In the Spirit of Rumi (2011)

Jack Ross:
Published Essays, Interviews,
Introductions & Reviews



Date of Publication - Title - Publication Details

    2018 [11]

  1. (January 10) (Ed.) Poetry NZ Yearbook 2018 [Issue #52]: 14-18, 308-19 & 332-36:
    • Editorial: A Live Tradition
    • Reviews:
    • Review of Ted Jenner, The Arrow That Missed (Lyttelton: Cold Hub Press, 2017)
    • Review of Jeremy Roberts, Cards on the Table (Carindale, Queensland, Australia: Interactive Press, 2015)
    • Review of Laura Solomon, Frida Kahlo's Cry and Other Poems (Hong Kong: Proverse Hong Kong, 2015)
    • Review of A TransPacific Poetics, ed. Lisa Samuels and Sawako Nakayasu (Brooklyn, NY: Litmus Press, 2017)
    • Books & Magazines in brief:
    • Review of Mary Cresswell, Field Notes (Wellington: Mākaro Press, 2017)
    • Review of Claudio Pasi, Observations: Poems / Osservazione: Poesie, trans. Tim Smith & Marco Sonzogni (Wellington: Seraph Press, 2016)
    • Review of Shipwrecks/Shelters: Six Contemporary Greek Poets / Ναυάγια/Καταφύγια: Έξι Σύγχρονοι Έλληνες Ποιητές. With Lena Kallergi, Theodore Chiotis, Phoebe Giannisi, Patricia Kolaiti, Vassilis Amanatidis & Katerina Iliopoulou, ed. & trans. Vana Manasiadis (Wellington: Seraph Press, 2016)
    • Review of Signals: A Literary Journal 5, ed. Ros Ali & Johanna Emeney (Devonport: Michael King Writers’ Centre, 2016)
    • Review of Karen Zelas, The Trials of Minnie Dean: A Verse Biography (Wellington: Mākaro Press, 2017)

  2. (January 1) “Painting with Words: Review of Painting with Words: a Collection of Poems, by Terence O’Neill-Joyce (Warkworth: Video Pacific Communications Limited, 2017).” Poetry New Zealand Review: Books & Magazines in brief (1/1/18).

  3. 2017 [21]

  4. (December 7) “Lounge Room Tribalism (for Graham Fletcher).” Scope: Art and Design #14 (November 2017): 133-35.

  5. (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.

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

  7. (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).

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

  9. (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.

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

  11. (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.

  12. (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)

  13. 2016 [6]

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

  15. (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).

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

  17. (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.

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

  19. (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).

  20. 2015 [19]

  21. (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).

  22. (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)

  23. (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.

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

  25. (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.

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

  27. 2014 [36]

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

  29. (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)

  30. (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).

  31. (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.

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

  33. (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)

  34. (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:

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

  36. 2013 [6]

  37. (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).

  38. (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.

  39. (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.

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

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

  42. (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.

  43. 2012 [25]

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

  45. (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:

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

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

  48. (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).

  49. (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:

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

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

  52. (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

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

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

  55. 2011 [7]

  56. ((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.

  57. (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:

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

  59. (August 25) “Foreword.” Lugosi’s Children, Curated by Bronwyn Lloyd (27 August – 1 October 2011). Auckland: Objectspace, 2011: 2-3. [PDF available at:].

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

  61. (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.

  62. (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

  63. 2010 [6]

  64. (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:

  65. (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).

  66. (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.

  67. (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.

  68. (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.

  69. 2009 [14]

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

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

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

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

  74. (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.

  75. (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)].

  76. (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)

  77. 2008 [5]

  78. (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.

  79. (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.

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

  81. (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.

  82. (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:

  83. 2007 [7]

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

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

  86. (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:

  87. (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.

  88. 2006 [9]

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

  90. (December 6) “for Leicester Hugo Kyle (b. 1937).” brief #34 (2006) – war: 6-11. [Available at:].

  91. (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)].

  92. (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:

  93. (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:

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

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

  96. 2005 [12]

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

  98. (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:

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

  100. (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

  101. (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.

