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Friday 1 November 2013 9:55am

Siobhan Harvey


The book

Cloudboy is a deep-mulling, richly sensitive account of a mother's adjustments to the needs of an autistic child. This prize-winning suite of poems grows out of extremes of love and frustration, as the poet introduces a bright, unpredictable, markedly individual boy to the rigid, often airless routines of the school system.

Any empathetic parent knows the fears and anxieties of sending a young child into the world of other children, their casual cruelties and dreamy naivety. Each concern is exponentially increased when a child's educational and emotional needs set them apart.

Cloudboy writes his own version of Genesis; he invents a new language; he sketches intricate maps; he reads Aristotle and develops an obsession with Dr Who; he interrupts; he sways; his 'fists come clenched and swinging'. To onlookers, Cloudboy seems troubled, trouble.

Cirrus, cumulus, arcus, stratus: cloud forms speak to Harvey of the phases of the mother–child bond; the mood-swings and leaps of her child's mind; the mutability of personality; the attraction and evaporation of human kindness; presence and absence; reverie and forgetfulness; the intensity and yet bittersweet transience of early childhood.

With a limber, gorgeously metamorphic sense of sculptural and sonic aspects of poetic form, this book is a tender and detailed atlas of a child's imaginative potential. Yet one of the most remarkable gifts it reveals for us readers is Cloudmother's own finely calibrated perceptions.

The author

SIOBHAN HARVEY is the author of the poetry collection Lost Relatives (2011) and a book of literary interviews, Words Chosen Carefully: New Zealand writers in discussion (2010), as well as editor of Our Own Kind: 100 New Zealand poems about animals (2009). Her poems have been published in magazines and anthologies at home and internationally. In recent years she has been runner-up in Dorothy Porter Poetry Prize (Aus), the Kevin Ireland Poetry Competition and Landfall Essay Prize, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize (US). The Poetry Archive (UK) holds a 'Poet's Page' devoted to her work.

Publication details

Paperback, 80 pages, ISBN 978 1 877578 80 9, $25

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