There’s a poem down on the Dominion Rd that’s
trying to get itself together. The poem lives in a
busy stretch of shops between the funeral parlour,
with its boxed hedges shaped like coffins, and
Lumino, the dentist, where everyone grins. The
sidewalk is crowded with charity shops, Chinese
restaurants, coffee bars, vacant beauty parlours,
and a huge lime green bottle store, big as a
cathedral, that serves all denominations. There’s
also a small corner park with a drinking fountain,
a bench (where the poem can rest) and a couple
of giant puriri trees that offer the double blessing
of bird song and shade. Day after day the poem
can be found wandering this modest territory
under a jungle of exotic shop-signs offering pies,
pizzas, curries, secondhand clothes, dry-cleaning,
health foods, and instant loans. The poem is usually
seen talking to itself, often arguing about its
very existence. When it sits down to rest, people
sometimes put coins in its lap. The poem isn’t a
sonnet or a villanelle or anything overtly formal.
It’s more of a breath dance, a musical stuttering,
or a bit of off-the-cuff vernacular. The poem
knows it belongs among the sounds and smells
of the street. It smiles at the housewives, shoppers,
joggers, beggars, suburban entrepreneurs. In the
delayed excitement of completing itself it happily
acknowledges (and sometimes includes) their
casual greetings.

Peter Bland, born in 1934, grew up in the Yorkshire town of Scarborough. At age twenty he immigrated to New Zealand and began writing poetry ‘to make sense of a new country’. His first poetry collection Habitual Fevers (1958) won the MacMillan Brown Prize for creative writing. An actor as well as a poet, Bland co-founded Downstage Theatre in Wellington in 1963. After a stint acting in London and writing poetry, most of it about New Zealand, Bland returned to star as conman Wes Pennington in Came a Hot Friday (1985), for which he won a New Zealand Film Award for Best Actor. Since then, Bland has divided his time between New Zealand and the UK, always writing.

Bland has written plays, poems, children’s books and a memoir, and is the recipient of numerous awards for his poetry including a Cholmondeley Award, a Melbourne Festival Literary Award, and, in New Zealand, the 2011 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Excellence. In 2013 he released Collected Poems 1956–2011.

Poem source details >



Peter Bland’s Collected Poems 1956–2011 at Steele Roberts
New Zealand Book Council writer file