Michele Leggott, Heartland, Auckland University Press, 2014
It was a feisty storm in Auckland but a good crowd turned out to help Michele Leggot launch her new collection, Heartland, at Auckland Central Library last Thursday.
John Newton took us on a tour of the shapes of Michele’s books and reminded us how they have shifted from landscape to portrait, and how that physical shift also saw a shift in other ways. The poems have become more transparent, have embraced narrative to a greater degree and have employed a less fragmented syntax. John also suggested, and I think this is the case for many poets, that Michele’s body of work is like one long poem in installments (perhaps the landscape poem and now the portrait poem).
As John was talking, I went off on a train of thought. I feel that Mirabile Dictu and now Heartland have opened themselves wider to the words and narratives in the world that is close at hand. These books draw in family in way that is close, intimate and touching in both semantic and linguistic choices. And then it is as though these books are held open for family, so these loved ones may gain entry as readers.
Michele read three short poems using her listening device rather than the book. It was just wonderful to hear her voice lift the words from the page. I was particularly taken with this comment: ‘Every book should have a way of stepping out of it—by stepping into what’s coming next.’ In this case the Matapouri poem in the book. I am fascinated by the way certain geographical locations have white-hot resonance. Having grown up in Whangarei and spent most summers on the Tutakaka coast (and still do) that physical landscape triggers all kinds of poetic responses in my secret writing life. I can’t wait to see where Michele is heading next.
Great to see this. I like what you write about the connection between poetry and landscape — how each can mark or represent or carry the paths of the other.
Interesting! Here John was chiefly referring to the different shapes of books.