Foreword by Harry Ricketts to Gallery
Gallery is a selection (mostly) from Mark Pirie's first
five collections published in New Zealand. To have a 'Selected
Poems' out before you're 30 is impressive; so are the poems.
There is variety here and an increasing virtuosity. Love poems,
friendship poems, encounter poems, travel poems, literary poems,
anecdotal poems, monologues, elegies, satires, and squibs: the
reader certainly won't be bored. 'Encounter' poems like 'The
Meeting' and 'The Tryst' are particularly effective: taut and
gappy. The participants talk at cross-purposes, sense clues, hints,
chances, which they bungle or fail to follow up. Elegies, like 'Six
Shots to Remember You' and 'The Memory', strike a bleaker, deeper
In most of the poems, there is a sense of emotional unease, a
melancholy undertow, sometimes an askew comedy, spaces behind the
words. These blanks and lacunae provide the main focus in the first
part of this selection, largely taken from Mark's first volume,
Shoot, with its obsession with camera angles and cinematic
metaphors. Beneath the laconic, colloquial surface of the other
sections, there is often a rueful awareness of missed
opportunities, misunderstandings, disappointments, as in 'But', one
of my favourites:
but, she says, after all,
there's usually something bad
or extremely nasty
waiting to happen to you.
it comes after 'but',
I've seen it happen, trust me,
I've been there, it also comes after
that sentence with 'and'...
A 'stubborn integrity' characterises these poems as it does
Pirie's admirable work as publisher and editor. He's a poet well
worth more than a brief encounter.
Harry Ricketts is a Wellington academic, poet,
editor, writer and biographer of Rudyard Kipling and the First
World War poets.