Michael O’Leary visited the Hawke’s Bay in Autumn for a reading and an interview on Radio Kidnappers.

Jeremy Roberts sent us this report on the visit.


From the very beginning, Michael O’Leary came across like a poet of the people – bursting with life and experience. Clutching his beloved, Irish Wolfhound-headed tokotoko Siobhan, O’Leary surged forward like a literary freight train through the dark landscape of Hawke’s Bay – loaded with his passionate poems and those of his heroes. Wearing an Irish-green t-shirt and black trousers, he cut a striking figure: a man possessed – with long, white hair streaming behind him as he gained momentum – railing against injustices in the world, while showing how big a heart he had.

Whether it was a poem about the matchstick table that his dad made in Mt Eden prison (‘Each matchstick represented a fragment of his life’), an account of a drunken Saturday night with a mate (‘Drink! Drink! Drink! With the nebulous goal, / To find the limitless mind and soul’), or John Lennon’s song / poem ‘Working Class hero’ – or Leonard Cohen’s ‘Tower of Song’, O’Leary delivered his entire set with commitment, belief, and memorable antics. Life – pure and simple – is what made this writer who he is. His dedication to poetry (which also gave birth to the wonderful Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop) is something to behold.

Michael O’Leary reading in the Hawke’s Bay, May 2021

Article copyright Jeremy Roberts

Michael O’Leary had a poem published in broadsheet, no. 27, May 2021, a special issue featuring the UK poet Richard Berengarten, who B E Turner and Michael O’Leary had published in the ESAW Mini Series. O’Leary’s sonnet is a comment on the global COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the environment and our daily lives: http://broadsheetnz.wordpress.com.

Michael O’Leary

Sonnet for the Existential Crisies # 12 & 25

Yoko Ono once wrote ‘What’s the difference?’
In the days of Love in the Time of Covid Nineteen
In the lock-down daze: what’s the difference?
I’ll tell ya the difference was vast and extreme

In our human world of technology and greed
Of dreams and nightmares, of war and peace
The earth cried out this is more of what I need
Not running everywhere at speed and pace

There are birds in the sky now, not aeroplanes
The earth responds to the gentle rain that pours
Without acidic toxins polluting her mauri, her life-force

Cars no longer clog our streets and our lanes
The earth accepts from Cloud Nine and implores
People to look again before getting back on the horse

In December 2020, ESAW released Mark Pirie’s latest rugby poem collection: Sevens. Enquiries to: mpirie@xtra.co.nz.

Title: Sevens: Rugby Poems
Author: Mark Pirie and Others
ISBN: 978-1-86942-193-9
Price: $15.00
Extent: 24 pages
Format: 149x210mm
Publication: December 2020
Publisher: Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop

About the Book

Sevens is a collection of poems on the game of rugby and its players. Included is a sequence of poems ‘Three All Black Greats’ in honour of several of New Zealand’s finest rugby players.

An addenda features seven other rugby related poems Mark Pirie has recently been sent or has published as an editor/publisher. Poets included are Tony Beyer, Margaret Jeune, Jane Matheson, Bill Sutton and C A J Williams.

The book constitutes a seven-a-side game, two halves of seven poems each or two sides made up of seven poems each.

About the Author

Mark Pirie is a Wellington poet, editor and publisher. Pirie has published several mini books previously with ESAW, a biography Tom Lawn, Mystery Forward and written or edited a number of poetry collections, including the Winter Readings series and a selection of early poems, Giving Poetry a Bad Name.


Michael O’Leary had a poem published in broadsheet, no. 26, November 2020, a special issue featuring Auckland poet and singer/songwriter Andrew Fagan. The poem is from the Epilogue to O’Leary’s novel Apocrypha Scripta. Website: http://broadsheetnz.wordpress.com.

