Five O’Clock Shadows
The Cuba Press
This is Richard Langston’s sixth book of poems; his first in eight years – the longest gap between collections. He’s busy when not documenting the land in his words. He documents the land in his work – his day-job is directing episodes of Country Calendar. You can certainly feel how those worlds would overlap, the chance to visit the corners of New Zealand and all that folds between them must provide inspiration for some of these words. Closing poem, Here, tells us “I would not know our country” almost as if a mantra, and the reasons given for the knowledge he has gained run through various valleys and up mountains but stop, always, to drink in not just the air and water but the music and art that comes from those places. From this place.
Often described as a veteran journalist and broadcaster, Langston’s love of poetry shines in the way he assembles these pieces. Carefully. Crafting. Sculpting. His attention is on the line always, hoping to add music (“Jazz how many breaks to the line”) or memory (“Those people back down the hallway”) or both:
“Each day we sing
our fathers into being,”
I know Richard. Enjoy his company, his conversation. His wit and liveliness with the word when riffing as much any prepared speech. But meeting him on the page, like this, is to meet him again, anew. A different person plots these poems. Or a different version of the same person.
Here he honours his past lives – be it the elegy to a pub in Dunedin (On the closing of the Captain Cook Tavern), his family’s heritage (Bsharri, Lebanon), the places he lived (Dunedin), the jobs he’s done/is still doing (Longdrop: A Country Calendar poem). And he honours the things that keep him going too – travel (Going north), family (There / Sons), dog walks, work and music (Jazz song).
Honour is in fact the word. This is honourable work. Proud. Humble. Human. Tributes. Reminders. Observations. Nothing here isn’t earned. Nothing here tries to say what shouldn’t be said, nor speak out of turn. These are the words of a poet watching and waiting. The words, too, of a poet – finally again – writing. Writing as strongly, passionately, poetically as he ever has.