Wednesday 1 May 2019 2:03pm
She cried wolf but she was the wolf
so she slit sad’s bellyskin
and stones of want rolled out.
She cried lack—and she was the lack
so she stitched up sad’s bellyskin
but more wolf leapt out.
To the Occupant takes the everyday and transforms it into something fine and precious and enduring. With an unsparing attention, Emma Neale creates shape-shifting poems that confound prejudices and subvert expectations. Displaying verve and confidence, her poetry is filled with musicality and dynamic language, always observant to the world and its details.
The striking imagery and emotional range of her work never veer into sentimentality. These poems engage with the full spectrum of human emotion and experience, the hauntings of history, the cold hand of social inequality, and the long contrail of intimate cruelties.
They challenge the open and latent violence of contemporary life, from refugee crises to rape, poverty and mental illness to climate change, while revealing the extraordinary in the everyday, where a child’s-eye view of the world can witness the wonder of the new or the shadow of darkness. Whimsical typographical experiments and prose poems sit next to reimagined fables (the Big Bad Wolf repurposed as inner demon), deliciously light-handed satire, and quietly powerful insights into the contemporary political terrain.
To the Occupant is an innovative and astounding collection from one of New Zealand’s leading writers of her generation.
Emma Neale has published six novels and five poetry collections, and edited several anthologies. She is a former Robert Burns fellow (2012) and has received numerous awards and grants for her writing including the Janet Frame/NZSA Memorial Prize for Literature (2008), the University of Otago/Sir James Wallace Pah Residency (2014), and she was Philip and Diane Beatson/NZSA Writing Fellow in 2015. Neale was awarded the Kathleen Grattan Award for 2011 for her poetry collection The Truth Garden, and was a finalist for the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2017 for her novel Billy Bird. Since 2018 she has been editor of Landfall journal, and she holds a PhD in New Zealand Literature from University College London (UK).
'Suffused with dynamic language and striking imagery, To the Occupant confirms the award-winning poet and novelist’s place as one of [the] leading New Zealand writers of her generation.'
— North & South Magazine
'[Neale's] new poetry collection To the Occupant is a textured reading experience; it is both visually and aurally ornate while never losing touch with its humane core.'
— Paula Green, NZ Poetry Shelf
Paperback, 80 pages, ISBN 978-1-98-853168-7, $27.95