Michael O’Leary

EPILOGUE (dreams of innocence)

From Parihaka Rapes to Starvation & Chains
From Flanders Fields to Pumped Up Veins
From Auschwitz Fires to Covid-19 Explains
That Each Generation Has Its Pains
(all de children sing) we were the coming generation
(all de children sing) we were going to be the world’s salvation
(all de children sing) now the legacy of da baby boomer
(all de children sing) is a society of the conspicuous consumer
(all de children sing) & Gen Z sadly call themselves doomer
(all de children sing) Covid-19 is the new entomber
Between the glitch and the gremlin falls the MACHINE
Between the systemic failure and you and me falls the mean
There may not be much difference between Hitler and the Pope
If we give them both a smoke of dope and a piece of rope
Hitler was a Catholic and Pope Benny was a Hitler Youth
The young idealists now join the Islamic State (good on ya mate)
And a wasteful rubbish dump of dumbed down thoughts
The opium of the people, a penny for the old guy of yer thoughts
(all de children sing) it so often ends in a cancerous tumour
(all de children sing) the second coming is a baseless rumour
(all de children sing) what’s the point of a song without humour
(all de children sing) no touching, no contact except by e-type ZOOMER
(all de children sing) how does it feel to be one of the beautiful people now
Refrain: Cuesto obrigado tanta mucho que can eat it, carousel
(all de children sing) and Alex’s magic turns him from man to …
bird-wing (oozingooooozingwooooozing) out like the jam-packed
jackbooted black hole of calculated-cutoff, sick from laughing-crying
for he has had a vision of himself, a burnt out hard-case
from the Hippie generation, and to think he used to care.

Michael O’Leary has just published a new book co-authored with Christine Johnson. The publication Railway Refresh in New Zealand gives a pictorial history of railway crockery used by NZ Railways.

The book includes many photos of the differing coffee mugs used to serve refreshments by NZ Railways. It is a fascinating read for all those who remember being served refreshments on their various railway journeys over the years.

Christine Johnson amassed a great collection of crockery and broken bits dating back to the 1890s along with historical documents.

The book is dedicated to Christine to honour the time and effort she put into researching and cataloguing NZ Railway artifacts.

The book is published by the Paekakariki Station Precinct Trust 2020, in association with ESAW (Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop).

ISBN 978-1-86942-198-4

Email for copies: Michael O’Leary olearymichael154@gmail.com.

The Unity Books Newsletter reviewed Michael O’Leary’s novel Apocrypha Scripta: A Surrealist Novel in 2020. Price $40.00. Copies available from Michael O’Leary. Email: olearymichael154@gmail.com.

“O’Leary’s wonderful novel spans the global, local, and personal. Intensely beautiful and deeply dark material is consistently tempered with superior mad-cap word-play (in various languages, te reo Maori, German, Irish etc), because O’Leary is a poet and a trickster. The writing is constantly deft and energetic, pulling the reader on and on through places, people, and extraordinary scenarios. O’Leary uses many vehicles literally and figuratively; among which are poetry, art, music, dreams, and trains. He keeps this ride careening along the tracks. Time is fluid; we can segue from the Scottish clearances to Covid seamlessly in one sentence. It is an enormously satisfying and mind-blowing novel and requires total commitment from the reader. A culmination of a life’s work so far from a fine mind with a five-dimensional view of life.
Note: This is a parallel fictional biography to the autobiography Die Bibel (Steel Roberts 2016). –Unity Books newsletter


Michael O’Leary has written a new local history book on the Paekakariki School.

An article and pohotos of the book appeared in Kapiti News. Please follow the link below: Paekākāriki School history book written by Michael O’Leary – NZ Herald

The book can be purchased from the school, the Paekākāriki Market, and the Paekakariki Station Museum for $30.

ESAW has published two more mini books by Peter Olds and Will Leadbeater in November 2020 in the relaunched ESAW Mini Book series that publisher Michael O’Leary says will stop at No. 50. He plans more final titles in the series by himself and others in the near future.

Cover photo by Anne-Marie Davis

Title: Soup & Toast (No. 48)
Author: Peter Olds
ISBN 978-1-86942-197-7
Extent: 20 pages
Format: A6
Publication: November 2020
Publisher: Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop

About the Book

New poems from the well known New Zealand poet Peter Olds, focusing on Dunedin life and memories of past literary people.

Title: The Thirty Four Lyrics (No. 41)
Author: Will Leadbeater
ISBN 978-1-86942-196-0
Extent: 20 pages
Format: A6
Publication: November 2020
Publisher: Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop

About the Book

Love lyrics from Auckland poet Will Leadbeater.

