Lost Relatives, Siobhan Harvey (Steele Roberts 2011), 71 pp; in/let, Jo Thorpe (Steele Roberts 2011), 63 pp; So Goes the Dance, Stu Bagby (Steele Roberts 2010), 64 pp.
A good book of poems should be more that just a collection of whatever the poet has been writing over the past few years; it should have a shape, a thematic structure that holds together between its covers just as soundly as each individual poem holds together on the page (or should it? For whenever I make such a pronouncement, it occurs to me that the opposite might be true: poetry books as junk-piles, as cluttered basements and attics, any trace of shape or cohesion blow apart by the words … for the sake of this review however, we’ll stick with my original statement …). Many current New Zealand poets attempt to give their books structure through the simple device of dividing the text up into sections. Most of the new books I’ve read this year have worked this way, their contents chopped up into bite-sized chunks – sometimes titled, sometimes numbered – for more meaningful consumption. The three works I review today are no exception. Each of them attempts to structure their content at the level of the contents page, in differing ways and with differing degrees of success.
Despite its title, Stu Bagby’s So Goes the Dance does not lend itself to such metaphors. Bagby’s style is casual and, at times, colloquial. The poems occasionally dip into rhyme, usually in the form of whimsical couplets:
MURRAY EDMOND teaches drama at the University of Auckland. His most recent volume of poetry is Walls to Kick and Hills to Sing From: A Comedy with Interruptions (AUP, 2010). He edits the on-line journal Ka Mate Ka Ora: A New Zealand Journal of Poetry and Poetics: http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/kmko/
Mama Mortality Corridos, by Lisa Samuels (The Holloway Press, 2010), 54 pp., $200.00; Echolocation, by Angela Andrews (Victoria University Press, 2007), 56 pp, $25.00; Since June, by Louise Wallace (Victoria University Press, 2009), 64 pp, $25.00; Tapa Talk, by Serie Barford (Huia Press, 2007) 64 pp $ 22.00; Crumple, by Vivienne Plumb (Seraph Press, 2010), 80 pp.,$25.00; Time Traveller, by Robin Fry (Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop, 2010), 80 pp., $28.00; Sleepwalking in Antarctica and Other Poems, by Owen Marshall (Canterbury University Press, 2010), 88 pp, $25.00.
Despite its title, Owen Marshall’s second collection of poems, Sleepwalking in Antarctica, is grounded in the South Island. He waxes lyrical over the Mainland’s high summer, the three shades of yellow found in flowering lupin, broom and gorse, respectively (‘Golden Age’), and is equally celebratory of mid-winter: the cat lifting its paws high, like a ‘Lipizzaner stallion’, as it crosses a frost-covered paddock; the effects of a snow storm on an old macrocarpa tree: ‘Boughs thicker than a rugby waist tore/ and snapped.’