Monday, November 05, 2012
A batch of new poetry titles - reviewed by Siobhan Harvey
These Rough Notes
Bill Manhire, Anne Noble, Norman Meehan & Hannah Griffin
A book and a mixed-media exhibition, These Rough Notes is an art-collaboration between poet Manhire, photographer Noble, composer Meehan and singer
Taking its title from one of the last journal entries Robert Scott made during
his failed 1910-1912 Terra Nova expedition of Griffin Antarctica,
the subject matter concentrates on this ill-fated journey and the equally
tragic 1979 Air NZ flight NZ901. Manhire’s illustrious Erebus Voices poems and some new work are set besides some stunning
photographs by Noble. The latter really brings home the barren monochrome
nature of the landscape. With an accompanying CD upon which Manhire’s verses are
set to music by Meehan and sung by ,
These Rough Notes is best enjoyed by
complete immersion - put the CD on and turn the pages in time to the music.
Good to see that sales of this book propelled it into the top 10 Griffin fiction
book sales charts. New Zealand
It’s over a decade since Manhire’s Collected Poems was released. This fact and his recent retirement from the directorship of the
make a new offering of
work by him timely indeed. The luscious Hotere portrait of the author on a
cream cover which envelops this book denotes the stellar work within. From
early pieces like ‘Love Poem’ and ‘The Spell’ in The Elaboration to the playful new poem, ‘Old Man Puzzled by His
New Pyjamas’, Selected Poems is a
rich starting point for anyone who mightn’t be as familiar with Manhire’s
oeuvre as they’d like to be and an essential addition to the bookshelves of the
author’s many aficionados. Indispensable. Institute of Modern Letters
From someone who long ago hit his poetic stride to someone with a first poetry collection just published. Graduate of the prestigious MA programme led (until recently) by Manhire, Ashleigh Young has had poems published irregularly in magazine for the past decade and took out the Landfall Essay Competition in 2009. Like her prize-winning essay, Wolf Man, Young’s first collection, Magnificent Moon offers a clever, sometimes surreal examination of family dynamics, in poems such as ‘Giving my father frights’ and ‘A swim with Mum’. Elsewhere poems about friends and work colleagues abound and, as in the verse ‘All the single ladies’, sharp, feminist-minded subject-matter also ensues. Women, particularly women of Young’s generation, are drawn by the author with a vibrant self-sufficiency which simultaneously validates the strengths of camaraderie and whanau. A bold first collection which suggests that here is an artist who’s carving out a clear, intriguing set of thematic principles for future work.
Courtney Sina Meredith
Poems to a Glass Woman – James K. Baxter
John Weir (editor)
This volume of previously unpublished verses is released to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the death of James K. Baxter. It features 21 poems which come accompanied by perhaps the finest attribute of this book, a lengthy and worthy essay, The Winter of Beginning composed by editor Weir. With regard to the poems, they were written when Baxter was in his late teens (mid-1940s); not that this work is in any way adolescent or naïve, as the first four lines of poem 11 illustrate:
Five swans flew over. Night fell from their wings
Flashing a dusky white. The cool night fell
To underwater calm. Sea rose in spray.
The few stars came in quiet.
The rich imagery and complex word-play here are evident elsewhere, antecedents of the hallmarks of the author’s later work. They are also significant because they fill in some of the gaps in Baxter’s literary career mentioned in passing in previous volumes - like Cold Spring – James K. Baxter, edited by Paul Millar (
1996) - which published samples of the subject’s 300 poems written in the
personally fraught but creatively productive period, 1944-1945. An obligatory
work for Baxter’s legions of fans to buy; and one not to be overlooked by
anyone who wishes to discover more about the early work of our best known poet.
Victoria University Press promises four volumes Baxter’s Complete Prose, edited by Weir, soon. Poems to a Glass Woman – James K. Baxter more than wets our
appetite for this. Oxford
Siobhan Harvey is the author of the poetry collection, Lost Relatives (Steele Roberts NZ, 2011), the book of literary interviews Words Chosen Carefully: New Zealand Writers in Discussion (Cape Catley, 2010) and the poetry anthology Our Own Kind: 100 New Zealand Poems about Animals (Random House, 2009). Recently, her poetry has been published in Evergreen Review (Grove Press, US), Meanjin (Aus), Snorkel (Aus) and Structo (UK). She’s Poetry Editor of Takahe and coordinates New Zealand's National Poetry Day. She was runner up in 2012 Kevin Ireland Poetry Prize, 2011 Landfall Essay Prize and 2011 Kathleen Grattan Award for a Sequence of Poems. A Poet’s Page containing a selection of her recorded work and texts can be found on The Poetry Archive (U.K.), directed by Sir Andrew Motion.