Poetry Shelf, Poet’s Choice: Johanna Emeney makes her picks

1449100161547  Hoopla Native bird web

My favourite book of 2015 is Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing with Feathers. Richly allusive, elegiac, lyrical, this short work is the one I have recommended most to friends. It is in no way a literary snob of a book, but it has many layers and is extremely clever. You will want to read it two or three times. Especially if you are a Dickinson or Hughes fan—although the style is nothing like that of either poet.

Bryan Walpert’s Native Bird is a beautiful collection. Poignant and tender, the poems have a narrative thread that follows the story of new New Zealanders learning how things work. Bryan is adept at making words work overtime. He turns ambiguity against itself, avoiding the easy double-meaning, and surprising the readers with another they hadn’t thought of. Most impressive are the meta-poems, in which it is as if the poem is being written and read at once. Poems like “Objective Correlative” and “Manawatu Aubade” are examples.

Lastly, two journals I would recommend are Poetry London www.poetrylondon.co.uk edited by Ahren Warner and Poetry New Zealand edited by Jack Ross. Both feature a nice balance of new poetry, essays and reviews, and are committed to featuring new as well as renowned poets. Ruth Arnison’s poem “Not Talking” in Poetry NZ Yearbook 2, November 2015 is one of the best, most heart-breaking, poems I have read all year.

Johanna Emeney



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