oaks
where an old woman stoops, picking up sticks
that are no more or less twisted than she, binding
them onto her bent back, and watching with one
bright, blackbird eye as the wayfarer approaches,
an oar balanced across his knotted shoulder, his eyes
narrowed between deep seams, as one who has looked
out to numerous horizons and seen wonders: the moon’s
twinned horns rising from a twilit sea like some mythic
beast, awe and terror bound into the one moment
of seeing – those same eyes strayed now into this land
of low, green hills where the margin of the world
is always close as the line of the next, wooded slope
meeting sky, and where a crone hobbles closer
beneath her load, head twisted up to see him better,
curious as a crow, cackling to think there can be
any burden greater than hers in this world of suffering,
flapping work-worn hands and husking at him
in her cracked voice, bidding him return to the hearth
fire and the home isle, to sit in the sunlit porch
with grandchildren clutching at his knees –
but the wanderer hears only the ravens cawing,
lifting in clouds from the sacred grove, darkening
the sun with their wings, crying out that he is fated,
condemned to roam across sea and land, never
resting or knowing ease until he comes at last
to some far country where salt too is a stranger
and no traveller has ever brought word to those
who dwell there, or led them to imagine
the immeasurable vastness, the restless expanse
of the great ocean, that is the circumference,
the greater part of an unknown world.
© Helen Lowe

Finalist, Takahe National Poetry Competition 2006/ first published Takahe 62

The Wayfarer is part of Helen’s “ITHACA CONVERSATIONS” sequence.


Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer, and the current Ursula Bethell Writer-in-Residence at the University of Canterbury. Helen’s first novel,Thornspell, was published to critical praise in the US and her second, The Heir of Night, is published internationally and recently won the International Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012.  The Gathering of the Lost, the second novel in “The Wall of Night” series, is newly published. Helen’s poetry has been published, anthologized, and broadcast in New Zealand and internationally. She posts every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog, and you can also now follow her on Twitter: @helenl0we


For a complete list of National Poetry Day events around the country, go here.


Highlight: A J Ponder

National Poetry Day Series

Remember, Remember the Babes in the Wood

I was busy murdering babies –
as you do
the cherub grins
the sapphire-eyed,
dark skinned,
beauties –
all dead.

It’s enough to make a writer cry.
it’s enough
to make
you throw away the pen
tear apart the keyboard,
by stinking key

my babies,
I loved your family
just enough
to see you die

Your silent tears
echoing through
to your brothers
and sisters,
as they hang their heads
onto the bloodied page
and weep.

                             -A J Ponder


AUTHOR COMMENTARY: Often my poems occur when one idea hits another, and not unlike chemistry, or maybe physics, how powerful they are depends very much on how fast the ideas collide and the weight they drag along with them. For a long time before I wrote this piece I’d been contemplating on how exactly to take the literary saying – kill your darlings/kill your babies to the next level. The literal death as opposed to the literary one, and I had the first line, “I was busy murdering babies, as you do -” but it hung there – alone. All my other ideas completely lacked an emotional kick.

I was thinking about this, and my own little cherubs when they were young – somehow whenever they were upset “The Babes in the Wood” poem always sprang to mind, and of course that leads to Hansel and Gretel and the tragic parental choice of watching your children starve to death or letting them die alone in the wood. Fortunately I’ve never had to make a choice that difficult, but it was exactly the emotional kick I needed and the poem tumbled out – albeit a little roughly. After all how fair would that be to write a poem about editing and then not have to do the hard yards?


A J Ponder is a member of the Tuesday Poem hub with her blog, An Affliction of Poetry. She likes to experiment with shape, style, rhyme and rhythm, often harking back to traditional styles. Best known for her children’s stories she most recently won the Sir Julius Vogel Best Short Story Award 2012 for Frankie and the Netball Clone. This year she was also runner up for the Arc 1.2 competition, The Future Always Wins, with a “gown up” story, ‘Dying for the Record’.


