Leonel Alvardo’s in North & South – His new collection enters Kiwi vernacular, cold houses, science projects

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A few thoughts:

Great to see North & South magazine showcase a poet. They always publish a poem from a recent publication with a few notes. I applaud them for this. Leonel Alvarado’s collection, Driving with Neruda to the Fish ‘n’ Chips, is a poetic viewing of an adopted country, of the little details that we become immune to, take for granted, but that jut out to startle and bemuse the visitor from elsewhere. This poetic mirror refreshes relations with our way of doing things (walking through the back door past the laundry to go inside, walking barefoot to the shops). But the collection is far more than this as the links back to poetic origins, to home, are never severed. Things are often a gateway to ideas. Musings. I particularly loved the long title poem that embraces Don Pablo. The sequence is like a glorious meditation on living, on being a poet.

A poet of pots

he instinctively wants to go

for the soups, and I am sad to admit

that Don Pablo is quickly disapponted

in this soupless land. A country,

he laments, an entire country

without pots; in fact, more poets

than pots.

(an extract)


This is a book of things but it is a richness of things and what they yield beyond physical immediacy. I particularly liked ‘The chair’s memory’: ‘The chair is how the kauri forgets/ itself into the world.’ The poet wearing the shoes of the philosopher.

The NS article made me pick Leonel’s collection up and start rereading instead of getting out into the garden and planting things. This is a book that lays down anchors, sends physical tendrils skyward as much as soilwards. There is an addictive gentleness, contemplation, intellectual agility, interrogation. At times stillness.  At times rupture. The book draws you into the beating heart of home, of being a poet. Elsewhere or here. This is worth reading.



The book was published by HauNui Press as part of the 2014Kete series (edited by poet Helen Lehndorf.

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HauNui Press page

Tim Jones review here


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