James Norcliffe

Dark Days at the Oxygen Cafe


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11 August 2016

renegade mist in the morning
three birds bulked on a tree
the logistics of loneliness
—’Speed trap’

James Norcliffe is one of New Zealand’s most widely published and anthologised poets. In Dark Days at the Oxygen Café, he looks over the shoulders of many characters and creatures, both real and imagined, and takes us deep into uncanny valleys. Poems about Seneca and James Dean sit alongside poems about a Turken dictator and an owl man. We share in a portentous UFO sighting, a small celebration for Laika the space dog, and Peter the Great being offered an Air New Zealand lolly. These scenes from myth, history, pop culture and personal experience make for a wryly funny, deeply felt collection that contemplates the quirks of shared and personal histories.

‘His poems invariably get us to attend more closely to the spirit of existence, to moments of being.’ 
—David Eggleton

‘A poetry that risks delight.’ 
—Michael Harlow

Cover painting by Noel McKenna
Food on table, dog begging, 2015
Courtesy of the artist and GAGPROJECTS | Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide

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