Publication:Otago Daily Times; Date:Jan 26, 2008; Section:BOOKS; Page Number:53

Raw poetry, challenging and fresh


ALL Blacks Kitchen Gardens

(Headworx, pbk, $24) does not read like All Quiet On the Western Front. For a start, it is a collection of poems. It does have elements of war, loss and defeat. This is Tim Jones’ first collection since his debut in 2002. Jones came from overseas, was raised in Southland and lived in Dunedin between 1976 and 1993. He was vocal during the Save Aramoana Campaign and attended the University of Otago. His poems are quite compelling and infectious. Fortrose, Gore, Tuturau are some of the settings, but so too are Iraq and Mars. There are plenty of pop references from the Moody Blues, System of a Down and Motorhead. I enjoy how he manages to confuse and comfort in equal parts. In ‘‘Wind Walks the Hand’’:

Wind walks the hand over rooftops searching for gaps. Through the hole in the flashing the neighbourhood cat traps the neighbourhood rat in our attic. Cries, scuffles. Drawn-out, messy death. A ceiling below we look up from Buffy and wonder.

    These are deliciously understated poems that offer something challenging and fresh.

    All Blacks Kitchen Gardens is a work of refinement, not reinvention.

    Since Boat People Jones’ focus and expertise has grown. Love, sex and children might be mentioned more often than rugby, but this is an excellent little book.

    Johanna Aitchison also attended Otago University. She is now a primary schoolteacher in Waiouru.

    A Long Girl Ago (VUP, pbk, $25) is her first collection of poems which glimpses parts of her life. Aitchison worked in Hokkaido, Japan, teaching English. The second part of this book looks at her Japanese poems in English.

    Like many recent writers, she completed an MA in creative writing at Victoria University. She also uses minimum punctuation in her verse, as in ‘‘the moon hates this part’’: the bride is flying off in newspaper articles queen vic’s head & shoulders are growing colder & colder you’ve dusted off your skirt it’s your second day at work the tree wants to slap the glass you’re walking past the warm window not warm itself but giving out the appearance of light

A Long Girl Ago is moody, sparse, wispy and low-key but it does not lose its way. This is another book of poems definitely worth a look.

Dancer Douglas Wright is an artist, writer and poet. He lived in New York and London before returning to New Zealand 20 years ago.


Laughing Mirror (Steele Roberts, pbk, $20), Wright is inspired by Patti Smith, Munch, Emily Dickinson and Nijinsky.

    He has a wonderful imagination and his poems have a dark quality befitting its title. In ‘‘time’’:

the face of the clock is shaved its minute bristles leave a rash wherever they touch, this rash itches is red and contagious like polka dots after years of feral scratching each dot begins to grow until one day seeping edges meet and blur-merge until all dots are one then it swallows you whole, but so slowly that at first you mistake the devouring for the humid blush that is the first symptom of an intimate clutch and then it’s too late

There are plenty of refined interpretations in his poems. At times things may appear a little glib, but Laughing Mirror is not just full of random thoughts and ideas. Nothing wrong with a bit of raw poetry. It cannot all be cooked in All Black kitchens.

Hamesh Wyatt is an Invercargill priest and speech and drama teacher.