The Poem in the World: Katie Carey

More from the students of the Poetry off the Page programme at the University of Auckland, who took stanzas of Ian's 'Shadow Stands Up' into the world.

'Shadow Stands Up' on the Link Bus at Rush Hour

Katie Carey

Our part of the poem was stanza 9 and stanza 10.


The poem 'Shadow Stands Up', by Ian Wedde, discusses the notion of what daily life is, and how it can be both ordinary and beautiful at the same time. Our group was given the ninth and tenth stanzas, and we decided to work around the idea of ‘Distribution,’ inspired by the phrase:

the back of the post office
where I tap in secret
code on the keypad, unlock
our box, and lo! A gift for
the first day of spring, two books...

From this phrase, we each devised our own way of getting the stanzas out into the wider community, perhaps to those who might not ordinarily experience poetry. We decided to set out into our own communities in order to get the stanzas out as far and wide as possible, and to all have a postage element to our strategy.

I chose to focus more on the tenth stanza, while keeping this idea of distribution. Where the ninth stanza is firmly stated in ordinary, daily life, the tenth is more whimsical, lending itself more to the imagination with lines such as "historical tide that flows" and "rainbows of effluent hope / swirling in the same spring-time." From this, I found the idea of discovery. In terms of 'the package,' discovery is a vital part of the experience; opening to a thing which may bring surprise or despair. This unknown element sits well with the idea of the whimsy which is demonstrated in the tenth stanza.

I decided to deliver the tenth verse through a 'message in a bottle' kind of way, in order to solidify both the imaginative qualities of the poem and the static norm. The message in a bottle was once used as a way to communicate by both the British Navy in the sixteenth century and in World War Two. However, this piece of history also inspired several pieces of art, such as Edgar Allen Poe’s 'M.S. Found in a Bottle', and the Police’s hit, 'Message in a Bottle'. This blend of scientific fact and poetry made me think of the article written by Peter Forbes, where he says how both poetry and science complement each other, both in large and small ways. He also comments on how these two different concepts can be combined in one human being - such as Leonardo Da Vinci. He is a man who is placed within an everyday society, who single-handedly possesses the perfect blend of art and science.

I find the idea of a normal man holding something overworldly and mythical inspiring, and this helped my thinking in how I was to construct the bottle itself. I found myself layering both whimsy and reality upon one another; the whimsy of the written poem is printed on the static societal paper, enclosed in the familiar norm of the beer bottle, which itself is enshrouded in this mythical notion of the 'message in a bottle.' I think that this has created a complex conversation as to how the 'discovery' element operates. Although the receiver is finding a 'normal' item, he is also discovering the imagination enclosed, and vice versa.

I chose everyday beer bottles (Corona and Hagan) and inserted a small paper version of the tenth stanza. Because I was to be planting these bottles at the beach, I decided only to use the tenth stanza, as this has direct connections with water and land. Lines such as "the grass / beside the water" made me think immediately of Rothesay Bay beach, where the water is lined with a bed of grass. To enforce the idea of 'distribution' and the notion of postage and parcels, I dressed the bottle up in societal constructions, such as the labels "For You" and "Love Ian Wedde," and the twine bow at the top of the necks.

I placed the bottles on a table, on a bench and in the sand of the actual beach, and waited. I watched as a boy picked up the bottle and read the paper inside. He frowned, and gave a small smile (which I hopefully didn’t imagine) and captured this moment of discovery with my camera. He sat reading it for a while, before placing the poem inside his pocket and walking away.

I feel like our distribution of Ian Wedde’s poem was successful. Getting poetry out into the wider community is important in terms of the longevity of 'the poem,' and I am glad to have done what I could to help.


Forbes, Peter. 'Science and Poetry: greatness in little.' Nature 434 (17 Mar 2005): 320-323.

Wedde Ian, Shadow Stands Up. 1-10. NZ Poet Laureate. Aug 2011-May 2012.


Katie Carey has just completed her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Auckland, majoring in both English and Drama. She is currently working on a play called The Uncertainty Principal, which will be performed early in 2013 as part of the Auckland Fringe Festival. Past this the future is somewhat uncertain, yet poetry will most definitely be an integral part of life to come.

The Poem in the World: Sam Goodchild and Chesney McDonald

More from the students of the Poetry off the Page programme at the University of Auckland, who took stanzas of Ian's 'Shadow Stands Up' into the world.

'Shadow Stands Up' on the Link Bus at Rush Hour

Sam Goodchild and Chesney McDonald

Our part of the poem was stanza 1 and stanza 2.

