Mouths From The South by Michael Botur

This journalism was published in early 2014 by The Big Idea. Some of the interviewees got mad that they weren’t allowed to control the story. They also decided the story was somehow offensive. Mohamed Hassan, Grace Taylor, Michael Rudd and others began sending abusive messages to me and The Big Idea and succeeded in getting the story taken down. The abuse contained racist undertones. I recall being distraught and feeling like no one in the world supported me -especially when The Big Idea caved in and took down the story.

Lessons to be learned:

  • Ensure you have recordings of everything an interviewee says to you to prevent the interviewee becoming anxious and paranoid and aggressive
  • Have a contract with your publisher to prevent the publisher from taking down a piece in response to pressure, which is a breach of contract
  • If you are being bullied, share the problem widely (I didn’t share the problem and felt like I was on my own)
  • Know that if you treat your interviewees well and write fairly, you have done your job correctly. Anybody who engages in cyberbullying needs to be de-platformed.


Online bullying is not acceptable and I will never bow to it or be intimidated into not publishing a piece of writing. – Michael Botur

Mouths From The South 

by Michael Botur


Three of New Zealand’s best-known poets – all Polynesian, and all women – were sent to London as poetic ambassadors for the Cultural Olympiad of 2012.  Out of the fraction of poets who manage to get published on paper, some have only been accepted by publishers in distant Pacific countries. Some Aussie slam poets are bypassing the university scene and heading straight for Manukau, where the poetry is distinguished by international connections, media innovation, and a moral puritanism.

Poets from Penrose to Papakura are stamping the South Auckland style from Adelaide to New York. Here’s how it happened. 

Mohamed Hassan rocks the mic at Youthline, Papatoetoe

Mohamed Hassan rocks the mic at Youthline, Papatoetoe

The South shall rise again

The South Auckland Poets Collective (SAPC) was founded in 2008 by Daren Kamali (Wallis and Futuna / Fiji) and Grace Taylor (England / Samoa.) The couple now run Niu Navigations, a company promoting Aotearoa and Pacific poetry. NN builds upon Kamali’s success (at least according to what’s written online) as a Fulbright scholar, Creative NZ Pacific Writer in Residence, and NZ rep at Solomon Islands and Palau festivals. Kamali has published books which sell at the University of the South Pacific. Taylor, too, has found her first publication far away, in Hawaii, where the New Oceania Reading Series called ‘Native Voices’ demonstrates a world view that puts Polynesia first.  

Conscientiousness is what it’s all about. NN helped organised our nation’s first poetry slam for deaf people; Maryanne Pale (Tonga) used poets to fundraise over $8000 for wounded Tonga following January’s Category 5 Cyclone Ian.

At the February 13 Tonga fundraiser, Pale told me how South Auckland poetry stands out from central Auckland’s stalwart Poetry Live. “Our stories come from different upbringings. With my poetry I include Tongan language and singing. Most of my poems are stories.” South Auckland poets typically memorise all of their work, incorporate song and dance, and they embrace multimedia: YouTube is littered with SAPC workshops, performances, and lectures; Taylor and SAPC poets did a TEDx talk in 2013; Pale runs; Doug Poole (Samoa / Europe) runs a website which frequently publishes poetry about Pacific cultures, and he organised the POLYNATION performance poetry show in Queensland. That’s just the tip of the ice berg, with dozens of South Auckland poets running blogs and websites, posting videos online, touring shows across the country and fighting to represent the south at nationwide poetry slams. 

Maryanne Pale Pacific-focused poetry

Maryanne Pale: Pacific-focused poetry

South styles

South Auckland poetry is distinguished by a concern for sister nations in the Pacific, an obsession with ethnicity and otherness, and a moral puritanism which may be attributable to Grace Taylor’s influence (she is a Youthline social worker; Youthline hosts some Stand Up Poetry readings.) The south style could be because of the significant role of the church in the lives of most Pacific Islanders. 

“Out south, it’s much more influenced by communal living and personal identity,” says Rewa Worley, who is an associate of SAPC on top of founding Wax Poetic Revival as well as Nova Riche. “Out south there is a lot more poetry that involves God and prayer, purely because it’s pacific. At  Poetry Live, there is a different demographic who have different social norms. I feel some PL poetry isn’t accessible. In the SA context there are some things that can’t be talked about. Out west I saw one poet whose whole poem was about her pussy. It was awkward. I don’t understand why someone would share that.” 

