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In the Spirit of Rumi (2011)

Jack Ross:
Published Essays, Interviews,
Introductions & Reviews


(1987-2018)



Contents:






Date of Publication - Title - Publication Details


    2018 [15]

  1. (August 24) “Divine Muses XV.” Contribution to Jane Sanders, ed. Divine Muses XV: To Siobhan Harvey with thanks from your fellow poets. Auckland: Jane Sanders Art Agent, 2018. VII.

  2. (August 24) “42 poets celebrate National Poetry Day: A memory suite.” Contribution to Paula Green. NZ Poetry Shelf: a poetry page with reviews, interviews, and other things (24/8/18).

  3. (August 7) “The Shadow-Line, or: What’s the difference between micro-fiction & prose poetry?” Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand. Ed. Michelle Elvy, Frankie McMillan & James Norcliffe. ISBN 978-1-927145-98-2. Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2018. 268-72.

  4. (June 12) “‘Like a Japanese Christmas Card’: Line in Poetry and Art.” Axon: Creative Explorations, Vol. 8, No. 1: "Materiality, creativity, material poetics" (May 2018). Special Section: "The Poetic Line", ed. Owen Bullock. (University of Canberra: Centre for Creative & Cultural Research, 2018). [available at: http://axonjournal.com.au/issue-14/%E2%80%98-japanese-christmas-card%E2%80%99]

  5. (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)

  6. (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).

  7. 2017 [21]

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

  9. (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.

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

  11. (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).

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

  13. (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.

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

  15. (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.

  16. (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)

  17. 2016 [6]

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

  19. (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).

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

  21. (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.

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

  23. (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).

  24. 2015 [19]

  25. (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).

  26. (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)

  27. (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.

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

  29. (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.

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

  31. 2014 [36]

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

  33. (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)

  34. (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).

  35. (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.

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

  37. (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)

  38. (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:

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

  40. 2013 [6]

  41. (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).

  42. (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.

  43. (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.

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

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

  46. (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.

  47. 2012 [25]

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

  49. (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:

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

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

  52. (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).

  53. (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:

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

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

  56. (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

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

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

  59. 2011 [7]

  60. ((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.

  61. (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:

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

  63. (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].

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

  65. (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.

  66. (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

  67. 2010 [6]

  68. (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:

  69. (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).

  70. (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.

  71. (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.

  72. (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.

  73. 2009 [14]

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

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

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

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

  78. (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.

  79. (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)].

  80. (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)

  81. 2008 [5]

  82. (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.

  83. (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.

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

  85. (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.

  86. (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:

  87. 2007 [7]

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

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

  90. (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:

  91. (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.

  92. 2006 [9]

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

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

  95. (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)].

  96. (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:

  97. (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:

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

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

  100. 2005 [12]

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

  102. (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:

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

  104. (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

  105. (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.

  106. 2004 [27]

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

  108. (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

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

  110. (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:

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

  112. (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:

  113. (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.

  114. (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.

  115. (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

  116. 2003 [20]

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

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

  119. (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

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

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

  122. (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

  123. (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:

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

  125. 2002 [16]

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

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

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

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

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

  131. (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

  132. 2001 [20]

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

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

  135. (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:

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

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

  138. (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

  139. 2000 [12]

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

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

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

  143. (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.

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

  145. (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)

  146. (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.

  147. 1999 [23]

  148. (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

  149. (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)].

  150. (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

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

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

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

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

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

  156. 1998 [14]

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

  158. (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

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

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

  161. (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

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

  163. 1997 [3]

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

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

  166. (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:

  167. 1993 [1]

  168. (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.

  169. 1992 [2]

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

  171. (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.

  172. 1989 [1]

  173. (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.

  174. 1988 [2]

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

  176. 1987 [1]

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




Divine Muses XV (2018)



Divine Muses XV (2018)

Divine Muses XV




I know more than most just how much sheer work is involved in putting together a poetry reading -- and to keep it up year after year takes a special type of commitment to the art of spoken poetry.

Hats off to Siobhan Harvey, then, as her "Divine Muses" poetry day event reaches its fifteenth year. I've hugely enjoyed reading there myself -- and the addition to the mix in recent years of the letterpress poetry broadsheets organised annually by Siobhan and her wonderful colleague Jane Sanders have added a touch of permanence to performances which would otherwise simply have to remain in memory.

The other great feature of a Divine Muses evening is the award of prizes to emerging poets. Since I teach at one of the institutions whose students are eligible for these awards, I know the importance of such incentives to young writers and the huge encouragement they can be to them.

Congratulations on this milestone, Siobhan (and Jane): and here's to many more years of the Muses to come!

- Dr Jack Ross


(26/7/18)

Divine Muses XV: To Siobhan Harvey with thanks from your fellow poets. Ed. Jane Sanders. Limited edition pamphlet. Auckland: Jane Sanders Art Agent, 2018. VII.

[173 wds]








Friday

42 poets celebrate National Poetry Day (2018)



[NZ Poetry Shelf]

Paula Green:
42 poets celebrate National Poetry Day: A memory suite



A. E. Housman: Collected Poems (1956)


Being the youngest in a family of four tends to make you extra sensitive to snubs. My eldest brother was the brainy one, the next brother was the writer, and my sister was the arty one. So what was I?

One day my father came home with a little book of poems he’d picked up for my number-two brother (not present) in a second-hand bookshop.

