I read my quickly purchased copy of Essential New Zealand Poems through and through. I dug-deep and I researched all about the writers. I memorised my favourites. I even read Bub Bridger's Wild Daisies aloud at Mariana's wedding!
I read it. Oh I read it, until I lost it in one of my many moves and travels, or perhaps loaned it to some ill-forsaken friend. Sadly it is now out of print, so if you manage to find one in a book store I implore you to snap it up! (And send it to me!)
Understandably I could not be happier about the release of Essential New Zealand Poems - Facing the Empty Page, a collection every bit as essential, current and poignant as it's former. Beautifully designed, it is a book that is pleasing to many senses. On first glimpse it looks almost retro with a distinct 70s vibe about it. Could it be the warm earthy tones? Or perhaps it's the tactile feel to the fabric cover? Maybe too the gorgeous bright gold ribbon with which you keep your place? Whatever it is, it works. As does the New Zealand scenic photography all throughout the book by photographer Megan van Staden. Her work helps to remind the reader: this is ours, this poetry is a part of our beautiful country.
The poetry too is every bit as diverse as our scenic land. Some, like Selina Tusitala March's Two Nudes On A Tahitian Beach and Fleur Adcock's Having Sex With The Dead, are rugged, like the rocks against our own beaches. Others like Glen Colquhoun's The Girl Who Stood Beside Me At the Checkout Counter In Hamilton On Tuesday, or Margaret Mahy's Bubble Trouble are soft and sentimental, like the view from the top of Mt Kaukau on a fine day. And James K. Baxter's Ode to Auckland which begins: 'Auckland, you great arsehole', makes a Wellingtonian like me chuckle about the friendly feud between our two cities.
150 poems by 150 poets feature in this book. Ranging in more ways than one; from the old to the young, the new to the old, the rambling to the structured, the narrative to the ambiguous, the dark and stern to the light-hearted and funny (like Bub Bridger's A Christmas Wish!), it's all here. The poets who were carefully selected to feature, portray a slice of New Zealand just as much as their work does, hailing from the lengths and breadths of the country, even abroad, and from all walks of life. There's even a link to the pop music industry as award winning poet, Sonja Yelich, mother to singer Lorde, features with her poem Wires.
Poets are often incognito wanderers in society, hunkering down in day-jobs, riding the buses with the rest of them. Though they may appear normal, are silently writing in their heads. Seeing. Sizing. Noting. They have seen us all. They have watched us. As we walk our kiwi streets and go about our days we are unknowingly inspiring these quiet thinkers. This collection is as much ours: the muses, the inspirators, as it is the poet's themselves.
This is a book to be treasured. A book of poems to switch off the T.V for, to turn off your phone for, to get off the computer for. A book to sit by the fire with and to read aloud to someone you love.
Facing the Empty Page
Selected by Siobhan Harvey, James Norcliffe & Harry Ricketts
A Godwitt Book
Published by Random House New Zealand