A History of New Zealand Literature [1 ed.] 9781107085350

A History of New Zealand Literature traces the genealogy of New Zealand literature from its first imaginings by European

201 18 3MB

English Pages [326] Year 2016

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD PDF FILE

Recommend Papers

A History of New Zealand Literature [1 ed.]
 9781107085350

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

A H I S TO RY O F N E W Z E A L A N D L I T E R AT U R E

A History of New Zealand Literature traces the genealogy of New Zealand literature from its first imaginings by colonial Europeans to the development of a national canon in the twentieth century. Beginning with a comprehensive introduction that charts the growth of a national literary tradition, this History includes extensive essays that illuminate the cultural and political intricacies of New Zealand literature. Organized thematically, these essays survey the multilayered verse, fiction, and drama of such diverse writers as Katherine Mansfield, Allen Curnow, Frank Sargeson, Janet Frame, Keri Hulme, Witi Ihimaera, and Patricia Grace. Written by a host of leading scholars, this History devotes special attention to the lasting significance of colonialism, the Māori Renaissance, and multiculturalism in New Zealand literature. This book is of pivotal importance to the development of New Zealand writing and will serve as an invaluable reference for specialists and students alike. Mark Will iams is Professor of English at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. He is the author of Leaving the Highway: Six Contemporary New Zealand Novelists, Patrick White, and with Jane Stafford, Maoriland: New Zealand Literature 1872–1914. Williams has also coedited The Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature with Jane Stafford.

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Published online by Cambridge University Press

A H I S TO RY O F N E W Z E A L A N D L I T E R AT U R E MARK WILLIAMS Victoria University of Wellington

Published online by Cambridge University Press

32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013-2473, USA Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781107085350 © Mark Williams 2016 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2016 Printed in the United States of America A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Williams, Mark, 1951– editor. Title: A history of New Zealand literature / edited by Mark Williams. Description: New York : Cambridge University Press, 2016. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2015039862 | ISBN 9781107085350 (hardback) Subjects: LCSH: New Zealand literature–History and criticism. | New Zealand–In literature. | BISAC: LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh. Classification: LCC PR9624.6.H57 2016 | DDC 820.9–dc23 LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2015039862 ISBN 978-1-107-08535-0 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet Web sites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such Web sites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Contents

Notes on Contributors Acknowledgments

page ix xv

Introduction

1

Mark Williams

Part I

176 0–1920

1. A World of Waters: Imagining, Voyaging, Entanglement

17

Ingrid Horrocks

2. Early Māori Literature: The Writing of Hakaraia Kiharoa

31

Arini Loader

3. Samuel Butler’s Influence

44

Simon During

4. Maoriland Reservations

56

Jane Stafford

5. Katherine Mansfield: Colonial Modernist

71

Bridget Orr

Part II

1920–1950

6. Colonial Ecologies: Guthrie-Smith’s Tutira and Writing in the Settled Environment

85

Philip Steer

7. Defiance and Melodrama: Fiction in the Period of National ‘Invention’, 1920–1950 Alex Calder v

Published online by Cambridge University Press

98

Contents

vi

8. Journalism and High Culture: Robin Hyde among the Cultural Nationalists

112

Nikki Hessell

9. ‘Simply by Sailing in a New Direction’: The Poetics of Distance

125

Stuart Murray

10. ‘Rough Architects’: New Zealand Literature and Its Institutions from Phoenix to Landfall

138

Christopher Hilliard

Part I I I 11.

1950–1972

Against the Social Pattern: New Zealand Fiction, 1950–1970

153

Timothy Jones

12. Janet Frame: Myths of Authorship, 1950–1990

167

Marc Delrez

13. Te Ao Hou: Te Pataka

182

Alice Te Punga Somerville

14. Out of the Drawing Room and onto the Beach: Drama, 1950–1970

195

Mark Houlahan

15.

‘Physician of Society’: The Poet in the 1950s and 1960s

208

Alan Riach

Part I V

1972–1990

16. From Hiruharama to Hataitai: The Domestication of New Zealand Poetry, 1972–1990

227

Harry Ricketts and Mark Williams

17. The Novel, the Short Story, and the Rise of a New Reading Public, 1972–1990

246

Lydia Wevers

18. ‘DBed and chocolate wheaten beaten’: Drama Defining the Nation, 1972–1990

262

David O’Donnell

19. The Māori Renaissance from 1972 Melissa Kennedy

Published online by Cambridge University Press

277

Contents Part V

vii

1990–2014

20. ‘While History Happens Elsewhere’: Fiction and Political Quietism, 1990–2014

291

Dougal McNeill

21. Anecdote in Post-1990 New Zealand Poetry

311

Anna Smaill

22. From Exploring Identity to Facing the World: Drama Since 1990

330

Stuart Young

23. From Meadow to Paddock: Children’s and Young Adult Literature

347

Anna Jackson

24. ‘Nafanua and the New World’: Pasifika’s Writing of Niu Zealand

359

Selina Tusitala Marsh

25. New Zealand Literature in the Program Era, or, the Spirit of Nationalism Past

374

Hugh Roberts

Index

Published online by Cambridge University Press

389

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Notes on Contributors

A le x C al d e r is an Associate Professor and Head of English, Drama, and Writing Studies at the University of Auckland. His research focuses on processes of cultural contact and settlement, particularly with regard to writings from New Zealand and the United States. His most recent book is The Settler’s Plot: How Stories Take Place in New Zealand (2011). M a rc D e l re z is Professor of English at the University of Liège. His most recent editorial endeavour was the publication, in collaboration with Gordon Collier, Anne Fuchs, and Bénédicte Ledent, of a two-volume collection of essays in honour of Geoffrey V. Davis, entitled Engaging with Literature of Commitment (2012). His Manifold Utopia: The Novels of Janet Frame (2002) was also published in Rodopi’s Cross/Cultures series. His next volume of criticism on Frame’s work is now forthcoming from Kakapo Press. Si mo n D u ring , formerly Professor at Melbourne University and Johns Hopkins University, is a Research Professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland. His books include Foucault and Literature (1991), Patrick White (1994), Modern Enchantments: The Cultural Power of Secular Magic (2002), Exit Capitalism: Literary Culture, Theory and Post-Secular Modernity (2009), and Against Democracy: Literary Experience in the Era of Emancipations (2012). He has also published articles on New Zealand literature. Ni kki H e sse ll , Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington, is the author of Literary Authors, Parliamentary Reporters:  Johnson, Coleridge, Hazlitt, Dickens (2012) and ‘Riding the Rails with Robin Hyde: Literary Journalism in 1930s New Zealand’, in John S. Bak and Bill Reynolds, eds., Literary Journalism across the Globe:  Journalistic Traditions and Transnational Influences (2011). She has published widely on the relationship between literature and journalism. ix

Published online by Cambridge University Press

x

Notes on Contributors

Chris Hilliard is Professor in the History Department at the University of Sydney. His research has focused on literature and literary criticism in popular intellectual life, especially in Britain. He has also written on New Zealand history, especially on the place of literature, historical writing, and ethnography in colonial culture. Among his publications are English as a Vocation: The Scrutiny Movement (2012); The Bookmen’s Dominion:  Cultural Life in New Zealand 1920–1950 (2006); and To Exercise Our Talents: The Democratization of Writing in Britain (2006). Ingrid H o rrock s has a PhD from Princeton University, and now teaches English and Creative Writing at Massey University, Wellington. Her articles have appeared in Studies in the Novel, Studies in Romanticism, ELH, Women’s Writing, and Studies in Travel Writing. She is also a poet and travel writer, and is the author of Travelling with Augusta, 1835 and 1999 (2003) and the editor of the Broadview Press edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters Written during a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark (2013). Mark Houlahan is Senior Lecturer in the English programme at the University of Waikato and current President of the Australia and New Zealand Shakespeare Association. He has coedited Twelfth Night (with David Carnegie) for the Broadview Internet Shakespeare series (2014), and online for the Internet Shakespeare (ise.uvic.ca); and, with R.  S. White and Katrina O’Loughlin, Shakespeare and Emotions:  Histories, Enactments, Legacies (2015). He has been preoccupied by New Zealand drama since seeing his first New Zealand play, the musical Mister King Hongi at Auckland’s Mercury Theatre in 1974. Anna J ac kson is a poet who lectures in English at Victoria University of Wellington. Her scholarly books include Diary Poetics:  Form and Style in Writers’ Diaries 1915–1962 (2010) and British Juvenile Fiction 1850–1950: The Age of Adolescence, coauthored with Charles Ferrall (2009). Her books of poetry include The Gas Leak (2006), Catullus for Children (2003), and The Pastoral Kitchen (2001). Timothy Jones teaches in the English programme at Victoria University of Wellington. He has published The Gothic and the Carnivalesque in American Culture (2015), and he is coeditor of the Journal of New Zealand Literature. M e l issa Ke n nedy lectures in English Literature, Culture, and Media Studies at the University of Vienna. She is the author of Striding Both

