Little by little, day winds down
its props, its scaffold of light.
The sun is slipped into its case,

and a woman with a basket
of washing is the last pin
holding back the curtain of night,

the tumble and the weight of it.

Joanna Preston is an Australian-born poet, editor, and freelance creative writing tutor, who lives in a rural town in Canterbury. She has an MPhil in Creative Writing from the University of Glamorgan (now the University of South Wales) and been widely published within Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas. She has edited or co-edited seven anthologies, including Leaving the Red Zone: poems from the Canterbury earthquakes (Clerestory Press, 2016) with James Norcliffe. She also served as poetry editor for takahē, and co-editor of Kokako. Her first poetry collection, The Summer King (Otago University Press, 2009), won both the inaugural Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award and the 2010 Mary Gilmore Award. Her second collection, tumble (Otago University Press, 2021), has been shortlisted for the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry in the 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Preston comments: 'I’ve always loved those transition times – darkness into daylight, or afternoon into night. How things stretch and open at dawn, or still and settle at dusk. This particular poem began, as so many do, with me wondering in ink about a word or a phrase – in this case the dead metaphor "nightfall". Looking back at my notes, the poem arrived fairly quickly at its central image, but it took me a long time of tinkering and walking away and coming back to understand where the poem needed to end. When I came to put tumble together, this poem was the obvious choice to end the collection – a voice answering back across the whole thing to the opening poem, and tying together the threads that I’d woven throughout. It also gave the book its title. Darkness and light, power and domesticity. A woman and a basket of washing, and the power to gently end everything. Or tuck it safely away until it's time to start again.'

​Poem source details >


Joanna Preston's website

Otago University Press author page

Photographer credit: Stewart Collie