Night’s Glass Table

The poems in Night’s Glass Table are tight and emotionally powerful, and deal with themes such as death, grief and love.

Zelas chooses her words with care, and her poems are always eloquent and evocative. She demonstrates a sound use of conventions, and her writing is well-crafted and technically excellent.

Night’s Glass Table won the 2012 IP Picks Best First Book Award.

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The poems in Night’s Glass Table are tight and emotionally powerful, and deal with themes such as death, grief and love.

Zelas chooses her words with care, and her poems are always eloquent and evocative. She demonstrates a sound use of conventions, and her writing is well-crafted and technically excellent.

Night’s Glass Table won the 2012 IP Picks Best First Book Award.

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.


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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ISBN : 9781921869921
ISBN: 9781921869921, 9781921869914
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Page Length: 87
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Customer Reviews

1-5 of 7 reviews

  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    “A beautiful, elegant poem, with just the right balance between present and post, the concrete and a sense of the ephemeral.”
    – Helen Lowe, Tuesday Poem blog

    July 18, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    “… the mot juste to characterise these poems is the word meticulous: meticulous invocation of place, of nature and of the human heart; meticulous choice of word, the arrangement of words and of their effects; and, ultimately, meticulous in the way the poems contribute to the architecture of the book … This is a rich and evocative set, resonant with other readings, with travel and memory, but above all with Karen Zelas’s carefully wrought language and imagery, so often surprising and memorable.”
    – James Norcliffe, poet, blogger

    July 18, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    “In both compositions, glass becomes a signifier of representation, illumination and imitation. At times, dark, at times bright, these collections offer divergent ways of looking at their topic, each piecing together a concrete set of lyrical ideas composed through exquisitely used language; so that, like concept albums, Zelas’ works shape and develop unified stories, coalescent narratives. The result in both cases is a poetry collection which is truly accessible while still retaining great depth and complexity.

    Karen Zelas’ first collection, Night’s Glass Table won the 2012 IP Picks Best First Book competition, and it’s easy to see why. The poems in this book have real impact and many have previously appeared in prestigious journals here and overseas, such as Landfall, Snorkel and Interlitq (UK). The opener ‘My House Has Many Rooms’ exemplifies the rich vocabulary and evocative imagery at the heart of the work more generally.

    The external versus internal; the human versus animal; the acoustic versus the luminous; the uttered versus the unspoken; the restrained versus the liberated: it’s all intimated and explored here, succinctly so in a few tight verses. Such subject-matter forms a strong platform for what is to come. Wherever they are located — Ossetia, Moscow, Berlin, at home — the poems which stem from this opener, revivify and expand its poetic terrain.

    Sensitive, understated and linguistically precise, Night’s Glass Table is a powerful first collection. Its’ array of lyrical subheadings (…through tinted glass or eye; Deep in the womb there is a room for you….; The study’s full of fertile loam…. ), riffs off the first poem, ably display its power, its delicate punch. As a collection it offers so much sparkle, so much promise, that what the author might release next is greatly anticipated.”
    – Siobhan Harvey, The Landfall Review Online (‘Sharp Fragments’)

    July 18, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    “… a beautiful collection. Karen Zelas offers a sharp eye for detail, a skilful sense of cadence, an adept command of poetic possibilities and an astute engagement with life’s biggest question. The result is a striking yet accessible first book of poems … lucid yet edgily dark.”
    – Siobhan Harvey, poet

    July 18, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    “It’s that play between head and heart that really does typify Karen’s Zelas’ best poems.”
    – Joanna Preston, poet, blogger

    July 18, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    “I enjoyed these sharply-observed poems about relationships, travel, family, and life in post-quake Christchurch. There is a lot of poetic technique, and many years of thought, at play here.”
    – Tim Jones, Tim Jones Books

    July 18, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    “If you like your poetry full-blooded, then Night’s Glass Table is where to look. Karen Zelas’ voice is passionate, direct and spills effortlessly into song.

    A coherent poetic identity and voice takes a wry look at the (largely) urban world in which the poet lives. There is a ruthless, unsentimental honesty to much of her writing – indeed, at times, a kind of emotional nakedness seems to be apparent, as we see in the second section, “Deep in the womb there is room for you …” There is a lot of pain here, but it is pain that the poet generally seeks to understand (without any easy belief that it can be escaped or transcended) rather than to wallow in. Although fairly short, the poems achieve an air of spontaneity, such that one wants to read them repeatedly. But the best poems pack an attractive punch, whether humourous, compassionate or acerbic.

    The poet’s alertness to the process of finding her
    grandmother’s lost gravestone so perfectly expressed
    in this fine poem.

    Zelas’ poem is full of “experience”, full of her sense of
    “what is yet to come” in both the apprehension and the
    comprehension of what is implied.

    The precision of Zelas’ poems is a recurrent delight. Her real but unaffected attentiveness to detail is registered in language which makes such attentiveness evidence both of self-consciousness and, paradoxically, of a process of self-discovery.

    Zelas avoids anything excessive in either ‘fact’ or
    her response to it; certainly she refuses to see one
    as ‘truer’ than the other or to make a philosophy
    or poetics of either. In short, this is an important
    collection of a poet whose work we can expect to see
    – Patricia Prime, Takahe (Vol. 77)

    July 18, 2023

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