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Notes on Contributors

xi

Worlds: Witi Ihimaera and New Zealand’s Literary Tradition (2011), and articles in the Journal of Postcolonial Writing and the Journal of New Zealand Literature. She is currently preparing a habilitation and monograph on ‘postcolonial economics’. A rini L oad e r is a lecturer in the History Programme at Victoria University of Wellington of Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Whakaue, and Te Whānau-a-Apanui descent. Her research  is  centred on nineteenthcentury Māori writing. She is also known to suffer occasional bouts of cacoethes scribendi. Se l ina T u sital a Marsh teaches in the English Department at the University of Auckland and is a poet as well as a scholar. Her PhD thesis, ‘Ancient Banyans, Flying Foxes and White Ginger: Five Pacific Women Writers’, appeared in 2004. Led By Line:  Twelve First Wave Pacific Women Poets, a book creating intergenerational, pan-Pacific conversations, is forthcoming from the University of Hawaiì Press. Selina won the ‘Literary Death Match’ between Australia and New Zealand at King’s College in London in 2015. D ou gal M c N ei ll teaches in the English programme, Victoria University of Wellington and is the New Zealand/Pacific contributor for the Year’s Work in English Studies. He is the author, with Charles Ferrall, of Writing the 1926 General Strike:  Literature, Culture, Politics (2015) and Forecasts of the Past:  Globalisation, History, Realism, Utopia (2012). He is editing, with Charles Ferrall, the 1920–1940 volume of Cambridge’s series British Literature in Transition. St uart M u rray is Professor of Contemporary Literatures and Film in the School of English at the University of Leeds, where he is also the Director of the interdisciplinary Leeds Centre for Medical Humanities. He is the author of Never a Soul at Home:  New Zealand Literary Nationalism and the 1930s (1998), Images of Dignity:  Barry Barclay and Fourth Cinema (2008), Representing Autism:  Culture, Narrative, Fascination (2008), and Autism (2011), while he has coedited two books on New Zealand cinema  – New Zealander Filmmakers (2007) and Contemporary New Zealand Cinema (2008). Dav id O’ D o nnell is an Associate Professor at Victoria University of Wellington. He is a highly respected director and producer, and has written on New Zealand and Australian drama. With Marc Maufort he edited Performing Aotearoa: New Zealand Theatre and Drama in an Age

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Notes on Contributors

xii

of Transition (2007). He is also editor of the Playmarket New Zealand Play Series. B r i d g e t O r r is Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. Her research and teaching focus on New Zealand writing and film and Restoration and eighteenth-century British literature and theatre. She wrote Empire on the English Stage, 1660–1714 (2001). She has also published essays on the depiction of Polynesians in eighteenth-century poetry and on contemporary Māori writers, notably Robert Sullivan. Alan Riach is the Professor of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University. In the late 1980s and 1990s he taught in New Zealand, becoming Associate Professor at the University of Waikato. He is the General Editor of the multivolume Carcanet Press  Collected Works of Hugh MacDiarmid, including the Selected Poems  (1993, 1994). He is the author of Hugh MacDiarmid’s Epic Poetry (1991) and The Poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid (1999) and the coeditor (with Mark Williams) of The Radical Imagination:  Lectures and Talks by Wilson Harris (1992), Scotlands: Poets and the Nation (2004), and The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century Scottish Literature (2009). His poetry has been published in numerous journals internationally and is collected in volumes from Auckland University Press/Oxford University Press, Untold Books, and Auckland University Press/Chapman. H arry Ric ket ts is Professor of English at Victoria University of Wellington. A poet himself as well as a biographer of Rudyard Kipling, he has also edited anthologies and written criticism on a range of modern and contemporary poetry in the United Kingdom as well as New Zealand. His Strange Meetings: The Poets of the Great War was published in 2010. He also co-wrote, with Paula Green, 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry (2010). H u gh Ro b e rts   is Associate Professor, English, at the University of California at Irvine. He is author of Shelley and the Chaos of History: A New Politics of Poetry (1997), with Harry Ricketts,  How You Doing? A Selection of New Zealand Comic and Satiric Verse  (1998), and numerous articles on New Zealand and Romantic poetry. Anna Sm aill has published widely on New Zealand literature, with a particular focus on contemporary New Zealand poetry, and the work of the novelist Janet Frame. She has published her first

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Notes on Contributors

xiii

collection of poetry,  The Violinist in Spring (2005),  and her first novel, The Chimes (2015). J ane Staffo rd is Professor in the English Department at Victoria University. She is the coeditor of Katherine Mansfield’s Men (2004), coauthor of Maoriland:  New Zealand Literature, 1872–1914 (2006), coeditor of Floating Worlds:  Essays on Contemporary New Zealand Fiction (2009), coeditor of The Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature (2012), and coeditor of volume 9 of The Oxford History of the Novel, The World Novel to 1950 (forthcoming, 2016). P h i l i p S t e e r teaches English at Massey University, specialising in New Zealand and Victorian literature. His publications include essays on settler colonial literary culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and a coedited issue of International Journal of Scottish Literature on ‘The Scottish Pacific’. He is working on a book exploring the circulation and transformation of genre between New Zealand, Australia, and Britain in the nineteenth century. The research and writing of Philip’s chapter was supported by a Marsden Fast-Start Grant, awarded by the Royal Society of New Zealand. Al ic e T e Pung a Somervi lle is Associate Professor at the University of Hawaiì at Mānoa. Her extensive publications on Māori and Indigenous literature include the essay, ‘Māori Cowboys, Māori Indians’, which appeared in American Quarterly (2010), and the monograph, Once Were Pacific: Māori Connections to Oceania (2012). Lyd ia W eve rs is Professor and Director of the Stout Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington. The author of numerous essays and books, she has also edited anthologies of Australian and New Zealand literature. Recent publications include Country of Writing:  Travel Writing and New Zealand, 1809–1900 (2002) and Reading on the Farm: Victorian Fiction and the Colonial World (2010). M ark W il l iams is Professor of English at Victoria University of Wellington. He is editor of The Caxton Press Anthology:  New Zealand Poetry 1972–1986; coeditor of An Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English (1997), Zemlia Morei: Antologiia Poezii Novoi Zalandii (2005), and The Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature (2012); author of Leaving the Highway: Six Contemporary New Zealand Novelists (1990); and coauthor of Maoriland:  New Zealand Literature 1872–1914 (2006).

Published online by Cambridge University Press

xiv

Notes on Contributors

S t uart Y o u ng is Professor of Theatre Studies and Head of the Department of Music, Theatre, and Performing Arts at the University of Otago. He has published on Russian drama and its reception abroad, translation studies and translation for the theatre, modern British drama and theatre, and documentary/verbatim theatre, as well as on New Zealand drama. He is also a theatre maker and translator. In collaboration with others, he has developed a particular form of verbatim theatre, and created and produced a portfolio of innovative plays.

