Book review: Shift by Rhian Gallagher

Shift will be in store 1 September 2011

Rhian Gallagher was born in 1960’s Timaru. She has studied with Bill Manhire and at London University. Many of her poems have been published. This is the second collection of her own work. She fits in writing around her day job at the Otago University Bookshop.

As you begin reading this collection, Gallagher’s verse transports you with familiar sentiments, perplexing journeys, a sentiment of missing pieces, and a desire to live up to the image of a twin sister who disappeared before you became fully acquainted. This is a very personal collection of poetry.

The journey takes you on to Europe where the world is described as truly foreign to what was home and then love arrives in a section named “Butterfly”.

After the initial passion of the new romance, the visit home to the new lover’s parents produces many images. A delightful memory I savoured and indicative of the fresh engaging poetry of this book is:

Excerpted from Under Cover (page 36)
Lapping the Freezer…
Your gentle step
Breaks between single beds
And we’re almost invisible,
With our hush of unison,
Making love like the drowned.

Eventually the love story surrenders to the incredible tension this great planet exercises upon people and connectivity. Our poet has come full circle and is home again reconciling the feeling of belonging and still remembering the missing piece from her childhood and family.

I often engage only tentatively with poetry.

This is poetry that doesn’t demand to be read out loud. It invites you in and slowly builds to an idea of a true story, hinted at, rather than factually retold. A delight. Well done Rhian.

Shift
by Rhian Gallagher
Published by Auckland University Press $24.99
ISBN 9781869404871

Reviewed by Andrew Rumbles at Dymocks Booksellers Ponsonby.

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