Southmouth slam champs L-R Marina Alefosio, Rewa Worley and Mohamed Hassan

Southmouth slam champs L-R Marina Alefosio, Rewa Worley and Mohamed Hassan

He’d be more shocked if he knew that many Palagi poets look up to fascists (Ezra Pound), junkies (Jim Carroll) and hoboes (James K Baxter.) Alcohol is available at almost any poetry event in Auckland – except out south, where prohibition pervades. 

Poet Maryanne Pale says “I’ve never associated poetry with drink and drugs, not with the poets I’ve been around. A typical hangout period is exercise, coffee and going for walks.” Their alcohol and drug-free, council-endorsed and family-friendly events might not have enough street cred for Poetry Live acolytes, whose midnight readings on K Road are often accompanied by prostitutes and drunks making noise on the street outside. 

Worley’s part of a generation who believe that YouTube represents what poetry is. “Getting published is a goal, but the urge to take the stage and propagate spoken poetry is what I’m more driven towards. I don’t look up written poetry on websites, it’s definitely more YouTube.” None of the influential poets he lists are long-dead British men; instead, most are people aged in their 20s on the South Auckland circuit. “Basically everyone in Wax Poetic came to poetry through Grace Taylor.”

“I would love to build up a new poetry scene on the North Shore, but it’s difficult, partly due to demographics. The community is stronger out south. Stand Up Poetry isn’t perfect, but it’s continually encouraging, and the people there feel you, encourage you, and look like you: they’re young brown kids.”  

American Nesian

Pale had ideas about why the preoccupation with ethnic identity occurs more in the South Auckland scene than the very active poetry gatherings in west and central Auckland. “The commonality here is being proud of where we come from. Some of us are first NZ born in our families. Our European friends could be different.”

Getting published takes a backseat to proclaiming personal identity out here, where few poems performed use stanza, metre or stress. Unstructured personal commentaries full of I, me and myself are aired, punctuated by dramatic pauses and breaks for laughter after in-jokes. If the Manukau Institute of Technology’s creative writing classes have influenced these poets, it may mean MIT’s teachers are inventing their own rules for poetry.  

SUP is hosted by Youthline. Performers typically emulate Def Poetry Jam, whether they realise it or not. The February SUP reading I attended was a sea of backwards caps with gold stickers on them in a shiny café serving non-alcoholic drinks. Many poets read off iPads and cellphones, the musical interlude was hip hop beats spun by a real DJ, they rapped in American accents, their words dwelled on their skin colour while people in the audience clicked their fingers like jazzy beatniks.   

Mandatory caps Start Up Poetry (SUP) at Youthline, Papatoetoe

Mandatory caps: Start Up Poetry (SUP) at Youthline, Papatoetoe

The SAPC was clearly right at home when it made a pilgrimage to the Nuyorican Poets Café in 2012. The café had influenced Def Poetry, which had itself ripped off Gil Scott-Heron and the Last Poets, all of who helped hip hop emerge as a distinct genre.

Pale sends me YouTube links showing her influences, instead of lending me a book. The YouTube vids show poets talking only about themselves, rejecting traditional poetic structure, and all the poets have American accents. Her biggest influences all work in English, but none of them are European. There’s Luka Lesson (Greek Australian rapping poet), Lemon Andersen (American ex- con playwright) and Pacific Tongue (Hawaiian youths concerned about the marginalisation of Polynesian culture in Hawaii.) The Pacific Tongue influence is hardly surprising – Hawaii is where Americana means Pasifika.  

Matua mentoring

Karlo Mila (Tonga) represented Tonga at the 2012 Cultural Olympiad in the United Kingdom, alongside Tusiata Avia (Samoa) and Selina Tusitala Marsh (Tuvalu.) While Mila wasn’t the first P.I. writer in New Zealand, her antecedents spent decades in solitude before a wave of Pacific writing emerged after the year 2000. “Albert Wendt was on his own for a very long time. Pasifika poetry is still quite strongly characterised by women, although there are still Doug Poole and Daren Kamali around. You also had Oscar Kightley and bro’Town at the same time. The guys were writing plays, the women were writing poetry.”

Pacific pathfinder Poet Dr Karlo Mila

Pacific pathfinder: Poet Dr Karlo Mila

“There were Pacific women poets” who were around before me, like Konai Helu, Momoe Von Reiche, Sia Figiel the novelist, my first book contributed to this genealogy of poets. They were influenced by Maori poets such as J. C. Sturm. Tusiata and Selina were published around the same time. There was a clear next wave of us mentored by Albert. He was our matua.”  

She says the Maori publisher Huia “deliberately hunted” Pacific work around 2000. Before Huia’s efforts, Pacific material was considered exotic by editors.

