Winner of the 2019 Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award.

The poems in Sinking Lessons portray the vitality of a world full of things and beings we too often disregard, using language that vibrates in harmony with the lively tales it tells – from small, everyday events to stories of shipwrecks and strandings, resurrections and reanimations, arctic adventures and descents into the underworld. The cast of characters includes members of the poet’s family alongside heroes from myth and literature, such as Orpheus, Scheherazade and Frankenstein’s Creature. And crowding in upon these, at all times, a multitude of non-human protagonists: sun and stars, wind and water, mud and sand, body fluids, decaying matter, chemicals organic and inorganic, and a great many fishes and birds and beasts.

“Sinking Lessons is an accomplished, engaging collection that displays literary skill and a sharp intelligence at work. The poems range easily from the personal to wider issues like the environment and history. There’s a great affection for life of all kinds – human and the natural world – coupled with an awareness of the fragility of existence.”
– Jenny Bornholdt, Judge of the 2019 Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award.

Read a sample poem from this collection: “Sinker

Read a review of the book by Anne Kennedy here.

Read a review by Molly Crighton on the NZ Poetry Society site here.

Read a review by Rushi Vyas in the Landfall Review here.

Read a review by Kirstie McKinnon in the Otago Daily Times here.

Read John Newton’s launch speech here.

Listen to Philip in conversation with Laura Jean McKay at the 2020 WORD Festival here.

Order Sinking Lessons from Otago University Press here.

poems in journals and anthologies

Personality Test“, The Spinoff Friday Poem, July 15 2022.

“My Own Goals”, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2022, p. 60.

I Acknowledge Mine“, takahē 102 (August 2021), p. 63.

“Beyond the Pleasure Principle”, Landfall 241 (May 2021), p. 86.

“Obiter Dicta”, Landfall 218 (Spring 2018), pp. 55-56.

Five poems, PN Review 243 (45.1, September-October 2018), pp. 17-18.

“Life of Clay”, Sport 44 (2016), pp. 13-22.

“Driving Lesson”, “General Relativity”, Snorkel 23 (September 2016).

“Portolan”, Landfall 227 (Autumn 2014), pp. 19-22.

“Laputa”, “Longitude”, Snorkel 17 (April 2013).

 “Wildlife of the Wet Tropics”, JAAM 30 (2012), pp. 11-12.

“A Horizontal Light”, Snorkel 14 (October 2011).

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