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The 20/20 Collection

In 2017, 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!

Miss Bowerman and the hot water bottles

Elizabeth Smither

‘Tiny maids are strongest,’ the housekeeper said
when my mother was interviewed for Government House.
‘She looks too small to lift a mouse’

but for screwing on Royal hot water bottles she was queen.
The thought of a flooded bed was too much
for any major-domo to bear. ‘Fetch Miss Bowerman

and let her apply her wrists, child-sized,
to the bladder of near-boiling water
to warm the sheets, the vice-regal feet

or rest against the spine that stood
bored and rigid in a receiving line
and listened all night to boring speeches.’

Next morning she was called again
to undo the work of her marvellous wrists.
‘Miss Bowerman, can you let out the water?’

from Night Horse
(Auckland University Press)

Elizabeth Smither

Writer and prolific poet Elizabeth Smither has published numerous novels, books of short stories and poetry collections. Her wealth of awards is too extensive to list, but includes the Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry (2000), Te Mata Poet Laureate (2002) and Sarah Broom Prize for Poetry (2016). In 2004 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit and was awarded an honorary DLitt from the University of Auckland for her contributions to literature. Smither is also a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in poetry. She lives in Taranaki.

Elizabeth Smither’s Choice: ‘Almost a Buddhist’’ by Rob Hack