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That Derrida Whom I Derided Died: Poems 2013–2017

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A new collection from New Zealand’s most distinguished living poet.

All his life he’d measured
                                 the worth of a work
by its cost in effort.

Only at the last came this
                           ‘certainty of execution’
                              him next-to-nothing,
receiving his all.

In his eighty-sixth year, C. K. Stead’s new collection leads us deep inside the life of the poet. He looks back at his younger self, remembering old loves and cringing at his ‘lugubrious rhyming’. He writes most often of those who have gone (Jacques Derrida and Allen Curnow, Peter Porter and Sarah Broom, Colin McCahon and Maurice Shadbolt, Lauris Edmond and Ted Hughes) but also of those still with us (Kevin Ireland and Fleur Adcock, Alan Roddick and Bill Manhire, Michael Frayn and Paula Rego, his family, himself caught naked in the mirror – and dancing).  He takes us with him on the poetical life: from Dogshit Park in Budapest to a Zagreb bookshop to the Christchurch Word Festival. The collection includes a series of poems written while the author was poet laureate, including a sequence on World War I in which ‘the Ministry’ requests poems from our reluctant and sometimes defiant laureate, who responds in the salty voice of Catullus that he has made his own so often before.

As always there is, at the centre, poetry itself, what Stead’s old mentor Sargeson called ‘the life of the mind’:

I was the one who believed in poetry –
that it could capture the gull in flight
                         and the opening flower
                                         and in the blink of an eye
a knock on the door of death.



C. K. Stead is a distinguished, award-winning novelist, literary critic, poet, essayist and emeritus professor of English at the University of Auckland. He was the New Zealand Poet Laureate from 2015–2017, has won the Prime Minister’s Award for Fiction, and is a Member of the Order of New Zealand, the highest honour possible in New Zealand.


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C. K. Stead

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