PO­ETRY NEW ZEALAND YEAR­BOOK 2017

EDITED BY JACK ROSS (MASSEY UNI­VER­SITY PRESS, $ 34.99)

North & South - - Review -

This be­longs in the sec­tion of your book­case you’ve set aside for quiet lit­tle mir­a­cles that we can only be grate­ful are still part of our lit­er­ary life. The pe­ri­od­i­cal pub­lished its 50th edi­tion last year. You prob­a­bly missed the news­pa­per fea­tures and the spe­cial edi­tion of Seven Sharp – or, in­deed, any recog­ni­tion in this mag­a­zine. Here’s hop­ing the editor and con­trib­u­tors were in­vited to have a nice cup of tea with Min­is­ter of Arts, Cul­ture and Her­itage Mag­gie Barry.

This year’s gar­den of poetic de­lights fea­tures the work of 97 po­ets and al­most as many voices, themes and moods in a tightly for­mat­ted vol­ume. De­pend­ing on how you cal­cu­late these things, at least three gen­er­a­tions of po­ets are rep­re­sented. There is work in te reo Maori and English. Con­trib­u­tors in­clude ven­er­a­ble names such as Ens­ing, Leg­gott, Mar­shall and Smither, who take their place in the al­pha­bet­i­cal queue with new­com­ers and mid-ca­reer po­ets. Few po­ems are more than a page long – needs must when space is con­strained.

This year’s fea­tured writer is Liz Mor­ton, a real page-turner of a poet whose “Googling Refugees” com­bines the per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal with a pitch­per­fect com­bi­na­tion of fury and sor­row.

But the most re­markedupon fea­ture of the book is likely to be Janet Char­man’s provoca­tive psy­cho­anal­y­sis of Allen Curnow, fo­cus­ing on his hos­til­ity to women po­ets as part of a wider ex­am­i­na­tion of his crit­i­cal misog­yny and its legacy. Non-par­tic­i­pa­tion in World War II and a de­ter­mi­na­tion to rid po­etry of a taint of fem­i­ni­sa­tion, says Char­man, led a gen­er­a­tion of men to over-re­act in claim­ing po­etry as a mas­cu­line ac­tiv­ity.

In­creas­ingly to­day, po­etry is a vir­tu­ous cir­cle of folks read­ing and writ­ing for each other and a few out­side their im­me­di­ate cir­cles. The idea of a re­turn to main­stream en­thu­si­asm for po­etry – which was prob­a­bly never that great but cer­tainly greater than now – is hardly plau­si­ble, but that shouldn’t dis­cour­age ef­forts, such as this book, to bring it about.

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