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In the Spirit of Rumi (2011)

Jack Ross:
Published Essays, Interviews,
Introductions & Reviews


(1987-2017)



Contents:






Date of Publication - Title - Publication Details


    2017 [20]

  1. (November 23) “Welcome to Novella.” Leicester Kyle. Letters to a Psychiatrist. Edited with an Afterword by Jack Ross. Paper Table Novellas, 2 (Auckland: Paper Table, 2017): 81-87.

  2. (November 1) “The Poetics of Planned Obsolescence: Review of Milk Island, by Rhydian Thomas (Lawrence & Gibson Publishing Collective, 2017).” Landfall Review Online (2017).

  3. (October 30) "Vanishing Points: Launch Speech." Contribution to Paula Green, “Michele Leggott’s glorious new poetry collection: a launch speech and some poems.” NZ Poetry Shelf: a poetry page with reviews, interviews and other things (30/10/17).

  4. (September 26) “Starting (and Stopping) a Poem.” Pilot 2018: A Diary for Writers (Melbourne & South Gippsland: Pilot Press, 2018): 12.

  5. (February 21) “Enactments of Identity in the New Zealand Short Story.” Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences (FDHS). ISSN 1674-0750. DOI 10.1007/s40647-017-0170-2 (2017): 1-19.

  6. (January 28) “How Many Miles to Babylon? Three Faces of Mike Johnson’s Lear.” brief 55 (Summer 2016-17): 113-31.

  7. (January 15) “The Time of Achamoth: M. K. Joseph and the Rise of New Zealand Speculative Fiction.” Journal of New Zealand Literature 34.2: New Writing 1975-2000. Guest Editor John Geraets (2016): 61-80.

  8. (January 13) (Ed.) Poetry NZ Yearbook 2017 [Issue #51]: 14-19, 48-51, 293-302 & 318-23:
    • Editorial – Hands across the Tasman
    • An Interview with Elizabeth Morton
    • Reviews:
    • Review of Nicholas Williamson, The Blue Outboard: New and Selected Poems (Port Chalmers: Black Doris Press, 2016)
    • Review of Antonios Papaspiropoulos, Poems from the George Wilder Cottage: A Poetry Cycle (Southbank, Victoria, Australia: St. Antoni Publishing, 2015)
    • Review of Cilla McQueen, In a Slant Light: A Poet’s Memoir (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2016)
    • Review of Jen Crawford, Koel (Melbourne: Cordite Books, 2016)
    • Books & Magazines in brief:
    • Review of brief 54: Love, ed. Olivia Macassey (Pokeno, Auckland: The Writers Group, 2016)
    • Review of John Dickson, Mister Hamilton (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2016)
    • Review of Michael Harlow, Nothing for it but to Sing (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2016)
    • Review of IKA 4: Journal of Literature and Art, ed. Anne Kennedy (Manukau: MIT, 2016)
    • Review of JAAM 33: Small Departures, ed. Kiri Piahana-Wong and Rosetta Allan (Wellington: JAAM Collective, 2015)
    • Review of Polina Kouzminova, An echo where you lie (Wellington: Mākaro Press, 2016)
    • Review of Frankie McMillan, My Mother and the Hungarians and Other Small Fictions (Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2016)

  9. 2016 [6]

  10. (December 25) “Issue 55 Supplement: How Many Miles To Babylon.” The brief blog (25/12/16).

  11. (December 4) “Poetry Shelf, Poet's Choice.” Contribution to Paula Green. NZ Poetry Shelf: a poetry page with reviews, interviews, and other things (4/12/16).

  12. (November 22) Blurb for Keith Nunes, catching a ride on a paradox: poetry and short fiction (Rotorua, 2016).

  13. (July 8) "On the Road to Nowhere: Revisiting Samuel Butler’s Erewhon." Extraordinary Anywhere: Essays on Place from Aotearoa New Zealand. Ed. Ingrid Horrocks & Cherie Lacey. Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2016. 135-49.

  14. (May 19) “The Psychopathic God: Review of R.H.I., by Tim Corballis (Victoria University Press, 2015).” Landfall 231 (April 2015): 182-85.

  15. (May 5) “I am ‘modern’ but want to go back’: Review of Aurelia, by John Hawke (Cordite Press, 2015).” TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses, vol 20, no. 1 (April 2016).

  16. 2015 [19]

  17. (December 11) “Poetry Shelf, Poet's Choice.” Contribution to Paula Green. NZ Poetry Shelf: a poetry page with reviews, interviews, and other things (11/12/15).

  18. (November 27) (Ed.) Poetry NZ Yearbook 2 [Issue #50] (2015): 7-10, 23-38, 255-63 & 269-73:
    • Editorial – What is New Zealand Poetry?
    • An Interview with Robert Sullivan
    • Reviews:
    • Review of Mary Cresswell, Fish Stories (Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2015)
    • Review of David Eggleton, The Conch Trumpet (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2015)
    • Review of A Place To Go On From: The Collected Poems of Iain Lonie, ed. David Howard (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2015)
    • Review of Jane Summer, Erebus (Little Rock, Arkansas: Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014)
    • Books & Magazines in brief:
    • Review of Diane Brown, Taking My Mother to the Opera (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2015)
    • Review of Catalyst 11: My Republic, ed. Doc Drumheller (Christchurch: The Republic of Oma Rāpeti Press, 2014)
    • Review of Martin Edmond & Maggie Hall, Histories of the Future (North Hobart, Tasmania: Walleah Press, 2015)
    • Review of JAAM 32: Shorelines, ed. Sue Wootton (Wellington: JAAM Collective, 2014)
    • Review of Julie Leibrich, A Little Book of Sonnets (Wellington: Steele Roberts Aotearoa, 2013)
    • Review of Emma Neale, Tender Machines (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2015)
    • Review of Richard Reeve, Generation Kitchen (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2015)
    • Review of Pat White, Fracking & Hawk (Aotearoa New Zealand: Frontiers Press, 2015)

  19. (August 29) “'We' Society: Editor's Note.” 'We' Society Poetry Anthology. Edited with a Preface by Jack Ross. Stage2Page Titles, 4 (Bethells / Te Henga, Auckland: Poetry/Spoken Word Art NZ Trust, 2015): 1-3.

  20. (July 29) Blurb for Martin Edmond & Maggie Hall, Histories of the Future (North Hobart, Tasmania: Walleah Press, 2015).

  21. (May 11) “Miss Herbert, by Adam Thirlwell [2007].” Verbivoracious Festschrift Vol. 3: The Syllabus. Ed. G.N. Forester and M.J. Nicholls. ISBN 978-981-09-3593-1 (Singapore: Verbivoracious Press, 2015): 209-10.

  22. (May 1) “Is MiStory YourStory? Review of MiStory, by Philip Temple (Dunedin: Scribe Publishing, 2014).” Landfall Review Online (2015).