Taking the poem into the community

'Shadow Stands Up' is a poem that has many allusions to memory, surfaces, reflections, depths and text. In the first two stanzas fragments of aurality, visuality and memory create a narrative that has punctuated areas of heightened response to the world that the poet inhabits, much like the alighting of people at bus stops - images mix and merge. This apparent movement and lingering is part of the essence of the poem, it reflects the process of its creation as disparate entries through the medium in which it was first published - the NZ Poet Laureate blog. The stanzas are posted there in between other bits and pieces of Ian Wedde’s musings and so on its first reading on the site it isn’t possible to interact with the poem without picking up other chunks of text and therefore experience. To take these stanzas out into the community we - Phoebe, Tara, Chesney and I, decided to give a public performance of them on the oft mentioned green link bus in the afternoon rush hour past Victoria Park. The poem which was originally embedded on the (digital) page and whilst there, Charles Bernstein would say, remains soundless and inert, was to be heard by being vocalised. In this instance a performance for the community on the bus and at the same time it was going to be recorded and digitally archived on the Poetry off the Page website.

I read the first stanza of the poem and Tara the second on a moving green link bus whilst it was recorded by Chesney and Phoebe who had mounted a transparency of the stanzas on the bus window to create worded shadows during the ride. The words would be silhouetted, reflected and projected on the inside of the bus. I was positioned at the front of the bus whilst Tara was towards the aft. Two readers were chosen in two different places to enhance an effect that the poem was both being derived from the community and being given back to it. The performance was to 'ameliorate a state of poverty [of public poetry] and provide for the needs of those who were without' as described as part of the gift economy (Joel Harrison).

The performance competed with the noise of traffic and the sound of the bus’ engine, and though every effort was made to deliver a clear performance it may well have been fragmentary for some of the audience. Sound bouncing off the hard windows with the added noise of traffic, as well as the jerking of the breaks required me to hold up my body against the prevailing velocity, creating the potential for the words to get squeezed out forcefully or fade in the humdrum just as chalk words faded away under the weather and underfoot in our earlier poetry on the pavement assignment - creating unintended partial readings from the disparate fragments. The bus too is an iconic representative of the city, a location where "we undergo connections and disconnections" with a mass of conflicting experiences (Paula Green). The performance highlights the transience and temporality of communities we form on a bus. The articulation of the poem at that time and place highlighted the shared geography of the city with all its diverse states of mind focused on the sense of place and community, giving a snap shot of the mind of a commuter’s experience of what appears to be the mundane bus ride and to my mind and hopefully others reminded us that we all inhabit these little worlds, cocooned by our thoughts and memories even in such a public place. Reading the poem in that time and place added "another semantic layer to the poem’s multiformity" its untotalisability, because "to perform... is to recompose it, to change it, to move it" and to be heard it must be sounded (Bernstein). Hopefully the community heard.


Bernstein, Charles. 'Close Listening.' Introduction to Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word (Oxford UP, 1998). Rpt. Electronic Poetry Center, SUNY Buffalo.

Paula Green, 'Curating the city.' Poetry on the Pavement 2005. nzepc feature.

Harrison, Joel. 'Web poetics and the gift economy.' Ka Mate Ka Ora: A NZ Journal of Poetry and Poetics 2 (July 2006).

Wedde, Ian. "Shadow Stands Up", "Shadow Stands Up #2", and "Shadow Stands Up #5". New Zealand Poet Laureate.


Sam Goodchild is a recent graduate of the University of Auckland in Geology, Biology and English. He has a keen interest in the natural world and how we humans fit into it and create our own spaces. The way we convey our experiences in the world is highly modified by language-hence my interest in English. Poetry and literature in particular provide an avenue to explore the continuum of our existence by their reflexivity.

Chesney McDonald is in the process of completing his final year at the University of Auckland, studying English and Film, Television and Media Studies. After University Chesney will be diving head first into the working world and writing for film and theatre.

The Poem in the World: Phoebe Watt

Ian Wedde visited Poetry off the Page students at the University of Auckland in September 2012 to talk about his role as NZ Poet Laureate and to read the first ten sections of his evolving poem 'Shadow Stands Up'. Later the 21 students formed up in groups to devise strategies for taking stanzas of Ian’s poem into a community of their choice. They spread out across the city, documenting their performances and distributions for upload to the course website as their final assignment for the semester.

Ian’s poem appeared in neighbourhood letterboxes, on the Link bus, on wine bottles in a local Glengarry store. It went to a city pub quiz, to Poetry Live at the Thirsty Dog in K Road, to Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Fictionpress and Tumblr sites. It morphed through an email chain and it went to the beach in a beer bottle. Our students report that getting poetry into public places is (yes!) demanding but ultimately satisfying work, full of unexpected challenges and moments of sublime serendipity (the commuters who pulled out their phones to video the performers being videoed on the bus...).

We are proud to present a selection of work from the assignment, and we wish to thank Ian again for the generous use of his poem.

Michele Leggott and Helen Sword,

Convenors, English 347 Poetry off the Page at the University of Auckland.

'Shadow Stands Up' on the Link Bus at Rush Hour

Phoebe Watt

Our part of the poem was stanza 1 and stanza 2.

