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Guest Review: Britton On New Zealand Poetry


Iain Britton on

This is a book of some 600 pages or more, divided into 5 major sections, compiled by two university academics, Paula Green and Harry Ricketts, both recognised in New Zealand as accomplished writers, poets and critics in their literary fields.

Although it is an anthology, it could also be viewed as a textbook into modern NZ poetry, spanning the years prior to the Second World War up to the present day. The poets represented are among the stirrers, shakers and pathfinders involved in the creative pursuit of establishing a firm identity for New Zealand poetry.

99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry offers sections relating to poetic forms, poetic contexts, features and effects, New Zealand poets along with types of poetry - such as visual, confessional, experimental and so on. There are significant samples of poems throughout the book, with photographs of poets, thoughts and comments and biographies near the end.

Included are highly-regarded New Zealand poets like: Allen Curnow, CK Stead, Bill Manhire, Fleur Adcock, James K Baxter and also Elizabeth Smither, Hone Tuwhare, Kapka Kassabova, and Ian Wedde.  Dipping and diving into this anthology will reveal the wealth of talent and originality of  these poets, along with that of others writing today. There is a vibrant and vigorous poetical culture alive in New Zealand. Being a Pacific nation, there is a huge presence and influence of peoples who have settled in New Zealand from the islands and Pacific-rim countries and made NZ their home. Today, Asian nuances are entering the multi-ethnic structures of our language, enriching it and adding to the poetic dimension.

This collection offers up a great literary meal, which one can enjoy and return to when hungry for more. Any reader would learn much about New Zealand poetry from this poetical smorgasbord of well-produced sections wrapped inside its glossy orange cover. Being a New Zealander, I thoroughly recommend it - there is a uniquely accessible ‘down under’ feast to be had here – and it is an excellent introduction to New Zealand poetry.

Iain Britton is a poet from New Zealand.
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