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Poetry review: The Internet of Things by Kate Camp

Camp’s poems take us beyond that point of no longer feeling “young”.

The Internet of Things is powerhouse poet Kate Camp’s sixth collection, and it takes its title from the network of smart devices embedded in everyday objects that communicate through the ­internet. The book’s cover, however, shows the past, rather than a tech-based future: it’s a vintage-toned photograph of the kitchen in John Lennon’s childhood home in ­Liverpool, where his aunt would cook him eggs and chips.

Central to these poems is how we navigate our past and our future, ­especially through things. The poems are often concerned with ageing and its uncertainties (and boring certainties). The collection reads as a meditation on middle age: career and family burdens; the quiet identity crisis that comes when you no longer feel “young”.

Many of the standout poems recall ­childhood and the tricky relationship we have with our childhood as adults. In Civil twilight, the speaker returns to her home town, “the place I made almost all of my mistakes”.

There is love, too, for those gone days. In Waster of three bowls, the speaker ­remembers her childhood treasures, “Oggie Doggie” and the “clear plastic … deer”. The past is a complicated place. We want to forget it, and we want to hold onto it.

The beautiful poem The biology of ­loneliness sums up the collection when it says: “The past is something that you only notice is heavy/when you’re moving.”

What is middle age if not the time when we recognise our faults and burdens and forge on. Camp captures these complex emotions in this hopeful, tender and witty collection.

The Internet of Things, by Kate Camp (Victoria University Press, $25).

This article was first published in the May 20, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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