The Situation: Richard Reeve

The Situation 2021

Tēnā koutou katoa

‘The Situation 2021’ is a continuation of ‘The Situation 2020’. A kind of Poet Laureate's Choice of work from Aotearoa New Zealand poets for the Poet Laureate blog. Essentially, it will be a portfolio of poetry, posted over the next while, from a range of poets whose work I have enjoyed reading recently: interesting poems for interesting times.

David Eggleton

The Knack

At Hank’s, Quentin just then at the table, gruff as ever

in his woollen hat, his heavy, tar-stained fingers

cradling a bag. Mushrooms, collected by him,


he tells us, from somewhere in Warrington’s schnitzel

of hedge and lawn. We don’t press the issue where,

gratefully receive, and later feast


drunk on the haul, delighting in the terroir of it all.

For Quentin has the knack, knowledge of locale,

seasoned we say from decades loitering,


lingering along Coast Road with the bay in tow,

cockles, mushrooms, apples seeded from the defecations

of former Seacliff interns visiting our groves,


Quentin attends the gullies, fringes; worries,

claims at the roadside nabbing the best of it,

while we others, holding down respectable jobs,


labour away beyond the mountain until evening,

retreat in late afternoon to decode our day

and drink his tales of sly grubbing before night.

— Richard Reeve

from And the Pukeko Shall Rule – Rain Poems




To live through the poem, be on the other side of it. Coming back

from Invercargill, turning east from Mataura to Clinton, the sky


flood-dark to the north, drove into a first sheet of rain, stopped

at Clinton for a pie as the rain rang down on the asphalt; went on


to Balclutha and the rampant Clutha, tree-tangled, brown,

its effluent-gilded floodwaters underneath the bridge


purging to the coast; to Milton, where by State Highway 1

pukeko on berms scratched for worms teased out by the rain,


behind them, a dirty inland sea slurping at the roadside;

to Henley, brown; across the Taieri, enormous, brown,


plastic silage bales bobbing about like ice cubes in soup;

Allanton, Mornington, Warrington; the end of the poem


still far off, though I believed it imminent on my arrival,

readying myself, stepped from the wheel into the rain.



A visit to your frail house. Then apart, following weather

north to its Waihola digs, rain like a boozer entrenched


in the lowlands before Maungatua. I consider your advice,

hover between being and being, the poem correcting itself


in squalls of creation,  as though a moment might echo

in preemption the pelting of words, glimmer of recognition


through the grey, something we labour to get back to,

the syntax at its root, prefigured in a vanishing scene.


I simply do not know where to go. Ever looking back,

strain forward, a knowing verb. For you, the way is ethical,


political, resigned, cavities everywhere having opened

in the cultivated surfaces that clothe the soaked earth.

I am inclined to agree. And remain subordinate no less

to the highway, its self-important lines, insisting north.

— Richard Reeve

Richard Reeve biography

Richard Reeve lives in Warrington, a coastal satellite township to the north of Dunedin. He has published six collections of poetry, most recently the poetry-sequence, Horse and Sheep (2019), which features as one of a bundle of six chapbooks by various poets published by Maungatua Press. Now a barrister, Reeve holds a Ph.D. from the University of Otago on “New Zealand poetic reality”, and has in the past worked as a literary and humanities editor for Otago University Press.

'The Knack' was previously published in the community newsletter Blueskin News.

Richard Reeve. Image by Marchell Linzey.

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