The pen and the sword – First World War poetry, letters and memoirs

541px-Poppy-closeupIs the pen mightier than the sword? In a physical sense alas no — otherwise the celebrated war poets would not have been so cruelly cut down in their prime — but the curious phenomenon about this terrible episode in our history is that it produced a magnificent flowering of the written word. Many of those fighting at the front were highly educated men, well versed in the classics and literature. Poetry — considered the highest of the literary forms — was the natural medium in which to express not the pity and the horror of this dreadful war but also a heightened sense of the beauty of life. It is the poignancy of this mix, coupled with the youth of the poets, which has the power to move us so profoundly today.

“The Great silence” followed The Great War — a period when everybody wanted to forget about it and nobody wanted to talk about it. Memoirs were slow to come, and many have only just been produced using letters and diaries as source material.

There are many many books about this war to end all wars — and this being the centenary year of the conflict there are likely to be many more. Those we have chosen below are a guide to what is held in each category. Have a read!


Syndetics book cover1914 : poetry remembers / edited by Carol Ann Duffy.
“The First World War holds a unique place in the nation’s history; the poetry it produced, a unique place in the nation’s hearts. To mark the centenary of the First World War in 2014, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has engaged the most eminent poets of the present to choose the writing from the Great War that touched them most profoundly: their choices are here in this powerful and moving assembly. But this anthology is more than a record of war writing. Carol Ann Duffy has commissioned these same poets of the present to look back across the past and write a poem of their own in response to the war to end all wars.” (Summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverFirst World War poems / edited by Andrew Motion.
“The First World War produced some of the most haunting and memorable poetry of our age. In this compelling anthology, the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion guides us through both the horror and the pity of that conflict, from the trenches of the Western Front to reflections from our own age. With a selection of our best-known war poets, this collection also returns lesser known pieces to the light and extends the selection right through to the present day. The text serves to remind us how poetry of that time has, more than any other art from, come to stand testament to the grief and outrage occasioned by World War I” (Summary from Global Books)

Biographies & memoirs:

Syndetics book coverTestament of youth : an autobiographical study of the years 1900-1925 / by Vera Brittain ; with an introduction by Mark Bostridge ; and a preface by Shirley Williams.
“In 1914 Vera Brittain was eighteen and, as war was declared, she was preparing to study at Oxford. Four years later her life – and the life of her whole generation – had changed in a way that was unimaginable in the tranquil pre-war era. TESTAMENT OF YOUTH, one of the most famous autobiographies of the First World War, is Brittain’s account of how she survived the period; how she lost the man she loved; how she nursed the wounded and how she emerged into an altered world.” (Summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverThe Englishman’s daughter : a true story of love and betrayal in World War I / Ben Macintyre.The Englishman’s Daughter: A True Story of Love and Betrayal in World War One
“In the first terrifying days of World War I, four British soldiers found themselves trapped behind enemy lines on the western front. They were forced to hide in the tiny French village of Villeret, whose inhabitants made the courageous decision to shelter the fugitives until they could pass as Picard peasants. The Englishmans Daughter is the never-before-told story of these extraordinary men, their protectors, and of the haunting love affair between Private Robert Digby and Claire Dessenne, the most beautiful woman in Villeret. Their passion would result in the birth of a child known as The Englishmans Daughter.” (Summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverFor king and country : voices from the First World War / edited by Brian MacArthur.
“Far more than an anthology, this gripping collection of writings tells the story of World War I from the perspective of those who endured its horrors both at home and abroad. From the men who served in Europe comenbsp;accounts of fear, tedium, horror, and occasional joy, while those on the home front describe the pain ofnbsp;waiting for news of their loved ones. Along with selections from letters, diary entries, and memoirs, famous songs sung in the trenches as well as poems from soldiers and noted authors alike are also included.” (Summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverFighting on the Home Front : the legacy of women in World War One / Kate Adie.
“Bestselling author and award-winning former BBC Chief News Correspondent Kate Adie reveals the ways in which women’s lives changed during World War One In 1914 the world changed forever. When World War One broke out and a generation of men went off to fight, women emerged from the shadows of their domestic lives. Now a visible force in public life, they began to take up essential roles – from transport to policing, munitions to sport, entertainment, even politics. Kate Adie charts the seismic move towards equal rights with men that began a century ago and asks what these women achieved for future generations. This is history at its best – a vivid, compelling account of the pioneering women who helped win the war.” (Summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverTickled to death to go : memoirs of a cavalryman in the First World War / edited by Richard van Emden.
“Tickled to Death to Go is no ordinary memoir. Illuminated by Ben Clouting’s lively sense of humour and healthy disrespect for petty restrictions, it is a remarkable story told in his own words” (Summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverAnzac girls : the extraordinary story of our World War I nurses
“By the end of World War I, 45 Australian and New Zealand nurses had died on overseas service, and over 200 had been decorated. These were the women who left for war looking for adventure and romance, but were soon confronted with challenges for which their civilian lives could never have prepared them. Their strength and dignity were remarkable. Using diaries and letters, Peter Rees takes us into the hospital camps and the wards and the tent surgeries on the edge of some of the most horrific battlefronts of human history. But he also allows the friendships and loves of these courageous and compassionate women to enrich their experiences, and ours.” (Summary from Global Books)

