There's No Place Like the Internet in Springtime by Erik Kennedy – poetry review

by Nicholas Reid / 17 November, 2017

A debut collection bridges the pastoral and the digital with clarity and whimsy.

Often the best and most memorable volumes of poetry are the most provocative. The debut collection of Erik Kennedy certainly provoked me. From the title poem onwards there is much arch irony, sometimes verging on whimsy, as if the poet is disengaged from what he is writing about.

But once you get past this element, Kennedy hits his stride with clear, almost documentary, vignettes of time and place in Public Power, about the first town in the world to be electrified, and The Great Sunspot of 1947, reconstructing how people once thought about such things.

As a work of compassionate contemplation, An Abandoned Farm Near Lockhart, New South Wales is brilliant, handling ideas of time and decay simply by its focused description. No sign of arch irony here.

Kennedy can sometimes lapse into obscurity when it comes to political satire, but at his best he is clear and hard-hitting, as in The Paris Agreement, concerning dithering over the climate-change accord.

And then there is the sheer pleasure of his Georgics, which updates old pastoral poetry to the computer age. An amiable, easy, style takes over in Love Poem With Seagull, the wired couplets of Amores, his reflection on the messiness of love, and the specific detail of How a New Zealand Sunrise Is Different from Other Sunrises.

As a first collection, this is more than promising.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE THE INTERNET IN SPRINGTIME, by Erik Kennedy (Victoria University Press, $25)

This article was first published in the November 17, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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