Since poetry up and left town 


I’ve tried replacing poems with novels,

but find they take so interminably long 

to get 

              to the point: sixty thousand words 

to reveal how some of the things people do

cannot be put right, 

                                      eighty thousand more 

to convey, in flamboyant, literary technicolour, 

the protagonist’s agony at this realisation. 

Instructions for the dance 


(selected from The Handbook of Modern Dancing, 1968)


Commence with confidence, 

your feet neatly together.

This diagram shows 

the direction of your steps.


Practice the positions of the feet 

and avoid taking a death grip. 

Breathe. This is not difficult, 

you will be able to adapt. 


Listen to the tempo of the music. 

Don’t always blame your partner, 

it may be your fault; perhaps 

you are not stepping back far enough?


Think of the military band. 

Your feet want to go left, right, 

left, right. Tap your foot. Smile. 

Remember, dancing is fun. 


There is no definite rule

but keeping your balance 

is generally worth the trouble. 

It is never too late to begin. 




Claire Orchard’s poetry has appeared in Landfall, Mayhem, Sport, Sweet Mammalian, Verge, The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House, Atlanta Review and Best New Zealand Poems. Her most recent collection of poetry, Liveability, was published by THWUP in July 2023.