Poetry roundup

Hamish Wyatt reviews two new works of poetry.

Michele Leggott
Auckland University Press


Michele Leggott's kids are fond of saying: "Mum, you're a mutant.'' When they were little, they would say: "Don't use the blind thing on me, Mum.'' They grew up as her sight was disappearing. It taught them to be careful around people.

The "mutant'' has just released the third volume in a series, Vanishing Points. This new collection of poetry is her first since Heartland (AUP, 2014) and her 10th collection.

Leggott knows how to listen to the world, especially as her world has become dark. She is a traveller. She involves her family, and lots of characters, but produces something truly beautiful, elegant and eloquent. She serves up plenty of prose poems but uses little pauses in the line to stall the reader.

As the book journeys on, the light diminishes. Leggott uses magical phrases like: "It is so dark I am certain the sun has gone.'' She calls out: "Where are you? Where are you?'' I love it when she says in Figures in the Distance: "I saw my hand against a sunlit wall. Just for a moment.''

Vanishing Points is fresh, new and exciting. Her detail in these poems is breathtaking.

Egg tempera ends:

... She is a translator, bringing

everything to the surface. She highlights. She glazes.

She floats. Layer by layer, now translucent, now

opaque, she builds the jewel in her mind's eye.

This book has been worth the wait.


Briar Wood
Anahera Press

Rawahi (meaning "overseas'') is Briar Wood's new collection of poems. Bach (crib) doors open on moana and moorland. Wood takes emotional and linguistic voyages to make aroha from the movements between people and places.

This is radiant, illuminating stuff from a woman born in Taumarunui, who grew up in South Auckland and until 2012 lived and worked as a lecturer in Britain, where she published poetry, fiction and essays.

A gorgeous front cover image by artist Reuben Paterson draws the reader into more than 40 poems. Locations, people, plants, animals, language and events are spread out.

Anzac Cove

Defying snipers, naked men

dived into the healing water

to wash away the blood and mud,

reconnecting with some touch

of what ordinary life might be.

Today their laughter is bird song

and our tears a sharing of grief

as though mourners can wake

hopeful, as soldiers did to the last

post, sending aroha across oceans.

Wood walks with other people, talks stories and does not hold back. The paddle crab is more than a small creature living on the beach.

Anahera Press has found another strong voice. It keeps bringing poems to the masses. Compared to Leggott's blockbuster, a reader may feel a little let down by this one. But Rawahi is worth a look. Welcome home, Briar.

- Hamesh Wyatt lives in Bluff. He reads and writes poetry.

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