Book Review: Sport 43, edited by Fergus Barrowman

cv_sport_43Available in bookstores nationwide.

Sport is something of an institution in the New Zealand literary-scape, having weathered funding storms and wrestled off naysayers. It has been a hothouse for emerging writers. Founded in 1988, more than 200 new writers have found a place in Sport, neighboured by heavyweights such as Bill Manhire, Vincent O’Sullivan, Emily Perkins and Eleanor Catton.

Apollo and Daphne, characters in a Greek tale of unrequited love, adorn the cover of Sport 43. Apollo obsesses over a nymph who, in an effort to evade him, transmogrifies into a tree. This is a story of changed form and immutable longing, foreshadowing Damien Wilkins’ essay that questions the necessity of personal change in storytelling.

Sport 43 kicks off with an essay by John Summers, on the tribulations of student flatting. John plays at ‘real life’, and his efforts to shirk the ‘student ghetto’ lead him to meet some curious characters – including a landlady who may have sprung from a Dickens novel, a neighbour with ‘the strangest tattoo’ and a flatmate who accrues dogs. This is a delightful tale, which perhaps fits Wilkins’ brief of ‘no hugging, some learning’.

Tracey Slaughter’s fiction, ’50 ways to meet your lover’, stitches together a vivid, if unsettling, quilt of monographs. Initially we are steered through the streets by the voice of a GPS who commands us to a dead-end. Then we are inserted into various scenes – a school picnic, a funeral, a seaside jetty. We are sat in front of reality telly or we are drinking by the swing-set. Slaughter takes us on a goose chase, but there is handsomely wrought imagery at every turn:

‘Out through the courts, through the posts, to where the field turns to tussock and storm bank and shoelessness and gulf’.

Sport 43 includes works by over thirty poets including James Brown, Vincent O’Sullivan, Johanna Emeney, Anna Jackson, and Chris Price.

Rata Gordon’s poem, ‘Being Born’ is one of my favourites in this journal, with rousing metaphors:

‘There was black moss
and a black doris
plum (my head)’

James Purtill’s ‘Seminar, late harvest’ also has vivid lines:

‘A jungle wrangles entire sections.
By freak, multi-coloured nasturtiums
burgeon fetid dumps’

Then there is Tim Upperton who pokes fun at a wide range of folks from Descartes to Eliot, to Miley Cyrus, in his playful poem ‘When lovers leave’; and Sugar Magnolia Wilson’s ‘Anne Boleyn’, with its startling opening:

‘Anne Boleyn had reptilian creatures
dwelling in her ovaries eating
all her eggs’

This elegant collection, with sedulously chosen essays, fiction and poetry, demonstrates the strength of New Zealand’s current literary scene. Despite an absence of Creative New Zealand funding, the force is still strong.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Morton

Sport 43
edited by Fergus Barrowman, with Ashleigh Young and Kirsten McDougall
Published by VUP
ISBN  9770113789000