Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2022 edited by Tracey Slaughter
The longest-running poetry journal in our country has again presented a selection of fine writing from across Aotearoa, and from kiwis living abroad. To be published in the collection is somewhat of a rite of passage in this country, and a nod that your work is representative of some of the best that is created in the course of a year.
For many people the collection represents different things, for writing, as mentioned, it is the culmination of often years of hard work grafting and crafting to reach these heights, for schools it is an opportunity to showcase some of the best writers of the next generation, for seasoned artists it is another outlet to hone and shape their oeuvre - or indeed divert from the expectations, and for readers it is another opportunity to luxuriate in the worldscapes of the talented writers we have in this country.
Aotearoa New Zealand has constantly punched above its weight when it comes to literary endeavours, from short stories to film, novels to poetry, we are blessed with a scrappy and tenacious attitude that engenders a sense of admiration from our international counterparts. This collection is another example of such finery in artistic form.
As expected, there are some well known names scattered among the writers including the incomparable David Eggleton, and the sensational Vaughan Rapatahana. As with every collection, there is a spotlight on one poet, this year’s pick being Wes Lee.
Therese Lloyd’s “Not a Poem about Peonies” stands out as one that captures that essence of sound play that poets strive for; it’s subtle, but its lovely in its simplicity and structure.
So slow and imperceptible that from under here,
it’s almost comfortable
the first buds are budding and I can see their lime green sheaths
like runway lights at twilight with rain misting my eyes a little.
(“Not a Poem about Peonies” by These Lloyd)
At the rear of the collection is a series of reviews that reflect on the year in publications that has been. A stellar cast of both poets and reviewers has been assembled to celebrate the various collections. It makes for wonderful reading and appreciation of both the art of review, and the poetic form.
Thankfully there aren’t all that many COVID or lockdown poems, a stereotype that has logically emerged in spades within the bounds of the international literary canon over the last few months. The poems on reflection and nuances within daily life of the pandemic becoming as similar and staid as the endless locked down days themselves. Instead there is a tangible buoyancy to the selection, perhaps specifically chosen for such a reason. Of course, there are some of the stereotype topics presented, but it is the freshness that is so captivating.
Overall, another stunning addition to the long lasting tradition of poetry celebration in this country. Long may it continue. We need more art in this world, and this is a great reminder of such.
Reviewer: Chris Reed
Massey University Press