  23. 2014 [36]

  24. (November 1) “An Interview with Gabriel White.” Tongdo Fantasia. Gabriel White on Vimeo (26/10/14).

  25. (October 28) (Ed.) Poetry NZ Yearbook 1 [Issue #49] (2014): 7-10, 41-48, 224-37:
    • Editorial – From Dagmara to Lisa
    • An Interview with Lisa Samuels
    • Books & Magazines in brief:
    • Review of Alan Brunton, Beyond the Ohlala Mountains: Poems 1968-2002. Ed. Michele Leggott & Martin Edmond (Auckland: Titus Books, 2013)
    • Review of Kay McKenzie Cooke, Born to a Red-Headed Woman (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2014)
    • Review of Craig Cotter, After Lunch with Frank O’Hara. Introduction by Felice Picano (New York: Chelsea Station Editions, 2014)
    • Review of Alison Denham, Raspberry Money (Christchurch: Sudden Valley Press, 2013)
    • Review of Doc Drumheller, 10 x (10 + -10) = 0: A ten year, ten book project, 20/02/2002-21/02/2012 (Christchurch: The Republic of Oma Rāpeti Press, 2014)
    • Review of Eugene Dubnov, The Thousand-Year Minutes. Translated by Anne Stevenson & the author (UK: Shoestring Press, 2013)
    • Review of Sue Fitchett, On the Wing (Wellington: Steele Roberts Aotearoa, 2014)
    • Review of Alexandra Fraser, Conversation by Owl-Light (Wellington: Steele Roberts Aotearoa, 2014)
    • Review of John Gibb, The Thin Boy & Other Poems (Lyttelton: Cold Hub Press, 2014)
    • Review of Rogelio Guedea, Si no te hubieras ido / If only you hadn’t gone. With translations by Roger Hickin. Introduction by Vincent O’Sullivan (Lyttelton: Cold Hub Press, 2014)
    • Review of Sweeping the Courtyard: The Selected Poems of Michael Harlow (Lyttelton: Cold Hub Press, 2014)
    • Review of Michael Harlow, Heart absolutely I can. Hoopla Series (Wellington: Mākaro Press, 2014)
    • Review of Chloe Honum, The Tulip-Flame (Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2014)
    • Review of David Howard, The Speak House: A Poem in Fifty-Seven Pentastichs on the Final Hours in the Life of Robert Louis Stevenson (Lyttelton: Cold Hub Press, 2014)
    • Review of Leonard Lambert, Remnants: Poems (Wellington: Steele Roberts Aotearoa, 2013)
    • Review of Stephanie Lash, Bird murder. Hoopla Series (Wellington: Mākaro Press, 2014)
    • Review of Cilla McQueen (in association with the Alexander Turnbull Library), Edwin’s Egg & Other Poetic Novellas (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2014)
    • Review of John O’Connor, Whistling in the Dark (Wellington: HeadworX, 2014)
    • Review of Outloud Too. Ed. Vaughan Rapatahana, Kate Rogers, Madeleine Slavick (Hong Kong: MCCM Creations, 2014)
    • Review of Lee Posna, Arboretum (Auckland: Compound Press, 2014)
    • Review of Helen Rickerby, Cinema. Hoopla Series (Wellington: Mākaro Press, 2014)
    • Review of Marie Slaight, The Antigone Poems. Drawings by Terrence Tasker (Potts Point NSW: Altaire Production and Publication, 2013)
    • Review of Elizabeth Smither, Ruby Duby Du (Lyttelton: Cold Hub Press, 2014)
    • Review of MaryJane Thomson, Fallen Grace (Wellington: HeadworX / The Night Press, 2014)
    • Review of Steven Toussaint, Fiddlehead (Auckland: Compound Press, 2014)

  26. (August 5) “August on the Shelf.” Contribution to Paula Green. NZ Poetry Shelf: a poetry page with reviews, interviews, and other things (5/8/14).

  27. (May 16) “Green Movement: Review of Phillip Mann, The Disestablishment of Paradise: A Novel in Five Parts plus Documents (London: Gollancz, 2013).” Landfall 227 – Vital Signs (2014): 183-85.

  28. (April 14) “Paul Celan & Leicester Kyle: The Zone & the Plateau.” Ka Mate Ka Ora 13 (2014): 54-71.

  29. (March 12) (Ed.) brief 50 – the projects issue (2014): 3-5, 152-53, 154-56:
    • Editorial – Misha's Project
    • Review of Lisa Samuels, Wild Dialectics (Bristol: Shearsman Books Ltd., 2012)
    • Review of Richard von Sturmer, Book of Equanimity Verses (Auckland: Puriri Press, 2013)

  30. (February 6) Leicester Kyle. The Millerton Sequences. Edited by Jack Ross. Poem by David Howard. ISBN 978-0-473-18880-1. Pokeno, Auckland: Atuanui Press, 2014. 8-29:

  31. (February 1) “Carnage in Cuba Street: Review of The Wind City, by Summer Wigmore (Steam Press, 2013).” Landfall Review Online (2014).

  32. 2013 [6]

  33. (December 9) “Here are the poetry books that hooked us in 2013.” Contribution to Paula Green. NZ Poetry Shelf: a poetry page with reviews, interviews, and other things (9/12/13).

  34. (September 27) “Confessions of an Unrepentant Anthologist: Review of The AUP Anthology of NZ Literature, ed. Jane Stafford & Mark Williams (Auckland: AUP, 2013).” brief 49 (2013): 129-45.

  35. (September 7) “Wearing their ethics on their sleeves: Review of Elizabeth Knox, Mortal Fire (Wellington: Gecko Press, 2013) & Mandy Hager, Dear Vincent (Auckland: Random House New Zealand, 2013).” NZ Books: A Quarterly Review vol. 23, no. 3, issue 103 (Spring 2013): 16-17.

  36. (August 31) “Trouble in River City: How I learned to stop worrying and trust poetics.” Poetry NZ 47 (2013): 93-103.

  37. (June 25) “Obituary – Dreamtigers: i.m. Sarah Broom.” Poetry Notes 14 (vol. 4, issue 2). ISSN 1179-7681 (Winter 2013): 6-8.

  38. (May 14) “Never Get Taken to the Second Location: Review of The Second Location. Stories by Bronwyn Lloyd (Auckland: Titus Books, 2011). RRP $NZ 30.00.” Landfall 225 – My Auckland (2013): 186-89.

  39. 2012 [25]

  40. (November 23) “Interpreting Paul Celan.” brief 46 – The Survival Issue (2012): 85-101.

  41. (November 5) Celanie: Poems & Drawings after Paul Celan. Poems by Jack Ross, Drawings by Emma Smith, with an Afterword by Bronwyn Lloyd. ISBN 978-0-473-22484-4. Pania Samplers, 3. Auckland: Pania Press, 2012. 168 pp. 11-16:

  42. (September 24) “Channeling Paul Celan.” Rabbit 5: The RARE Issue (Winter 2012): 118-31.