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Acknowledgments

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge all the work of Margot Schwass, Christine A. T. Dunn, and Nishanthini Vetrivel in preparing the text for publication. I would also like to thank the editorial board, Lydia Wevers, John Newton, and Selina Tusitala Marsh, who gave astute, helpful advice throughout the process of making this book. Special thanks also to Ray Ryan and Caitlin Gallagher at Cambridge University Press for their care and patience. The School of English, Film, Theatre, and Media Studies and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Victoria University supported the book with much-appreciated grants. Thanks to authors, estates and publishers for permission to reproduce copyright material. Special thanks to Auckland University Press, Victoria University Press and to Tim Curnow, Sydney, for permission to reproduce extracts from poems and plays by Allen Curnow. Hone Tuwhare’s poetry is now available in Small Holes in the Silence: Collected Works, Godwit Press, Random House NZ, 2011. Publishing rights for the poem are held by the Estate of Hone Tuwhare. All inquiries to [email protected]. Thanks also to the estates of James K. Baxter, Hone Tuwhare, Lauris Edmond, Denis Glover, David Mitchell, and Leigh Davis for permission to include pieces of their work. Thanks to Dylan Horrocks for permission to reproduce material from Hicksville (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2010). Finally, my colleagues in the Victoria University English Programme and others in the school have made this book possible.

xv

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Introduction Mark Williams

Katherine Mansfield describes New Zealand as ‘a little land with no history’ in a poem that Allen Curnow included in his 1960 Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse.1 ‘To Stanlislaw Wyspianski’ (1910)2 is addressed to a dead Polish patriot and contrasts the heroic scale of his art with the crude wrestling of New Zealand settlers with the soil. But Mansfield does acknowledge that the country is ‘making its own history, slowly and clumsily’.3 For Curnow also, the nation is made slowly, but by way of difficult confrontations with its history. History in a settler nation is a continual disappointment for Curnow and Mansfield, but for Curnow, by hard imaginative effort on the part of readers as well as writers, it might yet become an instrument of making both a nation and a literature capable, in a phrase that echoes through this book, of ‘standing upright here’.4 This volume begins not with writing that demands a strenuous exercise of reading, like Curnow’s great history poems of the 1940s, but with exploration narratives, poetry by Englishwomen who would never set foot here, ethnographical observations by travellers, and ballads by semiliterate whalers  – the pre-history of New Zealand literature. Such writing, discussed by Ingrid Horrocks in her chapter opening Part I, was not written for a New Zealand reader. The term New Zealander in the late eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth century referred not to Europeans but to Māori. Yet Māori rapidly became readers as well as producers of text. The view from the boat rather than the beach has traditionally governed description of early contact between Europeans and ‘New Zealanders’, an arrogance of the eye that Hamish Clayton unsettles in his 2010 novel Wulf. Yet from the shore as well as the ship this contact, or arrival, was seen as potential advantage as well as threat. Māori engaged rapidly with the technological, trading, military, and (more sceptically5) the theological opportunities afforded by whalers, settlers, soldiers, missionaries – and the books they carried with them. As Arini Loader shows, closely examining Hakaria Kiharoa’s 1850s textualising of a Māori poem, 1

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

2

Mark Wi lli ams

such recordings continue rather than merely preserve a literature that reaches back long before the arrival of script. Māori were also providing material by way of Governor George Grey’s enormously popular collections of the myths and legends that would be made into wistful poems by late-colonial writers and playfully rewritten by postcolonial ones.6 At the same time, unacknowledged by a settler culture that saw this material as nostalgic salvage from a noble past, Kiharoa’s careful work prepared for Apirana Ngata’s heroic collecting of traditional songs and for the flowering of Māori writing from the mid-twentieth century. Māori in the colonial period, casually described as a ‘dying race’, were in fact working towards their own Indigenous modernity, participating in print culture, commerce, agriculture, and tourism. Colonial New Zealand, for its part, was not merely the far-flung instrument of European modernity but also had a role in its making in the metropolitan centre. Simon During places Samuel Butler’s responses both to his farming experience in Canterbury and to Māori in the context of the fashioning of modern consciousness in Europe. Bridget Orr considers Katherine Mansfield as a colonial and a modernist, the two epithets mutually informing rather than opposing each other. Nor were the writers of Maoriland, as Jane Stafford shows, unable to see outside the colonial frame. In the writing of Maoriland she finds ‘a tentative literary nationalism within Empire’. That nationalism was, moreover, connected to ‘wider global literary networks’; in other words, literary settlers were looking sideways within the English-speaking world rather than simply back to the British centre, adapting as well as imitating the texts that circulated there while cautiously testing the affiliations of both nation and empire. Curnow’s famous lines in ‘The Unhistoric Story’ (1941) describing the New Zealand story as ‘something different, something / Nobody counted on’ do not indicate firmly when the moment of discovering a national distinctiveness might occur.7 Cagey about identifying the secure achievement of national consciousness, Curnow is nevertheless keen to locate the beginnings of serious effort towards its accomplishment near to the present, downgrading in his anthologies not only colonial verse but also its Georgian extension in the 1939 collection Kowhai Gold, where Mansfield is well represented.8 Histories of settler literatures tend to choose, or invent, their beginnings, rather than simply discovering them. The problem for the generation of the 1930s was only partly what they saw as the premature and unearned nationalism of the late-colonial generation, known as ‘Maoriland’. Also worrisome to these literary modernisers was

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Introduction

3

the preeminence of Victorianism in the colony’s establishment and in the settler outlook. The inescapability of Victorianism, as Horrocks observes, troubled E.  H. McCormick who lamented in the country’s first serious national literary history, Letters and Art in New Zealand (1940), that New Zealand and its literature began ‘with the Victorianism of the nineteenth century’ rather than with an older English tradition or Māori literature. Along with the first generation of English and American modernists, the cultural nationalists sought to relegate the Victorian cosiness between writer and reader in favour of a more taxing exercise of reading. In this book the ‘uniquely Victorian’ character of the colony is not offered as a counterfoundation to cultural nationalism,9 but is acknowledged as an inescapable part of the country’s literary heritage that should be seen complexly. As Stafford observes, late-colonial writing is deeply worked into Victorian literature, as one would expect, but not blinded thereby to the particularities of the new place. The question, perhaps, for a settler society seeking a postcolonial identity is not so much that put by Northrop Frye in his Conclusion to a Literary History of Canada – ‘Where is here?’ – as ‘when do we decide that we started?’10 Aotearoa-New Zealand’s beginnings include romantic and rationalist writing, late-eighteenth-century salon poetry along with the early transactions between European voyagers and Māori who had been in the land for at least five hundred years. For Māori the arrival of Cook’s Endeavour in 1769 evoked earlier Pacific homes, voyages, and connections in the person of the navigator and translator, Tupaia, who accompanied the ship from Tahiti. The point, then, is not to fix on one desirable beginning but to entertain multiple beginnings. Reaching back before the Victorians and the moderns, we open ourselves to various kinds of origin that usher us into a world of water as well as land, not settled, still in flux, and indicative of possibilities that might have led to quite different New Zealands. Alice Te Punga Somerville protests against a commonly encountered view that Māori literature began in 1973 with Witi Ihimaera’s novel Tangi, pointing to the flowering of Māori writing in the 1950s and 1960s in the journal Te Ao Hou and before that to a history stretching back through centuries of Polynesian dispersion. Pākehā literature also has been subject to foreshortening. New Zealand literature proper did not commence in the 1930s with Frank Sargeson, Denis Glover, A.  R.  D. Fairburn, Charles Brasch, and Curnow, any more than it did, as Victorian commentators held, with Alfred Domett’s 1872 cross-cultural romance Ranolf

