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The 20/20 Collection

To mark the 20th anniversary of Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day, we asked 20 acclaimed Kiwi poets to choose one of their own poems – a work that spoke to New Zealand now. They were also asked to select something by another poet they saw as essential reading in 2017. The result is the 20/20 Collection, a selection of forty poems that reflect the diverse and vibrant range of voices in our contemporary literature.

The final, complete collection is available below, or you can download the free electronic version via this link: The 20/20 Collection. Follow this additional link for our Teachers' Notes.

The 20/20 poets, paired with their choice, are as follows: Jenny Bornholdt/ Ish Doney, Diana Bridge/ John Dennison, David Eggleton/ Leilani Tamu, Paula Green/ Simone Kaho, Michael Harlow/Paul Schimmel, Kevin Ireland/ Gregory Kan, Andrew Johnston/ Bill Nelson, Bill Manhire/ Louise Wallace, Selina Tusitala Marsh/ Reihana Robinson, Cilla McQueen/ David Kārena-Holmes, James Norcliffe/ Marisa Cappetta, Vincent O’Sullivan/ Lynley Edmeades, Tusiata Avia/ Teresia Teaiwa, Richard Reeve/Michael Steven, Elizabeth Smither/ Rob Hack, C. K. Stead/ Johanna Emeney, Robert Sullivan/ Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Apirana Taylor/ Kiri Piahana-Wong, Brian Turner/ Jillian Sullivan, Alison Wong/ Chris Tse.

Welcome to our 20th anniversary celebration!

Questions with which to interrogate a witch

James Norcliffe

Your body mass index is noticeably low.
Is this to gain easier access to the ether
on nights when the moon is
bloodshot and blinking?

Why have you so scrupulously shaved
every last feather from your armpits?
Was this another futile attempt
to deny those dark malignant flights?

We note your body is wen-
and blemish-free. You appear to have
no warts arranged in perfect circles.
Upon whom have you visited these?

No toads are in your garden.
Have you eaten them, along with
all of the newts, geckos, skinks and
salamanders, also suspiciously absent?

Where is your sinister familiar,
that low black cat with the yellow
triangular eyes? Is this bird
the simpering canary you have turned it into?

We will give you some time
to consider these questions,
but remember that though truth comes
in a lumbering carriage, it will come

as it always comes: terrible
in an iron helmet with spikes
on the inside, honest spikes
with screws to drive them home.

from Dark Days at the Oxygen Café
(Victoria University Press)

James Norcliffe

James Norcliffe is a highly published poet, fiction writer and educator. He has also worked extensively as an editor including (with Harry Ricketts and Siobhan Harvey) the major anthology Essential New Zealand Poems – Facing the Empty Page (Godwit/Random, 2014), and with Joanna Preston Leaving the Red Zone – Poems from the Canterbury Earthquakes (Clerestory Press, 2016). He has had a long time involvement with takahē magazine. Norcliffe has won numerous awards and residencies including the 2006 Fellowship at the University of Iowa. With Bernadette Hall, he was presented with a Press Literary Liaisons Honour Award for lasting contribution to literature in the South Island.

Dark Days at the Oxygen Café is his ninth poetry collection.

James Norcliffe’s Choice: ‘In the Bonds’ by Marisa Cappetta