Poetry Reviews: Breathing on the page

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Minuit's Ruth Carr. Photo / Supplied
Minuit's Ruth Carr. Photo / Supplied

Crumple by Vivienne Plumb
seraphpress@paradise.net.nz $25

Vivienne Plumb's new collection of poetry - beautifully designed by poet and publisher Helen Rickerby - reminds me that poetry books can feel so good in the hand. Plumb's poems have a chance to breathe on the page.

The title, Crumple, is equally satisfying. The self might crumple, the clothes will crumple and there is that crumpled draft on the floor. However, Plumb confesses in her title poem "crumple is a word I refuse/ to acknowledge". This first poem introduces the book as a series of little fortifications of self.

In contrast to the heavenly chunks of white space, the poems form a lush garden. There is the music in the ear: "The dogs drink vodka with their lolling pink tongues/ and then they laugh."

There is an exquisite simplicity that is the result of craft and intuition: "I know I look the same,/ but different."

There is the documentation of experience that shifts to become a poetic torchlight on the world that is witty, quirky, moving, compassionate, joyful.

"Divinity is uncanny/ it turns up in the conversation/ as often as the torso of the deck/ and everyone goes wow."

I Felt Like A Fight, Alright? by Ruth Carr
Liselle@Isaacpromotions.com $25

Ruth Carr, who fronts the band Minuit, has published a collection of "one-liners, poems, lyrics and tales".

I Felt Like a Fight, Alright? - as we read on the back - is a collection of poems that "give you a peek inside Ruth's head". If this is so, these lively pages transport us to a head that is fresh, sidestepping, drawn to personal things, humorous, philosophical and confessional. The lines are steered by a musician's ear with infectious rhythms, and while the subject matter is hooked on life and death, the treatment is distinctive, witty and original.

The lines "I meant to hand you a bowl of love/ but instead it was a colander" appear in typeface and are followed by a handwritten "sorry". This mix of doodles, typeface and handscript makes you feel as though you are holding a notebook of spontaneity and of craft.

Mauri Ola ed by Albert Wendt, Reina Whaitiri, Robert Sullivan
AUP $49.99

Robert Sullivan, Albert Wendt and Reina Whaitiri have edited a worthy sequel to Whetu Moana, their anthology of Polynesian poems. Mauri Ola demonstrates the exciting reach of poetry in the Pacific region.

Like its predecessor, the book is designed with an astute eye and is easy to use. The 80-plus poets are in alphabetical order, with succinct author bios and a considerable glossary at the back.

The editors have assembled an effective mix of poems from poets we know and love (Hone Tuwhare, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, J.C. Sturm, Apirana Taylor, Wendt), poets we are getting to love (Tusiata Avia, Karlo Mila, David Eggleton, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Sullivan) to newer poets, under whose spell we are about to fall (Audrey Brown-Pereira, Tracey Tawhiao, Alice Te Punga Somerville, Christy Passion, Kiri Piahana-Wong).

The poems say as much about Polynesian traditions of poetry and storytelling as they do about Western traditions. This anthology is on the poetry short list for the New Zealand Post Book Awards which will be announced next Wednesday night.

Lost Relatives by Siobhan Harvey
Steele Roberts $19.99

Some Evidence Of You by Gerry Webb
Steele Roberts $19.99

Two début collections worth noting. Siobhan Harvey's evocative collection of poems, Lost Relatives, navigates the terrain of dislocation and relocation - of how to lay down roots in a new country in the form of poetry. Gerry Webb's collection, Some Evidence of You, has landscape at its heart but in its intimate layerings is so much more than this.

Paula Green is an Auckland poet and children's author.

- NZ Herald

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