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Title:Two or More Islands
Published by Otago University Press, Dunedin, 2019, 88 pages. Diana Bridge's subjects are reflected through a range of cultural lenses. To engagement with Western and New Zealand literature should be added her immersion in the great Asian cultures of China and India. Her poetry is an intricate meshing of realities and possesses a remarkable depth and richness of perspective. These are poised, elegantly wrought poems, full of lively intelligence and verbal deftness. Since Baxter, most New Zealand poets have shied away from the use of myth in their poetry. In this collection, Bridge mines this vein for its deeply traditional and personal resonances. She knows, as firmly as did Jung, that 'myths give us pictures for our emotions'. Here, the poems that openly glance off myth are brief, fresh takes that centre on the heroines of Western Classical legend. They begin in an irony that is needed to cope with the sometimes shocking stories, then range through time to alight with radical brevity on Shakespeare and English history. The refrain of the past narrows down to the notion of the family, No one of us today is of the House of Atreus - Just meet the Family, I say. The book concludes with 'The Way a Stone Falls', 22 poems set in Southeast Asia. The sequence takes on board the Cambodian tragedy of last century by way of headless statues - taking a sideswipe at French colonialism. It confronts the hardest decision in the whole Hindu tradition, that of Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. This is how Bridge finds her way in the world - a place of trees and people and noise and contingency - with the assurance that myth tells her story as well as its own.
Second hand Paperback