Poet laureate marks ‘state of the nation’

Dunedin poet David Eggleton reads from his latest poetry collection Respirator, which is filled...
Dunedin poet David Eggleton reads from his latest poetry collection Respirator, which is filled with poems about life during Covid-19. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
With bated breath, Dunedin poetry fans waited patiently to get their hands on a copy of David Eggleton’s latest book.

The prominent New Zealand poet launched Respirator at the University Book Shop earlier this week.

It is a collection of works from his tenure as the Aotearoa New Zealand Poet Laureate (2019-22), which explores how the social changes of recent years manifested in New Zealand — from the impact of living through a pandemic to ecological concerns, technological changes and shifting viewpoints about identity and global consumerism.

While the Dunedin-based poet, former Burns Fellow and 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Award winner is no stranger to publishing books, he said this one was "special".

"This is a special one because it’s my poet laureate collection.

"It’s not festooned with gold or anything, but it’s got this kind of aura around it because it’s got poems in it about the state of the nation over the past three years.

"Essentially I’ve been the lockdown laureate and I’ve been writing about that."

He said it was an "incredible time" for New Zealand and the rest of the world.

"Just that sense of apprehension.

"The whole of society was not quite turned upside down, but certainly we were shaken by that experience and we’re still only just coming out of that now."

He said it was a fascinating challenge to try to tease out and articulate the experience in poetry.

"So I was fortunate to be the poet laureate at that time."

The New Zealand Poet Laureate is a poet appointed by the National Library of New Zealand to represent the nation’s community of poets, to promote and advocate for poetry, and to produce a number of published works during their tenure.