In his speech for the New Zealand Post Book Awards’ shortlist, chief judge John Campbell said: “It is a reflection of the extraordinary strength of the new and young writers we read, particularly in poetry, where New Zealand is blessed by so many fine writers (at all ages and stages) that we respectfully suggest poetry could stand beside rugby as our national sport.” I have heard some stadiums overseas get packed to the brim to hear a poet.
Having read so many of the poetry books published in the past 17 months and with much admiration, John’s declaration prompted me to put a floating idea into concrete action. The past year has produced a feast of New Zealand poetry from the addictive syntax and poetic reaches of Janet Charman to the utter loveliness and warmth of Elizabeth Smither, from the familial pathways of Emma Neale to the musicality of Vincent O’Sullivan, from the measured lines of CK Stead to the storytelling of John Newton, from the vibrant poems of Kerrin P Sharpe to the light touch of Kiri Piahana-Wong. Many of the books have been produced with such love and care that the object you hold in your hands pays perfect tribute to the love and poetic joys within (for example, Bill Manhire’s exquisite Selected Poems and Maria McMillan’s handcrafted The Rope Walk). The list of poetic treasures that have emerged in the past year is immense.
Thus, my new blog: a New Zealand poetry page for reviews, interviews and other such things. As with its sister, NZ Poetry Box, the blog will develop over time. At this stage I welcome poetry books to review. I won’t review all poetry books that come out, but I aim to review a range of books from a range of publishers writing in a range of styles by a range of voices, including poetry from abroad. However, the main focus is New Zealand.
To launch the blog I will shortly spotlight some books that I have enjoyed over the past year (excluding those books that I have already reviewed for The Herald‘s Canvas magazine).
I applaud the list of finalists for The New Zealand Post Book Awards for Poetry including Best First Book. My review of Ian Wedde’s The Lifeguard can be found at this link and my review of Kate Camp’s Snow White’s Coffin will be in The Herald this weekend. Thanks to the generosity of Auckland University Press, Victoria University Press and Hue & Cry I have a prize pack of these books to give to someone who follows this site within the next week.
I would also like to thank Sarah Laing for designing the header background.