Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Best New Zealand Poems 2015 surveys the terrain of New Zealand poetry

The 2015 edition of Best New Zealand Poems is launched today, introducing both established writers and new voices to the wider public.
The anthology has been published annually since 2001 by the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) at Victoria University of Wellington.

Poet and academic John Newton had the task of sifting through the thousands of poems published in books and journals last year in search of 25 that delivered what he wanted.

“I was looking for an active jolt of pleasure,” he says. “That moment of finding something that really does it for you, when you can’t wait to get on the phone or on Facebook, or better still in person, hearing it echoed in the pleasure of the person you’re sharing it with.”

Best New Zealand Poems series editor Chris Price, a senior lecturer at the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), says one of the contributions is from Selina Tusitala Marsh, who just last month performed for the Queen at Westminster Abbey. “Her poem describes watching The Vampire Diaries after a day spent teaching post-colonial theory,” Ms Price says.

Diverse cultures and forms of communication feature strongly in this year’s selection, demonstrating that our poetry is both rooted in the local and connected to the world. Sarah Jane Barnett’s beautiful and timely poem looks at the life of a refugee from Ethiopia.  Gregory O’Brien’s poem attempts to gain the ear of the King of Tonga, and Alison Wong tries to decipher the language of match-making in Shanghai. Kani Te Manukura remembers Te Kooti’s last stand and thinks about Aotearoa’s race-time continuum. Ashleigh Young encounters a man in Reno with the voice of ‘Death’s personal computer’.

Readers of John Newton's top 25 poems are also able to hear recordings of several of the poets reading their work.

Ms Price says there is a playful, wry tone to much of this year's work.

“Hera Lindsay Bird announces that ‘It’s a bad crime to say poetry in poetry’ but she does it anyway. Alexandra Hollis reminds us that Rihanna is as profound as the stars, and Bryan Walpert’s title, ‘This poem is conversational’, might be a comment on the very nature of contemporary New Zealand poetry.”

Best New Zealand Poems is published by the IIML with support from Creative New Zealand, and is hosted by the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection.

Best New Zealand Poems 2015 can be viewed at www.victoria.ac.nz/bestnzpoems.

For more information contact Chris Price on 04-463 5815 or chris.price@vuw.ac.nz

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