  43. (September 1) “Review of The Little Enemy, by Nicholas Reid (Wellington: Steele Roberts Aotearoa, 2011).” Poetry NZ 45 (2012): 103-4.

  44. (July 1) “Closedown, hibernate, restart: Review of The Comforter, by Helen Lehndorf (Seraph Press, 2011) & Birds of Clay, by Aleksandra Lane (VUP, 2012).” Landfall Review Online (2012).

  45. (June 19) Fallen Empire: Maui in the Underworld, Kupe & the Fountain of Youth, Hatupatu & the Nile-monster: Three Play-Fragments from the Literary Remains of The Society of Inner Light. Attributed to Bertolt Wegener. Edited with an introduction by Jack Ross. Museum of True History in Collaboration with Karl Chitham and Jack Ross (20 June – 21 July 2012). Dunedin: Blue Oyster Art Project Space, 2012:

  46. (May 8) “Old Shore.” Trout 17: Home Spaces (2012).

  47. (May 6) brief 44 / 45 – Oceania (2012): 56-76 & 206-7:

  48. (March 31-July 3) JACK ROSS: Notes on NZ Poetry (April-June 2012). Jacket2: Commentaries.
    1. [31/3/12]: Begin anywhere
    2. [6/4/12]: The persistence of memory
    3. [13/4/12]: Experiments with sound
    4. [18/4/12]: Dancing on ropes with fetter’d legs
    5. [27/4/12]: In small press land
    6. [6/5/12]: State-of-the-Nation poems: Allen Curnow
    7. [11/5/12]: State-of-the-Nation poems (2): James K. Baxter
    8. [17/5/12]: State-of-the-Nation poems (3): Cilla McQueen
    9. [26/5/12]: Work yet for the living: Hone Tuwhare
    10. [1/6/12]: What's in the mags? brief 44/45
    11. [8/6/12]: State-of-the-Nation poems (4): Ian Wedde
    12. [15/6/12]: State-of-the-Nation poems (5): Kendrick Smithyman
    13. [25/6/12]: State-of-the-Nation poems (6): Michele Leggott
    14. [3/7/12]: Coda

  49. (March 30) “Marie de France: ‘Laüstic’ (c.1180).” Ka Mate Ka Ora 11 (2012): 75-88.

  50. (March 13) “The book that got me started ...” Contribution to Celebrating NZ Book Month. Auckland University Press (13/3/12).

  51. 2011 [7]

  52. ((November 29) “Look and look again: Twelve New Zealand poets.” Jacket2 NZ Poetry Feature: with poets John Adams, Raewyn Alexander, Jen Crawford, Scott Hamilton, Leicester Kyle, Aleksandra Lane, Thérèse Lloyd, Richard Reeve, Michael Steven, Apirana Taylor, Richard Taylor, Richard von Sturmer. Edited by Jack Ross. Images by Emma Smith.

  53. (November 3) Leicester Kyle, Koroneho: Joyful News Out Of The New Found World. Edited with an Introduction by Jack Ross. Preface by Ian St George. ISBN 978-0-9876604-0-4. Auckland: The Leicester Kyle Literary Estate / Wellington: The Colenso Society, 2011. 7-9:

  54. (November 1) Blurb for Keith Westwater, Tongues of Ash (Brisbane: Interactive Press, October 2011).

  55. (August 25) “Foreword.” Lugosi’s Children, Curated by Bronwyn Lloyd (27 August – 1 October 2011). Auckland: Objectspace, 2011: 2-3. [PDF available at: http://www.objectspace.org.nz/publications/viewPublication.php?documentCode=2984].

  56. (May 25) “Johnsons or Shits: Review of Mike Johnson, Travesty (Auckland: Titus Books, 2010).” brief 42 (2011): 40-44.

  57. (May 17) “Questions of Structure: Review of John Newton, Lives of the Poets; Cilla McQueen, The Radio Room; David Eggleton, Time of the Icebergs.” Landfall 221 – Outside In (2011): 184-87.

  58. (January 6) Kendrick Smithyman, Campana to Montale: Versions from Italian. 2004. Edited by Jack Ross & Marco Sonzogni. ISBN-13: 978-88-7536-264-5. Transference Series. Ed. Erminia Passannanti. Novi Ligure: Edizioni Joker, 2010. 23-39:
    • Essay – The Poem Within: Kendrick Smithyman the Poet-Translator

  59. 2010 [6]

  60. (December 16) 11 Views of Auckland. Edited by Jack Ross & Grant Duncan. Preface by Jack Ross. Social and Cultural Studies, 10. ISSN 1175-7132. Auckland: Massey University, 2010. ii + 210 pp. [100 copies]. 5-8; 155-76:

  61. (November 19) “Hearts on the Run: Poetry Panels in Sydney.” All Together Now: A Digital Bridge for Auckland and Sydney / Kia Kotahi Rā: He Arawhata Ipurangi mō Tamaki Makau Rau me Poihākena (March-September 2010). (23/11/10).

  62. (November 18) “A Short History of Fairytales.” One Brown Box: A Storybook Exhibition for Children, by Bronwyn Lloyd & Karl Chitham (6 November – 18 December 2010). ISBN-13: 978-0-9582811-8-8. Auckland: Objectspace, 2010: 27-37.

  63. (September 17) “Discussion of 'Disorder and Early Sorrow'.” In 99 Ways into NZ Poetry, by Paula Green & Harry Ricketts. ISBN 978-1-86979-178-0. Auckland: Random House, 2010. 364-65.

  64. (May 27) “The Sleep of Reason: Review of Jessica Le Bas, Walking to Africa; David Lyndon Brown, Skin Hunger; Bernadette Hall, The Lustre Jug; Kevin Ireland, Table Talk: New Poems; Frankie McMillan, Dressing for the Cannibals; Brian Turner, Just This: Poems; Richard von Sturmer, On the Eve of Never Departing.” Landfall 219 – On Music (2010): 185-89.

  65. 2009 [14]

  66. (December 7) “Scroll, Codex, Hypertext …” Contribution to the Flying Blind Symposium (3/12/09). Floating Cinemas Website (7/12/09).

  67. (November 3) “Troubling Our Sleep: Ted Jenner’s Postmodern Classicism.” Ka Mate Ka Ora 8 (2009): 46-66.

  68. (September 25) “Travelling to the Edge of Oneself: Review of Martin Edmond, The Supply Party.” brief 38 (2009): 89-93.

  69. (June 16) “The Tolkien Industry.” Scoop Review of Books (16/6/09).

  70. (May 29) “Is there a future for the poetry blog?” Colloquium: “1,000 words or a picture: Could Poetry be a Contemporary Art?” Ka Mate Ka Ora 7 (2009): 26-29.

  71. (May 6) “In Love with the Chinese Novel: A Voyage around the Hung Lou Meng.” brief 37 (2009): 10-28. [Available at: Titus Books website (June 15, 2010)].

