In 2008 Michele Leggott wrote a poem a week to record her term as the inaugural New Zealand Poet Laureate. In her collection of poems Mirabile Dictu (amazing to say), she relates the wonders of those 12 months, which took her to Matahiwi Marae in Hawke’s Bay to receive her brilliant sky-blue, specially carved tokotoko, Te Kikorangi; through a time of mourning for and celebration of former poet laureate Hone Tuwhare; to Florence, across a ‘poetic bridge’; and to Wellington ‘hand to hand’ with four other laureates. With her is Te Kikorangi as guide and companion – ‘almost as good as the blue from Kapiti / we eat when the good times roll’.
Leggott also delves back into the past, layering poems of today with poems of then – and finds, among others, Isabella – growing up in a colonial town, ‘named for a grandmother over the sea’. The poems in Mirabile Dictu are gifts; they are lush and supple; they glory in language; they go ‘looking for a good time’ and find rose cuttings, great-aunts, an elephant, several feasts, adorations and assumptions – ‘the breathing world’.
Through the poems Leggott explores languages within languages, hearing and seeing, coming and going, the porousness of experience and its representations. In this collection she is a daily traveller, crafter of words and maker of fire.
More about Michele Leggott
Awards and Nominations
Winner – 2010 PANZ Book Design Awards, Hachette NZ Award for Best Non-illustrated Book – Mirabile Dictu, Michele Leggott. Internal design: Katrina Duncan; Cover design: Keely O'Shannessy
From the opening poem . . . Leggott’s mature authority is on display in killer lines that rise and fall, break and go on, carrying the freight of every conceivable human emotion. – Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Christchurch Press
The collection reads as a glorious continuum with neither full stops to mark ends, nor capital letters to denote beginnings. It as though we, too, can absorb the stumbles and the dark patches, the richness and the heavenly light. This extraordinary book will stay with me for a very long time. - Paula Green, NZ Herald
Just like her last collection, Milk & Honey (2005), Leggott knows how to produce beautiful poems. - Hamesh Wyatt, Otago Daily Times