Image by F J Neuman

David Eggleton

b. 1952


A dynamic reader, Eggleton has a rapid-fire delivery that releases a torrent of images, some startling, ugly, or funny - Greg O'Brien

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About David Eggleton

Of Rotuman, Tongan and European/Pakeha ancestry, David Eggleton was raised in Auckland and Fiji. As well as his poetry, Eggleton writes extensively on New Zealand art and music, edits New Zealand’s pre-eminent literary journal, Landfall and is an acclaimed literary reviewer, having been awarded the New Zealand Reviewer of the Year title six times.

Eggleton’s Pacific heritage and passion for poetry performance result in poems which have a strong oral and rhythmic quality. Assonance, alliteration, sibilance, repetition and rhyme are packed tightly into his work, as his reading of the opening lines of ‘Grass’ illustrates:

Shoulders up to the hills,
the spirit of great-great-granddad slumps
staring at the sun, his stumps
gnawing fat of the land, side of mutton in hand...

This emphasis upon tempo is often coupled with satirical overtones which Eggleton layers into his work by process and delivery. The process involves what Elizabeth Caffin, writing in the Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English, describes as “a torrent of phrases made up of the savage subversions of the languages imposed upon us” by media, political and corporate powers. When delivered by Eggleton in his deep voiced, strongly musical performance, the humour becomes evident, as the conclusion of ‘Grass’ testifies:

Harrumphing catarrh-rah-rah boom-de-ay,
catarrh-rah-rah boom-de-ay,
catarrh-rah-rah boom-de-ay,
with the rumpty-tumpty rhythm-track
catarrh-rah-rah boom-de-ay,
catarrh-rah-rah boom-de-ay...

The manner in which subject-matter and process fuse here is also evident in the other poems on this site. In ‘Place’, ‘Turangawaewae’ (the Maori word for ‘spiritual home’) and ‘Deep South’, the content (landscape and belonging) are inextricably entwined with the manner in which the poet uses written and oral language. Blending vernacular and lyric with a montage of the physical and metaphysical, the rationale, experiential and colonial elements of his subject-matter, Eggleton’s poems create mosaic patterns.

As such, in ‘Place’, belonging is located in everything from a fish and chip shop to a tree (family and flora) to a bellbird, a common, protected New Zealand passerine (known also by its Maori name, korimako, which Eggleton uses in this poem). While in ‘Turangawaewae’, the narrator’s fantasy of escaping homeland only returns him to it. For instance, his dreams of Californian beachfronts metamorphose into Napier, New Zealand’s foremost art deco city. Elsewhere, like the environment in ‘Place’, the protagonist’s present existence is revealed to be a medley – of Aotearoa’s key historical spaces, events, and figures including New Zealand born father of nuclear physics, Ernest Rutherford and Tahupotiki Ratana, founder and spiritual leader of the and political movement, the Ratana Church.

Dramatic, lively, witty and anchored to its author’s landscape and view of history, Eggleton’s work exemplifies the vibrancy of contemporary poetry in Aotearoa New Zealand.
 

Additional material and useful links

The Aotearoa & Waiata New Zealand Poetry Archive

This recording, bibliography and introductory essay are kindly provided by collaboration with the Aotearoa & Waiata New Zealand Poetry Archive, a pioneering resource of modern & contemporary...

http://aonzpsa.blogspot.com/2007/12/introduction-2004.html

Selected bibliography

Time of the Icebergs, Otago University Press, 2010

Fast Talker, Auckland University Press, 2006

Ready to Fly, Craig Potton, 2003

Rhyming Planet, Steele Roberts, 2001

Here on Earth: The Landscape of New Zealand Literature,...

Empty Orchestra, Auckland University Press, 1998

People of the Land, Penguin, 1988

After Tokyo, Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop, 1987

South Pacific Sunrise, Penguin, 1986

Prizes

1985 Time Out (London) Street Performer of the Year

1987 PEN Best First Book of Poetry Award

1990 Robert Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago

2004 Copyright Licensing Ltd Writers Award

1991, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2009 & 2011 Montana New Zealand Reviewer of the Year

Links

A tour of the Archive with Stephanie Anderson

On my first visit to the Poetry Archive I dipped in to see what was there, and discovered there was far more to hear...

Featured Guided Tours


Books & cds by David Eggleton