At this year’s Winter Readings in Paekakariki, “Poetry Gees”, Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop published an anthology of the six readers (with photography by John Girdlestone), and reinstated its poetry prize.
Poetry Gees was a tribute to the pop group Bee Gees and an event marking the return of a popular poetry reading series in the Wellington region organised by HeadworX Publishers and ESAW 2003-2008.
The Earl of Seacliff Poetry Prize began in 2007, when the Earl, Michael O’Leary, awarded a prize to an emerging artist’s poem on the Poetrywall at that year’s Winter Readings taking place at the City Gallery. Evelyn Conlon, a young poet, won the prize.
Further awards were given to collections published by the Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop: Will Leadbeater 2008, Jill Chan 2009, Robin Fry 2010 and Barry Southam in 2011.
When ESAW went into hiatus, apart from a few publications in recent years, the prize also went into hiatus.
This year saw the reinstatement of the award at Winter Readings, with the Otago-based writer Jeanne Bernhardt being awarded the prize.
Jeanne read a mixture of new and old poems and was surprised and pleased to receive the award – kept secret – at the end of the event.
Other readers were Rob Hack (also MC), MaryJane Thomson reading from Lonely Earth (HeadworX), HeadworX editor Mark Pirie, Basim Furat (currently visiting New Zealand from Sudan), Siberian-born Polina Kouzminova, and ESAW publisher Michael O’Leary.
Poet and Poetry Archive co-founder Niel Wright attending the event was also acknowledged through Mark Pirie’s reading of his Bee Gees poem ‘Staying Alive II’.
(From Beattie’s Book Blog, 20 July 2016)

Winter readings 2016

Mark Pirie, Basim Furat and Michael O’Leary outside St Peter’s Hall, Paekakariki

About Jeanne Bernhardt

Jeanne Bernhardt is a former recipient of the Louis Johnson New Writers Bursary from Creative NZ in the late 1990s, and the author of 7 books, including Wood and Fast down Turk from Kilmog Press, Dunedin, and Baby is this Wonderland? and The Snow Poems/your self of lost ground from HeadworX. She was included in the ESAW mini series of poetry booklets. Painter of mountains, drawer of leaves and comix, felt maker and wood carver, likes to roam, solitude and being in nature.

Poem by Jeanne:

How is the Writer?
(words for my father)

Eleven years since you died.
I stare at things
Imagine they are broken
The centre of old rocks
Live alone

Divorce is a strange concept
A little death

Sometimes I imagine you turn up at my door,
I do not immediately invite you in,
We pause there

Assess the sky, the situation
Your car still running
It is a fleeting visit
You were in the neighbourhood, so…

Your watch and glasses still working,
Ah, I say
For time and shock

All the time in the world
But no space
I have eaten my heart
Like an adult

How are your brothers and sisters? you ask
How is the writer this morning?

Calling out through the years
And sunlight
Shadows of a gone tree

Try to be happy.


Jeanne Bernhardt


Title: DIE BIBEL being the authoritative history of Dr Michael John O’Leary, Earl of Seacliff

Author: Michael O’Leary

Publisher: Steele Roberts

Launch details: Sunday, 24th July 2016, 3pm at Paekakariki Railway Station – special launch price $30 per copy


In 1998 the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature described Michael O’Leary, the Earl of Seacliff, as a publisher, poet, novelist, performer and bookshop proprietor who has made a colourful contribution to the literary scene: “Under his Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop imprint he has published his own prolific output as well as various other writers, both alternative and main stream.”

The Companion noted that Michael’s poetry and novels explore his heritage, “the poetry more conventionally, the prose in an alternative vein which owes something to Joyce and Beckett.”

Since that time Michael has completed masters and doctoral studies in New Zealand publishing and literature at Victoria University, and has continued to write, publish and sell books from his seaside earldom at Paekakariki.

Throughout Die Bibel he often uses his poems to express his thoughts and feelings, and to pay tribute to extraordinary people and events in his life. One of many highlights is Psalm 34, ‘It’s not the leaving of Wellington’, an odyssey around the capital city.

Die Bibel is the lively, candid journey of a man who has lived a singular life in Aotearoa New Zealand and has made an indelible contribution to its literature.

Die Bibel cover.jpg

Back cover author photo (at Paekakariki Railway Station): Lindsay Rabbitt

Front cover: Nigel Brown’s portrait of the Earl of Seacliff