  102. 2004 [27]

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

  104. (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

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

  106. (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:

  107. (September 28) “Going West Five Years On.” Pander Online. [Available at: (28/9/04)].

  108. (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:

  109. (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.

  110. (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.

  111. (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

  112. 2003 [20]

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

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

  115. (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

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

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

  118. (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

  119. (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:

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

  121. 2002 [16]

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

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

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

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

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

  127. (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

  128. 2001 [20]

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

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

  131. (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:

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

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

  134. (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

  135. 2000 [12]

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

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

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

  139. (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.

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

  141. (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)

  142. (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.

  143. 1999 [23]

  144. (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

  145. (October 13) “A Conversation with Mike Minehan.” Monthly Profile Series 1. Zoetropes: New Zealand Literature / Nga Pukapuka o Aotearoa online. [Available at: (13/10/99)].

  146. (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

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

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

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

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

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

  152. 1998 [14]

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

  154. (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

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

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

  157. (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

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

  159. 1997 [3]

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

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

  162. (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:

  163. 1993 [1]

  164. (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.

  165. 1992 [2]

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

  167. (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.

  168. 1989 [1]

  169. (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.

  170. 1988 [2]

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

  172. 1987 [1]

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


LIke a Japanese Christmas Card (2018)

Axon: Creative Explorations

‘Like a Japanese Christmas Card’
Line in Poetry and Art

Louise Bourgeois: The Arch of Hysteria (1993)

Breaks and Harmonies

Strictly speaking
there’s no such
thing as

in nature
or a word
or silence

of overlapping

slide effects

This is the opening section of a poem – ‘Like a Japanese Christmas Card’ – which I wrote in 1998. The idea was to juxtapose the undoubted truth that what we call ‘lines’ in nature are simply optical illusions caused by the overlap of different fields of colour and shade, with the notion that what we refer to as a ‘word’ might be similarly defined in terms of the silences that bookend it, rather than by any presumed essence that might lie within.

I suspect that I must also have been thinking of Jacques Derrida’s definition – in his essay ‘Ulysses Gramophone: Hear Say Yes in Joyce’ – of a ringing telephone as only succeeding in conveying information when it stops ringing: ‘In the beginning, there must indeed have been some phone call’ (1992, p.270). An everlasting ring-tone, in other words, would be as meaningless as eternal silence.

But do these analogies between sight and sound enable us to think more clearly about the significance of the poetic, as well as the artistic line? In both cases, I would argue, a line can be seen in two ways: as a break, a violent disjunction between contradictory points of view; or as a harmony, a tapestry-like interweaving of intricate colours and shapes which combine to give the appearance of depth as well as extent.

The first (like a heroic couplet: two pentameters closed off by a rhyme) definitely constitutes a stop, a boundary to be crossed before one can go on to further thinking. The second (like a passage of blank verse full of enjambments), compels us to continue, even – in some cases – against our will: to trip or topple forward. This idea that the alternate cessation and breathless continuance of an activity may bring us as close as we’re ever going to get to its true meaning came up interestingly in an interview I conducted – also in 1998 – with New Zealand poet Graham Lindsay:

The effort towards lineation is to sing the song

I asked Graham what were the principles that determined the lineation and line-breaks in his own work. I should, however, stress that the question was made in response to a comment of his about the desirability of ‘putting behind you your habitual ways of thinking’ in order ‘for new combinations to arise that may be more interesting because there has been a cessation [my emphasis] of your habitual ways of thinking and of brain-chatter’:
[JR]: Is what you were saying earlier about having got tired of worrying about line divisions and precise arrangements on the page related to that? They are a way of gesturing towards silence, aren’t they? – stopping and breaking line-noise.

[GL]: The effort towards lineation primarily is to sing the song, or have the tune sound the way you want it to, given all the things you have to think about at the same time: the semantics of the words, the logical patterning of the groups of words, that whole sort of juggling act. But silence I think of as being something quite other.