“The current crop of university press editors publish what they deem to be familiar to themselves. Selina Tusitala Marsh talked to the Auckland University Press publisher who didn’t understand Konai Helu Thaman’s poetry. There were different metaphors and ideas in it.” Today Polynesians are nothing unusual in the written world. “It’s easier for a publisher to relate to our poetry now as it is grounded in an NZ experience.”  

She handed down her expertise to the next wave of Pasifika poets who emerged a decade after Avia, Marsh and herself, copy-editing their work or including them in anthologies. Mila says the SAPC isn’t just some inevitable cultural phenomenon. “It’s largely because of the work Grace has done.” 

Poet Zach Soakai performs at the Help Ha’apai Relief Fundraiser, February 13, Otahuhu

Poet Zach Soakai performs at the Help Ha’apai Relief Fundraiser, February 13, Otahuhu

National Flash Fiction Day – Northland – Workshop and Flash Readings – All welcome

National Flash Fiction Day – Northland 

Date: Sunday 23 June 2019 
Time: 1–4pm
Location: King’s Theatre, 62 Gillies Street, Kawakawa

The event will start with a workshop, followed by afternoon tea and a public reading of flash fiction, including NFFD winning entries and Northland’s winning entry.

This year our annual flash-fiction workshop will be presented by Northland writer, Michael Botur. Michael is the author of five short-story collections. He was placed second in the 2019 North & South Short Short Story Competition and is a past winner of the Whangarei Libraries Flash Fiction Competition.

Focus Your Flash – Cut The Crap

Participants are asked to bring a prepared draft of their story, on a laptop if possible. During the workshop, writers will identify the anchor, heart, or core of the message in one flash story. They’ll also condense their story into an ‘elevator pitch’ that will help keep the story focused on what matters and sharpen the significance of each of the chosen 300 words.

Questions and whatnot – or



Northland doctor Renee Liang launches new book ‘When We Remember To Breathe’

When We Remember To Breathe has been published by Michele Powles and Dr Renee Liang, who works much of the year at Whangarei Hospital as a paediatrician. 

Two courageous Kiwi women, one an author and the other a paediatrician, lay bare the raw joy, beauty, discomfort and humour of modern motherhood. The result is uplifting and fearless.

Available: at Magpie Pulp. ISBN: 978-047-345339-8.  RRP: $25

Author Bio: Renee Liang is playwright, paediatrician, fiction writer. Michele Powles is a dancer, producer and writer. Michele Powles website here.

You’re invited to explore the excerpts, videos and author bios here, read the reviews, and discover this beautiful book.

Everything you need to know about the book is here.


Renee Liang, a second-generation Chinese Kiwi, is a poet, playwright, paediatrician, medical researcher and fiction writer. She has collaborated on visual arts works, film, opera and music, produced and directed theatre works, worked as a dramaturge, taught creative writing and organized community-based arts initiatives. She organises community arts events such as NewKiwi Women Write, a writing workshop series for migrant women. She contributes to The Big Idea, which links New Zealand’s arts community. Renee has written, produced and toured seven plays. In 2018, she was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the arts. Image of Renee Liang by Jeff McEwan


North & South Short Short Story Competition 2019 – runner up ‘Magic Mirror’ by Michael Botur

North & South Short Short Story Competition 2019 – runner up ‘Magic Mirror’ by Michael Botur



Magic Mirror

Michael Botur


It begins when you’re having a couple lunchtime drinks on the toilet, closed door of course, private delight, gulping stinging nips of depressant to weight your floating feet. Dilute the anxiety. Wash off the boss-bully. The panel of magic mirrors shows the confident you, the you with strong legs and a friend.

Coming out of the stall you bump into Gerard Chan from marketing and he’s clutching some dark drink in a Pump bottle and at first you’re both going to leave the bathroom without a word but you pause at the door. Being ashamed is pointless. Gerard Chan meets you for more drinks at 4.

It’s not just the kinship or the wince, the stinging liquid lip. It’s the magic mirror. In the glass dimension there’s a happy you.

Paul Govind, too, is in with a grin. Wobbling back to your desk to send off emails gets you noticed, there are murmurs, noses peering over the cubicle, but one drink with you in front of the magic mirror, people come around. It’s a confidence boost. You help your team carry out business with boldness. You tell the cleaning lady you love her.

Bottles on the hand dryers. Ice in the handbasins. Little umbrellas, straws, chips of ice melting on the tiles. The stock price soars and lurches. The boss occupies the disabled loo, puts her feet up on the rail on the door, leans back, tells you she’s always admired you. Your resourcefulness. How you find creative ways out of problems.

