Book Review: Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21, by Kathleen Jones

Kathleen Jones is a noted biographer and poet whom I have previously interviewed for this blog, in particular about her excellent recent biography of Katherine Mansfield, and who is one of the Tuesday Poets. She was also kind enough to provide an endorsement for my recent collection Men Briefly Explained.

Reviewing books by people one knows and likes is both easier and harder than reviewing books by complete strangers. Easier, because this knowledge might give the reviewer a little more insight into the writer’s work – not that I am claiming any special insight!; and harder, because it is always possible that, despite liking the writer, the reviewer might not like the book.

I’m delighted to report that I don’t have this problem with Kathleen Jones’ latest book, her first full poetry collection, Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21. I like this book a lot, and furthermore, I liked it more and more as it went on.

If I was asked to say what this collection was about in three words (one of which had to be a conjunction), I’d say ‘landscape and character’. My favourite poems in the collection are those which bring the two together, and since almost all of them do this, I was a happy and engaged reader throughout.

Many of these landscapes are harsh. Kathleen Jones has spent much of her life in Cumbria, in the north of Britain, and many of these poems bear the harshness of that northern landscape, the sense that the flesh over the bones of the earth is thin. But the collection begins even further north, in the glacial north of Russia, where

From the lake’s edge the land seems
to go on forever – beyond politics,
into the impossible distances
of history, where women still

wash their clothes in the stream
and sleep above the stove.

(“Aiming for Archangel: Lake Onega”)

Winter is even more to the fore in “Winter Light”, which Helen Lowe recently featured as a Tuesday Poem on her blog, and intimate relationships are described in terms of snow and winter too:

Under the duvet’s white drifts
we trespass unconsciously —

a sleeping thaw that threatens
waking separation.

(“The Silence of Snow”)

Many of these poems feature a woman choosing, or preparing to choose, wintry solitude over warm entanglement – or having solitude imposed on her by circumstance, as in the title poem.

All the same, I think my very favourite poems in the book are those which are not (ostensibly, at least) about the narrator of the poems, but about an external figure. I chose “‘To the Gods the Shades'”, about a 1st-century Roman occupier of Britain guarding the Empire’s northern border, as my Tuesday Poem this week because I admire the way in which Kathleen Jones evokes the man, his times, and the country in which he serves, all in 24 economical lines, not a word wasted, nothing flashy (which would be inappropriate for this poem), everything achieved by the skilled deployment of language. The high point of this poem for me is

scouring the Tyne gap through this bleak
border town where everything closes at five —

lines that bridge the gap between historical and modern times with the complaint of a cosmopolitan traveller, a complaint such as ancient Roman or modern Briton might equally make.

Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21 is full of such deft touches. Worth reading, worth re-reading.

Book Review: Slightly Peculiar Love Stories

(Disclaimer: Slightly Peculiar Love Stories includes my story “Said Sheree”, which I have not attempted to review!)

Slightly Peculiar Love Stories is the second book, and first short story collection, published by Rosa Mira Books, the new New Zealand publishing house set up by Dunedin author Penelope Todd earlier this year. I was honoured to have a story included in the collection, and have blogged about that previously.

There are a couple of things that should attract any reader to Slightly Peculiar Love Stories. One is that really cool cover. Another is the really rather extraordinary range of New Zealand and international authors who have contributed new or reprinted stories to this anthology:

  • From New Zealand, we have Craig Cliff, Sue Wootton, Janis Freegard, Tina Makereti, Bryan Walpert, Coral Atkinson, Claire Beynon, Latika Vasil, Linda Niccol, Maxine Alterio, Susannah Poole, and Tim Jones.
  • International authors include Alex Epstein (Israel), Angelo R. Lacuesta (Philippines), Brenda Sue Cowley (USA), Christos Chrissopoulos (Greece), Elena Bossi (Argentina), Lawrence K. L. Pun (Hong Kong), Salman Masalha (Israel), and Tania Hershman (UK).

That’s quite the lineup, but the proof of any short story collection is in the reading. The good news is that there is a lot of good reading here, and a lot of different takes on love. My favourites at the moment include:

  • The sets of short-short stories by Alex Epstein and by Tania Hershman (four apiece)
  • Janis Freegard’s ingenious and moving “Mill”, which won the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award in 2001
  • Elena Bossi’s lovely and poignant “The Ache”
  • Claire Beynon’s magical “Trapeze Artist”
  • Angelo R. Lacuesta’s “Space Oddity”

– but there are so many other good stories here that I imagine your favourites will differ from mine.

There’s something I haven’t mentioned about Slightly Peculiar Love Stories: it’s an ebook. The good news is, you don’t need an ebook reader to read it. I read it on my computer in PDF format, and (as a person who doesn’t generally like to read large amounts of text on-screen) I found it easy and enjoyable to read. The fonts are crisp and the layout clear.

So, if you don’t have an ebook reader, don’t let that put you off. Slightly Peculiar Love Stories is easy to read on a computer screen, and more to the point, it is well worth reading, because there is a lot of good fiction in here.

Book Review: In Pursuit…, by Joanna FitzPatrick

In Pursuit…, by Joanna FitzPatrick, is published by La Drôme Press and available from the author’s website, and from Amazon as a Kindle ebook and paperback.

Joanna FitzPatrick sent me “In Pursuit…” for review after she had read my interview with Kathleen Jones, the author of the recent, and very well-received biography Katherine Mansfield: The Storyteller. “In Pursuit…” is a biographical novel rather than a biography, but it shares more in common with Kathleen Jones’ biography than its subject. One of the notable features of “The Storyteller” is its non-linear time sequence, and “In Pursuit…” uses the same technique, although the time sequence becomes linear as the novel goes on.

I ended up enjoying “In Pursuit…” a lot, but I got off to a slightly rocky start with it. Part of that was circumstantial: having read “The Storyteller” so recently, I had a hard time resisting the urge to rush off to it every few pages to check whether the two books matched. Once I told myself firmly that this was a novel and that I should read it as such, those worries disappeared.

The novel is set in England and Europe apart from the appropriately-named Prelude, which is set in New Zealand in 1908, when Katherine was 19. This was the part of the novel I had the most trouble with, because, as someone who lives in Wellington, aspects of these scenes didn’t quite ring true for me. I don’t believe Katherine Mansfield would have said, or thought, “I’ll go visit Julia” – that’s still regarded as an American construction here over 100 years later. And I don’t think – although I may be wrong – that KM would have been able to see from her house a ship leaving Wellington Harbour dwindling to a dot on the horizon.

(In saying this, I acknowledge that it is very difficult indeed for an author to get all the details right of a country she does not live in or regularly visit – though I didn’t notice any problems of this sort in “The Storyteller”. Also, I doubt these quibbles will mean anything to a reader who doesn’t live in New Zealand.)

The good news is that, as soon as the story moved overseas and forward in time, I started to enjoy it. Joanna FitzPatrick acknowledges the editors of Katherine Mansfield’s letters and diaries in her “Note on Sources”, and it’s clear that she has drawn on the letters in particular to flesh out a convincing portrait of Katherine and her circle.

I finished “The Storyteller” feeling considerable sympathy for both Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry, but “In Pursuit…” is very much Katherine Mansfield’s story. More than anything else, she struck me as a woman who was born before her time: someone whose talents might have flourished for much longer in an era when antibiotics could have dealt to her ailments and her desire for independence might have been better appreciated.

So, especially if you are interested in literary history in general or Katherine Mansfield in particular, I recommend that you get hold of a copy of “In Pursuit…”.

P.S.: If you are interested in Katherine Mansfield, I also recommend that you check out the Katherine Mansfield Society, whose journal is currently calling for submissions for its forthcoming issue on “Katherine Mansfield and the Fantastic”.

Book Review: The Spectrum Collection, edited by John Prescott – and some thoughts on how horror fiction works


Dark Continents Publishing
is a new publisher of Dark Speculative Fiction, which they define as “Dark Fantasy, Horror (supernatural, Urban, and whatever other twist you can think to put on the genre) Science Fiction with a dark side. Basically, if it makes people squirm, it may well be for us.”

They are not open to unsolicited submissions until 1 May 2011, but they already have several books available, and one of them is a sampler of their current authors’ work, The Spectrum Collection.

