Dunedin-based Richard Reeve, born in 1976, is one of a group of exciting
young writers to have emerged in the South in recent years.
He won the Macmillan Brown Prize for Poetry in 1998 for an earlier folio of
poems, is the founding editor of the literary magazine Glottis: New Writing,
which he currently co-edits with Nick Ascroft, and has had his poems
published widely in journals in New Zealand, Australia and Britain. He is
currently working on his doctorate, “An Ontology of New Zealandness in
Poetry”, at the University of Otago.
Dialectic of Mud is Richard’s first published solo collection. It was
launched on Montana New Zealand Poetry Day 2001 (20 July) at the Fuel Café
in Dunedin, at an event organised by the University Bookshop Otago and
co-sponsored by Auckland University Press.
Launching Dialectic of Mud, poet John Dolan said Richard, “is like a
character in The Seven Samurai – the Samurai ‘who cared for nothing but the
perfection of his art’. His book is marvellously, heroically, improbably
against the grain.”
“Many of these poems speak from the darker crevices of the meat,” says
Richard Reeve. “They describe unapologetically the indignity of modern man
in the face of mortality, for whom the traditional structures of thought and
feeling have mouldered into bizarre husks.”
“Yet, the impulse behind them derives from a more complete and even
reverential acknowledgement of the encompassing world, which can come only
after we have accepted our own finitude.
“As such, a significant proportion of these poems have their roots in the
rickety houses, pubs and elemental landscapes of the South.”
Cramped behind rain-flecked metal, sleeper after sleeper
disappeared under our boots. The hammer-cracked,
incomprehensible gravel rolled like stripped teeth below
my soles; anxiously, an eye leaned into the harbour,
though no train ever came this late (or so you said).
Until then one came. Grumbling over the wrought wood,
the rusted tracks shrinking where its unstoppable freight
glided across what previously had seemed obsolete,
it ground past, like a great beast in search of water -
piercing the dark fizz of factories, each hinge clacking
where the ghost of our feet lost itself under wheels.
Carriage after dead carriage, some memory of the ore
subsisted in its steel, an essence pinioning the black air,
thundering slowly through the wet night of the One.
© Richard Reeve 2002