A Long Girl Ago, by Johanna Aitchison (Victoria University Press), 2007, $25.00; Museum of Lost Days, by Raewyn Alexander (Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop), 2008, $15.00; Liquefaction, by Iain Britton (Interactive Press), 2009, AUS $25.00; Self-titled, by Tony Chad (HeadworX), 2006, $24.95; How to live by the sea, by Lynn Davidson (Victoria University Press), 2009, $25.00; Overnight Downpour, by Andrew Fagan (HeadworX) 2006, $19.99; Geography for the Lost, by Kapka Kassabova (Auckland University Press), 2007, $24.99; Etymology, by Bryan Walpert (Cinnamon Press), UK £7.99.
T.S. Eliot described poetry as ‘the intolerable wrestle with words and meanings’, and words themselves as things that ‘slip, slide, perish, decay with imprecision’. Good poets are not so much punch-drunk on language as wary of it, like recovering alcoholics, and however chatty or conversational the voice of the poet, it is only ever offering a persona made of language, with claims of clarity, accessibility, or indeed hermeticism, just strategic devices. Contemporary poets strain their ears to catch the silences between ‘noise’ and bring us word of them — in the form of Chinese whispers, or Russian dolls, or Zen paradoxes, or Kiwi minimalism.