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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!

The Poi Girls

Louise Wallace

Kahu, Mere, and Faith
stand on the grass
by the corner.
They lean
on the fence and watch you
walk past –
spinning, twirling their poi.
Pou
Pou
Pou
The Poi Girls
say with their poi,
with each hard slap
of their poi.

On your way home
they're in the same spot,
Kahu, Mere, and Faith.
Their older brother and cousins
are fixing the car, out
on Mere’s lawn.
The boys stop as you
walk by.
They lean their hands
on the car’s sides and look out
from under the hood.
What
you
want?
The Poi Girls
say with their poi.

You’re walking
down the dip
but you have left
your shoes at school.
The yellow seeds
stick to your feet,
and when you get up
the other side, The Poi Girls
are looking
at you.
Om
Om
Om-mee
The Poi Girls
say with their poi.
Piss off,
you tell them,
leave me alone.
You don’t need
their crap as well.

You stuff Pak ‘n Save bags
into white plastic
and tie
them up with string.
You walk past the corner
twirling and spinning,
Hey
you!
Bumheads!
you say with your Pak ‘n Save poi.
The Poi Girls chase you
down the street
but you are too little and fast
for them,
especially for Faith, the fat one,
the one with the lighter skin.

One day in the cloakroom
it's just you and Thomas
and he tells you
you have beautiful eyes –
green and brown,
just like his girlfriend, Jade’s.
The Poi Girls bust in, twirling.
You
kissed
Thomas!
The Poi Girls
say with their poi,
your cheeks
pounding flush.

Your sister tells you
to run through the mud
and you say you will
and that you don’t even care.
So you run
and halfway you sink
to your waist
and down the dirt road
come The Poi Girls, slowing
to a stop.
Ha!
You
egg
The Poi Girls
say with their poi
and leave
with your sister
in tow, twirling.

It’s sunny but cold
that morning, on the way
to school.
Mere’s front lawn
is filled with cars,
and there are people in suits
and old koros with sticks
and The Poi Girls stand
out the front.
Mere doesn’t
look at you today,
so Kahu and Faith
glare twice as hard for her.
The Poi Girls’ poi
hang still
from their hands
and today
say nothing at all.

from Since June
(Victoria University Press)

Louise Wallace

Louise Wallace grew up in Gisborne and now lives in Wellington. Her poems have been published in literary journals in New Zealand, Australia, Germany and the US. In 2015 she was the Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago, Dunedin. In 2016 she represented New Zealand at the Mexico City Poetry Festival. She is the founder and editor of Starling, an online journal publishing the work of young New Zealand writers. Her third collection of poems, Bad Things was published by Victoria University Press in August 2017.