11 June 2009
Poetry Collection Explores Journey From Light Into Darkness And Back
A journey from light into darkness and back again is at the centre of a new collection by New Zealand's inaugural Poet
Laureate and University
of Auckland Associate Professor Michele Leggott.
Mirabile Dictu (Auckland University Press) was written over the course of Michele's tenure as Poet Laureate (December
2007- June 2009). During
this period, Michele's own journey changed course as the laureate tokotoko (talking sticks) shaped a pathway for picking
up the white stick that ensures independence in a slowly darkening world. But failing sight is not the focus of the
poems which are intent on reading the world by means of the connections we can make between its parts and our own desire
for stories that come and go, appear and disappear.
The poems begin in high summer with Hone Tuwhare’s funeral and range the places and occasions poetry makes for itself in
the world. They also attend to the making and naming of gifts present and to come, of people living and dead. They look
for what is lost and sometimes they make visible what has disappeared. They are work for the living, relating wonders
(mirabile dictu) and ΰlosely related to the moment when light and darkness define each other in the camera of the human
As Michele writes:
“something strange happens every day sometimes up close, sometimes further away. If you can’t see the whole story in one
place, you may find it in another. If you know part of it now, you may recognise more of it later though it will have
changed in the interim. And then there is the singular moment where we plunge in among particlars of language and say
˜this is the poem, this is the event. I was looking (I was listenῩng) for this.™
“In this exciting collection, Michele Leggott amply demonstrates why she was chosen as the inaugural Poet Laureate. Her
words are themselves part of the wonder of which they speak,” says Professor Tom Bishop, Head of the University’s
Department of English.
“Michele has taken poetry to communities and people across the country and has been instrumental in broadening its
appeal through the digital world. The forthcoming launch of Mirabile Dictu is just one of the many successful outcomes
of her time as Laureate,” says Penny Carnaby, National Librarian and Chief Executive of the Nationῡl Library of New
Associate Professor Leggott is an award-winning poet and scholar who has published six previous collections of poems and
edited several influential anthologies and collections of essays. She is the founding director of the nz electronic
poetry centre (www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz). In 2007 she was named the inaugural NZ Poet Laureate (2007“9) and in 2009 she
was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for her services to poetry.
A hometown celebration for Mirabile Dictu, in association with the Michael King Writers’ Centre and Devonport’s 100
Poems for Matariki community programme, will be held from 6-7.30pm at the Devonport Library on Wednesday 24 June.
Mirabile Dictu will be officially launched on Tuesday 30 June, on the last day of Michele Leggott’s term as the
inaugural NZ Poet Laureate. The National Library will host the celebration of her laureateship, the launch of her new
book and the launch of the CD Michele Leggott / The Laureate Series (Braeburn/Jayrem). The CD features poems selected
from her six books.
Mirabile Dictu (Auckland University Press 2009), paperback with flaps, 160p ISBN: 9781869404406; RRP: $27.99