“Why is everything always for him!” I screamed (was I ten, twelve at the time?). Off I ran to my room.

Later my father knocked on the door and, silently, put down the book beside my bed. It was the collected poems of A. E. Housman.

Its cover eventually came off from over-use. Housman’s poetry still moves me. It’s so simple, so right. It reminds me of my Dad.


(18/8/18)

'42 poets celebrate National Poetry Day: A memory suite.' Ed. Paula Green.
NZ Poetry Shelf: a poetry page with reviews, interviews, and other things.
[Available at: https://nzpoetryshelf.com/2018/08/24/41-poets-celebrate-national-poetry-day-a-memory-suite/ (24/8/18)]

[134 wds]


Poetry Box: Paula Green






Thursday

The Shadow-Line (2018)



Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand (2018)

The Shadow-Line
or, What’s the difference between micro-fiction & prose poetry?


Recently I attended a short story conference in Shanghai with a group of other New Zealand writers. Each of us was asked to give a reading. My wife Bronwyn Lloyd chose some short prose pieces from her forthcoming collection A Slow Alphabet, one of which used the recurring phrase “the house didn’t care” as a structural motif.

Afterwards, a young Chinese student questioned whether such a piece could actually be called a short story. In Chinese literature, she explained, there was a form called prose poetry, and she felt it might more properly fall under that heading. Bronwyn explained that we had the same genre distinction in English. I suppose what struck me most about the student’s comment was the fact that she thought of this form as uniquely Chinese.

There’s always been an air of the subversive about prose poetry in English. It’s never been a form that vaunts itself: more like the poor cousin of “true” poetry or “real” prose. But what actually is the difference between a prose poem and a short short story (or micro-fiction, or flash, or any other term you prefer)? No doubt there are as many answers as there are writers, but that doesn’t mean that no further distinctions are possible.

For instance, I tend to see the virtues of fiction of any length as including “plot, characterisation, depth of immersion in ‘Mirror City’ (to borrow Janet Frame’s term for the world of her own writing).” In prose poems, by contrast, I look for

The sudden sparky connections, the topsy-turvy thinking: the need to read between the lines to be understood, which most of us would agree to be poetic virtues.[1]


I remember clearly the strange and vertiginous effect some of Kafka’s short parables had on me when I first read them as a teenager. One that particularly sticks in my mind is “The Knock at the Manor Gate”:[2]

It was a hot summer’s day. I was coming along the homeward road with my sister and passed the gate of a manor. I do not know if she knocked at it out of sheer mischief or merely threatened to do so with her fist and did not. A hundred yards farther up where the road turns left began a village. We were not acquainted with this village, but just after the first house people came out and waved at us. Whether out of friendliness or warning, they were apparently frightened and stooping in dismay. They pointed in the direction of the manor we had passed and reminded us of the knock at the gate. The landlord had brought an action against us and an investigation was to begin at once. I was very calm and calmed my sister also. She probably hadn’t even made any knock – and even had she done so, nowhere in the world was there proof of it. I tried to make the people around us understand. They listened, but withheld judgment. Later they said, not only my sister, but I too was to be charged. I nodded, smiling. We looked back at the manor, as when one observes a distant plume of smoke and waits for the flame. Dust rose, covering everyone. Only the points of the tall lances were visible. And scarcely had the troop vanished into the manor grounds when presently their horses appeared to have turned round, and were headed towards us. I pushed my sister aside – I would sort things out on my own. She refused to let me go by myself. I said she should at least change her clothes, so that she might come better-dressed before the gentlemen. In the end she followed and took the long way to the house. Soon the riders were upon us, nor had they alighted from their horses before they had asked for my sister. “She’s not here at the moment,” I answered anxiously, “but she'll come later.” The answer was received quite indifferently; it seemed significant above all that they had found me. There were two main gentlemen: the judge, a young, lively man; and his quiet assistant who was named Assmann. I was asked to enter a peasants’ cottage. Slowly, shaking my head and adjusting my braces, I sat down under the sharp gaze of the gentlemen at work. I still believed the word of honour, given by any of these peasants, would be enough for the townsfolk to set me free. But when I had crossed the threshold of the cottage, the judge, who sprang forward already expecting me, said: “I feel sorry for this man.” However, it was beyond all doubt that by this he did not mean my present state of affairs, but rather what would happen to me. The room looked more like a prison-cell than a cottage: large flagstones, utterly bare walls, immured by an iron ring; something was in the middle – half platform, half operating table.
Could I still taste other air than the prison’s? That is the great question; or on the contrary – it would be, if I still had some prospect of release.


It seems to me beyond question that this work of Kafka’s constitutes a short short story, rather than a prose poem. But why is that? What is there about it that makes it seem like fiction rather than poetry?

For a start, there’s its length. It’s 530 words long (in translation: 499 in the original German). There’s also a fair amount of characterisation: the brusque, rather pushy brother, who is determined to save his errant sister at all costs from the avenging “gentlemen.” Then there’s the sister herself, impulsive and volatile enough to knock (or gesture towards knocking) in the first place, but loyal enough to resist her brother’s desire to take the whole blame on himself.

The “young, lively” judge says only: “I feel sorry for this man.” Then there’s the chorus of avengers, “the riders,” as well as a chorus of villagers prophesying woe. The only person who isn’t characterised clearly is the Judge’s “quiet assistant,” Assmann.

