One Human in Height
by Rachel O'Neill
Published 11 October 2013
56pp, paperback, 144mm x 215mm
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Rachel O'Neill's debut collection, One Human in Height, is a book of exuberant and at times irreverent prose poems that fuse remembered experience, family life, and relationships with broader human legacies, from popular culture, and social history, through to digital technology.
The book includes a thief who plays a musical interlude on an oboe before getting down to business, a botanical species, the Kafka Diver, that lures in guests for an unusual holiday on the sub-alpine platform, a talent show called Wicked Witch Idol, and a parachutist who free-falls to her family reunion. 'We all sift through the drift of inheritance to find what is magnetic, useful and active. I wanted the poems to do the same - to lend freshness to our habits of looking and thinking,' said O'Neill.
O'Neill's writing has appeared in a range of publications, including Best New Zealand Poems 2011, Paper Radio, Hue & Cry, Turbine, JAAM, and Brief. She was a short story finalist in the inaugural The Long and the Short of It competition run by Sport and Unity Books. She completed a Masters in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters in 2008.
Responses to the book
'I think of the poems in this lovely book as an installation, a series of windows in a long wall. The view is constantly flexing and shifting. It's all about perspective. What's out there may be in miniature or expansive like the geography of galaxies. It may be the tragi-comedy of father hiding under a rug or massive tides that "flood the shore with jilted gowns". Whatever it is, it's ÂÂs bound to be a surprise. And a question arises, something to do with how are we to locate ourselves. In the stuff of our lives, the attic clutter, the absurdity, the "really creepy shocks of inheritance". In the twists and tricks of language. In "fluctuations of light".'
- Bernadette Hall
'...The balance between the matter-of-fact tone, the surreal situation and the yearning for human contact is stunning ... O'Neill's tongue sings, her eye is objective, her heart compassionate.'
- NZ Listener
'...witty, clever and self-referential, its rhythms, rhymes and half-rhymes deserve to be heard aloud.'
- NZ Books
'Unarmed is the perfect word to sum up the sensation generated by reading Rachel O'Neill's clever, thought-provoking first book.'
- Siobhan Harvey, Beattie's Book Blog
'This is a glorious debut. These poems show the way you can hold any occasion, object, person or place in your mind and, like a prism, watch it shimmer and shine with little stories that hook tufts of truth and fabrication, self and knowing, illusions and strange kinks, and everyday bric-a-brac. I am in love with this book.'
- Paula Green
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