Number 13 — Inauguration weekend poem

I’m trying to get into the habit of writing new poems to read at each event I participate in as the Poet Laureate, and I knew that for my inauguration weekend, I wanted to read something that acknowledged the Poets Laureate who have come before me.

I decided to write an acrostic using the surnames of the 12 previous Laureates. I’ve found that the acrostic form has forced me to write more linearly than I usually do. Thus each line revealed itself one by one over a couple of months as I chipped away at the poem. The final result is part homage and part manifesto, a testament to the power of poetry to change hearts and minds.

Number 13

Must be the way a poem kickstarts a world into being that

alters how time leans into itself. The rise and fall of oceans

never felt so slow or sticky on your skin, salt crusting between

heartbeats. The delicious moon—all-seeing and all-knowing—

inches across the night sky while sad songs crackle on the

radio. Must be fire and flood swooping in to play their part when

everything is bent beyond recognition. Pray for the good old days.

The before times. The once and once more. We have a habit of

U-Turning when faced with not liking where we’re heading. Oh

wicked, stubborn fate—who’s to say that we can outpace the

hardest of truths? That we are fallible. That we are fools for

attempting to chart our own lives. Poets will ensure that these

revelations are broken to us in the kindest way, like a parent

easing their child into a bedtime ritual. The mind wanders,

skips over crucial details when recalling a memory

made at our most vulnerable to scarring. Are those made

in usual circumstances worth holding in the eternal vault?

Take dreams as an example: there is nothing unusual or

humbling about sleep. Most dreams aren’t memories worth

entertaining. And yet, I have a recurring dream in which

RuPaul asks, ‘What would you say to 10-year-old Christopher?’.

This is the trope I hate the most: tricking my inner child to

unpack intergenerational trauma or make peace with what

returns to sting me when I let down my guard. If I only had

nerve to excoriate the judges for this scripted farce, but I can’t

escape expectation. I’ve been thinking about legacy and

royalty—arrangements designed to make us feel like we

belong to some powerful chain. Link by link we forge

ornamental pathways backwards and forwards, left and

right—words whistling in every direction in search of

new ears to fall upon. A poem is a key, is a map, is a

hidden place filled with the answers to questions you

only ever ask yourself when you’re alone. There’s nothing

lost between a poem and its reader—an open mind and

derring-do will take you far if you hand yourself over to

the invisible strings of each melodious line. If gravity were to

loosen its grip you might find yourself melting into the

eventide, echoes of other worlds ushering you onwards,

grief-stricken by what has been, or empowered by what is

granted a spotlight in your fantasies. I still long for utopia

or at the very least a future where we no longer need to

teach children how to hide from mass shooters stalking

their school corridors. I have excavated and polished all

my fears and frustrations to display in the world’s most

complicated museum exhibition. No amount of hurt can

quieten my overachiever Asian gene or deny my status as an

unreasonable artist with many obsessions to nurture until

everything is about race or gender or queerness. I want an

easy life too—hands free to caress the world in its velvets,

not to obsess or fret about the sharp edges that catch my

wild tongue. A pattern must be broken. A heavy heart needs

emptying to make room for courage. So I listen to Robyn’s

‘Dancing On My Own’ for the thousandth time to feel something

deeply—to unearth a memory loaded with the most powerful

emotion that will transform my simple words into a paean to

our shared joy. In the future, our desires will be soundtracked by

sadbangers—we will cry and let our cathartic tears crystallise

under our feet as we dance ourselves towards the blinding

light of better days. We will sing; we will lift our arms and

levitate, enraptured by the possibility that poetry holds.

If this is the path, if this is the way forward, let all our

voices be bold. Hear me: I am the Poet Laureate and I

approve this message! Now is the time for poetry to

nurse our crushes until we all die of embarrassment. I’ll

stand tall, facing the past, and instruct everyone to keep

tipping the scales in our favour. Assume the position—

ease our bodies against the tide that roars at us, “No

Admission”. I believe in our strength; I believe in self-

deprecation and letting poetry ruin every party it crashes.

Must be the page turning or the world tipping on its

axis, tradition glazed with the woozy afterglow of poets

reciting verse to manifest rebirth, a murmuration of

starlings filling the vast attics of our futures. If there’s

harmony there must be a chorus, voices matched and

etched into the walls we are learning to scale with ease.