And a novel which reads like a memoir (you will not believe it’s fiction!):

Syndetics book coverDiary of an ordinary woman / Margaret Forster.
“Margaret Forster presents the ‘edited’ diary of a woman, born in 1901, whose life spans the twentieth century. On the eve of the Great War, Millicent King begins to keep her journal and vividly records the dramas of everyday life in a family touched by war, tragedy, and money troubles. From bohemian London to Rome in the 1920s her story moves on to social work and the build-up to another war, in which she drives ambulances through the bombed streets of London. Here is twentieth-century woman in close-up coping with the tragedies and upheavals of women’s lives from WWI to Greenham Common and beyond. A triumph of resolution and evocation, this is a beautifully observed story of an ordinary woman’s life – a narrative where every word rings true.”. (Summary from Global Books)


Letters were the commonest form of communication in the early 1900s and people of all classes wrote them frequently. In the highly literate letters of the officers and the simple and direct communications of the ordinary soldiers we see the a true history of the war emerge — the terrible battles, the day-to-day experience of the troops, and the realities of life at home.

Syndetics book coverLetters from the trenches : a soldier of the Great War / Bill Lamin.
“I was very pleased to hear from you and that you are going on all right . . . We have had another terrible time this week the men here say it was worst than the Somme advance last July. We lost a lot of men but we got where we were asked to take. It was awful I am alright got buried and knocked about but quite well now and hope to remain so. We were praised by the general and all, everybody said we had done well, quite a success . . . It is a rum job waiting for the time to come to (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverPrivate wars : personal records of the Anzacs in the Great War / Greg Kerr.
“Greg Kerr retraces the journey of Australian and New Zealand troops from Gallipoli in 1915 to the final penetration of the Hindenburg Line in 1918. While covering the general strategic course of the war, the author focuses on the human side of the war. Similar to his acclaimed Lost Anzacs: The Story of Two Brothers, Kerr follows the experiences of roughly sixty figures–officers, privates, nurses–and captures their experiences through judicious and uncensored extracts from their letters and diaries. The book also includes numerous photos, many previously unpublished. The combination of photos, letters, and historical backgroundmake for an unforgettable account of what the war was really like on the ground.” (Syndetics summary).

