The Situation: Riemke Ensing

The Situation 2020

Tēnā koutou katoa

‘The Situation 2020’ is a kind of Poet Laureate's Choice of work from Aotearoa New Zealand poets for the Poet Laureate blog. Essentially, it will be a portfolio of poetry, posted over the next while, from a range of poets whose work I have enjoyed reading recently: interesting poems for interesting times.

— David Eggleton

A different country

[Not all wounds are visible]

On the Turiwiri road across the river from Dargaville,
we’re in Dalmatia. Dally Alley, 1955.
The grapes are ready
and the vast wooden vats are halfway filled.
Filomena’s in her element.
In her bare feet she is stamping down her harvest.
Filomena, Anastazija. Such regal names for the young girl
from Vrgorac, here more than half a century later
on her piece of promised ‘golden land’. ‘The new Amerika’.
Her arms are bare. She’s hoisted up her floral dress.
There’s no one there to watch and why should she care.
Seven children and a widow now alone here
on this isolated stretch of river swamp.
In no time at all, her face is puce. The colour of wine.
From the open door of her house
that replicates her husband’s father’s house in Kozica,
Tito looks on from his photograph. A hero here too      [Marshall Josip]
enjoying the spirit of this woman so engrossed in her dance,
tenaciously holding on to what she knew before that ship
took her to this out-cast world’s end.

Far, far off you might hear tamburitza
plucking for a different life.

Riemke Ensing

If only


If only death could be like the movies.


A large French window. The grand view. A sky forever open and blue.

A barely discernible breeze gently in the fine summer curtains.

A chair, and silently a man’s arm falling in slow motion

A quiet build up of strings we know too, well.

Everything measured and stately


as now on this gleaming gondola I imagine you, gliding

down the ‘most beautiful street in the world’.

A mist has wrapped us round and we are veiled in black

as we watch you leave so effortlessly, it seems. The water

stirring its sensual limbs beneath your prow as you become one

with distance and gold and the ambient reflections

eloquent in their multitudinous caress.

Riemke Ensing

Riemke Ensing biography

Black and white photo of a woman standing in front of a barn door.
Riemke Ensing. Image James Ensing-Trussell.

Riemke Ensing has had 12-plus books of poetry published, including Talking Pictures – selected poems, published by HeadworX. Her volume Storm Warning – after McCahon was set to music by Alex van den Broek (who has used several of her poems for his compositions) and premiered at the Christchurch Word Festival 2014.

She has collaborated with several craft printers in the production of her work. These include Beth Serjeant (The Visionary and Black ) Tara McLeod of The Pear Tree Press, John Holmes of The Frayed Frisket Press and Ronald Holloway of the Griffin Press. 'A different country’, by The Pear Tree Press, has been handset and printed for Tara McLeod’s 8 Poems series and is forthcoming as a publication. An earlier version of 'If only’, was hand-set and published by Tara McLeod of The Pear Tree Press in 2017.

In 2012, Riemke Ensing received the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award, a prize given biennially in recognition of a distinguished contribution to New Zealand poetry.

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