How can language contain the world that spillsFrom its torn rinds, how can my ode holdOn to language that ejects itself like birdsongFrom pine trees still shady with dawn ...'To Mount Victoria', The Commonplace OdesIan Wedde has been a major presence in New Zealand poetry since his work began appearing in journals in the late 1960s. His first book of poetry appeared in 1971; his sixth book won the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 1978; his sixteenth and most recent was a finalist in 2014. By the mid-1980s, as well as shaping his own verse, he had become an influential critic and shaper of larger trends in poetry as one of the co-editors of The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse (1985) and The Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Poetry - Ng? Kupu T?tohu o Aotearoa (1989). After a quiet spell in the mid- to late 1990s came the much celebrated The Commonplace Odes in 2001, in which Wedde offered the Horatian/Keatsian ode as transformative a moment as Baxter had given the sonnet back in 1970. Three excellent books followed, most recently The Lifeguard: Poems 2008-2013, published at the end of his tenure as New Zealand Poet Laureate. While Wedde has constantly experimented with and pushed boundaries of form and influence in his poetry, his work returns often to key themes and ideas, preoccupations and effects that this book throws into brilliant relief: a politics of language, social and ecological relationships, how memory works, the perceptual world. The son Carlos of Earthly: Sonnets for Carlos (1975) is now a father himself; Ian Wedde's poems are now more likely to feature grandchildren. But the ranging, tenacious, conceptual-romantic poet, with his linguistically rich but intellectually rigorous voice, is the same, and tracing that voice through nearly five decades will be one of the many pleasures readers take from this book.With selections from 1971's Homage to Matisse all the way through to 2013's The Lifeguard, Ian Wedde's Selected Poems will introduce readers new and old to one of New Zealand's most distinguished contemporary poets.
Ian Wedde is the author of sixteen collections of poetry, seven novels, two collections of essays, a collection of short stories, a monograph on the artist Bill Culbert, several art catalogues, a memoir, and has been co-editor of two poetry anthologies. His work has been widely anthologised, and has appeared in journals nationally and internationally. Wedde won the New Zealand Book Award for Fiction for his first novel, Dick Seddon's Great Dive (1976), and a New Zealand Book Award for his poetry collection Spells for Coming Out (1977). He was the Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago in 1972, the Victoria University Writing Fellow in 1984, the Katherine Mansfield Fellow in Menton in 2005, and The University of Auckland Michael King Writer in Residence in 2009. In 2010 Wedde was awarded an ONZM in the Queen's Birthday Honours, and in 2011 was made New Zealand Poet Laureate. He was awarded the Creative New Zealand Writer's Residency in Berlin in 2013-14, and in 2014 received the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement (poetry). Between 1994 and 2004 Wedde was head of art and visual culture at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa; more recently he has been an adjunct senior lecturer in the departments of art history and English at The University of Auckland and is now an independent curator and critic.