And what happened next…

Syndetics book coverSingled out : how two million women survived without men after the First World War / Virginia Nicholson.
“The First World War deprived Britain of three quarters of a million soldiers, leaving as many more incapacitated. In 1919 a generation of women who unquestioningly believed marriage to be their birthright discovered that here were, quite simply, not enough men to go round. They became known as ‘the Surplus Women’.” “Many of us remember them: they wee our teachers, our maiden aunts, women who seemed to have lost out life’s feast. This book tells their stories.” (Book jacket)

Syndetics book coverCasualty figures : how five men survived the First World War / Michèle Barrett.
“In this delicate look at history in microcosm, Barrett (literary and cultural theory, Queen Mary, University of London) follows the experience of five soldiers who survived World War I, two in the medical corps and three in the trenches. Their survival was debatable, though each man suffered from shell shock that affected his later life and damaged his relations with family and friends. Using private letters, diaries and military records Barrett paints a harrowing portrait of these men, what they survived and how they coped but never really recovered. This is a beautifully written psychological biography that, sadly, is all too timely.” (Syndetics summary)

Poetic Voices Of Africa

Poetic Voices Of Africa by Wellington City Libraries on Mixcloud

A line up of five African poets from Ethiopia, South Sudan, and American’s from Georgia, Hawaii and Washington DC came together at Wellington Central Library to perform their array of poetry leading up to the Africa Day celebration on Saturday 24 May at Shed 6.
Their works are as diverse as their backgrounds, reflecting on politics, society, war, exile, the hopes and dreams of humanity, all intrinsically linked to the African continent and its many facets, often overlooked in favour of a more one-dimensional narrative.

Readings by: L. E. Scott, Makuei Aken, Tony Hopkins, Inshirah Mahal, and Samson Sahele

An evening of African Poetry

Come and join us for an evening of Poetry with Poetic Voices of Africa. A line up of six African poets from Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan, and American poets from Georgia, Hawaii and Washington DC have come together to perform their array of poetry leading up to the Africa Day celebration on Saturday 24 May at Shed 6.
Their works are as diverse as their backgrounds, reflecting on politics, society, war, exile, the hopes and dreams of humanity, all intrinsically linked to the African continent and its many facets, often overlooked in favour of a more one-dimensional narrative.

Sam Manzanza
The session will be introduced and concluded by the amazing sounds of Sam Manzanza’s drum.

Here is a brief introduction to the participants:

L. E. ScottLewis Scott
African American jazz poet L. E. Scott was born in Cordele, Georgia, in the USA. His work is underpinned by the sounds and cadences of the spoken word of the Black Church. He defines his work as jazz blues, a repetition of sound that he trusts much more than the creation of defined words.

Wanjiku Kiarie Wanjiku Kiarie
Wanjiku Kiarie was born in Kenya and came to New Zealand after some years living in London. Her writing reflects insightfulness, political awareness and a compassion for humanity that endures in spite of our frailties and our duplicity of spirit. Wanjiku’s poetry collection, I Used To Sell Bones, was published in 2009.

Makuei AkenMakuei Aken
Poet and musician Makuei Aken fled from his village in war-torn southern Sudan at the age of 9. Much of his writing reflects the reality of a young man learning to live with the memories of that life experience. In 2011 Makuei’s creative work earned him the Arts Access Aotearoa Young Artist Award.

Tony HopkinsTony Hopkins
Tony Hopkins is an actor, poet, and storyteller of African and Cherokee descent, originally from Washington DC and now resident in Wellington. As a storyteller Tony has performed internationally and throughout New Zealand, specialising in telling traditional African, African American and Native American legends as well as personal stories from his own life.

Inshirah MahalInshirah Mahal
Inshirah Mahal has written poetry since she could write. In explaining what poetry means to her she says, “My inner voice took the form of a poet when I was a little girl. It has always comforted me and made sense of this world. I will always treasure my Muse and I am grateful, still, for this life-long companion.”

Samson SaheleSamson Sahele
Samson Sahele, born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was a journalist and newspaper editor in Addis Ababa before being forced to flee his homeland in 1996. He arrived in New Zealand in 2000 and settled in Wellington. Along with the recent publication of this poetry collection, Journey with My Shadow, Samson is writing a book in his first language, Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, about his experience as an Ethiopian in exile.

An evening of African Poetry

Woof, arrf, stories of my fluffy friend: New Books About Dogs

From heroic earthquake dogs, to whimsical animal poems, the stories of the lovely fluffy dogs will cheer up your day and melt your heart.

