I was hooked by the couplet that begins the first poem in Ocean and Stone by Dinah Hawken (Victoria University Press 2015).
‘Here I am an old woman, sitting alone / on an outside chair in Maoriland,’ she writes. I am captivated by this concise and evocative sketch of herself. That word ‘Maoriland’ with all its nuances and baggage still turns over and over in my mind.
Dinah writes beautifully about children, particularly in this book about her grandchildren. There is none of the cuteness that can mar writing about little children. Hers are tiny in stature, but total and convincingly human beings.
She can be very funny, for instance when she writes about ‘the bloke’ who disrupts the lake and everyone peacefully round it by tuning a loud speed boat for hours on end. We all know him, alas.
She writes particularly well about the natural world. I find it difficult to say without sounding as though I am attributing to her some wise conventional pieties. And the very last thing she does is write things that sound good and ‘nice’. If I had to pick a favourite poem, today I might choose ‘A screen is a screen’. Partly it’s a poem about climate change, but there is no hefty lecturing about it. The ubiquity of screens in our daily lives is countered with the strength and vitality of one bare tree, and with a the way a sense of community and family can enrich our lives.