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“We talked and we argued to keep ourselves alive”, Tina Makereti

For Someone I Love – A Collection of Writing Arapera Blank Anton Blank Ltd, $40.00, ISBN 9780473299187 For Someone I Love is aptly titled, for the immediate impression is of the immense devotion Arapera and Pius Blank had to each

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review and Short stories

Poem — Leonard Lambert

The Enamelled Box   When they unearth the mass graves and discover the rivers of blood, or even stop to puzzle over a million lost golf-balls, may they also find medical instruments of ingenious design and exquisite precision; Let them

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Posted in Poetry

Tireless affectionate scrutiny, Michael Hulse

Being Here: Selected Poems
Vincent O’Sullivan
Victoria University Press, $40.00
ISBN 9780864739315

Let the Writer Stand
Judith Dell Panny
Steele Roberts, $30.00
ISBN 9781927242803

Vincent O’Sullivan is a writer of such prodigious gifts that the Collected Poems I can’t be alone in longing for simply isn’t feasible. In the time such an edition would take to assemble, O’Sullivan would have written another collection or two. Just as the ironic, intellectual and psychological positions of his writing routinely pre-empt and outdistance critical responses, so too his extraordinary rate of production, not only in poetry, is ceaselessly speeding away from us. So this wonderful selection, Being Here, the first attempt to showcase his whole work in poetry since the 1992 Selected Poems, will have to do for now.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

For the “object-focused”, Charlotte Simmonds

The Glass Rooster
Janis Freegard
Auckland University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869408336

The Year of Falling
Janis Freegard
Ma¯karo Press, $35.00
ISBN 9780994106575

There is more than one way
to be human
more than one way
to be abominable

A friend observes that a key difference between those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or on the autism spectrum, and the rest of the world, is object-focused attention and people-focused attention. Another friend laments that the characters she writes are criticised for being cold, and that she herself is criticised because her writing does not warm readers up. Or, at least, it does not warm people-focused people up.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

Ineludible envanishings Jane Stafford

Blanche Baughan: Selected Writings
Damian Love (ed)
Erewhon Press, $30,00
ISBN 9780473309435

It is hard work establishing and maintaining a local canon when authors vanish and books slide in and out of print. Moreover, by definition, a canon stretches over time and thus contains work that might be now unfashionable, based on a literary culture which seems odd and wordy and compromised. This is what has happened to the works of the late-19th-century writers of Māoriland. Once celebrated, quoted, excerpted for school readers, and referenced in public debate, they now languish in rare book collections or appear fitfully in digital archives. It is thus to be celebrated that newcomer Erewhon Press has issued this selection from one of Māoriland’s most interesting writers, Blanche Baughan, and done so in such an attractive, well-designed format.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Poetry, Review and Short stories

Grasping for something to say, Tom McLean

Charles Brasch: Selected Poems
Alan Roddick (ed)
Otago University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781877578052

Let us begin with the face. It isn’t what you expect. On the back cover of this trim little book, a woolly-haired young man looks sideways, away from the camera’s gaze, against a backdrop of grass and sky.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

As if shadows could whisper, Emma Neale

Dear Neil Roberts
Airini Beautrais
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780864739735

How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes
Chris Tse
Auckland University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869408183

Both collections under review here act as witness to politically charged historic events. One pivots on a suicide, one on a murder. Despite the way each book edges towards psychological release, the deaths of Joe Kum Yung and Neil Roberts unsettle still, as if shadows could whisper: “Listen: / there’s a hunger in the air. It’s reciting prophecies” (‘(Static, Spool)’, How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes).

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

On men of a certain age, John Horrocks

The Conch Trumpet
David Eggleton
Otago University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781877578939

Wonky Optics
Geoff Cochrane
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780864739810

Half Dark
Harry Ricketts
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780864739841

Feeding the Birds
Kevin Ireland
Steele Roberts, $20.00,
ISBN 9781927242810

The job of reviewing poetry may one day be redundant. A neural-net programme could conceivably learn enough from previous responses to collections of poetry to make critical judgements, even write passable poetry. A large data set would be essential. Harry Ricketts, Geoff Cochrane, Kevin Ireland and David Eggleton have now produced a total of 55 books of poetry, a formidable starting-point even for a computer.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

Constant fizz and playful grace, Mark Houlahan

Constant fizz and playful grace

Mark Houlahan

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

Moments of transcendence, Elizabeth Crayford

John Dennison
Auckland University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9781869408282

The Art of Excavation
Leilani Tamu
Anahera Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780473290047

Whale Years
Gregory O’Brien
Auckland University Press, $28.00,
ISBN 9781869408329

The cover of John Dennison’s Otherwise features a photograph of what at first looks like a hand-blown light bulb and which bears a striking resemblance to a human head. It is, in fact, a photograph of that scientific curiosity: a light mill. Never heard of it? Neither had I, but the second poem in this, Dennison’s first collection, “Crooke’s Radiometer”, is clearly a description of this object: “the bright form / of the skull …. a partial vacuum …. a spike, / obsessive pivot around which the vanes hum”. Invented in 1873, a light mill consists of a set of vanes in a partial vacuum which rotate when exposed to light. To the lay person, a seeming anomaly, an impossibility: a perpetual motion engine; for scientific explanations, see Dr Google.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review
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