Hera Lindsay Bird - poetry review

by Airini Beautrais / 29 August, 2016
The imagery may be dark, but the effect of a Kiwi’s debut book of poems is largely comic.
Hera Lindsay Bird: like any comic performance, her collection has climaxes and lulls. Photo/Russell Kleyn
Hera Lindsay Bird: like any comic performance, her collection has climaxes and lulls. Photo/Russell Kleyn


The introductory poem in Hera Lindsay Bird’s eponymous debut contains the lines “You might think this book is ironic/But to me, it is deeply sentimental”. Though the overall balance tips towards irony, this collection of 21 relatively long, garrulous poems manages to embrace both these qualities, and does so in a manner that is constantly playful and exuberant. The distinct sense arises that no line has been agonised over – they have all come raw and unadulterated from unrestrained creative thought.

One of the most impressive qualities of these poems is their continual willingness to abandon control: to pile up similes, overstate things, repeat themselves. Although the stated “official theme” is “You get in love and then you die!”, and the imagery is often dark – coffins, caskets, black candles, the heart “a black salt lick” – the effect is largely comic. Somewhere about halfway during my first reading, I found myself laughing until it hurt.

Like any comic performance, this collection has climaxes and lulls. The more successful poems home in on a topic, build up through a series of digressions and finish with something like a punchline – or at least a satisfying conclusion. Monica, Bisexuality and Everything Is Wrong are standout examples. Other poems wind up less effectively. The final poem, Pain Imperatives, is filled with the diverting metaphors and similes characteristic of the book, but finishes quite suddenly. I would have preferred such an unabashedly flamboyant collection to end with a bang.

LS3316_55_SUP_Hera-Lindsay-BirdHERA LINDSAY BIRD, by Hera Lindsay Bird (Victoria University Press, $25)

Follow the Listener on Twitter or Facebook.
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

How should New Zealand tackle rising tensions in Asia-Pacific and Europe?
83284 2017-11-18 00:00:00Z World

How should New Zealand tackle rising tensions in A…

by Robert Patman

It's time for the big powers to get over their great power rivalries when it comes to international disputes in the 21st century. But what can NZ do?

Read more
Richard Evans: The historian who took on a Holocaust-denier
83242 2017-11-18 00:00:00Z Profiles

Richard Evans: The historian who took on a Holocau…

by Diana Wichtel

When Holocaust denier David Irving addressed the judge in his libel case as “mein Führer”, expert witness Richard Evans couldn’t believe his ears.

Read more
A book of required reading in our time of terror
83277 2017-11-18 00:00:00Z Books

A book of required reading in our time of terror

by Catherine Woulfe

Kamila Shamsie's new novel Home Again is about the beguiling pull of violent causes.

Read more
Memory check-up: The clinics helping pre-dementia sufferers
80411 2017-11-18 00:00:00Z Health

Memory check-up: The clinics helping pre-dementia …

by Donna Chisholm

A nationwide study of memory loss and pre-dementia has good news for one of its first recruits, Graeme Newton

Read more
Whole grain diets could reduce the risk of bowel cancer
83269 2017-11-18 00:00:00Z Nutrition

Whole grain diets could reduce the risk of bowel c…

by Jennifer Bowden

There’s good news and bad about New Zealand’s second-biggest cancer killer.

Read more
7 personal questions for cartoonist Tom Scott
83303 2017-11-17 14:33:23Z Profiles

7 personal questions for cartoonist Tom Scott

by Clare de Lore

Cartoonist, political columnist, playwright and film-maker Tom Scott marks his 70th birthday with the release of Drawn Out: A Seriously Funny Memoir.

Read more
The disappearance of Jim Donnelly: 'There are more questions than answers'
83250 2017-11-17 06:37:31Z Crime

The disappearance of Jim Donnelly: 'There are more…

by Paloma Migone

On Monday June 21, 2004, Jim Donnelly signed into work as usual. Thirteen years later, he still hasn't signed out.

Read more
Auckland rates increase: 'It's a good time to be selling'
83248 2017-11-17 06:27:23Z Property

Auckland rates increase: 'It's a good time to be s…

by RNZ

Homeowners in one of Auckland's cheaper suburbs could find themselves out of pocket when their next rates bill arrives in the mail.

Read more