Tales of the Waihorotiu,Carin Smeaton, Titus Books, 2017
Carin Smeaton’s debut collection, Tales of the Waihorotiu, is all about voice. It is acutely textured: surprising, open, sharp, slang-rich, vernacular driven. It pulls you so close you can sense the speaker’s breath on the line. It grips you from the first page until the last.
The short lines, the shortened words, intensify the conversational flow – like there is an inward outward breath audible, like there is pause for thought, what to reveal and what to keep quiet. Conversational fluency in poems ought not be taken lightly, we are so easily seduced by an apparent ease, but this is exquisitely crafted. Talk is transposed into music and that music becomes poetry, layered, magnetic.
What I love in this collection is the way voice is a gateway to abundant life on the page, startling at times, moving at others. Place matters, people matter and experience is the pulse that steers the line. You might move from a meteor shower to kids spinning on a whirligig to eating eel to Fargo to bad relations to Woody Allen to Mary Poppins to a broken tooth to St Kevin’s Arcade to the Rugby World Cup to a crap world to a better world to headache and heartache.
The title refers to the Waihorotiu stream that used to run down Queen Street but after life as a canal, then sewer, now flows underground. The poetry’s roots soak deep into Auckland, especially into lives that flow counter to the bright lights and the privileged. Voice now gives presence to the voiceless.
This a heart-crunching, mouth-watering, kaleidoscopic read and I love it. Here is a poem to whet your poetry taste buds: