Fiddlehead (2014)

Jack Ross, ed.: Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 [Issue #49] (October 2014)

Books and Magazines in brief:

Steven Toussaint. Fiddlehead. ISBN 978-0-473-28354-4. Auckland: Compound Press, 2014.

Steven Toussaint: Fiddlehead (2014)

Like Lisa Samuels, Steve Toussaint has a fascination with sound-poetry, melopoeia, word-music, whatever you want to call it. The basic conceit of his chapbook, that Rangitoto Island, in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, might equate with the Mount Purgatory of Dante’s epic, is not an original one. Jan Kemp got there before him with Dante’s Heaven (2006), and I’m sure she wasn’t the first to think of it either. Priority isn’t really the point, though – it’s what the poet does with the idea which should be of interest to us, and Toussaint certainly does a good deal: “beekeeper / whose bees sleep / in narcotic ether bee / keeper whose bees / dream about lice in their clothes / are your children at home / safe in their bunks or drunk / in the shoals / plying ferrymen with wine- / sotted kisses”: there’s definitely an atmosphere to all that, a sense of travail and struggle, appropriate to the idea of Dante’s Purgatorio and (above all) the “varco folle” [mad course] that drove Ulysses to wreck himself on it. This is good poetry to hear read aloud, but that’s not the limit of what’s going on it: volcanic murmurs are audible beneath the grass of his sojourn on Devonport’s Mt. Victoria. Fateful, perhaps, for all of us.


Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 1 [Issue #49]. ISSN 0114-5770 (2014): 237.

[224 wds]

Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 (2014)


  1. I just came across this, Jack. Thanks for your kind words about the book! It means a lot. Cheers, Steve

  2. Dear Steve,

    I just wish I'd had space to do a proper review of your and Lee's books: as it is, I could only notice them rather than discuss them in depth. Clearly they're both beautiful pieces of bookmaking, but it's the intellectual heft of your chapbook in particular that's really impressive.

    best, jack