John Adams: Auckland poet and musician: new poetry


Poetry from Auckland poet and musician John Adams.    From his “Christmas Letter”  Adams says:-

“My second poetry collection, Rumpelstiltskin Blues, was launched in August, a joint celebration with Brandon’s birthday and mine – a total of one hundred and one years between us. Eleventy-first, as Bilbo would say. 

My band Don’t judge me has had a good year. I continue to write new songs. We’ve had gigs as far afield as Christchurch (for a judges’ conference) and we did one in the open air in the Wynyard Quarter in Auckland on a wild, wet day.”

The poetry below is as diverse as Adams’ life and and as varied and colourful as the birthday cakes in our main slider image.   There’s a salute to a colleague the late Judge Jim O’Donovan and then at the other end of the word spectrum the many-penned, naughty but nice Jacindarellas (anyone who has heard Adams performing his Trump-focused In the Locker Room will know how gentle the Jacindarellas are).

Hablo de tener

(I speak of having)

Every issue of a howl speaks shrilly

of possession of one of two kinds:

external spirit – however silly;

or loss, which is apt to straiten the mind.


To have or not to have: we make vain claim

to own rights, say of passage, or to hold

a partner, to have an axe and grind the same;

but each such promise proves oversold.


We lie inwardly, unwitting, awkward,

for all nature tends to disintegrate;

feelings and thoughts alone move heavenward,

spiritual, so not prone to carnal fate.


Shakespeare told me to note this stuff – I own

his mastery, and merely write it down.



The glass slipper fits

the girl in the cinders.

Out with the Uglies,

in with Jacinda.

John Adams


That opportune chance,

the open window,

the nation swiped left

on App Jacinda

John Adams



Although it’s tough at the top

Jacinda’s having a ball;

at the darkest hour will

her coach be vegetable

Greg Judkins


The time wasted
The time passed
The time to come
This time Jacinda

Richard Moss


Jacinda nimble

Jacinda quick

with relentless smiles

in red lipstick.

Greg Judkins


What in ‘tarnation?

Free public education!

Jacinda’s preparation 

From increased taxation. 

Ava and Cerys aged 17 and 14 – (incidentally Ava’s last day at school – ever – and on into a first year of free tertiary education)  


Jacinda Ardern 

She’s not a concern

Caused a turn 

Our PM Silver Fern 

Huia aged 14 


Jacinda Jacinda 

Adern Adern 

Whether PM or MP

Took great care of the nation 

And so education was free. 

Cathryn Monro


Little was Jacinda’s lamb

His fleece was hers to borrow.

Now everywhere that Little went

Jacinda’s clad to follow.

                        John Adams


Artisan strokes

 I’m not a religious man myself.

I’ve no idea if Brahma approves

these four-squared faces

or if Vishnu tires of working

four arms at once (I would),

or if Shiva truly wants to knock it

down and have us start again.


I like doing the devis best –

chiselling their roundness out

of hard stone

with each hammer stroke.


It’s not my job to count the cost

of the carvings. The supervisor

sends the bills: To so many

at such and such,

reduced for bulk.

At least the pay’s reliable.


Come nightfall, the frogs start croaking

in the moat, and bats dart for mosquitos.

I buy bread and a little wine.

My wife is cooking chicken in the pot.

My daughter’s learning to walk –

she makes me laugh. I pull her

onto my knee. My son taps

at a rock with my chisel,

watching me soften.


 Poem Composed Across Centuries of Drunkenness with Sporadic Cloudbursts 

for who would read a poem called  

Poem Composed in Sobriety  in an Air-conditioned Fourth-floor Hotel Room?

A fortnight shy

of seventy, I recall, years ago

in Shanghai, viewing

your centuries-old poem,

represented in English

as Poem Composed in Drunkenness

on a Rainy Night.

and now, after all

these years, I am writing back

to you, old friend. Let me tell you

it has started to rain

here in Saigon. Umbrellas

cross Nguyen Hue past the statue

of Uncle Ho. Thunder shuddering

the air, I am still affected

by an enduring inebriation.

