New Zealand

Pip Adam’s third novel, Nothing to See, is a multifaceted and complex work. The complications begin immediately, as we meet the protagonist, Peggy and Greta, who are a recovering alcoholic. The odd combination of the singular and plural here is intentional. As far as appearances go, Peggy and Greta are different individuals with separate bodies and separate minds. Nonetheless, they share one life in an arrangement made difficult by the discomfort and lack of understanding they face at every step. They became two at the lowest moment in their history, when the crushing weight of trauma and alcohol addiction became too much for a single person to bear. One individual whose choices were limited to recovery or death thus became two.

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Australians and New Zealanders know it as the Tasman Sea or more familiarly The Ditch: for Māori, Te Tai o-Rēhua. Significant islands in this stretch of water are Lord Howe and Norfolk. As seen from New Zealand, the island most Australians probably don’t know offhand and, when they are told about it, might feel inclined to reject its name as, well, cheeky: it’s West Island – Australia in short.

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A new anthology of bite-sized New Zealand poems is freshly out from Victoria University Press. VUP is the Wellington-based publisher closely associated with the University’s renowned creative writing school, known affectionately (or pejoratively, depending on your affiliation) as ‘The Bill Manhire School’ ...

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Poetry books that focus on memory, recuperation, and loss are common, but it is rare to find poems that speak about such matters as sparely and eloquently as these do. Bill Manhire’s new poems are bony and sinewy, resonating with an awareness of public and personal grief. Although these works often speak by indirection, many of them pack a real punch. As Manhire p ...

A History of New Zealand Literature is a rewarding collection replete with the pleasure of new information that is both strange and strangely familiar. I commend it for both its intrinsic interest and, for Australian readers in particular, as one means of redressing Australia and New Zealand’s mutual ignorance of each other’s literary histories and cult ...

Potiki by Patricia Grace

by
November 2016, no. 386

At the outbreak of World War II, the British novelist Anna Kavan began a journey around the world that brought her, ultimately, to New Zealand. Her two years there in a ...

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Nicholas Thomas’s principal purposes in this study are to show, first, that the peoples of the Pacific were neither incurious about the world beyond their islands, nor lacking in the emotional or imaginative means to apprehend cultures different from their own. Even before the coming of European maritime discoverers, they were accustomed to undertaking lengthy voyages and sometimes migrations from one part of the great ocean to another, practices which they extended when contact with the Europeans gave them the means of doing so. And second, that as a consequence of their travelling and becoming acquainted with other cultures, they altered their outlooks and social and political practices to meet new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities. In justification of these purposes, Thomas stresses the need to get away from older, Eurocentric, historical and ethnographic perspectives; and to understand that the Islanders were people both able and willing to assert themselves and, to some extent at least, to determine their own destinies.

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 A friend describes the sensation as being in the movie set of your own life: everything is familiar, but not quite right. Auckland feels like an Australian city that has simply slipped a little, like the accent, to the east. There are hints of Hobart in the crisp sea and the misty sketched-in headlands. And of Sydney, in the over-abundance of harbour, the narrow streets of Ponsonby, which drop away towards the water, the houses filled with quiet light. Perhaps all Pacific cities look pretty much the same these days: here is the casino, the observation tower, the thirties picture palace turned into a Singapore-style mall, the narrow lane with outdoor tables under braziers; the same stands of Westpacs and McDonalds and Lush cosmetics stores. Perhaps what differentiates one city from another now is the sheer volume of traffic forced through its streets.

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For those who haven’t yet discovered the riches of New Zealand poetry, this anthology should provide an appetite-whetting introduction. Edited by one of New Zealand’s finest poets, the late Lauris Edmond (1924–2000), it bears the stamp of a thoughtful mind and a judiciously discriminating sensibility, evident in her own work as in her selection from that of others. For she has neither lost her nerve and opted out of inclusion nor claimed any undue space. Yet her own work is central to the nature of the volume. When I came to write this review, after reading steadily from page one to page 257 and closing the covers, I knew that there were certain phrases, images and poems that had struck root, were memorable for me, and were shaping my responsiveness to the volume. Interestingly enough, I didn’t always remember which poet was responsible – for the structure of this anthology (of which more later) is such that it is an anthology of poems first, and poets second.

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