I think of silence in a very literal way, where you get this utter cessation of thinking, of thoughts, and – harping back to what we were talking about earlier – where you may get moments of presence. There is this utter cessation that enables this new thing to arise, and it’s the shedding of anxieties, of worries, of thoughts, of the whole sort of cacophony of thinking. And it’s this refreshment (that wellspring notion), in those very minor, very small moments of not thinking where you are perhaps able to achieve this kind of relationship with things, you are able perhaps more clearly to get that insight. So, having allowed that moment of silence to occur, inevitably of course you’ll have a thought come along, but in all likelihood that thought may be a good deal more interesting than it would otherwise have been had you not had that silence, that non-thinking. (Ross, 2001, 51-52)

‘The effort towards lineation primarily is to sing the song, or have the tune sound the way you want it to.’ The choice of places to break, then – for Lindsay, at any rate – is based more on aural than visual considerations. Perhaps that’s another way to think about the line or (for that matter) the page-layout as a whole: as a musical score, designed to pause and speed you at a carefully calculated rate. Of course, as he stressed at the time, there are many other things you have to think about at the same time: ‘the semantics of the words, the logical patterning of the groups of words, that whole sort of juggling act.’

The musical score analogy seems a good way of understanding this patterning of silences and sounds, breaks and harmonies, mentioned above. Lindsay’s further comments about the nature of silence – which he said he thought of ‘in a very literal way, where you get this utter cessation of thinking, of thoughts, and … where you may get moments of presence’ – certainly seem to be connected to this. Interestingly, there was a literal embodiment of this in the two poems which Lindsay sent to accompany the publication of the interview. In their original form, these were laid out as prose poems. In their printed form, however, they had acquired careful stanza and line-breaks. The change must have been necessary to sing the song correctly.

When she was in art school all her teachers drew that way

In his ‘Not About Julian Schnabel,’ [Rene] Ricard wrote about a kind of line that ‘just gets tuckered out after a while,’ adding ‘The beautiful charcoal smudges and style we can follow from Matisse through de Kooning to Rivers, Serra, and, in its ultimate decadence, to Susan Rothenberg are perfect illustrations.’ He went on, ‘Judy Rifka told me that when she was in art school all her teachers drew that way. That was the way you were taught, and no matter how lousy the drawing was it always looked pretty good, like “art.”’ (Malcolm, 1996, 292-93)

The traditional appearance of a page of verse in most – though by no means all – languages and cultures is a straight left margin of line openings flanked by a ragged right margin of irregular line endings. Of course, the lines can be painstakingly justified to make each margin equally straight (as in some of the concrete poems in George Herbert’s The Temple – echoing the form of Ancient Greek tomb epitaphs). Such occasional tours-de-force do not materially alter the fact that – like the left brain – the left margin is straight and justified, and – like the right brain – the right margin is jagged and curved in a more ‘natural’ manner.

Of course, the modern word-processor has altered this. As an editor, I’m sorry to say that spotting the first-time poet has become much easier since it became so simple to centre your work. What once – on the typewriter or the printing press – required careful and painstaking measurement, can now be accomplished at the stroke of a key. Nor is it very much harder to concoct a perfect straight-sided rectangle of words if you so desire. It’s not that the facile is always meretricious: centred poems certainly have their place. But when a poet chooses to continue capitalising the first letter of each line (or allows Microsoft Word to make the decision for them), it’s hard to see that any real advantage is being taken of these new technical conveniences.

A line of poetry should, presumably, aim to be both aesthetically pleasing and ideologically cogent. The flight from the left margin should be conducted whole-heartedly or not at all. And here the word-processor can be more of an enemy than a friend: the exact placing of a word or line in a concrete poem requires software more sensitive than the average word-processing programme. With their pre-programmed instincts for rounding off and enforcing the linear logic of conventional text, they are the enemy of imaginative page-works and text-designs.

Take, for instance, this ‘Verso’ (illustrated) page from my novel-in-eccentric-typography Nights with Giordano Bruno (2000) [p. 198], reprinted above.