Syndetics book coverA dog walks into a nursing home : lessons in the good life from an unlikely teacher / Sue Halpern.
“Halpern’s (Can’t Remember What I Forgot) love of life and openness to its infinite possibilities shine through in this powerful and engaging account of her time working in a Vermont nursing home. Her efforts to brighten the residents’ lives were aided by a remarkable Labradoodle named Pransky-“one singular, faithful, charitable, loving, and sometimes prudent dog.” Confounding both her expectations and the reader’s, Halpern was surprised to find that happiness was “the dominant emotion for both Pransky and me,” at the nursing home where they work together as a therapy-dog team. From the outset, the book’s humanity is evident, as seen in a description of an encounter with a legless man Halpern had never seen before and would never see again. Instead of simply passing by the man, who embodied her worst fears about nursing homes, Halpern, prodded by her dog, engaged him in conversation and got out of her comfort zone. Time and again, anecdotes bolster her contention that in places where “life is in the balance,” it is possible to get to the essentials about human nature.” (Abridged from Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverLuv from Dog / by Murray Ball.
“Following on from the ‘Wisdom of Dog’, comes ‘Love from Dog’, a book focusing on the many romances down on the Footrot Flats farm. From the intense relationships between Dog and Jess and Wal and Cheeky to the troubled and sometimes fleeting encounters of many other Raupo residents, love is definitely in the air.” (Publisher information)

Syndetics book coverWedding dogs : a celebration of holy muttrimony / by Katie Preston Toepfer and Sam Stall.
“Dogs attend weddings, often making up the bridal party, in this lighthearted catalogue of four-legged matrimonial revelers. Toepfer writes: “When my parents were married, my dad’s best man was a Labrador and my mum’s maid-of-honor was a Dalmatian.” A broad range of weddings, breeds, and locations are covered. Each wedding features a canine photograph and comments from the newlyweds. An “exuberant kiss” is planted on a bride in Montreal, a lathering, in fact. Bride Casi in Virginia recalls, “The dogs totally outshined me at my own wedding!” Kelly, whose pugs couldn’t make the ceremony, made pug cake toppers, had pug buttons hidden in her bouquet, and included pix of the three pugs on the wedding announcement. Outdoor weddings show a more appropriate environment for the shaggy guests, being amenable to common complaints of barks and rowdiness. A great picture of a hulking mastiff mix shows him absconding with the bride’s bouquet; perhaps a greater infraction occurs when “Romeo, enthralled by his mistress’s dress, immediately grabbed a mouthful and commenced a one-sided game of tug-of-war.” Chipper captions work in tandem with precious pictures of dapper canines: “While other guests shed tears of joy, Addie merely shed.” (Abridged grom Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverQuake dogs : heart-warming stories of Christchurch dogs / text by Laura Sessions ; photography by Craig Bullock. “Strange-but-true dog stories from the Christchurch earthquakes, with beautiful photographs illustrating each story. A collection of stories about Christchurch dogs and the earthquakes u true tales of heroism, odd and quirky stories, funny stories, sad stories u stories that will surprise you, make you chuckle or make you go awwww. Includes stories of USAR dogs that worked in the central city right after the February earthquake; Guinness, the unofficial mascot of the Student Volunteer Army; Nemo who has a special gift for predicting earthquakes; dogs who were rescued and dogs who rescued others; and the uncanny knowledge that a number of dogs showed in their efforts to find their owners. Dogs have been a huge comfort to their owners in Christchurch. The intensity of the earthquake experience has heightened the wordless connection between people and their dogs, and their understanding of each others’ emotions. Part of the proceeds from the book help support one of the organisations that helped to save many dogs following the earthquakes. HUHA is a national organisation that works to rescue and re-home animals around the country, and they went to Christchurch three times to take more than 70 dogs plus numerous other animals to safe and loving homes elsewhere in the country.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMonster knits for little monsters : 20 super-cute animal-themed hat, mitten and bootee sets to knit / Nuriya Khegay ; [photography by Alexandra Vainshtein].
“25 super cute animal themed hat and mitten sets and snowsuits to knit. Coverall hats to keep your childs head, ears and neck warm and toasty Practical pullover design ensures your little one wont tug it off Stylish matching mitten. All in one snowsuits for babies create a very Cute outfit indeed. Patterns to suit all knitting levels, from beginner to advanced, and in a rrange of sizes from 6 months to 4 years.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPug and other animal poems / Valerie Worth ; pictures by Steve Jenkins.
“As with the highly regarded Animal Poems (2007), Jenkins’ meticulous cut-paper collage images successfully catch the essence of Worth’s concise, vivid poems about a startling variety of creatures. The 18 featured animals, each radiant upon a separate double-page spread against boldly colored backgrounds, run the gamut from large (bull) to small (fly), from beautiful (Bengal tiger) to ugly (pug), from lively (fox) to dead (mouse), and from unusual (wood thrush) to more common ( My Cat ). Rendered in action close-ups, each should be recognizable to children. Worth’s free-verse poems are chock-full of delicious metaphor ( The Bengal tiger / Batters his cage; / His rage is thunder, / Sharp stripes flash ), providing a precise mental image. While some concepts may be a tad sophisticated for the youngest, the language and images should inspire appreciation in audiences of all ages.” (Booklist)

