Dimensions: 180 × 110 mm
Extent: 96 pp.
Publication date: 18 July 2018
‘I know what he’s talking about – the inexpressible stuff which fills your head with horror and joy, and doesn’t usually get talked about because it is dangerous. It lures you on like the promise of a better understanding if only you could find the words. Nick Ascroft finds the words.’ – Hugo Williams
Dandy Bogan brings one of New Zealand’s most distinctive poets to the rest of the world for the first time. Nick Ascroft’s poems display a familiarity with the furthest reaches of the Scrabble dictionary, and even somewhat beyond. This logophilia evinces a fascination not merely with language but with the workings of the human mind. As the poems range across a dazzling variety of subject matter, Ascroft’s abiding interest and concern is what it means to be human. Who are we? How did we get here? And what in the name of fuck do we do now?
The heart of this selection draws on Ascroft’s three full collections published in New Zealand. Bookending this are selections of newer and older poems, tracing the development over a quarter of a century of a unique poetic talent.
Nick Ascroft grew up in the south of New Zealand’s South Island. You can’t get much souther than that. In the mid-1990s he attained an honours degree in linguistics, as well as a minor student radio hit as a member of Squid Christmas. Since then he has spent two spells in the UK, working in publishing, and he now lives with his wife, son and cat in Wellington, New Zealand, where he works as an editor for a government department. In addition to his three collections of poems published in New Zealand, Nick has published a science-fiction novel (As Long as Rain, Beet Box Books, 2018) as well as the definitive guide to playing 5-a-side football (How to Win at 5-a-Side, Bloomsbury, 2016).
HOUSE, KID, DOG
House, kid, dog: file under things to regret as the years avalanche in.
Birthdays are miserable, let’s not pretend otherwise.
Like Christmas, weeping alone on the toilet.
I was convinced insurance was a racket, then the earthquake.
When you were ill and needed me, I was on holiday, bored.
Were cities ever compassionate, or always these shuffling scarecrows?
The rich get nouveau richer.
The poor get richer too, but everything costs more.
We get richer but bitterer.
We get sicker, weaker, blander but less patient with each other.
Where’s the fire of youth?
Where’s the pessimism of youth that felt cool and not yet terrifying?
I prefer your birthday to mine, out of spite.
Nostalgia’s like a meal of sand.
We have no regrets because we didn’t do anything.
Our successes were years ago and now small, but we cling on with our teeth.
Everybody is younger and more celebrated than us.
Our families find us selfish.
Our neighbours hate us.
We still torture ourselves with dreams.
The grass will be greener under a mountain of debt.
The grass will be greener when our child abandons us.
The grass will be greener when the dog shits on it.
There was always a certain shame in pride.
But the truth is uglier: all pride is shame.