Review of Big Weather: Poems of Wellington (revised edition 2018) – Gregory O’Brien & Louise St John

Posted: July 26, 2019 in poetry, Review
Tags: ,

Beginning with the inner city and harbour, the 100 poems move into the suburbs and parks, before heading to outer areas – and into the twenty-first century. Major New Zealand poets, visitors from offshore and stimulating newer voices have all been moved to record their responses to the steep streets and myriad people, the food and political energy, the cable car and cenotaphs, the wharves and, of course, the big weather.

Big Weather, Poems of Wellington (revised edition 2018)

Gregory O’Brien & Louise St John

RHNZ Vintage

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Big Weather, as the subtitle suggests, is a collection of poems about Wellington. It may be a small city but there is nothing small about the weather. The closeness of the hills and harbour heighten the appreciation of weather. The collection features about a hundred poets, but not all wrote poems: there is at least one piece of prose, as well as the obligatory introduction.

The poets (and their works) are a broad selection. While about ten percent are foreigners, and another twenty percent non-residents, the majority are Wellingtonians either by birth or by residence. I recognised a number of names. But all contributors have at least visited the city. The age of the poems varies from very late 19th century to a year before publication. The direct subject moves a fair bit; the weather, the hills, the city itself, the suburbs, the social life or cultural vibe, all make appearances.

As mentioned in the title, this is a revised edition, the first being published in 2000. Apart from a section labelled “Twenty-first Century”, there is nothing to indicate what has changed between editions. Unfortunately, one change that is non-textual is the death in 2009 of co-editor Louise St John. Which is sad.

Anyway, poems about Wellington. Buy it. And I’m not just saying that because it is my home town.

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