Books and Writing
Otago University Press (2019)
Peat starts out as Lynn Jenner’s study of the Kāpiti Expressway, built between 2013 and 2017 and passing, at its nearest point, about a kilometre from her own house. She decides to create a kind of archive of the construction of this so-called Road of National Significance. How did it come to be built? What is its character? Who will win and who will lose from its construction? What will be its impact on the local environment? Jenner begins a quest to find a fellow writer with different sensibilities to help her think about the natural world the road traverses. New Zealand-born poet, editor, art collector and philanthropist Charles Brasch is her choice. Researching Brasch will be her refuge from the constant pile-driving and the sprawling concrete, and perhaps the poet will offer some ways of thinking that will help her understand contemporary events. She reads and reflects on Brasch’s memoir, some of his poems, his journals and his letters to the local paper. She thinks about Brasch in the context of his family and New Zealand in the 1940s–60s, and she reads local papers. She reads the official handouts about the road and listens to people in her local community when they talk about the road. From there Lynn Jenner carefully builds her unconventional text, layer upon layer, into an intelligent and beautifully refracted work that is haunting, fearless, and utterly compelling. A feature of the book is its two very substantial poetic glossaries; one about Brasch and one about the Expressway.
LOST AND GONE AWAY
Auckland University Press (2015)
An excavation of loss, in four parts, Lost and Gone Away also plumbs the ability of literature to contain, refresh and explore. Each of the four parts deals with a different way in which a person or people or an object is lost or missing. Between 2010 and 2014 Lynn Jenner made several related emotional and intellectual investigations. Lost and Gone Away is the record of these: a fascinating hybrid text of nonfiction, prose poems and poetry. The book traverses the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake; samples and sifts through the lost and recovered detritus of the ancient world; radiates its attention out from that epicentre of loss, the Point Last Seen, from which all searches begin; and quietly, devastatingly, explores how one might think and write about the Holocaust, from far away. “More than a year ago a friend, who speaks five languages and reads several more, told me it would not be possible to write about the Holocaust from New Zealand. There’s so little to say here, she said. You should go to Europe. But this is where I am, I said. That is the problem. This is where I am from, this is who I am, and this is where I am.”
Lost and Gone Away was a Metro Best Books (2015) selection and finalist in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards (2016).
DEAR SWEET HARRY
Auckland University Press (2010)
Dear Sweet Harry is Lynn Jenner’s first collection – the autobiography of an obsession linking the author’s own family history with that of two famous deceivers, Harry Houdini and Mata Hari. In an act of imaginative will Jenner assembles ‘factions’ and ephemera, poems and scraps that summon other diverse characters, objects and places: France, ham radio, World War I, trains, TB, her grandfather Harry (who saw Houdini perform in London), Katherine Mansfield and Paraparaumu. The pieces include family memories and tokens – a letter to her grandfather, a recipe for cough mixture – as well as detritus from other lives.
Dear Sweet Harry is a tender and virtuoso ‘Hey presto!’ with a global reach and an offbeat charm, unlike anything else in New Zealand literature.
Dear Sweet Harry won the Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Prize
A selection of writing available online