  72. (March 1) (Ed.) Poetry NZ 38 (2009): 9, 10 & 107-8.:
    • Editorial [Available at: Poetry NZ Website (12/3/09)]
    • Jen Crawford
    • Books & Magazines in brief: Review of Coral Atkinson & David Gregory, ed. Land very Fertile: Banks Peninsula in Poetry & Prose (Christchurch: CUP, 2008)
    • Review of Stu Bagby, ed. Just Another Fantastic Anthology: Auckland in Poetry (Auckland: Antediluvian Press, 2008)
    • Review of Helen Bascand, into the vanishing point (Wellington: Steele Roberts, 2007)
    • Review of Michael Harlow, The Tram Conductor’s Blue Cap (Auckland: AUP, 2009)
    • Review of John O’Connor, Parts of the Moon: Selected Haiku & Senryu, 1988-2007 (Teneriffe, Queensland: Post Pressed, 2007)
    • Review of Takahe 64 (Winter 2008)

  73. 2008 [5]

  74. (September 23) “Climbing off the Barricades: Review of Tony Beyer, Dream Boat: Selected Poems & Stu Bagby, ed. A Good Handful: Great NZ Poems about Sex." brief #36 (2008) – The NZ Music Issue: 114-18.

  75. (August 30) “Ex Africa semper aliquid novi ... Review of Alistair Paterson, Africa: //Kabbo, Mantis and the Porcupine’s Daughter.” Poetry NZ 37 (2008): 101-08.

  76. (July 30) Review of Martin Edmond, The Evolution of Mirrors. Queensland: Otoliths, 2008. Lulu Marketplace.

  77. (June 15) “Recipe: Hot rolls.” In The Word for Food: Recipes and Anecdotes from members of the International Writers’ Workshop, and others. Ed. Joyce Irving. Palmerston North: Heritage Press Ltd., 2008. 98-99.

  78. (June 6) New New Zealand Poets in Performance. Edited by Jack Ross. Poems Selected by Jack Ross and Jan Kemp. ISBN 978 1 86940 4093. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2008. xiv + 146 pp. ix-xii:

  79. 2007 [7]

  80. (November 13) (Ed.) Landfall 214 – Open House (2007): 5-6, 175-79 & 187-90:

  81. (September 1) “Irony and After: New Bearings in NZ Poetry.” Poetry NZ 35 (2007): 95-103.

  82. (June 6) To Terezín. Travelogue by Jack Ross, with an Afterword by Martin Edmond. Social and Cultural Studies, 8. ISSN 1175-7132 (Auckland: Massey University, 2007). ii + 90 pp. 5-6:

  83. (March 29) “Pound’s Fascist Cantos Revisited.” Ka Mate Ka Ora #3 (2007): 41-57.
    • (September) "Correspondence: Pound’s Italian Cantos." Ka Mate Ka Ora #4 (2007): 154-57.

  84. 2006 [9]

  85. (December 13) “Gabriel’s Groundhog Day: Launch speech for Gabriel White's Aucklantis.” Window Online (13/12/06).

  86. (December 6) “for Leicester Hugo Kyle (b. 1937).” brief #34 (2006) – war: 6-11. [Available at: http://titus.books.online.fr/Brief/index.html].

  87. (September 9) “Death of the Old Gang: Review of Sarah Broom, Contemporary British and Irish Poetry.” Poetry NZ 33 (2006): 80 & 96-101. [Available at: The Imaginary Museum (12/9/06)].

  88. (August 30) Myth of the 21st Century: An Anthology of New Fiction. Edited by Tina Shaw & Jack Ross. ISBN 0-7900-1098-4. 137 pp. Auckland: Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 2006. 7-9:

  89. (May 12) Classic New Zealand Poets in Performance. Edited by Jack Ross. Poems selected by Jack Ross and Jan Kemp. ISBN 1-86940-367-3. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2006. xiv + 146 pp. ix-xi:

  90. (March 24) brief #33 (2006) – exile and home: 35-37, 60-62, 106-8:

  91. (March 4) “In the Shop of Wah Lee: Denys Trussell – poet, musician, ecologist.” Poetry NZ 32 (2006): 85-94.

  92. 2005 [12]

  93. (October 22) “Is Melville's poetry really worth reading?Amazon.com (22/10/05).

  94. (October 3) (Ed.) Where Will Massey Take You? Life Writing 2. ISBN 0-473-09551-3. Massey University: School of Social and Cultural Studies, 2005. viii + 155 pp. [100 copies]. v-vi:

  95. (August 19) “A few thoughts on sampling.” Titus Books website (19/8/05).

  96. (July 18) (Ed.) brief 32 – Joanna Margaret Paul (2005): 3-4, 103-7:
    • Editorial – i.m. Joanna Margaret Paul (1946-2003)
    • Review of The Brian Bell Reader
    • Review of Alan Brunton, Grooves of Glory: Three Performance Texts
    • Review of Sue Fitchett, Palaver Lava Queen
    • Review of Michael Harlow, Cassandra’s Daughter
    • Review of Anne Kennedy, The Time of the Giants
    • Review of Michele Leggott, Milk & Honey
    • Review of C. K. Stead, The Red Tram

  97. (July 2) “Review of ‘Asclepius’. Poet Triumphant: The Life and Writings of R. A. K. Mason (1905-1971) & Lawrence Jones. Picking up the Traces: The Making of a New Zealand Literary Culture 12932-1945.” WLWE: World Literature Written in English 40 (2) (2005): 144-47.

  98. 2004 [27]

  99. (December 2) “Takahe 2004 Poetry Competition Report.” Takahe 53 (2004): 2.

  100. (November 30) (Ed.) brief 30 / 31 – Kunst / Kultur (2004): 3-4, 88-91, 109-11, 115 / 3 & 5-6:
    • EditorialWARUM die KUNST
    • Review of Murray Edmond, Fool Moon
    • Review of Basim Furat, Here and There
    • Review of Harvey McQueen, Recessional
    • Review of Guyon Neutze, Dark out of Darkness
    • Review of Mark Pirie, Bullet Poems: In Four Rounds, ed. “Recent New Zealand Poetry: 50 Poems by 50 Poets,” & ed. Tupelo Hotel: Winter Readings at Tupelo
    • Review of Niel Wright, Only a Bullet will stop me now
    • Review of William Direen, Jules
    • Editorialbrief goes political

  101. (November 21) Magazine 2 (2004) [aroha, love, l’amour]: 7-18, 86-87:

  102. (October 18) Kendrick Smithyman. Campana to Montale: Versions from Italian. Edited by Jack Ross. ISBN 0-476-00382-2. [ii] + 190 pp. Auckland: The Writers Group, 2004. 10-17:

  103. (September 28) “Going West Five Years On.” Pander Online. [Available at: http://www.thepander.co.nz/literature/articles/jross200409.php (28/9/04)].