Give me neither poverty nor riches; give me myself again.

Give me love and give me hope; give me myself again.

Line by line and brick by brick, build something that will

equip us to change the world. I am sentimental for a 

time that does not yet exist but that I know is somewhere

out there—a half-beginning, a half-sense of something

not entirely out of reach. Must be the way a poem can

tell you where to stand to see every crack or where to

start a fire to light the way for others. Describe what you

expect to see on the other side. Tell us how you want to feel.

— Chris Tse

Smiling chinese man in a green suit holding a carved stick.
Chris Tse (the 13th Poet Laureate) holding his tokotoko carved by Jacob Scott.
Photo by Rebecca McMillan Photography. All rights reserved. 

Opening of “Long Waves of our Ocean: New responses to Pacific poems” exhibition

Chris joined us at the National Library recently for the opening of  Long Waves of our Ocean: New responses to Pacific poems and premiered his poem, the longest wave as a response to the central place of poetry in the exhibition.

The title of the exhibition is a line from the poem Stepping Stones by Albert Wendt:

"...and our islands are your anchor and launching site
for the universes that repeat and repeat

like the long waves of our ocean like Tagaloaalagi’s
compulsive scrutiny of what is to come and fear"

— Peter Ireland

~~~the longest wave~~~

I run from the mountains / through urban sprawl / through shopping malls / through air-conditioned office buildings / I run from desperation / and headlong into a joy that I hope will crush me / I run from ransom notes left on shattered windscreens / dead ends / bad weeks that won’t end / I run from narrative and happy endings / history presented as spillage / everybody involved making a petty mess /  I run from storms swallowing the skies / through fire and locust plague / I run with zoo animals released back into the wild / like public servants unshackled from security clearances and !P@55wordS / I run from social media and porn bots / from influencers selling me plastic bodies / from the urge to sleep through the anthropocene / I run from Christmas decorations in October and hot cross buns in January / through time-lapse decay and benefits realisation / through the haze of burning press releases about liveable cities / I run from my embarrassing teenage poetry / from thinly veiled metaphors jumping in and out of closets / in and out of the shared body heat of a crowd / out of breath / out like a light / but still wired / let me sleep / through white noise and bird song / through neighbours’ squabbles about boundary lines / I run from borders / away from units and definitions / away from inboxes overflowing with flattering comments / I run from infographics and statistics / that explain why we are miserable / from proof of our self-inflictions / I run in search of direction / away from need and want / from could’ve, should’ve, would’ve / I run from the canon / from my catalogue of ailments / past the sun and moon locked in their orbits / past the billboards advertising an impossible future / away from the party / each of us saving the best parts for later / but never finding the time to enjoy / I am here for a good time / I am here in salt / preserved for good measure / I am the longest wave / stretching beyond myself / I run to be lost and found / I run towards land / I run home

— Chris Tse

Chris reading ~~~the longest wave~~~ at the opening of  Long Waves of our Ocean: New responses to Pacific poems, National Library, Wellington. Photo by Celeste Fontein.

More about Long Waves of our Ocean: New responses to Pacific poems

Welcome to Chris Tse our new Poet Laureate

The National Library is delighted to celebrate National Poetry Day by announcing Chris Tse of Wellington as the New Zealand Poet Laureate for 2022-2024.

Te Pouhuaki National Librarian Rachel Esson described Chris’s appointment as recognition of “a poet leading a generational and cultural shift in the reach and appreciation of poetry in Aotearoa.”

Fellow poet Freya Daly Sadgrove says Chris “will unite and embolden the full breadth of Aotearoa’s poetry community as well as entice new audiences with his innovation. He’s a glam-rock poetry superstar with a big, gorgeous heart and he will raise the profile of Aotearoa poetry right now like no one else.”

Chinese man in coulourful jacket standing in front of a large round mirror.
Self-portrait Chris Tse. Photo provided. 

