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"Wow starts with one bird and ends with another. That may look like careful planning but, like a lot of good things in the world of poetry, is largely accidental.

The book opens with the song of the huia – extinct now for a century – lamenting its own departure from the planet. Ironically its call was voiced by early listeners as uia, uia, uia where are you? Well, we know where the huia are: there are cabinets full of them in British and European museums. The last piece in Wow is a prose poem in which an entirely imaginary bird flies out of a surgical wound, a flight which is – maybe! – hopeful. Prose poem and song. Loss and hopeful moments. Many of my poems stumble around between such possibilities. 

There are poems of environmental loss; a rewrite of the Noah story; some unhappy projections into the future.  There are also poems about ageing and, as Larkin put it, “the only end of age”. In the title poem, a baby says Wow to life and the astonishing prospect of language, yet almost immediately the world says back to it: Also. 

Join the PBS today to read the full interview with Bill Manhire in our Winter Bulletin and order Wow with 25% off for PBS Members.

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