  104. (September 17) Golden Weather: North Shore Writers Past and Present. Poems edited by Jack Ross / Prose edited by Graeme Lay. ISBN 0-908561-96-2. 244 pp. Auckland: Cape Catley, 2004. 12-16:

  105. (August 31) “Review of James McNeish, Dance of the Peacocks: New Zealanders in Exile in the Time of Hitler and Mao Tse-Tung & Vincent O’Sullivan, Long Journey to the Border: a Life of John Mulgan.” WLWE: World Literature Written in English 39 (2) (2004): 143-46.

  106. (July 12) “'I dreamed your book was written ...' Review of Young Knowledge: the Poems of Robin Hyde, ed. Michele Leggott.” JNZL: Journal of New Zealand Literature 22 (2004): 180-90.

  107. (April 2) (Ed.) brief 29 – more fun than you’ve ever seen (2004): 3-4, 23, 62-65, 81-84, 87-88:
    • Editorial – The Secrets behind my Smile
    • Review of Paul Hardacre, The Year Nothing
    • Review of David Howard & Fiona Pardington, How to Occupy Our Selves
    • Review of Anne Kennedy, Sing-Song
    • Review of Graham Lindsay, Lazy Wind Poems
    • Review of John O’Connor & Eric Mould, Working Voices
    • Review of Alistair Paterson, Summer on the Côte d’Azur
    • Review of Mark Pirie, Dumber
    • Review of John Pule, Tagata Kapakiloi: Restless People
    • Review of R. A. K. Mason, Four Short Stories & Maurice Duggan, A Voice for the Minotaur

  108. 2003 [20]

  109. (November 14) “Review of Jill Chan, The Smell of Oranges.” Magazine 1 (2003) [loaded with arts, fire and boodle]: 76.

  110. (October 28) (Ed.) brief 28 – Alan Brunton (2003): 3-4, 116-22:

  111. (July 10) (Ed.) brief 27 – Season of the Remakes (2003): 3-4, 98, 99-100:
    • Editorial
    • Review of Leicester Kyle, Five Anzac Liturgies
    • Review of Sugu Pillay, The Chandrasekhar Limit

  112. (May 7) “Review of Kendrick Smithyman, Imperial Vistas Family Fictions.” JAAM 19 (2003): 246-49.

  113. (April 22) “Smithyman / Quasimodo: Introduction to the Translations of Kendrick Smithyman.” Glottis: New Writing 8 (2003): 91-96.

  114. (April 16) (Ed.) Spin 45 (2003): 3, 59-63:
    • Editorial
    • Review of dreu harrison, dreaming of flight
    • Review of Michal Ma’u, Taste of Fiji
    • Review of Mark Pirie, Swing and Other Stories
    • Review of Sarah Quigley, Love in a Bookshop or Your Money Back
    • Review of Bill Sewell, The Ballad of Fifty-One

  115. (February 26) (Ed.) A brief index: A breakdown by issue & author of 7 years / 26 issues of brief, the magazine formerly known as: A Brief Description of the Whole World / ABDOTWW / description / ABdotWW / Ab.ww / brief. &c., December 1995 – January 2003. ISSN 1175-9313. 48 pp. Auckland: The Writers Group, 2003. 3:

  116. (February 25) (Ed.) brief 26 – Smithymania (2003): 3-4, 5-8, 9, 19-50, 56, 92, 103-09, 115-116:

  117. 2002 [16]

  118. (December 6) “Alan Brunton, my publisher.” New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (6/12/02).

  119. (October 7) (Ed.) brief 25 – trains at a glance (2002): 3-6, 13-16:

  120. (September 17) “What is Auckland Poetry?Five Bells vol. 9 (3) (2002): 14-15.

  121. (August 29) Poetry NZ 25 (2002): 100-06:

  122. (July 12) (Ed.) brief 24 – less formal than bull (2002): 3, 41-44, 78-79:

  123. (March 25) (Ed.) Spin 42 (2002): 3-4, 60-63:
    • Editorial
    • Review of Jeanne Bernhardt, The Snow Poems / Your Self of Lost Ground
    • Review of T. Anders Carson, A Different Shred of Skin
    • Review of Leicester Kyle, The Great Buller Coal Plateaux: A Sequence of Poems
    • Review of Mark Pirie, Reading the Will
    • Review of Wensley Willcox, A Woman in Green
    • Review of Helen Rickerby, Abstract Internal Furniture

  124. 2001 [20]

  125. (December) “Alan Loney / John O’Connor / John Geraets.” brief 22 (2001): 63-73.

  126. (November 17) Review of Shebang: Collected Poems 1980-2000 by David Howard. JAAM 16 (2001): 171-75.

  127. (October 30) “Imaginary Toads in Real Gardens: Poets in Christchurch.” In Complete with Instructions. Edited by David Howard. ISBN 0-473-07646-2. Christchurch: Firebrand, 2001. 33-61:

  128. (September 4) “Translating Poetry.” Poetry NZ 23 (2001): 125-34.

  129. (July 5) “Case Studies.” brief 20 (2001): 23-29.

  130. (March 21) (Ed.) Spin 39 (2001): 3, 64-66:
    • Editorial
    • Review of All Together Now: A Celebration of New Zealand Culture by 100 Poets, ed. Tony Chad
    • Review of T. Anders Carson, Stain
    • Review of John Geraets, ? X
    • Review of David Howard, Shebang: Collected Poems 1980-2000
    • Review of Leicester Kyle, Five Anzac Liturgies

  131. 2000 [12]

  132. (November 13) Review of Laminations by Murray Edmond and Charts & Soundings by Sue Fitchett & Jane Zusters. JAAM 14 (2000): 99-103.

  133. (September 30) “An Inside Narrative: Recent Works by Alan Loney.” A Brief Description of the Whole World 17 (2000): 70-79.

  134. (September 2) “Necessary Oppositions? Avant-garde versus Traditional Poetry in New Zealand.” Poetry NZ 21 (2000): 80-83.

  135. (August 26-September 1) Review of Big Smoke, ed. Alan Brunton, Murray Edmond, and Michele Leggott. New Zealand Listener vol. 175 (3146) (2000): 40-41.

  136. (March 27) Review of As far as I can see, by Michele Leggott. JAAM 13 (2000): 158-60.

  137. (March 14) (Ed.) Spin 36 (2000): 3-4, 61-63:
    • Editorial
    • Review of Here After: Living with Bereavement, ed. Stu Bagby
    • Review of Jeffrey Paparoa Holman: Flood Damage
    • Review of Leicester Kyle: A Safe House for a Man
    • Review of When The Sea Goes Mad at Night, ed. Theresia Marshall
    • Review of Tongue in Your Ear 4 (1999)

  138. (February 13) “Jack.” In Here After. Living with Bereavement: Personal Experiences and Poetry. Edited by Stu Bagby. ISBN 0-473-06399-9. 9 Daphne Harden Lane, Albany, Auckland: Antediluvian Press, 2000. 35-40.

