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A swarm of poets, Airini Beautrais 

Manifesto Aotearoa: 101 Political Poems
Philip Temple and Emma Neale (eds)
Otago University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780947522469

 

New Zealand poetry in English has a long and complex tradition of politically-charged work: from colonial balladeers, through 20th-century heavyweights like Allen Curnow (as himself and as Whim Wham) and James K Baxter, to more recent poets including Bill Sewell, Robert Sullivan, Dinah Hawken and Hinemoana Baker. Despite this tradition, and perhaps in line with a neo-liberal mood-shift towards individualism and consumerism, an attitude has existed in recent years that there isn’t much political content in our poetry, or that it doesn’t belong there. Sullivan, in his 2010 sequence Cassino: City of Martyrs, bluntly calls such an attitude out in the lines “New Zealand / and its official status quo disdain / for political verse as if it was anything but.” Appearing against this historical and contemporary backdrop, Philip Temple’s and Emma Neale’s Manifesto anthology is a timely and welcome project.

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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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The sliding door in the dark, Airini Beautrais

The Lonely Nude
Emily Dobson
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780864739292

Cinema
Helen Rickerby
Mākaro Press, $25.00, ISBN 9780473276485

Waha/Mouth
Hinemoana Baker
Victoria University Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780864739704

I have often wondered how far poetry can stray into the mundane, before losing its status as poetry. Although the days of poetry being synonymous with higher thoughts are long gone, risks still exist. How domestic may I be? How profane? How bodily? Emily Dobson productively explores this knife-edge in her new collection, The Lonely Nude. Dobson was Glenn Schaeffer fellow at the University of Iowa in 2005, and many of these poems were written during that time. Afterwards, we are told, they “spent several years in Emily’s wardrobe”. Here the crucial incubation must have occurred, and a polished collection has emerged.

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Raw edges of wonder, Janet Hughes

The Hill of Wool Jenny Bornholdt Victoria University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9780864736529   Thicket Anna Jackson Auckland University Press, $24.99, ISBN 9871869404826   Aloe Diana Bridge Auckland University Press, $24.99, ISBN 98718669404413   The Leaf Ride Dinah Hawken Victoria University

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Dwelling poetically, Dougal McNeill

Brainpark Anna Sanderson Victoria University Press, $29.95, ISBN 086473543X After the Dance Michele Amas Victoria University Press, $24.95, ISBN 0864735421 Secret Heart Airini Beautrais Victoria University Press, $24.95, ISBN 0864735413 The Unbelievable Lightness of Eggs: Light Poems and Verse  Bernard

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