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

4

Mark Wi lli ams

and Amohia,11 which these ‘cultural nationalists’ dispatched with arresting trenchancy. If the writing of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has been seen, largely unfairly, as one in which writers retreated from reality into fairyland fantasy, the cultural nationalist period considered in Part II has been seen – heroically but prescriptively – as a stern correction towards the ‘real’. Such narratives misrepresent not only the colonial writers but also the cultural nationalists. The latter, rather than being concentrated around a unified agenda, are presented here as part of a broad pattern of cultural self-invention over three decades marked by internal difference and responsiveness to international literary models and movements. Alex Calder and Stuart Murray follow the complexities and ambivalences in the conception and practice of the nationalism that governs fiction and poetry in the period. They continue also the broadening understanding of cultural nationalism from its association with an elite of male poets and injunctions from on high about how literature should be written if a national tradition was to be soundly forged. Nikki Hessell shows us Robin Hyde ‘in dialogue’ with the cultural nationalists yet shaping the nationalist project in her own literary terms and reconfiguring the vexed relations between journalism, literature, and gender that are deeply connected in her work rather than at odds, as the male writers of the day held (even though Curnow had worked in the 1940s as a journalist for The Press, the Christchurch newspaper where Samuel Butler had published philosophical ripostes to Charles Darwin in the 1860s). Hessell refutes that easy dismissal of the journalistic as sub- or anti-literary, which allowed Curnow and Glover to dispatch not only older male writers of the day – Alan Mulgan and J. H. E. Schroder – but also the truly literary innovator, Hyde. Chris Hilliard looks at the establishment by writers, as well as the state, of the institutions of cultural nationalism, the international contexts as well as the local imperatives of the literary-cultural positions and politics of the 1930s and 1940s. Philip Steer traces ecological consciousness in New Zealand literature, not in our own more sympathetic time, but from the colonial diarist Lady Barker and the novelist William Satchell, to the icon of literary nationalism, Frank Sargeson, pointing to an ‘environmental awareness that permeates mainstream cultural nationalist writing precisely through its constant highlighting of ecological absence’. Cultural nationalism has attracted the most, and the most serious, critical attention of any period. Much of that attention has been ‘critical’ in the sense of finding fault, not with the value of the literature it produced but with the prescriptions handed down about how local literature should

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Introduction

5

be written, especially those embodied in Curnow’s combative anthology introductions. Resistance to cultural nationalism throws up its own heroes and venues in the 1950s. But cultural nationalism also questions its own certainties about nation, history, and even gender, with Sargeson, the major practitioner of its clipped masculine style, teasing his readers with queer subterranean whisperings in his narratives of blokey affection. Cultural nationalism is an equivalent of the American Renaissance or the Bulletin school in Australia at the end of the nineteenth century, not in scale but in kind. It is a moment of concerted literary assertion and confidence, and it produces defining works that remain in the national imaginary. It is not expansive as in the United States or pessimistically existential as in Australian bush writing but more constrained, more confined. Nevertheless, on that tighter canvas Sargeson worked a subversive pattern of reader invitation and misdirection while Curnow memorably framed questions about literature, value, and nation that still resonate. Such intense cultural movements do not last; their energies lapse and disperse. But they mark a moment of discovery of identity, even if that identity is already being subverted from within. The features they fix in the national imagination as ‘characteristic’ are challenged, and thus provide material for critical debate for decades, and no doubt centuries, to come. In Part III various forms of opposition to the power of cultural nationalism emerge in the early 1950s with the ‘Wellington Group’  – notably, Louis Johnson, Alistair Campbell, Peter Bland, and James K. Baxter – and close the second decade with an irruption of literary energy centred on the little magazine Freed. The Wellington poets turn from lonely farms and ocean voyages to the ordinary life of the times, the woes of marriage and mortgages. They do so characteristically not in celebration but in a mood of aversion to the fallen world of the suburbs, registered in Baxter’s 1960 satire ‘The Ballad of Calvary Street’, where the transcendental, although its visible signs remain remindingly on the walls, has been abandoned for a fretful negation of the spirit in a world without connection, aspiration, or beauty. The arrival of Freed in 1969 signalled a new, younger generation – Alan Brunton, David Mitchell, Murray Edmond, and Ian Wedde – turning away from the rigours of Curnow’s nationalism without embracing the prophetic stance Baxter cultivated in the late 1960s. Their writing registers the attraction of more adventurous forms of rebellion against Puritanism than those – chiefly alcohol and adultery – of the mid-twentieth century and abjures the lugubrious Baxterian religious outlook.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

6

Mark Wi lli ams

Scottish poet Alan Riach, himself a noted New Zealand poet and critic in the 1980s and 1990s, surveys the variegated poetic landscape of the two decades through its major figures, finding some out of time, then looks to a mode of writing both more intellectual and more anarchistic in the Freed poets. Also transformative was the journal Te Ao Hou, founded in 1952, which provided a welcoming venue for modern Māori writers such as Hone Tuwhare, J. C. Sturm, and Witi Ihimaera. As Te Punga Somerville argues, Te Ao Hou, fostered by a settler state eager to usher Māori people into a ‘new world’ of modernity, also reinvigorated the ‘old world’ from which they were supposed to have departed. Cultural nationalism, which generated rich texts for close analysis and strong positions for literary debate, becomes the source of a developing critical opposition from the 1950s. Baxter emerges at the 1951 Writers’ Conference at Canterbury University as a brilliant nonprofessional critic, redefining the role of the writer in society in language charged with romantic and prophetic enthusiasm. Landfall was associated with cultural nationalism from its founding in Christchurch in 1947. But under editor Charles Brasch, it provided a venue to develop a critical language not wholly defined by cultural nationalist assumptions. Still fustily captive to the left discourse of the 1930s, Canterbury University professor Winston Rhodes solemnly unpicks the relation of Sargeson’s narrative method to the ‘moral climate’.12 A more up-to-date sociology is applied by Auckland University’s Robert Chapman in his 1953 essay, ‘Fiction and the Social Pattern’, analysing the relations between a constraining national culture and local literary practice.13 Produced while writing his PhD in London, Bill Pearson’s seminal essay ‘Fretful Sleepers’ (1952) anatomises with unflinching precision the meanness and small-mindedness of Pākehā culture.14 Invoking Chapman’s and Pearson’s influential essays, Timothy Jones finds a less prescribed mainstream literature than that carrying out Chapman’s invitation to diagnose and thereby expose the Puritan-soaked ‘social pattern’. Jones recasts the insistence on literary critique of an affluent and conformist society in terms of the generic ambivalence of a period full of ‘heroic delinquency’ and gothic subversions  – the absent ‘ghosts and unseen presences’ of Mansfield’s ‘To Stanislaw Wyspianski’ busily at work. He also observes, in contrast to the poetry, avoidance by the fiction writers of the common world of ‘Nappy Valley’, much condemned but rarely visited. Janet Frame is a notable exception here, her early fiction dealing with this world with its cultural aspiration, pseudo-art-consciousness, and snobbery; economic advantage and existential desolation; and mistaking

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Introduction

7

of material excess for richness. Frame’s writing moves in this period from the poetic intensity with which social inanition and cruelty is registered in the early fiction to more complex and self-conscious narratives in which language becomes increasingly the subject and the characters move through baffling refractions of identity. Meanwhile, the author disappears from public view as her iconic presence increases. Reading Frame has been a contested ground since Patrick Evans drew life and text closer than the author could tolerate in the 1970s. Here Belgian scholar, Marc Delrez, returns to the history of reading Frame, rehearsing the myths to recover a more ‘complex narrative’. Frame’s work will continue to accommodate her biographical sleuths, academic exegetes, and those seeking a good read. Mark Houlahan observes the beginning of ‘the major phase of playmaking in New Zealand’ with Bruce Mason’s ‘lushly romanticised’ Auckland in The End of the Golden Weather, first performed in 1960. Before Mason, he notes a tradition of playwriting going back to 1895 and The Land of the Moa that has been treated elsewhere.15 Nevertheless, he does single out a new national seriousness in Curnow’s purpose to ‘place New Zealand at the centre’ of his 1949 play, The Axe.16 Curnow aimed to countermand that ‘provincial cold-shudder’ at the thought of national insignificance,17 but Mason’s iconic and seminal play ushered New Zealand drama out of its gentility and Englishness towards a bicultural nationalism and an indigenous theatre attracting large audiences. Mason is crucial to the receptivity of local theatre to biculturalism, Pasifika, and the arrival of a multiculturalism over the next half-century. The 1950s and much of the 1960s have no defining name or familiar set of preoccupations such as cultural nationalism. They seem an intermediate period, recovering from one moment of intensity and generating the next, more radical movement, at their close. Yet the period produced texts now returning to new attention, like David Ballantyne’s Sydney Bridge Upside Down (1968). Timothy Jones reminds us also of the almost forgotten Graham Billing’s The Slipway (1974), with its disintegrating narrator, who might have wandered down under from Malcolm Lowry’s alcohol-saturated novel, Under the Volcano (1947). The lasting legacy of the 1950s and 1960s may come to be found less in the struggle with a culture too narrow for its artists than in the subversive and various literary ways in which the burdensome responsibility of social antagonism was enacted, or resisted. The 1970s and 1980s, covered in Part IV, record an accelerating ungathering of the national meanings derived both from the settler inheritance

