Poetry books I have enjoyed in the past year 2/2

Therese Lloyd Other Animals Victoria University Press, 2013

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Therese Lloyd’s debut collection, Other Animals, invites you into little moments, anecdotes and scenes, from which you surf the poetic ripples. Her understated drama (‘the pamphlet from the hospital/ face down on the pillow’) adds an edge. Poems enquire beyond the hum of everyday detail while her endings offer subtle surprises (‘This is the rib to arrive at/ the thin white bone where it all began/ The word on the door reads ‘home’). Her tropes are miniature bursts on the line that add flavour and zest (‘Thin gravy rain and sick-puppy trees’). I also liked her titles: Farmyards of the Mind, Split a Dream Of, Winter Scene with a Candy Floor. Lloyd is a fresh and welcome arrival.

Harry Ricketts Just Then Victoria University Press 2012

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Harry Rickett’s new poetry collection, Just Then, is a conversation with the world filtered through the contours of experience rather than the ping and zing of youth. His assured tone draws you to musical lines and miniature exposures of life and love that surprise and delight (‘The words seem to come from/ so far inside they don’t/ seem coloured by you at all’).

The collection is arranged with different notes sounding out — from the wit and sideways steps in Praying to St Anthony to the gentle resistance of a father’s facts-of-life speech in Talking in Cars.

I also loved the physical whiffs of times past that added a nostalgic layer (on my part!) to a collection that is intimate, harmonious, moving.

 Lynn Davidson Common Land Victoria University Press 2012

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Lynn Davidson mixes essays and poems in Common Land, and for me, the essays shine out. Each perfectly crafted piece glistens with physical detail that heightens the emotional impact.

There is a degree of stream-of-conscious movement in these pieces, but at the core of them lie serious issues such as a mother with Alzheimer’s, the death of an ex-husband and the ability of a word (selah) to cause you to pause, to reflect and absorb. The end result is memorable.

The cluster of Along the River Road poems also stands out. Davidson draws you in and you definitely want to stay. In homage to Ruth Dallas, these poems acknowledge the loveliness of nature but that nature is also ‘strange and relentless,’ and the poet longs for ‘the settled grain of the page’. Personally, I see the grain of the page as never still, but this is a terrific collection.

 Michael Hulse and Simon Rae (eds), The 20th Century in Poetry Random House 2011

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Edited by Michael Hulse and Simon Rae, The 20th Century in Poetry is a must have for your poetry shelf. With over four hundred poems from the English-speaking world it is a substantial and riveting read.

About eight New Zealand poets make an appearance (including Manhire, Baxter, Curnow and Mason). It’s a tough and subjective job narrowing a century to 400 poems, but I would have included more women and some Pacific and Maori poets (where is Tuwhare?).

The introduction is spot on and highly quotable. I have always said poetry has no rules — or if it does, any rule may be broken in order to get creating.

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