Living life on the margins: finding meaning in the little moments

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The third book of poems by Tim Upperton will be released on Thursday.

Sonya Holm / Stuff

The third book of poems by Tim Upperton will be released on Thursday.

Nothing quite locks onto a moment like poetry does, says an award-winning writer, on the eve of releasing his latest collection.

Poetry could serve many purposes, from capturing a tone to telling a story, said Tim Upperton, but it was mostly about zooming in on a moment.

“I think he finds the meaning of this moment.”

Upperton’s third collection of poetry, A Riderless Horse, is published Thursday.

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The past 13 years had seen three publications, with her second collection, The Night We Ate the Baby, a 2016 finalist for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Upperton has been widely published, including in Landfall, Agni, Takahe, and Chicago’s prestigious Poetry Magazine.

His third collection of 32 poems is “much sweeter” and “more contemplative”.

“Everyone is drawn to poetry at some point in their life.”

Poet WH Auden’s Stop All the Clocks was often used at funerals, he said, partly because of the memorable moment in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, but also because it helped people express the grief they feel.

Upperton at his 150-year-old Palmerston North home, which he says is haunted.

Sonya Holm / Stuff

Upperton at his 150-year-old Palmerston North home, which he says is haunted.

Upperton thought that Palmerston North probably had more writers per capita than Wellington.

“I think there are advantages to being on the sidelines… [where] you can watch the center from a distance.

In 2021, Sam Neil read Upperton’s poem, The Truth About Palmerston North, and uploaded the video to Youtubewhich Upperton found both funny and “really nice”.

“I knew it was just blind luck that he came across this poem, and I thought he played it and made it pretty funny.”

Upperton regularly teaches creative writing and poetry at Massey University and runs a gardening business, Tim of All Trades, which has provided him with both an income and “balance” to sit at his computer.

He also writes book reviews for the Listener, Landfall and the Dominion Post.

Poetry, he says, “every once in a while there’s a bargain, but I wouldn’t trust it to pay the bills.”

Later this year, Upperton will spend a week at a beach cottage for winning the 2020 Caselberg International Poetry Prize for his poem Sparrows, published in his latest collection.

Also from this collection was a short prose poem, Green Monkey Soap, based on the soap he had as a child that he treated more like a friend.

“I never used it in the bath because I didn’t want it to dissolve. But I went to bed with it, it was like a teddy bear. And of course, being soap, it gradually wore away and became unrecognizable, but I always treasured it.

The launch of A Riderless Horse, published by Auckland University Press, is at 6:30 p.m. on August 12 at the Palmerston North Library.

Additional poetry readings will be from Upperton’s son and fellow poet, Oscar Upperton, Paula Clare King and Johanna Aitchison.


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