Book Review: JAAM 32: Shorelines, edited by Sue Wootton

cv_JAAM_32_shorelines

Available in selected bookstores nationwide. 

JAAM 32 is a nautical cornucopia, a sea-chest laden with poetry, fiction and artworks, which sometimes tiptoes along the water’s edge, is sometimes submerged, sometimes takes to the ocean, sometimes to the riverbanks, and comes ashore in Mozambique, Cape Reinga, Southern California. ‘Shorelines’ was the issue’s theme, selected by guest editor, Sue Wootton. Wooton is a Dunedin writer, with an impressive literary CV. She states that she chose ‘Shorelines’ as the theme because she sees “our islands’ physical shorelines as the great connector for us as a people”. But this collection is not simply a geographic construction.

Shorelines can be emotional and sociopolitical demarcations, the lines at which two worlds rub up against each other. And so, this issue is not about spindrift and seaweed alone (though there is plenty of that). There is an essay by Judith Coullie about life in apartheid South Africa. There is Bridget Auchmuty’s poem about a relationship on the precipice. Shorelines place a wedge between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Sometimes that line is defined, other times it is brackish and muddied.

The collection kicks off with Teoti Jardine’s poem ‘Te Tai O Rakiura’ which introduces a sub-theme of ‘korerorero’. This issue is a conversation of sorts, between poets and photographers, folks from the North and folks from the South, new New Zealanders and seventh generation New Zealanders. There are household names – David Eggleton, Vincent O’Sullivan, Diane Brown among them, and names that were new to me (although possibly they shouldn’t be) – Holly Blair, Michael Pohl, Carin Smeaton and Brian Sorrell.

Certain page-corners of my copy of JAAM 32 are bent, leading me back to favourite yarns and poems. Rata Gordon’s poem, ‘Not Seagulls’ is one such instance. Here is a fabulous antithetical poem, a poem which staunchly declares what it is not and, in the process, yields splendid imagery – ‘It won’t make smooth / metaphors about sea glass’ and ‘It doesn’t want to open like a mussel sloshed in hot water’. Rhian Gallagher’s ‘The Salt Marsh’ is another favourite, with a stanza I wish I had penned:

‘I’ve walked the salt marsh in sunlight
come back in the depths of night
to listen to geese at their pillow talk.’

For something totally different, Annaleese Jochems takes her reader inside the head of an adolescent girl, in her story ‘Ripening’. This is both hilarious and excruciating. And, while retaining something of my awkwardness and angst, I thank my-lucky-stars I am no longer fifteen.

JAAM 32 is a meaty collection of more than two hundred pages. It is a handsome journal, and takes a broad sweep of contemporary New Zealand literature. Jewellery by Lynn Kelly as well as photographs by Auchmuty are also showcased in colour prints. JAAM may be an acronym for ‘Just Another Art Movement’, but I get the feeling this is something solid, something here to stay.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Morton

JAAM 32: Shorelines
by Sue Wooton
Published by the JAAM Collective