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One For the Soul – New Poem in Poetry New Zealand

March 5, 2014

I am pleased to have a new poem in the latest issue of Poetry New Zealand. The poem is called ‘What kind of thing’ and this is where it came from:

The poem is dedicated to Sarah Broom who wrote a poem called ‘Crusade’. Her poem begins — ‘And I wondered what kind of thing the soul was — / was it me turned inside out?’ It was a haunting question made more resonant when I came to meet the poet and understand the circumstances in which her first collection was written.

See, in 2008 the New Zealand poet was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. Shortly after that she finished her first collection – Tigers at Awhitu – and shortly after that I met her in Auckland for a conversation which aired on the Scottish Poetry Library podcast.

She was effervescent, optimistic, charming, and generous with her time. The talent on display in her first collection was evident in person — dark and honest, a little bit hopeful, a little bit frightened. The opening poem – ‘Snow‘ (which you can hear her read, or read the interview transcribed at the Prairie Schooner) – was enthralling.

Sadly, Sarah Broom died on April 18, 2013, five years after her initial diagnosis. In those years, the consummate poet, she continued her work while undertaking a variety of treatments. Her second collection, Gleam, was published by Auckland University Press in August 2013. Selina Guinness says, “It is a collection written in extremis, and contains some of the most beautiful and startling poems about dying I have ever read.”

If you want to read the poem I dedicated to Sarah Broom, please pick up a copy of Poetry New Zealand which also features the work of friends Raewyn Alexander and Siobhan Harvey. More importantly, however, I urge you to seek out her work as it deserves to live in the hearts and minds of those lucky enough to find it. I know it lives in mine.

Sarah Broom at the Prairie Shooner

July 2, 2013

Sarah Broom’s first collection was completed after learning she had stage-four lung cancer in 2008. At twenty-eight weeks pregnant, she was given only months to live. When I met her in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2011 she had given birth to her daughter and was bravely writing her second collection,Gleam, while submitting herself to an exhausting regime of drug trials and treatments in Auckland, Melbourne, and Boston. She was effervescent, optimistic, charming, and generous with her time. The talent on display in her first collection, Tigers at Awhitu, was dark and haunting and I was attracted to her work before understanding how much of it was made through adversity. Sadly, Sarah Broom died on April 18, 2013, five years after her initial diagnosis. Gleam will be published by Auckland University Press in August 2013. Selina Guinness says, “It is a collection written in extremis, and contains some of the most beautiful and startling poems about dying I have ever read.” Broom is survived by her husband, Michael Gleissner, and their three children, Daniel, Christopher, and Amelia, whom she lived to see go off to school.

Our conversation is published in the most recent edition of the Prairie Schooner.

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