He is, nevertheless, the only named personage in the story. What’s more, the fact that the judge is profoundly sorry for what is about to occur, and that the mention of that “something” in the middle of the floor: “half platform, half operating table,” makes us fear the worst. Is Assmann a torturer? He’s described simply as a “quiet assistant” to the young judge, but there’s a sinister implication behind that silence.

Kafka is at his best in short pieces such as this. The weight of implication in the two siblings’ simple, almost non-existent act of transgression and the immense weight of authority expended on repressing it could hardly be more economically suggested. Far from an abandoned scrap, this short piece is in its own way as complete as any of his more famous stories: “Metamorphosis,” for instance, or even The Trial itself.



The other night I was lying on a sofa … moaning and groaning and ingesting copious amounts of painkillers. A 'friend' decided to divert me by reading long passages from a book … called Black November: the 1918 Influenza Epidemic in New Zealand by Geoffrey W Rice. A nightmare and this prose poem were the inevitable results.[3]


For years I’ve been teaching the poem “1918” by poet and historian Scott Hamilton in my first year Creative Writing class:

At the edge of Temuka the road is blocked by three bales of hay, a black flag, and the last two O'Shanessey kids, who take turns holding the rifle their cousin brought back from the Somme. Outsiders get sent back to the city; Maoris have to keep to Arowhenua, on the far side of the creek we dive in to wash the sickness away.

When Queenie got the cramps we took her to the small house behind the marae, and laid her out on clean sheets, and fetched a bucket of creekwater, and cooled her stomach and hips, and washed the mushrooms under her arms. The younger kids giggled beside the bed, expecting another baby cousin. First her fingernails then her hands turned black; her breasts swelled, popped their nipples, and dribbled blue-black milk. We couldn't straighten her arms in the coffin, so we folded them across her chest. She looked like she was diving into herself.[4]


Why does Scott describe this as a prose poem rather than a short short story? Was it simply that, as a poet, he thought he should be writing poems? It was, after all, included in his first collection To the Moon, in Seven Easy Steps (2007)? That book contains work in so great a variety of forms – essays, diary entries, left-margin justified “poems” – that it’s hard to believe that Scott would feel constrained by any such conventions of nomenclature, however. I would prefer to argue, then, that this is intrinsically a prose poem – and not a mislabelled piece of micro-fiction. Why?

Certainly it lacks any of the play of character so obvious in the Kafka story. Its details are, if anything, even more horrific and disturbing, but Scott’s piece makes much greater use of imagery and word-play.

She looked like she was diving into herself.


This last sentence in Scott’s evocation of the 1918 ’flu epidemic sounds more like an observation than a thought. What does it mean to “dive into yourself?” It is, I would suggest, a conflation of an attitude we associate with intense introspection with the finality of death.

The racist attitudes so apparent in the first paragraph of the piece – Maoris this side of the stream, rifle-toting Europeans the other – are largely submerged by the brutal levelling effects of the disease itself, with its strange aping of childbirth and generation in its later stages.

But there’s no real story here – in the sense of a forward-moving narrative. It would perhaps be possible to project one from the interaction of the “last two O'Shanessey kids” – whether their siblings were killed in the war, or by the disease itself – and “Queenie” down at the marae. But that would be our construction, not his.

His piece is universal in the sense that he means it to be extrapolated: the simple tragedy of death and fear it describes could be multiplied easily to cover the whole of New Zealand – and thence onto the rest of the world affected by the Spanish ’flu pandemic.

Kafka’s piece, too, has its universal aspect: but in that case it’s the incidents of the story he wants us to take note of: the initial act of disobedience, the terrifyingly disproportionate reaction to it. The manor, the village, the riders are all generic props by means of which he is able to impose this stark pattern on us. If they were more clearly delineated, it would detract from rather than enhance this intention.

Precisely the opposite is true of Scott’s piece: specificity of place is necessary to give us the sense of multiple repetition he wishes to convey. The words “many people died during the great pandemic” have little emotional resonance for us – and yet the fate of poor Queenie is hard to read, hard to endure, even through the medium of print. My students find it revolting – want to turn the page, even scribble over it – but once read, it’s in their memories, and they can’t escape it any more.

Mind you, it’s true that Kafka’s piece is more than three times as long as Hamilton’s. Is this a more plausible explanation for the differences between them? Did the latter simply lack the space to sketch in more characters and flex his narrative muscles?

It’s true that more space is generally required to animate a short short story than a poem. But I still feel that it’s the differences in emphasis, the genre differences, between Kafka’s and Hamilton’s pieces, which are most significant: a poem is not simply a more condensed version of a short story, and neither is the most poetic piece of fiction a poem, exactly.

Perhaps, though, the virtue of all such works lies in their element of surprise – their ability to undermine our perception of an apparently static and ordered cosmos. The paradox inherent in their close resemblance to each other is simply another way of achieving this. It raises questions which might otherwise pass by unnoticed.






Notes:

1. Jack Ross, ‘Review of Frankie McMillan, My Mother and the Hungarians and Other Small Fictions’, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017, Massey University Press, Auckland, 2017: 322-23.

2. Franz Kafka, ‘The Knock at the Manor Gate’, Wikisource, accessed 19 November 2016 from https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:The_Knock_at_the_Manor_Gate.