Syndetics book coverChaser : unlocking the genius of the dog who knows a thousand words / John W. Pilley with Hilary Hinzmann.
“Many dog owners think their own pet is smart, but get ready to meet an energetic and truly intelligent border collie, Chaser. Pilley (psychology, emeritus, Wofford Coll.) shares a remarkable story of his family dog, who over a period of three years learned to recognize and fetch more than 1,000 objects by name and eventually was even taught the meaning of different types of words such as verbs and prepositions. Pilley conducted other experiments and concluded that Chaser has two cognitive abilities: memory storage and working memory. Pilley’s findings were published in a scholarly journal, and Chaser has appeared on the Today Show and CBS Evening News and was featured in a NOVA Science Now episode on animal intelligence along with Alex, Irene Pepperberg’s fascinating parrot. While the author focuses on Chaser’s intelligence, he writes charmingly about fun, loyalty, and the friendship that an older man and his companion dog share. VERDICT Along with Pepperberg’s Alex & Me, Chaser’s remarkable story adds to our evolving understanding of how animals learn and is recommended for dog and animal intelligence collections.” (Abridged from Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverEvery dog has its day : a thousand things you didn’t know about man’s best friend / Max Cryer.
“Why has Fido become a generic term for all dogs? Why did hundreds of people collect dog faeces – and sell it?Dogs never eat other dogs, so why is it a dog-eat-dog world? Did any dogs survive the ‘Titanic’?What is a Yorkipoo?Do mad dogs really go out in the midday sun? ‘Every Dog Has Its Day’ pays homage to man’s best friend, telling the stories of famous dogs in history, tracing the origins of some of our favourite breeds, showing how dogs have become a significant part of our language, and describing the amazing range of activities in which dogs are involved. Written with Max Cryer’s characteristic light touch and sense of humour, this is a fascinating – and sometimes surprising – collection of historical facts and eccentricities of language. It will delight all dog-lovers and anyone with a morsel of interest in the world around them.” (Syndetics summary)

Alt Lit

Alt lit is a relatively new form of literature that is inspired by the internet and is, mostly, published online as poems, image macros, videos, and so on.

It is very cool but isn’t for everyone; like Vice Magazine writer Josh Baines who proclaimed Alt-Lit is for boring, infantile narcissists. “When I say “alt-lit”, I’m referring to a community of young writers who use the internet as their main method to promote their work. There are short story writers, novelists, poets and lots of people who make image macros worse than the kind of sincere Ben-Harper-lyrics-over-a-picture-of-a-mountain your 13-year-old cousin posts to Facebook when the boy she likes doesn’t text her back. Artforum describes it as, “a kind of pointedly botched poetry whose writers cultivate bad spelling, weird punctuation, sincere statements of the obvious and a spontaneous expressivity evocative of erratic pubescent passions,” which is a very kind way to put it.”

