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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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Plays and playmaking, Mark Houlahan

Performing Dramaturgy
Fiona Graham
Playmarket, $40.00,
ISBN 9780908607648

Floating Islanders: Pasifika Theatre in Aotearoa
Lisa Warrington and David O’Donnell
ISBN 9781988531076

Dawn Raids
Oscar Kightley
Playmarket, $18.00,
ISBN 97809080607631

“What is a dramaturg?” I overheard that question earlier this year while sitting in a theatre waiting for a show to begin. As it happened, this was a show which listed me in the programme as “dramaturg”, and the couple asking the question were reading my notes. So I quickly said to them, “script advisor”, and left them to get on with their pre-show reading. A few months later, I was reading Fiona Graham’s Performing Dramaturgy, which offers a much richer, contextualised series of answers to the question. It would be egregious to thrust her book into the hands of someone directly waiting for a performance to start, of course, but otherwise it can be safely recommended to a broad range of researchers, students and theatre practitioners. Graham herself prefers the alternative spelling “dramaturge”, because of its use to indicate “an expanded and interdisciplinary practice”, so I’ll use that form here.

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Posted in Art, Literature, Non-fiction, Pacific, Plays, Review

The play’s the thing, Mark Houlahan

Best Playwriting Book Ever
Roger Hall
Playmarket, $22.00,
ISBN 9780908607600

Alison Quigan, Vivienne Plumb and Lynda Chanwai-Earle
Playmarket, $35.00,
ISBN 9780908607617

Bats Plays
Ken Duncum and Rebecca Rodden
Playmarket, $30.00,
ISBN 9781776560899

To review Best Playwriting Book Ever, I broke the first rule of playwright club. In his prologue, Roger Hall advises: “To get the best out of this book, write a play (or as much as you can of one) before you read it.” I have never written a play, though I have been watching and performing plays on various stages for almost as long as people have been flocking to Hall’s plays, since his break-out hit, Glide Time (1976). He has now written 50 plays, alongside film scripts and TV series, so he has certainly earned the right to stake his claim in the title of this book. Ticket sales from Hall’s plays have helped fund so many of our theatres, and Hall himself has managed the still rare local feat of making a living as a playwright. He has told that story entertainingly in his autobiography, Bums on Seats (1998).

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Posted in Literature, Plays, Review

Stories on stage, Mark Houlahan

The Plays of Bruce Mason: A Survey John Smythe Playmarket and Victoria University Press, $40.00, ISBN 9781776560554 Here/Now: 8 Plays by Award-Winning New Zealand Playwrights David O’Donnell (ed) Playmarket, $35.00, ISBN 9780908 607594 John Smythe’s survey of the plays of

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Posted in Literature, Plays, Review

Constant fizz and playful grace, Mark Houlahan

Constant fizz and playful grace

Mark Houlahan

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review

Phrases that catch the breath, Mark Houlahan

Michele Leggott
Auckland University Press, $28.00,
ISBN 9781869408084

In 2007, Leggott was New Zealand’s inaugural poet laureate; in England, there is a long tradition of poets laureate being crowned at the point in their careers where the muse has long since abandoned them. Not so Leggott. If the point of such an award is not just to honour a writer, but for them to show leadership simply by going about and being a poet, writing back to the world, then Leggott is still the real deal. This is evident throughout Heartland.

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Time’s wingèd chariot, Mark Houlahan

Us, Then Vincent O’Sullivan Victoria University Press, $28.00, ISBN 9780867438929 The Lifeguard: Poems 2008-20013 Ian Wedde Auckland University Press, $28.00, ISBN 9781869407698 Life and Customs Bernadette Hall Victoria University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9780864739001 “But at my back I always hear

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Moving the world along, Mark Houlahan

These Rough Notes Bill Manhire, Anne Noble, Norman Meehan, Hannah Griffin Victoria University Press, $40.00, ISBN 9780864738318 Selected Poems Bill Manhire Victoria University Press, $35.00, ISBN 9780864737625 “In the future,” Bill Manhire predicts, while introducing his sweeping 2005 anthology of

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Posted in Literature, Photography, Poetry, Review

Strip-mines and elegies, Mark Houlahan

Slip Stream Paula Green Auckland University Press, $24.99, ISBN 9781869404628   Crumple Vivienne Plumb Seraph Press, $25.00, ISBN 9780473177171   Time of the Icebergs David Eggleton Otago University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9781877578021   The Radio Room Cilla McQueen Otago University

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Time out, Mark Houlahan

Chinese Opera Ian Wedde Victoria University Press, $30.00, ISBN 9780864735850 When a story by Ian Wedde called “Chinese Opera” was published in Sport 2, readers were informed that he expected to “finish Chinese Opera, his fourth novel, in 1989.” Nineteen

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review
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