Waikato student Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor’s poem 'Instructions' has picked up the 'Best Poem' award at the Spinoff Review of Books Awards in New Zealand Literature.
According to The Spinoff Review of Books, ‘It’s a love story, it’s a diary, it’s a kind of quiz. It’s the best poem of 2018.’
Before stumbling upon Catherine Chidgey’s summer school Writing Studies paper at the end of her first year, Aimee had never written poetry. “I fell in love with poetry straight away, and from then on, I took as many papers as I could.”
She also won Verge’s 2017 Emerging Writer of the Year Award and the 2018 Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Essay Competition.
Now working on her Creative Writing PhD titled Place in contemporary New Zealand verse biography, Aimee aims to work with some of the exciting voices in New Zealand literature.
Instructions – by Aimee-Jane Anderson-O'Connor
1. Be fifteen. Fall in love with your best friend. This will last for five years. Collect white roses. Watch it end. (Proceed to step 3)
2. Fall in love again and know that you will always love him different. Seven years later, stay in the room when the Proclaimers play. Reclaim the local museum. The park bench. The rooftop. When he invites you to his wedding, accept. (14)
3. Get drunk. Dance with some guy that looks nothing like him. Dance until the lights come up and he can see the mascara smeared on your cheeks, the freckles on your neck, your eyes burning with spirits. When he asks if you wanna get outta there, make him wait (proceed to 5) or follow him to the taxi (4).
4. Diamonds you txt him. Spades you don’t. Pull a card. Spades. Txt him anyway. (Proceed to 7)
4a. He only txts you back when it’s cold. (8)
5. Walk into the pizza store the next day and see him there behind the counter. It is 2pm and you have your first hangover. You are wearing your work uniform which makes you look like a minimum-wage orca. Lift your chin up and give him your best migraine smoulder. When he scrawls his number on the napkin, tell him he’s seen too many John Cusack films. (Proceed to 4)
6. When the priest asks if there is any objection scrunch your toes in your shoes and look at Jesus all ripped and bleeding up there. Tell yourself that he will come to love her, that he will smile again like you remember. That if you were meant to be, you would have. Sit still. This is the only way left for you to love him.
7. Invite him over and, for once, don’t plan what you’re going to do. Swallow a screwdriver in one. Draw a blank. When he sprawls across your couch and grins at you real confident, draw another. When you go to fill in your application to enrol, draw him. (You’re an embarrassment. 9)
8. Fall for him. Hard. Ignore your friends. Hear the warning bells and fill them with shaving cream. Learn to live with the dull ringing. (16)
9. (4a). Idiot.
10. Stand up on the pew and say that his smile doesn’t reach his eyes anymore. That he speaks quietly now. Let her taffeta and lace blur as you stare right at him. Tell him that soul-mate sounds a lot like cell-mate. Tell him that you still love him. (Recede to step 3)
11. You have never successfully broken a rule. The second time hurts just as much as the first. You demand that he is entirely honest with you this time. He is. It is not enough. He learns to cry. It ends, again, and it is just as hard. (13)
12. When your first love asks you to take him back, do so. Kick Cusack to the kerb and run into his arms. Because exes trying again is not a good idea ever, except in this case. (11 for you, Miss Exceptional)
13. Write a lot of bad poetry. Ignore your better judgement and write it self-indulgent. Slam until your tongue bleeds and your throat dries and your mother buys you self-help books. (15)
14. The priest will smile and ask if anyone objects. Stand up (10). Stay seated (6).
15. One day you will forget the smell of his favourite cologne. This is a good thing. Keep writing. Eventually, you will write about something other than him. (2)
16. Make yourself smaller. Quieter. Calmer. Hate him for wanting to change you. Try to change him instead. (12)
Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor, 2018