Here is what the introduction has to say about The Spectrum Collection:

Welcome to the Spectrum Collection. People have asked us what “Dark Speculative Fiction” is. With this collection of stories from the authors of Dark Continents Publishing, we offer our definitions of that little phrase. Basically, we all write horror. Over the years however, we’ve all developed our own take on horror. You’ll find all our contributions here. From Sylvia Shults’ post-apocalyptic vampire story, to Simon Kurt Unsworth’s story of a cursed home, to the zombie stories contributed by myself and Adrian Chamberlin, you’ll find all the nooks and crannies of the horror world that make up our brand of literature. Our Dark Speculative Fiction. You’ll even find some bloody good poetry by Tracie McBride, Maureen (Mo) Irvine, and John Irvine. Carson Buckingham, Serenity J. Banks, and John Prescott round out the chills with their stories guaranteed to pump up your adrenaline.

So how does The Spectrum Collection live up to these claims? I found that my adrenalin was pumped up quite often, and there were definitely chills, but also that quite a few of the stories didn’t offer that adrenalin and outlet or those chills anywhere to go. In more prosaic language, while almost all the stories were well written, created a nicely scary/spooky atmosphere, and set up a premise that promised excitement and/or fear, a number of them didn’t resolve in a satisfying way.

I’m not a big reader of horror, but I’ve read enough to know that there are two kinds of horror story that work for me: the Stephen King kind, in which the author creates one or a small group of characters the reader cares about, and then puts them in grave jeopardy; and the H. P. Lovecraft kind, in which the characters are much less important and the horror comes from the revelation that vast and inimical cosmic forces wish us all the deepest harm.

(Of course, there are crossovers: Stephen King wrote several Lovecraft pastiches, including “Rats in the Walls”, and “Crouch End”, which memorably melds Lovecraftian horror with the unease of an American adrift in London. For that matter, the great Jorge Luis Borges, whose work often has an element of cosmic horror, acknowledged the influence of Lovecraft on his work and wrote a story dedicated to Lovecraft, “There Are More Things”, published in The Book Of Sand (1975).)

The Lovecraft style is well suited to short stories, because it’s hard to keep up an air of cosmic menace for a whole novel without it tipping over into bathos or silliness. The Stephen King signature style, on the other hand, is better suited to long narratives – of at least novella length – to give time to build up the characters before putting them, and the reader, through the wringer.

Another significant difference between the two styles is that the Stephen King approach usually ends with the survival of one or a few of the characters we care about, while the characteristic Lovecraftian ending has the narrator frantically scribbling the final words of the story as the three-lobed burning eye/giant space octopus/shambling gelatinous horror oozes across the threshold to end story and narrator alike.

Most of the stories in The Spectrum Collection are closer to the Stephen King approach than the H.P. Lovecraft approach, and as none of them are very long, that means that each author has taken on a very challenging task. I felt that a number of the stories did a good job of setting up the characters and the situation, and then fizzled out, either not advancing the story to a satisfying conclusion or coming up with an ending that I’d seen too many times before.

The two stories that made the most satisfying whole for me were “The End” by Serenity J. Banks, and “The Bodymen” by Adrian Chamberlin. “The End” is what Cormac McCarthy’s The Road might be like if retold from the cannibals’ point of view – but it’s not as obvious as that little synopsis makes it sound, and within a general atmosphere of doom and dread, the story still goes to places I didn’t expect.

“The Bodymen” has a tremendous setting for a horror story, a crematorium for dead animals. I once worked for a few weeks at a freezing works coolstore, and I can tell you that they are not great place to be alone at night if you have a vivid imagination. (I still haven’t written my own story based on that experience…). Adrian Chamberlin does a great job of taking his already spooky setting and piling up the horror on top of it. I found the plot a bit confusing in a couple of places, but I was still creeped out by the overall effect.

Other stories I enjoyed included “Wild Goat Curry” by John Irvine, which is short but nasty, and “The Elms, Morecambe,” by Simon Kurt Unsworth; while I think the author could have done more with the premise of this ghost story, the atmosphere of pain and regret is well described.

In the poetry, Tracie McBride’s “Tooth Fairy” isn’t one you want anywhere near your child’s pillow, and “My Sister Doesn’t Live There Anymore,” by John Irvine, is a strong narrative poem.

So, in summary: there are some very strong pieces here, plus some that are underdeveloped, but nevertheless plenty to suggest that the authors represented here, and Dark Continents Publishing, are worth watching out for.

Book Review: Cornelius & Co, Collected Working-Class Verse 1996-2009

I posted John O’Connor’s poem A Left Hook as my Tuesday Poem this week, and now it’s time to review the collection from which it comes, which is published by Post Pressed in Queensland and costs NZ $25.00 from its New Zealand distributor.