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

8

Mark Wi lli ams

and from cultural nationalism. From 1975, as the economy stagnates, Prime Minister Robert Muldoon becomes more aggressively conservative and race relations more divisive. At the same time there is a dramatic rise in Māori political activism seeking tino rangitiratanga, or sovereignty. Cultural autonomy becomes a literary measure of purpose and value with the consolidation of the Māori Renaissance. In Pākehā writing, alternative culture takes a broader hold as ethical consciousness finds new places  – notably ecological – to inhabit. The turn of the decade saw opposition to Muldoon’s caricatured return to the values of an earlier generation (loyalty to England, economic arrogance, intolerance of opposing views, a mixture of racial animosity and sentimentality) flare in widespread protest about racial policy. This was followed from 1983 by exuberant economic reform then extravagant bust to close a decade that richly earns Auden’s epithets for 1930s Europe, ‘low’ and ‘dishonest’.18 For all their atmosphere of deepening political and economic gloom, the 1970s are marked by social renovations we are still coming to terms with: the Māori Renaissance; the end of anxiety about the Puritan legacy; the move away from the rural myth of New Zealand identity (although not the full embrace of urbanity); the emergence of Pasifika writers complicating the social pattern and pointing to a multicultural proliferation in the new century; and an alternative culture drawing inspiration from the American model as well as local traditions of pacifism and resistance. Alternative energies from the close of the 1960s find a broader, less apocalyptic stance towards society than that of Baxter. The mainstream is redefined around writers unbothered by cultural nationalism or the obligation to critique a stifling social normality. In the short story, Owen Marshall, the defining master of the genre following Sargeson, transports the Sargesonian taste for proletarian gothic into suburban interiors. The 1970s is also a decade of modernism that attaches New Zealand writing, not for the first time, to international English writing, American as well as British, as Curnow in poetry and Frame in fiction deepen and extend the formal and linguistic resources of New Zealand literature. In Curnow’s great volumes, An Incorrigible Music (1979) and You Will Know When You Get There (1982), the struggle with nation is scarcely discernable in poems that shift focus from the very local to the international, all the while intensifying the linguistic stress of registering subjectivity in time and place. Ian Wedde’s Symmes Hole (1986) – a Pynchonesque counterhistory of the nineteenth-century Pacific  – updates the Curnowian preoccupation with exploration, early contact, and how we got from there to the compromised present, by connecting the nineteenth-century

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Introduction

9

whaling industry to McDonalds. With Harvey McQueen, Wedde edited the 1985 Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, looking back to the poetry of the contact period as well as the longer history of Māori writing and revising the aesthetic and temporal priorities of Curnow’s 1960 Penguin anthology.19 The ghost of an ancient literary antagonism reappears when C.  K. Stead, vigorously contesting the new Penguin’s ‘inclusions’ in a Landfall review, accuses the editors of announcing national ‘difference’ by way of ethnic ‘decoration’; that is, the anthology offers ‘New Zealand poetry with Maori in its hair’.20 But the insult has lost the force of Curnow’s tart dismissals of Maoriland and Kowhai Gold. Stead’s judgement presupposes a timeless standard of aesthetic value that might be applied objectively to the competing styles, communities, and periods of ‘New Zealand literature’ rather than arguing for an aesthetic of place, as Curnow does. Ghosts remained, while new defining movements struggled to emerge. As Harry Ricketts and I show, the 1970s was dominated by Baxter – his cultural legacy as much as his poetry – and by Curnow, making more private his poetic while extending its impact as major contemporary poetry. Lydia Wevers picks up the long relation between the short story and the novel at the point when the novel, with the publication of Keri Hulme’s the bone people in 1983, seems triumphant. Until the 1980s the story was the quintessential New Zealand fiction mode. Short stories are common in the colonial period mainly for local readers; but in the early 1900s A.  A. Grace’s Māori stories became popular internationally because of their engagingly exotic content rather than any formal merit. The crucial transformation of the short story as an artistic form is affected by Sargeson’s reduction of his ambition to become a modern novelist by adopting and adapting a form whose concentration allowed him to produce lasting and powerful evocations of a limited and, as he saw it, damaging society. Sargeson begat his own ‘sons’ and continued with formal modifications through the postwar period, opening his fictional method to a richer and more modernist style. Wevers notes Michael Morrissey’s renovation of the tradition in his 1985 anthology, The New Fiction, as the vehicle of local postmodernism. Still, as she also shows, the postmodern short story did not simply supplant the realistic style with its deeply subversive modes of social critique, major practitioners like Marshall and Vincent O’Sullivan continuing to expand the possibilities of the tradition. The short story is also central to the development of modern Māori literature since World War II. J. C. Sturm, and a number of new writers

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

10

Mark Wi lli ams

who would go on to roles in politics and public life, published stories in Te Ao Hou. The first excited noticing of Maori fiction as a ‘breakthrough’ in New Zealand writing comes, as Melissa Kennedy observes, in the early 1970s with stories by Patricia Grace and Witi Ihimaera, the latter’s Pounamu Pounamu (1973) expressing the pastoral mode of the Māori Renaissance, a mode Ihimaera would turn from by the end of the decade. In drama, David O’Donnell finds the realisation of Bruce Mason’s ‘vision for New Zealand playwriting’, with Greg McGee and Roger Hall achieving – not quite simultaneously – critical and box-office success. Nationalism in this period becomes both more visceral, as in Maurice Shadbolt’s Once on Chunuk Bair (1982), and more self-critical, as in O’Sullivan’s Shuriken (1983). Drama in the 1970s and 1980s is successful in New Zealand and, increasingly, overseas as a modern New Zealand–flavoured theatre, open to Māori participation and renovation, reflects broader patterns of social experience. In spite of the occasional negative outburst, such as Stead’s 1985 attack on Keri Hulme’s right to receive an award for Māori writing,21 Kennedy notes that Pākehā critical writing on the Māori Renaissance has tended to be ‘cautious’. Biculturalism’s assumption that the two cultures are equal but separate produced a kind of standing apart, at times a standoff. Yet, in literature, as in historical writing, areas of overlap not unlike what Ingrid Horrocks, citing Tony Ballantyne, refers to as ‘entanglement’ between Māori and Pākehā also occur. In Anne Kennedy’s ‘Whenua (1)’ the transactions of culture and economic being  – real estate complicated by the burying of a whenua (placenta) in the yard – are unremarkably part of an everyday that knits the parties who met with apprehension and curiosity more than two centuries earlier: They were trying to sell the house but nobody wanted to buy it. The father said, It’s the whenua it’s keeping us here. They looked out at the little pot growing in the yard, and the baby in her highchair with her baby’s heart-melting disregard for past tense. In the end they went for urban iwi Waipareira Trust kind of thing. Friday afternoon drove the earthernware pot and the children out to the West Coast, Karekare, staggered down, down to the waterfall and its lovely pool.22

The period covered in Part V has been seen in terms of Mansfield’s description of New Zealand as a ‘floating’ literary subject – one she will bring to

