Foreword by Harry Ricketts to Gallery

Gallery is a selection (mostly) from Mark Pirie's first five collections published in New Zealand. To have a 'Selected Poems' out before you're 30 is impressive; so are the poems.

There is variety here and an increasing virtuosity. Love poems, friendship poems, encounter poems, travel poems, literary poems, anecdotal poems, monologues, elegies, satires, and squibs: the reader certainly won't be bored. 'Encounter' poems like 'The Meeting' and 'The Tryst' are particularly effective: taut and gappy. The participants talk at cross-purposes, sense clues, hints, chances, which they bungle or fail to follow up. Elegies, like 'Six Shots to Remember You' and 'The Memory', strike a bleaker, deeper note.

In most of the poems, there is a sense of emotional unease, a melancholy undertow, sometimes an askew comedy, spaces behind the words. These blanks and lacunae provide the main focus in the first part of this selection, largely taken from Mark's first volume, Shoot, with its obsession with camera angles and cinematic metaphors. Beneath the laconic, colloquial surface of the other sections, there is often a rueful awareness of missed opportunities, misunderstandings, disappointments, as in 'But', one of my favourites:

but, she says, after all,
there's usually something bad
or extremely nasty
waiting to happen to you.

it comes after 'but',
I've seen it happen, trust me,
I've been there, it also comes after
that sentence with 'and'...

A 'stubborn integrity' characterises these poems as it does Pirie's admirable work as publisher and editor. He's a poet well worth more than a brief encounter.

Harry Ricketts
Wellington 2003

Harry Ricketts is a Wellington academic, poet, editor, writer and biographer of Rudyard Kipling and the First World War poets.