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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!

Sleepers

John Dennison

Friends decide to separate. After,
we enter the clearing, retrace our steps. A fine
rain settles, and everything is un—
accountably beautiful, unaccountable,
being not promised. Promise – it hung
in the air over the improvised picnic table,
between the opened faces; we nearly sang.
Depressions in the grass, the shape of laughter.
All that time the lines lay, unconverging,
fiercely gauged off each other, overgrown in the dirt –
now ripped out like spade-stuck fencing wire,
turf turned and agape the length of the clearing.
We look down. Gutted for you, mate.
And there, unrotted, their pitch glinting, the sleepers.

from Otherwise
(Auckland University Press)

John Dennison

John Dennison was born in Sydney in 1978. His first collection of poems, Otherwise (Carcanet/Auckland University Press) was published in 2015. The book was long-listed for the 2016 New Zealand Book Awards, and short-listed for the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize for First Full Collection. Dennison is also the author of Seamus Heaney and the Adequacy of Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2015). In 2016 he was awarded the Louis Johnson New Writer’s Bursary by Creative New Zealand. He lives with his family in Wellington, where he is a university chaplain.