Cover photo of the author as
a young artist

Michael O’Leary reports on the NZ Poet Laureate inauguration in which he was an invited guest to attend the special event in Aotearoa:

David Eggleton was inaugurated as New Zealand’s poet laureate at Matahiwi Marae in Hawke’s Bay on Saturday, 10th October 2020. Having been called on to the marae with the karanga, David and his fellow support poets Jenny Powell, Michael O’Leary (of PANZA) and Kay McKenzie Cooke responded by reading poetry and singing waiata. Also present were members of David’s whānau.

Each Laureate receives their own tokotoko, or carved orator’s stick, which symbolises their authority and status, and an honorarium. The tokotoko is paired with the matua, or “parent tokotoko” which travelled to Eggleton’s ceremony under the guardianship of Peter Ireland, and which is retained and displayed by the National Library to signify their joint guardianship of the award with Ngāti Kahungunu. The tokotoko are created by Hawke’s Bay artist Jacob Scott, with the matua carved from black amire and containing a poem by the late Hone Tuwhare, the 1999-2001 Laureate, who had several links with Matahiwi.

Later in the evening Eggleton performed at Toitoi, Hawke’s Bay Arts & Events Centre, with his fellow poets to an appreciative audience. Then, Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library Chris Szekely announced Eggleton’s tenure would be extended for a further year. Szekely said it was only fair to give Eggleton more time after the ability of the Laureate to deliver live onsite performances around the country was compromised by the COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing requirements.

“David has been delivering brilliantly through online channels,” he said. “However, for someone who is known as an outstanding live performance poet, it was particularly unfortunate that this aspect has been impacted by the pandemic.” David Eggleton expressed his gratitude and said in his estimation the poet is an essential worker: “Poems help the world go around, and I am grateful for this opportunity to get up, get out and sock the beachball of poetry about for a while longer in my role as New Zealand’s Poet Laureate.”

The Poet Laureate Award has been bestowed since 1996, originally by Te Mata Estate Winery to recognise an accomplished and highly-regarded poet who can advocate for New Zealand poetry and inspire current and future readers and writers of poetry. Poet Laureates are appointed to advocate and be a public presence for New Zealand poetry normally over a two-year term by Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa National Library of New Zealand. Based on the tradition of the Poet Laureate of the UK receiving a “Butt of Sack” the New Zealand Poet Laureate also receives a stipend of wine from Te Mata Estate.

On Sunday, the day of leaving, the local tangata whenua welcomed the guests again, this time for a breakfast and a poroporoaki which made the event formally closed after which some of us flew to Auckland in time to get the flight back to Wellington, a true poetic way of ending.

Tā te rangatira tana kai he kōrero

Article © Michael O’Leary, from Poetry Notes [Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa Newsletter], Spring 2020

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is david-eggleton.jpg
Poet Laureate David Eggleton
(photo by David Mackenzie)

In November 2020, ESAW released Mark Pirie’s photo and graphic art book Folk Punk. It continues ESAW’s series of art books that includes Nigel Yates, Nigel Brown, Wayne Seyb, Michael O’Leary and Margaret Jeune.

Title: Folk Punk: Selected Photos, Artworks and Drawings 1985-2020
Author: Mark Pirie
ISBN: 978-1-86942-192-2
Price: $30.00
Extent: 94 pages
Format: 149x210mm
Publication: November 2020
Publisher: Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop

About the Book

Folk Punk is the first of two volumes collecting the work of Mark Pirie as an artist and book designer. Volume One, Folk Punk, contains a selection of his photography 1985-2020 plus illustrations/artworks and drawings of Pirie’s music influences as a poet: Bono, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Anthony Kiedis, David Bowie, Sammy Hagar and Kurt Cobain.

The book complements his poetry oeuvre and also gives portraits of other writers, performers or musicians who have been important to his work and life as an editor and publisher over the years, including Michael O’Leary, Alistair and Meg Campbell, Andrew Fagan, Bill Direen and Alistair Paterson.

About the Artist

Mark Pirie is a Wellington poet, editor and publisher. Pirie has published several mini books previously with ESAW, a biography Tom Lawn, Mystery Forward and written or edited a number of poetry collections, including the Winter Readings series and a selection of early poems, Giving Poetry a Bad Name. This is his first art book.