Poetry Box celebrates a new anthology: Ben Brown, James Brown, Lynley Edmeades & Ashleigh Young read from Skinny Dip

Skinny Dip: Poetry, eds Susan Paris & Kate De Goldi, illustrations by Amy van Luijk, Massey University Press, 2021

Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris, editors of the popular and best-selling Annuals, have edited a lively, much-needed and altogether stunning anthology of poems for middle and older readers. Kate and Susan commissioned ‘original, and sometimes rowdy poetry’ from a selection of well-known Aotearoa poets. The collection is shaped like a school year, with four terms, and with the poets both recalling and imagining school days. The poems are pitched at Y7 to Y10 readers, but will catch the attention of a range of readers. The subjects shift and spark. The moods and tones never stay still: you will move from fascination to eek! to warm glow.

Each poem takes a poetic form and follows the rules or bends them. Some of the poems are free verse (no rules) and some are written according to the rules of specific forms. There is a useful glossary detailing some of the forms at the back of the book (rondel, tanka, haiku, ode, cinquain, rondel, sestina, villanelle, acrostic, pantoum). There are also found, prose, strike-out and dialogue poems. A genius idea for a book that shows how you can follow poetry rules, break poetry rules, play with poetry rules. I especially love the way different forms change both the way a poem looks on the page and how a poem makes music.

In Skinny Dip, the makers of the best-selling Annuals bring you thirty-six poems for young readers from all the New Zealand writers we love: Sam Duckor-Jones, essa may ranapiri, Bill Manhire, Anahera Gildea, Amy McDaid, Kōtuku Nuttall, Ben Brown, Ashleigh Young, Rata Gordon, Dinah Hawken, Oscar Upperton, James Brown, Victor Rodger, Tim Upperton, Lynley Edmeades, Freya Daly Sadgrove, Nina Mingya Powles, Renee Liang and Nick Ascroft.

Through doing my poetry blogs, schools visits and author tours over decades, I have enjoyed poetry simmering and bubbling, somersaulting and sizzling, the length and breadth of Aotearoa. Poetry in my experience can excite the reluctant writer, advance the sophisticated wordsmith, and captivate all those writers in between. There are no rules, as Selina Tusitala Marsh, Ben Brown and I constantly underline, but rules are a useful addition to your poetry toolkit. Poetry forms are fun! Skinny Dip is terrific poetry handbook for readers and budding writers. It looks good, it is good to hold, and the Amy van Luijk’s illustrations are fresh additions.

Sadly, poem anthologies for younger and middle readers are as rare as hen’s teeth in Aotearoa, so it is a special day when a new one hits our library and bookshop shelves. Kate and Susan have curated a selection of poems that will fit all your moods, send you on new thought and writing paths, and will maybe inspire you to write a poem of your own.

Skinny Dip sparked my November challenge (posting November 2nd). In the meantime, four poets have recorded their fabulous poems for you to enjoy. I have listened to them several times already, because I engage with them in so many different ways. Have fun listening! Try my challenges in November.

The readings

Ben Brown reads ‘After the first instruction’ (free verse):

James Brown reads ‘Lunch Experiment’ (a cinquain series)

Lynley Edmeades reads ‘Waiting in the School office’ (a haiku series)

Ashleigh Young reads ‘At the pool with Epeli’ (ode)

The poets

Ben Brown, Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Koroki, Ngāti Pāoa, was born in Motueka in 1962. He’s been writing all his life, across all genres, and published his first children’s book in 1991. If pressed, he will have something to say about anything. He says his poem ‘After the First Instruction ‘ is about ‘getting your heart and mind and actions and spirit working together with the world.’ He reckons his children are his best work. He is Aotearoa’s first Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador.

James Brown lives in Wellington’s Island Bay, and enjoys reading and writing poetry. James’ Selected Poems is published by Victoria University Press. He also writes poems and stories for the School Journal, and has written English versions of books by Belgian author and illustrator Leo Timmers. ‘My Skinny Dip poems all involve following formal rules, which I like because rules push your imagination outside its usual boxes. That said, all writing involves careful listening and rewriting what doesn’t sound right.’

Lynley Edmeades lives in Dunedin with her partner and young son. Her most recent book, Listening In (Otago University Press), was longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. When she’s not writing or teaching or playing in the sandpit, she likes to walk in the hills. She wrote her Skinny Dip poems in stolen moments, reimagining her own school days.

Ashleigh Young lives in Wellington. Aside from writing and reading, she loves running, riding her bicycle, and swimming. ‘I’ve always marvelled at ultra-endurance athletes and wished I could be one, but I’m far too lazy to do the work. A while ago, I watched a great documentary about people training to swim the English Channel and all the friends and family who helped them do it. I realised that my character, Epeli, also wants to try something bigger like that — he wants to swim the Cook Strait. Unlike me, though, I think Epeli is actually going to to pull it off.’

Bios courtesy of Skinny Dip.

Massey University Press (Annual Ink) page.
Kate De Goldi & Susan Paris talk to Kim Hill
Read an extract at the The Spinoff
ReadNZ Q & A with Kate & Susan

4 thoughts on “Poetry Box celebrates a new anthology: Ben Brown, James Brown, Lynley Edmeades & Ashleigh Young read from Skinny Dip

  1. Pingback: Poetry Box November Challenge: using poem forms | Poetry Box

  2. Pingback: Poetry Shelf celebrates new books with an audio: Amber Esau and Sam Duckor-Jones read from Skinny Dip – Poems | NZ Poetry Shelf

  3. Robyn L

    How great to hear poets reading their own poems? Loved it! Thanks everyone who contributed, it was great hearing the poetry come to life 🙂

  4. Pingback: Poetry Box November Challenge: some favourite form poems | Poetry Box

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