Someone bangs on the bathroom door.

You grip the mirror, blink, splash water on your face, swig and swallow, stash the bottle in the curl of pipes beneath the basin.

Listerine and Lynx. Fix your tie. Tiptoe back to work. Steady legs.  





Literary news for Northerners – April 2019

  1. DID YOU KNOW WE HAVE A TONNE OF WRITERS GROUPS GOING ON??!!>Kaipwriters -Dargaville writing group that has been in action for around two years. Currently has 8-10 members. A lot of emphasis on poetry and children’s writing, but flash fiction and non-fiction are also shared. Contact Maureen Sudlow

    >Poets at ONEONESIX 116aBank St, Whangarei, third Thursday of the month from 5pm for poetry readings, comment, feedback and critique, all welcome contact

    >Russell Writer’s Workshop– Meets 1st Sunday each month, 2 pm at Russell Library, Contact: Peter, Ph: 09 403-8321.

    >Pen-Ultimate -Meets alternate Fridays, 10:00 am to 12:30. Contact: Derin Attwood at

  2. Book launch. Russell Museum is proud to launch Peter Ireland’s new book. The Weight Of The Captain’s Wrist, Peter Ireland History Paintings. Mr Ireland has moved onto the East Cape now but you can still get the book, containing 70 paintings, from the Russell Museum Shop. See
  3. Whangarei Libraries Flash Fiction Club: a group meets regularly, led by highly experienced flash editor/judge Martin Porter. Click through to Whangarei Libraries Flash Club information.   
  4. Poetry Group at the Whangarei Central Library – April 16
  5. National Flash Fiction Day Competition. Please enter – we have so much talent up north, we want to see more Tai Tokerauvians placed highly as last year. On National Flash Fiction Day, which is June 22 2019, there will be a workshop and reading at King’s Theatre in Kawakawa. Author Michael Botur will deliver the workshop, which will be about finding the message in a flash story
  6. Fast Fibres 6- Asixth collection of poetry is being put together to display the talents of Northland poets – submit your entry today. It will be launched in print and online on National Poetry Day, August 23, 2019. The Fast Fibres Poetry Collective invites poets with a strong connection to Northland to submit 3 poems, each preferably no longer than 20 lines, plus a two-line biographical statement. Deadline: June 14 Email:
  7. Homegrown Northland hip hop media company Low Budget Brotherhood is about to launch an ensemble music video showcasing musical wordsmiths spitting their finest rhymes. See
  8. Wild Side Publishing’s biggest update is they are publishing When the Crowd Stops Roaring by former All Black Neven MacEwan. Based in little old Ruawai, WSP are Northland’s biggest publisher of inspirational books and actively seeking submissions of inspirational memoirs and non-fiction. Check out Wild Side’s website.  
  9. Northland’s main literary festival, NorthWrite, is being put together. Stay tuned at for updates. 

10. NZSA local branch Northland Noteworthies, with thanks to Wendy Meggett for compiling this at

  • Justine Payen attended the San Francisco Writers Conference and won a picture book critique with Nikki Garcia, a New York editor for Little Brown.
  • Jac Jenkins had poems accepted by Geometry (“One Red Shoe Fallen”) and Room Magazine (“Emilie du Chatelet”), while “Hauraki” will be included in Nga Kupu Waikato
  • Lesley Marshall’s PEN article in NZ Author tells the story of journalist Nedim Turfent imprisoned in Turkey on trumped up charges.
  • Karen Phillips’ short story The Price has been accepted for an anthology with Cloud Ink Press.
  • Peter Pedrotti launched Black Sands and Toitoi at Mangawhai. 

State of the Pakeha Nation – ebook of essays by Whangarei authors

Check out this fascinating e-book of essays by Whangarei authors, State of the Pakeha Nation: Collected Waitangi Day Speeches and Essays 2006-2015

Its authors are members of Network Waitangi Whangarei, a group of church-affiliated treaty researchers with a deep interest in listening to Maori perspectives on the place of Pakeha in New Zealand.  

Read online or download the collection:


On Thursday 21 March 2019, the cringe-inducingly-named Race Relations Day* will be celebrated in Whangarei with a free public event featuring invited speakers, at Forum North’s Cafler Room at 7pm (*There is no scientific basis for race. There is only one ‘race’ of people, and all come from Africa. A more useful term is ethnicity.)

Speakers include Dr Ray Nairn who set up Kupu Taea, a group that has monitored news media for cultural bias for several years. He wrote the most recent Joan Cook Memorial Essay on the State of the Pākehā Nation for Network Waitangi Whangārei.




