At the Point of Seeing
by Megan Kitching (Otago University Press)
A poet steeped in botany and traditional poetry, Kitching brings a unique perspective to plants we often overlook. Avoiding preachiness, she makes us aware of even the smallest things in nature and considers how much we are all shaped by natural forces – like surfers pushed about by the waves.
Big Fat Brown Bitch
by Tusiata Avia (Te Herenga Waka University Press)
Just as punchy as her earlier collection, The Savage Coloniser, but twice as combative. Avia takes on her critics in the media, as well as colonialism, the flaws of Palagi and even the awkwardness of some Samoan ceremonies. Original, often ironical, self-critical, clear as a bell in style and, amazingly, very funny in the midst of real rage.
by Claudia Jardine (Auckland University Press)
Concerned with sex, but written by a classicist who pairs the ancient with the modern. Horace’s odes are outpaced by a woman’s perspective. Theseus wrestling the Minotaur to death becomes a sexual tussle. The strife of the sexes is very contemporary, and sometimes even brutal, as in the title poem Biter, but still there is room for wit, the incongruous and the satirical.
by Diana Bridge (OUP)
Drawing on her knowledge of historical Asian culture, Bridge makes a fruitful exploration of how art follows nature and nature sometimes seems to follow art. Exquisite in its presentation and precise in its observation, her poetry is always interested in shapes, textures and colours. Her translations of 15 poems by an ancient Chinese sage are as delicate as a silk screen.
Face to the Sky
by Michele Leggott (AUP)
Sharply observing the region in which she grew up, Taranaki, with all its cold sea winds, Leggott is haunted by ancestry and gives a far more nuanced view of colonialism than is often on display. In her wide travels (Portugal, etc) she charts other alien landscapes. If a few of her poems are cryptic, they are outweighed by the pellucid.
A Lack of Good Sons
by Jake Arthur (THWUP)
A great debut, 50 poems touching on many psychological states, with imagery hard and appealing. Without self-pity, these poems come to terms with adolescence turning into adulthood. The dominant persona is somebody still adjusting to the world, working out who he is and very aware of the smallness of humankind in the vastness of the universe.
by Leah Dodd (THWUP)
Another great debut and again lacking in self-pity. In free verse and some unpunctuated stream-of-consciousness, Dodd negotiates break-ups, the loss of a lover and the difficulties of raising a child on one’s own, but taking it all on the chin. She looks back wryly at her adolescence and when she takes to social satire, she is often uproariously funny.
Respirator: A Poet Laureate Collection 2019-2022
by David Eggleton (OUP)
A master of poetic satire and polemic, Eggleton charts the year of Covid lockdown among many other interests, such as the Pacific, the sea, animal life, the environment and the ills of an industrial society. There is wonderful lyricism in his sequence Whale Song – may it be read in every school – and a sharp critique of certain poets in the sequence Old School Ties. A great collection.
Root Leaf Flower Fruit
by Bill Nelson (THWUP)
That very rare thing, a novel in verse leavened with some prose. A townie’s experience of looking after a farm leads to complex thoughts on the generations, grandson and grandmother, nostalgia and obsolescence, life and death. The final walk of the grandmother is a tour de force of style and painfully realistic.
by Hannah Mettner (THWUP)
This collection is straightforward, loud, boisterous and very, very readable, Mettner deserving a medal of some sort for the very candid way she deals with sexual interaction – and it isn’t always fun. A heady mix of desire, sex and sometimes disappointment, especially when she says she no longer has the stamina to be a party girl, and some hard critique about the way women are misrepresented in advertising.
Geoff Cochrane: Selected Poems
foreword by Fergus Barrowman (THWUP)
The best work of the late, prolific poet who saw things at ground level, gleaned from the 20 collections he wrote.
James K Baxter: The Selected Poems
edited by John Weir (THWUP)
A close selection of “the best and most recognisable” work of a controversial poet, more sinner than saint but still essential reading. This may be the most accessible selection of Baxter’s work yet produced.
Rapture: An Anthology of Performance Poetry
edited by Carrie Rudzinski & Grace Iwashita-Taylor (AUP)
A great collection of pub and cafe and stage poetry by a multitude of rarely published poets.
edited by Anne Kennedy (AUP)
Subtitled Poems to learn by heart from Aotearoa New Zealand, a very inclusive, wide-ranging anthology of poems as old as Eileen Duggan and as new as Tusiata Avia. Its seven sections are charmingly arranged in alphabetical order of author’s surname.
by Andrew Johnston (THWUP)
The best work of a master of the pithy statement, biting wit and aphorism.