New Zealand Made – After the Earthquake
by Jennifer Barrer
This is a 200-page quality production – well designed, printed on high-grade paper, full colour photos. It is a joy to look at.
It is subtitled “a sequence of poems”, and though poetry makes up the bulk of the words, the full volume contains more than that. Some prose pieces are included and the many photographs make this a varied and visually attractive volume.
The subject matter – both written and pictorial – includes Barrer family history, garden, art, flowers, and the Christchurch earthquakes. As the Author explains in the introduction, the collection was being planned before the quakes in 2010 and 2011, and was reorganized to reflect the social history of the city.
As is the case in any collection, the poetry varies in quality. All are easily readable. Even people who do not usually choose to read poetry will find these accessible. They are very human, giving insights into personal reactions to formative events in a person’s life; in the latter half particularly to loss in the aftermath of the first, then the second more devastating quake. While moving, they avoid being cloyingly sentimental – one very brief poem titled Demolition gives a different view in its 9 words. After / demolition / the squashed / acrid soil / breathes / once more.
The photographs are stunning. The Author shows she has an eye for subject, and what makes an ordinary scene into art.
Overall, the words and pictures show Jennifer Barrer’s full engagement with her locality and surroundings – natural, historical, human and social.
Such an attractive work deserved a stronger editing eye, but the inconsistencies in the prose pieces will likely be glossed over by most readers and not detract from the whole effect.
Buy this book for yourself, or as a very acceptable gift for a grandmother, an aunt, or anyone with a long connection with Canterbury. The print-run is limited to 200, so those lucky enough to receive one will be fortunate.
Publisher: Jennifer Barrer, 1 Barrer Lane, Cashmere, Christchurch 8022, ph. (03) 332-4915. Printed by The Caxton Press
Available: Hardback and paperback, from some bookshops or from Jennifer Barrer