Last year was a productive one for Peter Olds. It saw the publication of both his chapbook, Journey to the Far South, and his full-length collection of a similar flavour, Under the Dundas Street Bridge. Coming from different publishers, however, these collections offer up slight variations on a theme. Olds is concerned with the metaphysical bounds of travelling, meditations on place, and the ways to deal with the self in these particular locations (physical or metaphysical). Dunedin (and ex-Dunedin) readers will recognize street names, since-closed cafes, musical eras that have come and gone. Others will hear the anguish of the poet, as he reaches into his own living memories of periods of mental instability (How to Avoid Depression, and How to Beat Anxiety are but two particular poems exemplifying this).
We dawdle through Green Island
Where these three collections meet — in their regular residence of New Zealand and the exploration of its vernacular — is where Sugu Pillay’s collection departs. Pillay was born in Malaysia of Indian descent, and came to New Zealand in 1973. Her recent collection, Flaubert’s Drum, explores themes of geographical relocation and cultural diaspora, the varied mythologies and memories that travel with the poet through time and space, and draws of a plethora of historical and textual references. Fittingly, the book opens with a quote from Gertrude Stein: Writers have to have two countries, the one where they belong and the one in which they live really. The reader’s led to wonder, where is it that writers ‘live really’? A question that Pillay circumnavigates throughout the collection:
LYNLEY EDMEADES has recently returned to New Zealand from Northern Ireland, where she was studying poetry. She is currently a postgraduate at the University of Otago, writing a thesis on John Cage. Her poems have been published in various journals in New Zealand, UK, Ireland, and the US, and she is also a regular reviewer for the Listener.
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