Taking the poem into the community

When, in August 2011, Ian Wedde introduced in "hesitant draft form" these first two stanzas of his tentatively named sequence, Shadow Stands Up, he indicated that, thematically at least, the poem would be preoccupied with 'memory'; specifically, "how memory stitches time into patterns and narratives that can’t exist in rational ways". This theme of memory is subtly conjured by the imagery contained within these early stanzas, whose references to 'shadows', 'dreams', 'imprints', and 'outlines' seemingly denote the memories or residues of more tangible things. It occurs that the poem’s Link bus is the literal vehicle whereby these things are 'stitched' (or, perhaps more appropriately, 'linked') into a more rational narrative. It was, therefore, this same Link bus journey that my group sought to reproduce in taking the poem into the community.

As mapped out in my exhibit (comprised of seven photos and a video, all taken in-transit and attached as hotspots to the streets they depict), our Link bus moved us along Victoria Street and past Victoria Park — locations made all the more familiar to us by their presences in the poem. Travelling this route was thus comparable to travelling through the poem as a reader, with both activities evoking Alan Brunton’s work on walking, wandering, and the conception of poetry. In Remarks on the Future of Poetry, Brunton refers to the "intoxication [that] comes over those who wander through the streets", and, subsequently, the way a text grows "step by step as the poet walks". Although the sense of 'wandering' in Shadow Stands Up seems, at least in the opening stanzas, less to do with the feet than with the mind, it arises that Brunton’s sentiments are largely transferable to this more philosophical wandering that Wedde seems to specialise in. Having blogged about his tendency to always be 'looking at something in [his] head', it is unsurprising that Wedde’s poem is pervaded by the concept of interiority. The decision to simulate Wedde’s daily commute between Three Lamps and the University of Auckland would, we hoped, allow us into the interior spaces of both poet and poem, making our dissemination of it all the more meaningful.

The 'main event' of our dissemination strategy was exactly that—making the text, in the words of Alan Brunton, an 'event' through performance. As a kind of antithesis to this 'spectacle', however, we felt it was important to pay homage to the poem’s introspectiveness. We printed the poem onto an A4 transparency sheet and adhered it to the Link bus window, so that commuters such as the man featured in the 'Victoria Street West' photo were permitted a more intimate engagement with the text which, conveniently, served also as a lens through which the text’s landmarks could be viewed. Additionally, the use of the transparency was a reference to the ghostly presences that, according to Wedde, constitute another of the poem’s motifs. Levitating in the window of the bus, the 'ghost' of Wedde’s poem flitted around the city while my attempts to capture it in motion (see Victoria Street, Albert Street, and Britomart photos) produced only indistinct, ghostly blurs. It interested me to see that in both the 'Victoria Street' and 'Customs Street' photos the figures outside the bus were also reduced to ghostly blurs, and this caused me to consider how I too might be perceived as ghostly by those on the outside, looking in. At this point, I was drawn to a tension between two lines of the poem — "I see this from the Link bus window", whose 'I' implies a grounding in reality, and "a Link bus goes past with me in it", whose estranged, omniscient tone seems more suggestive of an out-of-body experience. This tension struck me as a version of the poem’s contrasting of tangible items with memories, shadows, and ghosts. In a larger sense though, I took it to represent the active/passive binary inherent in the text as a whole — a binary which was at the forefront of our minds when we took the poem out into the community.

As already implied via my exhibit and its emphasis on mapping and navigation, our means of taking the poem out into the community was inspired by the poem's very specific relationship to place. In Hannah's exegesis, she refers to the group's decision to "keep the poem within its established environment", this environment being, once again, the blocks between Three Lamps and the University. Echoing an idea of my own, Hannah addresses the importance of staying true to the poem's sense of 'the local'; as a matter of necessity, however, the poem was taken beyond its 'locale' of the Three Lamps area, traveling with me on my route home to Parnell after the group itself parted ways. Eerily, just like the voice in Stanza Two's "hollow chamber", I soon found myself to be the only passenger in the bus' "hollow chamber", and I documented this with the Beach Road photo captioning my image with the relevant line from the poem as was consistent with the rest of my exhibit. To me, this "eerie" experience epitomised, more than any other aspect of our 'performance', the senses of interiority and introspectiveness that we, as a group, had tried to evoke for the community. It was a shame, I thought, that this experience could not possibly have been staged for an entire bus full of commuters. Nothing, however, could take my moment from me.


Brunton, Alan. "Remarks on the Future of Poetry". NZEPC.

Wedde, Ian. "Shadow Stands Up", "Shadow Stands Up #2", and "Shadow Stands Up #5". New Zealand Poet Laureate.


Phoebe Watt is about to start the final semester of her BA, having majored in English and minored in Writing Studies. Upon completion of her degree she wants to study English at postgraduate level, the plan being to begin a BA(Hons) in mid-2013. Currently she is working on a research project entitled 'Frank Sargeson: Portrait of a Reader,' which she became involved with via the University’s Summer Research Scholarship programme.

Phoebe writes: "In 2011 I took Ian Wedde’s stage two English paper ‘Writing Selves’, and it remains one of the most memorable courses I have taken at university. It was a privilege to work with his poem ‘Shadow Stands Up’ as part of Poetry Off the Page."