(no price listed in U.S. dollars) paper, Headworx, 2001 (ISBN 0473073889)
To be as brief as possible, Stephen Oliver's 192-page poetry collection, Night of Warehouses, is about as aptly named as possible. What is a warehouse, after all, but a storage space for things not ready for the shelves or past their time. The boxes, often dusty from time in the back, rarely move the workers and guards who move in and out among them.
The same, for the most part, holds true with Oliver's collection. It comes across as a mishmash of twenty-two years' worth of, well, excess stuff. The first half of the book is largely unreadable, featuring what must have been writing experiments gone awry. To consider that these lines from "Something in the Air"
on the other (wild) side of that band of leafy trees
still feeding off them metallic bees
that are getting nowhere fast.
Auto/fellatio flippancies of 'the good guys'
running rings round Auckland you vast arse
are among the more coherent, suffice it to say the first half of the book fits best in the dustiest boxes in the darkest corners of Oliver's warehouse.
To be fair, however, much of this can be chalked up to a young writer finding his voice. The second half of the book shows more promise, with Oliver finding a consistent flow and flavor, especially in the sequence piece, "Islands of Wilderness," the lone book excerpted in this sort of greatest-hits volume that seems like it would be a gem to own by itself. This section is rich with imagery and has a sort of life to it that the rest of the book does not, as with these beautiful lines from "58":
On her sad
pilgrimage she leaned into
hills on her way home, forever
bent against nostalgia, to
where she has always been, that
childhood round as a world.
Impossible now. And this is why
she is still going,
Even with this wonderful central section, however, much of the rest of the collection descends into clichéd language (almost the opposite extreme of the early work) and magicless tricks that grant little pleasure or insight, at least to this reader.
Recommendation: Wait for the movie.