Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems 2021 sheds new light on the ‘ordinary’ world

The 2021 edition of Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems(BNZP), edited by alumna Kate Camp, is ready for your reading pleasure.

Woman with curly shoulder-length hair against grey background
Kate Camp, photo: Ebony Lamb
The latest edition of the online anthology Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems(BNZP) is now live, featuring 25 poems chosen by acclaimed poet and Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington alumna Kate Camp.

The International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington has published the anthology annually since 2001, with support from Creative New Zealand.

Kate says, “What I learned from editing BNZP this year is how much I need to slow down, to re-read and re-visit the poems I enjoy, to read them aloud, get into the workings, try to figure out how they are doing what they’re doing.” The chosen poems reward this time and effort. As Kate says, “They work on me, and make me feel things. I want to cry, and applaud.”

The 2021 edition showcases established figures such as Fleur Adcock, Tim Upperton, and Dinah Hawken alongside 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Award poetry finalists Anne Kennedy, Serie Barford, and fiction finalist Bryan Walpert, and introduces a group of newer poets such as Tim Saunders, Gus Goldsack, and Pippi Jean, who are making their first appearance in BNZP.

Danny Bultitude recalls some unintended lessons from his high school forensic science class, while Tim Grgec imagines a newly arrived Croatian family member overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of Lyall Bay in 1959. Elsewhere, Lily Holloway offers a one-of-a-kind pop quiz, and Alice Miller has us board a train after a catastrophe to see where it takes us.

IIML senior lecturer Chris Price, who is also the series editor, says, “Kate’s own book How to be Happy though Human: Selected and New Poems was published in North America in 2020—now she has assembled this tasting platter of her compatriots’ poems to tease the world’s palate for New Zealand poetry.

“These poems may take us to the park, the classroom, or the farm, or invite us to sit quietly with a sister’s ashes; but they also rant about current affairs, confront global disasters in our own back yard, and celebrate instances of humanity in times of need. They insist that we pay attention.”

As Kate herself puts it, these are poems that show us “the so-called ordinary world seen in a new, clarifying way”.

Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems 2021 can be viewed online at www.bestnewzealandpoems.org.nz