Poetry Shelf review: David Eggleton’s Throw Net | Upena Ho’olei

Throw Net | Upena Ho’olei, David Eggleton, artwork by Tonu Shane Eggleton, National Library / Fernbank Studios, 2021




I’m mesmerised by the sunshine’s sheen,
and every minute particular feels mine.

The sea disgorges its catalogue of shells
on the white page of sand for no-one.

On my hotel bed, I dream and sail.


from ‘Tourist Island’

Our current Poet Laureate, David Eggleton, has published a handset, hand-bound collection of poetry with artwork (woodblock prints) by his brother Tonu Shane Eggleton. Brendan O’Brien, beautiful-book craftsman extraordinaire, has produced an edition of 100 at his Fernbank Studios. The book is exquisite. I run my hand over the rough edged paper (Kerkall, plus Stonehenge for the covers). It is book joy. Holding this book. Holding this beauty. The artwork is an evocative sheen on the page.

The National Library, which has administered the New Zealand Poet Laureate Award since 2007, published the book. The award was established by Bill Manhire and winemaker John Buck as the Te Mata Poet Laureate Award n 1996. Throw Net | Upena Ho’olei is fittingly dedicated to John.

In 2018 David spent three months at the University of Hawai’i’s Moana Campus, as the Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer Resident. The poems began in notebooks while he was there, and were completed upon his return.

Throw Net | Upena Ho’olei, with nine poems and a scattering of artworks, is the perfect place to sojourn.

This is poetry that celebrates the moment. It feels like the poet is inhabiting a particular place, at a particular time, and slowly breathes in the experience. The poem establishes a heightened relationship with place, a translation of experience within measure poetic form. The treasured details offer sound and visual explosions to the point I am imbibing a poetry feast, a delectable banquet. I am unashamedly drawn to food metaphors because poetry is a form of nourishment on the tongue, in the heart, in the lungs. This is poetry that is so very nourishing.

There is quietness, there is melody, there are shifting keys and multiple forms. I am breathing in salt and ocean, and undulating voyage. I am lingering over vignette and anecdote. In this time of limited travel and strict local borders, poetry is a travel plan, an itinerary of respite and joy. You might swim with turtles and hear the church bells ring out. There is ‘the chop of waves’ and ‘ukelele strums’. Expect mountains and lava and sun, much much sun. I am feeling skin glazed as I spend a whole Saturday drifting in and out of these poems. Pleasure crafts. Such honeyed vessels.

I love this lovingly crafted chapbook. Such economy, such fluidity, such reach. I dream and I set sail.


The snores of a sleeper on a beach towel
recite genealogy under volcano’s glow.
A sunken raft of manta rays stirs after dark.

Hands hula-hula, shaping sandwiches
into islands; mechanically, a shark
takes a bite out of the moonlight.

Someone slings a hammock between trees.
Each wave is a line; each line is breaking;
and even the mountains are setting sail.


from ‘Throw Net’

David Eggleton NZ Poet Laureate blog

You can order a copy at the Library Store at $70 per copy. email: natlib-retail@dia.govt.nz

NZ Poetry Shelf interview

Otago University Press page

NZEPC page with poems

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