Books from NZ
July 20, 2011
I love a day when there are more books than bills in the postman’s bag. Usually the books go straight to Julie, our Librarian, but these ones took a detour. Through the generosity of Kenneth and Jocelyn Keith, we’ve been able to maintain our New Zealand collection, and a consignment from Unity Books – my favourite Wellington bookshop – reached my desk this week.
Boldly, Bill Manhire and Damien Wilkins picked The Best of Best New Zealand Poems, one poem per author. Having edited Best New Zealand Poems 2009, I’m very pleased to see quite a few of my choices surfacing here, holding their own across the ten years of BNZP. It’s an online publication – a model for Best Scottish Poems (now in its 7th year) – but there’s a particular pleasure in seeing a printed version. Mary Cresswell is one of the 60 poets in the book, and her new collection, Trace Fossils, entered the SPL by stealth last week (thank you, Mary and Lyell!). New collections by StAnza favourite Jenny Bornholdt (The Hill of Wool), by Airini Beautrais (Western Line), Dinah Hawken (The leaf-ride), Vincent O’Sullivan (The movie may be slightly different) and newcomer Janis Freegard (Kingdom Animalia) were all in the Unity parcel, along with a fat edition of the magazine Sport.
I’ve yet to read the poems in Sport 39 because I was so absorbed in James Brown’s account of this year’s T.S. Eliot Prize readings. Brown went along to support the NZ poet Brian Turner (‘he kept [his army service] quiet’) only to find that it was the US Brian Turner, whose army service is central to his poetry. Brown’s detailed evaluation of the evening gives us an attentive outsider’s view of the finalists that’s entirely refreshing. It couldn’t have been written by a UK poet, I think – and of course, that’s the value of the SPL’s international collection of books and magazines: they provide us with different ways of seeing, and unsettle us.