JAMES NORCLIFFE was born in Greymouth but has lived in Christchurch
most of his life. He returned to the city in 1998 after spending nearly
three years in Brunei Darussalam, a sultanate on the island of Borneo.
He has also lived for an extended period in China. He currently teaches
in the Foundation Studies Department of Lincoln University.
He has published widely in New Zealand and overseas, and in addition
to a collection of short stories The Chinese Interpreter and
four children’s novels has published three collections of poetry:
The Sportsman (Hard Echo Press), Letters to Dr Dee
(Hazard Press) shortlisted for the NZ Book Awards 1994, A Kind Of
Kingdom (Victoria University Press 1998). Rat Tickling
(Sudden Valley Press) was published in 2003.
James has twice won the NZ Poetry Society’s International prize
and he has won the Lilian Ida Smith Award and the Dunedin Library’s
Centennial Award for short fiction. He was the 2000 Burns Fellow at
the University of Otago.
As well as featuring often in NZ journals and anthologies, James has
published widely in New Zealand journals and anthologies and has appeared
in magazines and reviews in many countries, including the UK, Australia,
Canada, USA, and France.
He is a longstanding member of the Canterbury Poets Collective and
has been both a poetry and short story editor of Takahe magazine.
He has judged major poetry and short story awards for, among others,
the NZ Poetry Society, the Aoraki Festival and for Takahe,
and has been a category adviser for the Montana NZ Book Awards.
He has read his work at Festivals and occasions throughout NZ.
Norcliffe has this to say about his poem: ‘It really talks about
the subversive/destructive nature of kids. The Tom Sawyer that lurks
in hearts of smallish boys, most of whom love big bangs and many of
whom still love them when they’re grown up and should know better.
As a kid myself I lived on a hill and we (I cringe in memory) played
games in the bush that often involved destroying trees and trying albeit
unsuccessfully to kill birds with rocks. Only our ineptitude saved them.
The police came to our house once to ask whether we knew anything about
a cave-like hole dug under the road that could have collapsed on the
person who’d excavated it, or even collapsed the road itself.
I did not confess. There are references to NZ trees: olearia paniculata
is a small tree, sometimes called the golden ake ake, popular as a wind-break
or hedge plant, and I’ve conflated two similar trees lacebark
and ribbonwood (Hoheria species) that grew in the bush. Smoking of course
is the ultimate mud in your eye to the adult world.’
Poem: the kids are smoking