Sunday, September 25, 2011


Brian Turner
Victoria University Press -- $30

This substantial new collection by award-winning poet Brian Turner develops themes characteristic of his poetry. Love poems and elegies keep company with poems of satire, protest and metaphysical speculation. The book concludes with ‘Post-operative’, a raw and risky sequence written in the wake of major surgery. Ultimately, everything helps to map the contours of love, loss and longing that form the map of the human heart.

Brian Turner is one of New Zealand’s leading poets. His first collection, Ladders of Rain (1978) won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, and his sixth, Beyond (1992), the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry. He was New Zealand Poet Laureate 2003-2005. His acclaimed work in other genres includes co-authorship of the autobiographies of All Black stars Josh Kronfeld and Anton Oliver, a biography of Colin Meads, significant contributions to Timeless Land and The Art of Grahame Sydney, and Into the Wider World: A Back Country Miscellany.

The publishers, and the poet, have kindly agreed to letting me reproduce several of my favourite poems from the book and they appear below.


My neighbour still nods
and says far out
so you can guess
what decade formed him;

another says way to go
which tells you a fair bit
about what TV shows
he’s wasted his time on.

Another’s confided she’s
looking for a way out
and her husband says
he thinks he’s going to

get the arse, nothing’s surer.
You could say that it’s a worry,
the place is falling apart,
mate, unless you’ve shares

in Prozac, in which case
she’s lookin’ sweet as.


The creek is in trouble,
troubled, its trickle
close to vanishing
in a bed of gravel.

A wish to be audible
is a fight for life.
In that sense
there’s little difference
between us.

A Lot

You’re not compelled to declare
your love for something, or someone;
just say you like it, or him, or her,
a lot; those who affect you most,
they burn your heart.


I wear my late father’s
red flannelette pyjamas
night after night in winter
when a fright of frost
sticks to the windows,
and is like sherbert
on the ground.
warm, these pyjamas,
and tonight I feel far older
than he seemed to be
in days when he was younger
than I am now.

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