Researcher's poetry takes flight

Book cover for a passage of yellow red birds and its author Associate Professor Robin Peace




Researcher Robin Peace, an Associate Professor with the School of People and Environment and Planning, has combined her extensive academic and recent personal experience to publish her first book of poetry.

Titled a passage of yellow red birds the book is divided into two sections. The first, addresses global issues related to her work as a geographer and social scientist such as migration, the environment and specifically birds, while the second section is more family-focused and includes poems responding to her mother’s death at age 94.

All of the poems were written in a 100-day burst in 2016, as part of a challenge she set herself, saying that while she writes “when the mood takes me” it was also essential that she stick to the rigorous schedule of writing one poem per day for the 100 days.

The final editing tasks were made more manageable having completed a stage two creative writing course via distance with lecturers Bryan Walpert and Tim Upperton from the School of English and Media Studies at Palmerston North. “From undertaking the course, the fabulous thing was that I came to understand the editing process,” she says.

After being encouraged to consider having the poems published, she approached Mākaro Press led by former School of English and Media Studies tutor Mary McCallum who first advised her to cut the collection back.

“It was a great process to cull my 100 poems back to 60,” she says. “I don’t usually do it. I write, put it aside. In this case having the publisher, Mary McCallum, also make suggestions for revisions made me rethink, challenged me to push the ideas, and the clarity harder.”

Aside from the editing process, Dr Peace also enjoyed the search for a suitable cover for the book. While the collection’s title was inspired by a poem by Emily Dickinson, the idea for the book’s cover was derived from a line by another American poet, Wendell Berry. It was then realised through the use of a sculpture study painted by New Zealand sculptor and environmentalist Bing Dawe called “Sculpture Study-Broaching, Stephens Island Wren.”

The cover image also responds to the last poem in the collection ‘This mere singing wren,’ she says.

Her poems can lie dormant before inspiration takes hold at different times of the day too. “I often write early in the morning – before I start work. Sometimes, also late at night if I am on my own. I often think about them during the night if I am awake but I don’t wake up the computer – although it is always beside the bed in case."

A passage of yellow red birds will be launched at 5.15pm on Friday November 16 at the College of Creative Arts, Block 1, on Massey University’s Wellington campus


Massey Contact Centre Mon - Fri 8:30am to 4:30pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey