Recent works of poetry

Hamesh Wyatt reviews recent works of poetry.


ed John Weir
Te Herenga Waka University Press

John Weir has brought together a definitive selection of the best poems of James K Baxter. Baxter wrote two poems a week for almost 40 years, amounting to more than 3000 poems. 

James K Baxter: The Selected Poems features the best and most recognisable he wrote.

This is easier to handle than Collected Poems (1979) or the massive Complete Poems (2022) and compliments the impressive Selected Poems of James K Baxter (2010).

Everything Baxter wrote was fashioned and defined by the flawed, questionable nature of his private life. He renounced marriage, family and respectability. Yet, his life and work are central to our common New Zealand experience.

Baxter could easily pen comic, vernacular verse, political satire, simple devotions and sonnets. He had talent to burn. Baxter modestly said: ‘‘I know only a little about the world; and most of it is somewhere in the poems I have written’’.

He valued every experience that came his way. It is outstanding and remarkable and he spent so long with us here in Dunedin.

If you only buy one book of poetry this year, grab this one. This is Hemi’s Greatest Hits.

Stephen Oliver
Greywacke Press

Stephen Oliver has published more than 21 volumes of poetry. He grew up in Wellington but has been a resident in Australia for a couple of decades.

His Cranial Bunker is worth a look. Oliver is thoughtful, insightful and real with his poems.

His elegiac poems for dead friends are tempered with newfound resolve and hope.

He pens 260 “Epigrams for the Disenchanted”.

“Battle of Tollense” ends:

Dry rasp of leather,

breath suspended, this now a treasured

thought, the moment hallucinogenic;

senses heightened, vision manifest, clear.

The arrow taut on the bowstring

an instant before release, objects and men,

outlined in an otherworldly aura -

the flung shadow of the first spear cast.


Stephanie de Montalk
Te Herenga Waka University Press

Stephanie de Montalk has been around for a while too. Her poems engage with the world.

Clear-eyed de Montalk seeks a cure to the life-changing limitations of her physical self. “Emotional clarity” begins:


On Christmas Day

we awoke, as usual,


to disputes over slice-

sizing of the fruit cake


and sherry trifle and

underwhelming gestures


in the Lucky Dip

beneath the tree, …

These are brilliant poems with stunning gear-shifts.


Diana Bridge
Otago University Press


Diana Bridge’s eighth collection of poems is Deep Colour.

Bridge has a graceful precision in her poems and her depth of emotion may catch many readers off guard. Bridge has studied Chinese language, literature and art history. She uses the translation of poems

by fifth-century poet Xie Tiao and is inspired by 18th-century Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro. “Songs of the garden”:

A slender-waisted suitor muses on a thin, red insect body…

a dragonfly is burning away as he is, both

of them love-wasted, wordlessly bearing

the weight of a lover’s pain. …


Deep Colour hits lots of sweet spots. These are inspired, uplifting poems from another one of our best.

Ruby Solly
Te Herenga Waka University Press


Ruby Solly is a writer, musician and poet living in Pōneke.

 The Artist is a collection of poems that brings to life the histories of our great Southern iwi through the whakapapa of its characters.

The whole book has an unhurried, introspective feel that sits back without pretension or much complexity.

This is a disarming, interesting read that gives an insight into the past. “Pākehā”:

We do not remember the first of them

but we recall the sound:

language like ours but with words that fall like






Consonants tapping away at us.

Tap-tap-tap. …

Despite some heavy content, The Artist is an enjoyable read. This is a spiritual and historical reawakening.


Jessica Hinerangi
Auckland University Press


Jessica Hinerangi was born here in Ōtepoti. This is her debut collection of poetry and a Māori coming-of-age story.

This one is an upbeat, positive celebration.

Hinerangi brings together an insanely fun party you do not want to miss.

She draws moko kauae on Barbies, reads Ranginui Walker and spits on a statue of Captain Cook.

Through all this Hinerangi manages to pull people in with her work. “Goddess of death”:


My thighs are strong like kauri trunks

I could quite easily crush your beautiful neck

between them

as you try to climb inside searching for

immortality. …


Āria is a sharp, precise book, in both verse and message. There is a lot to love here - explosive and real.

Hamesh Wyatt lives in Bluff. He reads and writes poetry