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May 4, 2014 | by  | in Arts Books | [ssba]

New Poetry from VUP

Horse with Hat by Marty Smith
5/5 stars

This collection of autobiographical poems begins with a hat and ends with a horse. Marty Smith’s poems fill a space that, for the rest of us, might only exist in a box of family photographs. Her world is one of galloping horses and unfinished edges. The same characters are always looming, shifting in and out of the light. The quietly chaotic illustrations sometimes feel discordant, darker than the poems warrant, but they still give you something to think about.

Some people, young and old, just won’t read New Zealand poetry. Maybe it’s cultural cringe. Maybe it’s a stubborn refusal to see anything ‘New Zealandy’ as something new and refreshing. After all, we usually read to get out of ourselves – we don’t want a book to shove us straight back home. Marty Smith’s poems may have that small-town feel, but not in a claustrophobic way. There’s no clichéd ‘snapshot of New Zealand life’ being laid out neatly. Instead, she conjures up a landscape belonging distinctly to her and the people who lived in it. Horses gallop in and out of the frame of each mirage-memory poem, shaking its foundations, making it feel like the memory might rush off at any second. But at the same time, Smith seems to say that seeing ourselves in terms of our relationship with horses also anchors us, tracks where we’ve been, and maps where we’re going.

Her tone is steady and natural, like we’re being let in on some casual secrets on a stroll in the back garden. Poems that grapple with the consequences of a culture of silence are more than just absorbing, they’re arresting: “If I say, my flames roar out the cracks.”

Smith’s images are commonplace but raw and close-up: there’s the fuzz of a horse’s mouth and its hot breath on your hand, a cup of tea rattling in its saucer, a bit being chomped and frothed. These poems sometimes give the impression of standing on the side of the road when a car swooshes past and you feel it shake the air in front of your face, tipping you a step backwards. This is a gutsy book of poems that gives everything it’s got.

Books We Think Everyone Should Read #6
Abi Smoker

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
This book relates a story between a mother and daughter. It’s set against the jarring and treacherous backdrop of Kabul, the capital of conflict-ridden Afghanistan. Outside their tumultuous relationship, the two women are often treated with violence and oppression by the men around them, and we are constantly aware of the prevalent presence of the Taliban. Mariam and Laila face obstacles threatening their own lives and the life of their country and culture. In the midst of all this brutality, relationships being broken and mended are the focal point of this novel. From the 1960s to the early 2000s, A Thousand Splendid Suns tracks a massive societal shift in Mariam and Laila’s country, but more importantly, it tracks their journey towards happiness and independence.

Reweti, Law and Politics student
“I’m reading Jodi Picoult’s Plain Truth. She keeps me on the edge of my seat.”

Margot, English and Japanese student
“I just read After the Quake, a collection of Murakami’s short stories. I’m reading the English translation alongside the Japanese version.”

Henry, Media, Politics and IR student
Brideshead Revisited, because I never have and I enjoy rich people. Feels politically abhorrent but aesthetically excellent.”

Dougal, English lecturer
Starting Tina Makereti’s debut novel, finishing Mei Zhi’s memoirs of Hu Feng’s prison years, enjoying two new (for me) poets: Sinéad Morrissey and Caoilinn Hughes.



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