Warning and consolation, Mark Houlahan

Selected Poems
Ian Wedde
Auckland University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781869408596

If you dine at Ian Wedde’s, the poetic indications are you’ll eat well. Among the many charms of this seductive, fatly packed Selected Poems are the number of food groups trailed before the reader, as if ready to serve. The pages are alive with pungent goat cheese and tinned ham, with green peppers and dolma, rice noodles with clams and mussels, February peaches, melons, oysters and a “pale jellied / half pear”. In some of Wedde’s poetry collections, food is more prominent than others, but the preoccupation with feasting on the good things of this earth is career-long. If you imagine a writer as a kind of chef, then Wedde is one with expertise from all over the writer’s menu: as cultural commentator and curator; as short story writer and the author of the great novella, Dick Seddon’s Great Dive; and, of course, as novelist. In all these genres, Wedde has prepared what Shakespeare calls a “great feast of language”; yet, if you allow the figure to extend, if genres were courses or food groups, it’s poetry that Wedde has served most regularly and faithfully, and it is Wedde’s status as a poet that this engaging volume presents to us so resonantly.

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