For Tse, his appointment was a thrill and an honour.

“The number 13 is a lucky number in my family, so it feels very auspicious to be named the 13th New Zealand Poet Laureate.

“Stepping into this role as a queer, Asian writer is an incredible and life-changing opportunity. I’m thrilled and honoured to be following in the footsteps of some of our literary greats.

“New Zealand’s poetry scene is thrumming with diverse and innovative voices on both the page and the stage, and I can’t wait to use my tenure as Poet Laureate to help people discover the riches of this scene.”

Congratulations Chris we look forward to hearing more from you.

Why Hollywood won’t cast poets in films anymore

1. There are public reasons and there are private reasons.

2. The public reasons are toothless exaggerations

3. In private, we recount the times we’ve been made to feel damaged.

4. The night writes its power ballads behind closed doors.

5. We have dressed our wounds with the sins of our tormentors.

6. When we were happy, we filled our suitcases with fresh bread.

7. Now that we are filled with rage we choke our duck ponds with dry crusts.

8. There was a time when the colour of a nightclub brawl did not exist.

9. Nowadays, a bookstore drive-by shooting no longer elicits social media outrage.

10. We must acknowledge that there are no more wars left to cry over.

11. Except for the wars we wage against ourselves, which we refuse to acknowledge.

12. We carved our names into every building to remind ourselves never to return.

13. You can dance for a destination, but you will never get there in one piece.

14. Careers based on public humiliation are no longer worth curating.

15. At no point have we accepted responsibility for casting the first stone.

16. If it’s all lies, we must pretend not to notice.

17. If it’s all truth, we must pretend not to care.

18. Either way, it’s meant to hurt.

19. It’s meant to make you want to leave your husband for a tax accountant.

20. It’s the way we step out of a burning theatre as if nothing’s wrong.

21. As if the smoke in our eyes is a lover’s smile caught in sunlight.

22. An uncontrollable fire is perfectly fine, given the state of the world.

23. Then why do I feel so angry?

24. Are you angry?

25. I’m angry.

— Chris Tse

Poster announceing Chris Tse as new Poet Laureate, includes a poem called ‘Chris Tse and  his imaginary band’ and biographical information about Chris which is available on the Poet Laureate blog.
Poster announcing Chris Tse as the new Poet Laureate.
Thank you to Phantom Billstickers for the poster.

Whale Psalm

The whale, says Jonah, is the black night filled with terrible screams.
The whale is missiles that winnow the grain from the wheatfields.
The whale is the city with bombed-out basements and burning high-rises.
The whale is the country, bogged down in booby-traps and wreckage of tanks.
The whale shoulders the load, a tower of coffins.
The whale is village-fiddlers tuning up a death march.
The whale is soldiers shouting their poems in the ruins.
The whale is a prayer on the lips of children.
The whale is liberty pecked at by birds of prey.
The whale is the enemy, with its taboos, its vanity and its ignorance.
The whale is life incarnate and a desperation to survive.
The whale is the weight of creation stranded on the tipping point.
The whale is always further away than first thought, but inescapable.
The whale wants to save us.
The whale wants to win the war.
The whale turns the spotlight on the whale-hunters and the war-generals.
The whale has climbed the diving board above the dried-up sacred fountain.
The whale must dive into the circus barrel, and there is no way out.

— David Eggleton

Mostly Black

Before, as it was, it was mostly black,
dark beaks, polished talons, feathers, a black
regime drenched in the melancholy black
of rains that took tides further towards black.
From hinges of sunlight hung blocks of black,
and risen humps of islands were matt black.
Cinders sailed from bush burn-offs, carbon black.
Beads on antimacassars gleamed jet black.
Through pine's silent groves possum eyes shone black.
Above tar-seal a melted rainbow turned black.
At disintegration of monolith black,
green, all that blue can be, then back to black.
Green of pounamu lost under lake's black.
Blackout's lickerish taste, blood-pudding black,
and midnight mushrooms gathered from deep black.
Tattoos drawn with bent nib and homemade black.
Batman's mask, a dull sheen of cue ball black.
