Blog Archives

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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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

Prodding the boundaries, Janet Hughes

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

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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Posted in Literature, Poetry and 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 and Review

A music of our own, Peter Walls

Douglas Lilburn, Memories of Early Years and Other Writings
Robert Hoskins (ed)
Steele Roberts, $40.00,
ISBN 9781927242476

This is the Lilburn centenary year. Concerts are being branded with a special logo – a way of marking the pivotal contribution that Douglas Lilburn made to musical life in Aotearoa New Zealand. The publication of his Memories of Early Years and Other Writings, edited by Robert Hoskins, is thus timely. This volume has a commemorative feel, with its fine reproductions of paintings by Rita Angus and Evelyn Page and historic photographs (albeit on a more restricted scale than Philip Norman’s monumental 2006 study, Douglas Lilburn: His Life and Music).

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Posted in Music, Non-fiction and Review

Necromancy and piety, John O’Leary

A Blighted Fame: George S Evans 1802-1868, A Life
Helen Riddiford
Victoria University Press, $60.00,
ISBN 9780864738967

For Gallant Service Rendered: The Life & Times of Samuel Austin
Barbara Mabbett
Steele Roberts, $35.00,
ISBN 9781877577710

Biography is a strange genre, despite our familiarity with it. There’s something uncanny about it, in that it’s a kind of necromancy – a raising of the dead, so to speak. It can also be an act of piety, a way of honouring those who have passed on – an assertion, in the face of oblivion, that an individual’s life had meaning and significance. Piety of this kind lies behind the two books reviewed here, which describe the lives of two colonial New Zealanders who have slipped into the historical twilight.

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Posted in Biography, Non-fiction and Review
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