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Hamesh Wyatt reviews a selection of poetry books.
Auckland University Press
Young Country is part of a PhD thesis. Kerry Hines looks at intimate relationships and public personas. Scottish settlers, wives and prostitutes all appear. Hines' poems are tough, raw, demanding.
These poems are placed alongside some brilliant photos by William Williams, a 19th-century photographer who spent some time in Dunedin. The life and experience of New Zealanders are snapped alongside burnt bush and rising buildings.
They took accidents to the butcher's wife.
She could darn a man's hand, slap
something raw on a black eye,
oil a burn. What, then how,
added to her list. A kick, a cut,
a ricocheting saw,a spill, a fall, an axe. She also
laid out corpses, talking to them
as she never did
to the merely wounded,
as if they hurt.
Cold Hub Press
These 30 new poems by Dunedinite Jenny Powell have that lightning-in-a-bottle magic and a real sense of invention.
''An Invitation to Magic in the Long Grass''
A rabbit pulled from his magical hat,
a stream of scarves from his sleeve.
I can choose a card, any card
from his pack. Diamonds or hearts?
I can't decide. After he slides his hands
together my purse or necklace
appears disappears appears disappears.
From the collar of my dress he picks
a rose, in my pocket he finds a golden
egg, a butterfly in my hair.
Soon I will see the tricks he can really
do; his magic that lies in the long grass.
Powell is powerful and effective. She observes things and engages the reader.
Reina Whaitiri & Robert Sullivan (eds)
Auckland University Press
The major Maori poetic voices in English are presented for the first time in a larger anthology.
More than 75 contributors express their work in 402 pages. There are some wonderful pieces here.
Laments for koro and hopes for mokopuna are expressed. There are celebrations of the land and anger at its abuse. There are retellings of myth and reclamations of history.
Well-known voices J. C. Sturm, Bub Bridger, Roma Potiki and Rangi Faith all appear. The book is really a tribute to Hone Tuwhare. He is given 18 pages.
Puna Wai Korero is a deep look back over Maori poetry, with a keen eye turned forward. Editors Robert Sullivan and Reina Whaitiri deserve to be congratulated. This collection is tight, polished and cool.
Maori have many traditional forms of oral poetry. This is a written expression. ''Puna'' refers to a wellspring. ''Wai'' means both water and memory. ''Korero'' refers to talk, stories. You can feel the narrative thread which connects the many iwi, hapu and whanau of Aotearoa.
Hilary Baxter wrote ''October 1972''
My joy is a tribal joy
my loneliness is strong loneliness
and my sorrow
is pathways of flowers
leading to the river
where the taniwha moves
and the moreporks called
for a barefoot father
disciple of the Maori Christ
I hear an old man singing
and there is sunlight in his hair
THE BREATHING TREE
Canterbury University Press
Apirana Taylor's sixth volume of poetry is called the breathing tree. His last collection a canoe in midstream (CUP) was released in 2009. Taylor is a poet, playwright, novelist, short story writer, storyteller, actor, painter and musician.
More often than not Taylor pens brief, precise poems, often about his experiences and people he meets.
you see severed limbs and torsos
the river flows through the valley of death
as you sit and sing your song
you hear music in the wind
in the trees, the earth sky and sea
in your head
the little bird sings
darkness flies on dark wings
beat the drum with your pen,
sing your love song
Taylor wrote this poem when he attended the Medellin Poetry Festival in Colombia in 2012. I like the freewheeling vibe of the breathing tree. You can feel the resonance in the 40 new poems in this little collection.
Victoria University Press
Dear Neil Roberts is Airini Beautrais' third book of poetry. Her debut collection Secret Heart (VUP, 2006) won the best first book of poetry at the 2007 New Zealand book awards. Western Line (VUP, 2011) was an outstanding follow-up. She had a few laughs.
Dear Neil Roberts looks at the uncomfortable event of Neil Roberts' death. Poems pass through 1980s New Zealand to today.
''The thing is, Neil, you are all of us'':
You are the old rocker in skinny jeans
who is mumbling in the corner
you are the punk who fixes
at two o'clock in the morning.
You are the comic book girl in combat boots
whose breasts are drawn too large
you are the feminine librarian
who wants to go on a rampage.
You are the community gardener
with home-cut hair and knee holes
you are the bespectacled chicken rescuer
the guitar player and the police mole.
You are the tofu thief made to work
for the local Salvation Army.
They throw away about half of their clothes:
take as many as you can carry.
Jess Holly Bates
Beautrais is one prodigious blossoming of talent and understanding.
In 2013, Jess Holly Bates began to write poetry regularly, and became an active force in the performance poetry scene, hosting spoken word events and developing a solo show on ''Pakeha-ness''.
Bates travelled to London and Real Fake White Dirt was the show. A four-star review at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival followed.
This new work is angry and forthright.
They swum in blood
tiptoed on tipuna
balancing bone on bone
like a house made of headstones
too fragile to live inside
the generation taking a tomb
building questions for answers asked
Anahera Press keeps producing beautiful books full of meaningful content. If you like moody poetry, Real Fake White Dirt is the one for you.
Cold Hub Press
On the back of this big book there is a photo of a young Peter Olds. He is having a smoke in the tree-lined Montgomery Ave.
Olds was writing a lot back then. Lady Moss Revived (Caveman Press, 1972) and Freeway (Caveman Press, 1974) were about to come out. The world seemed to be at this young poet's feet.
Things changed dramatically as the seasons passed. Olds learned to cope with mental breakdown, booze and drug problems. All his poems over the years still have the feel of a man who has lived life.
It Was A Tuesday Morning: Selected Poems 1972-2001 (Hazard, 2004) came out as a little celebration of Olds' work. He has produced more than 10 collections of poetry since 2001.
You fit the description contains more than 130 works, including 25 previously uncollected poems.
His poems are always playful, anxious and outrageous. This Dunedin poet has an undeflectable honesty and a sometimes uncomfortable sharpness of perception. He writes poetry that reads like a series of scenes and events. He is proficient in his craft.
I played on the graves while you mowed the lawns:
white pebbles and angels with broken wings,
glass domes and wire flowers,
the smell of petrol,
the smell of cut grass and bees.
Cows scattered in bush:
tin from neighbours' farms wrapped around trees,
whole trunks torn up like twigs,
in the screaming nor'wester.
If you like poetry with a sense of restlessness, loss and the revelation of rescue, get this one as a present to yourself. This is shimmering stuff. There is also an excellent introduction by Ian Wedde.
- Hamesh Wyatt lives in Bluff. He reads and writes poetry.
WIN A COPY
The ODT has five copies of you fit the description by Peter Olds to give away courtesy of Cold Hub Press. For your chance to win, email email@example.com with your name and postal address in the body of the email and ''Poetry book competition'' in the subject line by 5pm on Tuesday, February 3.
LAST WEEK'S WINNERS
Winners of Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett, courtesy of Macmillan, were: Ross Parata, Noelene Johnstone and Melanie Shelton, all of Dunedin, and Jan Manson, of Omakau. Photographs by 19th-century photographer William Williams (pictured second from left in this shot taken by him in Wainuiomata circa 1882) provide additional interest alongside Kerry Hines' poems in Young Country.