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OK, with 2009 already a distant memory, here is part 3 of poetry books I read and enjoyed last year.  No doubt I’ve missed a few along the way, but here goes:

Firesprung‘ and ‘Keening with Spittal Tongues’ by Kathleen Kenny (Red Squirrel Press).  We saw Kathleen read at the South Shields  Museum last August and I really enjoyed hearing her poems.  You can read a couple on the Red Squirrel website.

‘Further Convictions Pending’ – Vincent O’Sullivan (VUP) – I confess I hadn’t read much of Vincent O’Sullivan before.  I won this in an NZ Book Council giveaway (thanks Book Council!) and am now on a very pleasant voyage of discovery.

‘The Song of Lunch’ (CB Editions) and ‘A Scattering’ (Arete Books) by Christopher Reid.  Christopher Reid read at Te Papa last year.  A Scattering is a sad, but beautiful book, about his grief at the death of his wife (more on that here

Lighter and more fun (but still with its dark side) is The Song of Lunch, about a man who meets up for lunch with a former girlfriend but things don’t turn out as he imagined.

‘Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand’ (Interactive Press, edited by Mark Pirie and Tom Jones) – well I have to mention Voyagers, seeing as I’ve got a poem in it.  See here for more details and sample poems.  Lots of gems in this book.  One of my favourites is Vivienne Plumb’s The Last Day of the World which begins “That will be the day none of the eggs will cook.  There will be strange phenomena” .

On the Eve of Never Departing’  by Richard von Sturmer (Titus Books).  Not a poetry book (more of a memoir), but his language is so lyrical and beautiful, I thought I’d sneak it in.  There’s an account of the launch here:  I remember seeing Richard and his partner performing as the Humanimals in Auckland back in the early eighties and being terribly impressed.

 Also not a poetry book per se is Sam Hunt’s ‘Backroads’ (Craig Potton Publishing) which Peter got me for Christmas – again it’s a memoir, but with lots of great poems (other people’s – like James K Baxter’s – as well as his own) and great photos.

 Peter also gave me Glenn Colquhoun’s latest: ‘North South’ (Steele Roberts) – with illustrations by Nigel Brown, a tale of Celtic gods and goddesses meeting their Māori counterparts.

So – that was 2009.  Here’s wishing everyone a poetic 2010!

Here are some more of the poetry books that found their way into my collection during 2009 (by which I mean I either bought them myself or someone bought them for me – I don’t want anyone imagining I procured them by nefarious means…).  I may have left some books out – it’s all a bit of a blur.  And there are other very interesting-looking collections that were published during the year that I haven’t quite got to yet (like Harvey Molloy’s ‘Moonshot‘. Jessica le Bas’ ‘Walking to Africa’, Michele Leggott’s ‘Mirabile Dictu’ and Selina Tusitala Marsh’s ‘Fast Talking PI‘).

This is a list, rather than a bunch of reviews, because when I try to review something I struggle to get past ‘I liked it’, ‘I didn’t like it’ or ‘I liked it a lot’.  You can assume the following are books I liked, really liked or really, really liked.

‘Shields Sketches’ (Hub Editions), ‘No More Hiroshimas’ (Spokesman Books) and ‘Marsden Bay’ (Red Squirrel Press) by James Kirkup, whom I blogged about in November

‘In Person: 30 Poets’ edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books) – a wonderful DVD book (six hours of poets reading their own poems + a book containing all the poems) featuring great poets like Fleur Adcock, Maura Dooley, Selima Hill, Jackie Kay, Adrian Mitchell, Yang Lian and Benjamin Zephaniah.

‘Earth Shattering: ecopoems’ also edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books) – poems about environmental destruction, climate change, species extinction and so forth, but not all gloomy.  Poets range from Gerard Manley Hopkins and Wordsworth to contemporary poets such as Denise Levertov, Oodgeroo and Susan Griffin.

‘Skin Hunger’ by David Lyndon Brown (Titus Books) – poems about love, sex and death. Here’s an extract from “Icarus Reflects”:

“Look, it’s me

as a courtesan,

lagged in feathers

in a long lobby,

pitied and feared

for my mordant quips

and eloquent tailoring.”

‘A Book of Luminous Things’ edited by Czeslaw Milosz – this one’s been around a while, but I’ve only just got to it and it’s just as the title suggests.  It includes work by many classical Chinese poets, as well as modern American and European poets.

to be continued…



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