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A Riderless Horse by Tim Upperton

Tim Upperton’s style has a timeless quality to it. Sometimes irreverent, sometimes melancholy; but seemingly always witty and thought-provoking. Upperton asks the reader to join with him, in partnership, rather than be spoken directly to. One enters a conversation with the poet, responding and reacting as Upperton sees fit. In The Riderless Horse (his third collection) he finds a new gear that lifts his words with an ethereal quality.

Using quality literary control rather than gimmicky latest trend writing, Upperton is able to draw out the human spirit that so clearly sits within his mind.

Within the collection are a number of poems that are either inspired by, or drawn from, others - including Wild Bees which channels James K Baxter and has that witticism that Upperton is so known for:

Wild Bees

Got home in my car

and a bad mood

with a boxful of groceries

and the bees were everywhere

at once, zinging

around the wooden porch.

The eponymous ‘Riderless Horse’ is an evocative exploration of a childhood event that brings some haunting moments to life on the page. The power and force of a wild horse, and the connection between mother and children in protective spirit.

What is most loved about Uppertons’s writing is the unpredictability. The twists and turns (as Upperton himself describes as an ‘eel’) of the poetry is reminiscent of some of the bygone masters with almost a Hughesian feel to the rhythm, or a Byronic use of imagery and wit.

In Bone, there is a sense of loss, of temporal existence, as the poet brings to life the fragility of our beings and the lasting skeletal remains. Yet within the lines of verse, there is such majesty towards life. It is a wonderful juxtaposition of life and death - and a celebration of both.


Bone is what carried the flesh

until it tired of carrying

and lay down.

Then the flesh departed

and bone was by itself.

The more one sits and reflects on Upperton, the more one realises depth and breadth of his work. A timeless collection of wondrous writings. Bravo!

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Auckland University Press


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