Welcome to Turbine | Kapohau 16


This year Turbine | Kapohau has had something of a reinvention. The first change is the addition of the journal’s name in te reo Māori, Kapohau: ‘kapo’ meaning to catch/capture, and ‘hau’ meaning wind or also the vitality or vital essence of a person, place or object. Then there is our brand new website, for which we have Rachel O’Neill, Kapiti poet and former IIML MA graduate to thank. Of course, we haven’t been the only ones changing. In the week we sent out our submission acceptances, the United States voted Donald Trump its President Elect, the songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen died (one of many cultural icons to pass away this year), and the South Island of Aotearoa suffered a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. In Wellington, where many of our contributors are based, the quake was swiftly followed by floods. In all the turbulence, it has felt like our propeller blades have been spinning a little faster than they ordinarily should be.

This unstable landscape has made us all the more grateful for the submissions that blew into the Turbine inbox this year. We received the kind of writing that you have to repeat back to yourself as you read it, wondering, how did I not already know this about the world? As William Connor observes in his Reading Room excerpts on Don Paterson and Fleur Adcock, there is ‘a very fleeting moment of the magic in the ordinary’, and in the strikingly original, there is always an element of familiarity.

While in our lives upheaval is usually uphill going, the ability of literature to shift the familiar is an astonished pleasure. How about Natalie Morrison’s whales fetching harpoons like sticks? Or Justin Cox’s raccoon caught coming down a tree trunk, ‘resembling Broken Arrow Boy’? And who could have guessed, but who didn’t already sort of know, that Carin Smeaton’s Firebrace, flying on fabricated wings, would ‘feel like his ancestor felt looking over the highways of trickling southbound traffic from the top of bond st bridge under the rib of da sky’? We could go on.

Of the hundreds of submissions, we chose pieces of writing that jolted us awake. But as we began to reread the accepted entries, we found ourselves not shaken up, but soothed. These are writers who investigate reinvention and the threats associated with change; a sense of place; a shift from one location to another; identity and the way this morphs as we move, develop and grow. They are not pessimistic, and they are not nostalgic. Their characters and their prose both look defiantly forward. The eye that surveys the uphill going of the future is sometimes explosively defiant, as in Christine Utz’s ‘Robert is Here’, and sometimes wry and self-mocking, as in Vivienne Ullrich’s ‘Furled’. Occasionally, somebody shows up who can give painful new knowledge the name and the ceremony it properly deserves, like Toby in Eamonn Marra’s ‘Santa, the Christmas Hedgehog’. At other times, as in Robyn Maree Pickens’s ‘We ask so much of them’, our sense of loss leaves us lost for words.

Can a lack of fearfulness be comforting? After reading Turbine | Kapohau 16, we can answer confidently, yes! We savoured the tang of conversation with strangers anew after reading Marc Swan’s ‘Milk’, while Annaleese Jochem’s depiction of a bitter feud reminded us of the queasy humor of hatred, in an extract from her novel ‘And Lower’, winner of this year’s Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing. Catherine Vidler wouldn’t let us look away from that patch of clover, or Catherine English from raw vulnerability, and in sharing their relentless attention, our brains grew.

Anne Kennedy, this year’s Victoria University/Creative New Zealand Writer in Residence, inspired us with her generosity in answering our questions, and with her willingness to keep asking questions back. Like many of her fellow contributors, Anne doesn’t back away from the challenge of what now, or what next, or following up with the provocation: that’s not enough.We felt braver after reading the short stories, poems, creative non-fiction essays and novel extracts included in this year’s Turbine | Kapohau. That’s not enough, but it’s a start. It’s the bolster we needed to say that yes, this is a moment of change. It’s ours to move forward into, there is no going back. ‘I say fly, Frida, fly’, concludes Paula Clare King, and we feel the call to echo her spirit, to rise to the occasion of our writers:

​Spin, Kapohau, spin!

Elizabeth Baikie & Evangeline Riddiford Graham


Elizabeth Baikie and Evangeline Riddiford Graham spend their days working in the visual arts and their nights reading, they write in between. They both live in Wellington and have just completed an MA in Creative Writing at the IIML.