Writing has always been my primary way of processing. I often don’t know how I feel about something until I write about it, and then with clarity, I can move forward. I have been fortunate enough to have been widely published across many literary journals in Aotearoa (Starling, Best New Zealand Poems, Stasis, Out Here, Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook, and Re-draft to name a few). It has, and always will be, an honour to have had my work selected for these publications.
To have been approached by Anna Jackson and asked if I would like a place within the AUP New Poets pantheon, is an indescribable privilege.
AUP New Poets 9 contains work by poets Sarah Lawrence, myself, and Arielle Walker. We are in the final edition of the series to be edited by Anna herself after she revived the series some years ago and were only the second to have a physical launch due to pandemic challenges throughout the years. The launch was beautiful, a joint celebration of our book alongside Claudia Jardine’s Biter, and poets Rebecca Hawkes and Rhys Feeney (all three AUP New Poets alum) read from the previous collections of the series as well. Unfortunately, Anna was unable to attend due to COVID, which was a shame, but Rebecca spoke in her stead, welcoming us beautifully.
I nearly missed Anna’s message to me asking if I was interested in being a part of AUP New Poets, and saw it roughly two years after she had sent it to me. To think if I didn’t check that inbox, the opportunity would have been lost to me! Thankfully, she was excited by my delayed excitement, and we met several times with different manuscripts to discuss what would make my collection the best it could possibly be. I think it was after our second meeting that I noticed a recurring theme through not only the poems I was considering, but also my work in general, that of longing, which I adopted as the title of my chapbook.
Not just romantic longing (but there is plenty of that—a central sequence of poems deal with my first proper break up), but also longing relating to my trans identity and the confines of an unchanging body; that of being a mentally ill person wishing for wellness, or even to give into the darkness; longing for a friend’s happiness and health; longing for overcoming fears and anxieties; even the longing of a monster wishing to consume his prisoner.
It was Anna who suggested we include some of my previously published poems, three from issues of Starling, one from the first edition of Stasis, and two from Out Here. As soon as we settled on that, Anna said we had our closer with ‘Poems about Boys’, a poem that remains to this day my favourite thing I have ever written. The sequencing of the rest of the poems followed from there, with the narrative of the aforementioned break-up taking the centre slot of the chapbook.
At the time of publishing, it had been a good two years or more since I’d actually written any of the poems. I still like them all, and am proud of the work I put into them, but it feels odd to be welcoming something into the world I am emotionally distant from. This is no fault of anyone, simply just how long bringing something like a book into the world takes. And I would not change the experience at all. I have thought of my chapbook as a collection culminating the best of my work so far, almost like the first chapter of my writing career if you will. It feels incredible to have this time capsule that I can look back on when I am older and more experienced. Anna and the rest of the Auckland University Press team were delightful to work with, and my co-poets are both lovely and incredibly talented. I am honoured to have my work in between theirs forevermore.
Please, read the book and support the series. AUP New Poets is such a great platform for new poets to find their footing in the literary world. It has taught me more than I think I am aware of about poetry, editing, writing, and form. I hope the series will continue for many more years.
And finally, thank you to Anna for believing in me and my work.
Below is one of my poems from the collection:
i haven’t driven a car in six years
the dead celebrities
are living under my dermis
leasing their homes from
the poets whose work i’ve read,
underlined, and then forgotten about
between all of us
we still can’t drive a car
getting behind a steering wheel
is an evacuation of function
mice streaming out of my pores
to nest elsewhere
the garage won’t be as warm
as the crust of my core
or as nourishing
the car begins too pertinently
and i am handed the power of death
at a wrist flick and inhale
the swerve of movement has no favourites,
in that it has greed eternal
only stopped by physic’s limitations
and the panic bloom within me
from the bed of my blood
comes the collision
tear me apart for the media coverage
trickles of torn metal like snowfall
or dandruff on a pillow
now rest at your feet
it will taste metallic
Featured image courtesy of Auckland University Press.