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In a Slant Light

Friday, 1 November 2013 4:06pm

A poet's memoir

Cilla McQueen

McQueen Slant Light cover imageThe book

In this absorbing poetic memoir of her early life, Cilla McQueen, one of New Zealand’s major women poets, leads us over the stepping stones of childhood memory, some half submerged, some strong and glinting in the light of her wit:

    In the large lead shoe X-ray machine
    at the back of the shoe shop, our skeletal
    feet appeared at the press of a button.
    We irradiated ourselves further
    when the shop assistant wasn’t looking.

    ... I tried the magic trick of pulling the tablecloth out
    from under our plates of tomato soup. This didn’t work.


With humour and openness, clarity and grace, the memoir continues through her teenage years and the excitement and turbulence, the expansion and vulnerability, of university days and early motherhood in the 1960s and 1970s ... raising a young child alone, falling in love with Ralph Hotere and witnessing his deeply immersive artistic practice ...

This account of the life of an extraordinary verbal artist is immensely warm and welcoming: time falls away as we read. The lightness of Cilla’s touch coupled with the grit of her endurance through challenging personal circumstances makes the reader feel privileged to be invited in to the quiet wisdom worn here with both integrity and modesty.

From the sweet shocks of her imagery to the joy of recognition of many shared experiences of a New Zealand childhood, this memoir brings a honeyed, sensitive yet utterly resilient voice in our local literature as close as the voice of a good friend.

This is a book not only for those who love Cilla McQueen’s poetry, but for anyone fascinated by the social, artistic and literary history of New Zealand.

The author

Bluff poet CILLA McQUEEN was the New Zealand Poet Laureate 2009–11. She has published 14 volumes of poetry and has won the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry three times. Her work has been extensively anthologised. Cilla’s most recent publication was Edwin’s Egg and other poetic novellas (OUP, 2014).

Publication details

Hardback with ribbon, 165 x 235 mm, 134 pages, ISBN 978 1 877578 71 7, $35
March 2016