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: