Blog Archives

Talking of war, Hugh Roberts 

Mulgan
Noel Shepherd
Steele Roberts,$25.00,
ISBN 9780947493387

Noel Shepherd’s debut novel, Mulgan, certainly doesn’t lack for moxie. Writing one’s way into one of the small handful of truly iconic New Zealand novels and, what’s more, openly setting out to imitate the tone, style and form of that novel, is not for the faint-hearted. One can applaud Shepherd’s ambition even if, ultimately, the novel itself must be seen as an interesting failure. There is, though, at least one way in which a parody or a pastiche or an homage is always interesting: it asks us to think about what really is the quintessence of the thing imitated; what is it that makes John Mulgan’s Man Alone still such a powerful read, even after so many years of stultifying “official” reverence and highbrow critical snark?

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The grimness of contemporary realism, John McCrystal

Five Strings
Apirana Taylor
Anahera Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9780473389482

Iceland
Dominic Hoey
Steele Roberts, $35.00,
ISBN 978094749343I

It’s that time of the three-yearly cycle again. A billboard has gone up near my house promoting the political party that has, for the last couple of terms, been promising us a brighter future. It claims this party is “Delivering for New Zealanders” – which is true, so long as you don’t read it as a claim that it is delivering for all New Zealanders. And, as for the brighter future, well, there is a significant number of people in New Zealand for whom the future can only be brighter, given how bleak their present is.

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Infectious enjoyment, Fleur Adcock

Night Burns with a White Fire: The Essential Lauris Edmond
Frances Edmond and Sue Fitchett (eds)
Steele Roberts, $35.00,
ISBN 9780947493448

This enjoyable anthology doesn’t pretend to be anything but an act of loving homage; as the editors admit, they did not plan a scholarly book. It consists of poems and a smaller number of extracts from Lauris Edmond’s prose writings, edited by the two people whose names are on the title page, but largely chosen by Lauris’s friends, admirers, and members of her family, who were asked to submit suggestions. The arrangement is thematic, progressing through childbirth, family love, friendship, Wellington, travel and other topics, and ending with a powerfully affecting section about death. It includes a timeline, a bibliography, and an index of contributors; one of the incidental pleasures of reading the collection is to cross-check titles of individual pieces with this index to see who chose what.

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

Poetry and politics, Sarah Sharp

Robert Burns: Poet and Revolutionist Harry Holland (Dougal McNeill ed) Steele Roberts, $30.00, ISBN 9780947493172 Writing during the 1920s, Harry Holland describes the celebration of Burns Night as an event which unites Scots around the world: be the Scot where

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

Letters of aroha and respect, Olivia Bennett

The Art of Walking Upright Glenn Colquhoun Steele Roberts, $25.00, ISBN 1877228206 “The art of walking upright here is the art of using both feet”. For many New Zealanders, the very essence of being Kiwi is being part of a

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Posted in Literature, Poetry, Review and YA Reviewers

Watching a craftsman, Briar Lawry

Strait Men and Other Tales Murray Edmond Steele Roberts, $30.00, ISBN 9781927242988 Strait Men and Other Tales by Murray Edmond is a tricky beast. Its slim spine belies the size and style of the stories within – there’s nothing that

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Posted in Literature, Review and Short stories

The headlock of myth, Mark Reason

Seelenbinder: The Olympian Who Defied Hitler James McNeish Steele Roberts, $35.00, ISBN 9780947493011 “After a certain time a life exists not for what it is in reality, but for its mythological qualities”: in that one sentence, James McNeish defines his

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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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Obituary — Jack Body

Harmonious sensuality Ross Harris recalls the life and work of fellow-composer Jack Body (1944-2015) Jack Body was born in the small North Island farming town of Te Aroha to parents with little interest in music. Even so, he was playing

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Posted in Obituaries

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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