( Cape Catley

pb, $24.99)

back to How To Survive The Morning
Reviewed in the Poetry section, North & South, 31 December, 2008
The title of Kevin Ireland's 17th collection of poems, How to Survive the Morning, (Cape Catley $23.99) - and several of the poem's within - reveals he is not a morning person. Actualy, lunchtime's his favourite time of the day. The title's also a sombre pun, as the collection includes Ireland's reactions to the sudden death of his wife Caroline.

He's written a further four dozen poems since, and says after keeping tem in the bottom drawer for several months, he'll edit them, in order to make them sound spontaneous.

Ireland, who won the Prime Minister's Award for Poetry in 2004, enjoys writing prose too, like 2005's How to Catch a Fish and his recent sci-fi novel The Jigsaw Chronicles. "Poems are often a process of whittling ... it's a great

pleasure to be able to splurge with prose after working solidly on poems ..."

The excerpted poem below relates to "one of those small domestic incidents which don't often get celebrated in poems. Most people look for big and important themes whereas the magic in poetry lies in the accidental and minute."

Witness For The Defence

My defence is that everyone else was telling porkies-presidents, housewives, religious leaders, bus drivers,bankers, bandits, good sports, you name it.

Gobfuls of distortions, omissions, corruptions,conjectures, excuses and absolute lies. They were all at it.I didn't for a moment dream of being believed.

Things couldn't have seemed worse. There was a glassof red wine trembling in my hand. An my lipskept slipping sideways into a crooked smile.

And right in the middle of my explanation I had this attack of the fidgets in fact, that was the dead give-away.My words kept spilling disgracefully all over the place.

I knew I looked shifty. But how would you have copedif you had been lined up against an impenetrableyet invisible wall then shot to bits by an upraised eyebrow?


Reviewed by Margaret Christensen, Wairarapa Times, September, 20, 2008

How to survive the morning is a collection of new poems by one of our most senior poets.

Kevin Ireland is well into his 70s, lives in Northland by the sea, fishes a lot, loves a glass of wine and a bite of cheese and writes fine poetry still. His is no country for old men.

He has loved, love, lost his wife Caroline (to whom this volume is dedicated) only last year, yet still remains passionate about current concerns.

Ireland has such an eye for landscape, the light on the sea, but these things as they surface to his understanding take on a much richer, deeper significance. He finds inspirationin small events, the look of letters on a page, for instance, and these draw poems from him which are like meditations, or queries about his past and present mode of life. He is not a retired man in a rocking chair.

There is not a hint of complacency in his status as a Grand Old Man. His writing is carefully formulated, honed to the kind of beauty you find in worn driftwood, as though it and he have endured long years

of shaping by the elements. There is a great sadness as he mourns his Caroline. In such as the verse from Poem Without Words: I reach for a pen./My hand fails. It draws/ a wavering line under emptiness.

The poem Paradox included this thought which would make it eminently suitable for funeral use:

Yet your veing belongs within us,/ and evermore shall stay./ You become the breath of eternity/ and each fresh day.