  139. 1999 [23]

  140. (October 16) (Co-ed.) The Pander 9 (1999): 14-16, 18-19, 39, 39-40, 40-41, 43:
    • A Brief Description of the Whole World: From Multiple Angles [with Hamish Dewe, John Geraets, Leicester Kyle & Richard Taylor]
    • Theatre: Review of Foreskin’s Lament, by Greg McGee
    • Review of Salt, by Elisabeth Easther
    • Books: Review of AUP New Poets 1, by Raewyn Alexander, Anna Jackson & Sarah Quigley
    • Review of Rapunzel Rapunzel, by Janet Charman

  141. (October 13) “A Conversation with Mike Minehan.” Monthly Profile Series 1. Zoetropes: New Zealand Literature / Nga Pukapuka o Aotearoa online. [Available at: http://www.arts.uwo.ca/~andrewf/zoetropes.htm (13/10/99)].

  142. (July 14) (Co-ed.) The Pander 8 (1999): 32, 34, 35-36, 38-39, 39, 40:
    • Books: Review of Hone Tuwhare: A Biography, by Janet Hunt & My Life as A Miracle, by The Wizard
    • Review of A Particular Context, by John O’Connor
    • Review of on what is not, by Kenneth Fea & Legend of the Cool Secret, by Graham Lindsay
    • Theatre: Review of The Royal NZ Ballet’s Shell Season of Peter Pan
    • Auckland Theatre Company’s Culture of Desire: Review of Closer, by Patrick Marber
    • Review of The Cripple of Inishmaan, by Martin MacDonagh

  143. (May) Salt 6 (2) (1999): 8, 12 & 16 & 61 & 65:

  144. (May) “Kendrick Smithyman in Italian.” Landfall 197 (1999): 70-73.

  145. (April) “Review of Going West Literary Festival.” Pander online edition 6/7 (1999).

  146. (March 30) (Co-ed.) The Pander 6/7 (1999): 21 & 23, 41-43 & 34-35, 53-54:

  147. (March 18) (Ed.) Spin 33 (1999): 2, 58-59, 63:

  148. 1998 [14]

  149. (October 18) “It’s Standing Room Only for the Rekindling of Live Lines.” Sunday Star-Times (18/10/98): F4.

  150. (September) (Co-ed.) The Pander 5 (1998): 26-27, 32-33 & 34-35:
    • Kathy Goes to Mexico: In Memoriam Kathy Acker, d. 30/11/97
    • Exhibition: Review of Ralph Hotere: Out the Black Window
    • Film: Review of Guy Maddin: Waiting for Twilight & Tranceformer: A portrait of Lars von Trier

  151. (August) Salt 6 (1998): 24-26, 27-36:

  152. (August 2) “A Mutual Respect: Ralph Hotere and Hone Tuwhare.” Sunday Star-Times (2/8/98): F7.

  153. (June) (Co-ed.) The Pander 4 (1998): 10, 14 & 16:
    • Film: Review of Titanic
    • Review of Fairy Tale: A True Story
    • Books: Review of As It Is, by John O’Connor, Pools over Stone, by Helen Jacobs & Always Arriving, by David Gregory
    • Exhibitions: Review of Orientalism

  154. (March) (Co-ed.) The Pander 3 (1998): 20-22:

  155. 1997 [3]

  156. (August)“Kendrick Smithyman’s Northland.” The Pander 1 (1997): x-xiii.

  157. (July 12) “Genji Monogatari is the first psychological novel.” Amazon.com (12/7/97).

  158. (May) Ezra Pound’s Fascist Cantos (72 & 73) together with Rimbaud’s “Poets at Seven Years Old.” Trans. Jack Ross. Auckland: Perdrix Press, 1997. [ii] + 42 pp. 37-46:

  159. 1993 [1]

  160. (February) “Cunninghame Graham’s Brazil: Differing Interpretations of the Canudos Campaign, 1896-97.” Australasian Victorian Studies Association: Conference Papers 1993. Ed. Joanne Wilkes. Auckland: University Press, 1993. 27-38.

  161. 1992 [2]

  162. (December) “Wilson Harris, Joseph Conrad, and the South American ‘Quest’ Novel.” Landfall: A New Zealand Quarterly 184 (1992): 455-68.

  163. (March) Review of Singer in a Songless Land: A Life of Edward Tregear, 1846-1931, by K. R. Howe, & The Verse of Edward Tregear, ed. K. R. Howe. Landfall: A New Zealand Quarterly 181 (1992): 122-25.

  164. 1989 [1]

  165. (August) Review of Tell Me Lies About Vietnam: Cultural Battles for the Meaning of the War, ed. Alf Louvre and Jeffrey Walsh. Inter-Arts: A Quarterly Journal of Cultural Connections 9 (1989): 31.

  166. 1988 [2]

  167. (October) Inter-Arts: A Quarterly Journal of Cultural Connections 7 (1988): 14-16, 27:

  168. 1987 [1]

  169. (July) Review of The North American Sketches of R. B. Cunninghame Graham, ed. John Walker. University of Edinburgh Journal 33 (1987): 54.




Wednesday

Welcome to Novella (2017)



Leicester Kyle: Letters to a Psychiatrist (2017)

Afterword:
Welcome to Novella



Leicester Kyle: Letters to a Psychiatrist (c.1975)


Novellas … boy, as far as marketability goes, you in a heap o’ trouble.

This quote from Different Seasons (1982), bestselling author Stephen King’s first collection of novellas, gives a pretty accurate picture of the received wisdom about the form: amongst publishers and agents, at any rate – the views of readers tend to be far more positive.

King’s book did, after all, inspire three feature films: Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986), Frank Darabont’s Shawshank Redemption (1994), and Bryan Singer’s Apt Pupil (1998). The first two of these are now regarded as modern classics, and are certainly among the most successful among the many, many screen adaptations of his work.

King has gone on to publish three more such collections: Four Past Midnight (1990), Hearts in Atlantis (1999), and Full Dark, No Stars (2010). Clearly, then, the novella form appeals to him strongly. No fewer than five movies have been made, to date, of the thirteen stories in these three books.

The reasons for this are not too difficult to ascertain. Novellas make good films because they contain the thematic scope and heft of a novel without its immense weight of detail.

Despite the brilliant acting and production which distinguishes both Stand by Me and Shawshank Redemption, their success as films can be laid solidly at the door of story. In each case certain things may have been left out and added to the original novella, but the narrative remains essentially intact.

So, if a good novella can be equated with box-office gold, why do they continue to be regarded as a drug on the market?

First of all, what exactly is a novella? Stephen King’s quick, workmanlike definition in the afterword to Different Seasons specifies any story between 25,000 and 35,000 words, which he refers to as ‘numbers apt to make even the most stout-hearted writer of fiction shake and shiver in his boots.’ He goes on:
There is no hard and fast definition of what either a novel or a short story is – at least not in terms of word-count – nor should there be. But when a writer approaches the 20,000 word mark, he knows he is edging out of the country of the short story. Likewise, when he passes the 40,000 word mark, he is edging into the country of the novel.

