PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 2013
For as long as there’s been poetry in this country there’s been landscape. Sometimes there seems to have been little else. And yet for all this familiarity there are questions yet to be answered, attachments and passions that don’t let go. John Newton’s new collection asks, how does landscape get its hooks in us? Romantic, hyperbolic, painterly and plot-driven, Family Songbook is New Zealand pastoral in a different key.
John Newton grew up in the Marlborough Sounds and was educated in Christchurch and Melbourne. He taught for two years in the English Department at the University of Melbourne, and from 1995 to 2009 at the University of Canterbury. He now lives on Waiheke Island. The Double Rainbow: James K. Baxter, Ngati Hau and the Jerusalem Commune was published in 2009, and his second book of poems, Lives of the Poets, in 2010.
‘Newton is blessed with the kind of keen eye that can spot the flush on a black-backed gull’s bill and “the chill pewter light on the snowgrass”. Hard looking informs these poems as well as hard thinking and magpie reading. A splendid wry wit guides and shapes the book . . . We all carry in our heads private landscapes – the geography of our youth refracted by memory, changing hopes and desires, personal mythology, family history. Newton’s songbook re-examines and revitalises half-forgotten possibilities.’
– Iain Sharp