I’m excited about my new poetry book…
This is what talented New Zealand poet Owen Bullock had to say about it: Maureen Sudlow’s work crackles with detail, her poems like crisp autumn leaves. She writes of human misunderstandings and displacements, but grounded in nature and a sense of what endures in our lives. It’s also great to see an accomplished writer of haibun including this form alongside contemporary poems.
This book has been beautifully published by Steele Roberts Aotearoa, and is a fitting followup to Fearless Fred and the Dragon. To order this book, or Fearless Fred, you can email me on email@example.com. Payment can be made by cheque, PayPal, or direct to my bank account. Retails from the author at $(NZ)20 and is post free within New Zealand.
Just a taster:
in the ruts of the track
leaving hollows in the dirt
a couple are kissing
down by the ablution block
butterflying over the grass
someone is pegging out towels
togs drip the rhythm
of a hidden radio
tethered goats on the bank
below the cabins
organic lawn mowers
running on grass
think I’ll go for a swim
© Maureen Sudlow
…and a great review for the NZ Poetry Yearbook 2015 by Mary Cresswell
Maureen Sudlow’s new book – her first poetry collection – is a balanced combination of haibun, photos, and a variety of free verse and rhymed styles. Most of the photos were taken by the author and these, along with the use of colour, give the book a relaxed, summery feel, even though the contents tend to be valedictory in many ways.
The haibun make up about a third of the book. I’m new to the form and not a haiku or haibun judge, so I’ve read them only in terms of how they fit in with the full collection. They are first of all a change of pace, visually on the page and in content. Most of them have a pattern in which the prose poem gives specific detail and the accompanying haiku make a comment on a more abstract level. For example, in “Other lives” the poet is watching shooting stars from “… the West Coast of New Zealand”:
…I go outside and lie on the driveway. I have never seen anything like that wonderful sight – before or since. They say you can only see so many shooting stars before you die. I think I passed my quota.
through the aeons of space
coldness of stones
The haibun all work as illustrations in their own right, where a prose poem is the equivalent of the black-and-white first stage of a woodblock print and accompanying haiku gives us a layer (or layers) of colour overlay for the basic structure.
There are various stand-alone haiku which reach out to touch passing instants of awareness:
in the wind
Other forms are also included. “Down the pit (Pike River tribute)” moves along in a lively, and traditional antipodean, ballad style reminiscent of Banjo Patterson or Thomas Bracken:
The West Coast is a wild land leaning to the sea.
Mountains tower o’er foaming rivers, dripping bush and barren scree.
The hills are full of secrets, old pits and dead mean’s bones
and many a lost wanderer has never made it home. …
And now the roll call’s lengthened – Pike River takes its place
in the murderous assemblage where the miners work the face…
The author does not neglect the domestic, either. She remarks a “lazy day/ sparrows dustbath/ in the ruts of the track” (“Summer dream”) and provides intimate detail such as “…it wasn’t the wind or the driving rain/ ‘twas your snoring that kept me awake” (“A wife’s lament on a stormy night”).
She leaves us on a philosophical note:
What is it drawing us
to the hills
to the sea
to the beaten down
remnants of homes and churches
gates loosely swinging
on protesting poles …
where the ghosts
are all that is left
to hear the nor’wester
the ribs of the past
what is it that draws us
blood calls to blood
The collection as a whole offers us a wide range of possible answers to these and other questions, all of them interesting food for thought.