Collection of poetry | Otago Daily Times News Online

Hamesh Wyatt reviews recent works of poetry.

Janet Newman
Otago University Press

Life, death and work on the family farm are at the center of Inexperienced activist by Janet Newman.

These poems are powerful and beautiful, warm and charming. Redemption is in the hearts and hands of those who carry their story, the dignity of the characters endures.

An entire section is devoted to memories of Newman’s father, also a farmer. Cattle and farm dogs complete these pages.

After the mother died, the father said
he would get used to living alone
the way the rye in its pens is doing
without rain.

Newman offers first-rate poems that maintain the messy balance between sacred and secular, contemporary and ancient.

Dinah hawken
Victoria University Press

Sea light is the ninth collection of poems by Dinah Hawken. This wise woman illuminates the small details in search of peace and connection in a volatile world. Everything seems to come easily. It might just be watching a woman on a train, or seeing the sea taking up most of her attention.


… Some see it as a select company
or a top view
like this one from the foredeck,
where the light of the sea surrounds the island
as fantasy surrounds reality
and does a third thing, beauty,
in the evening, from the sea

Environment and connection come to the fore in these poems. Hawken digs deep, feeds on chaos, and many of these poems skyrocket.

Tim Grgec
Victoria University Press

Tim Grgec wanted to play for the Blackcaps but ended up writing All of Tito’s children, a collection of political and social poems.

It’s pretty darn ambitious, right off the bat. Grgec is a poet in the making, gloomy and bewitching. I love how these poems can be enjoyed like a Monet, or peeled like an onion. The payoff is almost always deep.

“Constitution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, 1953” ends:
… In my eighteenth year, I was supposed to join the army.
My aunt gave me a cut throat razor,
ma majka, a book she had put on in her hand.
She told me the pages scared her, the empty space
only I could fill.

Kirsten Le Harivel
Cuban press

Kirsten Le Harivel has made her home in many places: UK, Japan, India and New Zealand. She lives in all these places in her poems.

Shelter bubbles beautifully on its own light and shiny terms. It leaves the reader with a sense of wonder and wonder.

“Early in the morning”

She had stopped drinking an hour ago and fled to the sea.
others were still there in the back garden, their bro-slur-stumble-laugh
punctuated by the push and pull of the waves. The tide was low and the
the smell of the exposed seaweed arose; it reminded him of Steve, after
sex. His hands were sunk deep in the sand; it was soft and cool as the sky
turning. She wondered why he hadn’t come.

Peter Hooper
Cold hub press

Peter Hooper (1919-91) was a novelist, teacher, environmentalist and poet. Some would say he was the Westland winner. Rather rejoice is his collected poems, over 200 pages. His little collection Earth marriage (1972), who also had photographs of the west coast, sold over 2,000 copies in one year.

“Penciled in by the rain”

summer blue tides
go down
mussel beaches
of the sky
the heron searching the swamp
is standing
above his yellow eye
and mist like mown rushes
is in fallen slopes
along the roots of the mountain.

Friend and fan Pat White adds an insightful introduction. These old poems can still turn you around in six ways starting on Sunday. That is the power. It’s a chance for a reader to sit down and enjoy.

Jenny powell
Cold hub press

This is a collection of poems inspired by New Zealand artist Rita Angus (1908-70). Thanks to work, she becomes the friend of Jenny Powell. They share their experiences, talk about clothes, love, place, painting, poetry and life.

Powell brings together a bunch of emotionally charged poems. There are a few cheeky looks, but as usual she looks unflinchingly at the mess. I like when she can be direct.

“Gaz factory”

The boy on the bike
wiped her face with snot tears
across his sleeve.
He had cycled the dead weight
her dog’s bag
under the click of its wearer
to the men of the gas plant
who could take care of it.
That’s what his mother said.
The boy on the bike
I did not know what to do…

Barford Series
Anahera press

The fifth collection of poems in the Barford series is divided equally according to the seasons of the year. This time, she mourns the death of her beloved Alain. It is the work of a woman who has lived; a real love letter.


the melody of the sun is a deep pulsation
the heartbeat of our universe
solar storms gallop in all directions
o fea le alofa?
where is the love?

Sleeping with stones is intriguing. It is open-hearted poetry. There is no denying his absolute belief in every word.

ed. Susan Paris & Kate De Goldi
Massey University Press

Skinny dip is an anthology of poetry from the creators of the famous Annuals to nurture the next generation of readers and poem makers. Young readers in grades 7-10 receive a crash course in the range of poetic forms.

It’s back to the old schoolyard: kapa haka, PE, homework, school camps. Many of our best appear: Sam Duckor-Jones, Nina Mingya Powles, Nick Ascroft, Bill Manhire, and Freya Daly Sadgrove. Older readers may appreciate the sly humor and retro flair.

“Dad helps with math homework”

He does.
But help.
Absorbed, he silences me.
He says come on, don’t be a jerk!
He is.

Marc Pirie

Mark Pirie’s cricket poems have been featured regularly in The Cricket Society News Bulletin over the past decade. Slips gathers a bunch of them as players are surveyed, matches and tests reviewed, and there is commentary on the more social aspects of cricket.

Pirie knows that poetry is always there to capture that moment and bring it back to life, especially when our memories start to fade.

“Martin Crowe”

“Crowe was so good he would play you like a spinner.”
My quick friend told me like a great one-liner.
Hogan, they called him, a man with a nice punching game,
“I don’t remember anyone who could match him in his day.”
News of her cancer cut like a knife, New Zealand has come into bleak days
For the cricket. He had given a lot since; clarified his laity.
Memories are majestic sleeves in the middle:
A fine musician pictured at work with his violin.

Pirie has always had a bit of courage and grunt in her work, as well as a sensitive touch. The bat hits the ball in these poems full of lucid bittersweetness.

Lily Holloway, Tru Paraha and Modi Deng
Auckland University Press

They are three different poets. Lily Holloway finds excitement in childhood, Tru Paraha knows how to skillfully disperse words across a page, and Modi Deng, a London-based pianist, takes on difficult conversations. The reader is soon called to respect the writing and the sometimes painful reality that these poets seem to inhabit.

“Euston Road”

… it’s confusing –
I lie there, mask on the jaw
thirteen hours late
everyone come home
and wait for me
it’s all gone now –
my person, my fear …

All of these poets have this innate understanding that how you say it is just as important as what you say.

Hamesh Wyatt lives in Bluff. He reads and writes poetry

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