Sugu Pillay

Born and raised in Malaysia, Sugu Pillay has postgraduate degrees from Victoria University of Wellington and the University of London. Awarded a Creative New Zealand Grant in 1997, she completed her collection of short fiction, The Chandrasekhar Limit, which was published by The Writers Group, Auckland in 2002. In 2009, her play, Serendipity, premiered in Wellington. Her second play, Salaam Pukekohe, was co-winner of Playmarket’s 2010 Write Out Loud script development programme. A former resident of Christchurch, Sugu now lives in Wellington.


Sugu Pillay reading from Flaubert's Drum at Wellington Central Library, during the IP New Zealand tour in September, 2012

Sugu's New Zealand Book Council profile

Sugu's New Zealand Society of Authors page


Mission Bay

She steps on rotting seaweed
crunched shells bloated bells
her wet feet scoop space
a landscape the width of a glance
gulls with staring eyes
circle restlessly overhead
the heat is everywhere
even in the cool crystals
rising in the air over the sea
in daring stained glass allure
its memory embedded
in collapsing waves
memory & myth, theatrum mundi
this is how the world gets lighter
no matter what the story
of the Bay seething in its rays
its waters to the brim
& not a drop spilled

Joggers, stomach sucked in
nostrils flaring hair whistling
circle a coastline taken root
in pohutukawa red
picnickers wild with sun in their eyes
toast the good life with plastic wine
Rangitoto keeps watch
now as in Heaphy’s watercolour
not black lava, not red sky
just green, remote, forbidding
had it not witnessed The Platina
sail into the Waitemata harbour
with the Governor’s house on board?
this foreign body in its eye!

She sits down framed
by umbrageous foliage
Picasso’s beached woman
embracing the body of the sea
its fish, loaves & flotsam
eyes wide open & wanting words

In Medias Res

In tumbled sport the sea collects
stories from shore to shore
drawing in with a kiss
running out with the tide

It’s on these mythic shores
she chose to make her home
…… a vagrant, a player
who holds nothing & whom nothing holds
granted only, by a questionable sea,
to gaze at the land of (her) choice

Here, Sargon of Akkad
here, Horus, here Moses, here Karna
all set adrift by their mothers in waters
laden with the world’s stories

This could also be the shore
the boats set sail to drop triangular cakes
for fish to nibble

Ch’u Yuan’s leaping fish hum softly
flaunting tensions distributing seeds
of die gestundetete

The ancient & the now walk in step
the past collapsing over the present
I wait & wait till you
blow my mate to me

Kannaki stands in the shadows
Kovalan & Matavi exchange verses
on the enigma of clause embedded love
their delirious tongues fly across
the open wound of a cleft breast

Ilanko floats up

With bloated indignant eyeball
commands a proper telling
of the moral (sting?) in the tale

(articulation is but a plank
over the abyss)


one of life’s grenade throwers

walking into a Constable
had the good sense
to disappear in time

untidiness of purpose

if a woman is a river
he put the pain there
Joyce did

touch trope & tryst

for inferred coherence
try a flower plucked
loves me not

a persuasion of the real

we’re cells
in the body of God

what does this poem know?

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