Blog Archives

In the hybrid zones, Airini Beautrais

How To Live
Helen Rickerby
Auckland University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869409050

essa may ranapiri
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781776562374

Conventional Weapons
Tracey Slaughter
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781776562206

In a literary sense, genre is problematic. While it’s convenient to categorise texts for the purposes of libraries, book awards and so on, drawing a line between poetry and fiction, fiction and non-fiction, or poetry and essay is evidently reductive and arguably somewhat pointless. Given that poetry and fiction stem from root words meaning “to make” and “to form”, historical distinctions have been primarily formal, linked to the emergence of these modes at different points in the history of writing. After 60-odd years of poetry being dominated by free verse, in which formal divisions are based on visual more than aural units, and given the perennial ubiquity of prose poetry (something of a dubious term itself), these distinctions appear narrower and less relevant.

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

“Unlicked selves”, Hugh Roberts

Collected Poems
Fleur Adcock
Victoria University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9781776562091

“Fleur Adcock is a New Zealand poet, editor and translator who resides in Britain” – so says, blandly, the inside back flap of the dust-jacket of Victoria University Press’s imposing new Collected Poems. There’s a long, complicated history – one whose sometimes painful struggles are at times suppressed in and at others directly addressed by Adcock’s poetry – lying behind that apparently matter-of-fact description.

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Challenging, touching, persuading, Janet Hughes

How I Get Ready
Ashleigh Young
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 978176562367

The Dangerous Country Of Love And Marriage
Amy Leigh Wicks
Auckland University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869408978

To The Occupant
Emma Neale
Otago University Press, $28.00,
ISBN 9781988531687

Judging a book by its cover would not be a cliché or a hazard, if so much design talent did not go into trying to make us do exactly that. Who, faced with a display of new books, has not followed the urging of the eye, probably at the expense of worthy competitors?

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

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.

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Shocks and conversations, Mark Williams

The Friday Poem: 100 New Zealand Poems 
Steve Braunias (ed)
David Bateman, $25.00,
ISBN 9780473450281

Short Poems of New Zealand
Jenny Bornholdt (ed)
Victoria University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781776562022

Two new poetry anthologies: one featuring beautifully composed small poems selected across the New Zealand literary landscape from Arnold Wall, born in 1869, to twelve-year-old “Mary”; in the other, poems published between 2015 and 2018 that are various in length, sometimes full of delinquency, and keen to display a spikey newness.

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Literature, Poetry

Earnest but elusive, Hannah Newport-Watson

Under Glass
Gregory Kan
Auckland University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869408916

It’s common to talk about the “emotional landscape” of a book. Gregory Kan’s second poetry collection Under Glass transforms that figure of speech into something more – yet not entirely – literal. A series of prose poems unfold in a landscape described as if it were a real place, with a river, a “colossal jungle” and ground that is “dry and sandy”. We move cinematically through the landscape – to a house, to the coast, to a lighthouse like a “tiny finger thrust up against the horizon”. It is an ominous, searching journey into uncharted territory reminiscent of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which Kan cites as a key source of inspiration.

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Listening for the voice, Janet Hughes

Coming to it: Selected Poems
Sam Hunt
Potton and Burton, $30.00,
ISBN 9780947503802

Poeta: Selected and New Poems
Cilla McQueen
Otago University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781988531281

Watching for the Wingbeat: New and Selected Poems
Pat White
Cold Hub Press, $40.00,
ISBN 97804734444204

A “Selected Poems” doesn’t confer quite the accolade of a collected, with its connotations of canonisation. But the poet is more likely to have a hand in shaping it, and to be around to enjoy it; it is more likely to privilege reading pleasure; and it’s simply more likely to happen. Back when publishers were powerful arbiters and gatekeepers, a selected poems affirmed a career and a reputation. Now that there are more gates and fewer keepers, the fact of a selected probably carries less freight.

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Words uncaged, Tim Upperton

How to Defeat the Philistines David Beach, David Beach, $25.00

Winter Eyes Harry Ricketts, Victoria University Press, $25.00

A Fine Morning at Passchendaele Kevin Ireland, Steele Roberts, $25.00

Poetic forms are a bit like zoos. When I was a child, zoos had much smaller cages, and the lions and tigers and leopards would pace up and down inside them. You could see the animals, but you were also really aware of the bars on the cage. I don’t know if the animals were bored, or seething with anger. They would get to the end of the cage and turn around and pace again, and what I wanted more than anything was to see them break out of their cage. The same is true when I read a sonnet, or a villanelle, or a sestina: I’m most interested in those moments when poems chafe against the forms that constrain them. Zoos are different now, the cages are bigger, less obtrusive, and the animals have room to roam. Poetic forms are different, too. A sonnet, for instance, has 14 lines, except when it’s an American sonnet, when it might have 20, or more, or fewer. It has a volta, or turn, after the octave, except when it has no turn at all, and it follows a Petrarchan or Shakespearean rhyme scheme, with sonorous pentameters, except when it’s in loose, unrhyming couplets, like Baxter’s “Jerusalem Sonnets”.

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Shivers of emotion, Tom McLean

Dan Davin: A Field Officer’s Notebook: Selected Poems
Robert McLean (ed)
Cold Hub Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9780473430689

Robert McLean here presents an edited selection of Dan Davin’s poetry, collecting a body of verse seen as having value in itself rather than attempting a scholarly edition or detailed exegesis. A brief contextualising introduction emphasises the influence of WWII on Davin.

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Yearning and erasure, John Horrocks

He’s so MASC
Chris Tse
Auckland University Press, $30.00,
ISBN 1781869408879

The Facts
Therese Lloyd
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781776561810

Dark Days at the Oxygen Café
James Norcliffe
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781776560837

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review
Search the archive
Search by category