Thursday, September 05, 2019

Tara McLeod: 8 Poems by New Zealand Poets (2019)




8 Poems by New Zealand Poets 2019
Designed by Tara McLeod (Auckland: The Pear Tree Press, 2019)

Yesterday I received my two author's copies of Tara McLeod's beautiful new chapbook 8 Poems by New Zealand Poets. It's the fourth in the series, earlier editions having appeared in 2014, 2017 and 2018:







Each book is billed as containing "8 new poems from contemporary NZ poets." It's quite a stellar list. To date the following poets have appeared in the series:

    2014:
  1. Riemke Ensing
  2. Brian Gregory
  3. David Gregory
  4. Judith Haswell
  5. David Howard
  6. Peter Olds
  7. Paul Thompson
  8. Denys Trussell

  9. 2017:
  10. Riemke Ensing
  11. Brian Gregory
  12. Judith Haswell
  13. John Mitchell
  14. Michael O’Leary
  15. Rachel Scott
  16. Paul Thompson
  17. Denys Trussell

  18. 2018:
  19. Glenn Colquhoun
  20. Riemke Ensing
  21. Brian Gregory
  22. Rachel McAlpine
  23. Daryl McLaren
  24. Karl Stead
  25. Paul Thompson
  26. Richard von Sturmer


Here's my own poem, 'The Oceanic Feeling,' from the latest volume:




And here's a list, in order, of all the poets included:

  1. Michele Leggott
  2. Elizabeth Brooke-Carr
  3. Alan Loney
  4. Michael Harlow
  5. Linda Gill
  6. Jack Ross
  7. Gregory O'Brien
  8. Paula Green
  9. Riemke Ensing


Pretty good company to keep, I'm sure you'll agree!




I guess what's most striking about the books is the inventiveness with which Tara has come up with a different design for every poem: with bold colours and variegated font choices to complement the mood of each of them.

I couldn't be happier with the Pasifika look of the title and layout of my own poem, and I'm sure all the other poets feel the same. When Tara showed me a proof of what he had in mind in his studio in Orewa, I was quite blown away. For someone as addicted as I am to handprinting and poetry posters and all those fascinating surrounds to the classic slim volume of verse, it was manna in the wilderness.

I won't disguise the fact: the books are expensive. If you live near a library with a good rare books or special collections section - and which of us doesn't? - you should be able to get your hands on a copy, though (albeit, probably, with white gloves on).

It's always a thrill to collaborate with a real artist, and it's nice to know that Tara is beginning to get the credit he deserves, with a major new book - Tara McLeod: A Typographer's Journey - on his work as a designer, printer and sculptor due out from Lesley Smith's Katsura Press later this year.



Oh, and why are there nine poets rather than eight in this particular volume? Through an act of kindness on the artist's part, actually. Elizabeth Brooke-Carr was going to be included in the 2020 volume, but the state of her health made it seem increasingly likely that she'd never live to see it.

Accordingly, Riemke Ensing offered to bow out to give space for Elizabeth in this book instead. Touched by this gesture, Tara decided to include Riemke's poem anyway - there's a note explaining the circumstances beside it.

Elizabeth Brooke-Carr died in her Dunedin home on the 3rd of September, 2019. I don't know if she was able to see her poem in print before she died, but at least the rest of us can.

Entitled 'All that remains is pressed flat,' it's a very moving account of a funeral. Was it Harold Bloom who remarked that elegy was the mode in which poets almost always succeed?



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