Review of Views From The South – Owen Marshall

Posted: June 9, 2019 in photography, poetry, Review
Tags: ,

A stunning collection of poems from one of New Zealand’s most respected writers.

David Eggleton wrote of Marshall’s poetry in the New Zealand Listener that, ‘Above all, the poems are redolent of the South Island – all wild winds and dry hills, sleepy summer afternoons, the shimmer of light on lakes, snow like whitewash on the Alps.’ In addition his poetry captures the voice and perspective of the South Island, whether it is contemplating family or friends, love or mortality, the local landscape or further afield, through place or time.

This collection brings together Marshall’s most powerful poetry from his previous three collections with many more recent works. They are complemented by photographs taken by his friend and fellow Mainlander Grahame Sydney.

Views From The South

Owen Marshall


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

This is a hardcover, coffee table book which is a collection of poems from one of New Zealand’s best writers.  They all celebrate the South Island and are handily arranged in four groups – Nature and Place, Family and Friends, History and Art, and Heart and Mind.

The poems are about big life moments – birth death, war – as well as the ordinary moments – meeting again the girl you liked years ago.  ‘Blowing Up Frogs With A Straw’ lists the many ways the poem’s speaker experimented with killing animals as a child, though not anymore.

Having experienced no suffering of
my own, I dished it out with gusto.
and now I wince to step upon a snail.

As a born and bred Aucklander, I found the prologue poem hysterical – ‘South Island Prayer’ begins with God / Don’t let me die in Auckland.

The stunning photography is by Grahame Sydney, a longtime mate of Owen Marshall and fellow South Islander.  The photos often complement the poem – like the full page photo of a tree covered in wet snow facing the sparse poem ‘The Big Snow’.  I wish the photos had identifying text though – it would have been nice to be able to pinpoint the snowy mountain’s location or identify the gorgeous beach.

This is a thoughtful and delightful book, with well crafted poems and beautiful photography.

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