Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems 2022 channels the renewable energy of poetry

The latest edition of the online anthology Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems (BNZP) is now live. This issue features 25 poems chosen by acclaimed poet and Starling journal founder Louise Wallace from thousands published in 2022.

“I tried to pick poems that were the poet’s best, that surprised me with all the other things a poem could do—a celebration of the breadth of what poetry means to us in Aotearoa, now,” Louise says.

Her chosen selections, she says, are the poems that stuck with her. “I could recall each of them fully formed, like small buildings with their own sense of architecture.”

The 2022 edition showcases established figures such as Elizabeth Smither, James Brown, and Poet Laureate Chris Tse, alongside 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Award poetry finalists Anahera Maire Gildea, Khadro Mohamed, and Joanna Cho. It also introduces newer poets such as Nafanua Purcell Kersel and Elliot McKenzie, who are making their first appearance in BNZP.

The poets write all over the map of human and non-human experience. Michelle Rahurahu’s imagined Hinemoana lays down a wero against artifice, while essa may ranapiri’s Hine-nui-te pō contemplates the self-destructive nature of the earth’s dominant species. Elsewhere, Simone Kaho takes breathing lessons from a sheep’s lung, Jordan Hamel layers childhood Vortex Mega Howlers with nostalgia and dread, and Michaela Keeble lays open the stories below the Kāpiti expressway.

“These works show resistance and resolution in the face of everything the world is currently throwing us, but they still have time for what Australian writer Helen Garner calls “small, random stabs of extreme interestingness”—the peculiar and tender details of life that poets are so good at noticing, which still deliver jolts of wonder and delight,” says Chris Price, IIML lecturer and series editor for BNZP.

“These are poems that speak to the past and map where we might go,” Louise says.

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. Every issue has a different editor, selected from Aotearoa’s literary world.

Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems 2022 can be viewed online atwww.bestnewzealandpoems.org.nz.

Louise Wallace’s fourth book of poems, This Is a Story About Your Mother, is forthcoming from Te Herenga Waka University Press in May 2023.