Blog Archives

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”.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Full fathom five, Kevin Ireland

My Father’s Island: A Memoir Adam Dudding Victoria University Press, $35.00 ISBN 9781776560820 When Edmund Gosse pioneered a new category of personal, interrogating biography, with Father and Son (1907), he framed painful questions and set down intimate dilemmas that won

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

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, Review

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, Review

Good returns, Cilla McQueen

Table Talk Kevin Ireland Cape Catley, $25.99, ISBN 9781877340246 Africa Alistair Paterson Puriri Press, $36.00, ISBN 9780908943364 The Lakes of Mars Chris Orsman Auckland University Press, $24.99, ISBN 9781869404086 The Worm in the Tequila Geoff Cochrane Victoria University Press, $25.00,

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Intimations of mortality, Michael Hulse

Blame Vermeer Vincent O’Sullivan Victoria University Press, $25.00,  ISBN 9780864735515 The Black River C K Stead  Auckland University Press, $25.00,  ISBN 978869403850 Sol Andrew Johnston Victoria University Press, $25.00,  ISBN 9789864735492 The Ponies Bernadette Hall Victoria University Press, $25.00,  ISBN

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The ones that didn’t get away, David Hill

How to Catch a Fish Kevin Ireland Awa Press, $24.99, ISBN 0958253862 How to Drink a Glass of Wine John Saker Awa Press, $24.99, ISBN 095823582X Discussing Aldous Huxley’s On the Margin in his 2002 biography of that now untrendy

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Posted in Essays, Non-fiction, Review

One-night stands, Christine Johnston

Next to Gods: A Cleaner’s Story  Don Franks Four Winds Press, $14.95, ISBN 0958251487 On Getting Old  Kevin Ireland Four Winds Press, $14.95, ISBN 0958251479 On Going to the Movies Peter Wells Four Winds Press, $14.95, ISBN 0958251460 I have

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Cantankerous, laconic and weird, Margot Schwass

Getting Away With It Kevin Ireland Hazard Press, $29.99, ISBN 1877270792 Butler’s Ringlet Laurence Fearnley Penguin, $28.00, ISBN 0143019198 A Man Who Eats The Heart Josh Greenberg Victoria University Press, $29.95, ISBN 0864734824 Together, these three novels suggest that the

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

Here’s looking at you, kid, John O’Connor

Gallery: A Selection Mark Pirie Salt Publishing, $29.95, ISBN 1876857242 Toku Tinihanga: Selected Poems 1982-2002 Michael O’Leary HeadworX, $26.95, ISBN 0473090066 Walking the Land Kevin Ireland Hazard Press, $21.95, ISBN 1877270520 We live in the age of celebrity. This has

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review
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