new zealand electronic poetry centre

Janet Charman 

Friday 23 August 
7.30-10pm  once and for all

Janet Charman grew up in the Hutt Valley and in Taranaki and now lives in West Auckland with her partner and children. She is a poet who has no match in contemporary New Zealand poetry in her compassionate and unsentimental vision of life in the suburbs and in the family.

According to The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, she:

focuses on womenís concerns: caring for others, victimisation, literary heroines, female sexuality including lesbianism, heterosexuality, childbirth and motherhood, vocations such as midwifery and nursing.
. . . her writing displays considerable emotional range extending from sexual innuendo, to the erotic, to tenderness, or a playful wit . . . her poems are unadorned, conversational, political, yet thereís music in her subtle twists of perception.

Janet, who is now a secondary school teacher, trained as a nurse and has worked in psychiatric hospitals and in social welfare. She has also been a copywriter for radio, a tolls operator, a tutor at the University of Auckland and now also runs occasional writing classes.

She has published poems widely in Australian and New Zealand journals and anthologies and has published five collections of poetry. Her first collection, with Marina Bachmann and Sue Fitchett, was Drawing Together (Spiral; 1985). She has subsequently published 2 deaths in 1 night (New Women's Press; 1987) and  three critically acclaimed collections with Auckland University Press: red letter (1992), end of the dry (1995) and Rapunzel Rapunzel (1999), much of which she wrote during her 1997 Literary Fellowship at the University of Auckland.

Her latest, snowing down south (May 2002) vividly recalls her own childhood and captures an era both long gone and startlingly familiar. She says, "it is embroidered from stories set in a 1950s "nappy valley" outside Wellington and records the post-war suburban dream".


i take the unit
into the bulgy hills

walk from the station
through the carry me streets


has gone back something terrific

a broken car on the grass
just grass
the peeling paint
even the new part

where we went
to see next doorís

and Dad said
weíre not getting one

or the night he leant
over the fire
face buried
in folded arms

and i on the turned down mat
looked up
itís ringing in him
the toll call

my Fatherís gone

asking her
sitting in the chair
was it that?

she replied

Dadís cold


 from snowing down south Auckland UP, 2002.


© Janet Charman


Last updated 16 July, 2002