This book will make you smile. You will probably relate to it, and recognise much of it. At the last page you’ll sigh with satisfaction, and say to yourself, “if this is poetry, then I really like it.” I’m not being sarcastic; if you are who I think you are (18-30, student, Wellington resident and/or appreciator of fine, new New Zealand writing) you are likely to have this reaction.
Beautrais’ first book consists entirely of prose poetry, written from her own sardonic yet compassionate perspective. She writes about the romance and impracticality of riding a tandem bicycle through Cuba Mall, about small towns, about pissing behind bushes, not quite enough behind bushes and right out in the middle of the road, about touring the South Island with her band, the Raskalnikovs, about childhood memories, about the possibility of Batman appearing at the Genoa Riots of 2001, about the sea and the police. This diverse collection of interests is fitted together coherently by Beautrais’ sense of humour, detail and timing. Her fluent and intelligent style coaxes the reader into subjects and places they wouldn’t otherwise have thought to read about.
“My sister works in a bagel shop in Wank Town.” “The library is full of people looking for love.” “All the boys in the world are wearing the same perfume,” to quote a few tantalising first sentences, and to demonstrate the deliberately understated way that these poems work. Calm, almost laconic, like Raymond Carver, a subject is explored in a way that begins to resemble a poetic essay, or journal entry, or anecdote. It’s a very accessible and satisfying form to read, similar to Chris Price’s Brief Lives, but more personal and less formal. Similar (in shape and sometimes tone) to Anne Carson’s prose poetry, but younger and more New Zealand-ish.
Whether this style of poetry will date or age is something I wonder about, but is, at this stage, an irrelevant question. Beautrais’ first book is thoroughly readable, and I urge you to flick through (and possibly buy) it at Vic Books or Unity.