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Selected Poems

Bill Manhire

Cover of Selected Poems by Bill Manhire
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Categories: 20th Century, 21st Century, New Zealand
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (160 pages)
(Pub. Jan 2014)
£14.95 £13.45
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(Pub. Jan 2014)
£14.95 £13.45
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(Pub. Jan 2014)
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  • Description
  • Excerpt
  • Author
  • Contents
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Wingatui

    Sit in the car with the headlights off.
    Look out there now
    where the yellow moon floats silks across the birdcage.
    You might have touched that sky you lost.
    You might have split that azure violin in two.
    Bill Manhire, by trade a medievalist and by vocation a poet, has – like those writers who invented and developed English poetry – helped to make something charged and original out of his landscapes (including Antarctica) and his language. He was New Zealand’s first Poet Laureate and is one of its most popular and entertaining writers. This book traces his evolution over more than four decades, from The Elaboration (1972) through to The Victims of Lightning (2010) and new poems. It is the story of a love affair with the planet: ‘The world is a constant amazement, / always on the move’.
    from The Elaboration

    Love Poem 
    The Elaboration 
    The Spell 
    The Prayer 
    The Voyage 

    from How to Take Off Your Clothes at the Picnic

    The Incision 
    The Poetry Reading 
    Last Sonnet 
    It Is Nearly Summer 
    On Originality 
    The Proposition 
    The Cinema 
    The Song 
    How to Take Off Your Clothes at the Picnic 
    Some Epithets 
    The Trees 
    Contemplation of the Heavens 
    from Good Looks
    A Song About the Moon 
    What It Means to be Naked 
    The Selenologist
    Loss of the Forest 
    Party Going 
    The Voyeur: An Imitation 
    The Caravan 
    Declining the Naked Horse 
    Red Horse 
    Night Windows Carey’s Bay 
    Last Things 
    An Outline

    from Zoetropes

    A Scottish Bride 
    Water, a Stopping Place 
    She Says 
    The Distance Between Bodies 
    Girl Reading 

    from Milky Way Bar

    Out West 
    Jalopy: the End of Love 
    Our Father 
    Milky Way Bar 
    My Lost Youth 
    Breaking the Habit 
    Phar Lap 

    from My Sunshine

    from Isabella Notes 
    My Sunshine 
    Colloquial Europe 
    Ain Folks 
    The English Teacher 

    from What to Call your Child

    Picnic at Woodhaugh 
    What to Call Your Child 
    A Final Secret 
    Visiting Mr Shackleton 
    Antarctic Stone 
    The Next Thousand 

    from Lifted

    Without Form 
    The God’s Journey 
    Song: Alzon
    Across Brooklyn 
    The Ladder 
    Still Life with Wind in the Trees 
    An Inspector Calls 
    Erebus Voices
    Hotel Emergencies 
    Death of a Poet 

    from The Victims of Lightning

    The Cave 
    The Victims of Lightning 
    Song with a Chorus 
    Captain Scott 
    Visiting Europe 
    The Lid Slides Back 
    The Wrong Crowd 
    Peter Pan 
    My Childhood in Ireland 
    The Sick Son 
    The Oral Tradition 
    The Ruin 

    New Poems

    The Schoolbus
    The Question Poem 
    Old Man Puzzled by His New Pyjamas 

    Index of Titles 
    Index of First Lines 
    Bill Manhire was born in Invercargill, New Zealand in 1946. He was his country's inaugural Poet Laureate and has won the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry four times. He headed the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington, establishing and directing the university's prestigious creative writing programme. ... read more
    Awards won by Bill Manhire Commended, 2020 Poetry Book Society Recommendation (Wow)
    Praise for Bill Manhire 'Bill Manhire's poetry is always lyrical whether the lyricism is the lyricism of the ballad or the lyricism he finds in ordinary, unmetred New Zealand conversational speech. Sometimes it seems as if you can hear a poem tuning up, finding its rhythm before it turns itself into song. As it lifts into song, it lifts, too, into meaning... when a Manhire poem takes flight, and when loneliness is taken for a stroll, the epic vision that the lyric can also, he shows, give rise to is all the more resonant and all the larger for being distilled into song.'

    Anna Jackson, Academy of New Zealand Literature

    'Though Manhire is full of foreboding about the future, he mixes the serious with the playful across a range of short, experimental poems... This is a poet who shares his learning with an appealing accessibility and ease'

    Tom Williams, Literary Review

    'Read Wow and you get story and song, light and dark, the surreal, constant surprise, but there is also always wit and humour ... Wow will haunt you'

    NZ Poetry Shelf 

    'Wow offers further intriguing snapshots and glimpses, sometimes half-familiar but never monotonous... Here the light mist over everything teases you with where you are and what's what. Things constantly shift and change shape and being, even as you seem to have grasped them.'


    'Being the leading poet in New Zealand is like being the best DJ in Estonia, impressive enough on its own terms. But Bill Manhire is more than that: he's unquestionably worldclass. As with Seamus Heaney, you get a sense of someone with a steady hand on the tiller, and both the will and the craft to take your breath away.'
    Teju Cole, Boston Globe
    'Manhire changes tack in every poem, coming at us with different techniques and different personae. It's a marvellously varied performance...Lifted is a short book, but few readers will be able to take it all in at a single sitting. It demands -and rewards- re-reading.'
    Iain Sharp, Sunday Star Times
    'The biggest noise in New Zealand poetry is Bill Manhire... Manhire has always known how to look at the human condition and state it simply through his poems. 'Lifted' is confident and emotive in what it tries to achieve. ...'Lifted' is shining stuff from truly one of our best poets. Definitely check this one out.'
    Hamesh Wyatt, Otago Daily Times
    'Turning the pages of 'Lifted', no reader can fail to be surprised and delighted by the variety of voices and tones... Manhire shows not only his mature formal skills but his ability to look unflinchingly into the heart of things. He is a poet in which a sly sense of humour is coupled with a respect for whatever truths a poem can wring out of experience. ...Manhire’s poems make us feel as if we are really there.'
    Billy Collins, Dominion Post
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