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Burst Kisses On the Actual Wind by Courtney Sina Meredith

Increasingly, it seems any new poetry collection must be touted by publishers as something ‘fresh’ or ‘edgy’ in order to be noticed in our modern literary environment. This certainly flies in the face of what art is, or should be and is - by some opinions - to the extreme detriment of the art form itself. Courtney Sina Meredith’s new collection of poems Burst Kisses On The Actual Wind doesn’t need gimmicks or gaudy images to promote; it is strong enough in its crafting to carry itself with the poise, grace and control.

In Meredith’s first poetry collection, Brown Girls in Red Lipstick released back in 2012 she explored what it means to be a poet in this modern age. It remains a thoroughly used collection in educational settings as much as those following emerging talents. This sophomore foray into poetry collections (she has also had success with short stories) builds on that first publication with an astonishingly good gathering of new poems that hit at the heart of what it is to be connected to something or someone. Having travelled extensively that feeling of disconnection is movingly brought to the fore in her exploration of the world, and herself.

The lands are foreign but the feelings are familiar. From London to Chicago and then to Germany before returning home to the sights and sounds of Avondale, New Lynn, New Zealand. In fact, a number of the poems have a UK feel to them as she discusses the life of Kings Cross and Piccadilly with resonate ideas. The world is experienced, enjoyed and suffered, in this collection. Love is attempted to be defined and a thematic development of acting is played out through various poems, as if Meredith sees her life as the staging of a play or film. Characters enter and exit, the scenery changes, the levels of intensity ebb and flow just like an evening spent watching actors on stage.

Even the graphology of the poems is thoughtfully considered. The unexpected use of page orientation from portrait to landscape for some poems; the inverted use of black and white - as in black background, white writing (sometimes both of the above); the redacted nature of the opening poem (“I am aware of my privilege. Could you connect me to a diverse community?”) is thought provoking and highlights some of the key big picture issues the world is currently facing.

Her imagery is simple and strong and her writing is purposeful with each poem journeying through her thoughts and collectively crafting a new era of New Zealand poetry. It has been a while since a poet has emerged with such a body of work capturing so many facets of ‘life’.

A real stand out is Love is a resurrection. A poignant and heartbreaking explanation of her connection with Ponsonby and all that was loved about that area. It’s a poem that stays with you long after reading.

Courtney Sina Meredith is a truly modern New Zealand writer and her poetry carries mana and strength and beauty. I can imagine that Meredith has had many labels attributed to her poetry defining her as a ‘this poet’ or a ‘that writer’ but looking past the labels that define her physiology or sexuality, there is one that underpins who she is and what she does: ‘remarkable’.

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Beatnik Publishing, RRP $30


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