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Introduction

11

the world’s attention not just as a precisely rendered colonial world but as a place ‘with a sense of mystery, a radiance’.23 Mansfield here is closer to the spirit of our present than Sargeson, who charged that Mansfield’s work, because she was ‘suspend[ed] between two hemispheres’, was not useful for subsequent New Zealand writers.24 Such ‘suspension’ has become a positive mark of literary identity in the 2000s, while the distance between New Zealand and England has shrunk with the retirement of Brasch’s balefully waiting ‘white / Ships’.25 The distance between New Zealand and its significant elsewheres is no longer measured between only two points, the other being Britain. Māori Renaissance writing remains strongly grounded in place, community, and belonging, yet it too shares that appetite for experience of the world noted in the response of eighteenth-century Māori to Cook and Tupaia. Chapters in the final section celebrate the emergence of a vigorous drama, often focused on colonial history and on contemporary cultural relations. As Stuart Young, considering the distinct lines of Māori, Pākehā, Pasifika, and Asian theatre, observes, the stage ‘has provided an especially productive site for exploring the myriad, compelling issues of identity that have come to dominate cultural and political discourse in Aotearoa-New Zealand’. Selina Tusitala Marsh traces the growing force of Pasifika writing, arguing both for its greater recognition and cautioning against the ‘notion that decolonisation involves a return to an idyllic pre-contact state’. For Marsh, Pasifika is at the centre of a contemporary cultural mood both politically renovating and ‘sassy’, streetwise, and adaptive. From the early writing of Albert Wendt in the 1970s to ‘Urbanesia’, the Polynesian transformation of contemporary Auckland, she traces the formation of what Alan Riach, writing of an earlier decade, calls ‘archipelagic identities’. As the sense of obligation to a national audience has dissipated, an antagonism has appeared towards the ‘floating’ literature of international commodification, seen as a species of political ‘quietism’. Yet Dougal McNeill shows at play in contemporary fiction a politics involving a distinct but not particularly new kind of reader, one who must work to interpret the text’s positioning of values and thus participate in making its meanings. Such an active view of reading as a process that carries us not to easy certainty but to critical engagement takes us back to Curnow, who  – as Hugh Roberts argues in Chapter  25 considering the ghost of nationalism and the rise of the creative writing programme – continually outwits his critical combatants who circle repeatedly around writing that has anticipated their best moves. Turning to poetry, Anna Smaill rehearses

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

12

Mark Wi lli ams

contrasting critical models:  Bill Manhire’s preference for the ‘conversational’ style; Stead’s determination in ‘From Wystan to Carlos’ to place local poetic practice in terms of a larger history of literary modernism.26 Smaill then refocuses the work of a range of contemporary poets by considering the application to modern poetics of an ancient and undervalued rhetorical device, the anecdote. This volume begins in a history, or intersecting web of narratives, about travel across hemispheres, then moves on to the journey to the heart of the country in John Mulgan’s 1939 Man Alone and Hulme’s location of the country’s spiritual centre in the bone people. But its writers mainly live and travel – or walk – within cities. The cities of Aotearoa-New Zealand are filled with the consciousness of all the writers who have walked its streets before: pipe-smoking cultural nationalists in central Christchurch in the 1930s; James K. Baxter delivering the mail around the 1960s Wellington hills; David Mitchell in 1972 walking through a bohemian Ponsonby of beautiful derelict villas asking Dickensian rents; Lauris Edmond walking down to Oriental Parade in the middle 1970s. In our cities the presence of the writers of the past accompany us, as Baxter does for the disenchanted literary traveller in John Newton’s ‘Opening the Book’ (1985), a defining 1980s poem in its knotted wrestling with the nation’s representations in its sometimes oppressive literary past, acknowledging and resisting at the same time: You open the book & there unfolds a road its skin is blue, it is summer the heat that dances in its hollows turns into water. You ride it in the vehicles of strangers: homesteads and haybarns dusty yellow sheeptrucks convoy of soldiers in jungle greens returning from an exercise slipping past their polarised windscreens; you draw from them splinters of lives made of words though you never take your eyes off the mountains. The mountains reach out to embrace you they fold their blue ankles they give birth to rivers, they can even crouch like tigers if that’s the way you want them: they are a story you tell about yourself, a story you are journeying into, that swallows you. . . .27

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Introduction

13

Points of Style This volume follows current orthographical convention by using macrons on Māori words. But it reflects earlier practice by not using macrons within quotations (unless used in the original), as they are historically indicative. For example, the book follows their inconsistent use in the magazine, Te Ao Hou. Nor are they added to official names like ‘the Maori Purposes Fund Board of the Department of Maori Affairs between 1952 and 1975’. Otherwise they are applied generally. The term Indigenous has a capital whenever it refers to people, unless it reflects historical usage. Pākehā also has a capital. We have tried to avoid presentism, reserving the bicultural term Aotearoa-New Zealand for the bicultural period where it is routinely used. But in some cases it is used to indicate such a condition before the name, as in the pre-1840 world where the parties met before colonisation. Māori words are glossed on first appearance in each chapter. Dates of plays indicated in the text refer to first production. Notes 1 Katherine Mansfield, ‘To Stanislaw Wyspianski’, in The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, ed. Allen Curnow (Auckland: Penguin, 1960), 127–8. 2 Curnow records that the poem was written in 1910, though not published until 1938, Penguin Book, 323–4. 3 Mansfield, ‘To Stanislaw Wyspianski’, 127. 4 Allen Curnow, ‘The Skeleton of the Great Moa in the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch’, in Collected Poems, 1933–1973 (Wellington:  A.  H.  and A.  W. Reed, 1974), 142. 5 Ingrid Horrocks records Māori hilarity at the notion of hell in her chapter. 6 Jessie Mackay’s ‘Rona in the Moon’ catches the lachrymose atmosphere, in The New Place: The Poetry of Settlement in New Zealand, 1852–1914, ed. Harvey McQueen (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1993), 80–1; Tina Makereti’s ‘Skin and Bones’ rewrites the story of creation reinserting the sexuality of the original versions, in Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa (Wellington: Huia, 2010). 7 Allen Curnow, ‘The Unhistoric Story’, Collected Poems, 79–80. 8 Quentin Pope, ed. Kowhai Gold: An Anthology of Contemporary New Zealand Verse (London:  J. M. Dent, 1930). Mansfield has eleven poems in the collection, but none in Curnow’s 1945 or 1951 editions of A Book of New Zealand Verse (Christchurch: Caxton Press). 9 Helen Lucy Blythe, The Victorian Colonial Romance with the Antipodes (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 1. 10 Northrop Frye, ‘Conclusion to a Literary History of Canada’, in The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination (Toronto:  Anansi, 1971), 213–51, see p.  220; the phrase is reused by Ian Wedde in the introduction

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

14

11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

24 25 26 27

Mark Wi lli ams to the Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse he edited with Harvey McQueen (Auckland: Penguin, 1985), 30–1. Douglas Sladen in his introduction to A Century of Australian Song (London: Walter Scott, 1888), 6–7, describes Ranolf and Amohia as ‘the principle achievement of Australasia in poetry’ and compares Domett to Virgil. H. Winston Rhodes, ‘The Moral Climate of Sargeson’s Stories’, Landfall 9, 1 (1955), 25–41. Robert Chapman, ‘Fiction and the Social Pattern: Some Implications of Recent N.Z. Writing’, Landfall 6, 3 (1952), 26–52. Bill Pearson, ‘Fretful Sleepers: A Sketch of New Zealand Behaviour and Its Implications for the Artist’, Landfall 6, 3 (1952), 201–30. Howard McNaughton, ‘Drama’, in The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature, ed. Terry Sturm (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1991), 271–334. Allen Curnow, Four Plays (Wellington: A. H. and A. W. Reed, 1972), 7. Ibid. W. H. Auden, ‘September 1st, 1939’, in The English Auden: Poems, Essays and Dramatic Writings, 1927–1939 (London: Faber and Faber, 1986), 245. Curnow does, however, anticipate Wedde’s bicultural editing by including a body of Māori oral poetry in translation at the front of his 1960 Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse. C. K. Stead, ‘Wedde’s Inclusions’, Landfall 39, 3 (1985), 289–302: 299. C.  K. Stead, ‘Keri Hulme’s “The Bone People” and the Pegasus Award for Māori Literature’, Ariel 16(4) (1985): 101–8. Anne Kennedy, Sing-Song (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2003), 25–26. Mansfield’s effusion in her journal in January 1916 – ‘I want for one moment to make our undiscovered country leap into the eyes of the Old World. It must be mysterious, as though floating’  – lies behind the title of Anna Jackson and Jane Stafford’s Floating Worlds (Wellington:  Victoria University Press, 2010). See The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks, Vol. 2, ed. Margaret Scott (Wellington: Daphne Brasell and Lincoln University Press, 1997), 32. Frank Sargeson, ‘Katherine Mansfield’, in Conversation in a Train and Other Critical Writing, ed. Kevin Cunningham (Auckland:  Auckland University Press/Oxford University Press, 1983), 28–33, see p. 32. Charles Brasch, ‘The Islands (ii)’, in Curnow, Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, 179. C. K. Stead, ‘From Wystan to Carlos: Modern and Modernism in New Zealand Poetry’, in In the Glass Case: Essays on New Zealand Literature (Auckland: Auckland University Press/Oxford University Press), 139–59. John Newton, first published in the New Zealand Listener in 1985; collected in Lives of the Poets (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2010), 39.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.001 Published online by Cambridge University Press

