Blog Archives

Prodding the boundaries, Janet Hughes

Work 
Sarah Jane Barnett,
Hue & Cry Press, $25.00, ISBN 9780473333331

Tender Machines 
Emma Neale
Otago University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9781927322345

Soundings of Hellas 
John Davidson,
Steele Roberts, $20.00, ISBN 9781927242957

Looking out to Sea
Kevin Ireland
Steele Roberts, $20.00, ISBN 9781927242926

I’m looking at another pile of rich, rewarding collections of poetry, looking for commonalities so that I can do them some kind of justice in the allotted space. I see that Emma Neale glosses her title by quoting two poets who likened a poem to a machine. Don Paterson is deprecatory: a poem is “just a little machine for remembering itself”; while William Carlos Williams throws the possibilities wide open with another craftily small claim: “A poem is a small (or large) machine made of words”.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

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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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

“We talked and we argued to keep ourselves alive”, Tina Makereti

For Someone I Love – A Collection of Writing Arapera Blank Anton Blank Ltd, $40.00, ISBN 9780473299187 For Someone I Love is aptly titled, for the immediate impression is of the immense devotion Arapera and Pius Blank had to each

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review and Short stories

Poem — Leonard Lambert

The Enamelled Box   When they unearth the mass graves and discover the rivers of blood, or even stop to puzzle over a million lost golf-balls, may they also find medical instruments of ingenious design and exquisite precision; Let them

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Posted in Poetry

Tireless affectionate scrutiny, Michael Hulse

Being Here: Selected Poems
Vincent O’Sullivan
Victoria University Press, $40.00
ISBN 9780864739315

Let the Writer Stand
Judith Dell Panny
Steele Roberts, $30.00
ISBN 9781927242803

Vincent O’Sullivan is a writer of such prodigious gifts that the Collected Poems I can’t be alone in longing for simply isn’t feasible. In the time such an edition would take to assemble, O’Sullivan would have written another collection or two. Just as the ironic, intellectual and psychological positions of his writing routinely pre-empt and outdistance critical responses, so too his extraordinary rate of production, not only in poetry, is ceaselessly speeding away from us. So this wonderful selection, Being Here, the first attempt to showcase his whole work in poetry since the 1992 Selected Poems, will have to do for now.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

For the “object-focused”, Charlotte Simmonds

The Glass Rooster
Janis Freegard
Auckland University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869408336

The Year of Falling
Janis Freegard
Ma¯karo Press, $35.00
ISBN 9780994106575

There is more than one way
to be human
more than one way
to be abominable

A friend observes that a key difference between those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or on the autism spectrum, and the rest of the world, is object-focused attention and people-focused attention. Another friend laments that the characters she writes are criticised for being cold, and that she herself is criticised because her writing does not warm readers up. Or, at least, it does not warm people-focused people up.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

Ineludible envanishings Jane Stafford

Blanche Baughan: Selected Writings
Damian Love (ed)
Erewhon Press, $30,00
ISBN 9780473309435

It is hard work establishing and maintaining a local canon when authors vanish and books slide in and out of print. Moreover, by definition, a canon stretches over time and thus contains work that might be now unfashionable, based on a literary culture which seems odd and wordy and compromised. This is what has happened to the works of the late-19th-century writers of Māoriland. Once celebrated, quoted, excerpted for school readers, and referenced in public debate, they now languish in rare book collections or appear fitfully in digital archives. It is thus to be celebrated that newcomer Erewhon Press has issued this selection from one of Māoriland’s most interesting writers, Blanche Baughan, and done so in such an attractive, well-designed format.

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

As if shadows could whisper, Emma Neale

Dear Neil Roberts
Airini Beautrais
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780864739735

How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes
Chris Tse
Auckland University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869408183

Both collections under review here act as witness to politically charged historic events. One pivots on a suicide, one on a murder. Despite the way each book edges towards psychological release, the deaths of Joe Kum Yung and Neil Roberts unsettle still, as if shadows could whisper: “Listen: / there’s a hunger in the air. It’s reciting prophecies” (‘(Static, Spool)’, How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes).

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

Grasping for something to say, Tom McLean

Charles Brasch: Selected Poems
Alan Roddick (ed)
Otago University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781877578052

Let us begin with the face. It isn’t what you expect. On the back cover of this trim little book, a woolly-haired young man looks sideways, away from the camera’s gaze, against a backdrop of grass and sky.

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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
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