Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris really have captured something special in Skinny Dip Poetry as New Zealand poets are brought to the fore in this rather novel collection of poems set in the context of a school year.
Divided into four terms - as any school is - Skinny Dip Poetry discusses elements of school life through the lens of a poet. Each has its charm as they navigate the experience typified by students both now, and in a reflective vision of the past. The ingenuity of the task is really captivating and wonderful in exploring with a class full of students engaged in the process of forced filling of knowledge that is education.
New Zealand poetry has always been a force to be celebrated to the fullest. Going back to the days of Baxter, Mason, Tuwhare and Curnow, we have demonstrated a level of prowess that far exceeds our geographical size and location. And the new (and more well known) poets in this collection ensure that tradition is safe with the universal appeal of the content.
There are, of course, the usual suspects among the topics explored by the writers, the love interest, the teachers (both bad and good, of course), the friendships that come and go, the school work itself, the seemingly endless and pointless rules, and even the groundsman gets a nod from Tim Upperton. There is a particular line in that one that really captures the spirit of how caretakers must truly feel: ‘What is make / Is soon unmade.’ These characters seem universal in the experience of all people - let alone poets.
As a teacher there are many entry points to these poems. Some reflect the language of our young people, others use an array of fine technical detail to express some wonderfully evocative situations.
Like seagulls, some of the kids
flap closer to us
lollies clutched in our fists
they ask for some
we laugh and sing
(“Street Fighter” by Amber Esau)
Don’t be surprised to find yourself nodding at the scenarios laid out on the page through these poems, or feeling that inevitable pang of regret that the year is over by the end of the text. School days do mean something to all of us. This collection of poems transports you right back to face the good, the bad and the youthfully exuberant.
Knowing that others have had the same experience as you brings a sense of unity and a shared resignation to some of life’s inalienable truths - and so many have been captured by this collection: Nits are an ever present threat; lunch time will always cause conflict; girls’ skirts will always be worn too high; homework will always be a constant; and teachers will always be tyrannical dictators. That’s school for you.
This collection brings such joy as a lover of poetry and a lover of education. It brings the highlights and lowlights of the experience we all share in. It is a treasure to read over and over again.
Title: Skinny Dip (Poetry)
Author: Collected Poets edited by Kate DeGoldi and Susan Paris
Publisher: Massey University Press
Publication: Oct 2021
Reviewer: Chris Reed, Head of Junior English, Macleans College, Auckland
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
Opening Line: “u can only walk around the suburbs so often on bright days so hot”
You can buy this book here