Jeffrey Paparoa Holman’s poetry is superb and really brings out verse in a New Zealand context. He writes with confidence and poise about history, love, loss, and New Zealand itself. Throughout this collection he presents a voice that articulates life through the lens of one who has really lived it, and knows it. After Hours Trading & The Flying Squad allows you to drift off into a world of the past while retaining a familiarity with the present. It is a remarkable feat to create that mental shift so vividly and deftly.
Each poem is layered with meaning and showcases Holman’s clear strength of language. In ‘enter the silence’ lines like:
enter a silence that never was
the wheels of a loki sprouting fern
a railway signpost clothed in lichen
a sign to a mine where the dead
still linger lost to lovers dear to mothers
enter a silence that never was
(“enter the silence”)
evoke such strong images and clear connections with the world around him. The poignancy of the poetry is sharp and the messages are thought-provoking.
Split into two main sections: Pākehā Mōteatea & Southern Shanties (which carries the subtitle ‘a suite for voices’) and Into the Mist. Both of which are curated poems across the last dozen years or so.
While not adhering too much in terms of traditional rhyme and rhythmic sequences in the poetry, the fairly well-used cinquain throughout the first section of the poetry collection provides a nice backbone upon which Holman hangs his art. There is a cohesion across the collection through this framework that is really pleasant to read. It is lyrical and musical as much as it is poetic. The first part of the collection is aptly named Southern Shanties with a nod to the musicality of those old sea songs from rugged sea dogs.
Indeed, it is the sea that drives a lot of the narrative throughout the poetry collection. The titular poem ‘After Hours Trading’ is a homage to the life of a publican house one can imagine perched on the edge of some waterway in the South Island. The southern atmosphere really coming through in the imagery presented - complete with rugby forwards.
The second part of the collection, ‘Into the Mist’ is much more of a compilation of poems that don’t have the same regularity of the cinquain as the first section. Rather, they present on a range of topics that views all elements of life - from the sublime to the mundane. A real highlight is ‘normal service’ which pays respect to the mosques following the terror attack in Christchurch which ends:
Normal service makes no sense
Terror is walking
Normal service is banned for life
Blood on the welcome
Normal service is now shut down
Thank you for weeping
Those last two lines really capture those raw emotions of the horrific time.
Overall, Holman’s writing is full of surprises and exciting use of language and form. He is able to present ideas with a sense of control and sustained thoughtfulness.
As more of a senior text in the language use rather than adult themes or coarse language, the text is a great example of what poets are creating now, in the 21st century. There is such a tendency to fall on our laurels and continuously tread over past ground with the more well known writers, when there is such gold in writers such as Jeffrey Paparoa Holman.
Title: After Hours Trading & The Flying Squad
Author: Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
Publisher: Carbide Press
Reviewer: Chris Reed, Macleans College, Auckland
How are you recommending this book? Highly Recommended
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