I love Sport‘s cover photograph snapped by Damien Wilkins at the Royal Albatross Colony in Dunedin. It features a sign indicating the direction ‘to the magazine.’ There is a delicious ripple of irony as the editor and publisher of Sport, Fergus Barrowman, had last year announced the journal’s demise due to a lack of funding from Creative New Zealand. Sport had momentarily lost its way, much to the consternation of readers throughout the country. But as the journal secured funding from elsewhere, we now have a terrific issue to savour over the coming year. Yeeha!
This issue, along with the usual mix of fiction and poetry, includes four essays. I would love to see more of this (sounding a bit Rick Steinish in the face of both good food and endangered species!) How stimulating to read Mark Williams’ lively and inventive approach to New Zealand poetry in ‘When You’re Dead You Go on Television: Sex, Death, and Household Objects in Some New Zealand Poetry.’ It was the sort of essay that got you thinking about other poems in relation to his three themes and the fertile possibilities of exploring these three themes in the one critical space.
I haven’t finished reading Sport 42 yet, because I like to dip and delve over months rather than weeks, and I am not going to comment on the fiction (which I haven’t even started upon) other than to say I spotted some must-read names: Lawrence Patchett, Pip Adam, Tina Makereti, Breton Dukes and Charlotte Simmonds along with a cluster of those new to me.
There is an equally tempting list of poets that range from some beloved landmarks on our poetry landscape (Bill Manhire, Geoff Cochrane, Elizabeth Smither, James Brown, Chris Price) to the recently emerged (Sarah Jane Barnett, Amy Brown, Kerrin P Sharpe). There are about 39 poets and a number of these are brand new sparkling voices!
Here is a tasting plate of what has struck a poetic chord so far:
Amy Brown has a sequence of poems that take her into temporal elsewhere, and that highlight the power of an object to take you in multiple semantic and nostalgic directions (as though the poem is a little like a pocket memory theatre). I particularly ‘Names’—a poem that is evocative, tender and vibrant, and that embodies loss in aching detail.
Chris Price‘s poem, ‘The also-ran,’ reminded me how much I like her poetry. Here the disgruntled ‘runner’ is a misfit on the hunt for the elusive or the grass-that-is-greener or self recognition. Price relishes musical fluency as her miniature narrative is punctured into stanzas (broken breath) with sweet enjambment that connects, keeping both runner and reader on track.
Lynn Davidson‘s ‘Kapiti Island Welcomes Back the Girl and Her Mother,’ is steered by the deft hand of both storyteller and musician: (‘They cut through weed and current/ flicker and fin to get in’ and ‘to make words make/ this wind that howls/ make the frequencies for language’). AAhhh!
Sarah Jane Barnett‘s long poem, ‘Running with My Father,’ also adopts the rhythm of running, but her poem strengthens in its shifting style. The early morning run absorbs the father figure in memory flashes, the way the puff and pant of lungs and heart working hard draw in different images and insights. This is a glorious poem that pulls you in closer to thoughts of death and of life.
Frances Samuel is not a poet that I am familiar with, but I was struck by her poems and was delighted to see VUP will publish her debut collection later this year. Her poems have serenity, simplicity, a meditative quality, an offset quirkiness running through them that is utterly alluring. One poem begins: ‘There are so many ways to write about dying.’ Another start: ‘In the very earliest time/ autumn trees stretched to the sky/ raking the reds and pinks of the sunset.’
I found myself half singing Bill Manhire‘s selection then wanted Hannah Griffin to take over— her heavenly voice igniting ‘Rikkitikkitavi/ you’re so charming/Rikkitikkitavi/ oh my darling.’ Is this a bad thing? You get Bill’s cheeky wit on the page, the sweet pull of repetition and rhyme, and then you want to sit in a dimly lit room and hear these poems sung.
And I loved Damien Wilkin‘s found poem —the titles of books Bill Manhire left behind on his shelf.
Next up the rewards of James Brown and Elizabeth Smither ….