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Wrenching love, Harry Ricketts

Boundaries: People and Places of Central Otago
Brian Turner (Steve Calveley photographer)
Godwit, $45.00,
ISBN 9781775538318

Early in this composite prose-poetry miscellany about Central Otago, Brian Turner quotes with approval from the English poet Edward Thomas’s “The Mountain Chapel”: “When gods were young / This wind was old.” Which is apt, as Turner could be seen as a kind of local literary descendant of Thomas. (Thomas died from a bomb-blast at Arras on Easter Monday exactly a hundred years ago.) Both are born-again countrymen, chroniclers and champions of vanishing rural worlds. Both have a powerful “retrospectroscope”, as Turner calls it, through which to stare at past and present. Their poems offer a tough celebration of the natural world and its processes, also a downbeat, dented lyricism. Both are blessed, or plagued, by an honesty others sometimes find awkward. Such analogies can be pushed too far, but this one helps to pinpoint something of what makes Turner so distinctive a voice and presence among contemporary New Zealand writers.

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Reeling them in

Editorial It’s been a year since Peppercorn Press and New Zealand Books Pukapuka Aotearoa launched Hooked on NZ Books, www.hookedonbooks.org.nz, a website designed to encourage, nurture and publish young reviewers reading New Zealand books. During our first year, Hooked on NZ Books has supported that online

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Issue 115 — Editorial

Taking it personally Recent conversations about the state of reviewing in New Zealand have been dominated by demands, sometimes pleas, that reviewers be brave and honest. Of course. We, too, at New Zealand Books Pukapuka Aotearoa look for bravery and

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Mingling the sacred and the profane, Martin Edmond

The Penguin Book of New Zealand War Writing
Harry Ricketts and Gavin McLean (eds)
Penguin Books, $65.00, ISBN 9780143573098

Oddly enough – or perhaps not – when this book arrived at my door I remembered one of the more arcane customs recorded in Te Rangi Hiroa’s The Coming of the Māori: “Warriors before setting out on a military campaign,” he writes, “each in turn bit (ngau) the cross beam (paepae) of the latrine.” These were cliff-side toilets in hill forts and the cross beam was what you held onto while you shat into the void below. There was a strong tapu upon it, to prevent the theft of faecal matter for the purposes of sorcery; and the ceremony of the biting of the bar was attended by a tohunga chanting karakia considered protective of Te Hokowhitu a Tu as they went off to make war.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review and War

Editorial — Issue 110

Obligatory piety

We don’t know whether, like us, others are feeling a certain uneasiness at the direction the WWI/Anzac centenary commemorations (often celebrations) are taking. That the platoons of books regularly pouring off the presses, here and overseas, that the many WWI websites and other online aids are potentially making readers better informed about what actually happened is good. That many, as a result, have been led to explore their genealogy or whakapapa is valuable. It is worthwhile to learn under what circumstances at Gallipoli or Passchendaele, in Egypt or elsewhere your great grandfather, your great great uncle or your distant cousin died or was wounded. It is rewarding to read their letters or diaries, if these survive. It is important to reaffirm that history did not begin with your own birth, that it’s not all just “back in the day”, some timeless zone called Who Cares? A country without a sense of history, a country without cultural memory, is a country with Alzheimer’s.

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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

eSensual readings, Murray Bramwell

Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page
Siobhan Harvey, James Norcliffe and Harry Ricketts (eds)
Godwit, $45.00, ISBN 9781775534594

So what makes poems essential? In their introduction to this most appealing collection, the three editors mull over the problem of their own title. Actually it is not their title, but a reprise of an earlier Godwit collection also called Essential New Zealand Poems.

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Yesterday today, Glyn Harper

How We Remember: New Zealanders and the First World War
Charles Ferrall and Harry Ricketts (eds)
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9780864739353

With the centenary of WWI now upon us, a flood of books on New Zealand’s role in that conflict can be expected. The first of these appeared in late 2013, and this trend will continue for the next few years. Amongst the books on offer in 2014 is How We Remember: New Zealanders and the First World War edited by Charles Ferrall and Harry Ricketts. Few of the publications that will appear over the coming years will match How We Remember for its diversity or its insights.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Sociology and War

Editorial — Issue 105

Something old, something new Between us, we have noticed – with a progression of interest, appetite, and increasing alarm, rather swiftly replaced by boredom – a growing body of new novels that look very much like the old. Sequels, prequels,

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Editorial — Issue 103

Opening up the archive We’re starting to feel a little sheepish about the milestones we keep reaching. This is our third and fourth in less than three years. Still, here we go: with this – our 103rd issue – we’re

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