What may seem, at first sight, a mere scattering of random letters in arbitrary spacings across the page resolves itself – to the attentive reader, at any rate – to a series of repetitions of the English word ‘phoenix’ and the Italian word ‘fenice’ – though with only one letter ‘x’ in the very centre of the page. This glimmer of something conceptual here is emphasised a few pages further down [p. 202], where the following table can be found:

Here we can begin to posit a connection between the phoenix – the bird of immortality through continual rebirth – and the title of Giordano Bruno’s esoteric dialogue La Cena de le ceneri [The Ash-Wednesday Supper]: dedicated (as it is) ‘al mal contento’ [to the discontented one].

As far as the form of the scattered letters above goes, however, as a partial clue to its nature I reproduce, on [p. 190], the famous illustration of Orion’s Belt from Galileo Galilei’s Sidereus Nuncius [Starry Messenger] (1610):

And finally, on p.220, the penultimate page of the book, we see the following:

Upon which it should become clear – to the esoterically minded, at any rate – that the precise positioning of each letter in this Phoenix / fenice alternation comes from a careful elimination of excess letters in the original Italian text of Bruno’s Ash-Wednesday Supper dialogue.

Does all this obfuscation and deflection add up to anything more than the clichéd ‘charcoal smudges and style’ that can be manipulated by any halfway competent draughtsman to create a drawing that looks ‘pretty good, like ‘art’’ no matter how ‘lousy’ it is? I hope so. The one or two readers who actually worked out what I had in mind appear to have thought so, at any rate.

I don’t (of course) propose it so much as a model of some imaginary ‘correct’ practice as an example of some of the things one can do with a liberated line: a line which no longer clings to the left margin, or the right, or indeed to any standard layout associated with poetry at all. Mind you, we all know that there’s a statute of limitations on typographical gimmicks: there’s nothing wrong with them per se, nothing wrong with channelling your inspiration into such experiments, but – past a certain point – repetition of such tricks will turn you into a one-trick pony. To quote Rene Rickard yet again, it ‘just gets tuckered out after a while.’ Or, in Freudian terms, it has moved ‘beyond the pleasure principle’ (to quote the title of one of his most famous books) to manifesting the obsessive-compulsive patterns of the death drive: from libido to Thanatos.

I’m sure we’ve all encountered such cases. I had a writer friend who formed a sad addiction for ending his poems with a single word, standing on its own: effective, poignant, but – when used repetitively – increasingly ineffective whenever substantial samplings of his work were collected together. I too have a set of tricks of lineation and spacing I try hard to break myself of the moment I start noticing them. Sometimes one can go back to them again after some time has elapsed. Mostly, though, they must be renounced as soon as they become a ‘feature.’ The trouble with lineation in poetry, as in the visual arts, is that the inevitable familiarity one forms with the tricks of the trade make it increasingly easy to forge something ‘pretty good, like “art’’’ whenever you need to.

On Beginning the Treatment

And what do you then? Well, picking up on that mention of Freud a couple of paragraphs back, I think there is much to be gleaned from his description of the psychoanalytical ‘talking cure’ in his 1913 essay ‘On Beginning the Treatment’:
What you tell me must differ in one respect from an ordinary conversation. Ordinarily, you rightly try to keep a connecting thread running through your remarks, and you exclude any intrusive ideas that may occur to you ... But in this case you must proceed differently. You will notice that as you relate things, various thoughts will occur to you which you would like to put aside, on the ground of certain criticisms and objections ... You must never give into these criticisms, but must say it in spite of them – indeed you must say it precisely because you feel an aversion to doing so … Act as though, for instance, you were a traveller sitting next to the window of a railway carriage and describing to someone inside the carriage the changing view which you see outside. (Malcolm, 1996, pp. 35-36)

First, as he suggests, you must say things ‘precisely because you feel an aversion to doing so.’ Look for the places you are most reluctant to go, and, rather than ‘putting them aside’ for all those excellent reasons which will immediately start to occur to you, try to follow up on those. A line – whether in poetry or art – cannot be allowed simply to shade off, it must, at some point, be broken. There’s a certain amount of pain inseparable from that.

Secondly, ‘Act as though … you were a traveller sitting next to the window of a railway carriage and describing to someone inside the carriage the changing view which you see outside.’ The world outside you must remain your best guide. The more attention you give to that, and the less to your own intentions and techniques (read: tricks), the more likely you are to avoid that mise en abîme of self-repetition and self-plagiarism.

