Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Best New Zealand Poems 2009

Best New Zealand Poems 2009 was launched at midday today, which made me happy: it's becoming a key date in my reading year. I was in Uruguay when last year's version came out, but in 2008 I blogged about Best New Zealand Poems 2007 and compared this anthology to the Scottish version published by the Scottish Poetry Library.

Funny, then, that this year's editor of BNZP should be Robyn Marsack, the director of the Scottish Poetry Library.

Marsack, a New Zealander who left these shores in 1987, notes in her introduction that her selection comes from a particular place: "New Zealand viewed from Scotland", but has little to say about the actual poetry being written in Scotland.  Introductions for anthologies of this sort always follow the same recipe (a dash of 'O! the subjectivity', a pound of generalisation, a tablespoon of pet peeves, toss with liberal references to contributors and season with the best sources...), but one comment struck a chord:
"There are a lot of two-line stanzas out there, and sometimes that construction seemed quite arbitrary."  
This was a general criticism of New Zealand poetry circa 2009, but even BNZP09 is awash with two-line stanzas.  By my count 7 of the 25 poems present their wares in two-line chunks... So less than a quarter, but by far the most dominant type of verse here.  It's a relief to find something longer, like Louise Wallace's rhythmic 'The Poi Girls' or the rhyming quatrains (shock horror) of Tim Upperton's 'The Starlings'.

Just as it was with BNZP07, my initial faves this year were shorter poems, namely Elizabeth Smither's 'Two Adorable Things About Mozart', and Lynn Davidson's 'Before We All Hung Out in Cafes'.  I also really like Tusiata Avia's 'Nufanua Goes to Russia and Meets Some Friends from Back Home', which is longer (like its title).

But it's all online and you can quickly read all 25 and decide on your own favourites (from Robyn Marsack's favourites from New Zealand poets from 2009).  It's worth remember the restrictions, eh?  Coz if you like a couple here, then heck, you're bound to find more in the big wide world...

And while I'm talking about poetry, I should mention the burgeoning Tuesday Poem movement in Blogland Aotearoa.  See progenitor Mary McCullum's blog for details.  Basically, poet-bloggers are posting poems (their own or by others) on Tuesdays...

This, combined with my growing interesting in more rigourous structures in poetry (credit to Tim Upperton's A House on Fire and more recently Geoff Cochrane's villanelle, 'The Lichgate') leads me to my theme for April...

I hereby commit to attempt a villanelle, a triolet, a rondeau, a cinquain (though not necessarily in this order) this month and subject you to them.  A-ha!

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