Mary Macpherson

The photographs of Mary Macpherson – with a dash of poetry


with 5 comments


My poetry has been published in literary and online journals in New Zealand and Australia. My most recent outings are:


Poetry New Zealand Yearbook (The Friend)

The Spin Off ( Palaces, Feb 2017)


Landfall May 2016  (Inward, see below)

The Unexpected Greeness of Trees (anthology)


Poetry New Zealand (November 2015)

Contrapasso (Issue 8, April 2015)


Te Ika (MIT 2014)

Landfall 227 Vital Signs issue (2014)

Sport 42 (2014) including the poem Y as X (see below)

My poem Defence of the Leaf was highly commended in the 2014 Caselburg competition.


Landfall 226 Heaven and Hell issue (pub Nov 2013) (Exit)

Transnational Review (May 2013, pub Flinders University, Australia) (Notes about what I meant See below)

Other work

Here’s a link to three poems published in the online journal Trout.

Hue and Cry (2012) published my poem, Litter. This work is also featured as Janis Freegard’s Tuesday poem on her blog.

My poem Bees also appeared in JAAM 30 (December 2012).

The photographic trips I make around the country sometimes lead to poems as does my interest in photographic books. Examples of this type of work can be found in Sport 35 and 36 –

My work can also be found in Millionaire’s Shortbread a joint poetry collection published by OUP (2003) and a chapbook called The Inland Eye (Pemmican Press).

This is my page on the New Zealand Book Council site –,%20Mary

To return to the blog, click here.


Y as X

When Y writes as X she thinks she should write sentences
like jabs in a boxing match, but pulled at the last minute
by a sudden funniness. How does he do that? She looks
at X’s writing and sees his sentences are often shockingly
short. X would never write a word like ‘disbenefit’, then
in a long parenthesis explain that, surprisingly, the word
does exist and how X (writing as Y) feels embarrassed
she didn’t know, and that the person who used the word
had a blocky confidence they would rise in the organisation,
so took words from the course rather than older ones
with their shabby disadvantages and how this upsets Y (X as Y)
in ways she can’t explain. Close parenthesis.

When X sees Y’s attempts to write as him, he’s startled
by the bluntness of the text. He’s become an alarmingly
savage person. Put in ‘please’ there and there, he tells Y.
And thank her. End by thanking her.

Mary Macpherson



(Janet Paul exhibition, Turnbull Library gallery)

The small room quivers

with the scissored blue knowledge

of your eyes, kindly

dragging the scene askew – coffeepot,

cows and lipstick flowers

teeter. The poet called it god speaking

through us your fast river

of celebratory decoration, land,

and eyes reflecting inward.

In seconds, breathing moistly on the glass –

lives on our backs, property elsewhere –

we riffle through jewels,

our turbulence inchoate


Mary Macpherson
Notes about what I meant

What I meant to say about the light was that

we loved it, then it changed. Taking the world

with it.

Daylight unfurled and our seeing – anything –

was adventure.


We hunted light up and down the island.

Sometimes, I thought we chased an idea of the softest

clearest light – a spring you’d find, high in the hills,

after days of walking. But, at precise times,

depending on clouds, it draped itself across roofs

and buildings like a golden cat – colours deep,

ridges in silhouette – five minutes only, before we

headed for a blinding, bleached midday. If we’d known

the principles at work, we could’ve been butchers

learning anatomy.


The new optician had a different chart. The test

was to read underlined phrases through lenses

that changed like funfair mirrors. I was to say

how hard/easy they were – except for one

in tiny type that said

how beautiful.


Once, anxious about a sky with noisy pixels, I asked A.

about the problem. He explained how a lens sees differently

to our eyes. If I were a bird, or cat, how many colours

would there be?


We rose at six to catch the early early light, its cold

wave splashing over the land, then staining

with the sun’s gold. The optician said the cells

in our eyes are the ones we’re born with – the only

ones that don’t renew. He placed a lens in front of

my right eye/left eye. “How does that look?

And that?”


“Never get used to this”, begins a poem by Derek

Walcott, referring to another subject entirely.


We threw out maps of places we’d been

and asked the sky whether this was the weather

we’d heard of

and where was the light?


After my new prescription for sight, I wrote down

the test –

the tall weeds

a landscape of snow

how melancholy.


Mary Macpherson

Written by Mary Macpherson

07/03/2011 at 2:49 pm

5 Responses

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  1. This is great, Mary. I am so pleased you are sharing all this with us, and I look forward to more.

    Mary Cresswell

    22/03/2011 at 2:12 pm

  2. Mary, have you thought of joining Tuesday Poem? Check out the hub – – my email is there if you’re interested.

    mary mccallum

    22/03/2011 at 5:28 pm

    • Thanks Mary McC. I don’t know if I’m up to it yet – but it could be something for the future. Mary M

      Mary Macpherson

      22/03/2011 at 5:30 pm

  3. […] prosperity and development that look very different to the 1960s and 70s. Macpherson, who is both a poet and a photographer,    says that this body of work is part of trying to understand her world […]

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