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Poetical philosophies, John Dennison

Song of the Ghost in the Machine  Roger Horrocks Victoria University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9780864739858 Shaggy Magpie Songs Murray Edmond Auckland University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9781869408411 Generation Kitchen Richard Reeve Otago University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9781877578922 Roger Horrocks’s Song of

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Moments of transcendence, Elizabeth Crayford

Otherwise
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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