For a complete list of National Poetry Day events around the country, go here.

Highlight: Beate Jones


You are not the river of my birth
But on your way home
You touched my heart
And now my feet, free from their native soil,
Are growing tender roots into your lovely banks.

Flanked by my dogs
I pause and watch you flow beneath.
I see a shoal of fish –
Dancing in river green –
Turn into river birds
In the reflection of the native trees.

A Tui sings nearby.
The voices of Maori men
Float through the autumn air
As they discuss some native plants.
Their rolling r’s remind me
Of my Southern German home.

Waikato – River of my heart.
My roots are drinking of your water.
Your soil, your sun, yours sounds
Are home to me.
The dogs are getting restless.
Let’s go, I say, let’s go.


Beate Jones, a Bavarian by birth, lived  for seven years in Munich, where she studied English and French at the Ludwig-Maximilian University, before following her New Zealand husband-to-be to Hamilton, New Zealand.  She has been living in Hamilton ever since. While her first impression of Hamilton, after having lived in Munich, was not entirely positive, the city and its people, like the river Waikato, have wormed their way into her heart and these days she feels very protective of her elected home, which she feels offers some of the best possible compromises of living a city life in an almost rural way.

Beate has been teaching German for more than 20 years at the University of Waikato. She is currently enrolled in a PhD in Literary Translation at Victoria University in Wellington. Writing poetry, short stories and the translation from German to English of a range of texts have been an interesting and challenging  sideline to her work.

The poem Waikato was written after one of her walks by the river, which take place almost daily and provide her and her two border collies not only with the necessary physical exercise but also with the beauty and the meditative quiet the Hamilton Gardens and the river walks can provide at any time of the year and in any kind of weather.

Blog Carnival #4: Flash Across Borders


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Dear Aotearoa Affair readers and followers —

Welcome to our fourth edition of the Aotearoa Affair Blog Carnival, themed FLASH ACROSS BORDERS. 

This edition is packed with twenty-six lively tales. Also inlcuded: notes + quotes on the flash format. Hope you enjoy and please pass along.  We’ll be tweeting and posting more on Facebook throughout the week.

Highlight: Lyrikline


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Poetic translations from Berlin into more than 50 languages

For years now, the literaturWERKstatt berlin has been staging an annual Summer Night’s Poetry Festival called “Weltklang”. This is the largest poetry event in Germany featuring poets from home and abroad. Parallel to that, the literaturWERKstatt berlin has set up a poetry platform on the Internet which regularly presents collections of poetry read by the authors themselves: Lyrikline.org

Lyrikline’s declared intention is to exploit the multimedia experience the Internet offers (text, image, sound) so as to increase the dissemination, popularity, reception and sales of poetry – and the translation of poems: Started as a German-language poetry platform, the webpage itself now opens in 5 language versions: german, english, french, slovakian and arabic and includes poems and translations inover 50 languages, with more than 10.000 translated poem online, some links:

Highlight: Mike Crowl


English speakers have no word for
a face that badly needs a punch.

The German compound word is

Which could easily seem to mean
a face like a smelly drain

Though transliterally it’s close to
a back-pipe face, which isn’t

Complementary. And
on the face of it, the word looks like

Bagpipes make me sick¸though
since I have a friend who’s learning

To play the bagpipes, using

In a pretended translation
seems likely to bring me to a

Place where I might well have
a face that badly needs a punch.


Mike Crowl is a New Zealand writer whose musical, Grimhilda! (which he composed and co-wrote), was performed in Dunedin in late April-early May this year. He writes on several blogs. His poems more often have a tongue-in-cheek flavour more than a serious one. He has also been experimenting with more traditional poetic forms over the last year.

Of his poem Backpfeifengesicht, Mike says: I discovered the word, Backpfeifengesicht, while reading Twitter. It struck me as an ideal word to weave a humorous poem around. My ‘guide to pronunciation’ in my blog post  about this poem is very approximate.

