AUP New Poets 4
with Harry Jones and Erin Scudder
Auckland University Press, 2011
The fourth book in AUP’s New Poets series brings together the work of three distinct new voices: Chris Tse, Erin Scudder and Harry Jones.
The popular series, which has the aim of bringing fresh new poetry to a wider audience, began in 1999 and continued in 2002 and 2008, and has been responsible for launching the writing careers of well-known poets such as Anna Jackson, Sonja Yelich and Stu Bagby.
“A single sturdy central theme — or thematic motif — also lifts the poetry of Chris Tse from any hint of leaden-footedness. His ‘Sing Joe’ in AUP New Poets 4, while containing some lovely single poems, is made more cohesive through its retelling of the story of Tse’s great-grandparents coming to New Zealand early in the twentieth century. That the ‘Joe’ of the title emigrates first, not to be followed by his wife for some years, and only after he has started a new family, meaning that she must arrive pretending to be an aunt, gives the tale a sense of the operatic — secrets within secrets, doors opening and closing, an ellipsis of telling that’s sometimes comic, sometimes melancholy.
Family history and ethnic identity is something many, if not most of us, cling to in New Zealand, and the story of a Chinese family’s settlement in New Zealand gains in fascination from being the less told: less written about. While elements of the universal experience for those made other in their homeland can be found, Tse’s story remains emphatically personal, emotionally reverberant in its very clipped, tightly-wound expressiveness: ‘This talk of the other that trails/ my every move …/ speaks not of defiance, but of blood clot guilt./ … It mattered back then too,/ possibly even more so –/not knowing which crayons to use at school/ for family portraits …’. His ‘return’ to China at the end of the sequence is poignantly delivered.” – Nick Ascroft, Landfall Review Online
“The AUP New Poets series is a neat little entree for bigger collections to follow and New Poets 4 is a little book full of tough, very human poems. There is plenty of light and shade to be found in under 90 pages.” – Hamesh Wyatt, Otago Daily Times