À propos of this idea of the enforced continuance of a line (or a train of thought), I remember that film-maker Gabriel White once told me that when he had a job teaching first-year drawing at the Auckland University Art School, ELAM, he used to take the students out for a ride on an inner-city bus and ask them to draw a continuous line from the beginning to the end of their journey: a literal embodiment of the city-scape, the passengers, and all the other incidents of the wayside.

Another interesting analogy would be with William Hogarth’s famous definition of the serpentine ‘line of beauty’ from his 1753 treatise The Analysis of Beauty. Hogarth quotes the 16th-century Italian painter and art theorist Gian Paolo Lomazzo to the effect that:
the greatest grace and life that a picture can have, is, that it expresse Motion: which the Painters call the Spirite of a picture: Nowe there is no forme so fitte to expresse this motion, as that of the flame of fire … for it hath a Conus or sharpe pointe wherewith with it seemeth to divide the aire ... So that a picture having this forme will bee most beautifull. (Hogarth, 1772, p. vi)

Hogarth goes on to acknowledge that: ‘There are also strong prejudices in favour of straight lines, as constituting true beauty in the human form, where they never should appear’:
A middling connoisseur thinks no profile has beauty without a very straight nose, and if the forehead be continued straight with it, he thinks it is still more sublime … The common notion that a person should be straight as an arrow, and perfectly erect, is of this kind. (p. viii)

For Hogarth, then, while his curved lines represent motion, life and beauty, straight lines, which ‘any one might do … with the eyes shut’, are mere ‘miserable scratches’ denoting stiffness, stasis and (in the final analysis) death:
If a dancing-master were to see his scholar in the easy and gracefully-tuned attitude of the Antinous … he would cry shame on him, and tell him he looked as crooked as a ram’s horn (p. viii).

Serpentine Lines (Hogarth, 1772, p. 157)

The Arch of Hysteria

Thinking further about the contrast Hogarth draws between the artificial, lifeless stasis of straight lines and the fiery, dangerous coiling of his serpentine lines of beauty, it might be interesting here to mention French sculptor and textile artist Louise Bourgeois’ fascinating work ‘The Arch of Hysteria’ (1993), accessible online here.

For now, however, I’d prefer to consider its major source of inspiration, the various illustrations of the contortions of female ‘hysterical’ patients from the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, overseen by nineteenth-century neurologist Jean Martin Charcot.

Engraving from Paul Regnard, Les Maladies Épidemiques de l'Esprit (1887)

The most fascinating thing about the picture above is, I think, the fact that it is the patient’s approximation to an arch (Romanesque rather than Gothic), rather than the painful rictus itself, which appears to fascinate the illustrator most. The act of hiding her face with a pillow might, of course, be attributed to delicacy on his part, but it does have the effect of dehumanising or – if you prefer – architecturalising her.

The extreme state of psychological distress manifested by so many of Charcot’s patients was certainly seen at the time to be at least partially redeemed by its entertainment value: hence the large number of visitors, some merely curious, others more professional (like the young Sigmund Freud) who flocked to attend his demonstrations.

All of this Louise Bourgeois has echoed, in this, her umpteenth attempt to exorcise the trauma caused by her father’s decision to employ his mistress as his children’s governess, under the eyes – and in the full knowledge – of their own mother. Interestingly, the arch depicted in her sculpture seems to be on the verge of closing into a complete rectangle, the hands about to link up with the feet (naturally, there is no head). Bourgeois’s particular ‘family drama’ may not sound like a lot to inspire a life’s work, but of course Freud would tell us that the apparent triviality of a cause of trauma is no real clue to its actual nature. Rather than the talking cure, Bourgeois has chosen a visual cure: an ever-expanding body of works which grew in size as she grew more confident in expressing the sheer dimensions of her distress.

