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Rapture: An Anthology of Performance Poetry

Bursting with vibrancy, defiance and heart, Rapture captures the intense and electric energy of contemporary performance poetry in Aotearoa. Editors Carrie Rudzinski and Grace Iwashita-Taylor have curated a stunning variety of voices - 90 poets in all, hailing from a huge mix of backgrounds and communities across the country. Though rooted in live performances, these poems translate to the page remarkably well, confirming that performance poets rank among our most skilled writers.

Organised thematically rather than chronologically, the anthology roams from sharp social commentary to tender vulnerability. In poems like Mohamed Hassan’s "(Un)Learning My Name," identities and Western constructs collide but with the poignant reminder that where there is conflict, there is also the opportunity for poetic beauty. Elsewhere, Selina Tusitala Marsh riffs in her signature “fast-talkin’” style. Ranging from old favourites like David Eggleton to rising talents like Lily Holloway, the book brims with discovery.

Much performance poetry embraces raw improvisational energy, but make no mistake, these poets finesse their writing with meticulous dedication. Memorisation and recitation demand technical precision - rhyme, rhythm, repetition - blended seamlessly with emotional honesty. Far from disjointed ranting, these works reveal poetry’s meticulous scaffolding beneath impassioned facades.

In representing marginalised voices, the anthology speaks truth to power. Performance poetry originated as outsider art, its blunt candour threatening institutional gatekeepers. In giving such creativity space, Rapture captures the form’s rebellious spirit. Unbound by propriety, these poems confront injustice, reclaim identity, celebrate sexuality and diversity in ways long muffled. They expand poetry’s bounds with infectious swagger.

From South Auckland Poets Collective to regional poetry slams, performance poetry flourishes though underappreciated by literary elites. Capturing its breadth and spirit, Rapture spotlights a thriving grassroots creative movement. Like the ecstatic utterances of prophets and shamans, these fiery words alight minds and rally hearts. An ebullient, multifaceted snapshot, Rapture heralds a vibrant literary renaissance resonating from marae to metropolitan streets nationwide.

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Auckland University Press


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