Carbs for your ears: A conversation with poet Rose Northey

By Madeleine Smith
Jericho Rock-Archer

Could Rose Northey’s upcoming show ‘Open Your Mouth and I will Poet All Over Your Face’ have been called anything but? That’s something I’ve probably thought about too much over the last week. The answer is no. “Spaghetti Bolognese on toast on pizza for the brain” - a plethora of carbohydrates for the ears, or at least, that’s how Rose describes her one-woman gig at the Pumphouse Theatre.

I sat down with Rose before her Auckland Fringe show to discuss her leap from mechanical engineering to fulltime creative, her experience with opening the TEDx Auckland Tūmanako in 2019, and all the beautiful chaos in between.  

“I was one of those children with a runaway imagination and probably because my mother is an artist, this was encouraged. Through poetry, I can just bring all of my nuts to the brownie.”

In 2019, Rose opened the TEDxAuckland tūmanako event with three original poems. One of which, you can find here.

“When the producers approached me to open the show, it seemed like a great opportunity to perform to a very different crowd,” explains Rose. “You can so easily get into a bubble of writing for one kind of audience. It often takes a very particular type of person to attend a poetry event of their own volition. I am one of those people and love all my poetry friends dearly.”

“People came up to me afterwards and were really vocal with their reactions during the performance. That’s one of the nicest things as a performer because it’s always a give-and-take. If you’re performing your poem to a quiet crowd, there’s an inner monologue in your head saying “what am I doing wrong?”

She calls herself “a gateway poet”, having found her niche in communicating joy through her poetry, without anything getting too heavy. “I want people to leave feeling really happy, like they’ve laughed way too much.”

“There’s a stereotype associated with that. It can make people feel nervous about stepping into a situation where they could be put onto an emotional rollercoaster. If people walk away from my show thinking ‘I need to go to a poetry slam’ at any point, I would love that.”

A far cry from the poetry stage, Rose worked as a mechanical engineer for years, she was drawn to the challenges of physics and math. “The problem-solving aspect combined with the creative aspect of engineering was fascinating.” It was wasn’t until 2015 when a colleague invited her to a poetry slam.

“I was completely overwhelmed because here were these people, who were my age, performing original pieces which had both literary and theatrical elements. I walked out thinking ‘this is what I’m going to do – this is my thing’ and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

She decided to use the money she had saved that was intended to go towards travelling, to live her best life and become a fulltime poet and illustrator.

“It’s been incredible and way more sustainable than I had originally thought. Engineering is very much still my first. There’re so many things I adore about it, the challenge, the teamwork, the problem solving, but I fell in love with poetry.”

For Rose, it’s a luxury to take her imagination, and give it to someone else, if only for a night. A mental workout – “that’s the experience I like to give people when they listen to my poetry.”

Open Your Mouth and I will Poet All Over Your Face is a comedy poetry art show that will take your imagination to places that are “equal parts scary and hilarious”. Rose Northey’s poetry covers all the classic poetic movements such as getting nasty with a packet of chips, being swallowed by a demonic baby and coming to terms with toe hair. 

She shares the inner monologue of young woman who is determined to giggle at absolutely everything. 

Dates and times:

  • Thu, Mar 5 - 7:00pm
  • Fri, Mar 6 - 7:00pm