3. Scott Hamilton, ‘1918’, Reading the Maps, accessed 19 November 2016 from http://readingthemaps.blogspot.co.nz/2006/03/1918.html. It should be noted that while the original title of the first edition of Geoffrey Rice’s book was indeed Black November: The 1918 Influenza Epidemic in New Zealand (Allen & Unwin, Wellington, 1988), the second, revised edition, to which Scott is more probably referring here, was entitled Black November: The 1918 Influenza Pandemic in New Zealand (CUP, Christchurch, 2005).

4. Scott Hamilton, ‘1918’, To the Moon, In Seven Easy Steps, Titus Books, Auckland, 2007, p. 99. This is the author’s preferred text of the poem. It diverges slightly from the one recorded in his blogpost at http://readingthemaps.blogspot.co.nz/2006/03/1918.html.





(19/11-11/12/16; 25/8-1/9/17)

Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand. Ed. Michelle Elvy, Frankie McMillan & James Norcliffe. ISBN 978-1-927145-98-2. Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2018. pp 268-72.

[2061 wds]




The Shadow-Line
or, Is there really a difference between micro-fiction & prose poetry?
[complete version]


I was at a short story conference in Shanghai recently where the mere fact of having visiting delegates from a country as mythically distant as New Zealand seemed to cause intense excitement. As a result, our little posse of writers was invited to go on plenaries, deliver papers and panels, and – most importantly – give readings from our own work.

My wife Bronwyn Lloyd chose to read a group of short pieces from her forthcoming collection A Slow Alphabet. One of them used a recurring phrase as a structuring motif: “The house didn’t care … The house didn’t care …” and so on through a long list of things the house didn’t care about.

At the end of the reading, a young Chinese student questioned whether such a piece could actually be called a short story. In Chinese literature, she explained, there was a form called prose poetry, and she felt that it might more properly fall under that heading.

Bronwyn replied that we had a form called prose poetry in English, too (I should mention that, although held in China, the whole conference was conducted in English, with simultaneous translation for the plenary sessions and some of the readings). I suppose what struck me most about the student’s comment, though, was the fact that she thought of this form as something uniquely Chinese.

There’s always been an air of the secret and subversive about prose poetry in English. It’s never been a form to skite about: more like the poor cousin of “true” poetry or “real” prose.

When Richard Burton, back in the 1880s, tried to echo Arabic saj‘ (or “rhyming prose”) in his fantastical translation of the Arabian Nights, the result was greeted with sneers by reviewers and readers alike. Most subsequent versions of the collection have plumed themselves on not following his bad example. True, rhymed prose does seem a little alien to the spirit of English, but Burton held that the true function of translators was to enlarge the possibilities of their own language by grafting on certain features of other tongues.

Dickens, too, has been criticised for his tendency to break into blank verse at moments of high emotion: as if there were some primal sin in mixing the tropes of poetry and prose – some threat of cultural miscegenation which might undermine both.

Other literatures see these things somewhat differently. In German, for instance, Kunstprosa (heightened or “art” prose) is accepted as a perfectly legitimate form. Rimbaud’s prose poetical works Une saison en enfer and the Illuminations have influenced French poets even more than such conventionally rhymed and structured poems as the “Bateau ivre.”

But what’s the difference between a prose poem and a short short story (or micro-fiction, or flash, or any other term you prefer)? No doubt there are as many answers as there are pieces of writing, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t venture on a few attempts at further classification.

For instance (as I commented in a recent review), I tend to see the virtues of fiction of any length as including “plot, characterisation, depth of immersion in ‘Mirror City’ (to borrow Janet Frame’s term for the world of her own writing).” In prose poems, by contrast, I look for
The sudden sparky connections, the topsy-turvy thinking: the need to read between the lines to be understood, which most of us would agree to be poetic virtues. (Ross, 2017, p. 323)

Perhaps, though, it would be better at this point to descend to cases. I remember clearly the strange and vertiginous effect some of Kafka’s short parables had on me when I first read them as a teenager. One that particularly sticks in my mind is “The Knock at the Manor Gate.”



We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief.
– Franz Kafka, “Letter to Oskar Pollak” (2014, p. 16)

