Iain Britton

New Zealand

My poetry is widely published in the UK, the USA and Australia and of course NZ.

Some recent publications:
Jacket, Retort Magazine, Snorkel (Aust) Drunken Boat, Harvard Review (USA) The Reader, Stride Magazine, Staple (UK) Takahe

Forthcoming - Agenda (UK) Poetry Salzburg Review (EU) Papertiger (Aust)  Bravado

Interview and a selection of poems can now be read on The Poetry Kit – Magazine 5


Once twice I saw
lined up in a small museum
that had ground to a halt
by the Tasman Sea

a number of heads

with fixed smiles
shrunken gums

a class of 4
mostly scarred

all parts of a preserved whole

yellowed and shiny like resin

designer made
like wearable art.

Once twice in the Square
Palmerston North
a head fell from a wooden pole
hit the ground and rolled
mouth open
ears tucked in
into a garden and grew over the summer
into a bush of red-headed roses.

I climbed to the summit
of Wharite twice
stamped cold feet on its head
clutched at Pleiades
and brought the whole sky down
because I wanted to

and once I looked upon my father
with his head
dead asleep

nobody was out the back
digging in the old potatoes
gone soft in his eyes.

Sing like a Vegan

I will sing like a vegan
to a blade of grass then
walk abroad in the sun

play pocket billiards
tiptoe on my neighbour’s
sacred ground.

I will repair my facial damage
hide behind sunglasses
shoepolish my skin a ditch-brown

and take to the undergrowth
on all fours
sleep on a rock on a warm day

and purr
if the sun’s stroke
is suitably tactile. I am

best seen reflected
close up in the silver pond
of a spoon

best thought of
quietly licking the milky surface
of a mirror. I will

sink into the soft fallopian jam
and float off downstream
looking inward as I go.

The Zealots

They’re shooting long-stemmed roses
in Fullujah    aiming at
tightly-petalled heads
red with heat. I

buy hapuka at the fish shop and
open my mouth and drop one in.
Everywhere the sky is
bristling with cameras

watching every move I make.
They’ve come
dressed in dust with tin-can helmets
wrap-around headbands proclaiming

they are great
kicking to fragments the lilies of the field.   
They’re here to
pock-mark the earth with bullets

an eye for an eye. I am
seen at a table beside a window
observing green oranges
swapping the colours of their coats.

The radio’s not worrying whether I’m
listening or not        it doesn’t
respond to my frequently
asked questions. Only

cameras look. The news is of a beautiful
girl last seen walking into the night
following the flight-path of an albatross
towards America...

a mother’s daughter
lost to a camera and its blindness.
I am seen
through a lens

focused    not on the girl
but on me
snapping every twitch I make.
They’re in the orchard

shooting oranges from their coats.
shouting out prayers and spitting
relying on the heroics
from a hole in the stars.

The radio tells me nothing of who they are
or what they want.  I
step off the verandah to prepare myself.
I stand tall and haka. I

hope every camera is watching    
because in the final analysis
their snapshots
could be useful.


Strange to look up and
roll my eyes over this
long green pastry pile
of hills.

Stranger even to hear
the silent flick of
feeling for tufts of wind

for me to look up
and see a force of white
faces quietly

to visualise the
superimposition of a person
turning and turning
imperceptibly stirring

to earthy breaths
from out of a dark
wet soil from deeply
buried lungs.

The turbines tick
tall flat wands
like ancient windmills

remembered by my mother
grinding through
dug-up bones
powdering the air.

Stretched out
on her wheel of fortune
spinning head up head down
head up

the wind plays the Beaufort
Scale through her hair. This
is her crucifix
for grinding

God’s power into the ground
for pushing sparks into
the cold flesh of shrines
to resurrect

the young woman
who lives behind
her closed eyes
the young woman

petalled together
like a black rose - the
one who remembers with her

chopping up memories
above the stark-grey
cold streets of a flat city
where she left

the bottled parts of her
anatomy the
anaesthetised shreds
of her thinking

where she battled
against waking on a
clean white table
amongst the remnants

of daily meals where
heads of deities
watched her from their
holy caves

guarded her from
the darkness the
night creep the touch
of unwashed hands.

They watch her still
wheeling amongst
the white farms
of turbines

pointing this way
that way
this way
protected fully

but exposed
to the open gullet
of every sun
that sets. In her

the wind still rotates
the sky arcs and
stars blackened
by nightscapes

number off across a
featureless plain.
In her
the thin bones

of my beginning
stick out
like pronged stems
splitting open

her belly. I plant
tears of salt on her skin
as if loosening my limbs
of leaves.

I look up and see her
spun-dry of clouds
a much younger woman
preserved in motion.