Tuesday

Leicester Kyle, The Millerton Sequences (2014)



Leicester Kyle: The Millerton Sequences (2014)

An Introduction to The Millerton Sequences:

Leicester Kyle. The Millerton Sequences. Ed. Jack Ross. Poem by David Howard. ISBN 978-1-927242-28-5. Pokeno: Atuanui Press, 2014.

Leicester Kyle’s latest book covers the final period of his life, after leaving Auckland to live in Millerton. In the context of these poems, this seems like a denial of the overly-human urban world in favour of the more mediated world of the human-in-nature, a rejection of the human as master in favour of the human whose mastery is conditional upon his place within the larger context of the natural world.

The five central sequences of the book are presented in chronological order, bookended by two standalone pieces, “One Hundred Steps to Millerton Mine”, and “Red Dog/Brown”. “One Hundred Steps to Millerton Mine” serves as a great introduction to the core sequences, introducing most of the main themes. “Red Dog/Brown” is almost tacked on at the end. Although it fits into the arc of Kyle’s growing discursiveness over time, it doesn’t fit thematically, and functions more as a structural counterweight to the introductory poem.

It’s hard to read this book without being reminded of Kyle’s background in the Anglican church. Liturgical phrasing pops up occasionally, as do a couple of biblical references and parallels. While religion certainly isn’t an obvious theme, it certainly forms part of the framework of thought.

One Hundred Steps to Millerton Mine
Starting from this poem, the sequences, with the exception of “The Catheter Club”, have a remarkable consistency of reference. Parallel phrases and constructions crop up regularly. The hundred steps are an ascent, to “the paradise prepared”, the made world of the original mine, now in the final phase of reclamation by the bush. It’s the book’s first example of human endeavour on a human scale, a scale on which any damage wrought can be redeemed by natural processes within the span of a couple of generations. We ascend the steps through the teeming bush and ascend to our own realm of activity and commerce, without transcendence. Paradise is immanent in this life and does not need to be searched for anywhere else. Our acceptance of our place in a world which is larger than ourselves and has no concern for our well-being (see “Rain” and “Rain Poems”) leads to small epiphanic moments of grace. Notable by its absence is any attempt to paint this mine as “the Pit” [“Death of a Landscape”]. Kyle’s paradise is a fragile balance between human activity and that of the rest of the natural world of which he is part.

Five Flowers at Millerton Mine
Kyle’s botanical knowledge comes to the fore here, with some close descriptions of local flowers, without overwhelming the reader with botanical technicalities as he has in other places. Hs close attention to the particularities of each flower, and the environment in which it live, keeps the attention focussed, intimate - the precondition of grace. In ‘Pterostylis montana var. ruricaulis’, the bush is imbued with the menace that later slips over into his descriptions of West Coast rain, whose descriptions are similarly detailed. The bush “takes life”, playing on the ambiguity in the phrase, is “staunch” and gathers in the militaristic phrase “Troop for space” where it overwhelms the fragile human environment of the original Millerton mine.

Picnic in the Mangatini
Another foray into the ‘wild’, full of the awareness of the contingency of the human experience. It is a being-in-the-world, in the overlap where the self meets the world, and where neither is lost. Like the cloistering of later poems, silence and stillness here are not an abdication - they are active, creating the space where grace may be found, like the weka’s visit: “grace in such things abounds”. Yet this moment of grace is soon over, contingent upon the weather, like all activities in Millerton. The arrival of “The clouds that came in from the sea” foreshadows the next sequence.

Rain
In each of these poems, the rain conditions the possibilities of the day’s actions and its mood. This is also where Miriel makes her first appearance. She returns throughout the book, often guiding the poems from behind the scenes, forming the unseen seabed that determines the shape of the waves above.
There’s a soft presence seeping
a damp unannounced and of unstated stay

Days like these are days for memory--

You’re already on my mind
[Rain 2]
The rain also takes on a sort of Old Testament awesomeness: “the torrent [..] that I must wait out / and cower before” [Rain 4]; “soon there will be the comfortable sound / impartial upon us like justice”. The latter phrase echoing the sentiment of “for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” [Matthew 5:45].

Death of a Landscape
This is the collection’s central poem in every sense. It’s in the structural middle of the sequence, has the most gravitas and sheer bulk of pages. Some of this is due to the editor’s decision to include two versions on the poem. The first version includes the text handwritten on pages from the proposal to create a new open-cast mine on the Millerton plateau. The second is just the text. The decision to include both versions is based on the fact that there are slight textual differences and, given that this is a posthumous collection, it is impossible to assign primacy to either text.

It’s hard to see that the handwritten version uses the background of geological tables and bureaucratic evasion as much more than context, but it is a context that goes right to the heart of one of the sequence’s themes – the use of technocratic language as a hedge against responsibility, an evasion of morality, an apologia for destruction on an inhuman scale. The editor describes this as a kind of ecological protest poem, which it is. That description glosses over the much more interesting and contradictory things that the poem is also. It’s an uneasy, and finally flawed, melding of the grief Kyle feels over the death of Miriel and the approaching destruction of the Millerton plateau.

Although the destruction of the landscape can be remediated, its being cannot be returned. The essence of both a person and a landscape resides in its natural progression through continuity of experience and memory:
it’s the idea and the ideal
that over a life
has made its own form
Call that a soul, if you will, but the landscape manufactured to replace the one destroyed can never recapture the essence. Those that plan the rape of the land hide behind the blandness of their language and scientificity of the tables and other bureaucratic apparatus:
the receiving landscape
the outcome for the area
the best landscape fit
the final landform--
geo-speak
to make death no matter
This replacement echoes Kyle’s ‘replacement’ of Miriel. “Death of a Landscape” was first published around a year and a half before he married his second wife and he uses parallel constructions for the replacement of both a wife and the landscape. You can replicate the features, the lifeless ‘laminate’, but not the essence. In Miriel’s case, he says
when you look
you don’t see the real,
you see what you’ve made
in your mind
and in that of the landscape
though it might be
‘a receiving form’
and though
‘the final form’
has been designed,
all else is inferior
One final description of death might apply equally to Miriel’s melanoma or the mechanical and chemical destruction of the landscape: “Must there be this wrack, rape and scouring?” Both kinds of destruction require some kind of recognition, and the second and third sections show the differing human and inhuman reactions:
do the best you can,
involve the family
and turn to your friends
[Death of a Landscape 2]

there’s an answer,
not of fact or consolation
nor even a promise,
but of obstacle,
some sort of it-has-to-be
[Death of a Landscape 3]
The unspoken comparison is that the church, and family, offer both promise and consolation.

At first sight, there seems to be a contradiction between the generally positive depiction of the first mine in “One Hundred Steps to Millerton Mine” and the proposed new mine. In this case, a difference in quantity really is a difference in quality. The original mine was built to a human scale. It can be reclaimed through natural processes in a human timeframe, that of living memory. The new mine, though, cannot be reclaimed in the same way: “Destruction on this scale / Is quite new” [Death of a Landscape 5]. Given a long enough timeframe, of course, it will revert to a natural state, regain its identity through natural growth, but that process would take much longer than the frame of human memory. On a human scale, the destruction is permanent.

Death is not purely destruction, though. It is also transformation, although that transformation leaves a bitter taste for those who must witness it, as in Kyle’s sarcastic
drink this,
the black water
that runs in the creek

it’s good for you

The equally dour

love the machines
with blades and buckets
as big as the mouth of a mine
and the explosives
at the end of this section makes a suitable pivot into the next poem’s
Destruction on this scale Is quite new;
we haven’t done it much,
it grows on you
The manufactured return of the landscape is an empty facing upon the voided memory. The lamina has no content in or of itself, no memory, no meaning. When discussing the geology of it, the idea is relatively straight-forward – each layer of laminate is placed and not naturally or spontaneously grown upon the next, but such human creation does not grant it any sort of life force or memory. True, its inhabitants might return in the distant future, but that does nothing to make the situation any better on the scale of a human lifetime. However, the conceit becomes much more confused once applied to the passing of his wife. On her death, we still have a soul to contend with. Does it go to the promised land (Beulah) or the Pit? If it were to return to the body, Lazarus-like, would it be a fully-functioning human again, or would it merely be an inhabited shell, “l[ying] there laminate?”.

“[T]his pit” (the original mine) is a human-scale version of “the Pit”. What makes “Death of the Landscape” so interesting is the confusion that seems to be in the writer’s mind, the failure to make it all fit into a satisfyingly unitary statement. He wants nature as the creative force, but with god waiting in the wings. The death of his wife is transformative, and you sense there’s a grudging acknowledgement of its redemptive qualities for her, while the widower must deal with his grief.

Kyle again mixes the death of his wife with the death of the landscape in the final poem of the sequence, “Aubade”. Here, the parting of the lovers is overlaid with the passing of the landscape. The scouring of the land by chemicals merges with the widower’s regret as “as acid in the gut / corroding”.

Rain Poems
Individually, there’s little to say about the individual poems here that hasn’t already been covered by “Rain”. As a group, they are a little reminiscent of Baxter’s Jerusalem Sonnets in their pared back, discursive language and wilful focus on the materiality of everyday existence. The most interesting of the poems is the final piece, once again showing the generative aspect of violence and destruction. I’ll quote the poem’s first and final lines:
Of Earth and Sky

and prophetic rain
that has from the first few drops
a sense of purpose

[...]

until all is beaten down
impregnated and subdued
in this cold copulation
of earth and sky.




Hamish Dewe, the reviewer, edited brief 43 in 2011. He was, back in the day, an editor of Salt (the Auckland one).



Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 217-23.


Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)


Monday

Alan Brunton, Beyond the Ohlala Mountains (2013)



Alan Brunton: Beyond the Ohlala Mountains (2013)

Books and Magazines in brief:

Alan Brunton. Beyond the Ohlala Mountains: Poems 1968-2002. Ed. Michele Leggott & Martin Edmond. ISBN 978-1-877441-47-9. Auckland: Titus Books, 2013.

The book is, for a start, overwhelmingly beautiful. Who would have anticipated those scruffy old papier-mâché masks from old Red Mole performances could look so striking, photographed as they are against jet-black backgrounds, like Picasso sculptures, or – even better – gaudy folk skulls from the Mexican día de los muertos? In terms of design, then, it’s hard to imagine how it could be bettered. Kudos to Brett Cross, Ellen Portch, and the rest of their team at Titus Books.

But was Brunton really any good simply as a poet? This, after all, is our best chance to find out – a careful selection from the whole body of his work by his old colleague Martin Edmond and the careful conservator of his literary legacy, Michele Leggott. There’s a kind of persistent myth that Brunton was all about performance: the sound of the living voice, the impressiveness of his sheer presence. And, having witnessed some of those readings and performances, I can certainly testify to his skill in this regard. What, after all, could be inside here to merit such packaging? I open the book at random:
People here!Yeah. Fucking lots.
See the game?Yeah. Fucking primo, eh? …
Great game.Yeah. Fuck. Watched it on
TV. I got fucking nutted. …
[“Pindaric – Victory Parade,” p.287]

I don’t know about you, but this kind of cruelly accurate transcript of how we actually speak is something I haven’t heard nearly enough of in Kiwi poetry to date. But that’s only one of his many tones of voice: there’s the tenderness of “the heart is a lover with beautiful hips” [“Guru Hoodoo,” p.270]; the high hieratic of “My father died in December. / With my brothers I carried him / to the low house reserved / for dead soldiers” [“Move,” p.263]; the everydayness of “the Ides of March has found us here / & the dope / has all / given out” [“Black & White Anthology,” p.131]. I just can’t convey all the riches inside here. You’re crazy if you don’t get down on a copy of this collector’s-item-in-the-making while you still can.




Jack Ross, the reviewer, is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand. He works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University’s Auckland campus. Further details of his publications are available on his blog The Imaginary Museum at http://mairangibay.blogspot.com/.



Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 225.


Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)


Sunday

Kay McKenzie Cooke, Born to a Red-Headed Woman (2014)



Kay McKenzie Cooke: Born to a Red-Headed Woman (2014)

Books and Magazines in brief:

Kay McKenzie Cooke. Born to a Red-Headed Woman. ISBN 978-1-877578-87-8. Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2014.

This is Kay McKenzie Cooke’s third collection of poems and, like the first two, it depends heavily on reflections on her Southland heritage: “You could say that this book is all about time; its capricious brutalities and its saving graces,” as Cooke herself explains. Another interesting feature here is music. The book concludes with a list of all the pieces of music she’s sampled from for the titles of the various poems. At times, in fact, it reads almost like a DJ’s version of existence: “the soundtrack of our lives,” as some radio station or other once claimed (“Classic Hits,” was it?) It seems quite a good conceit for isolation within a “close-knit community,” as the cliché describes it. There’s definitely a lot going on under the surface of this collection:
Let’s look at each other
long and hard.
It may be our only way
of knowing
where we are going [‘“it feels new,” p.70]




Jack Ross, the reviewer, is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand. He works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University’s Auckland campus. Further details of his publications are available on his blog The Imaginary Museum at http://mairangibay.blogspot.com/.



Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 226.


Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)


Saturday

Craig Cotter, After Lunch with Frank O’Hara (2014)



Craig Cotter: After Lunch with Frank O’Hara (2014)

Books and Magazines in brief:

Craig Cotter. After Lunch with Frank O’Hara. Introduction by Felice Picano. ISBN 978-1-937627-18-8. New York: Chelsea Station Editions, 2014.

I guess that my first thought about this was that it was rather an in-joke, a strangely dependent way of titling a book of poems, but I now think that that was a mistake. Frank O’Hara was, after all, a trickster who spent an immense amount of time and energy subverting and undermining the pomposity of his poetic peers and predecessors, and this book is definitely written in that spirit. “More like a Monty Python send-up than a nostalgic paean,” as Diane Wakowski puts it on the back of the book. Or, as Cotter himself expresses it:
I’m tired
but Frank and John want me to write on.

It’s how we learn –
knocking each other off [“Good Friday,” p.58]




Jack Ross, the reviewer, is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand. He works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University’s Auckland campus. Further details of his publications are available on his blog The Imaginary Museum at http://mairangibay.blogspot.com/.



Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 226.


Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)


Friday

Alison Denham, Raspberry Money (2013)



Alison Denham: Raspberry Money (2013)

Books and Magazines in brief:

Alison Denham. Raspberry Money. ISBN 978-0-9864529-3-2. Christchurch: Sudden Valley Press, 2013.

Alison Denham’s first book of poems, Pieces of Air (1999), was published by the late lamented Theresia Liemlienio Marshall, who also published my own first book, City of Strange Brunettes, in 1998. So let’s just say that I’m predisposed to like her work. I’m very pleased to report, then, that this second book has been well worth the wait. There’s a kind of Gothic exuberance about her poetry at its best which seems to suit the South Island ethos of Sudden Valley Press very well:
Tuesday night a bell ringers’ practice
someone notices another gravestone gone over.
[“Spring comes to the villages,” p.51]

This is more a poetry of discomfort than of complacence. Denham’s poems read like chants against the dark.




Jack Ross, the reviewer, is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand. He works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University’s Auckland campus. Further details of his publications are available on his blog The Imaginary Museum at http://mairangibay.blogspot.com/.



Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 227.


Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)


Thursday

Doc Drumheller, 10 x (10 + -10) = 0 (2014)



Doc Drumheller: 10 x (10 + -10) = 0 (2014)

Books and Magazines in brief:

Doc Drumheller. 10 x (10 + -10) = 0: A ten year, ten book project, 20/02/2002-21/02/2012. ISBN 978-0-473-27757-4. Christchurch: The Republic of Oma Rāpeti Press, 2014.

You can open this huge, mad book on any page and find some irritating set of silly rhymes designed to set your teeth on edge: “Homesick / sailors lick / salt from their thick / beards tasting oil slick / oceans that are seasick” [Part 8, p.6]. Like Zukofsky’s almost equally eccentric “literal” translation of Catullus, it seems more calculated to enrage than engage its readers. And yet, the sheer scale of the performance – in both cases – gives one pause. Is it madness? Or is there an underlying message here about the multiple effects of language? Drumheller is an addict of text-experiments such as those pioneered by the founders of Oulipo. He’s certainly not unconscious of the effect such deliberately baffling texts can have on this predisposed to look for a reassuring orderliness in their reading. I think, finally, that Drumheller’s book could be said to make as much – or as little – sense as the equally baffling rhymes of Edward Lear. A haunted spirit of unease seems to lie at the roots of both projects. Dismiss him if you dare, but I suspect that Drumheller has more to teach than to learn from those of us who live within slightly safer margins of experimentation. It’s no accident that his work is prescribed reading in some at least of Lisa Samuels’ university writing courses.




Jack Ross, the reviewer, is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand. He works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University’s Auckland campus. Further details of his publications are available on his blog The Imaginary Museum at http://mairangibay.blogspot.com/.



Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 227.


Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)


Wednesday

Eugene Dubnov, The Thousand-Year Minutes (2013)



Eugene Dubnov: The Thousand-Year Minutes (2013)

Books and Magazines in brief:

Eugene Dubnov. The Thousand-Year Minutes. ISBN 978-1-907356-74-2. Translated by Anne Stevenson & the author. UK: Shoestring Press, 2013.

Anne Stevenson shouldn’t need much introduction to most fans of contemporary poetry: biographer of Sylvia Plath (Bitter Fame, 1989), and award-winning poet in her own right, she’s now collaborated with Eugene Dubnov on this sumptuous dual-text selection of work from his two volumes of poetry in Russian, Russet Coins (1978) and By Sky and Earth (1984). One of Dubnov’s poems is included on p.79 of this issue of Poetry NZ, so you can see something of how he writes: a somewhat old-fashioned voice, some would say, but as the poetry of the earth and of pastoral makes a belated comeback, I think such verses make more and more sense to us. As Stevenson puts it in her introduction to the book: “The English cribs he sent me … brought to mind the dream-like paintings of Chagall” [p.xii]. I would add, something of the pure and uninflected voice of John Clare: “targets in the river / grief in the grass / rain / the spangled asphalt” [“Cityscape,” p.9].




Jack Ross, the reviewer, is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand. He works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University’s Auckland campus. Further details of his publications are available on his blog The Imaginary Museum at http://mairangibay.blogspot.com/.



Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 228.


Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)


Sunday

Stephanie Lash, Bird murder (2014)



Stephanie Lash: Bird Murder (2014)

Books and Magazines in brief:

Stephanie Lash. Bird murder. ISBN 978-0-473-27649-2. Hoopla Series. Wellington: Mākaro Press, 2014.

Stephanie Lash is a poet and archivist who lives in the Aro Valley, Wellington. Bird Murder, her first book of poems, the second in the first group of three short books published by Mākaro Press’s “Hoopla Series,” is “a gothic murder mystery telling of the demise of a ruined banker, set in the not-quite-fictional town of Tusk.” It’s hard to avoid being reminded of Dorothy Porter’s splendid detective story in verse, The Monkey’s Mask, first published twenty years ago, and subsequently made into a somewhat lacklustre feature film, with Kelly McGillis in the lead role. Why haven’t there been many more such narrative poems since Porter started the ball rolling? It does seem like an excellent way of condensing and sharpening a narrative down to its bare bones:
The flagstones
were white too and
wept salt, hardly, and cold fell, every corner.
[“A tenant in the attic,” p.9].




Jack Ross, the reviewer, is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand. He works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University’s Auckland campus. Further details of his publications are available on his blog The Imaginary Museum at http://mairangibay.blogspot.com/.



Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 233.


Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)


Saturday

Cilla McQueen, Edwin’s Egg (2014)



Cilla McQueen: Edwin’s Egg & Other Poetic Novellas (2014)

Books and Magazines in brief:

Cilla McQueen (in association with the Alexander Turnbull Library). Edwin’s Egg & Other Poetic Novellas. ISBN 978-1-877578-13-7. Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2014.

These are some of the fruits of Cilla McQueen’s tenure as New Zealand Poet Laureate, a post she held from 2009-2011: “My two researchers at the National Library sent me ‘clouds’ of images in no particular order, from which it was my job to discover a possible relationship between any image and any part of the text.” The result is certainly a wonderful piece of bookmaking: beautifully presented in a sturdy slipcase, with each of the eight “poetic novellas” as a little A6 booklet. The contents seem rather reminiscent of early surrealist experiments such as Max Ernst’s Une Semaine de Bonté (1934) or some of Man Ray’s photo-collages from the 1920s. McQueen has been experimenting for a long time in the border areas between drawing and poetry, and her latest move into the “space between prose and poetry” seems, in retrospect, to have been only a matter of time. One can’t help feeling that this might herald some further adventures in cyberspace – possibly the incorporation of online animation techniques in future work along these lines?




Jack Ross, the reviewer, is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand. He works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University’s Auckland campus. Further details of his publications are available on his blog The Imaginary Museum at http://mairangibay.blogspot.com/.



Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 233.


Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)


Friday

John O’Connor, Whistling in the Dark (2014)



John O’Connor: Whistling in the Dark (2014)

Books and Magazines in brief:

John O’Connor. Whistling in the Dark. ISBN 978-0-473-29151-8. Wellington: HeadworX, 2014.

It’s truly amazing how technically adventurous John O’Connor allows himself to be in this new collection from HeadworX, hot on the heels of last year’s Aspects of Reality (reviewed in PNZ 48). Is he not one of the most unjustly neglected New Zealand poets, in fact? When you consider the strength of his body of work to date, and his willingness to keep changing and experimenting with each new decade, I find O’Connor a constant inspiration. It’s not a particularly benign or kindly voice, one would have to admit: “Keep it Stupid, Stupid” is the title of a couple of prose poems which are certainly somewhat disconcerting in their wildness and exuberant wit:
an organ grinder walks towards the idea of a museum. he trundles a pushcart. an imaginary monkey sits on his shoulder waving its penis at the tourists. [p.61]

What does all that mean? Bugger all, one suspects, and yet the notion of an imaginary building that’s no longer there could scarcely be seen as a neutral one in post-earthquake Christchurch. Excellent – if disturbing – stuff.




Jack Ross, the reviewer, is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand. He works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University’s Auckland campus. Further details of his publications are available on his blog The Imaginary Museum at http://mairangibay.blogspot.com/.



Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 234.


Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)


Thursday

Outloud Too (2014)



Outloud Too (2014)

Books and Magazines in brief:

Outloud Too. Ed. Vaughan Rapatahana, Kate Rogers, Madeleine Slavick. ISBN 978-988-13114-0-5. Hong Kong: MCCM Creations, 2014.

This is a very nicely produced anthology of poems to do with all aspects of life in Hong Kong, from “local and overseas poets alike.” Four of the 48 writers included here have strong connections with New Zealand (including two of the editors: Vaughan Rapatahana and Madeleine Slavick), but I guess it’s this idea of fusion, of “a stable community of writers in a city constantly reinventing itself” that’s of particular interest right now, as the struggle for democracy intensifies in this former colonial enclave, now rejoined politically to China. It’s hard not to see hints of that in a lot of the poems included here, in fact: “the guy in the front row / leant forward & / thud / hit his head / with cupped hand / like he didn’t want that particular / idea to take root in there” [Alan Jefferies, “Reading,” p. 55].




Jack Ross, the reviewer, is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand. He works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University’s Auckland campus. Further details of his publications are available on his blog The Imaginary Museum at http://mairangibay.blogspot.com/.



Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 234.


Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)


Wednesday

Lee Posna, Arboretum (2014)



Lee Posna: Arboretum (2014)

Books and Magazines in brief:

Lee Posna. Arboretum. ISBN 978-0-473-28356-8. Auckland: Compound Press, 2014.

This is the first of two chapbooks launched recently by Auckland publisher Compound Press at a rather convivial event at the Timeout bookshop in Mt Eden. Lee Posna and Steven Toussaint, two young American poets (their respective authors,) gave readings and answered questions about their work on that occasion – Steve from his just-published book, Lee (interestingly) from some other, more recent work on the subject of ants, which he accompanied with a series of photographic handouts. This gives some clue to the subject-matter of his book, beautifully illustrated by Lucy Meyle. As the title might suggest, this is a poetry of the earth and the natural world:
Calling them my name
You planted my ashes in aluminium soil
And talked to them in tepid rain
The echoes of some of the more interior-looking American poets – Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for death” transformed to “Because I stopped for death” on the antepenultimate page of this unpaginated booklet – are also strong: virtually omnipresent, in fact.




Jack Ross, the reviewer, is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand. He works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University’s Auckland campus. Further details of his publications are available on his blog The Imaginary Museum at http://mairangibay.blogspot.com/.



Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 235.


Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)


Tuesday

Helen Rickerby, Cinema (2014)



Helen Rickerby: Cinema (2014)

Books and Magazines in brief:

Helen Rickerby. Cinema. ISBN 978-0-473-27648-5. Hoopla Series. Wellington: Mākaro Press, 2014.

Helen Rickerby’s cool ironic voice has been an important part of the Wellington poetry scene since the mid-1990s, when she co-founded JAAM with Mark Pirie. Over the years her work has moved from the mock-surrealism of Abstract Internal Furniture (2001) to the more personal and engaged voice of My Iron Spine (2008) and Northland (2010). This new book of hers, from Mākaro Press’s Hoopla Series, looks “at the personal through the lens of a camera and the world of cinema through the unfiltered eye.” Clearly, like the late lamented Jim Carroll, Rickerby has spent a lot of time living at the movies – an almost inevitable frame, in retrospect, for writers of his post-beat generation; far more of a departure, however, for a poet in our own decaying post-modern: cinema, one might almost say, as museum-culture.




Jack Ross, the reviewer, is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand. He works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University’s Auckland campus. Further details of his publications are available on his blog The Imaginary Museum at http://mairangibay.blogspot.com/.



Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 235.


Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)