And this much is true:

where, minutes ago, the road

was parched, taxis sprout

water-wings like water-puppet

dragons surging down the lane

from the Opera House

past the new subway

construction site but – look,

already the sky is starting

to slide blue. Elder brother

of Shanghai, like you,

I’m getting on. This hangover

is composed to shelter both of us.


Wave patterns

Lower tide. More rocks sticking out

in the lagoon. Rain comes and goes.

My balcony door opens

onto bleached turquoise

succeeding this morning’s grey.

Nineteen ships today.


A pale dog prowls

a narrow ledge skirting

the first floor of a house.


Taxis are shared, anywhere

in town costs seventy-five cents,

navigating freely, taking people

up or down the street

where their needs move.


These Pacific shores are going

about their businesses: crabs

scale rocks, fish browse

feeding grounds, locals and visitors

hover under shade in the restaurant bar.


I have no daughters and she

could be one of them:.

look at her, pulling against

an invisible leash

like some sort of Gujurati

tango that slides and yet


Her head flicks quick

for the next tack.


A traditional arrangement of sticks

tells how to find the atolls

by wave patterns. I thought Majuro

was a long way from Auckland but,

now I stop,

I find this is the same ocean;

the patterns are not all that different,

not so very different at all.


Turning the sod

(in memory of Judge Jim O’Donovan)

There are some who, when the poor sod is turned,

require breaking down. Not one of those,

Jim clings to his essential nature.

I’m bound to say, he’d say,

tethering to language

with his wilful brand of obedience,

an Irish sort of catholicism. Never bound

down, Jim was always bound to the ground.


You knew he understood the common clod,

the errant soul, desirous

of more than they could reach. Jim’s text

raised folk to ground

level, offering forgiveness freely

in his court – the O’James Version.



We decided it was time to throw

some money at the house


last summer, changed it into fives

to make it go further. And it did.


Summer turned to autumn breeze, and all

those brown notes breezed down the street.


Hands in the air, we could be mistaken

for holdup victims


or trees. Realising our losses,

and clenching too late to make more


than a fist of it, we tell lies

calculated to comfort ourselves.


Auckland based poet, musician and student, John Adams

John Adams is an Auckland writer, author of Briefcase (AUP, 2011), winner of the Jessie Mackay Prize for Best First Poetry Book published in 2011, and the Elbow Stories (Steele Roberts, 2013).  In August 2017 John  published Rumpelstiltskin Blues a second volume of poetry  John’s band  “Don’t Judge Me” (a sextet) plays original compositions, song and spoken word. “Don’t Judge Me” is available to play at private and public functions.  John Adams can be contacted at

John’s review of the Tauranga Writer’s 2016 anthology Byline, theatre performances and poetry can be found in the archives.  In the archives you will also find reviews of the launch of Rumpelstiltskin Blues and the “wild and wet” performance of Don’t Judge Me at the Viaduct, 2017.

Don’t Judge Me at the Viaduct 2017

AND WHILE YOU’RE HERE take a look at our recent videos which exemplify the spectrum of the content of ARTbop:

First a review of Nga Tama Toa: the price of citizenship the story of C Company 28 Maori Battalion 1939-45

and secondly a video of the beautiful home-based boutique vintage store created by Cindy Prior at Te Puna, Tauranga:   Cindy Lou Vintage Shoppe

And don’t forget the Affordable Art & Artisan Fair held on the last Sunday of every month at the Black Sheep Bar & Grill, Whakamarama.    A collaborative community project between ARTbop and the Black Sheep.  If you would like to exhibit your original art and/or artisan product you can contact Birgitt on

NEXT FAIR IS SUNDAY 25TH FEBRUARY 2018 11am to 3pm at the Black Sheep – see you there!



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