Mary Doyle Springer, in Forms of the Modern Novella (1975), is somewhat more liberal in her choice of vital statistics. She defines it as ‘a prose fiction of a certain length (usually 15,000 to 50,000 words).’ She does, however, go on to stress that ‘this is a length equipped to realise certain formal functions better than any other.’

What this appears to mean in practice – to booksellers, at any rate – is a story too short to be marketed successfully by itself. It therefore has to be shoe-horned in somehow with a group of other pieces as part of a larger collection.

This prejudice against the commercial possibilities of the form does not seem to weigh so heavily on publishers in other languages. Novellas continued to be available as single volumes in French, German, Russian and Spanish bookshops, and many of the most celebrated works by authors in those languages have always been issued in this way.

The aversion to the risk of the single-volume novella runs deep in the English-speaking world, however. Even such classics of Modernist fiction as Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and James Joyce’s The Dead, were all first issued as parts of a larger collection: James’s in The Two Magics in 1898; Conrad’s in Youth (1902); and Joyce’s in Dubliners (1914).

And yet, properly packaged, there can be little doubt that readers do respond positively to short focussed pieces in pocket-sized volumes. Certainly that is the philosophy espoused by American publisher Melville House in their new series “The Art of the Novella,” dedicated to celebrating ‘this renegade art form and its practitioners.’

Melville House confines itself, for the most part, to the classics of the genre. Turning to the New Zealand publishing scene, I would note that there’s been considerable success here for works of non-fiction presented in single volumes.

Lloyd Jones’ Four Winds Press essay series (2002-2003) was succeeded (from 2004) by Awa Press’s “How to” series, and (more recently) by Bridget William Books’ BWB texts – accompanied, now, by Martin Conrich’s NZ film studies series. In each case a piece of prose of roughly 25,000 words (give or take 10,000 or so) is presented for purchase at a very reasonable price.

So why has the same not been done here for fiction?

To which, of course, the answer is that it has.

In May 2005, at Diamond Lil’s bar in Auckland, hot on the heels of Peter Simpson’s successful anthologies of classic New Zealand novellas (Seven New Zealand Novellas, 2003, and Nine New Zealand Novellas, 2005), local publisher Brett Cross, of Titus Books, kicked off the Titus Novella series. Distinguished novelist Mike Johnson was on hand to launch the first three volumes: William (Bill) Direen’s Coma, Olwyn Stewart’s Curriculum Vitae, and my own Trouble in Mind.

In her Landfall review of these books, Katherine Liddy remarked that:
the Titus novella series presses ahead of the pack with something new, smart and strange. Kiwi literature just got a whole lot more interesting.

Titus Books soon shifted to publishing full-length novels, as well as short fiction and poetry collections, and their novella series did not continue. The positive response to this initiative – as well as to Peter Simpson’s anthologies – seemed, however, highly suggestive of things to come.

All of which serves as a preamble to the present project: Paper Table Novellas. This is intended as a stand-alone series, with its own aesthetic and mission statement: to publish contemporary novellas in attractive standalone volumes, and – by doing so – to assert their importance not only to modern fiction as a whole, but to New Zealand writing in particular.



How many recent novels (both here and overseas) are simply bloated novellas?

After a hundred or so pages of gold – sharp, focussed writing – the narrative meanders off into supernumerary scenes and plotlines, with occasional spasms of dialogue.

Why is this? Could it be that the superior saleability of any work marketable as a novel outweighs the aesthetic advantages of conciseness and relevance?

That’s not to say that there aren’t many excellent novels out there, but invariably these are works which demand that length and weight of considered detail to make their point, whatever that may be.

The temptation must be strong to pretend that you’re writing a novel when actually what you have on your hands is a potentially fine novella. But what shame can there be to add to a form which can boast such masterpieces as Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice (1911), Stefan Zweig’s The Royal Game (1942), Gabriel García Márquez’s Leaf Storm (1955), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), and Marguerite Duras’ The Lover (1984), as well as such local classics as Katherine Mansfield’s Prelude (1918), Frank Sargeson’s That Summer (1946), and Kirsty Gunn’s Rain (1994)?



The first book chosen for the Paper Table Novellas series, Letters to a Psychiatrist, was originally self-published by its author, poet, priest, and ecologist Leicester Kyle (1937-2006), in a small cyclostyled edition in the mid-1970s. It received little attention at the time, and has since become fabulously rare – as have his other three novella-length works, issued at roughly the same time: The Abbot and the Rock; Deosa Bay: A Pastoral; and The Visitation; An Account of the Last Diocesan Visitation of John Mowbray, Bishop of Calcutta.

Though Leicester’s reputation rests mainly on his poetry, written from the early 1990s onwards, there is much of interest in these early prose works. By far the best of them – to my mind, at least – is Letters to a Psychiatrist. Its topographical and botanical exactness about the South Island seashore below Karamea, based on his own intimate knowledge of the West Coast, are combined with a vivid account of a spiritual vastation, drawn again – I suspect – from the deepest roots of the author’s own experience.

I first read this story (along with the others listed above) at Leicester’s house at Millerton, in the hills above Westport, on a visit in the late 1990s. Perhaps one of the reasons it appealed to me more than any of the others was because he had guided me to one of those very beaches – accessible only on foot – only the day before. We had walked together through the dense bush, explored those strange, magical landscapes.

Letters to a Psychiatrist has the specificity characteristic of Leicester’s best poetry, still decades in the future when he wrote these stories in his late thirties. As one of his two literary executors (along with poet David Howard), I was overjoyed to discover a copy of it among Richard Taylor’s wonderful collection of Kyle-iana a few years ago, while working on the comprehensive online index of his surviving work now to be found at the Leicester Kyle website [http://leicesterkyle.blogspot.co.nz/].

Leicester’s story is roughly 23,000 words long, right in the middle of the novella range. It seems to strike an ideal tone for the launch of the Paper Table series. It has enough action and ideas for a full-length novel, but is composed with the concentration and precision of one of its author’s own short stories.

My own pair of twin novellas, The Annotated Tree Worship, completed in 2015 (some forty years after Leicester’s) will be the next in the series. I can see, now, that many of the thematic links between them are not accidental, but were motivated by this early reading of his novella. I wasn’t at all conscious of that at the time I was writing, but it now seems to me another good reason for placing them side by side.

In any event, let’s hope they’ll be the first of many more to come!








Works cited:

King, Stephen. Different Seasons. 1982. London: Futura, 1984.

Liddy, Katherine Liddy, “Something Strange: Reviews of Coma by William Direen, Trouble in Mind by Jack Ross & Curriculum Vitae by Olwyn Stewart.” Landfall 212 (Spring 2006): 185-88.

Springer, Mary Doyle. Forms of the Modern Novella. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.