P a rt   I

1760–1920

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter  1

A World of Waters Imagining, Voyaging, Entanglement Ingrid Horrocks

The final section of John Savage’s Some Account of New Zealand (1807), the first published book to take the islands of Aotearoa-New Zealand as its subject, recounts the voyage of Moehanga, the first known Māori to travel to England. We read of Moehanga singing on his first evening on board ship; of Savage’s speculation that after weeks at sea Moehanga may have believed ‘that he had embarked on a world of waters’; of Moehanga’s careful observations and questioning at each port; and of his frequent laughter at new sights.1 Savage’s account of Moehanga’s voyage, an event that in itself has been described as a mere ‘sideshow’ to the broader history of contact, empire, and the eventual colonisation of Aotearoa-New Zealand,2 evokes the complexity of stories of cultural encounter and entanglement that are the subject of this opening chapter. The Moehanga narrative suggests new directions for both stories of the great migrations that had brought Māori to Aotearoa from Hawaiki, and for centuries-old European imaginings of Terra australis incognita, the mythic Great Southern Continent. The mere fact of Moehanga’s mobility reminds us that the narratives of first contact and encounter went in multiple, complex directions and reached far beyond accounts of Europeans arriving on Pacific shores. Savage’s version of Moehanga’s story also highlights the way in which first encounters could be characterised by mutual fascination, wonder, and at times intense pleasure, as well as by misunderstanding and confusion on both sides – and that they were frequently insulting, uneven, and at times fatal. The narrators and characters in the texts discussed in this chapter are in some way all at sea, embarked on a new ‘world of waters’ that they neither fully comprehend nor see the end of. This chapter focuses on the imaginings of, from, and about this unstable location. Most of the pre-Treaty texts in English discussed here are works of nonfiction, structured by a journey, and not strictly speaking literary. They range from the body of European writing that emerged from Pacific voyages of exploration, to the narratives of visiting missionaries, soldiers, 17

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.002 Published online by Cambridge University Press

18

I ng ri d Horrock s

whalers, and artists. Until relatively recently they have been treated primarily as historical sources, or as examples of ‘the ways in which New Zealand was textualized’ in preparation for cultural colonisation.3 However, as Alex Calder has commented, New Zealand literary history looks rather different when we begin to take nonfiction writing seriously as literature.4 It also starts a great deal earlier. To imagine now, in the twenty-first century, that pre-1840 narratives entangled with the story of these islands might be a vital part of our literary history (that is ours in the widest sense possible), is to engage with other stories than those already shaped by settler colonialism or ideas of the nation. It is also to try to find ways of beginning to talk in literary, not just historical, terms about the interplay between European written texts and other forms of storytelling that are harder to access, from early Māori narratives, to stories of pan-Pacific encounter. Over the past two decades, understandings of the European texts of the early contact period in particular have changed dramatically. The reassessment of James Cook’s three voyages (1768–71, 1772–5, 1776–80) is paradigmatic, as scholars from a range of locations and disciplines have sought to move beyond celebratory idealisations of Cook as Enlightenment navigator and heroic discoverer, as well as, conversely, beyond versions of the ‘fatal impact’ narrative.5 Many texts that came out of the voyages were evaluated for the unprecedented and systematised role given to the natural sciences, or the role of the scientific or aesthetic eye in the categorisation and subsequent possession of territory. But more recent attention has shifted to ways in which the voyage literature is expressive of ‘a fraught endeavour of increasing bewilderment, apt to dissolve rather than, in any simple sense, reconstitute European cultural certainties’.6 Amongst other things, this effort has prompted more nuanced readings of the voyage literature. Narratives of Cook’s voyages were published in multiple versions, often in unprecedentedly sumptuous editions with expensively produced plates. The narratives were immensely popular in circulating libraries and were widely excerpted in newspapers and periodicals and recycled in drama and poetry.7 Approaching them as works of literature, as well as history and science (however flawed), is in a sense to return to their eighteenth-century European conditions of consumption. Their generic hybridity is symptomatic of a complex tension between the need to present their many audiences with ‘useful’ information and efforts to find an adequate narrative for new experiences.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.002 Published online by Cambridge University Press

A World of Waters

19

Nor were these texts immobile. Writers of early-nineteenth-century narratives of New Zealand explicitly and repeatedly measure their own engagements against these early accounts and frequently had copies on board ship. John Liddiard Nicholas’s narrative of his time in the Bay of Islands with Anglican missionary Samuel Marsden in 1814 and 1815 includes a scene in which local rangatira (leaders) are invited down into the cabin to handle copies of ‘Cook’s Voyages’.8 By the time Augustus Earle was writing in 1832, Cook, ‘the hero of [Earle’s] imagination’, and the French explorer Marion du Fresne  – who, with twenty-four of his crew, had been killed and eaten by Māori in 1772 after an infringement of tapu (spiritual restriction)  – are as much figures of romance as historical sailors.9 The mammoth, largely celebratory, task of editing Cook’s and Joseph Banks’s actual shipboard journals for their first publication was a mid-twentieth-century New Zealand one, conceived of by J.  C. Beaglehole at the height of cultural nationalism. The defining work of that period, Allen Curnow’s ‘Landfall in Unknown Seas’ (1942), was commissioned to appear in a publication to commemorate the tricentennial of Abel Tasman’s ‘discovery of New Zealand’. Generic concerns were central to writing about New Zealand from the outset, as was the ‘narrative’ of the voyages. The minor literary celebrity John Hawkesworth, who wrote up a composite text from the shipboard journals produced on the first voyage, put forward an argument for the value of ‘little circumstances’ and ‘a great variety of incidents’ based on an unlikely pairing of authorities: naturalist Joseph Banks’s scientific method and the literary practice of the epistolary novelist of sensibility, Samuel Richardson.10 Hawkesworth’s Account of the Voyages Undertaken . . . for Making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere (1773), written in a kind of generalised first-person voice bearing the name of Captain James Cook, sparked the ‘Pacific craze’ in Britain, but it was also much criticised for what Jonathan Lamb describes as a failure to create a narrative with an adequately convincing, and binding, logic.11 Hawkesworth’s embrace of the practice of ‘writing to the moment’ and his focus on small ‘incidents’, however, set the structure for most subsequent voyage narratives, which maintained the basic conceit of an edited journal well into the nineteenth century. As Paul Carter has written, the logic of explorer-writer texts ‘originated in the logic of travelling itself, in the continuity of the journal, which, kept day after day, left no spaces unrelated and brought even the most distant objects into the uniform, continuous world of the text’.12 Even as ideas about which ‘little circumstances’ were most important

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.002 Published online by Cambridge University Press

20

I ng ri d Horrock s

shifted, these writings continued to present readers with a deluge of details that challenged any claims to coherence. Influenced by Greg Dening’s metaphor of the beach as a zone of contact across cultural boundaries, ‘where tradition is as much invented as handed down’, encounter has emerged as a key analytical tool for approaching the complexity of these texts as well as the historical moments they represent.13 Textual representations of literal scenes of meeting, in particular, have been read closely for their resonances with uncertainty and confusion, and for their reverberations, often despite the best efforts of their authors, with the dialogic nature of cultural meetings. A much rewritten and analysed textual moment from the corpus, for example, is the Endeavour’s first landfall in New Zealand at Turanganui (Poverty Bay) in October 1769, a moment we are in a sense still living with. A  number of Māori men were shot and killed, and the collective texts as much demonstrate the difficulty of narrating such encounters, and so explaining both to oneself and others what has happened and why, as they do give access to historical fact.14 In his journal for the Admiralty, Cook moved through multiple drafts from an admission of ‘concern’ about the shootings, to an attempt to justify his crew’s actions as self-defence, while also admitting that on reading the accounts of what happened he is ‘aware that most humane men who have not experienced things of this nature will cencure my conduct in fireing upon the people in this boat’.15 Rachel Standfield reminds us, though, that it is important not to overemphasise ‘vulnerability and instability of the European self ’ in understandings of such moments at the expense of seeing ‘the brute realities of violence’ represented.16 In addition, an appeal to European vulnerability in these texts, paired with accounts of the use of firearms to establish ‘superiority’, needed to be juxtaposed with a representation of Māori as a ‘brave, open warlike people’, as Cook put it in summary remarks to his Endeavour journal.17 This characterisation of Māori as a warrior people persists, as though this first encounter has set the terms, not just of imperial ethnographies and eventual colonisation, but of narrative conflict. The complexity of encounter suggested by the nonfiction texts produced on the ground was not necessarily reflected in literary imaginings written in response. After Cook’s death in Hawaiì in 1779, he became a kind of national British literary character at the centre of British imaginings of a new kind of imperial endeavour. Anna Seward’s lengthy Elegy on the Death of Captain Cook (1780), an extract from which appears as one of the opening works in the Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature (2012), is typical of the numerous odes and elegies that

