XYZ of Happiness
by Mary McCallum
(Submarine Press, $25)
Poetry marks important solemn moments in our lives like funerals. I love how Mary McCallum uses it in her rich, first collection to mark moments of laughter and joy, too. Here 26 alphabetically-titled poems, beginning with
After reading Auden
and closing with
transport us on a journey through the delights discovered in life's small, magical moments. The standouts include an apiarian-phoneme interchange, the solace found in losing someone to cancer and a homage to yellow. Rather than a ruckus of disparate narratives, McCallum uses common themes, like family, womanhood, and reading to piece this poetic celebration into a quilted, yarn spun whole.
Watching for the Wingbeat
by Pat White (Cold Hub Press, $40)
Fairlie environmentalist and poet Pat White's stunning collection combines new and previously published work into a touchstone of a poetry career richly composed. The range on offer is most striking. For instance, there's the impressionistic, 43 vignette epic, From the Valdimar Notebooks and the impressive, nonuple, Gnossienne. These are contrasted by the laconic conservational, Winter landscape, Wild flowers and Afterglow. Such variety and craft are coupled to White's channeling of past Chinese poets, his ecological sensibilities and a reverence for artisan crafts such as cropping and fence-building. Primarily though, whether it's Waterfall Bay, Okarito, rustic Scotland or memories of simpler bygone times, this is a book which charts a passion for landscapes, be they places natural, lost to the past or presently in need of our protection.
by Kerrin P. Sharpe
(Victoria University Press, $25)
Christchurch poet Kerrin P. Sharpe's unique approach to poetry is everywhere on show in this fourth collection. Sharpe is a wordsmith of the first order, her verse melding inventive use of language with an imaginative approach to subject matter which, to paraphrase iconic US poet Emily Dickinson, tells the truth but tells it slant. The poem titles, such as my mother darned the windsock and now the swallows pilot planes, say it all. A woman in rural China mourning her mother; a Hokitika hotel and its sleeping inhabitants soaring, like a rocket, through the stars; a balsam boat building son compared to an Old Master: here and elsewhere, the verses in Louder offer their own fantastic stories which coalesce into a collection which, enriched by motifs of deer, birds and angels, composes a fairytale of mourning, merriment and surprise.
Not as the Crow Flies
by Tim Heath
(Graduate Press, $20)
A poet of much renown on the New Zealand Slam circuit, Heath's first collection shows how accessible and enjoyable his poems are on the page. His beautifully produced book flies us on voyages geographic, familial, political and emotional. There are intimate early verses such as Marriage and You're allowed to cry and, latter, contemplative poems like Morning Walk and Dawn Walk. There are poems of place — Amsterdam, Wales and Tasmania, for instance — and poems informed by global atrocities like Night Raids. Always, a collection rich in idiom, imagery, and intimacy unfolds.