Poetry Shelf, Poet’s Choice: Nina Powles makes her picks

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Having just finished my MA in poetry, this year has been not just one of writing but of reading poetry hungrily and intensely.

One of the joys of getting to know 10 other writers so closely was the huge number of new writers I discovered thanks to them. Two books I might otherwise never have come across were the challenging but sonically beautiful The Dream of the Unified Field by American poet Jorie Graham, and Claudia Rankine’s powerful and experimental Citizen.

Thanks to one of our visiting writers Australian novelist Michelle de Kretser, I read The Deep by Canadian writer Mary Swan. The Deep is a dreamlike novella set during WWI and I think it changed my life in 71 pages.

 

It was also an amazing year for new New Zealand poetry. I enjoyed falling into the spiky and surreal world of Miss Dust by Johanna Aitchison. And every single one of Joan Fleming’s Failed Love Poems made me feel breathless and lightheaded, a bit like being struck repeatedly by tiny bolts of lightning. From ‘Heathcliff’:

we know where to find the black tips / exquisite / of a soft tearaway / of what flew / and sang / we know the other is / best heard / in atmospheres / of howling

 

LEFT, edited by Wellington writer Jackson Nieuwland, is a book more people should know about. It’s heavy and enormous and full of fresh and startling art, fiction and poetry in glossy full-colour by New Zealand and American writers, including two of my favourite young poets Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle and Hera Lindsay Bird. From ‘Pain Imperatives’ by Hera Lindsay Bird:

You have to think ‘love has radicalized me’ and walk around like Helen of Troy

You have to walk around until the ships burn off

 

This year I also discovered the possibilities of the long-form poem, especially in Sarah Jane Barnett’s new book WORK, Alice Oswald’s Memoriam, and Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red. I’d read Autobiography of Red before but this year it suddenly became important to me in a new and startling way. For months I carried it around with me, knowing I could open it on any page and it would floor me:

 

Herakles switched on the ignition and they jumped forward onto the back of the night.

Not touching

but joined in astonishment as two cuts lie parallel in the same flesh.

 

Nina Powles

 

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One thought on “Poetry Shelf, Poet’s Choice: Nina Powles makes her picks

  1. Jodine

    Thank you Nina, the excerp you chose of Joan Flemings ‘Failed Love Stories’, made me want to buy a copy for my collection! Beautiful ‘Heathcliff’ for definite. Jx

    Reply

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