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C. K. Stead, The Yellow Buoy: Poems 2007 – 2012

Arc Publications, £9.99 paperback, 154 pp; £ 12.99 hardback 154 pp

I enjoyed this book immensely.

It’s the work of a highly cultured novelist, poet and literary critic, so not surprisingly there are many poems about writers or about places and people on the international literary circuit, as well as translations or adaptations of pieces by Catullus, Montale and Jaccottet. At the same time, it’s immensely grounded.

A fundamental motive of Stead’s writing appears in the title of “Stay Alert”. In this, the poet’s companion is startled by an unexpected intensity of blue striking her peripheral vision, asks what it is, then laughs, … Continue Reading

On two translations of a few lines from Jaccottet

I’m very much enjoying The Yellow Buoy by the veteran New Zealand poet C. K. Stead. One little poem or section of a longer poem that leapt out at me was this from a translation of Jaccottet:

alive as running water
gone as quickly as
…….a quick glance
…….a cool kiss

That’s wonderfully alive with the movement of the reptile, of the water, of the poet’s mind. The lack of punctuation speeds everything up, makes you feel that the impression’s been caught and stabilised in all its transience and volatility. The idea of a cool kiss plays brilliantly against … Continue Reading

Jane Yeh, The Ninjas; Carcanet Press, £9.95

It’s sometimes said of poems inspired by paintings that they seem too dependent on the knowledge of something very specific outside them to stand on their own feet. Nothing could be less true of a poem like Yeh’s “The Wyndham Sisters (after Sargent)”. It begins:

Their satin shapes foretell an ambassador’s ball,
The fourth this season – such a dreadful bore. The long

Hand of evening comes forward as if to enfold them
Before the gas lamps go on. In the half-light their bodices

Softly glow, wrapped in oyster and ivory
Like expensive presents.

The sheer sensuous vividness of the writing … Continue Reading