Rhian Gallagher's second collection - her first with a New Zealand publisher - encompasses a departure from London, where she lived for 18 years, and a return to her country of birth. In three parts, Shift takes us both back and outwards - from the poet's early history out towards the wider world - London, Europe, New York - and back again. Within this framework of voyaging and return, Gallagher pays attention to the small and concrete, and though her lines always have a visceral physicality to them, she is also adept at creating moods of dislocation and adjustment. She focuses her eye on the explorations and elusions of being elsewhere: the view under a Venetian bridge, the crossing of a frontier, the uneasy outskirts of a city. The collection's second section is an account of a relationship - in 'a year of slow burn', 'tenderness found us' - and its centrality as a world in itself: 'all and all and all'. But 'return is an instinct', the poet writes, and in the book's final section she returns to the South Island of New Zealand to make an accommodation with belonging, with the pines and paddocks of home: 'always touch, / touch and go'. With attention the shape and muscularity of language, these poems exert a thoughtfulness about the movements of beginnings, about transmutation and change. Meditative, at times urgent, this fine, evocative collection will earn Rhian Gallagher a well-deserved place in the New Zealand poetic landscape.
New Zealand Post Book Awards 2012 Finalist: Poetry
Rhian Gallagher was born in Timaru in 1961 and now lives in Dunedin after 18 years in England. She moved to London in 1987 after completing Bill Manhire's original composition course at Victoria University of Wellington. She returned to New Zealand in 2005, won a Canterbury History Foundation Award in 2007 and the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award in 2008. Her books include the poetry collection Salt Water Creek (Enitharmon, 2003), shortlisted for the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection, and Feeling for Daylight: The Photographs of Jack Adamson (South Canterbury Museum).