This Change in the Light: A Collection of Poems, by Fiona Kidman

This Change in the Light: A Collection of Poems is a small, carefully crafted package of delight. The book’s beautiful form is filled with tightly curated poems from one of our most established writers in New Zealand today, Dame Fiona Kidman.

While better known for her novels, Kidman’s first two books were poetry. She’s written over 30 books overall. This Change in the Light: A Collection of Poems is her sixth poetry collection.

There is a definite backward gaze in the poems, the sense the poet is looking over her shoulder.  Through her work she reaches back into her early life, playing with the idea of a self and versions of it, and the people who have mattered to her:

“But now when I return, people
who stayed on in the town
want to tell me about a girl

they once knew who they swear
was a wild one.”

               The Town

One of my favourite poems in the collection is for Lauris Edmond, about her house in Grass Street, a house in which I also once lived, where she remembers her friend and “her flag of yellow curls”, in the house where:

“all the people used to come here
to talk and laugh and drink and quarrel
and make up.”

               Grass Street 2000-2015

The poems deal not only with people, but are rooted in place. They take off from New Zealand and take us into scenes abroad, particularly in France and it is in these poems that I most vividly feel life in its entire rushing colour:

“and if this
is bliss, while I await
the perfect meal to be
served, if this is the world
I’m in it forever.”

               An omelette and a glass of wine

Kidman shows her range with this collection. Poems of childhood, adulthood, parenthood and travel into a sense of what the future might hold. There is a sense that Kidman is looking down the barrel of her own mortality. The book feels personal as it is peppered with photographs, and mosaic design, almost like a scrapbook.

Kidman’s style is unadorned and controlled. Story is compressed into bright flashes, imagery is nailed down, vivid. Sentiment is parred back to hold us with images. She has mastery of the form.

This Change in the Light: A Collection of Poems is a collection I will continue to dip back into. A book to savour.

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Heidi North-Bailey Formerly working in publishing in London, Heidi is now a freelance editor and writer based in Auckland. A graduate of the Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University and The Creative Hub, Heidi also has a first class Honours Degree in Screenwriting and Directing from The University of Auckland, Heidi is passionate about good storytelling across genres and loves reading, especially literary and children’s fiction. When not being kept busy as a new mum, Heidi tinkers with poetry and is chipping away at a novel.

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