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Wednesday 26 April 2023 10:51am

Robyn Maree Pickens

TUNG cover websiteThe book

Tung is the keenly anticipated debut collection from award-winning Ōtepoti-Dunedin poet, Robyn Maree Pickens. Earth-centred and life-affirming, these poems offer sustenance and repair to a planet in the grips of a socio-ecological crisis.

Pickens is an eco-pioneer of words, attuned to the fine murmurings of the earth and to the louder sound and content of human languages (English, Spanish, Japanese and Finnish). She finds and draws out the beauty in both. Hers is a unique response, linguistically rich and innovative, pushing at received notions, challenging the zeitgeist, alive with innovative typographic and sonic creativity.

Tung is not afraid of new shapes or new rhythms, orchestrating a gorgeous score that testifies to the shared relationship between the human and non-human worlds. Over the roar and the din, Robyn Maree Pickens creates her sound. And it sounds like hope.


Robyn Maree Pickens is a poet and art writer who lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin. Her work has been published in numerous online and print publications in Aotearoa and beyond, including Landfall, Empty Mirror, Into the Void, SAND Berlin, Cordite and the Brotherton Poetry Prize Anthology (Carcanet Press, 2020). In 2018 she won the takahē Monica Taylor Poetry Prize, and was also a finalist in the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize judged by Eileen Myles. In 2020 she was longlisted for two US-based poetry prizes: the Palette Emerging Poet Prize and the 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest. That same year she was shortlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize (Ireland). In 2021, Robyn was placed second in the Vallum Poetry Award (Canada), and won the IWW Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems. In early 2020, Robyn was awarded the Saari Residence in Finland. Robyn Maree Pickens has twice – in 2019 and 2021 – been a runner-up for the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award for a complete manuscript. She holds a master's degree in art history and a PhD in English (ecopoetics). Tung is her first published collection.

Publication details

Paperback, 230 x 150mm
ISBN 9781990048609, $25
In-store: 10 August 2023

Review and interviews

Tung included in Newsroom's Top 10 Poetry Collections of 2023: 'What is beautiful, and present throughout, are equivalences between the human and more-than-human. The fate of disappearing butterflies is linked with the struggles of the lonely, the chronically ill or the vulnerable in ways that beg rereading.' – Erena Shingade Read

Tung on the New Zealand Fiction Bestseller List  (13th to 19th August) Read

Extract: 'Praise the warming world (Try to) extracted for Kete Books Read

Video: Robyn Maree Pickens reading 'Eridanus the river' for National Poetry Day Watch

Review: ''Pickens nimbly interleaves big-picture issues, such as the degradation of our shared environment, with fragments of intimate experience ... Tung resonates in an energising way, making the familiar strange and the strange familiar.'  – Amber French reviews Tung for North & South Magazine (September Issue)  Read

Interview:  Robyn Maree Pickens speaks to Jeff Harford on Write Spot, OAR FM Listen

Review:' This is an urgent and poignant collection from a poet who has been called an "eco-pioneer of words". And while the collection is a song for our planet in peril, the title Tung indicates the world of sound and possibility that Pickens offers in these pages. The word "tung", phonetically like "tongue" and suggesting the sensuality within, also refers to a flowering tree – the first seeds of renewal, of life.' – Michelle Elvy for takahē 109 Read

Review: 'Although this book is firmly rooted in place, it is not bound by its origins, skipping over the planet both in location and languages, a salient reminder of the wholeness of the global ecosystem ... Robyn knows and invites us to remember the pulsing connection of life that we are all irrevocably a part of, no matter how much capitalism and colonisation would like us to forget.' – Eliana Gray for 1964 Magazine Issue 16  Read

Review: 'Through a cacophony of voices in art, literature, politics, science and general life, Pickens composes her distinctive song of hope ... With sensibility and skill, Tung marks the arrival of a fresh, masterful poetic voice.' – Chris Reed for NZ Booklovers Read

Review: 'She carries us to darkness, she transports us to lightness. We move from the sensual traces of a bat, honeybees, a magnolia tree to myriad global risks. She weaves strands of love and tenderness, she faces the vast and falls upon the miniature ... A kinetic poetryscape for us to navigate. A repository for hope.' – Paula Green for NZ Poetry Shelf Read

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