If you are interested in going on a literary adventure down an un-charted path why not give it a go? Wellington Libraries Alt-Lit is finding itself at home in multiple locations. You’ll find genre champion Tao Lin in our fiction collection, a variety of Alt-Lit styling lurks in our zines collection and two new books have recently been added to our (expansive-) collection of poetry. Both are self-published by alt lit poet Steve Roggenbuck, whose style of writing is influenced by E. E. Cummings, Walt Whitman, flarf and new sincerity.

Roggenbuck’s poetry is positive, boosting, and makes you feel excited to be alive. It is also chronically misspelled (like, INCREDIBLY so); “bad writing” is a meaningless phrase that creates hierarchy where it is not appropriate (that’s a quote from his work If u dont love the moon by the way).

Here’s something from that same book:

“every single human is sad
not necesarily this moment
but like recuringly sad
boost” [SIC]

Free poetry events 21 & 22 May: ‘Poetic Voices of Africa’

African poetry poster
Join us for an early evening of poetry with ‘Poetic Voices of Africa’. Celebrating 50 years of the African Union, poets Samson Sahele, L.E. Scott, Tony Hopkins, Wanjiku Kiarie, Makuei Aken and Inshirah Mahal will perform on:

Tuesday 21 May, 5-7pm
Newtown Library (13 Constable Street, Newtown)

Wednesday 22 May, 5-7pm
Central Library, (65 Victoria Street, Wellington)

Entry is FREE and there is no need to book – just come along.

This event is part of the ACCW’s African Union celebrations throughout May, including Africa Day at Wellington Town Hall on Saturday 25 May. For more information and other event details visit


Poetry in pride of place : literature picks for November

Poetry is the medium of the month: we have received lots of lovely books on this topic this month – books of poetry, books on how to write poetry and on how to read it and appreciate it. The 2013 version of “Poet’s Market” is hot off the press – we hold a reference copy which is always available in the Arts, Music & Literature section (on the first floor at the Central Library) and another which is available for loan.
Prose is also not forgotten. Janeites will be pleased to see a new book written by a leading American academic on the cults and cultures connected with her work. We also feature a book on the writing of creative non-fiction (always a difficult medium to get right!) and another on Verdi’s use of Shakespeare’s plays in many of his operas. Plenty to choose from here – take your pick !!

Syndetics book cover2013 Poet’s market / Robert Lee Brewer, editor.
“The Most Trusted Guide for Getting Poetry Published. The2013 Poet’s Market includes hundreds of publishing opportunities specifically for poets, including poetry publications, book/chapbook publishers, contests, and more. These listings include contact information, submission preferences, insider tips on what specific editors want, and – when offered – payment information Plus, the editorial content in the front of the book has been revamped to include more articles on the Business of Poetry, Promotion of Poetry, and Craft of Poetry. Learn how to navigate the social media landscape, write various poetic forms, give a perfect reading, and more.” (Summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverJumping ship : essays, speeches and incidental poems / Glenn Colquhoun.
“A book of essays and poems on the relationship between Pākehā and Māori, and on the practice of medicine…Includes, among other things, a state of the nation speech from Waitangi 2007, organised by the Treaty Resource Centre: He Puna Mātauranga te Tiriti; a keynote address for the English teachers conference, Takapuna Grammar, 2008; the introduction to the New Zealand edition of ‘Suburban Shaman’ by Cecil Helman; and an oration given at the conference of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, Wellington 2009” (Publisher description)

Syndetics book coverJane Austen’s cults and cultures / Claudia L. Johnson.
“Claudia L. Johnson shows how Jane Austen became “Jane Austen,” a figure intensely – sometimes even wildly – venerated, and often for markedly different reasons. Johnson begins by exploring the most important monuments and portraits of Austen, considering how these artifacts point to an author who is invisible and yet whose image is inseparable from the characters and fictional worlds she created. She then passes through the four critical phases of Austen’s reception-the Victorian era, the First and Second World Wars, and the establishment of the Austen House and Museum in 1949-and ponders what the adoration of Austen has meant to readers over the past two centuries.” (Summary from Amazon).

