Nina Mingya Powles

Nina Mingya Powles is the author of several poetry zines and chapbooks, including Girls of the Drift and field notes on a downpour, and Tiny Moons, a food memoir. In 2019, she founded Bitter Melon, a poetry press that publishes handmade chapbooks by Asian writers. Her debut collection of essays, Small Bodies of Water, was published by Canongate in the summer of 2021. Magnolia was a finalist for the 2020 Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the 2021 RSL Ondaatje Prize, and the New Zealand Book Awards. Originally from Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand, Nina currently lives in London.


  • Stirring. . . . Powles powerfully juxtaposes moments of social commentary with insights about language. . . . [an] intriguing collection.

    —Publishers Weekly

  • Nina Mingya Powles’ Magnolia emerges out of the scalloped terrain of cinema, portraiture, dreams, and translation in which lush decay exists alongside hunger. The seemingly distant and intimate are violently reversed, splitting flesh to reveal Shanghai as the site of an expanding record of global selfhood and home. Sharpness and lightness entombed like the ‘loam-eyed wolf-flowers’ calling back from silence, stillness, death, and life.

    —E. J. Koh, author of The Magical Language of Others and A Lesser Love

  • Rarely has a poetry book given so much to savor: in learning a language, in considering a film by Wong Kar-wai or Hayao Miyazaki, in biting a persimmon, in reading a subway map, in wandering the labyrinths of Eileen Chang’s Shanghai, flying through time and space. The language in Nina Mingya Powles’ Magnolia is so alive it generates tastes, sensations: ‘bundles of sticky rice wrapped in leaves, freshly steamed’ becomes ‘heat rising up between us.’ I long wanted to stay in the deep universe of this book after it was over.

    —Sally Wen Mao, author of Oculus

  • Nina Mingya Powles is a poet who writes with simultaneous elegance and wildness, opening up lyric moments from an astonishing range of sources—good breakfasts, bad movies, great movies, subway maps, cities and flowers, Chinese characters whose layers are peeled like ripe tangerines. I so love this poet’s appetite—for meaning, for music, for feasts figurative as well as literal, and for connections across histories too often kept separate. This book refuses tidy categories, speaking instead from a ‘mouth [that’s] a river in full bloom.

    —Chen Chen, author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities