Wednesday, October 12, 2011

SMALL HOLES IN THE SILENCE: ­COLLECTED WORKS, by Hone Tuwhare (Godwit, $44.99).

Bill Manhire review from NZ Listener Sept 24-30, 2011

Hone Tuwhare is our greatest poet of praise, and of bewilderment.

One of the hallmarks of Hone Tuwhare in performance was the way he mixed fierce lyrical utterance with a kind of entertaining bewilderment – as if, well, you know, you had to take a stand because life could be so discombobulating. He would fumble for his glasses, hunt in a puzzled way for the right book or page, then brilliantly deliver poems like Rain or Hotere, or Heemi – his great conversational lament for James K Baxter. One of the remarkable things about having so many of his poems together in Small Holes in the Silence: Collected Works is that you can see just how many forms that apparent bewilderment takes.
Bewilderment is there in a small child blowing up a balloon, who seems simultaneously to be bringing time and the universe into being; or in a poem like Bus Journey South (“Where have all the/Maori gone, for chrissake?”); or in the sharp ­synthesis of mischief and anger in his Maori figure cast in bronze:
I mean, how the hell can you welcome
the Overseas Dollar if you can’t open your
to poke your tongue out, eh?

If the poet remembers hard and troubling times when he was young (in a poem addressed to a girl on her 13th birthday), he quickly finds his way to the life-force that nevertheless sustained him:

But what a good hell it was
to be vulnerable: cry joy alive
to the whip and zip of blood leaping
in the veins.

Read the full review at The Listener.

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