Bourgeois’ pain – or rather, her art, if they can be separated – manifests in two ways: in the compulsive repetition of essentially the same forms over and over again, in different media and on different scales (from the tiny to the gigantesque); but also in the static, end-stopped nature of each of these works taken individually. The intensity of distress caused by such extreme mental state, manifesting in literally ‘over-the-top’ reactions like the fixed arch of hysteria, might remind us, also, of Lomazzo’s choice of the tip of a flame as his central metaphor for life and motion in painting. Fire is, by definition, unpredictable and uncontrollable. It is also destructive and devouring: not an element which can ever be commanded at will or without risk.

Du beau Phénix

mon amour à la semblance
Du beau Phénix s'il meurt un soir
Le matin voit sa renaissance

(Apollinaire, 1966, p. 46)

These opening lines from Apollinaire’s “‘Chanson du Mal-aimé’ [Song of the Ill-loved] translate roughly as “my love, after the semblance of the beautiful phoenix, if it dies one day, is reborn the next.” What, after all, is the end each of us hopes to attain with our writing? Surely, to glorify and extend the possibilities of life, movement, hope – and (while acknowledging its omnipresence and inevitable triumph) accepting the full stop: stasis, death.

The straight lines so beloved of the ‘middling connoisseurs’ and ‘dancing-masters’ of the French school, as opposed to the ‘flame of fire’ lines characteristic of Rubens, Raphael and Michelangelo (according to Hogarth, at any rate), can be assimilated easily enough to the traditional restrictions around a poetic line: the laws of metre and prosody which dictate that it should be of a certain length, and that length only.

While a line, like the allotted life-cycle of a Phoenix – 500 years, if we are to believe Herodotus – must always be an arbitrary division, without this agreed-upon convention we can have no pause to reflect – no silence to admit (in Graham Lindsay’s words) moments of ‘presence.’ By the same token, though, if we start to think of it as a thing in itself, allow it to dictate our practice and the boundaries of what we have to say, then it has lost its essential function.

We need them, yet we mustn’t valorise them. We must remember, always, their role as dividers-up of what cannot, in the end, be divided: the cosmos, life. Apollinaire, Louise Bourgeois, Hogarth, are all (regrettably) dead. But their works and ideas are not. In a final sense, then, a break is always part of the harmony – never the other way around. Fire, the self-immolating flames of the phoenix, remains our best analogy: while it can be hedged in, it can never be definitively contained. To be sure, it leaves ashes behind, but it contributes in its progress both light and warmth.

Works cited:

Apollinaire G 1966 Oeuvres poétiques, ed. Marcel Adéma & Michel Décaudin. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 121. Paris: Gallimard

Bell, V 2008 ‘Arch of Hysteria’, Mindhacks: Neuroscience and psychology news and views, at:, 30 June (accessed 12 December 2016)

Bourgeois, L 1993 Arch of Hysteria, at: Katrina Bautista, "Aeon Flux and the Arch of Hysteria" (accessed 29 May 2018)

Derrida, J 1992 Acts of literature, ed. Derek Attridge. London: Routledge

Freud, S 1984 On metapsychology: The theory of psychoanalysis. Beyond the pleasure principle, The ego and the id and other works (1911-40), trans. James Strachey, The Pelican Freud library, 11. Harmondsworth: Penguin

Hogarth, W 1772 The analysis of beauty: Written with a view of fixing the fluctuating views of taste, at: (accessed 5 November 2016)

Malcolm, J 1996 The purloined clinic: Selected writings, London: Papermac

Ross, J 1999 ‘Like a Japanese Christmas card’, Flint 1, n.p.

Ross, J 2000 Nights with Giordano Bruno, Wellington: Bumper Books

Ross, J 2001 ‘A conversation with Graham Lindsay’, In D Howard (ed) Complete with instructions, Christchurch: Firebrand, 49-52, at: (accessed 5 November 2016)


Cajori, M & Wallach A 2008 Louise Bourgeois: The spider, the mistress and the tangerine Documentary film

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Axon: Creative Explorations

(11/12/16-4/1/17; 9-12/6/17)

Axon: Creative Explorations, Vol. 8, No. 1: "Materiality, creativity, material poetics" (May 2018). Special Section: "The Poetic Line", ed. Owen Bullock. (University of Canberra: The Centre for Creative & Cultural Research, 2018). [available at:]

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