Mary Macpherson

The photographs of Mary Macpherson – with a dash of poetry


with 8 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 2019 (On being unwilling to click I forgot my password, Massey University Press)


Short Poems of New Zealand (Beach, Hole, ed Jenny Bornholdt, VUP)


Bird Words (At Moeraki, see below. Vintage, Penguin Random House)

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook (The Friend, see below)

The Spin Off ( Palaces, Feb 2017)


Landfall May 2016  (Inward)

The Unexpected Greeness of Trees (Caselburg Trust)


Poetry New Zealand (November 2015)

Contrapasso (Issue 8, April 2015)


Te Ika (MIT 2014)

Landfall 227 Vital Signs issue (2014)

Sport 42 (2014) River and Y as X

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.


At Moeraki

Black curved swallows were everywhere

that late summer. Sleek fighter pilots

with no regard for cottages,

aerials or smart renovations,

they zoomed between roof and tree,

then out to sea and back again.

When black arrows whizzed through

the wide doors of our rented house,

it was like they’d darted through our bodies.

We felt the ocean flood the rooms.

The huge kitchen, with its green island

of steel sinks and impenetrable oven,

was no hiding place. What saved me was how

you cradled the lost fluttering ones

in your hands. On the deck, again and again,

you launched a shivering bird into the air.



One morning you instructed me

to put three birds in a poem.


‘Look – evenly spaced’, you said.

I reluctantly admitted there were


three grey birds, evenly spaced,

on a black wire. ‘A haiku perhaps?’


You grinned. Smartarse, I thought.

‘And put in the mist!’ Grey mist rolled


over the sky. For days afterwards,

I fretted about what I would put in.



Something in me believed that if we saw

the penguins, the missing harmony between us,

the birds and the ocean would be restored.

Seeing a penguin, in its solemn suit, would give us

our place of ease. One freezing afternoon,

we drove to the cliff’s edge. In the wooden hide,

carefully ignoring the other people, we lifted heavy,

metal binoculars. One penguin stood high above

the steel sea. While seals flopped in and out

of the water, and we pressed into the binoculars

until our eyes hurt, the stately bird shuffled

two steps up its cliff.



When I heard the scrabbling sound

and wheeled to see the little swallow

dancing in the woodstove’s metal firebox,

all I could think, stupidly, was

‘It looks like an astronaut.’ The squat

swollen box with its stained glass,

was the bird’s helmet, and through it

we stared at each other.



You opened the firebox door and cupped

the agitated swallow until it escaped

and flew against the glass. We placed

the dazed bird outside on the wooden table.

For a long time it sat unmoving

looking in at us. What did we look like –

two people in a rented house, pretending

they lived beside an ocean of grey brushstrokes?

All we could see was its dark bird eye.


Mary Macpherson


The Friend

Inventing a person is like finding the place

where your fire starts. First, they’ll need your house,

its bricks burning radium-red. The mother with cool

dry hands. But they need a particular hallway

with doors opening to shadowed rooms.

You must give them inchoate teenage desires:

kissing, sex, a horse, an opposite life.

Then they need music and a friend – plump,

ginger-haired with freckles – to remember later

with shame or tenderness. When the friend speaks

of holidays, boys or stones, you must know the light

that goes on or the stain that darkens the mind,

and what gets reflected  in tall windows.

Then you must give the friend opinions about apples,

walking home in the dark, their friend’s habit

of chewing their hair, and know whether your person

notices the friend noticing the chewing.


Mary Macpherson



Written by Mary Macpherson

07/03/2011 at 2:49 pm

8 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 […]

  4. […] kind of chuffed to have my poem At Moeraki featured in this handsome anthology of New Zealand writing about birds, just out from the Vintage […]

  5. Thanks Mary for sharing your beautiful poem.

    Trish Lui

    27/09/2017 at 7:57 pm

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