! Missing Player !
To listen to the Archive's recordings, software called Adobe Flash Player (version 10) needs to be installed on your computer and you need to enable JavaScript in your browser settings.

Adobe Flash Player can be downloaded, free of charge, here.

We're sorry but, for copyright reasons, you cannot print poem texts from this site.

Share this page

Share this page Bookmark and Share
About the Poet Siobhan Harvey’s collection of poems Lost Relatives (2011) reveals her navigating shifting geographies in order to locate the sensorium of the self. Her compass is a pragmatic feminism that derives from personal experience, and from her formal education at Manchester University in the 1990s. Born in the United Kingdom in 1973, Harvey migrated to New Zealand in 2001, to discover ‘landscapes darker and emptier than the moon’. Her poetry is that of a quester – a voyager — meditating on separation and discovery, on time lost and time regained, on the tug of distant familial connections, and the new global connectivity which means never being out-of-touch.

In performance, her poems are delivered with cool, measured emphasis, while their dynamic quality derives from a kind of mirroring – or perhaps from a tension of opposites that are held in conjunction. She writes of doubles (a woman seen in a window), of reflections (a sister who writes poetry), of antagonists (a relationship with someone who plays with her emotions as if she was a yo-yo, so that she retreats into ‘hard-shelled silence’). The arrival and the departure, the farewell and the embrace, the near and the far: Harvey’s poems offer enactments of these polarities as her-stories, psychodramas and fierce fairytales. Anguish, sorrow, loss, moony depression, then self-recovery and moments of joy, even anti-heroic irony: the poems stitch together a female sensibility, a feminist allegory – from child abuse within the family, to the contempt expressed by a male partner in a poem which offers a succinct demonstration of an unsatisfactory, unhappy marriage (‘The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator’s Wife’).

The new migrant is an exile, a shadow self, an arrival anxious to interpret signposts, but at the same time this feeling of otherness allows for perceptive recognitions about this new place called ‘home’. Harvey’s poem ‘Found at Parson’s Bookshop’, for example, evokes a subtle yet vivid impression of New Zealand’s almost frenetic assertion of national identity.

And she is attuned to power relations – gender politics, class associations of language, post-colonial history – and how these might be witnessed, transformed, even redeemed, through poetic retelling. The ‘bad choices, bad marriages, bad men’ can be cancelled, or at least rightfully consigned, while other rites of passage, such as a child losing a milk tooth, can be celebrated as symbols of an onward journeying: ‘(w)hite and hull-shaped/ tooth’s a boat’.
Search for a poem or a poet:

My Archive

Create lists of your favourite poems and poets and share them with friends.

Browse all poets by name

View all poets

Browse all poems by title

View all poems

Glossary of poetic terms

View full glossary
Support The Poetry Archive The Poetry Archive depends on donations from public bodies and private individuals. Find out how you can contribute to the work of the Archive.