Tigers At Awhitu by Sarah Broom
Auckland University Press $24.99

Sarah Broom, who has a PhD from Oxford, is the author of a book on contemporary British and Irish poets and has just released her first poetry collection (co-published in Britain).

Tigers at Awhitu, with a sumptuous painting by John Walsh on the cover, is a book of two halves.

The first half deftly roves across subject matter as the poems observe, confess and tell miniature stories. The language is delicious: "the shush and sweep/ of tiny waves." The metaphors are both fresh and agile: a baby's breath is compared to "moth's wings/ on a pillow."

The second half of the book is something altogether different and sends you back to the first poems to read them in a new light.

These second poems were written after Broom was diagnosed with cancer, and from this terrible, life-threatening state, her poetry moves to the extraordinary.

The poems, that may in part be therapeutic, stand as an aid to life. Things outside the clinical procedures and walls wrap about her as windows, anchors and safety nets. Reading these poems, the real world fades to a distance, and beyond the tender craft of each line, the intense luminosity of each word choice is poetry of absolute love.

The poem, because the world can do that to you, written out of pain, strength, fragility, resolve and maternal bonds is one of the more remarkable examples of how to use words when you are lost for words. This is a tremendous collection, in both parts.

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