The primeval redacted, placed in black
trash bags, or else turned out as burnt bone black.
Pull on the wool singlet of shearer's black,
for blacker than black is New Zealand black,
null and void black, ocean black, all black.
In Te Pō's night realm, from Te Kore's black,
under the stars spreads the splendour of black.

— David Eggleton

Te-Ara-a-Parāoa, Path of the Sperm Whale

Aotearoa's white peaks spyhop above waves,
seeking albatross worlds of mislaid moons.
Screeching kākā skim fast through tree-tops.
Parāoa breaches in a frost-smoke chrysalis.
Iwi on the shore perform haka of welcome.
Drizzle dances on the head of the whale.
Hoisted up out of water, blowing a guffaw,
blunt headlands slap and wallow in their turn.
A living wall slides past, gentle-eyed, vast.
Luminous planktons glow in dark ocean;
neon flying squid flash through salty air.
Silvery-bubbled, ripple-driven, Parāoa
tilts her tail-flukes, keels and plunges:
guiding her calf down Kaikōura Canyon.
Bob of a fur seal pup snouts through
seaweed wrack, in the surf's long swell.
A breeze licks over spun gobbets of foam.
A green tendril climbs sunwards in a spiral

— David Eggleton


Matariki's eyes are fiery in the night.
Feather-shawled mountains gleam their beaks.
Great trunks, sawn through, tumble and tilt.
Bold carvings, auctioned in whispers,
echo as prophecies, sung by wind-swept trees.
The hangi smokes great boars, basted in juices.
Plagued by caterpillars, slithered by eels,
a patchwork quilt of farm unravels.
In lightning and hail, each snail snivels;
learned visitors take shelter with skinks,
under rocks from nesting angry falcons.
Ghosts hoard waka in marshes, under silt.
An arcade is roofed with engraved glass;
a pedestal is bound by polished brass;
faces are wound tighter than a watchspring.
Wigs become a sheep flock gathering.
There's daughter of the kauri, Amber Reeves,
sailing for London from the Antipodes.
Through cavern gloom, suspended by ooze,
many worms glow as the matrix broods.

— David Eggleton

Key to the Hermit Kingdom

Once far to the back, now far out in front,
to bear the brunt and wear the shame,
the minister for health arrives by stealth;
children have assembled for the last bull-run.
The basis of life in these islands is sun.
Random offence takes knee-jerk exception
to a nation's internet solipsism.
They want to topple Cook's statues, wave through
freedom protestors, tweeters who invite you
to burn replicas of J.K.Rowling at the stake,
or shout cancel in Putin's graffitied face,
then pose on Instagram to game the blame.
As yesterday's cassette static unspools,
white noise buzzes across the tells
of a whole world in bruise-coloured blue,
globe mortified by heat-wave distortion,
though too we might die of rabid exposure,
our tarpaulins snatched away by storm-cells,
Our gathered thoughts await their closure;
while all look on, thanks to their lit devices;
and beware the naked blade that flashes
in dearer chainstore supermarket aisles;
beware pop pop pop of police gunshots,
attempts to liberate property from capital.
When asked, step away from those unmasked;
accept the chill vaccine that burns the arm.
Everything depends on the arrival
of red wheelbarrows from China for big box stores,
before global supply links break again:
ever-remoter quotas of autumn's dry spell
frozen, like jagged truths of rock pools drained,
those barren rocks where marooned sailors listen
for the lure of mermaids and police sirens.
Winter's stew of anonymised outrage
lasts lockdown season in the Hermit Kingdom.
Then jet-set Spring arrives, tanned and smiling,
in a jeep towing Summer's caravan,
which brings an all-weather finish to year's end.

— David Eggleton

Poet Laureate Award call for nominations

Kia hiwa ra!
Kia hiwa ra!

The National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa is seeking nominations for the New Zealand Poet Laureate Award.

Poetry is a quintessential part of New Zealand art and culture, and through the New Zealand Poet Laureate Award the government acknowledges the value that New Zealanders place on poetry.

The National Librarian Te Pouhuaki will appoint the New Zealand Poet Laureate after reviewing nominations and seeking advice from the New Zealand Poet Laureate Advisory Group.

Nominees must have made an outstanding contribution to New Zealand poetry, and be an accomplished and highly regarded poet who continues to publish new work. They must also be a strong advocate for poetry and be able to fulfil the public role required of a Poet Laureate. The role includes engaging with a wide range of people and inspiring New Zealanders to read and write poetry.

