Kiwi poet David Eggleton reveals his inspirations
David Eggleton

David Eggleton is a poet, critic and editor of Landfall, New Zealand's longest-running literary journal. Last month he received the 2015 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry.

What's your favourite Janet Frame work and why? Owls Do Cry. Everything about Janet Frame's first novel is perfectly pitched; it's an absolute classic of world literature, bringing it all back home: elegiac and witty and dark and confronting.

Has living in Dunedin influenced the way you write? When I first shifted here, the city struck me as a miserabilist's paradise run by the Brothers Grimm – which is probably why the alternative music scene was so vibrant. Since then, gentrification has set in, both of myself and the city. So now I think my poetry's more mellow, less frenetic. And I've grown to appreciate Otago's many subtle shades of colour.

Favourite poem of all time? An echo-chamber poem made up of thousands of lines taken from many individual poets, and it would maybe resemble TS Eliot's The Waste Land. My single favourite Janet Frame poem is the short lyric "When the sun shines more years than fear", which was recited at her funeral service and which is wonderfully epigrammatic.

What draws you to poetry? I like the immediacy. Poetry is a kind of rubbish dump where anarchic recycling takes place. You get new imagery by giving old imagery a twist, or a slap. Poems are magical: reading or hearing a poem can be like gazing into a small pond and suddenly realising that it's actually an ocean – or a universe.

Do you have a muse? My inspiration derives in the first instance from my ancestors. I know I write the way I do because of where I come from – the colonial context, where my grandparents were Rotuman, Tongan, Palagi.

You had a religious upbringing. Are you still religious? No, but I'm grateful for the acoustic legacy of the King James Bible, church hymns, spirituals, sermons, preaching, and tambourines.

What's the worst job you've ever had? The worst job is one where you work for an unfair employer, or the conditions are unjust. As a New Zealander, I've been lucky enough to be able to walk away from those situations.

Career highlight so far? The many collaborations with other artists – be it film-maker, musician, choreographer, fashion designer, sculptor, cartoonist or painter. They take my text and add layers of resonance, sometimes in totally unexpected ways.

Who is your favourite New Zealander? Robin Hyde (Iris Wilkinson), a gifted, courageous and compassionate poet and wordsmith. I'm reading her World War I narrative Passport to Hell, about the scapegrace, soldier and hero Douglas Stark, at the moment.Which of your own traits do you most deplore? Procrastination. The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

Which of your own traits are you proudest of? Stickability.

Tell us something about yourself few people know. In the mid-80s, I was the stand-up drummer in a punk-skiffle band called The Membranes. I drummed on Tupperware bowls, using bamboo sticks and rubber bands. We performed about half a dozen times in obscure venues before going into an extended hiatus.

What's the best pudding on earth? A giant white meringue slathered with whipped cream, bright green kiwifruit, crescents of golden peaches and fresh strawberries. Yes, despite its flag-on-top obviousness, it's the Kiwi pavlova for me every time.