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I, Clo­dia, and Oth­er Por­traits: Anna Jack­son, Auck­land Uni­ver­sity Press


Young Coun­try: Kerry Hines, Auck­land Uni­ver­sity Press


JAAM 32: Shorelines: Sue Woot­ton (ed.), JAAM Collective

Phil Dickson’s Wellington copy

Phil Dickson’s Wel­ling­ton: Phil Dick­son, Grantham House Publishing

Every girl goes through a pho­to­graphy phase,” sug­gests Scar­lett Johannson’s char­ac­ter from Lost in Trans­la­tion. A friend hated that line so much that when she got a DSLR and a Flickr account, “Pho­to­graphy Phase” was the name she gave her col­lec­ted works. Was it “girl” that rankled? Were Diane Arbus, Annie Leibovitz, Suze Ran­dall et al. merely “going through pho­to­graphy phases”?

The pretty pho­to­graph­er” is such a pop­u­lar trope that you could devote at least half a book of poetry to it — as Anna Jack­son has done in I, Clo­dia, and Oth­er Por­traits. Call her ‘pretty pho­to­graph­er’ poems obser­va­tions, call them snap­shots or vign­ettes — the meta­phor still stands. “Pretty” before “pho­to­graph­er”: we see her before she sees us. Yet it’s her gaze that tells the story.

The pretty pho­to­graph­er’ provides the B‑side to Jackson’s clas­sic­al opus, ‘I, Clo­dia’. This rich col­lec­tion focuses on an enig­mat­ic desid­erata from the late-Roman poetry of Catul­lus. Jack­son extra­pol­ates her per­spect­ive into a series of epic, intim­ate poems against a back­drop of Caesar, Sap­pho, Cicero — all your favour­ites from Asterix.

It’s not just girls who go through pho­to­graphy phases, though. In the brash, bohemi­an, me-first ’80s — the 1880s, that is — rail­way clerk Wil­li­am Wil­li­ams was tak­ing up with the Wel­ling­ton Ama­teur Pho­to­graph­ic Soci­ety to depict the cit­izens, struc­tures and mous­taches of New Zealand’s fledgling cit­ies. Now his images sit along­side Kerry Hines’ poetry in her col­lec­tion Young Coun­try.

Hines mar­ries words to pic­tures expertly enough to erase the years sep­ar­at­ing them. She places us behind the eyes of early wan­der­ers around Cuba Street, the Hutt and fur­ther climes still. It’s a lyr­ic com­pan­ion to the likes of Phil Dickson’s Wel­ling­ton, a col­lec­tion of sketches and geo­graph­ic obser­va­tions focused on the capital.

Dickson’s prose doc­u­ments the city’s growth and cur­rent state ably, while his water­col­ours burst with loc­al affec­tion. Neatly strip­ping his works of fine-grain detail, Dick­son washes all the now away and lets con­tem­por­ary snap­shots sit along­side long-erased vistas.

The per­spect­ives of former Wel­ling­to­ni­ans are inter­rog­ated fur­ther in John-Paul Powley’s ‘Walk­ing the Beach’, a meaty con­tri­bu­tion lurk­ing with­in the Sue Woot­ton-edited JAAM 32: Shorelines. The piece takes its cues from a com­mu­nic­a­tion with Amy Adams (the politi­cian, not the act­or) and a walk from the Min­istry of Busi­ness, Innov­a­tion, and Employ­ment headquar­ters up through the his­tor­ic Bolton Street Cemetery.

Pow­ley retells the pop­u­lar fable of New Zealand’s first eight-hour con­tract — oft claimed by Rod­ney Hide-types as an ode to free enter­prise — here reclaim­ing it as a cau­tion­ary tale about the rapa­city of unfettered busi­ness, and the awk­ward­ness of stone arses on graves­ites. And with more than 50 oth­er pieces to pore over besides, the col­lec­tion is easy to recom­mend to those in all phases of read­ing life.

Tom Goulter

Tom is FishHead's book columnist. A Master's degree in Creative Writing from Victoria's International Institute of Modern Letters launched Goulter on the life of an itinerant man of letters, wandering the fractious United states in search of.. whatever it was Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper were after, probably. Instead of getting shot by rednecks (yet), he returned to Wellington, where he essays semi-regularly into popular culture, psycho-geography, underground film-making, and the uncanny in all its myriad forms. Not a day goes by that he does not wish Manners Street still had Crystal city on it.