John Dennison


We are so otherwise, and elsewhere lies our hope – from ‘Pitched’


John Dennison’s first collection, Otherwise, is a finely crafted marvel. The poems here are concerned, above all, with love, and with the strange, unlooked-for manner of its appearances among us. Marked by an emotional acuity and formal deftness, the lyricism of Otherwise draws us into confrontations with human equivocacy and finitude. A trio of elegies for poet Seamus Heaney is moving; a heart-shaking sequence recounts an encounter in Calcutta. Ranging globally from Scotland to Dunedin, Otherwise also sits firmly in the New Zealand literary tradition, with poems take in that Baxter’s bees, Bethell gardening, Duggan’s amends and Curnow’s ‘surge-black fissure’. And here too, because ‘some things bear repeating’, are singular moments of turning, of grace and our refusals. This is a moving, meditative and vulnerable manifesto from an assured new voice.


Otherwise will be published in the United Kingdom by Carcanet Press.


Not since reading Allen Curnow have I had quite that sense of ideas as sensuous things, of ‘ordinary’ events as philosophical appointments. As you read John Dennison, you experience language as challenge and adventure and aesthetic expanse; from God to dunnies, the poems defy expectation with their subtle grace, and their adroit formal stance. They remind you, as good poetry does, that fashion and easy assumptions are drab stuff in the face of the real thing. – Vincent O’Sullivan


The great thing in these poems is their unsentimental, unspoken assertion that grace, warmth, love, the heart, faith – rapture even – can be present in the modern, compromised, run-down world. – Gregory O’Brien

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John Dennison was born in Sydney in 1978, and grew up in Tawa. He has lived and studied in Wellington, Dunedin and St Andrews, Scotland, and now lives with his family in Wellington, where he is a university chaplain. His poems have appeared in magazines in the UK, New Zealand and Australia, and were anthologised in Carcanet’s New Poetries V (2011); several poems have also been published in Italian translation. John Dennison is also the author of Seamus Heaney and the Adequacy of Poetry (Oxford, forthcoming 2015).

February 2015, 216 x 135 mm, 64 pages, NZ & Australian rights only
Paperback, ISBN 978 1 86940 828 2, $24.99