Five poetry collections you've never read (or should again)

Five poetry collections to read for National Poetry Day.

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Books Editor Sarah Jane Barnett recommends five collections by Aotearoa poets. It's Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day tomorrow (check out our NPD picks), so even if you've read these collections it's a good time to read them again.

The Night We Ate The Baby by Tim Upperton

Palmy poet and teacher Tim Upperton's collection The Night We Ate The Baby was shortlisted for the 2016 Ockham Book Awards. It's just so good. Sharp, clever and cheerfully brutal, the poems include lines such as, 'The apple-trees vomit blossom' and 'The heart is a forest / in which the trees are felled, / one by one.' You'll read it in one sitting.

We Recommend: Read with a glass of beer and some Europop in the background.

Six Memorials by Ursula Bethell

These sorrowful poems were written between 1935 and 1940 by Ursula Bethell, arguably New Zealand's most famous early woman poet. Bethell wrote them for her companion (and I suggest lover) Effie Pollen who’d died suddenly. For six years Bethell wrote a memorial poem on the anniversary of Effie’s death, and they were never meant for publication. They will break your heart. Read all six poems at the NZ Electronic Poetry Centre.

Bonus Feature: Bernadette Hall's poem 'The Woolshed' about Ursula Bethell. 
We Recommend: Read while drinking warm cocoa. Prepare for a lie-down afterwards.

Fully Clothed and So Forgetful by Hannah Mettner

Mettner's intimate and fierce debut has love, motherhood, sexuality, family and anxiety. Anxiety! Why don't more people write about that jerk? Relationships with women are central to the collection – her girlfriend, the mother-daughter relationship, and enduring female friendships. We also get Gertrude Stein, Janet Paul, Adrienne Rich, and Katherine Mansfield. Fully clothed and so inspirational and messy and magnificent. 

We Recommend: Read with a G&T while wearing sequins and doc boots. 

Fast Talking PI by Selina Tusitala Marsh

Already an Aotearoa classic. In the collection Marsh, who is of Samoan, Tuvaluan, English, Scottish and French descent, traces personal, political and historical themes. It has been called 'generous,' 'tremendous' and 'kick-ass.' I made that last one up, but really how great is Marsh? She kickboxes during readings; last year she read to HRH Queen Elizabeth II; this year she's publishing her third collection Tightrope on National Poetry DayIt's time to refresh yourself on the Marsh oeuvre.

Bonus Feature: Selina Tusitala Marsh recites the title poem, 'Fast Talking PI'
We Recommend: Read with a strong espresso while listening to Tim Page

Nice Pretty Things and others by Rachel Bush

Published in 2011, Nice Pretty Things and others is full of deft, beautiful and immediate poems. Bush's writing is effortless. After reading this collection you'll walk outside and the world will seem brighter, peoples' faces kinder. Rachel Bush died last year, but not before getting to hold her fourth collection, Thought Horses. I am glad of that.

Bonus Feature: Nice Pretty Things and others includes the poem 'Side by side' about Ursula Bethell and Effie Pollen.
We Recommend: Read with a pot of peppermint tea on a quiet morning.

Feature Image: Morning Reading by George Moga | CC BY-NC 2.0. This guy likes poetry so much he's reading it at the Bucharest Half Marathon 2017.