Poet's Homecoming Marked By New Book
After living overseas for most of the last twenty-five years, poet Jan Kemp has returned to New Zealand. Her homecoming is marked by the publication of her first collection of new work in ten years, Only One Angel, published by University of Otago Press.
Jan Kemp was well known as the only woman poet in the 1973 anthology The Young New Zealand Poets, and as one of the 'Gang of Four' who took part in a national poetry-reading tour in 1979 (along with Hone Tuwhare, Alistair Campbell and Sam Hunt).
This collection of 32 new poems is gathered loosely around the theme of a personal journey towards an intimate relationship. In his preface to the book Mac Jackson writes: 'Kemp, though absent, has not been silent, and now she is back. Only One Angel shows the maturing of a highly original talent.' He goes on to say 'Keats wrote of the poet's identifying with a sparrow pecking in the gravel. Kemp has that sort of empathy. She looks closely at things, as well as people, and coaxes them to yield up their secrets. She relishes the quirkiness of language, the sounds of words and the patterns they form, the way they chime and echo.'
Jan Kemp is a traveller: she moves from place to place, physically, metaphysically and linguistically. She has lived in the Pacific, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and Germany, and many of the poems are set in these places, particularly in Europe. She rides on an elephant in India, visits Frankfurt's cathedral, journeys along a Bohemian or an Italian road.
This is highly crafted work from a skilled poet. From the playful 'The Ballad of Donna Quixote' to the pared down tone of 'Truth', her poems can be savoured, re-read, and read aloud. Only One Angel is attractively produced, with arresting gold-on-blue cover line drawings and several black and white illustrations by Claudia Pond Eyley.
About the Author Born in Hamilton in 1949, Jan Kemp has an MA in English from the University of Auckland, a Diploma in Teaching, and a Royal Society of Arts Teacher of English as a Foreign Language Certificate (The British Council, Hong Kong).
She was part of the Freed group in the seventies, the Big Smoke generation, and was the sole woman contributor to Arthur Baysting's anthology The Young New Zealand Poets (1973). She took part in the New Zealand University Students' Association Four Poets Tour in 1979, and the South Pacific Festival of Arts in Papua New Guinea in 1980. She held a mini Stout Fellowship in 1991.
She taught creative writing, literature and English as a foreign language at various universities in the Pacific and South East Asia before studying German and Italian literature in Frankfurt. She now lives in Auckland.
Jan Kemp has had four previous collections of poetry published: Against the Softness of Woman (1976), Diamonds and Gravel (1979), The Other Hemisphere (1991), The Sky's Enormous Jug - love poems old & new (May 2001), and poetry pamphlets Ice-breaker Poems (1980) and Five Poems (1988). Her poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies. She is currently working on new poems for Dante's Heaven and on a small memoir, with the working title of Raiment.