Welcome to Turbine 2014: A conversation with the editors


Max: I remember reading the submission email from last year’s co-editor Morgan Bach, ‘Turbine is a great big job but a cool one. Have fun!’ It was as if the Ghost of Turbines Past was reaching across the ether – warning us to appreciate the task. At that point we could already feel the pressure building; the submissions were rolling in and the quantity and quality of poetry we were receiving was astounding. Maybe not coincidentally many of the poems we’ve chosen concern themselves with the act of conversation – be it with oneself, as in Morgan’s own poem ‘There’s a certain amount of you that needs to lie to yourself’, the Nafanuas and shipwrecked ancestors in Faith Wilson’s ‘Another Nafanua Poem’ and Nina Powles’s ‘Shipwrecker’, or in the seemingly endless chatter in Lesley Wheeler’s ‘The End of Talk’. Poems talk to us and we talk back.

Ben: That’s quite early in the conversation – in any conversation – to be referencing Dickens… That said, why not? It’s indicative, I think, of the breadth and quality of the work in this year’s Turbine that Dickens can sit in a conversation alongside, and about, work from all over New Zealand and the world in forms old and new. This is replicated in the journal itself: James Ackhurst’s double sonnet, for example, sitting alongside much more contemporary writing, in style and content, from Carin Smeaton.

Patrick: I’d say that’s true of our selection of fiction, too. This year our authors have produced a bouquet of characters that are both unusual and familiar, difficult and loveable, and as a cast sitting alongside one another they’re a diverse example of the small abrasions modern life inflicts on all of us. Ursula Robinson-Shaw’s Jonah puts an outwardly revolting person into such detailed relief that we can’t totally distance ourselves from him. Henry Cooke very nearly humanises a piece of human detritus flailing around in the oily recesses of the internet.

Max: I like that image of the oily recesses of the internet – it reminds me of Hinemoana’s comment in our interview about the impersonality of digital communication. And yet in one screen-shot of poetry Cliff Fell still manages to write of and as Odysseus, more the person than the myth, while Ines Almeida finds herself in the head of Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa. I think you are right about global depth and breadth, Ben – as non-Kiwis editing a journal for and about contemporary New Zealand poetry, I found myself thinking a lot about what makes a New Zealand poem, particularly a 21st-century New Zealand poem. For one thing, coming from an American academic background I feel more exposed to global literature than ever before. We have John Dennison’s poetry inspired from traditional English forms, albeit centered in a New Zealand landscape, next to Kerrin Sharpe’s ‘pacific wave’, reaching for Maori and Pasifika tales. Maybe the openness of the internet, and New Zealand’s remoteness, allows its poets to grapple with whatever traditions they feel most confront and motivate them?

Patrick: I am a New Zealander! I’m contemporary! I am contemporary New Zealand. Therefore I am entirely qualified to say that maybe nobody knows what a New Zealand poem or story is now more than they ever have. Maybe the difference we’re seeing in this year’s pieces is that people have stopped expressing an interest in producing ‘New Zealand work’. Anahera Gildea’s excerpt from Our Girl, as it happens, shows us what a mess we make when we try too forcefully to manufacture an identity.

Ben: It’s interesting that – unlike many journals – we didn’t have a particular theme for this year’s edition of Turbine, but a thematic overview has emerged in this collection somewhat serendipitously. As you’ve just alluded to, Max, New Zealand poetry, particularly, is so rooted in its (psycho-)geography, and that has emerged here with these selections – without us deliberately choosing the pieces for that reason. Even those contributions from overseas have – again as you say, Max – firm rootedness. We didn’t set out to choose work that had such clear identity, but somehow there’s that unifying underlying thing going on.

And that attention to detail is the hallmark of all these pieces. Max, you and I are details people! It’s not really a surprise that the poems here are ones which we both loved. Having read all the submissions individually, and then re-reading them together, it’s wonderful how similar our thoughts were – and how similarly impressed we were. Details, melding of language, creating vivid locations and expressions, telling us something new, playing with – and paying respect to – poetic form, simply grabbing us and making us take notice. These are the poems we loved.

Sometimes having a particular theme is limiting; it forces the editors to only look in one direction. But, by having no theme we’ve had to look in all directions and so we got to enjoy surprises in how the land lies.

Max L. Chapnick, Ben Egerton and Patrick Hunn

Turbine 2014 co-editors



Ben Egerton is a teacher, poet and new-to-the-game installation artist from Wellington. He recently completed the MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), Victoria University. 

Max L. Chapnick writes poems about physicists, travel, and space. He completed an MA in Creative Writing at the IIML in 2014 and researched New Zealand art/science collaborations on a 2014 US Student Fulbright grant.

Patrick Hunn completed an MA in Creative Writing at the IIML in 2014.