Under Pahia Hill


Cosy Nook. A sudden whiff of seal
            sharpens the wind.
You watch from the crook of the hill
       seas upon seas hit
    the harbour entrance.
To make it home here, takes practice.

At the quiet centre of the cove
            a small boy, look,
has deftly boated one more fish.
     His right arm rises,
   and falls, just once, making
one blow count. This too takes practice.

Beaten back downwind, white-fronted terns
           beat back, upwind,
hunting and hunting again for
     the gale's least flaw, where
   every wing-beat needs to count.
To make your home here takes practice.

Photo by Jill Milne

Alan Roddick had poems accepted by Landfall at the end of his last school year and went on to have work printed in literary magazines and poetry yearbooks. His first collection, The Eye Corrects, was published in 1967 by Blackwood and Janet Paul, but after writing only a few more poems he found that he and his muse had parted.

Over the next thirty years, in his spare time from dentistry, family and DIY, he took on a number of literary tasks—sitting on the State Literary Fund Advisory Committee, editing the monthly radio programme Poetry (1968–69 and 1973–74), and writing a monograph on the work of Allen Curnow (Oxford University Press, 1980). Since 1973 he has been the late Charles Brasch’s literary executor, editing three collections of his poems, most recently Charles Brasch Selected Poems in 2015 (Otago University Press). Roddick has also been the editor of the New Zealand Dental Journal.

In 2007 he spent a week on board the Breaksea Girl in Dusky and Doubtful Sounds as part of the Caselberg Trust’s Fiordland Residency, in the company of painters and poets, a jeweller and a composer, and found himself writing poems again. His new collection in 2016, Getting It Right,  was followed six years later by Next: Poems 2016-2021 (both from Otago University Press). Working with Wellington writer Natasha Templeton, he has also made a new translation of Aleksandr Blok’s masterpiece The Twelve (Cold Hub Press, 2021).

Alan Roddick lives in Dunedin.


Alan comments: 'Cosy Nook is a tiny cove on the rocky shores of Southland, 20 kilometres west of Riverton. It has a few fishing huts and boat ramps, and the harbour entrance looks straight into the southerlies from the sub-Antarctic.

I wrote "Under Pahia Hill" in 1975, but the syllabic discipline was unfamiliar to me and its third stanza didn’t work. I went back to the poem again in 2019 and eventually learned how to get it right.'

​Poem source details >



Alan Roddick reading 'A Steady Hand' (2022)

Interview with Alan Roddick at RNZ (2022)