Karen Zelas

Karen Zelas lives in quake-struck Christchurch. A former psychiatrist and sychotherapist, she returned to university, taking creative writing papers at Canterbury University in preparation for giving up her day job. Since 2004, her poetry has been increasingly widely published within New Zealand, including in Landfall, Poetry New Zealand and Takahē, and broadcast on radio. It has also appeared in Australian ezines Snorkel and Eclecticism and recently been blogged by Interlitq (UK). Several anthologies contain her work. Her first novel Past Perfect was published by Wily Publications in 2010, and was released in ebook editions by Interactive Publications this year. Having an interest in the visual presentation of poetry, Karen participated, in April 2007, in an exhibition entitled feathers unfettered, featuring her series of poems about native birds of New Zealand. The exhibition was mounted with artist Galina Kim and quilter Sue Spigel, in Christchurch. In 2009, she was the recipient of a Creative Communities grant. Karen is editor of the anthology Crest to Crest: Impressions of Canterbury, prose and poetry (Wily Publications, 2009). For the last five years, Karen has been Fiction Editor of Takahē literary magazine and chairs the Takahē Collective Board. She is married with children, grandchildren and child-substitute: a miniature poodle.


Karen Zelas reading from Night's Glass Table at Wellington Central Library, during the IP New Zealand tour in September, 2012

Podcast of Arts on Sunday interview of Karen with Lynn Freeman.

Still standing on her head: Tuesday Poem poets' hub quotes Karen's poem 'The Weight of Calves'.

Feature by Helen Lowe on Night's Glass Table, quoting the poem 'Re-vision'.

Visit Karen's website.


My House Has Many Rooms

in which I wander. It will take a life
to complete the circuit. Refuge
where least expected, inspiration in a hook,
a nook, a look through tinted glass or eye.

Deep in the womb there is a room for you
and you and whomsoever I choose
to shelter. Sink into downy clouds.
Sip on evening’s fruity brew.
Admire the view.

The study’s full of fertile loam I tend.
Words come to feed, flit and hover,
beat wings on one another, poise sometimes
upon the page, dusting colour; filamentous
legs and pulsing thorax.

The gallery’s as long as many lives.
We glide through time, examine sepia faces,
sounds trapped in vinyl, pink leather
baby shoes, grandpa’s opera hat and glasses, all
dimly lit, yet vibrant.

For reflection, enter bathroom calm.
Still pool or steaming fall. The colour sky
in all my moods; mountains
I must climb, chasms that yawn,
by which to mark my stride.

In the bedroom, shadows scud
across a counterpane of tussock;
silhouette of hip and rib and thigh.
I lie alone where the hawk ascends. Below
the valley’s dam is full, begins to overflow.


it was not we but a raptor
dropped that bomb

knocked into submission
the yellow peril
a bald statement

hatred knew no bounds
nor fear

stories whispered (or not)
of men bent like bamboo canes
hollow            crippled

captor and captured
never again to sleep

the sleep of childhood

On Losing Her Way

No fanfare, no gods, a bloody afterglow.

In real time, in the winter of her life,
haze drifts in, wraps a comfortless cloak;
a damp sea mist, pierced by the occasional
glimmer of an anchor-light, briefly orienting.

It’s easy to mourn in winter, hearing her
groan under the weight of the past –
all the cares of the world bending,
and knowing there will be no respite,

no going back to summer lightness
with the future a fiery radiance at the end
of a long, long day.

Not remembering
the happiness.

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