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Poetry Aotearoa Anthology 2024 edited by Tracey Slaughter

For over half a century, the Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook has served as an annual showcase of the finest contemporary poetry from New Zealand, featuring both luminaries and rising talents in the genre. This year’s editor, Tracey Slaughter, has assembled a characteristically vibrant collection for the 2024 edition, her selections radiating with emotional power and insight. In just over 100 new poems curated from widespread submissions, readers will discover sharp observations, arresting images, wry wit, and much to ponder.

Esteemed poet Carin Smeaton stands out as the issue’s featured artist. Smeaton’s vivid free verse explores family ties and the passage of time with nostalgia and admiration for the everyday. Vignettes of this accomplished poet reveals quiet depths and the splendour of mundane moments. Her subtle yet stirring poems prove a highlight.

The Yearbook intersperses Smeaton’s offerings among an exploratory range of styles and subject matters. Some works tackle heartache and disillusion unflinchingly, while others brim with irreverent humour. Landscapes both external and internal come alive in scintillating detail. The collection conveys both sweetness and rawness, hope and grief, while rewards close reading with layered resonance.

In her introduction, Slaughter addresses poetry’s power to illuminate all facets of the human condition. Her effusive appreciation for the form’s elasticity and intimacy informs both her essay and curatorial approach. The assembled poets take inspiration from childhood joys, natural glory, societal tensions and much more - filling the pages with salience and surprise.

With accomplished poets like Adrienne Jansen, essa may ranapiri, and Vaughan Rapatahana rubbing shoulders with emerging talents, the Yearbook provides a rich cross-section of New Zealand’s contemporary verse. It makes space for varied identities and experiences in an uplifting exchange of courage and vulnerability. Readers will no doubt discover fresh favourites among the new names spotlighted here even as they enjoy more established wordsmiths. Of particular note is Devon Webb with a wonderfully emotive piece, NEW WORLD.

The addition of reviewed poetry collections expands the issue into a far-reaching appreciation for Kiwi creativity. Insightful analysis comes courtesy from the esteemed John Geraets.

Once again, Slaughter and the Poetry Aotearoa team have curated a standout anthology overflowing with resonance, craft, and emotional power. Both newcomers and devotees will find much to admire and expand their perspectives. The 2024 Yearbook will surely earn its place on the shelf as a quiet little miracle ready for repeated dives into the limitless artistry of language.

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Massey University Press


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