by Mary Cresswell
This is a slim book, just 68 pages, nicely presented, with a wealth of wisdom to be gleaned from the 51 poems.
Mary Cresswell has been in New Zealand for 50 years so much of the content is rooted in the bones of this country – the rocks, volcanoes, streambeds, coastlines, flora and fauna. Yet an earlier influence breaks in from time to time in allusions and word-use, providing a broader, more universal aspect to her work.
This book will be shelved under ‘poetry’ in any system, and rightly so. Yet there’s much variety in the 51 entries, some set out as prose and even two as numbered lists. At times this poet is creative in layout to spark our subconscious to add meaning. Others employ a variety of verse forms – so much so, that there’s no one form that suggests it is the norm from which others depart.
Prevalent themes are the natural environment and human relationship to it, the sea, faith and, right-up-to-date, virus. Here again, there’s not a single approach. Mother Nature is not always nurturing, as seen in Song to nature –
You rip the ground open, toss hillsides and buildings into
rubble. You crush my sisters and brothers beneath, and
they die too fast to cry.
And while a deep concern for the environment and conservation is very evident, this is challenged in the most delightful Moa’s advice to the kākāpō, which could be read as a cautionary tale.
Me? I’ve been there, done that, got
the T-shirt. It’s not extinction I mind –
it’s what they do to you on the way …
Classical references and lines inspired by other poets add to the depth and skill of Mary Cresswell’s verses, with several of her titles being a response to their works. It is clear that here is a poet who reads other poets; who is intelligent, perceptive, and worthy of reserving a place on the international stage.
Author: Mary Cresswell
Publisher: The Cuba Press