Highlight: Vaughan Gunson


she did an impression of a German comedian.

I did an impression of a French mime.

she explained herself.

I said, “I didn’t know him.”

she said he was really funny.

leaning her face close to mine
with her eyes very wide,
“Berlin,” she said, “is a horrible city.”

she was from Hanover,
studied in Hamburg,
second richest city in Germany
after Munich.

“I know Hamburg—The Beatles.”

“they’ve built a memorial square.”

“I wouldn’t want to see that.”
“what’s wrong with Berlin?” I asked.

“it’s still divided. I don’t like it.”

“isn’t everywhere divided?”

“no, not here.”

“you think?”

“yes, I love it here.”

she told me a joke
I didn’t understand.


Vaughan Gunson is a writer living in Hikurangi, Northland. His poems have been published in a number of publications in New Zealand. He teaches art history at NorthTec in Whangarei and is the curator of the campus gallery. More of Vaughan’s poetry can be found at falling away from blue.

Highlight: Kay McKenzie Cooke

picking up feathers

You want to make things
– sew a home-made skirt
from my green pinny, make me
a herb garden – which
you achieved on one of our more
windless autumn days
before you both left, you and my son
pushing the plants you bought
into earth  – corriander,
parsley, mint and one
you didn’t know the English word for

until we got out our English-German
Dictionary, discovered it was rocket;
in German, Rucola. You make a chain
of daisies for the van, for good luck.
You want to make feather earrings.
You want to see all
of New Zealand. You were eight
when the Wall came down.
You tell me bits
about your childhood
on the Baltic coast,

about your parents’ old car
a Trabant. A Trabant? I said,
Funny – my Grandad’s car,
the one he owned
just before he died,
I’m pretty sure was a Trabant.
What colour was your one?
Light blue, you said. I said, Same!
But they were all that colour,
you said, light-blue
and made from paper.

You walk as light as a bird,
as strong as a lion. The morning
my son and you leave in the van,
I heard your voice as if I was hearing
the voice of a daughter and yesterday
while walking, I started picking up feathers
lost by seagulls in the grass
of playing fields. Only two days
away and already
I have forgotten your voice
how it sounds. How kiwi

your German accent is becoming.
For example how you say ‘bed’
the way you hear us saying it.
“I’m off to bid now. Good-night”,
you say. Ready for you to make
into earrings, I place the feathers,
soft, grey and white,
on a windowsill where they float
weightless, full of the light
and the distance
of a home away from home.


Author Commentary on the poem

Our oldest son is married to E. from Japan. They have two children
whom they are bringing up with a knowledge of two cultures and two
languages. We have visited them twice now in Japan, and E. (as well as
her wider family and friends) have visited us here in New Zealand.

Nearly half a year ago, our son was in Colombia and met a young woman
from Germany. That young woman is now his partner. Our son recently
returned to New Zealand, bringing Jenny with him.

Consequently even more windows and doors to different cultures and
languages have been opened. Within all the families involved, the
welcoming in of these two young women from foreign countries has
helped join together and heal previous generations and their
historical memories. Our friends laughingly refer to us as ‘The United

Jenny and I have found a common bond in writing. She confessed she
couldn’t really understand poetry that was written in English. (Poetry
it seems is a little more ‘slippery’ to translate than prose).
However, she read the poem I wrote about / for her, ‘picking up
feathers’, and loved it. She said she could understand every word.

Jenny has a blog written in Deutsch which you can visit here


Kay McKenzie Cooke is a writer who lives in Dunedin. She has had two
books of poetry published: Feeding the Dogs (OUP. 2002) and Made
for Weather (OUP 2007). She is in the process of compiling her third
poetry book, called Born to a Red-headed Woman. She is also writing
a novel which is very loosely based on her family tree.

You can read her blog here and you can find ‘picking up feathers’ on her blog here.