Here is a (conveniently non-copyright) Wikisource translation of Kafka’s story:
It was a hot summer’s day. I was coming along the homeward road with my sister and passed the gate of a manor. I do not know if she knocked at it out of sheer mischief or merely threatened to do so with her fist and did not. A hundred yards farther up where the road turns left began a village. We were not acquainted with this village, but just after the first house people came out and waved at us. Whether out of friendliness or warning, they were apparently frightened and stooping in dismay. They pointed in the direction of the manor we had passed and reminded us of the knock at the gate. The landlord had brought an action against us and an investigation was to begin at once. I was very calm and calmed my sister also. She probably hadn’t even made any knock – and even had she done so, nowhere in the world was there proof of it. I tried to make the people around us understand. They listened, but withheld judgment. Later they said, not only my sister, but I too was to be charged. I nodded, smiling. We looked back at the manor, as when one observes a distant plume of smoke and waits for the flame. Dust rose, covering everyone. Only the points of the tall lances were visible. And scarcely had the troop vanished into the manor grounds when presently their horses appeared to have turned round, and were headed towards us. I pushed my sister aside – I would sort things out on my own. She refused to let me go by myself. I said she should at least change her clothes, so that she might come better-dressed before the gentlemen. In the end she followed and took the long way to the house. Soon the riders were upon us, nor had they alighted from their horses before they had asked for my sister. “She’s not here at the moment,” I answered anxiously, “but she'll come later.” The answer was received quite indifferently; it seemed significant above all that they had found me. There were two main gentlemen: the judge, a young, lively man; and his quiet assistant who was named Assmann. I was asked to enter a peasants’ cottage. Slowly, shaking my head and adjusting my braces, I sat down under the sharp gaze of the gentlemen at work. I still believed the word of honour, given by any of these peasants, would be enough for the townsfolk to set me free. But when I had crossed the threshold of the cottage, the judge, who sprang forward already expecting me, said: “I feel sorry for this man.” However, it was beyond all doubt that by this he did not mean my present state of affairs, but rather what would happen to me. The room looked more like a prison-cell than a cottage: large flagstones, utterly bare walls, immured by an iron ring; something was in the middle – half platform, half operating table.
Could I still taste other air than the prison’s? That is the great question; or on the contrary – it would be, if I still had some prospect of release. (1917)

It seems to me beyond question that this work of Kafka’s constitutes a short short story, rather than a prose poem. But why is that? What is there about it that makes me see it as fiction rather than poetry?

Well, for a start there’s its length. It’s 530 words long (in translation, that is; 499 in the original German). There’s also a fair amount of characterisation: the brusque, rather pushy brother, who is determined to save his errant sister at all costs from the avenging “gentlemen.” Then there’s the sister herself, impulsive and volatile enough to knock (or gesture towards knocking) in the first place, but loyal enough to resist her brother’s desire to take the whole blame on himself. Fearful, but still distinctly honourable.

The judge, too, a “young, lively man,” whose only comment about the case is “Dieser Mann tut mir leid” [I feel sorry for this man] (Kafka, 1983, p. 300). Then there’s the chorus of avengers: die Reiter [the riders / knights], as well as a chorus of villagers prophesying woe. The only person who isn’t characterised clearly is the Judge’s “quiet assistant,” Assmann.

The name is interesting. It’s been transliterated precisely from the original: “Aßmann” has become “Assmann.” Needless to say, there are no anatomical implications to be derived from the word “ass” [UK English: “arse” – German: “Arsch”]; nor does it imply an “ass” or donkey [German: “Esel”]. The verb “essen” [to eat] does take the past form “” [he/she/it ate], so possibly one could argue that this Assmann is well fed, but the conjecture is somewhat strained.

What is certain is that he is the only named personage in the story, that the Judge is profoundly sorry for what is about to occur, and that the mention of that “something” in the middle of the floor: “half platform, half operating table,” makes us fear the worst. In short, we may suspect that this short sketch might have been meant as a companion piece to Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony,” composed at much the same time, during the early years of the First World War, with its elaborately described instruments of torture?

Is Assmann a torturer? He’s simply described as a “stiller Gehilfe” [quiet helper] to the young judge, but there’s certainly something sinister about his named – but silent – presence.

One could argue that Kafka is at his best in short pieces such as this. It may lack the cumulative intensity of his (unfinished) novels The Trial or The Castle, but the weight of implication in the two siblings’ simple, almost non-existent act of transgression and the immense weight of authority expended on repressing it could surely not be more economically suggested. Far from an abandoned scrap, this short piece is in its own way as complete a work as any of his other great stories: “Metamorphosis,” for instance, or “The Great Wall of China.”


The other night I was lying on a sofa - it was not a particularly hospitable sofa – moaning and groaning and ingesting copious amounts of painkillers. A 'friend' decided to divert me by reading long passages from a book … called Black November: the 1918 Influenza Epidemic in New Zealand by Geoffrey W Rice. A nightmare and this prose poem were the inevitable results.
– Scott Hamilton, Reading the Maps (10th March 2006)

For years I’ve been teaching a prose poem by poet and historian Scott Hamilton in my first year Creative Writing class. It’s called “1918,” and it runs as follows:
At the edge of Temuka the road is blocked by three bales of hay, a black flag, and the last two O'Shanessey kids, who take turns holding the rifle their cousin brought back from the Somme. Outsiders get sent back to the city; Maoris have to keep to Arowhenua, on the far side of the creek we dive in to wash the sickness away.

When Queenie got the cramps we took her to the small house behind the marae, and laid her out on clean sheets, and fetched a bucket of creekwater, and cooled her stomach and hips, and washed the mushrooms under her arms. The younger kids giggled beside the bed, expecting another baby cousin. First her fingernails then her hands turned black; her breasts swelled, popped their nipples, and dribbled blue-black milk. We couldn't straighten her arms in the coffin, so we folded them across her chest. She looked like she was diving into herself. (Hamilton, 2007, p. 99)

My question is, why does its author describe this as a prose poem rather than as a short short story? Through mere inadvertence? It was, after all, collected in his first book of poems To the Moon, in Seven Easy Steps (2007)? Was it simply that, as a poet, Scott thought he should be seen to be writing poems?

His book contains work in so great a variety of forms – essays, diary entries, left-margin justified “poems” – that it’s hard to believe that Scott would feel constrained by any such conventions of nomenclature. I would prefer to argue, then, that this is intrinsically a prose poem – and not a mislabelled piece of micro-fiction. Why?