Syndetics book coverYou can’t make this stuff up : the complete guide to writing creative nonfiction–from memoir to literary journalism and everything in between / Lee Gutkind.
“From rags-to-riches-to-rags tell-alls to personal health sagas to literary journalism everyone seems to want to try their hand at creative nonfiction. Now, Lee Gutkind, the go-to expert for all things creative nonfiction, taps into one of the fastest-growing genres with this new writing guide. Frank and to-the-point, with depth and clarity, Gutkind describes and illustrates each and every aspect of the genre, from defining a concept and establishing a writing process to the final product. Offering new ways of understanding genre and invaluable tools for writers to learn and experiment with,You Cant Make This Stuff Upallows writers of all skill levels to thoroughly expand and stylize their work” (Summary from Global Books).

Syndetics book coverThe best American poetry, 2012 / Mark Doty, editor ; David Lehman, series editor.
“Mark Doty brings the vitality and imagination that illuminate his own work to his selections for the twenty-fifth volume in theBest American Poetryseries. He has chosen poems of high moral earnestness and poems in a comic register; poems that tell stories and poems that test the boundaries of innovative composition. This landmark edition includes David Lehman&’s keen look at American poetry in his foreword, Mark Doty&’s gorgeous introduction, and notes from the poets revealing the germination of their work. Over the last twenty-five years,The Best American Poetryhas become an annual rite of the poetry world, and this year&’s anthology is a welcome and essential addition to the series.” (Summary from Global Books).

Syndetics book coverOn poetry / Glyn Maxwell.
“A collection of small essays and chapters each tackling a different element of this enchanting art form, all written by prolific & acclaimed British poet Glyn Maxwell. Each essay illustrates Maxwells take on poetry, his inspirations, his favorite writers, and indeed his thoughts on what makes a good poem.” (Summary from Global Books).

Syndetics book coverMaster class / by Terrence McNally.
“Master Class is a pyrotechnical theater–fireworks in a contained space where Maria Callas is brought back to life in Sturm und Drang. Inspired by a series of master classes the great diva conducted at Juilliard toward the end of her career, this drama puts Maria Callas at center stage again as she coaxes, prods, and inspires students–“victims” as she calls them–into giving the performances of their lives while revealing her own. As she slips off into memories, we experience her days at La Scala, her marriage to Meneghini, and her great doomed love for Aristotle Onassis. But the dazzling theatricality comes from Callas’s emotional explosions, her cutting wit, and the soaring music as each student sings an aria that exposes the Divina’s vulnerabilities … and her genius.’ (Summary from Amazon).

Syndetics book coverIn praise of messy lives : essays / Katie Roiphe.
‘This powerful collection of essays ranges from pop culture to politics, from Hillary Clinton to Susan Sontag, from Facebook toMad Men,from Joan Didion to David Foster Wallace to—most strikingly—the author’s own life. For fans of the essays of John Jeremiah Sullivan and Jonathan Lethem. Katie Roiphe’s writing—whether in the form of personal essays, literary criticism, or cultural reporting—is bracing, wickedly entertaining, and deeply engaged with our mores and manners. In these pages, she turns her exacting gaze on the surprisingly narrow-minded conventions governing the way we live now.” (Summary from Global Books).

Syndetics book coverVerdi’s Shakespeare : men of the theater / Garry Wills.
“*Starred Review* Italy’s greatest operatic composer based his tenth, twenty-sixth, and final (twenty-seventh) operas on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Othello, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, respectively. Wills strives to show how alike Shakespeare and Verdi were as creative artists and how, despite jettisoning more than half of Shakespeare’s words, the operas remain Shakespearean in significance. The Italian and Englishman each produced as well as composed his stage works, crafting them for the available talent ; Shakespeare, his acting company,Verdi, the available voices.”
(Summary from Global Books).

