Short Poems of New Zealand

So I arrived back from a holiday in Hawai’i to find this wee beauty waiting – a collection of small (9 lines or fewer) New Zealand poems, edited by Jenny Bornholdt and published by Victoria University Press. A wide range of poets are represented, from the greats who are no longer with us, like Ursula Bethell and Hone Tuwhare, to newer poets like Sam Duckor-Jones. I’m still looking through, but it’s great to see so many old favourites in here (like Allen Curnow’s ‘Wild Iron’, James K Baxter’s ‘High Country Weather’,  Greg O’Brien’s ‘A Visiting Card’, Hinemoana Baker’s ‘Referee’ and Bill Manhire’s ‘My World War I Poem’) and meet many others I’m not so familiar with. As an object, too, it is a thing of beauty – hard-backed and featuring Greg O’Brien’s lovely illustrations. Thanks Jenny, and thanks VUP.

I’m delighted to have my poem ‘Forest Song’ (first published in ‘The Glass Rooster‘, AUP)  included in this anthology. As a lapsed botanist, I often find myself mentally reciting the names of the plants I see as I walk through native bush, greeting old friends. ‘Forest Song’ is a list of native New Zealand species in a (broadly) four-beats-to-the-line chant.

Hawai’i was terrific and a revelation in many ways. We were struck, for example by the many similarities between te reo Maori and the Hawaiian language (te one roa – the long beach – becoming ke one loa, for example). And some of the same species were there too, like akeake (Dodonaea viscosa) or in Hawai’i, ‘a’ali’i. There were common genera too, like Metrosideros – we have Metrosoderos excelsa (pōhutukawa) and M. robusta (rātā); Hawai’i has M. polymorpha, ‘ohi’a lehua, with a very similar flower.

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‘Ohi’a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) on Kaua’i

We are less well supplied with green sea turtles (honu) here in Aotearoa, and for me, they were a highlight of the trip, especially on Kaua’i, where we spent most of our time, staying with our friends Chuck and Carolyn. We could see the turtles in the sea from our bedroom window and most days, we walked to the rocks a couple of minutes from where we were staying to watch them feeding in the waves and periodically waving a flipper or poking their head above the water. At another beach, we saw turtles basking while people swam and children played close by.

Green turtle (honu) on Kaua'i

Green turtle (honu) on Kaua’i

It was the perfect chill-out, wind-down, hanging-out-in-nature holiday after what has been a pretty intense and challenging year. I loved it and recommend it.

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