A Lack of Good Sons
NZ Listener Best Books of 2023
I am seconds away from everything.
I am the bullseye of the world.
A Lack of Good Sons is a book of poetry that carries us through many realms – Greek myth, the Bible, dream, and the earthly world, with all its beauty and violence. An eclectic range of speakers, from deities to inanimate objects, describe encounters and turning points in their lives. A ship’s mast remembers itself as a tree. A boy is held hostage by his hair. A gardener is abducted by aliens. And the three Fates – spinning, snipping, sewing through the various ages of men – abruptly run out of thread.
Opening with a bizarre sight through a window and closing with a love letter, Jake Arthur’s wonderfully unsettling, funny and romantic first book keeps readers guessing what will come next.
'A Lack of Good Sons is assured and pointed, both funny and moving in some beautiful symmetry. Arthur is not afraid to tackle large, difficult topics, nor to celebrate little loves. He moves with grace through this collection and beckons you to come along for the ride.' —Harold Coutts, bad apple
'Jake takes us on a multi-dimensional, electrifying tour that holds human to the light and then keeps twisting and turning so can we absorb human from different vantage points.' —Paula Green, NZ Poetry Shelf
‘There is something Cochranesque in these poems. By “1588” I was converted. I tore “Saturn devouring his son” out of the manuscript and began carrying it round with me and reading it to people.’ — James Brown, author of The Tip Shop
‘Far-reaching, funny, and often startling, A Lack of Good Sons is an absorbing journey of shifting worlds and perspectives. Jake Arthur announces himself as a masterful new voice, brave and bold enough to question everything that shapes us.’ —Tim Grgec, author of All Tito’s Children
'A great debut, 50 poems touching on many psychological states, with imagery hard and appealing. ... The dominant persona is somebody still adjusting to the world, working out who he is and very aware of the smallness of humankind in the vastness of the universe.' —NZ Listener
'Jake Arthur has dwelt in many universes, and in many guises. So says his poetry. A Lack of Good Sons transports us from the startling to the outwardly mundane, through the mythic and the biblical to the romantic. And he has a turn of phrase wondrously suited to his subjects.' —Margaret Austin, Regional News
Jake Arthur’s poetry has appeared in journals including Sport, Mimicry, Food Court, Turbine, Return Flight and Sweet Mammalian. He has a PhD in Renaissance literature and translation from Oxford University.
Cover: Divers from the Hutt Valley Drainage Board at Naenae Pool, Lower Hutt. Evening Post. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.