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Jewels and binoculars, Murray Bramwell

Blood Ties: New and Selected Poems 1963–2016
Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
Canterbury University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781927145883

Dylan Junkie
Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
Mākaro Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780994137807

It is a harsh fact that we live in a world where there is far more published poetry than people willing or able to read it. Over the past 50 years, poetry has ceased to be a common currency. It is less often a core component of literary studies in either high-school or university curricula. For most people, poetry has become esoteric and increasingly formidable. Few nowadays have ever read more than a handful of poems, let alone committed lines to memory. There are many reasons for this. A significant one is that since the 1960s some of the best poetry has gone to live in Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song”; the canon is now plugged into the body electric. Of course, lyrics still matter for people, but only when encased in melody and beats.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

Love and war, Murray Bramwell

Love as a Stranger
Owen Marshall
Vintage, $38.00, ISBN 9781775538578

The Antipodeans
Greg McGee
Upstart Press, $38.00, ISBN 9781927262030

In his captivating new novel, Love as a Stranger, Owen Marshall immediately greets the reader with portents. The epigraph quotes the 17th-century dramatist and poet, Pedro Calderon de la Barca: “When love is not madness, it is not love.” And the opening sentence in the opening chapter, set in the present,  but located in a 19th-century Auckland cemetery, establishes with a limpid calm a story that is both pleasingly, disarmingly familiar and subtly marbled with a sinister unease:

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

Stories from nearby, Murray Bramwell

Two Girls in a Boat Emma Martin Victoria University Press, $35.00, ISBN 9780864738936 Tough Amy Head Victoria University Press, $28.00, ISBN 9780864736987 Tales from the Netherworld Jo Randerson Steele Roberts, $25.00, ISBN 9781877577888 One of the many pleasures of reading

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Posted in Literature, Review and Short stories

Memory and oxo cubes, Murray Bramwell

The Little Enemy Nicholas Reid Steele Roberts, $29.95, ISBN 9781877577512 A Man Runs into a Woman Sarah Jane Barnett Hue and Cry Press, $25.00, ISBN 9780473213992 The Same as Yes Joan Fleming Victoria University Press, $28.00, ISBN 9780864736987 These three

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

Something nobody counted on, Murray Bramwell

Travesty  Mike Johnson (graphic art, Darren Sheehan) Titus Books, $39.00, ISBN 9781877441134   Fosterling Emma Neale Vintage, $29.99, ISBN 9781869794859   Wulf Hamish Clayton Penguin Books, $30.00, ISBN 9780143206491   Like many futuristic nightmares, the naming of the nihilistic Gaia

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

Through the unknown, remembered gate, Murray Bramwell

South-West of Eden: A Memoir 1932-1956 C K Stead Auckland University Press, $45.00, ISBN 9781869404543 It was T S Eliot in “East Coker” who wrote: “In my beginning is my end.” In a quite different, earlier poem, he produced the

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

Life cycles, Murray Bramwell

  Somebody Loves Us All Damien Wilkins Victoria University Press, $38.00, ISBN 9780864736161 The title of Damien Wilkins’ sixth novel, Somebody Loves Us All, comes from a line by the American poet Elizabeth Bishop. The poem is called “Filling Station”

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Prizes and short shrifts, Murray Bramwell

Prizes: Selected Short Stories Janet Frame  Vintage, $34.99, ISBN 9781869791131 His Best Stories  Witi Ihimaera Raupo, $ 30.00, ISBN 9780143010906 Essential New Zealand Short Stories  Owen Marshall (ed) Vintage, $40.00, ISBN 97818697791285 There is something unexpectedly but suitably upbeat about

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Posted in Literature, Review and Short stories

The mystery writer, Murray Bramwell

Ngaio Marsh: Her Life in Crime Joanne Drayton HarperCollins, $59.99, ISBN 9781869506353   Whatever it was that impelled Ngaio Marsh, at the age of 36, to purchase six exercise books and a handful of pencils and go back to her

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Posted in Biography, Non-fiction and Review
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