Available in selected bookshops nationwide.
Firstly, I want to say how beautiful the book is; the silver lettering on the front is striking against the deep purple hardcover. The focus of the cover is the drawing of a single owl in reference to the morepork; it is an elegant and regal design that captures New Zealand at its heart.
The writing in Crimson is quintessentially New Zealand. Flecked throughout the collection are the touches of the country we know: kowhai flowers, pohutukawa, and the vivid blue of the tui. I appreciated the glossary at the back, which ensured that even the reader most unfamiliar with New Zealand could understand the depth of Blank’s poetry.
The collection begins with ‘Minstrel’, a poem on birdsong that starts to set up the summer atmosphere. The title poem, ‘Crimson’, further encapsulates what summer in New Zealand feels like, describing the heat and sensation of celebrating Christmas under pohutukawa trees. It is these recognisable scenes that makes this collection of poetry so comforting; Blank describes a “scent of / summer” unique to New Zealand.
The language is beautifully light and so is the imagery that comes with it; Blank’s words are “stars that sparkle and capture the brilliance”. In ‘The Matrix’, Blank grandly describes the world around her, how “gold the shimmer of kowhai shelters my world”. It instantly brings a fresh image to the mind, of a ceiling of flowers and the sunlight that filters through the spaces in between. However, many of her other poems only had short phrases and lacked such beautiful, heady description. I would’ve loved to see these images developed throughout the collection.
Crimson is an easy collection to read because it moves steadily through the season; it feels like a collation of memory, a unique experience of summer in itself. ‘New Year’s Resolutions’, although more bitter in tone than the other poems, is a sort of bookmark that defines this passing of time.
There is a little bit of mystery near the end. ‘In Kiss of the Fem Vampire’, the narrator describes how she is only given a 10 percent chance that “the cancer will not return”. The poem undercuts the romanticism of summer and brings something more to the collection than just hazy summer days. It is a reminder of the fleeting sense of such a well-loved season and that such a carefree sensation cannot last.
The final poem, ‘The Last of the Summer Wine’, is one that closes off the collection nicely. The sound of the cicada is such a staple during a New Zealand summer and Blank uses this aspect, along with other memories, to end the collection itself. In this way, Crimson is like experiencing summer in New Zealand through poetry. Christmas, and the crimson red of the pohutukawa tree, is at its very centre. Stretching out from this is a familiar and beautiful collection of memories that formulate Blank’s experience of summer. It is an experience that New Zealanders will find comfort in, and is also written in such a way that other readers are able to enjoy it.
Reviewed by Emma Shi
by Marino Blank
Published by Anton Blank Ltd