House & Contents
A remarkable collection of poetry and paintings by acclaimed Wellington poet Gregory O’Brien.
Our mother’s clouds and insects
fly to embrace your clouds
and insects. Her architecture, roads,
bridges and infrastructure
rush to greet yours.
Her molecules on their upward trajectory
entwine with yours, the colour of her eyes,
hair and skin. Her language,
with its past
participles, figures of speech,
the sounds and tremors
which are its flesh and bones
these words go out
to greet your words and
to greet you –
which will never leave her.
House & Contents is a moving meditation on earthquakes and uncertainties, parents and hats, through Gregory O’Brien’s remarkable poetry and paintings.
Gregory O’Brien is an independent writer, painter and art curator. He has written many books of poetry, fiction, essays and commentary. His books include A Micronaut in the Wide World: The Imaginative Life and Times of Graham Percy (Auckland University Press, 2011) and the multi-award-winning introductions to art for the young and curious: Welcome to the South Seas (Auckland University Press, 2004) and Back and Beyond (Auckland University Press, 2008), which both won the Non-Fiction Prize at the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. His book Always Song in the Water: An Oceanic Sketchbook was published in 2019, and a major work on the artist Don Binney will appear in 2023. Gregory O’Brien became an Arts Foundation Laureate and won the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in 2012, and in 2017 became a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit and received an honorary doctorate from Victoria University of Wellington.
‘Since I taught Greg O’Brien almost forty years ago, his writing has matured and developed in cunning and wisdom; but it is still the work of the writer as I first encountered him. His combination of visual and verbal art was and is extraordinary. Greg loves beautiful things, and creates them of words and in paint. He has established his identity as poet, craftsman, painter, a sort of impresario of aesthetic order-in-disorder. Admired both at home and abroad, he is unique among New Zealand poets in the way he combines his two arts and makes them one, each enhancing the other.
Bright, fresh and surprising, bordering on the surreal yet peculiar in its literalness, House & Contents is a challenge to the reader – one of rare quality and true originality.’ — C. K. Stead
'House and Contents does not only offer a way for visual art and poetry to converse with each other, the writing offering voice and occasion to the paintings, the paintings offering another layer of tone and colour to the poetry. It offers, too, a fresh method of interaction between a reader and the book they hold.' — Sophie van Wardeenberg for the Academy of New Zealand Literature
'Glorious. That is the word for House & Contents. No question. The light will flicker and gleam in artworks and poetry. Reading this collection is retreat and vacation and epiphany.' — Paula Green for NZ Poetry Shelf
'O’Brien claims in an endnote, that “It is poetry’s job to flicker and glow and, with luck, emit some mysterious luminescence.” There’s no shortage here of flicker and glow, nor of mysterious luminescence.' — Harry Ricketts for Kete Books