Tag Archives: Titus Books

Carin Smeaton’s Tales of the Waihorotiu – a heart-crunching, mouth-watering, kaleidoscopic read




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:



Night Shower
last night
i wanted to catch
a meteor shower
but it was the wrong night
i saw 2 hedgehogs instead
under the cosmos sky
under the clothesline
that was pretty cool
wit uncle moon
naina says
he give us the light
to go anywhere
astro speed
to see the night
swallow aniseeds
then throw em up
da brightest ones
weather dreadful
stellar blue
i think i’ll wake
my boys for u
if we don’t see u
we’d at least see
 the hedgies
i think that’d make
us happy
©Carin Smeaton

Poetry Shelf review: Holly Painter’s Excerpts from a Natural History – This book is a tonic for me as a reader

front-cover     front-cover


Excerpts from a Natural History Holly Painter  Titus Books  2015


This book is a tonic for me as a reader and a boost in the blood for poetry. I adore it.

John Newton’s endorsement on the back is perfect: ‘Holly Painter is a trickster poet, you never know where she is going next. Sometimes she wants to lick your ear. Over the page she might chew your ear off.’

The launch pad for the collection: ‘When the British natural philosophers of the 17th century founded modern natural history, they proposed finding a poet to compile a poetic account of everything that existed in nature, very broadly defined. Four hundred years later, the work is ongoing, made modern and rigorous with rules and style-guides, managers and research-poets.’

The notion of a research-poet sidetracked me into other poet roles that have existed or might exist: speculative-poet, domestic-poet, Sunday-poet, global-village-poet, experience-poet, travel-poet, theory-poet, heart-poet.

The collection is made up of the submissions of a researcher-poet but made infinitely more interesting by the tracked comments of her supervisor and the myriad ideas and relations that proliferate.

The poet-researcher is set assignments that demand inventories and lists of things that include the natural world (regenerating starfish, the kakapo) but veer wildly into a material world (buttons for sale, ‘Tubular Bells’) and curious things between (flower motifs for teenage courtship).

The supervisor demands the voice of reason, clarity, facts, comprehensive lists, specificity, neutrality and rebuffs anecdotes, adverbs, poetic licence, personal confession.

Sometimes the submissions are laugh out loud as in the light of the recovery work of ‘Tubular Bells’ or the counting of buttons (how long did it take?).

The tracking comments form editorial advice but also trace the relationship between supervisor and researcher-poet(this label keeps slipping in my hands!). The reaction of the supervisor to relations beyond editorial choices is explicit in the tracked comments; the reaction of the latter is buried in the poetry submissions. Love hijacks the cool calculation of inventories. The very guts of ‘natural history’ and what that might embody is reinvented.

Holly employs a range of styles, tones, rhymes, layouts, silences, musicalities as though the heart cannot be penned (excuse the pun!) within a style-guide. The collection is dexterous on its tip toes as it gets you thinking about categories and categorisations, hierarchies and dichotomies, and the way love cannot resist (avoid) anecdote, confession, adverbs.

The book is beautiful. The paper gorgeous to the hand, while the cover’s marigolds almost fill the room with a nostalgic scent.

I highly recommend this book.

Holly is an MFA graduate from the University of Canterbury. Her poetry has been included in Sport, Landfall, the NZ Listener and JAAM. She lives in Singapore with her wife and son.

Titus Books here

Holly Painter’s web site