I was the first of birds to sing
I sang to signal rain
the one I loved was singing
and singing once again

My wings were made of sunlight
my tail was made of frost
my song was now a warning
and now a song of love

I sang upon a postage stamp
I sang upon your coins
but money courted beauty
you could not see the joins

Where are you when you vanish?
Where are you when you’re found?
I’m made of greed and anguish
a feather on the ground


I lived among you once
and now I can’t be found
I’m made of things that vanish
a feather on the ground


Bill Manhire founded the creative writing programme at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, which about 21 years ago morphed into the International Institute of Modern Letters. His new book Wow is published by Victoria University Press in New Zealand and Carcanet in the UK.

Manhire comments: '"Huia" is the opening ­– tone-setting – poem in Wow. It began life as part of a commission to me and Gareth Farr for a new group of New Zealand bird-songs for piano and voice. The commission was from the baritone Julian van Mellaerts; you can hear him performing and introducing the songs here. "Huia" was also the Guardian’s Poem of the Week, with a thoughtful commentary by Carol Rumens.'

​Poem source details >


Bill Manhire in conversation with John Campbell at Word Christchurch to mark the publication of Wow

Paula Green reviews Wow  

Anna Jackson reviews Wow

Harry Ricketts reviews Wow

Chris Tse reviews Wow

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Twitter: @pacificraft

Photographer credit: Ebony Lamb Photographer