Well, for a start, it lacks any of the play of character so obvious in the Kafka story. Its details are, if anything, even more horrific and disturbing, but Scott’s piece makes much greater use of imagery and word-play.
She looked like she was diving into herself.

This last sentence in Scott’s evocation of the 1918 ’flu epidemic sounds more like an observation than a thought. What does it mean to “dive into yourself?” It is, I would suggest, a conflation of an attitude we associate with intense introspection with the finality of death.

The racist attitudes so apparent in the first paragraph of the piece – Maoris this side of the stream, rifle-toting Europeans the other – are largely submerged by the brutal levelling effects of the disease itself, with its strange aping of childbirth and generation in its later stages.

And yet there’s no real story here – in the sense of a forward-moving narrative. One could project such a story from the interaction of the “last two O'Shanessey kids” (whether their siblings were killed in the war or by the disease itself) and “Queenie” down at the marae. But any such additions to what Scott has provided us with would be ours, not his.

His piece is universal in the sense that he means it to be extrapolated: the simple tragedy of death and fear it describes could be multiplied easily to cover the whole of New Zealand – and thence onto the rest of the world affected by the Spanish ’flu pandemic.

Kafka’s piece, too, has its universal aspect: but in that case it’s the incidents of the story he wants us to take note of: the initial act of disobedience, the terrifyingly disproportionate reaction to it. The manor, the village, the riders are all generic props by means of which he is able to impose this stark pattern on us. If they were more clearly delineated, it would detract from rather than enhance this intention.

Precisely the opposite is true of Scott’s piece: specificity of place is necessary to give us the sense of multiple repetition he wishes to convey. The words “many people died during the great pandemic” have little emotional resonance for us – and yet the fate of poor Queenie is hard to read, hard to endure, even through the medium of print. My students find it revolting – want to turn the page, even scribble over it – but once read, it’s in their memories, and they can’t escape it any more.


Dear Sir,
I am writing to you to object to the word
cremains, which was used by your representative when he met with my mother and me two days after my father’s death.
– Lydia Davis, “Letter to a Funeral Parlor” (2010, p. 380)

I chose the two examples above for various reasons: for one thing, because they both describe the same period of time. The young Bohemian Franz Kafka’s story was composed during the First World War, contemporary New Zealander Scott Hamilton’s prose poem concerns the tragic aftermath of that war in a small settlement on the Canterbury Plains, with details derived from Geoffrey Wise’s history of the great pandemic in New Zealand, Black November (2005), mentioned in the blog-entry quoted above.

Accusations of stacking the evidence are always possible in such cases, though. Kafka’s piece is, after all – at 499 words – more than three times as long as Hamilton’s (162 words). Is this, perhaps, a more plausible explanation for the differences between them? Did the latter simply lack the space to sketch in more characters and flex his narrative muscles?

I’d say it was (generally speaking) true that more space is required to animate a short short story than a poem. But I still feel that the differences in emphasis, the genre differences, between Kafka’s and Hamilton’s pieces, are more significant.

To make the point more clearly, I’d like to make another comparison. I can’t (partly for copyright reasons, but also because I don’t want to bore you with too many long quotes) include the full text of the pieces involved. Both are readily available in print and online, however.

On the one hand, we have the 480-word short short story “Letter to a Funeral Parlor” from Lydia Davis’s 2001 collection Samuel Johnson is Indignant – included in The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis (2009). On the other, I’d like to discuss one of the ten prose poems by American poet and translator Eliot Weinberger collected under the title “Renga” in the online journal Jacket (issue 11, 2000).

I’ve used Lydia Davis’s story in my first-year Creative Writing course, too. It fitted very neatly into the prose fiction part of the course, under the heading “characterisation.” And, since we want our students to write stories which get to the point as quickly as possible, the fact that Davis managed to confine the whole thing to less than two pages was a consideration also.

Little could be said to happen in the story proper. A man has died. His widow and daughter have discussed the funeral arrangements with a representative from the local funeral parlor, who is described (by the daughter) as “respectful and friendly.” She gives as an example of his dealing with them “in a sensitive way” the fact that:
He did not try to sell us an expensive urn, for instance.

The element of humour here – the suspicion most readers might form that not trying to sell you an expensive urn is a pretty meagre criterion for being considered “sensitive” – is characteristic of Davis’s work in general. There aren’t many laughs to be found in Kafka, but Lydia Davis – arguably as mordant in her view of the world – seems to find black humour the only way of rendering it bearable.

The whole piece, in fact, hinges on the daughter’s attempts – in her letter of complaint to the funeral parlor – to convey just why they found the term “cremains” so offensive in its flippancy, while acknowledging that they know that it wasn’t chosen with any desire to offend. This is, in context, very funny. The daughter and her mother come into ever sharper relief as the letter proceeds. So, however, does her father:
We noticed that before the death of my father you and your representative used the words loved one to refer to him. That was comfortable for us, even if the ways in which we loved him were complicated.

The complications in the ways in which they loved him are only hinted at, but they probably included the rather tiresome pedantry attributed to this erstwhile professor of English:
my father himself … would have pointed out to you the alliteration in Porta Potti and the rhyme in pooper-scooper. Then he would have told you that cremains falls into the same category as brunch and is known as a portmanteau word.