(29/4-7/6/17)

“Afterword: Welcome to Novella.” In Leicester Kyle: Letters to a Psychiatrist. ISBN 978-0-473-41327-9. Paper Table Novellas 1. Auckland: Paper Table, 2017. pp 81-87.

[1726 wds]








Tuesday

Milk Island (2017)



Landfall Review Online

The Poetics of Planned Obsolescence


Rhydian Thomas. Milk Island. ISBN 978-0-473-39794-4. Wellington: Lawrence & Gibson Publishing Collective, 2017. 256 pp. RRP $30.00.



Rhydian Thomas: Milk Island (2017)


This is a very strange book. I like it. I like it very much. It’s fair to say that this was not always the case. When I first picked it up I found it quite difficult to force myself through the opening pages. It’s a particularly repellent set of scenes that Rhydian Thomas paints, and he does so in a kind of sub-argot of political knowingness: a distillate of hard-bitten journo and Evelyn Waugh. If it hadn’t been for a faint curiosity about the real reasons behind his protagonist Nina’s presence in ‘the funfair of Kiwiana … the core of Kaikōura’s rebuilt civic centre’, I might not even have persevered with it. That would have been a mistake.

The year is 2023. Milk Island is the new name for the South Island, rebuilt by private corporate interests after the disastrous earthquakes of 2018. ‘We were in the shit last year for referring to Milk Island as a “correctional facility”,’ remarks one broadcaster early in the book. ‘I usually call it: a suite of public-private correctional, agricultural and tourist initiatives,’ replies another.

The opening section of the novel, ‘Witness’, climaxes in a terrifying account of a New Right theme park, full of bizarre references to minor political events of the past couple of decades (a ‘too-fast limo ride’ in reference to Helen Clark’s not-particularly infamous faux pas; a ‘man dressed as Stalin who suddenly appeared at the end of the hall, mumbling to himself: “Five New Taxes … Nanny State … more communist ISIS death-camps”’, and so on).

What struck me most about this first of the four stories that make up Thomas’s novel, was the element of planned obsolescence in all this. Setting your eco-catastrophe one year from your narrative’s publication practically guarantees it will go out of date almost immediately (even Orwell allowed himself 35 years for his ‘prophecies’ about 1984 to be fulfilled). Also, it’s hard to imagine anyone not from New Zealand – what’s more, anyone not obsessed with virtually every detail of local pop-culture, politics and day-to-day trivia – even being able to follow some of the more intricately knowing riffs indulged in by Thomas’s characters.

This must be deliberate. How would anyone not from around here, for instance, be able to make any sense – to take one obvious example – of the endless references to ‘Sir’ Richie McCaw (the Mock-McCaw-spunk milkshakes on sale at the Kiwiana funpark, the constant speculations about the effect of security camera footage of supermarket flirtations on his love life)?

So what is the point of this book? Is it anything more than a spewed paroxysm of rage at the ignorant imbecility of Kiwi Kulture in general? So expert a ventriloquist is Thomas that it would be possible for someone who had read only Part One of his book to see him as just one more left-leaning political satirist, a few steps above the media hacks he satirises but essentially of their column-writing genus. Which is where the true brilliance of his book kicks in.

The second section is narrated in the voice of a prisoner locked up in the vast private-enterprise penitentiary that now appears to occupy much of what once was Christchurch. Not since Jean Genet’s early poem ‘Le condamné à mort’ (‘The Man on Death Row’) has there been anything quite like this strange half-poem/half-rave. And, while Genet had the advantage of writing from inside the belly of the beast, at least his prisoner had the consolation of not being comforted in his despair by a virtual simulacrum of Billy T. James.

Horror and pain without dignity: that is the dominant note in the book up to this point, and certainly an impatient reader (or, for that matter, an unsympathetic reviewer) might remark that little of the pleasure principle has leaked through its pages so far.

The third section, depicting the woes of one of the pettier capitalist entrepreneurs leasing space at this prison, is similarly lacking in the milk of human kindness, though it does contain a fascinating set of instructions on how to smear the reputation of a political opponent with a few cunning keystrokes in the digital age.

But if the book has been gradually moving from a jazzed-up version of Waugh’s Scoop to similarly syncopated updates of Genet and American Psycho, we break through, finally, in ‘@HUTRUNNER’, the last section, to something closer to the prophetic books of Blake. The sheer outrage and horror at the environmental devastation perpetrated on our country by the giant collective pig farms reaches almost apocalyptic levels here.

Nina is back, her mask has slipped off, and she ranges the land like a latter-day Kwai Chang Caine, tweeting images and film-clips of the brutishness she sees, until the narrative’s final consummation: the meeting of the eco-terror-journalist with the nation’s literal sacred cow, Milky Moo herself.

The blurb for Milk Island describes it as ‘absurd and unhelpful’ and ‘100% pure fiction’. Both claims are untrue. Anyone courageous enough to persevere through its merciless pages will find a lot more than a Green Party election manifesto here. There’s no doubt that Rhydian Thomas has ‘a dark turn of mind’ (to quote from the HBO series Deadwood), but his book is not pointless, nor (unfortunately) can I even persuade myself that his concerns are particularly time-bound.

He’s an angry man, so much is obvious, but he has a lot to be angry about – and, what’s more, he has the literary skill to force anyone prepared to commit to his pages both to understand and to participate in this rage.

So, while it’s true that future readers might require a few footnotes (who is this … Dave Dobbyn? Why do we keep on hearing duh duh duh da da echoing out from every sound system?), the same might be said of Swift or Orwell.

Like theirs, Thomas’s message is harsh; and like them, however ‘distant’ or ‘futuristic’ what he writes may be, it always turns out to be about the realities of here and now. Just as Orwell’s 1984 is far more about 1948, when it was written, than the year it’s ostensibly set in, so the 2018 earthquakes Thomas begins with have already happened – and anyone who’s tuned in lately to watch the ‘progress’ of the Christchurch ‘rebuild’ will not find it difficult to identify the source of his inspiration.

There are no real heroes in Thomas’s vision, and the few fumbling attempts at human contact – between Nina and Jack Paheke, for instance – are so perfunctory as to lack all conviction. Only the travails of the unfortunate Milky Moo, as she stumbles from disaster to disaster like a bovine version of Sade’s Justine, might move us to accept even the possibility of feeling in a world so devoid of warmth and beauty.

I wish with all my heart that Rhydian Thomas wasn’t describing Aotearoa New Zealand circa now, but it’s increasingly hard to persuade myself that he isn’t.

JACK ROSS is the editor of Poetry New Zealand. His latest work of fiction, The Annotated Tree Worship, is due out in late 2017 from Paper Table Novellas. He works as a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Massey University’s Auckland Campus, and blogs at http://mairangibay.blogspot.com/.



(23/7-13/8/17)

Landfall Review Online (2017).
[Available at: https://www.landfallreview.com/the-poetics-of-planned-obsolescence/]

[1176 wds]


Landfall 1 (1947)