Book Review – ‘then the wind came’ by Iona Winter

I purchased a copy of this book from the publisher.

This is an unusual and highly appealing collection. Author Iona Winter has created a beautifully constructed weave of poetry and prose, gently blurring the lines between the two as she explores the ideas of family, violence, loss, and hope. 

The book is divided into four parts, named for the four elements of nature. Within each is a selection of poems, flash fiction pieces, and a short story. The works are not linked in content – the characters and voices change in each one – but they are strongly tied together in theme. Winter has a strong affinity with nature and this is apparent in her use of the natural world as an additional character in her writing; this thread runs visibly through the pieces, no matter their form. In ‘Succulence’, a plum tree is a trigger that brings forth unwanted childhood memories; while in ‘Burst’, a young mother finds solace in the early morning outdoors. The poem ‘Stagger’ uses stunning language and images to capture rebirth and release:

Ageless kelp beds

cushion my fall 

into the sea 

green 

like weathered glass.

This is one of many examples in the book in which Iona uses the juxtaposition of the natural and created in quiet demonstration of the distance, or lack thereof, between people and their places of their history. 

A stand-out piece, in both narrative and craft, is ‘The lake’. A stunning example of mosaic fiction, the story is woven through multiple voices, each adding layers of nuance and meaning to the tale told in the previous fragment. Little by little the fractured relationships are revealed until the full series of traumatic events, and their impacts on everyone involved, are finally brought to light. The voices are nuanced and distinct, and the word choices are perfect in capturing the longing and restraint felt by the characters.

Blending is central tenet of then the wind came; from its blending of humanity and nature to the combination of poetry and prose. Winter has created a reflection of her own cultural heritage in the combining of Maori and European. It is a delight to read a work of this nature, that acknowledges cultural diversity and treats it as something to be treasured and celebrated. A glossary at the back of the book supports readers unfamiliar with the Maori language. 

Iona floats so effortlessly back and forth between poetry and prose it is sometimes difficult to determine whether a piece is one or the other; there is a delicate sparseness to some of her stripped-back pieces that see them hovering in the space between. The piece ‘Splintered’ is an exquisite example of this:

Nobody spoke to the before the crackle of splintered

timber. We humans do the same fractured things to each

other.

then the wind came dives deep into some dark places as it probes the worst side of humanity, but ultimately it also celebrates survival, and the understanding that there can be a way through. The poem ‘Voice’ is a striking example in which the light shines strong:

hands memorised

no expectation

freedom inside

our conscious touch

your voice holds mine

within

Iona Winter has written something quite fresh and original in this book. It stays with the reader long afterwards, and stands up well to repeated readings. There’s a lot to unravel here in both story and technique. Readers who enjoy crossing genre boundaries and exploring hybrid works in cultural contexts will find a lot to like in Iona’s words.

then the wind came is available now from Steele Roberts Aoteoroa.

2 thoughts on “Book Review – ‘then the wind came’ by Iona Winter

  1. Hi — fabulously insightful review of Iona’s book, thank you.
    Please note, we’re Steele Roberts Aotearoa.
    Ka mihi!

    Like

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