Topic: Keith Nunes

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Tauranga writer and poet Keith Nunes moved to Tauranga in 1991.

My name’s Keith Nunes and I came to live in Tauranga in 1991. I’ve been published in some respected poetry journals in New Zealand and a range of smaller publications and websites overseas.

I started writing when I was about 12 putting together summaries of cricket and football games. This progressed to poetry in my teens but I let it slip when I became a newspaper journalist at the Napier Daily Telegraph in 1979 at 18. I completed my three-year cadetship at the paper and then traveled overseas. During the 1980s I did little writing but plenty of traveling and moved between journalism jobs in Melbourne and around New Zealand.

During the 1990s I worked at the Press newspaper in Christchurch and started writing feature articles and book and CD reviews. I was also subbing – designing and editing feature and news pages. Still I had no time or real inclination to write poetry again although I read plenty of poetry including Fleur Adcock, Charles Bukowski, Sylvia Plath, Charles Baudelaire, Hone Tuwhare and John Berryman.

After a short trip to America I came to Tauranga in 2002 following friends who had decided to settle here from England. I got a job sub-editing and writing reviews at the Bay of Plenty Times. Unfortunately around 2005/6 I started struggling with depression and stress and this led to an alcohol problem.

I battled the problem attending Alcoholics Anonymous and drug and alcohol treatment at the Hanmer Clinic in Tauranga. After two of sobriety I slipped again and began drinking heavily. I had a nervous breakdown and left my job at the newspaper. It was then, during a spell of unemployment, that poetry launched itself back into my life.

I wrote and read poetry voraciously starting out in rhyme and after being told to let that go turning to narrative and avant garde styles. It took about 18 months to get noticed after I had sent out dozens of poems to magazines and online journals.

My first success was with Snorkel, a much lauded online journal based in Australia. They published a poem called Looking for Her about a young Italian man searching through his city for his fiancée who he finds after a day of adventure.

I sent poems out in the post and through the internet and started getting published in obscure magazines in England, Canada and the United States.

In New Zealand Blackmail Press was a supporter of my off-balance poetry and then I was lucky enough to get poems in the South Island journal Takahe (numbers 62 and 65). My biggest breakthrough I believe was when I was published in Landfall 215 (in 2008) journal one of the most respected literary journals in New Zealand. The highlight of 2009 was getting two poems in Bay of Plenty’s well-regarded literary journal Bravado. This was particularly pleasing because Bravado prints only high-class – sometimes international – poetry.

My writing continues to change and now I find myself writing quickly and that transfers to the poem which usually travels at an inordinate pace. I love to “paint a picture” with my poetry and rely on snapshot looks at a subject that lead to lines such as this:

The 50th Beard - The beard was swallowing up the moustache/the eyebrows were over-hanging the eyes/toward dusk I saw Jesus walking up Mountain Road/He gestured toward me – “Fly,” he said

I continue to send my work out all around the world and am always delighted to get published although I get more rejections than successes. Accepting you have been rejected by a publication always comes down to this for me – it doesn’t mean the poem is of no value, it just means the work didn’t appeal to the poetry editor on that day.

In 2010, I now find that I balance a more menial job with my writing. This leaves me with the intellectual energy to be inspired and write regularly and that makes me happy. I know now that I will never stop writing poetry again. It has become a reason to breathe and an exciting part of the day. When I sit down in front of the computer I travel the world in an hour or two writing anything my imagination can conjure up. It’s cathartic and escapism and it makes me feel like I have a calling. Writing poetry is pure joy for me!

Keith Nunes

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