This is the eighth book of poetry from Christchurch poet John O’Connor, and it consists of a selection of poems from John’s previous collections, plus a number of new poems, and is a generous 144 pages long.

I have to confess (and I’m not saying it speaks well of me) that when I saw the subtitle “Collected Working-Class Verse” I thought the collection might be too polemical for me to enjoy. Regular – or even occasional – readers of this blog will know that I can get pretty durn polemical myself, especially about environmental issues, but, with a few exceptions, I usually avoid this in my poetry.

Well, there would be nothing wrong with a book of polemical poems, but “Cornelius & Co” isn’t that book. Instead, as the Preface and Notes to this book make clear, the poems in this book are drawn from lived experience, as a resident of the working-class Christchurch suburb of Addington, as a boy growing up in an Irish-Catholic household and parish, and as a taxi driver observing the coming and goings of his fares.

These poems of full of observation, compassion, and a dry and sometimes dark humour. If I was reminded of any other New Zealand poet, it was Mark Pirie: there’s the same sense of a wry narrator who’s slightly – but not very – removed from the goings-on he describes, though the characters John O’Connor is writing about are far removed in class, age and circumstances from those Mark often uses in his poems.

Another aspect of the book I expected to find off-putting, but didn’t in practice, was its experiments with typography: experiments it’s difficult to reproduce here, with text running across and even up the page, and words replaced by dingbats. I like to focus on the words, not the presentation, so I can’t say that these innovations strengthened the poems for me – but, once I got used to them, they didn’t pose any barrier to my understanding and enjoyment of the poems.

The bottom line: this is an excellent book that gives poetic voice to people and lives which rarely make an appearance in modern New Zealand poetry. Well worth reading, well worth having in your collection.

The NZ distributor is: David & Wendy Ault, Madras Café Books, 165 Madras Street, Otautahi/Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand 8011; Phone 03 365 8585, Fax 03 365 8584, Mobile 021 284 8585, email info (at)

Book Review: Galileo’s Dream, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson is well known for his fictions about the near future in the face of climate change (the “Science in the Capital” series that begins with Forty Signs of Rain; Antarctica), and even better known for his Mars trilogy – Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars – which looks in dazzling detail at the near-future colonisation, terraforming, and coming to independence of the fourth planet from the sun.

But Kim Stanley Robinson has also had a long-standing interest in history and alternate history. That has shown out in several fine short stories, and in his novel The Years of Rice and Salt, an alternate history in which medieval Christian Europe is wiped out by the plague, and Islam and Buddhism compete for dominance of the emptied land.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest novel, Galileo’s Dream, is a curious hybrid of historical novel and near-future exploration of the solar system.

In the main, it is a biographical novel about Galileo Galilei, covering the period from his middle years to his death, and focusing on his crucial discoveries and on the causes and consequences of his famous trial for heresy. But, through what might best be described as “the magic of quantum”, the Galileo of this novel also jumps over 1000 years into our future, becoming embroiled in the politics of the inhabited Galilean moons.

That’s an interesting story. Galileo’s life is also an interesting story. But I’m not sure the two cohere. The machinations and rivalries of the Europans and the Ganymedeans, and the major discovery on which their part of the novel turns, are very interesting – and reminiscent as much of Arthur C. Clarke as of what we’ve come to expect from Kim Stanley Robinson – but are left frustratingly unresolved. And, although events in the future story parallel events in the biographical part of the novel, they aren’t allowed to do so to the extent that the narrative of Galileo’s life depart from known biographical fact – which makes me question the point of including the future story in the first place.

But this review is turning out to be more negative than is warranted, or than I intended. I may have my doubts about the way these two stories are interleaved, but both are very interesting, and Galileo’s Dream, like every Kim Stanley Robinson book I have read, features memorable characters acting boldly on the issues of their time, while engaging in fascinating speculations on science, sexism and society.

Yet what really stands out in Galileo’s Dream is its depiction of ageing. Galileo fears, and then undergoes, the loss of his powers and faculties. His failing body, and the fate of his children, torment him. He has renown, but loses the capacity to enjoy its fruits. More than science, speculation or intrigue, it is this portrayal of the impact of age and infirmity on a vigorous creative life that stayed with me when I finished Galileo’s Dream.