Syndetics book coverWhy lyrics last : evolution, cognition, and Shakespeare’s sonnets / Brian Boyd.
“In Why Lyrics Last, the internationally acclaimed critic Brian Boyd turns an evolutionary lens on the subject of lyric verse. He finds that lyric making, though it presents no advantages for the species in terms of survival and reproduction, is “universal across cultures because it fits constraints of the human mind.” An evolutionary perspective- especially when coupled with insights from aesthetics and literary history-has much to tell us about both verse and the lyrical impulse.”(Summary from

Syndetics book coverHere / Wisława Szymborska ; translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak.Here
“No reader, not even poetry-phobes, should miss the bright revelations of Nobel laureate Szymborska. A Polish poet influenced by Czeslaw Milosz and annealed in her country’s suffering during WWII and Stalinsim, Szymborska writes pithy, mischievous, and wise poems that disarm, delight, and enlighten in a flash even as they illuminate hidden dimensions of existence. The poet marvels over the intricacy, immensity, secrecy, and vigor of life. In Microcosmos, she considers the miniscule entities a microscope reveals and wonders if they even know they are–or aren’t. In Thoughts That Visit Me on Busy Streets, Szymborska ponders nature’s recycling of faces, so that a passerby might be . . . some pharaoh with briefcase and glasses. She writes of her teenage self, the earth’s astounding bounty, accidents, nature’s innocence, and time.”(Summary from

Literature-lovers might also like :

Syndetics book coverReading on the farm : Victorian fiction and the colonial world / Lydia Wevers.
“In Reading on the Farm, Lydia Wevers uses the library on Brancepeth Station in the Wairarapa, its staff and users as the ground for an extended reflection on the meaning of books, reading and intellectual life in colonial New Zealand.” (Syndetics summary)

Children’s Poetry Show with Greg O’Connell

Greg O'ConnellCome along to the Central Library on Thursday the 4th of October at 11am for amazing performance poems, action rhymes, songs and stories with Children’s Poet Greg O’Connell!

Greg O’Connell is an exciting new children’s poet, recently published in eleven issues of the School Journal. A dynamic performer, Greg entertains audiences throughout New Zealand, and around the world, with his unique brand of interactive poetry. Come along, be part of the fun…and experience poetry like never before!

This is a free event – no bookings required.

Suitable for 5-10 year olds.

Greg O'Connell

Literaturhaus: Five Days of Reading, Readings and Events


Wellington City Libraries is pleased to announce that we will be hosting events for the temporary Literaturhaus running from 7th February to 11th February 2012.

These events include preschool story times, poetry readings, and two lunch-time events of short readings from current work by upcoming and established writers and translators, and will take place at the Central Library.

One of the highlights: on Wednesday 8th February at 6.15pm, well known Wellington writers, including Elizabeth Knox, Hinemoana Baker, Apirana Taylor and Fiona Kidman will give their unique take on Grimm-inspired themes.

This mobile literary festival has been arranged to celebrate New Zealand being guest of honour at the world’s largest book fair in Frankfurt later this year.

See Literaturhaus New Zealand for the full programme of events, and for events held in the Central Library (or at Clark’s Café), check out our Event Calendar

Double Book Launch

Wellington City Library is pleased to host at 5.30 p.m. on Thursday 27th October 2011, the launch of two new poetry publications by Wellington poets.

Syndetics book coverMen Briefly Explained by Tim Jones is his third volume of poetry. He has also published two books of short stories and was an editor of Voyages: science fiction poetry from New Zealand, an anthology successfully launched last year, again hosted by Wellington Central Library.

cover imageTongues of Ash by Keith Westwater was the winner of the Interactive Publishers award for First Book. He is a freelance writer, whose clients include the Earthquake Commission, The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand and other Government ministries.