Write Club for Northland – Community Education Whangarei – Enrol Today – Registrations Closing

Registrations for the seven week fiction writing workshop with Community Education Whangarei are about to close. 

This course just needs another five people to run  – it’s half full. 

It’s ideal for people who are beginner to intermediate level writers. Whatsmore, you meet and bond with a supportive group so you feel less alone.

Please urgently register with Shona Hill at CEW at Kamo High School today or over the weekend if you’d like to jump in the class. $85. 



Wed 6-8pm, starts 27 Feb, 7 weeks $85
Behind every film, book, TV show, great
speech, news report and website lies fictional
storytelling, in which words are pulled from the
ordinary and turned into something extraordinary. Our tutor, Michael Botur, is a much published author of novels, short stories, poetry
and journalism. Every week you will be encouraged to produce a fresh piece of creative
writing and by the end of the course you can
publish with your fellow students – a book? A
website? We’ll discuss. Join this class and let
Michael introduce you to the world of fiction.
Course ID: A430
Tutor: Michael Botur


Shona Hill

ACE Co-ordinator | Community Education Whangarei 

 PO Box 4137, Kamo, 0141 |Wilkinson Ave, Kamo, Whangarei
P: 09 435 0889 |  W: | E:



Attn: Northland authors – writing competitions and calls for submission

Here are six good writing competitions and calls for submission all Northlanders should strive to succeed in.

Let’s get lots of Tai Tokerau talent in the mix. Why not share the draft of your work with a supportive Northland writer then smash out the competition.


Check out ‘Streccano’ by Bill Leonard of Whangarei


Bio supplied by the author…

“Bill Leonard was born in a log cabin in the wilds of Miami Beach, the son of a flying-saucer repairman and an attaché to the government of Bulimia. Disenchanted with the Evil Empire from a young, impressionable age, he set his sights on New Zealand as the result of David Lange’s stand against the Americans. In attempts at Permanent Residence , he got in on the 2nd try whilst the Immigration officer had gone to have a pee.
Literary history, such as it is:
Stickno Bill’s Guide to Complete Fulfilment (2008) paperback, staple-bound. Bill sold 35 copies of the humour book in 23 hours, door-to-door in Auckland, and a few at markets and expositions. Diamonds & Rats (2013) e-novel, no staples. Distributed through meBooks and Amazon. The author is still in the red. Diamonds & Rats (2018) paperback, professionally bound. Baseball, sex, love, humour, and things being blown up.
Streccano (2018) paperback, professionally bound. Not particularly funny, but there are a few pleasant lines amidst the worldwide (52% Aotearoa-based) mayhem.
The author brushes after every meal.”


Sample from Streccano

26th June 11:00 p.m. N.Z.S.T.
Auckland, New Zealand
Radio New Zealand News (transcript, excerpt)
Deloitte: “Radio New Zealand News, I’m Samuel Deloitte. Two men are dead in Whangarei after an incident involving a blue alien. Simon Ngerope has that story.”
Ngerope: “Police were called to a block of shops in Maunu Road near State Highway 1 at
about 9:30 this evening where they found 2 men dead, 1 of them allegedly the victim of a blue alien. According to witnesses, 23-year-old Martin Skye — who was wearing a T-shirt depicting a blue alien and the words “Foe……..or Friend” was stopped by 32-year-old Dougal Fitzroy of Hupara and asked if Skye was an animal rights supporter. He was then knocked to the ground by Fitzroy and kicked. Two local residents tried to intervene but Fitzroy threatened them with a tyre iron. Fitzroy, who was an employee at the freezing works in Moerewa near Kawakawa until the invasion, then struck Skye with the tyre iron and continued to kick him. He then fled in his truck eastward along Maunu Road but was stopped by an alien which witnesses say flipped the vehicle upside down, pulled Fitzroy out of the window and kicked him to death. An unidentified woman is in Whangarei Hospital after suffering a stroke. She was witness to the beating of Skye by Fitzroy. Police have closed off Maunu Road from Porowini Avenue to Highway 1 and have given no indication when those roads — when that road — will re-open.”
Deloitte: “It is 1 of the 1st incidences in the world of the death of a human being avenged by an alien.”

Northland creative writing news updates – January 2019

Bits of Northland creative writing news from our peninsula:



*** New publishing cooperative – who would like to be part? ***

NZ Society of Authors members have been discussing forming a publishing cooperative and could use specialists in manuscript assessment, promotion, covers, printing, distribution and more. Let’s get a conversation going. Post your contribution at