Full review here. This is terrific writing that raises issues on poetry and the whole business of political poetry. I realise that statement is ambiguous – so take it to mean both the review and the anthology!
‘One hundred and one political poems, by nearly one hundred and one poets – who knew we had so many? Yet it’s odd, in an anthology as generous and inclusive as this, how you notice who’s missing. It’s a shame that outstanding political poetry from the past is outside the ambit of this book – the broadsides of Whim-Wham, Glover, Baxter, Fairburn and Frame would have provided a rich historical context for this contemporary offering.
Co-editor Philip Temple rightly points out that there’s another anthology-in-waiting here. I particularly missed Bill Manhire’s ‘Hotel Emergencies,’ and among other practising poets, I also missed Helen Lehndorf, Jenny Bornholdt, Ashleigh Young, Hinemoana Baker, Stefanie Lash, Bob Orr, Tim Jones, Sarah Jane Barnett, Sam Hunt, Helen Heath, and Apirana Taylor (there’s an excerpt from Taylor’s ‘Sad joke on a marae’ in Temple’s introduction). But this is an invitation-to-submit volume rather than a survey of what’s already out there in books, magazines and online, so maybe some poets simply missed the memo. (I missed the memo.) And maybe some poets just don’t have a political poem in them. But maybe every poem is political. And if that’s too woolly and undefined, then what is a political poem, exactly?
‘Poetry on the page, in New Zealand at least, seldom raises its voice, so when it does, you prick up your ears and listen.
But the strident, raised voice of many of the poems here also bothered me.’
Landfall 233 edited by David Eggleton
Last Sunday I was feeling travel worn, flat, depleted, sick and I could not settle on anything. The kind of day where you pick this up and put it down. You pick that and then this and then that and then this. And then find yourself back at the start again. It was only when I opened the new Landfall I found my self settling back and reading.
The 70th Birthday issue is terrific. It includes testimonies from Chris Price and Iain Sharp (both candid on the difficulties of editing a key literary journal), Philip Temple (on the controversial dismissal of Robin Dudding and efforts to revive the flagging enterprise) and Peter Simpson on Charles Brasch and Landfall. Simpson quotes Brasch musing on when to quit editing. He decided he must stop at 15 years – although it stretched to 20. He concluded:
‘I shall have nothing to live for, nothing I badly want to do, nothing I am forced to do in order to live …’
Sometimes I like to read a journal from first page to last page in order to follow the contours and harmonies of editing. This time it was pick n’ mix poetry. As I read I jotted down:
vibrant fresh vital diverse essential reading unfamiliar voices much-loved voices direct indirect
Adore the Art Portfolios by Chris Corson-Scott and Heather Straka.
Two prose pieces caught me eye first. Both surprising and stick like biddibids.
‘Last-ditch Daisies’ Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor
‘It’s All I Had’ Joanna Cho
Then the poetry:
‘Four Transformations on a theme of Philip’ by Anne Kennedy is like a return to her brother (1951 – 1973). Every time I pick the book up it falls open here and I read it again. The short lines shift patterns on the pages like little twitches of contemplation, memory, bright retrieved detail with indents, parentheses, fluency.
Catch me in the garden
and put me in a jar
the air where I was
in the palm of your hand
‘Morning Song’ by Emma Neale builds a loving grandfather portrait that weds sharp detail with war undertones spiky within a family’s daily life. It is sumptuous writing with things hiding off the edges.
Gramps stole eggs, green seeds of song, from their nests
to show us wonder; hairline cracks ran
our sooks’ hearts as we watched the robbed mothers fly home.
‘Mr Anderson, You Heartbreaker’ by Helen Rickerby teases and bites into Hans Christian Anderson and his depiction or wooing of women and harnesses Helen’s adult eyes on the Little Mermaid.
And really, if she’d just held onto her tongue
she could have sung him to her
reeled him in, drunk him down
one prince, on the rocks, coming up
‘Storm’ by Amanda Hunt is a glorious lyrical snapshot that slows down the pace of contemplation to the point each detail is under an enviable spotlight. ( I am reminded of how Janet Frame wanted to slow down the pace of her poems)
a butterfly flutter
of moth-soft feathers
glancing across my shoulder
‘Fear of Feathers’ by Michael Gould delivers a surprising passage through the lines to the final enticement ‘life is good.’
Some sounds of birds (unseen but heard)
may confound those with no sense of the absurd
‘Personal Space’ by Johanna Emeney refreshes the domestic poem beautifully and needs to be read in its completeness to catch the humour, the pathos, the politics, the poetry, the feeling. I am including the last stanza.
She should clear a space
beneath the sudden worry of crowded floors,
the scatter of feet; the shock of doors,
run downstairs and shut herself in
the last room at the bottom,
then spin, arms open,
to see just how wide
she has forgotten.
‘Inflammable’ by Anna Jackson is a poem that catches the dark and light of life and living beneath the flicker of candle light. It reminds me of the way a particular moment, against all the millions lost and faded, that is luminous on return.
The world was flammable we knew it was.
‘Art Is Weak’ by Nick Ascroft is smart and sharp and hooks you from the first line.
Conceptual art is not so empty sleeved
‘The Bee Elle’ by Lynley Edmeades curls and coils deliciously around a physical view and subterranean ideas.
Everyone is hooked up
to various elsewheres
as if our bodies don’t matter.
‘How a New Zealand Sunrise is Different from Other Sunrises’ by Erik Kennedy is like a landscape poem standing on its head and is thus invigorating to read (I am a landscape poem fan for all kinds of reasons).
Pinks and yellows collude to orange the hillside,
but they trick you into thinking the hills are proper orange
on their own, like an oyster catcher’s lurid bill