Coming of age in New Zealand film

Setting the scene

The shot pans over a barren

a dark shape on the horizon
   enlarges   and becomes
a girl

Her clothes are daggy
she is not self-conscious

      Her family
is small          but close

if she has two parents
really matters

The wolf

She is minding her own business
doing whatever
is it    that girls do
   even weird girls like her

When the stranger strides in
larger   than   life
                  And there they are now
                  talking to Mum
                                             or Dad

the stranger
and finds them
                  strangerly attractive
      both at once

No wonder she is confused

         She begins to rebel

There goes innocence

She has reached menarche
      she reaches down
   and finds her fingertips
         are red and sticky

She refuses to accept this

but finds she is uncontrollably drawn to lipstick
and mirrors
and possibly boys

         She may see
         one or other
         of her parents
         having sex with the stranger

maybe through a partially opened doorway

She will probably run away

         The woman
         will scream as she climaxes

Happy endings

Her family pulls together
   as they sometimes do
         in times of

         The stranger is expelled
                        flung out

            oil and water
            chalk and cheese

The girl
      who is almost a woman
is embraced       like a child

         because by the end of the movie

somebody is dead

LISTEN to ‘Coming of age in New Zealand film’ by Helen Rickerby

Helen Rickerby is a poet and publisher from Wellington. She has published four collections of poetry—her most recent, Cinema, was published by Mākaro Press in 2014. She runs Seraph Press, a boutique publishing company with a growing reputation for publishing high-quality poetry books, and she is co-managing editor of JAAM literary journal. She is currently indulging her interest in biographical poetry (about which she recently co-organised a conference at Victoria University of Wellington) by writing prose poetry about George Eliot.

Rickerby comments: ‘“Coming of age in New Zealand film” was published in Cinema, which, as you might expect, contains poems that were inspired by films and film-making; though I actually wrote this poem quite some time before I had the thematic idea for the collection. I’d been thinking about a bunch of New Zealand films I’d seen recently that all told the same archetypal story, a New-Zealand-gothic coming of age, though in different ways and places and times. I guess I’m interested in exploring (though am often frustrated by) the ways we represent ourselves, and create ourselves.’

Poem source details >



Helen Rickerby’s blog Winged Ink
Cinema at Mākaro Press
Seraph Press