Poetry NZ Issue 22
Issue 22

Alistair Paterson

Jack Ross, Shanta Acharya, Charles Bernstein, Owen Bullock, Tony Chad, Jill Chan, Cyril Childs, Philippa Christmas, Alison Denham, Brad Evans, Adrienne Frater, Bernard Gadd, David Gregory, Libby Hart, Hazel Hills & Biddy Selden, Fanny Howe, Anna Jackson, Harry Johnson, Jessica Le Bas, Elisabeth Liebert, Anna Livesey, Susan Maurer, Martha Morseth, Todd Pierce, Mark Pirie, Joanna Preston, Barbara Raeburn, Knute Skinner, Tracey Slaughter, Jocelyne Thebault, Georgina White, Mark Wilkins

David Eggleton

Heather Murray, John O'Connor

Alistair Paterson

This issue features the poetry of Jack Ross, whose avant-garde interests and quirky attitude are exciting this country's readers and critics. It also includes work from poets in Australia, England, France, Ireland and the United States.

Two sample poems can be found here: ART by Jack Ross and The fierce girl by Hazel Hills and Biddy Selden.


In addition to providing opportunities for further exciting developments in poetry, the twenty-first century gives us a chance to record, analyse and re-evaluate what has happened over the last 100 years. While the poetry of Jack Ross (featured in this issue) indicates current directions and suggests future possibilities, David Eggleton's article (page 78) revisits some of the poetry written in New Zealand from the 1960s to the 1980s. Eggleton's view is a personal one. Its brevity and its being personal explains why he hasn't included the full range of poets working at the time or mentioned Robert Creeley's influential New Zealand tour which, according to Patrick Evans in the Penguin History of New Zealand Literature, 'amounted to something of a Royal Progress'. Irrespective of this, PNZ is pleased to present Eggleton's article and hopes it will encourage readers to look at the period he writes about and develop views and opinions of their own.

Great changes occurred during the period Eggleton deals with in regard to poetry and poetics – changes perhaps more rapid, more extreme and more widespread than any that have occurred in previous eras. Many of these changes were powerfully influenced by the work of Charles Bernstein, some of whose recent poetry is included in this issue. Identifying what happened and evaluating the contribution made by each of the participants isn't an easy task, nor one that's likely to be completed in a short time. It could be argued that if the natural difficulties common to qualitative research are to be excluded, it should be done by those who have no partisan interest in what is uncovered. The experience of the participants themselves, however, often makes a valuable contribution to historical analysis and wise literary historians and researchers will seek such people out and make use of what they have to say.

Nevertheless, the revisionist orthodoxies of ambitious writers, critics and anthologists striving to set in concrete the wild surmise and inflated glories of their youth (as some might consider the case with The Big Smoke, New Zealand Poems 1960-1975, ed Alan Brunton, Murray Edmond and Michele Leggott, recently published by AUP) are likely to result in distorted notions of what happened and of those who caused it to happen. The Big Smoke, for example, excludes and makes no reference to close on 50 poets who could be said to have as much claim for inclusion as the majority of those who appear in it. But this doesn't matter much, as careful research and continuing critical dialogue together with personal views such as Eggletons's will sooner or later result in a more balanced and accurate representation of the period's literary theories, of its poetry and the events that occurred at that time.

Alistair Paterson, February 2001


Can all men, together, avenge
One of the leaves that have fallen in autumn?
But the wise man avenges by building his city in snow

— Wallace Stevens

on a camper-van

headlights on

no more than two or three
intelligible stanzas

ex-partner's friend's sister
works at Pegasus Bay

Is that truck overtaking?
cabbage moths
beside the road

squaring the circle
Novalis said

thunderheads mass
across the plain

Welcome to Amberley
Take your time

— Copyright Jack Ross, 2001.

The fierce girl

(from a painting by Mary Fedden)

Black & white ripples run up the hide
& veldt flies rise
as lions sniff the air.

Butterflies dance in the heat
far from the roses & the fierce girl
poised on some English lawn

while my siser sleeps
on a hot summer's night
& I watch the sullen Thames
slide out to sea.

The fierce girl
denudes another stalk of thorns
grasps the stem
& stands the rose
in a brown jug.

She glances
at the soft clodhopperiness
of the close-up butterflies –
would like to stretch out a finger
to run it along their cigar bodies
& stroke their damascene dust

but the taut Victorian stockings
of zebra legs
draw her into themselves
& they pound the veldt with her.

she will wear her orange slice dress
& suck those tiny tips of thorn
from her fingers once again.

Sea shimmers beyond
the Norfolk pines in Oriental Bay.
Roses are everywhere & butterflies
waft on the Wellington wind.
I thought I saw her today

the fierce girl, on Lambton Quay
a lily portruding from her hair
& boots below a white net skirt,
but no dessicated oranges

tugging at the hem
in the gusts, the sudden gusts,
& no surreptitious sucking
of a wounded thumb.

I will find her yet.

So she's over there, too –
the fierce girl? Perhaps she's just
disembarked; jumped ship
after working her passage to NZ.
A galley skivvy. Hair-stuck lily
her proof of landfall.

Her boots are made for walking,
her white net skirt a passport
to any wayout club
she may stumble upon
as she hitches north
to Cape Rienga.

I think, in an earlier life,
she hung around Crete
while Theseus performed aerobics
with the Minotaur – both revelling
in their naked strength, she
bored out of her mind
by their physical feats
& tired of being
merely a spear-carrier.

— Copyright Hazel Hills & Biddy Selden, 2001.