Recent works of poetry

Hamesh Wyatt reviews recent works of poetry.

Claire Orchard
Te Herenga Waka University Press

Claire Orchard’s second collection of poems is Liveability. Her Cold Water Cure (2016) had an old-school feel with her focus on Charles Darwin.

This time around Orchard seems more relaxed. Liveability has that interest in the way people react to events, especially what we tell ourselves and one another.

These poems are distinctive and strong. Photographing snowflakes, a dead lizard and Leonard Nimoy all make appearances.

Orchard knows how to create a rich atmosphere from modest ingredients. “All stations” is messages transmitted and received by the wireless operator aboard Titanic the night she sank:


We are on the ice

and are sinking

head down


You fool

Stand by …

This collection can be appreciated like a Monet or peeled like an onion. The payoff in this one is almost always profound.


Morgan Bach
Te Herenga Waka University Press

Middle Youth, Morgan Bach’s second collection, looks directly into the fire.

Bach has a dark, crackling energy; there is subtlety and sexuality. T

here is also a sequence of sorrow and hesitation as a back injury becomes the focus. 

Middle Youth has that feeling of entering into a self-contained universe. “p is for pterodactyl” ends:

… Bedspreads, soft toys, patterned T-shirts,

dinosaur onesies to embrace our young

in this symbol, this irony. We love

what we can never encounter,

while we are young.

And when we realise, it’s too late to see

what has been lost.


The black hole on the cover has its own exposure later in this collection. Bach is outwards looking, humorous and sincere.

This is another collection with wonderful turns of phrase. Truly beautiful.


Hannah Mettner
Te Herenga Waka University Press

Hannah Mettner is a Wellington-based poet from Gisborne and Saga is her second collection.

Mettner explores questions of love, sexuality, family, friendship and politics.

She visits a childhood playground in a storm.  “Three times a cat lady”:


… The Cat Lady has nine lives too. How else

do you think she survived the drowning

the burning the crimes of passion

the rough sex gone wrong the childbirth

the hysteria myth the male bias

in medical research the walking home

alone at night the systematic culling

of women over centuries? …


There is no mistaking the confronting cover design. Mettner is kind and boisterous. 

Saga is an energetic ride about growing up queer among homophobic organised religion.

There are lots of brilliant poems with stunning gear shifts in this one.

Heartbreak is tempered with newfound resolve and hope.


Megan Kitching
Otago University Press

Megan Kitching is one of our local poets who explore human perception.

At the Point of Seeing is her debut collection. It looks at living, moving, breathing and the life we have here.

Weather, birds, beach walks and gardening helps.

Check out the rain in “Mornington”:


A morning rain of muslin, hardly there

except in the pinprick flicker, a thickening

of the air. Far then farther the cars down

watery tunnels shrink while every branch

and blade swells into closer green. …


Kitching has knowledge of both botany and traditional poetry. Her stunning “A Bee Against a Window” steals the spotlight. 

At the Point of Seeing has lots of nifty moments. Kitching is not going away.


Robyn Maree Pickens
Otago University Press

This is Robyn Maree Pickens’ debut collection that has, at its heart, an earth-centred and life-affirming feel.

Pickens is aware of the language of the planet and utilises other human languages in this collection (English, Spanish, Japanese and Finnish). 

Tung is innovative.

“Elder tree”:

in the centre is a fine rain

a fine wrinkle

a thin curtain

of water

a fall

it is not simply spittle

but a reality

rain on your neck

rain in the courtyard

it is really only a muscle

a hinge

I lie down in you

watch you unfold


I like her reverence for local, international, exotic and scholarly concerns. These poems are vulnerable, gentle and tender.

Pickens knows about the degradation of our shared environment and combines that with fragments of intimate experience.


Koenraad Kuiper
Quentin Wilson Publishing

Koenraad Kuiper has been around for many years. Garments of the Dead is a generous collection of his work.

Many of these poems belong in sequences. He plays with variations on a theme, many including historical figures. Some of his thoughts come out deliberate, playful and offbeat.

Translations are included in Dutch mostly, but occasionally in German.

“After paradise iii”:



the Baptist had

honey on his muffins

in the desert


desert and

they say


He kept his head

above water


but didn’t get to see

the dancing girls.


Kuiper often explores dark subjects in his work. Many of these poems are brief and punchy. This is bold stuff from someone who knows how to create his own wonder.

Hamesh Wyatt lives in Bluff. He reads and writes poetry