He sounds like a treat! Beyond that we can’t say whether he drank, or was unfaithful, or a domestic tyrant, or simply a bore – but clearly there was nothing easy in the relationship between them all. These two women certainly cared enough for him to do the right thing by him at his funeral, but whether that actually constitutes “love” is certainly “complicated.”

There’s rich word-play in the daughter’s various attempts to classify the effect of the word “cremains” in her letter:
Cremains sounds like something invented as a milk substitute in coffee, like Cremora, or Coffee-mate. Or it sounds like some kind of a chipped beef dish.

Nevertheless, I would argue that the effect of this passage in context is principally to characterise her as both an imaginative and a clear-thinking person: someone who is accustomed to expressing herself accurately, and who is thus capable of generating exact, apt similes when they’re required (as they certainly are here).

In no sense, then, does Davis’s story resemble what I would call a “prose poem.” Its designs upon the reader are all in the realms of action, implication and character. If there is poetic language there (and there undoubtedly is) it is meant strategically, as a clue to the overall intention, rather than virtuosically: as an example of how prettily this author can write.

Eliot Weinberger, by contrast, in the startlingly diverse pieces – both in length and subject-matter – included among his “Renga,” shows every sign of being a poet (and I don’t mean that term to double for the word “show-off”).

The passage I have in mind is entitled “Blue Eyes.” It’s 408 words long (and is therefore comparable in extent to both Kafka’s and Lydia Davis’s), and concerns an encounter of the narrator’s with an elderly man who wore “clean denim clothes faded to the color of clouds” in a little village on the Amazon. The man spoke to him in German, initially, then went off into a monologue about his own clear blue eyes:
“You probably think I am an Indian, but I am not an Indian. Look at my eyes, they are blue. Indians do not have blue eyes. I am not an Indian. Indians are like animals. In Germany we had the right idea. One little injection and poof! no more. Look at my eyes, they are blue . . .” And on and on into the dark. (Weinberger, 2000)

Weinberger then shifts to an experience years later, “in a car driving across a plain in India, hours from any town.” Slowing down for a herd of cows, he makes momentary eye-contact with a “wandering mendicant”:
his skin was a burnt pink, not brown. As the car slowly rolled past him, he raised his bowl to the window, not speaking, and stared at me for a moment with celestial, incomprehensible, glacial blue eyes.

Two experiences, years and continents apart, are linked by the coincidence of two anomalous figures with blue eyes – or, rather, the tall mendicant is described as having blue eyes, whereas in the case of the German on the Amazon, the narrator neither confirms nor denies the old man’s claim to them.

The significance of this is supplied by the middle paragraph of his piece:
Most Germans believed that Hitler had blue eyes, but they were brown. The official portrait photographs of high Nazi officials were often retouched to give them blue eyes and that particular stare, pure and cold as a mountain lake, as a glacier, as a cloudless sky, as the fruit of an imaginary unmixed blood.

So could either of these men have been Hitler? The idea that the Führer escaped to South American rather than dying in the Bunker is one of the most widespread conspiracy theories on record. And yet (it seems), the man on the Amazon cannot have been he, for the simple reason that he had blue eyes.

Nor, for the same reason, can he have been the wandering mendicant in India, who, in any case, is described as being “far taller than usual.” Hitler was only 1.75 metres tall (5 foot 7 ½ inches, for those of you more familiar with Imperial measures).

Unlike George Steiner’s brilliant short novel The Portage to San Cristóbal of A.H. (or, for that matter, Ira Levin’s thriller The Boys from Brazil), Weinberger has no interest in the narrative possibilities of either man’s actually being Hitler. Rather, I think, he wants to talk about the persistence of ideas such as “imaginary unmixed blood,” and the contradictions between such Platonic notions and the complex intricacies of the world which actually surrounds us.

Weinberger’s piece makes an implicit contrast between his room by the Amazon, with its ceiling “covered with hundreds of transparent salamanders, motionless and upside-down” and the pure cold of the imaginary “mountain lake” evoked by the idea of those “pure” (and equally imaginary) blue eyes.

The same is true of the sheer detail contained in his evocation of a journey across the plains of India, its:
monotony of mud-baked villages with a single tree, two men squatting in the shade of a wall smoking, three children scratching lines in the dirt, four vultures bickering over the carcass of a dog, a woman leading a single goat, two men on an ox cart, three crows pecking aimlessly, four flies resting on my leg.

If I read his prose poem correctly, its message lies in the contrast between all such “dappled things” (in G. M. Hopkins’ phrase (1918)), and the actual monotony of an idée fixe: the angry superiority complex of the old man in the South American village, the fanatic glare of the wandering mendicant.

The implications of certain images and pieces of word-play must, in other words, be explored in depth before we can even begin to interpret Weinberger’s piece. It is (for him) unusually narrative in its structure – but that still doesn’t make it a short short story.


Encased in talent like a uniform,
The rank of every poet is well known

– W. H. Auden, “The Novelist” (1991, p. 180)

I’ve always liked the distinction Auden makes between the poet and the fiction-writer in the sonnet quoted above. As a poet himself, he can afford to be critical of their propensity to “amaze us like a thunderstorm” – to create something deeply impressive but, at the same time, sudden and transitory.

The novelist, by contrast (it’s assumed – probably correctly – that he had his friend Christopher Isherwood in mind), must learn:
How to be plain and awkward, how to be
One after whom none think it worth to turn.

