Design a site like this with
Get started

Night Horse

by Elizabeth Smither

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Winner of the Ockham New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 2018

Since Elizabeth Smither’s name turns up so regularly in NZ book awards I have wanted to sample her work for a while.

& I enjoyed this collection very much. Like most poetry collections for me, not every poem appeals but Ms Smither has a nice turn of phrase. I especially enjoyed Cat Night & Night Horse.

Putting a Line Through Addresses
 was darker than the other poems & I think it might be my favourite.

As people who know me realise, I’m a sucker for good cover art & this cover by Keely O’Shannessy is one of the best I’ve seen this year.

Collected Poems

by Ivor Gurney

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This year we had quite a strange ANZAC Day for us, as we didn’t go to either of the parades – & in fact, don’t even know if the parades even happened due to COVID. I still wanted to do my annual war poetry reading, but I ran into a slight snag. I wanted to read a New Zealand war poet, & my Google skills must be lacking as I couldn’t find a Kiwi poet from WW1 or WW2. If anyone knows of one (preferably where their poetry is online) please give me the names in the comments for this review.

But Googling did lead me to the very sad case of Ivor Gurney – a British poet from WW1 who had a nervous breakdown before he went to war! He was gassed 1917 & had a second breakdown in 1918. His family had him declared insane in 1922 & he spent the rest of his life in an institution. Gurney died in 1937.

Such a sad life & some of his work has never been published.

So I read a selection from this website.

Ballad of the Three Spectres Certainly shows a grim set of mind. 3.5★

To the Poet Before Battle Beautiful and sad. 5★

Strange Service Again, beautiful where Gurney realises what he has done enlisting – & what he is sacrificing. 5★

When you know the back story, you can’t help but be moved.


by Nina Mingya Powles

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The rising star of New Zealand poetry

I read Two Portraits of Home – [IMG_098] & [IMG_227] in the New Zealand Listener (Jan 23 2021) and I am intrigued. Very pretty use of words.

Let’s call it 4★ & see what the rest of the collection looks like.

Sonnet with particles of gold

Lovely – Powles works so effectively with colour & taste 4★

If anyone is interested, has one poem from each shortlisted entry to the Ockham’s.

I’m puzzled why Maggie Cheung’s Blue Cheongsam was chosen to represent Powles work. It is a fragment of prose. I normally hate fragments, but this one is pretty. Ok so 2.5★

Field Notes from a Downpour Pretty & yet profound. Loved this one! 5★

Girl Warrior, or; Watching Mulan (1998) in Chinese with English Subtitles. Outstanding! Captures the feeling of displacement one gets when not completely from the place where you are living. 5★

Breakfast in Shanghai sigh. Fragments. But lovely descriptions that make me feel like I’m in Powles world – in particular for a pink morning in late spring another sigh for the lower case titles though. 3🍑💫

Maps Another fragment of prose. 2.5★

The Great Wall, 2016 This may be a fragment but watching the author read it made a big difference for me. 3★

I have been given some Amazon gift vouchers & this is one of the books I have purchased. I’m probably not going to review every poem the way I have above, but let’s see how I get on.

One thing I’m finding (& I don’t think it’s my kindle) is that the pages ‘stick’ a bit & are hard to turn. Haven’t had this with a kindle book before.

Edit; & I have thrown in the towel & returned the kindle edition to Amazon. There is a note on the Amazon page warning that this is a large file (for 81 pages!) & it has proved impossible to read, as it sticks & jumps pages. I can’t get hold of the author, but I have contacted her publicist to suggest this needs fixing.

Edit: Never did hear from the publicist.

Marking as a Can’t Finish for now.

Goddess Muscle

by Karlo Mila

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Wow! Wow! Wow!

The poetry book is literally the complete package!

A beautiful cover, great artwork inside, really impressive design..

At over 200 pages, this is much longer than your usual NZ poet’s book & spans a decade of creativity.

No subject is out of bounds for Ms Mila. She covers love, politics, J.C. Sturm and her husband, the gifted poet (but appalling human being James K. Baxter) ancestry and her Creative New Zealand Fulbright Pacific Writer’s Residency in Hawaii. The poetry can be gentle, angry, lyrical, reflective,topical. These are poems with muscle.

This amazing collection only made it as far as the longlist at this year’s Ockham’s (NZ Book Awards) I am part way through the shortlisted Magnolia, 木蘭[image] and that is lovely, but far more delicate than this one.

The variety of Aotearoa’s poets has me excited.

In Flanders Field

In Flanders Fields by John McCrae

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On holiday last year we came across this wonderful poem on the side of a building. The gates were padlocked shut, so I had to take the picture at an angle.

This year is a very different ANZAC Day for us. We are in Lockdown, so no official commemorations, although many (like our tireless PM) got up at 6 am & stood silently in their driveways. I marked it at 8.30 am. It is a beautiful day & I could hear a single drum, beating a lonely tattoo.

To respect Lockdown, (& social distancing) I went to our War Memorial Monument yesterday. It was a perfect day & I was standing in the olive grove that has been planted behind The Monument.

I had a walk in our silent town. A poppy from the museum where I normally volunteer a couple of times a month.

In front of someone’s home.

This is an expanded picture. Not very good & it isn’t clear that this is rosemary in the planters.

And on another fence. This guy would probably laugh to be called an artist, but he has done a number of metal sculptures in our town.

Supposedly, the original version of this moving poem had “grow” rather than “blow” for the poppies. I think I prefer this, but either way this rondeau written for a fallen friend is extremely moving. McCrae died of pneumonia near the end of the war.Lest we forget.…

View all my reviews