Roll & Break is the latest offering from one of the finest poets from New Zealand, Adrienne Jansen. Fresh off the success of curated collections like All of us, More of us, and many others, Jansen provides her own collection which speaks to the beauty and raw power of New Zealand’s beaches, and the special place that it has in the hearts of all peoples from New Zealand.
However, rather than spend inordinate amounts of time on the vista that New Zealanders know and love about beaches in Aotearoa, instead Roll & Break is about some of the uses of the beaches by some unexpected people - refugees for example, a part of life close to Jansen’s heart - and those from every walk of life:
He watches a woman jerking, picking up rubbish
‘Odd,’ he says. He watches the priest
walking barefoot in the sea. ‘Dunno about him.’
(“Knitting” by Adrienne Jansen)
The imagery constructed by Jansen is accessible and on point. She is able to capture those special summer moments that so many enjoy on the coastline of the shaky isles. There is such a layering of customs, culture, and place coming together as strands of a strong rope that binds the whole collection into a cohesive one.
As fast as he digs out sand,
the hole fills with water.
He drops a stone into the centre
and says, ‘Here is the vertical bomb.’
The sand-water swallows it.
(“Origami” by Adrienne Jansen)
Jansen has always had an uncanny ability to present rather complex ideas and layered concepts in a simple and straightforward way. She is a treasure in the medium of poetry and is always relevant with her connection to the people of New Zealand, not just the beautiful landscapes.
The lyricism of her vocabulary is melodic. Reading her work aloud brings it to life and creates a soundscape that gives the language strength and poignancy. It has been a few years since her last solo collection of Keel & Drift and it could easily be argued that this meets (or perhaps even exceeds) the quality of that previous collection.
Overall, Jansen once again presents a work of love and a curated collection of images that tie together as one. Her poetry speaks to you in a way that one may not expect.
Reviewer: Chris Reed