Poetry Shelf Occasional Reviews: No Other Place to Stand

No Other Place to Stand: An Anthology of Climate Change Poetry from Aotearoa New Zealand, Jordan Hamel, Rebecca Hawkes, Erik Kennedy and Essa Ranapiri, Auckland University Press, 2022

Auckland University Press is to be celebrated for its stellar poetry anthologies. No Other Place to Stand: An Anthology of Climate Change Poetry from Aotearoa New Zealand offers an eclectic, and indeed electrifying, selection of climate change poetry. The editors, Jordan Hamel, Rebecca Hawkes, Erik Kennedy and Essa Ranapiri, are all frontline poets themselves.

The dedication resonates and stalls your entry into the book because it is so apt: “To those fighting for our future / and those who will live it.”

A terrific foreword by Alice Te Punga Somerville establishes a perfect gateway into the collection. Alice wonders, when climate change is such a mammoth issue, “about the value of the particular, the specific, the local, the here, the now”. What difference will reading and writing make when the world demands action? Alice writes: “Every single poem in this anthology speaks to the relationship between words and worlds.” That in itself is enough of a spur to get a copy of the book, and open up trails of reading, wonder and challenge.

I am spinning on the title. I am turning the word ‘stand’ over and over in my mind like a talisman, a pun, a hook. I am thinking we stand and we speak out, I am thinking we stand because we no longer bear it, and I am thinking we stand together.

The poems selected are both previously published and unpublished. The sources underline the variety and depth of print and online journals currently publishing poetry in Aotearoa: Minarets, Starling, Spin Off, Mayhem, Pantograph Punch, Poetry NZ, Blackmail Press, Overland, Sweet Mammalian, Turbine | Kapohau, Takahē, Stasis, Landfall.

No Other Place to Stand is an essential volume. You can locate its essence, the governing theme, ‘climate change poetry’, yet the writing traverses multiple terrains, with distinctive voices, styles, focal points. I fall into wonder again and again, but there is the music, the political, the personal, the heart stoking, the message sharing. There is the overt and there is the nuanced. There is loud and there is soft. There is clarity and there is enigma. You will encounter a magnificent upsurge of younger emerging voices alongside the presence of our writing elders. This matters. This degree of bridge and connection.

Dinah Hawken has long drawn my eye and heart to the world we inhabit, to the world of sea and bush and mountain, stones, leaves, water, birds. Reading one of her collections is like standing in the heart of the bush or next to the ocean’s ebb and flow. It is message and it is transcendental balm. Her long sublime poem, ‘The uprising’, after presenting gleams and glints of our beloved natural world, responds to the wail that rises in us as we feel so helpless.

6.a.

But all I can do is rise:
both before and after I fall.
All I can do is rally,

all I can do is write
– I can try to see and mark
where and how we are.

All I can do is plant,
all I can do is vote
for the fish, the canoe, the ocean

to survive the rise and fall.
All I can do is plead,
all I can do is call . . .

from ‘The uprising’

I am reading the rich-veined ancestor currents of Tayi Tibble’s ‘Tohunga’, the luminosity of Chris Tse’s ‘Photogenesis’, the impassioned, connecting cries of Selina Tusitala Marsh’s ‘Unity’ and Karlo Mila’s ‘Poem for the Commonwealth, 2018’. Daily routines alongside a child’s unsettling question catch me in Emma Neale’s ‘Wanting to believe in the butterfly effect’. I am carried in the embrace of Vaughan Rapatahana’s ‘he mōteatea: huringa āhuarangi’ with its vital, plain speaking call in both te reo Māori and English.

Take this heart-charged handbook and read a poem a day over the next ninety days. Be challenged; speak, ask, do. I thank the editors and Auckland University Press for this significant anthology, this gift.

Auckland University press page

Jordan Hamel is a Pōneke-based poet and performer. He was the 2018 New Zealand Poetry Slam champion. He uses poetry and performance to create awareness and discourse about environmental and political issues. He is the co-editor of Stasis Journal and his debut poetry collection Everyone is everyone except you was published by Dead Bird Books in 2022.

Rebecca Hawkes is a poet/painter from Canterbury, living in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Her chapbook ‘Softcore coldsores’ was published in AUP New Poets 5 in 2019. Her first full-length poetry collection, Meat Lovers, was recently unleashed by Auckland University Press. Rebecca edits Sweet Mammalian and is a founding member of popstar poets’ posse Show Ponies.

Erik Kennedy is the author of Another Beautiful Day Indoors (Te Herenga Waka University Press, 2022) and There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime (Victoria University Press, 2018), which was shortlisted for best book of poems at the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. He lives in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

Essa Ranapiri (Ngāti Wehi Wehi / Ngāti Takatāpui / Clan Gunn) is a poet from Kirikiriroa. They are part of puku.riri, a local writing group. Their book ransack was published by Victoria University Press in 2019. Give the land back. It’s the only way to fix this mess. They will write until they’re dead. And after that, sing.

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