A Wonder-Filled, Fun Journey Through Time And Space

Linda Addison’s review of Voyagers has appeared in Issue 109 of Space and Time Magazine. It’s short, but so sweet that I’m quoting it here in its entirety:

Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, edited by Mark Pirie and Tim Jones (Interactive Press, The Literature Series) contains 152 pages of poetry by various authors; a wonder-filled, fun journey through time and space. From ‘the poetry of the future’ by Anna Rugis; to ‘lumbering space cruisers’ from Bill Sewell; and ‘Dreams of Alien Love’ from Dana Bryce. There are too many to quote here, buy the book and off you’ll go.

Thank you, Linda! If you haven’t yet embarked on this exciting journey, there are lots of ways you can do so:

  • Directly from me (within NZ). I now have a limited number of copies for sale for $28 plus $2 p&p. If you’d like one, please email with your address and preferred payment method.
  • From an increasing range of bookshops. Unity Books (Wellington and Auckland), Bruce MacKenzie Books in Palmerston North, Madras Cafe Books in Christchurch, and the University Book Shop in Dunedin all have copies, or can take your order if stock has run out.
  • From the publisher.
  • From (in paperback and Kindle e-book formats).
  • From Fishpond.
  • From New Zealand Books Abroad.
  • From Small Press Distribution in the USA.

Book Review: Letters from the Asylum, by John Knight

Letters from the Asylum, by John Knight, published by Sudden Valley Press, distributed by Madras Cafe Books. RRP NZ$25 (incl postage).

John Knight is an Australian poet. You can find an interesting interview with him, and a bio, here. There is a lengthy and very well-put-together review of Letters from the Asylum by Patricia Prime at the Stylus Poetry Journal. I won’t attempt to be as comprehensive in this review, but I’ll begin by saying that I enjoyed reading this collection by a poet whose work I’d never read before.

Letters from the Asylum
begins with a lengthy introduction by John Knight, in which he mentions his terminal cancer, and also endeavours to situate himself, poetically and personally, within the context of postmodernism and psychoanalysis. Not being a huge fan of either, this introduction made me nervous about what was to follow; but John Knight’s poetry wears its theoretical underpinnings very lightly – in fact, the titles of poems often bear more evidence of “theory” than the poems themselves.

Much of the subject matter of this book isn’t easy. It encompasses the deaths of several people close to John Knight; his own illness and impending death; and also, facing the wider world, the deaths of many, near and far, known and unknown, in war. Some of the poems which are about the generalised horrors of war are excellent, such as “Pantocrator [Insert Year]” (p. 70), but in the main, the poems I responded to most are those in which these issues are made concrete in the lives of individual people, such as “…and burned the topless towers of Illium” (p. 24), about a Greek woman, “no friend of the Colonels”, now living in Australia, with its lovely closing couplet:

I left, too embarrassed to return or explain.
I’ve forgotten my Greek, and her name.

Another fine poem that deals with the death of one person, in this case by suicide, is “somewhere south of eden” (p. 36). It has a shorter line than most of the poems in this book, and for me, this works very well with the subject matter:

spike your hair
make up your face
it’s the last act

place the list
in your pocket
do not leave a note

Though the overall tone of the collection is sombre, the book is not without hope, if not for this life then for another. It ends with “Resurrection…” (p. 93), and that poem ends on an upward note:

Leaving the stones and the small wet world
whose sky meets air with water, turn
to the sun through the skin of the sky
and wait for the changing. Dragon no longer
but a prism of light shot across
the still pond. Quick, I’m gone!

John Knight is a fine poet, and this is a fine collection.

Book Review: Tom, by Mark Pirie (Sudden Valley Press, 2009, RRP $29.99)


There is probably no author in the world I am less well qualified to review objectively than Mark Pirie. Mark and I have known each other since the summer of 1996-1997. At that stage, I was working as the Course Materials Editor for the Department of Library and Information Studies at Victoria University, and Mark came to help me out with that job over the summer. At that stage, I was a budding short story writer with a few publications under my belt who wrote the occasional poem, while Mark was a published poet and one of the members of the collective that put together JAAM magazine.

I submitted some poems to JAAM, and had one published in JAAM 6 in February 1997 – I think this was due to its literary merits, rather than to Marks’ employment situation! After that, I was published several more times in JAAM, and subsequently, Mark’s publishing company HeadworX has published my two poetry collections, Boat People and All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens as part of its extensive and excellent poetry list. My first short story collection, Extreme Weather Events, was published as part of HeadworX’s comparatively short-lived Pocket Fiction Series.

Most recently, we’ve collaborated on editing the recently-released anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand.

So, when Mark asked if I would like a review copy of Tom, I was hesitant – not because I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it, but because I wondered whether I could maintain enough distance to write a worthwhile review.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, and I’ve reviewed it. So, caveats and forewarnings aside, here is my review!


Tom is a verse novel, set in Wellington during the mid-1990s. “Tom” is Tom Grant, a student and budding writer whom Mark Pirie identifies, and who self-identifies, as a member of “Generation X”. The verse novel proceeds by a mixture of Tom’s poems, prose poems, and the occasional mock essay. Only a couple of the 70 entries are long, and the book as a whole is an easy, enjoyable read.

Mark Pirie famously identified himself as a member of Generation X, and crystallised Generation X writing in New Zealand, when he edited the Gen X anthology New Zealand Writing: The NeXt Wave (still controversial, and still worth checking out) in 1998. Now, having gone through the whole GenX-student-in-Wellington experience, he is aware of what it has all added up to. His character Tom Grant, living through similar experiences as the book progresses, does not have this awareness. This distance lends the delicious ironies that are especially prevalent in the first 2/3 of the book.

These sections, in particular, are often very funny, as Tom tries and generally fails at love, life and literature. Tom writes an essay on Gerald Manley Hopkins in which draws more comparisons than might be thought humanly possible between Hopkins’ poetry and mid-90s music, most memorably that of Guns’n’Roses; he itemises his wardrobe; he tries his hand at a protest poem. There’s a knowing wink to all this which frequently had me chuckling.

Tom grows up a bit towards the end of the book. He finally gets it on with Kate, the object of his desire; in a memorable “answer poem”, she dissects Tom’s true motives in eight pitiless lines. At last, he has a poem accepted for publication (by an older poet called Jimmy O’Toole, who … well, let’s just say Jimmy reminds me of someone whose name has a similar form). He tries his hand at a long poem, a version of Ginsberg’s “Howl” which doesn’t outshine the original.

The final poem in the book is Tom’s contributor’s note to accompany his first published poem. It ends with the line “but still it’s early days …”. It would be good to see another volume of Tom’s adventures, but the humour and freshness of Tom’s early encounters with the big wide world will be hard to beat.

You should be able to find a copy of Tom in independent bookshops. There was a handsome pile of them in Unity Books, Wellington, the last time I visited.

“Swings and Roundabouts: Poems On Parenthood” Revisited

Shortly after the publication of Swings and Roundabouts: Poems on Parenthood (which you can buy online from Fishpond or New Zealand Books Abroad), I gave my initial thoughts on the book, but said that I wouldn’t review it because I have a poem in it.

Well, I changed my mind. I’ve completed reading Swings and Roundabouts over the past two weeks, and though I’ll leave my own poem Coverage to speak for itself, I want to reiterate what a good book this is.

It’s true that Swings and Roundabouts is likely to speak most strongly to parents, but these poems are strong as poems, not just as aspects of parenthood. After an excellent introduction by editor (and parent) Emma Neale, the book is organised in chronological order, starting with pregnancy and ending with the deaths of children and parents – though the tone of this final section is not morbid. The poems are interspersed with quirky and enjoyable photos by Mark Smith.

This is predominantly an Australasian anthology, but it also includes poems by Sylvia Plath, Sharon Olds and Louise Glück. In her introduction, Emma Neale suggests that Lauris Edmond could be regarded as the local poet laureate of childhood, and she has five poems here. Many well-known New Zealand poets are represented.

There are hardly any poems I don’t like, but poems that especially stand out include “Helpless” and “Yellow Plastic Ducks” by Graham Lindsay, “The Vending Machine” by Anna Jackson, “35/10” by Sharon Olds, “Your Secret Life” and “Your Secret Life 2” by Harry Ricketts, “It Allows a Portrait in Line Scan at Fifteen” by Les Murray (and yes, the title does make perfect sense, and is very moving, in the context of the poem), “Festive Lentils” by James Norcliffe, “Stay in Touch” by Laurice Gilbert, and “The Names” by Lauris Edmond.

But if I had to choose just one poem from this book, it would be “Child” by Sylvia Plath: small, vivid, memorable.

Like a child, like this book.