Say I Do This: Poems 2018–2022
C. K. Stead
A beautiful new collection from this country’s leading poet.
‘It’s hard to renounce life once one is fond of it.’ — Ludwig Wittgenstein
In this poignant new poetry collection, one of this country’s most significant voices reflects on home, on away, and on friends living and dead. ‘I lead a life of quiet medication’, the poet claims, ‘longing for foreign shores, adventure and death.’ But whether swimming to the yellow buoy or remembering an encounter in Belsize Park, in the thick of it or asking, ‘what next?’, Stead’s voice is intimate, amusing and always compelling.
Swimming in the dark I call on memory –
Rangitoto ahead, and those lights
of Kohi behind making
a cosy half-circle. Overhead the moon’s
a waka sailing west to escape
first light that will put it out.
I’m reaching blind fingers for the yellow buoy
and touch it only as the sun does
dimly through a bank of cloud
C. K. Stead is an award-winning novelist, literary critic, poet, essayist and emeritus professor of English at the University of Auckland. He was the New Zealand Poet Laureate from 2015–2017, has won the Prime Minister’s Award for Fiction and is a Member of the Order of New Zealand.
‘Say I Do This resounds with intimations of mortality, compounded with reactions to a contemporary world of pandemic, climate change and war, but this collection is not in the least morose. Rather, the poetry is enlivening – concrete, particular, detailed and often playful. There is a wealth of sensory content, and each poem has its own satisfying shape, with easy idiomatic speech forming its special kind of rhythm. In this book a major modern poet continues to “live and sing”.’
— MacDonald P. Jackson
'There’s also this to say, however: does a collection enlarge the sense of what poetry can be and/or does it encourage readers to write themselves? Say I Do This scores a yes on both counts.'
— Harry Ricketts, Kete Books
'Stead has his usual quick wit and steely eye for his world and, at 90, has the linguistic dexterity that many thousands of aspiring writers can only dream about.'
— Chris Reed, NZ Booklovers