New Kiwi Women Write Their Stories

Giving a voice to Auckland's migrant women

Workshop 2 – Poetry Nov 7+8, 2014

Poetry: what is poetry? Rhyme, rhythm, repetition, music? The best words in the best order? It’s concentrated emotion, but works best when there are concrete objects or images. The words and images should do double or triple the work – having different meanings in different contexts.

Spoken word and rap – this, too is poetry though here the focus also falls on how this is performed/read.


Collaborative poem – write one line based on ‘home’ or ‘earth’, thinking about concrete images and something you have personally experienced with this word. Add this as you see fit to our collective ‘brainstorm’.

Walking poem – go for a walk, being ‘present’, listening, feeling. You can stop and take everything in on one spot, or keep moving. Make notes going through all five senses. When you come back in, write a poem using these notes.

Epistle poem – Think of something which has excited great emotion in the last few days. Write a letter starting ‘dear…’ to express your emotion.

Hainaku/building blocks:

A Hainaku is a poem simply following the rules:

One word        _

Two words     _ _

Three words   _ _ _

Go for a walk, delighting in the small details, listening to your thoughts. Construct small hainaku – as many as you like. Once you are back at your desk, try putting them together in longer groups – a line, or used like tiles to be read whichever way the reader likes.

Discussion: Publishing – how, where, who?

This discussion covers both traditional publishing – novels, collections, print media, self publishing and online (Blogging/websites/fan fiction etc). Also journals/anthologies.

Unity books has a table of recently published NZ works or look at National Library of NZ to get an idea of what people are writing and publishing.

National library of NZ – apply here for ISBN or ISSNs, only takes a few days and is free and means your public ation (of any sort) is recorded, tracked and contact details for ordering are searcheable.

Agents – literary agents can reach hard to reach publishers here and overseas – some publishers will not take manuscripts unless it is through a well regarded agent. Agents in NZ are very hard to come by but you can seek representation overseas. Agents will have to be convinced re quality and career potential before they take on a new client.

Payment – per poem/story or per word, don’t expect to make high amounts of money but do expect to be paid for contributions to well regarded publications! Some publications are not funded and therefore can’t pay but they are up front about this.

Contracts – if a publisher is offering you a contract this is a good time to join the NZ Society of Authors which offers free contract advice. Never sign without good advice. Never sell your copyright (it is standard for authors to retain this and only sell first right of publication.)

Scams: self publishing is legitimate and good, but there are also many ‘publishers’ out there preying on the need of writers to be published. If a publisher is wanting YOU to pay – be suspicious. Google their name + scam. Some legit publishers will do cost sharing esp for genres that are not profitable eg poetry, but they will be upfront with you.

To publish online or not – blogs for writing are great for reaching readers and fellow writers, but think carefully before you post. In NZ, the ‘non published’ rule for most submissions does not count work published on a personal blog (but does count for online journals etc). Overseas, work even on personal blogs may be deemed ‘published’.

Copyright – in NZ you have copyright as long as you can prove that you wrote it. Use the copyright symbol, your name and the year to assert your copyright when submitting or posting work.

Journals – JAAM, Landfall, Poetry NZ

Blogs – Tuesday Poem

Online journals – Blackmail Press, Best NZ Poems, Turbine

Poetry Publishers: Auckland Uni press, Otago Uni Pres, Victoria Uni press

Small Presses – Seraph, Anahera

Steele Roberts


Craig Potton

Approaching publishers – polite. Follow up. Be prepared to withdraw if no response. Always do your research and only approach publishers you know publish the type of work you write.

Rejection letters – it’s OK to feel emotional, but when you have got over the hurt, read them again carefully. They often contain useful pieces of advice – remember, editors are readers too and very experienced ones. Reply politely, thanking them for their time, asking for further feedback – they may suggest you show your manuscript to them again once you have worked on it.

Competitions – choose wisely, always read the rules and submit according to their guidelines. They usually cost money so don’t enter every one, but the one which you think your writing will suit. Check out Death by deadline on the NZSA newsletter for details of upcoming comps.

Publicity – this is important for building your profile with readers and publishers. Publishers are increasingly looking for writers who are able to build and maintain relationships via traditional and social media. Every time you publish, win a competition, etc make sure there is a press release and a publicity plan – approach local papers, national papers, Radio NZ, migrant/ethnic radio, community publications.

Keep a literary CV – ‘a list of published and performed works’, regularly updated – for use when submitting. Write a 50, 100 and 300 word bio plus an ‘author’ headshot to have on hand for publicity.


collaborative poem Sat group)

Home is where the heart is

the one with memories

dreams and memories

yearning for anchor

but thrashed against the shore

Children and organised clutter

restorative, restful, resplendent in reds

a place to smell love

warm enough to get naked

a cave to hide from danger


            Hearing their voices from

            Overseas, what is

            Missed the most? Feeling at


It’s home when you touch my hand

your skin soft

peach soft        overworked for years

Tui birds chew on the apple tree. My dog runs

favourite music on

I feel totally relaxed

the smell of freshly cooked rice

Can I make you mine?

            Oh, the idea is so foreign. Your smell isn’t

            Mine; nor your touch. Why do my

            Eyes fail to see your welcome?

Earth (collab poem Sun group)

The mother of all beginnings and ends

I love the different coloured flowers

that draw my attention when I walk
Motions after motions of steel and sand

shelter for wandering souls in human forms

a dot in the infinite unknown

naturally nurturing

a living particle producing life

Blue above with brown under and green all over

Of green shoots sprout and fallen leaves recede

I rise from you, we share the same shadow

The resourceful provider

We may be half a world apart

But the only thing between us is twelve thousand kilometres of earth

You were formed in the dark, cold and lonely.

The sun warmed you and brought life.


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