The Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2022 is a substantial volume, containing treasures from prominent poets such as David Eggleton, Victor Billot, Janet Newman, Jordan Hamel, essa may ranapiri, Elizabeth Morton and Vaughan Rapatahana alongside many exceptional poets I had not encountered previously. Four thoughtful essays balance the many reviews and poems and this edition’s featured poet, Wes Lee, shows the reader many worlds nestled in her 21 pieces.
But no breakdown of the contents in this manner prepares you for the thought, beauty and disruption within the pages. To cover the breadth of this collection in a short review is impossible: one needs to return, over and over, finding new gems every time. Editor Tracey Slaughter challenges the reader to go further than simply admiring the words, telling the reader to: “Waste nothing. Use everything you are to open the poems in this book.”
In Wes Lee’s work, there’s a theme of trauma manifesting “locked in to the body.” She unflinchingly uses words as a scalpel to eviscerate “low-key, incidental, domestic” incidents, exposing their bloodied internals. The female body is a horror in Doll’s Eyes are God’s Eyes:
Who doesn’t hate their female body?
When I was given dolls I buried them
and in My Heart Wakes Me, the small warnings our bodies give us are pinpointed:
devouring his son.
Her poems explore many facets of the human condition, but I was most drawn to those focused intently on the body, mesmerised by the razor-sharp attention to detail.