Weekend Herald - Canvas
THE GRIEF ALMANAC: A SEQUEL by Vana Manasiadis (Seraph Press, $30)
How does one process the loss of a parent? The complex answer to this question is starting point, inspiration and subject matter for Greek New Zealand poet Vana Manasiadis’ bold bricolage of a book, The Grief Almanac: A Sequel. The result is a work that examines the nature of grief found in memory, mothering, building, travel and myth. A diverse array of form arises including the elegy, ekphrasis and essay. Our relationships with our parents aren’t always easy; part-poetry collection, part-memoir, Manasiadis’ second collection turns the complexities of loss and relationships into a brave act of storytelling.
CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE by Gail Ingram (Pukeko Publications, $25)
Here is another mixed-form collection. Blending poetry, flash fiction, collage and graffiti-style concrete poetry, this book bravely explores a family’s experiences of mental health and drug issues in the wake of 2011 Christchurch earthquake. Separation of colours, The Hillmorton hospital bed knows, the titular poem and Definition: mother/ graffiti/ artist here is a book at once poetic, creative, defiant and political, its tale stunningly realised.
TO THE OCCUPANT by Emma Neale (Otago University Press, $28)
“A body, such a ponderous thing/ to drag along a life in/ this coffinfat cabinet/ the mind-candle” — so begins Neale’s strong sixth collection. Body and mind, their experiences and imaginings, their limits and expanses sit at the heart of the poems which follow, structured as they are into three sections: the imaginative
A Room that Holds the Sea; the natureinfused So Sang a Little Clod of Clay and the poetic, epistolary Selected Letters. Top offerings like Dark Glass and Turn illustrate how Neale’s lyricism, strong storytelling and perceptive slant on human nature is everywhere evident in this superb book.
CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS by Tracey Slaughter (Victoria University Press, $25)
The first collection by award-winning poet and fiction author Slaughter shows her pushing the boundaries in the realms of poetry and subject. The work is raw with emotion, truth-telling and charting human existence. Standouts include the impressionistic epic it was the 70s when me & Karen Carpenter hung out, which navigates the narrator’s teenage triumphs and dysfunctions alongside an imagined friendship with the titular pop icon. Elsewhere the double-standards of sexual mores are explored in prose poems like a woman walks into a bar and breather. Conventional Weapons proves Slaughter a sharp observer of life’s beauty and depravity.
TUNING WORDSWORTH’S PIANO by Jane Simpson (Interactive Press, $27)
Simpson’s second collection is a series of skillfully formed poems navigating the story of a cyclist’s journey to locate a famed, reclusive writer’s bach. What results, particularly in potent poems like The language for forests and The Weight of Clothes is a discovery of geography, self and imagination as much as the location of the mysterious icon’s abode. It’s the surprising detours taken — into a gay marriage heralded by the solar system, for instance, the unearthing of ancient goddess religions and a stop-off at Foveaux Strait — where this collection is most creative and impressive.