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The Sea Walks Into a Wall by Anne Kennedy


Anne Kennedy is an award winning poet. Her collections have been featured in a range of publications both here in New Zealand and around the world - and for good reason. Kennedy is a wordsmith of the highest order. She captures the essence of New Zealand without the stereotypical pastoral view of the whenua.


The collection begins with a quoted poem from JC Sturm - one of New Zealand’s finest poets of a bygone generation - perhaps one of the most underrated of the genre in this country. In doing so, Kennedy associates herself with Sturm which is equal parts ambitious and respectful. Sturm was known for her challenging poems that attacked the status quo and forced alternative perspectives. Kennedy ticks both boxes.

Her poetry connects with a modern environment, a world in chaos as much as a world of wonder. Tackling some challenging premises along the way, Kennedy is consistently insightful, witty, outright funny, and beautiful.

There are some introspective moments where she reflects on the state of her animals (a few poems about her dog are on point for dog ownership. One finds themselves chuckling along in some places, and saddened by others) and the state of the world in lockdown times. It seems lockdown has, at least, been the impetus for many wonderful expressions and explorations of writers. So there is at least one silver lining. Perhaps these poems will be studied in English classes in a few decades time, like war poetry is now.


It’s a hefty collection with some poems tipping towards longer narrative, almost epic-styled poems. The breadth and range of the voice presented is familiar, and yet also fresh with perspectives that invite the reader to consider.


Of note is the poem ‘The Arrivals’:


Through a high window we will connect stars

like line drawings

translate the sparkles of the poet

we will

sign the fascinating mouth of the speaker

we will sing

lyrics that someone thought were pretty good

we will sing them

and we will not turn back we will not


A visceral exploration of the spirit of adventure that so clearly permeates the poems in the book. Kennedy is an explorer, both literally and figuratively. She communicates this so vividly and purposefully.


One to treasure for some time!


Reviewer: Chris Reed

Auckland University Press