In other words, the writer of fiction must become what the poet is content simply to describe: “all the wrongs of Man.”

It’s an intensely idealised vision, no doubt, and one to which one is immediately tempted to make exceptions, but at least it reminds us that the capacities and intentions of these two types of writers can never be truly parallel: a poem is not simply a more condensed version of a short story, and neither is the most poetic piece of fiction a poem, exactly.

I don’t pretend to have unknotted many the intricate differences and contiguities between the two in this essay, but I still think there’s food for thought in these four prose pieces – any one of which might have found itself labelled casually a “short short story” as easily as a “prose poem.”

What I hope I’ve demonstrated is that there is a difference in kind in Scott Hamilton and Eliot Weinberger’s pieces which requires us to read and analyse them “poetically,” rather than in the narrative terms more appropriate to Lydia Davis’s or Franz Kafka’s.

Nor do I see any contradiction in such generic hybrids as Japanese haibun (or, for that matter, certain of the Icelandic sagas), with their deft alternations of poetry and prose to cover the same thematic ground in different ways. Rather, I would see this as a confirmation of the fundamental distinction between the two modes.

Perhaps, though (as is implied by Kafka’s famous letter about the “frozen sea inside us,” quoted above) the virtue of all such works lies in their element of surprise – their ability to undermine our perception of an apparently static and ordered cosmos. The paradox inherent in their close resemblance to each other is simply another way of achieving this. It raises questions which might otherwise escape us.


Works cited:

  • Auden, W. H. (1991). “The Novelist.” Collected Poems. Ed. Edward Mendelson. 1976. Rev. ed. London: Faber. 180.
  • Davis, Lydia. (2010). “Letter to a Funeral Parlor.” In The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. 2009. New York: Picador. 380-81.
  • Hamilton, Scott. (2007). “1918.” In To the Moon, In Seven Easy Steps. Auckland: Titus Books. 99. Available online at:
    http://readingthemaps.blogspot.co.nz/2006/03/1918.html.
  • Hopkins, Gerard Manley. (1918). “Pied Beauty.” Available online at:
    http://www.bartleby.com/122/13.html.
  • Kafka, Franz. (1917). “The Knock at the Manor Gate.” Available online at:
    https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:The_Knock_at_the_Manor_Gate.
  • Kafka, Franz. (1983). “Der Schlag ans Hoftor.” In Sämtliche Erzählungen. Ed. Paul Raabe. 1970. Hamburg: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag. 299-300.
  • Kafka, Franz. (2014). Letter to Oskar Pollak (January 27, 1904). In Letters to Friends, Family and Editors. Trans. Richard & Clara Winston. 1977. Richmond, Surrey: Alma Classics Ltd. 15-16.
  • Ross, Jack. (2017). Review of Frankie McMillan, My Mother and the Hungarians and Other Small Fictions. Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017. Auckland: Massey University Press. 322-23.
  • Weinberger, Eliot. (2000). “Renga.” Jacket 11. Available online at:
    http://jacketmagazine.com/11/weinberger-renga.html.





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Abstract: The Shadow Line:
Crossovers between Micro-fiction and Prose Poetry


There’s an air of the secret and subversive about prose poetry in English. It’s never been a form to boast about: always the poor cousin of “true” poetry or “real” prose.

When Richard Burton, back in the 1880s, tried to echo Arabic saj‘ (or “rhyming prose”) in his fantastical translation of the Arabian Nights, the result was greeted with sneers by reviewers and readers alike. True, rhymed prose does seem a little alien to the spirit of English, but Burton held that the true function of translators was to enlarge the possibilities of their own language by grafting on features of other tongues.

Dickens, too, has been criticised for his tendency to break into blank verse at moments of high emotion: as if there were some primal sin in mixing the tropes of poetry and prose – some threat of cultural miscegenation which might undermine both.

Other literatures see these things somewhat differently. In German, for instance, Kunstprosa (heightened or “art” prose) is accepted as a perfectly legitimate form. Rimbaud’s prose poetical works Une saison en enfer and the Illuminations have influenced French poets as much as any of his more conventionally rhymed and structured poems.

But what’s the difference between a prose poem and a short short story (or micro-fiction, or flash, or any other term you prefer)? No doubt there are as many answers as there are pieces of writing, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make a few attempts at further classification.

For instance (as I commented in a recent review), I tend to see the virtues of fiction of any length as including “plot, characterisation, depth of immersion in ‘Mirror City’ (to borrow Janet Frame’s term for the world of her own writing).” In prose poems, by contrast, I look for
The sudden sparky connections, the topsy-turvy thinking: the need to read between the lines to be understood, which most of us would agree to be poetic virtues.

And yet there remains a difference. It’s as hard to read Kafka’s short parables as poems as it is to read Robert Hass’s or Eliot Weinberger’s short prose pieces as fiction. Perhaps, then, the virtue of all such works lies in their element of surprise: their ability to shift our perception of an apparently static and ordered cosmos? The paradox inherent in their form is simply one more way of achieving this.

Bio-note:

Jack Ross is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand, and works as a senior lecturer in creative writing at Massey University’s Auckland Campus. His latest book The Annotated Tree Worship was published by Paper Table Novellas in late 2017. He blogs at mairangibay.blogspot.com/.






(19/11/16)

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