In part a homage to Bob Dylan, the classic American road trip is ironically paralleled to a visit to the underworld in this reverent and curious poetic journey across the United States. From the marginal clays and farms of the poet’s hometown to the mountains and deserts of the American southwest, this wistful and wise collection offers poems that are fiercely honest and contain a wide variety of images, from science to religion to American life since 9/11.
'The Good Husbandwoman’s Alphabet is a team effort, as Cliff has worked in conjunction with artist, Fiona Johnstone and photographer, Ivan Rogers. The book is both slender and aesthetically beautiful. The images are alluring hooks that can either be read as self-contained visual poems or as part of an alternative narrative thread that forges subtle connections with the arc of Cliff’s text. Exquisite.
The poem takes the alphabet as its framing device. Each letter pirouettes upon the possibility of words, the power of words, the shimmering vulnerability of words. The voice of the husbandwoman gives us glimpses, only ever glimpses as we discover in ‘G,’ yet she accumulates, piece by piece, in the relations she unveils. Signals of self in ambiguous traces. You get to the end and hold a trembling portrait that flips and twists to become a portrait of the husbandman. Or is it. The ‘he’ and the ‘you’ slip and slide so you are not sure where husband ends and adultery begins (this poem has its origins in The Adulterer’s Bible).
A wickedly entertaining collection of poems from one of the most distinctive new voices in New Zealand writing, this book offers a wide-ranging variety of poetry. The selection includes everything from autobiographical lyrics like 'The Adulterer Becomes a Roadie for the Clash and Thinks About Sleeping with Their Girlfriends' and the long poem 'Ophelia', about the tender love between an adolescent boy and an orang-utan, to the reconstructed writings of Nelson legend Fidel Serif.