A Good Handful: Great New Zealand Poems About Sex
From Shakespeare’s sonnets to Japanese haiku, we all know that poetry is the literature of love. But do the poets have lustier moments? Do they ever think about sex?
In A Good Handful, New Zealand’s most well loved poets give a great grunt in the affirmative. They tackle sex from every angle. Sex can be funny (C. K. Stead’s ‘tree in my trousers’) or disturbing (Rachel McAlpine’s ‘scary poem about my breasts’). It can be ordinary (‘The sex life of the sheep is at best perfunctory’, Anne French explains) or extraordinary (‘you are not what you were before we knew each other,’ writes Charles Brasch). It can by lusty (Vincent O’Sullivan’s ‘panty pirate’) or tender (Anne Kennedy’s ‘whole Autumn boiled down to a single bite’). It can be metaphorical (Baxter’s ‘your mouth was the sun’) or practical (‘should a courier hand be sent down under?’ asks Louis Johnson). By the end of the collection, some poets have had enough of all this nonsense. ‘Altogether we’ve come to the conclusion that sex is a drag. Just give us a fag’, writes Fleur Adcock.
But for many of New Zealand’s poets – and many readers – sex remains a great subject for literature and for life. A Good Handful shows why.
More about Stu Bagby
. . . the poems in this witty and wide-ranging anthology with Dick Frizzell’s evocative painting, “Man and Woman Kissing”, on its cover, celebrate people, the complexities o human relationships and all the drama, fun and sex these can entail. The selection, drawing upon past and present poetic energies, draws the reader in and rewards. – Kay Mckenzie Cooke, Takahe