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Barford, Serie
Writer's File

Serie Barford

Auckland - Tāmaki Makaurau
Barford, Serie
In brief
Serie (Cherie) Barford is a poet and short story writer with a strong background and interest in performance poetry. Her published poetry collections are Plea to the Spanish Lady (Hard Echo Press, 1985), Glass Canisters (Hard Echo Press, 1989), Tapa Talk (Huia, 2007), and Entangled Islands (Anahera Press 2015). She has also been published in a number of journals and anthologies, such as Whetu Moana, Niu Voices, Landfall, Poetry New Zealand, Writing the Pacific, and Best New Zealand Poems. She was awarded the Seresin Landfall Residency in 2011.


Barford, Serie (Cherie) (1960–) is a poet and short story writer with a strong background and interest in performance poetry.

She is of mixed Samoan–Palagi descent and much of her writing questions her position, as she sees it, of living on the margins. She says ‘I'm interested in exploring the stories within us and how we sustain relationships both within and between visible and invisible worlds.’

Her work is influenced by the natural world and she reacts against the idea that, in her words, ‘so many Pacific Nation diasporic offspring are growing up in urban settings that easily diminish and forget the elemental connections and atua that sustained our ancestors for thousands of years.’

Barford has a Bachelor of Arts in English and History from Auckland University (1981) and trained as a secondary school teacher. In addition to working as a teacher, she has worked in community education and run community writing workshops. During 2008 and 2009 she was involved with Project Twin Streams, an award-winning conservation project run by the Waitakere City Council to collect 'community voices'. The project culminated in a collection of community stories being incorporated into free standing installations and exhibited on bridges and cycle boardwalks surrounding the streams in the Waitakere area in West Auckland. In 2008 she received a Creative Communities grant to collect waiata and karakia (prayers) associated with Project Twin Streams and arranged for them to be recorded professionally for library archives.

Her poetry collections include Plea to the Spanish Lady (Hard Echo Press, 1985), Glass Canisters (Hard Echo Press, 1989) and Tapa Talk (Huia, 2007). Her work has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, such as Black Marks on the White Page, Atlanta Review, Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English, Niu Voices, Landfall, Poetry New Zealand, Dreadlocks, Writing the Pacific, Trout, Snorkel and Best New Zealand Poems.

Of Tapa Talk, her 2007 collection of poetry, Barford said she was inspired by her ‘time in various locations on the mainland and islands around Kanaky [New Caledonia]. I decided to explore the universe via the concept of “la teu le va”.’ Barford notes, ‘Va is the space between, the betweenness, not empty space, not space that separates but space that relates, that holds separate entities and things together in the Unity-that-is-All, the space that is context, giving meaning to things. The meanings change as the relationships/the contexts change. A well-known Samoan expression is “Ia teu le va” - Cherish/nurse/care for the va, the relationships.’

In his review of Tapa Talk in The Contemporary Pacific - A Journal of Island Affairs poet Robert Sullivan said that each individual poem is ‘lit with an emotional intelligence informed by the poet’s knowledge of Polynesian and other poetics,’ and overall, ‘Tapa Talk is a very beautiful, finely hewed, mature-minded, and attentively human collection of poems.’

Barford has performed her poetry at numerous live events, such as with Polynation (a group of poets of mixed heritage), the Brisbane Poetry Festival (2008) and at the Going West Books and Writers Festival (2008). More recently, she has appeared as part of the 'WWI Voices from the Pacific' performance, alongside musicians and spoken word poets in support of the Entangled Islands exhibition at the Auckland War Memorial Museum (2014). She participated in the 'Snowden Worldwide Readings' (2014) and the annual ‘Stars of Pasifika Poetry' event, with other Māori and Pasifika poets at Auckland Central Library (2014).

Her poetry has been recorded for Aotearoa–New Zealand Sound Archives 2004 and filmed by Ian Mune for Artsville, a TVNZ documentary series that aired in 2006. A number of her stories for children and adults have been recorded and aired on Radio NZ.

In 2011 she was awarded the Seresin Landfall Residency.

Barford's fourth collection, Entangled Islands (Anahera Press), was published in 2015.

In her review of Entangled Islands in Landfall Review Online, poet Siobhan Harvey said “This is a wonderful book, one that should bring Barford recognition as one of our finest established Pacific Island poets;” while Booksellers NZ said of the book “Entangled Islands is a stunning collection that weaves together memory with impressed images, reality and fantasy, past and present, all tangled together within her poetry and prose.”

2021, Anahera Press published her collection Sleeping with Stones, which explores moving through loss and grief into Te Ao Marama – The World of Light. Sleeping with Stones is currently shortlisted for the 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Award for Poetry.

Barford currently works as a part-time literacy teacher at Avondale College and as a freelance writer, while working on her own poetry and writing.