November 2021: More than a roof, poems about housing

In November 2021, Landing Press (that I’m part of) launched More than a roof, poems about housing. We printed 500 copies. Three weeks later we were ordering a reprint. No surprise to us – our two previous books, More of us and Somewhere a cleaner sold 700-800 copies.

 Landing Press is a not-for-profit publisher that publishes poetry that many people can enjoy, with a social edge, and that gives a voice to groups not generally heard.

 I want to give an overview of this book, and how we went about creating it, and the best way is to include the introduction from the book. So here it is.

About this book.

 Housing – everyone has something to say about it.

Here at Landing Press we know first-hand the effects of the current housing situation. Most of our team are renters and know all about high rent, insecurity of tenure, suddenly being given notice because the landlord decides to sell. Feeling that with house prices increasing rapidly, home ownership is impossible.

Those of us with houses know that by nothing more than an accident of history, we’re on the other side of the inequality divide.

But we all have the view that poetry can capture not just discouragement or rage, but also beauty, memories, small stories, and glimpses of different perspectives, in ways that many people can enjoy.

So we decided to publish a collection of poems about housing. We wanted to cover the whole range – poems about owning a house, renting, having no home, housing as a source of nostalgia and comfort, as a source of stress and fear and anger – the changing landscape of housing in Aotearoa New Zealand.

We sent out a national call for submissions. We wanted to include a diversity of voices, particularly those voices that are not usually heard, so we’ve also been working with the community/social housing sector, running workshops, and writing with and mentoring individuals.

We read nearly 450 poems. We received poems from established writers; poems handwritten and scanned by support workers or neighbours; poems from housing activists; poems from people living in caravans, cars, retirement homes, on boats. There were nostalgic poems, and poems that came with very moving personal stories. There’s so much to say about housing, and this selection is just a small part of the conversation.

There’s a saying on our website, ‘Under every stone there’s a poet.’ We love that saying, and it’s so fitting for this book – because under every iron roof, tiled roof, leaking roof, caravan roof, cardboard roof, tarpaulin, there might be a poet. Here are some of them.

Adrienne Jansen, Joan Begg, Rebecca Chester, Wesley Hollis, Roman Ratcliff
November 2021