Jack Ross, ed.: brief 30 - Kunst (November 2004)
Guyon Neutze, Dark out of Darkness. Images by Jürgen Waibel. Wellington: Steele Roberts, 1999. ISBN 1-877228-10-9. 144 pp. RRP $24.95.
Guyon Neutze’s curious set of poems, which began life as “part of a much larger performance, now nearly finished” (which, one presumes, is the “epic-length poem on mid-century Europe” referred to in the blurb), appeared five years ago to – one gathers – a chorus of complete indifference. Isn’t that so often the way in New Zealand? “Ignore it and maybe it’ll go away” is the standard strategy for dealing with anything at all out of the ordinary here. I saw a copy in Unity Books when I was last in Wellington, and couldn’t resist buying it. It was more Jürgen Waibel’s rough, black, disturbing drawings (and Roger Steele’s generous, sprawly book design) than the poems themselves that sealed the deal, I must confess, but I can’t say I regret it. Neutze can be accused of ambition without performance – too often the poems dissolve into airy generalisations about human behaviour, rather than particular examples of particular acts. He also depends too much on ostentatious colloquialism to mask essentially abstract states of mind: “with the last scruple scrubbed / like a smudge from a cotton smock, I’ll knuckle down / and clean this place of its riff-raff and low scum”  – the “furnace of pure mind” appears to be where he is happiest. However, his subject matter, the inherent tendency to violence and intolerance in human beings, is anything but trivial, and there’s a terrible conviction in the sheer scale of his work. One feels inundated at times, and yet also curiously excited and inspired. I feel he has something to learn from another local epic-writer, Niel Wright (reviewed below) about the importance of character and narrative in long poems, though he can already be seen to exceed him in texture and technique.