Book reviews: poetrySave
By Siobhan Harvey
HUMPHREY BOGART'S GREAT SACRIFICE by Kevin Ireland (Steele Roberts, $20)
Astonishingly author Kevin Ireland's new book is his 23rd poetry collection; quite an achievement! Steeped in wittiness and clever observations, it also epitomises the finest elements of this New Zealander's writing style. From the opening work, the sardonically titled Best Poem, to the standout verses that follow, including Perfect strangers, Reading the night and Tiny gestures, this is a collection about the small delights and strange coincidences life brings our way. Nowhere is this better and more entertainingly realised than in the titular poem which mines the narrator's chance encounter on a long-haul flight with a man bearing the same name as an important character in the classic Bogart-Bergman movie, Casablanca. Always, it's Ireland's esoteric meditations and insights which captivate. Roll on the 24th collection, say I.
BLOOD TIES: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS by Jeffrey Paparoa Holman (Canterbury University Press, $25)
Paparoa Holman is another classic New Zealand author and his latest poetry collection is a luscious, long-overdue medley collecting the best of his poems. From the early (Night) to the more recent (Child labour) and the well-loved (As big as a father), the work gathered here spans five decades and speaks of crucial events in New Zealand's recent history. This anthology is indispensable for the many who adore Paparoa Holman's writing or who are keen to familiarise themselves with his wider oeuvre.
POETRY NEW ZEALAND YEARBOOK 2017 edited by Dr Jack Ross (Massey University Press, $35)
In its new incarnation, the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook is a poetic treat. Published annually (rather than biannually as it was under previous editor Alistair Paterson), the compendium of contemporary poetry extends to 350 pages of fabulous poems, essays and reviews. This time the featured poet is a rising star of local literature, Elizabeth Morton, winner of the 2013 Emerging Poets Competition, shortlisted for the 2015 Kathleen Grattan Award and about to have her first full collection, Wolf, published. The Yearbook handsomely showcases this startling new voice with 20 fresh poems and a full interview. Reading the poem, Reincarnation, you'll be blown away by Morton's magical wordcraft and imagery. Equally impressive offerings come from familiar poets such as Stu Bagby, Johanna Emeney, Sue Fitchett, Olivia Macassey and Michael Steven, as well as new names such as Iva Vemich. While Janet Charman, Lisa Samuels and Bryan Walpert offer a triptych of perceptive essays. The result is one of the best New Zealand literary journals around.
THE ATOMIC COMPOSITION OF THE SEEMING SOLID by Shane Hollands (The Back Shed Press, $20 from freakymeat.co.nz)
This is the fourth collection from veteran performance poet Shane Hollands. It's a book about man's minuscule place in the universe. We are stars, of oxygen and pens, guns: here is work formed by combining strong rhythms, street-patois and startling imagery. Take, for instance, the wonderful poem Slow cooking in the Ghost Kitchen, which starts, "banged up with scars to prove it/ strung up in the dangerous kitchen/ the snare in all its broken glory". This is poetry for the page and stage; read and then catch Hollands in performance.