Candidates are expected to reside in New Zealand during their tenure as Laureate.

The term of appointment for the next Poet Laureate will run until August 2024.

Nominations close on Friday, 29 July 2022 at 5pm.

Please email your nomination to

Email is preferred, but you can also mail your nomination to:

New Zealand Poet Laureate Award
National Library of New Zealand
PO Box 1467

Attention: Lily Reid

Enquiries about the New Zealand Poet Laureate Award can be directed to

The End of History, and Warhead

The End of History

1989, when the fall of Berlin's wall
chiselled away loose masonry,
brought promise for humanity,
as tank man stood tall in Tiananmen Square.
Dignity seemed worth more
at the end of the Cold War than ever before.
Lovers kissed for cameras, which made
every photograph special, like a bouquet,
while wires that held the whole shebang
upright were hidden well away.
They placed white carnations in rifle muzzles.
They dumped Klashnikovs for bumpers of champagne.
They waved banners and the snare drum beat.
They climbed to the top of decline and fall.
The fix was in, nothing for it but to swim.
1989, when the world-wide-web's pipedream lit up;
telexes hiccupped, telephones tittered, faxes coughed,
though so many were soon to return
in coffins from whatever war was next.
Some had paintstripper to remove the pain;
some smooshed their wonted ancient grain.
Sir Galahad rode in with leather apron on,
making light of the massacre, the heavy weather,
the forked lightning, the stacks of stooks
in summer stubble, scorched for yonks.
Choppers prepared for evacuation.
Citizens rejoiced in satellites, holding hands,
blindly high on their own resolution,
across the ocean and down in the deeps,
whose dungeons opened and released the Fates,
in bubbles of oxygen that seemed herculean.
Yesterday's progress ended and was rebooted.
Deplorables became renewable; edibles became incredible.
Assemblies clanked through flung-open gates.
And you will know us by our toppled hopes,
the flogged scars and stripes that bless the bloody flag.
We were going forward, the damned, on our five-year plan,
in spirit of prayer to stardust of paradise,
with lassoed monuments and new statues raised;
but hope is the thing that scatters,
through tarred and feathered streets,
as tear-gas arrives and water cannon swings.
There were human pyramids and plagues
of new missiles; jogging shoes hung from gallows.
The blow-up globe was punctured and hissed
with escaping breath as another dream
began to count down to lift-off;
and then we were stuck in the 1990s,
with a long night coming on,
and very few left to sing revolution's song.

— David Eggleton


Say no to the Mad Emperor of the Russians,
in thrall to his own truth-flubbing trolls,
and his judo-player skills and his steroid flushes.
An unholy fool, dancing like a very angry bear
on the hot coals of burning Ukrainian cities.
Let him be deposed and shunted to a far-off gulag,
drowned like Rasputin, stopped like Trotsky with a pick-axe.
Let him not die in his bed like the monster Stalin,
for he is one of those tyrannical jerks,
photo-shopped all ripped veins and vascular,
as bigged-up as Josef Stalin's Collected Works.
What Pootin doesn't know isn't knowledge,
because Pootin went to KGB Spy College.
He's a rabid mole who has swallowed a wasp;
a death guru with a cobra's cross-eyed stare,
who flicks his forked tongue out to test the air.
A total mass murderer as Mister Anonymous,
a radioactive creature from a toxic lagoon.
Sputnik space-case they should have sent to the moon;
makes like he's in a North Korean restaurant: dog eat dog.
Expressionless face of a long-term drunk,
he's a breezeblock Brezhnev, a pisspot Lenin;
he's in a rusted suit made of the Iron Curtain;
he's the skull and crossbones on a bottle of poison.
Everything he touches turns to smashed-up melamine;
he wears a fake tan like his pal Trumpentine.
He's an old-shoe Communist, placed as People's Tzar,
in an oligarchical Formula One racing car:
leads the pack with World Domination blah blah blah.
Pootin be like the psycho comrade in wolf's clothing,
he's the very dead soul of serfdom resurrected,
another well-known germophobe, always well-protected.
A barren rock, a cement mixer mixing a dunce's lies;
a minuscule human blob with rage-filled eyes;
a villainous Marvel figurine: Incandescent Vlad Puteen.

— David Eggleton