Beauties of the Octagonal Pool

Gregory O'Brien

We thought
the world. And how it was we came to be
who we were

or just west of there.
In the coral sea you were
the brightest of fishes
            and I was marooned
half way through a poem called
‘Beauties of the Octagonal Pool’.


Gregory O’Brien’s first collection since Afternoon of an Evening Train (2005), Beauties of the Octagonal Pool is centred on the ‘octagonal pool’ of the Waitemata Harbour. Arranged in eight sections, the book collects poems written from and out of a variety of times, locations and experiences, from the water-frontages of Fiji, Fiordland and the Mediterranean to the built history of Moscow and Berlin.

Expansive, charming, wide-ranging, O’Brien’s poetry always has a thoughtful musicality, a shambling romance, a sense of humour. In testament to this, the poem ‘Beauties of the Octagonal Pool’ does not itself appear in the book, having been abandoned after O’Brien became marooned in it, half way through. But its ghostly themes haunt the collection and add ballast to its ambitious eight-part structure – a structure held together by the supremely assured and inviting voice of one of our best poets.


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Gregory O’Brien is an independent writer, teacher, painter, literary critic and art curator. He has written many books of poetry, fiction, essays and commentary. His recent books include A Micronaut in the Wide World: The Imaginative Life and Times of Graham Percy (2011) and the multi-award-winning introductions to art Welcome to the South Seas and Back and Beyond, which won the Non-Fiction Prize at the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young People and the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction.


February 2012, 230 x 165 mm, 128 pages, illustrations
Paperback, ISBN 9781869405793, $27.99