Best New Zealand Poems 2001


Ian Wedde


IAN WEDDE was born in Blenheim in 1946. He spent part of his childhood in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and England before returning to New Zealand at age 15. One of the most admired poets of his generation, he has also written novels, short stories and art criticism. In the mid-1980s he co-edited the ground-breaking anthology Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse with Harvey McQueen. Since 1994, he has been curator of art and visual culture at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. The Commonplace Odes (2001) marks his return to poetry after a hiatus of nearly a decade.

Wedde comments: “Death is one of the themes in The Commonplace Odes which winds right through the book and is the main business of the final poem, ‘Carmen Saeculare’. It is there (the theme) in formal ways, as a kind of address — the gravity of the funerary ode, sombre, and respectful of grief; and it is there (the theme of death) as a flipside of anarchic appetite, disrespectful of ordinariness which is not lived as though this life were your last. ‘To Death’ has borrowed a number of personifications of death from the odes of Horace (Chloe, Quintillius, Lydia, Archytas, etc) and has threaded them on an idea carried over from the previous ode (mine not Horace’s) which derives from my own long-dead father’s lifelong habit of taking photographs. Because he took them, he was never in them. We don’t see death, because he takes the pictures. Death pictures something, he frames it up, it’s going to die. So get a life.”



New Zealand Book Council writer page

New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre author page

Auckland University Press - The Commonplace Odes