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.002 Published online by Cambridge University Press

A World of Waters

21

cast Cook as a figure guided by ‘HUMANITY’ and ‘BENEVOLENCE’.18 Two stanzas in Seward’s poem perform a typical double move, first casting ‘antarctic Zealand’s drear domain’ as desolate and ‘hostile’, inhabited by natives with a ‘savage thirst of human blood!’, and then refiguring it as a place that welcomes ‘the Hero’ (Cook), who ‘pours new wonders on th’ uncultur’d shore’.19 In her lengthy footnotes Seward cites Māori cannibalism as evidence that precontact New Zealand was inhabited by ‘famish’d thousands’ in need not just of ‘civilisation’ but of sustenance. Such literary imaginings influentially began the transformation of figurings of Māori in European writings from warlike and independent to a people in need of help. The feel of much of the voyage literature, however, is perhaps better represented by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere’ (1798), a poem that presents its reader with a story of the ‘wide wide Sea’ that its subject can’t narrate but that a listener ‘must hear’, which has multiple voices and broken frames, equally fascinates and unsettles, and, above all, presents apparent resolutions that neither explain nor resolve its tale.20 When John Liddiard Nicholas set sail with Samuel Marsden in 1814 from the well-established Australian colony of Port Jackson, New Zealand was still amongst the least known (and most feared) places in the Pacific. Nicholas’s two-volume Narrative of a Voyage to New Zealand (1817) self-consciously marks the beginning of organised European settlement. Like most of his contemporaries Nicholas has a tendency to lapse into both Rousseau-inflected Golden Age descriptions of the ‘natives’ and opposing discourses of ‘savagery’, as well as into descriptions of the natural environment as picturesque, offering ‘scenes of romantic wildness’.21 At the same time, however, Narrative of a Voyage to New Zealand, along with moments in other writings from this period, has been seen as occupying what has been called ‘the middle ground’, a phrase drawing on the model of American historian Richard White. In Pākehā histories this model has been applied to a very specific phase in the contact and encounter process, which Vincent O’Malley argues in New Zealand ran from around 1814 to 1840 (and, in weaker form, possibly into the 1860s) and was characterised by efforts towards mutual accommodation and understanding, holding good only ‘for so long as both parties in the encounter situation had a mutual need of the other’.22 Representatively, Nicholas’s book is punctuated by moments in which Māori are given space to assert their own worldviews so that, for example, Te Pahi – a principal chief of the Te Hikutu people of Rangihoua who visited

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.002 Published online by Cambridge University Press

22

I ng ri d Horrock s

Marsden at Port Jackson – on being laughed at for being tattooed, laughs back at the European practice of powdering and greasing the hair, generally putting forward arguments that Nicholas credits as ‘both rational and convincing’. The voyage out is figured as an interlude of conversation and mutual observation amongst the group, which consists not only of the crew and the missionaries and their families, but also of nine ‘New Zealanders’, including the named ‘Chiefs in the Bay of Islands’, Hongi Hika, Ruatara, and Korokoro. Most dramatically, Nicholas narrates a period in which the rangatira on board fall into a kind of ‘morose melancholy’, expressing regret and fear at what they have set in motion. Nicholas’s book also contains the first recorded uses of the term Packahâ’ (Pākehā), which he consistently uses in scenes in which he and other Europeans become objects of ‘curiosity’, linking the term to a subtle recalibration of identity in relation to Māori.23 Unsurprisingly Nicholas’s book shares features with the two books from the pre-colonial period by Evangelical missionaries, An Account of New Zealand (1835) by William Yate and A Journey in the Northern Island of New Zealand (1842) by William Wade, who had arrived in 1834 with William Colenso to help set up a missionary printing press. The situation of missionaries had already begun to shift by the mid-1830s, as the missions gained increasing political and economic independence from their Māori patron-chiefs,24 and Yate’s writing in particular highlights the comparative porosity of Nicholas’s text to new experiences, alternate worldviews, and potential sites of confluence between European and Māori practices. The term Pākehā disappears in the later book, Māori become ‘heathens’, and Yate’s book is structured in a way that, as Peter Gibbons and Lydia Wevers observe, is ‘carefully plotted’ to position Māori in a benighted, static state of nature, and to ‘conclude[] triumphally with the establishment of the mission’.25 The contrast between the way in which Nicholas and Yate represent the Māori practice of having children blessed by a tohunga is typical. For Nicholas the Māori practice is ‘a kind of baptismal ceremony’ and ‘curious fact’ to be reported and mused upon; Yate, by contrast, incorporates the practice into a Christian schema, referring to it as a ‘baptismal ceremony’ by a ‘priest’, and associates it with ‘superstitious and evil practices’.26 The sheer strangeness, to a twenty-first-century reader, of Yate’s text concluding with thirty pages of first-person conversion narratives from Māori and with twenty pages narrating the deaths of particular Māori in detail, is completely in keeping with publications in London, where from the 1820s onwards humanitarian narratives of dying Māori

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.002 Published online by Cambridge University Press

A World of Waters

23

became increasingly common. Such narratives, honed in the service of the abolition movement, were explicitly political, inviting sympathy and ‘ameliorative action’.27 New Zealand missionary narratives recast Māori as frail and vulnerable, in need of ‘rescue’ not only from themselves and each other but also from the increasing numbers of whalers, traders, and former convicts on New Zealand shores. This new representation, set in motion by works such as Seward’s, was to prove hugely influential, and hugely powerful, in future arguments for colonisation and the extension of British law.28 The more brutal end of the discourse surrounding trading ventures is suggested by Richard Cruise’s popular Journal of a Ten Months’ Residence in New Zealand [1820] (1823). Cruise was in charge of the military detachment on the Dromedary, a convict ship come to replace its human freight with a cargo of spars. The threat of violent conflict drives Cruise’s impersonal first-person narrative from one crisis of misunderstanding to the next, consistently representing contact with Māori in the frame of warfare.29 Cruise’s book also shows how relentlessly focused on male experience the European texts are. We know there were European women and children on the Dromedary because Cruise mentions that a child has died. The Māori women living on board appear only in plural as ‘the women’ ‘ordered to leave the ship’ before it sets off. Only in his closing ‘Remarks’ does Cruise think it worth mentioning that many of these women were in the late stages of pregnancy.30 Perhaps the most compelling text of ‘the middle ground’ is Augustus Earle’s illustrated Narrative of a Residence in New Zealand (1832) that, unlike Cruise’s book, was not well received when published in Britain. Francis Pound has argued that Earle’s many landscape paintings, colour lithographs, and engravings mapped the European picturesque onto New Zealand, but others have seen a more nuanced artistic practice to ‘represent the Maori gaze as a presence in the landscape’ in a way that enacts ‘an encounter that leaves us in an odd, disturbing, liminal space’.31 While Earle’s written text is full of set pieces of spectacle and landscape description, it also allows for more intimate narratives, enabled in part by Earle’s lack of clear objective and his narrative position as the only European writer of the period to live with Māori for a significant time.32 In highly sculptured scenes, such as one in which a missionary comes over from Paihia to pay ‘us a visit’ and hold a service in Kororareke (now Russell), Earle presents an active and confident sense of resistance on the part of Māori. Here Earle moves from a generalised report of how he ‘frequently conversed’ with his patron Te Whareumu about

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.002 Published online by Cambridge University Press

24

I ng ri d Horrock s

religion – specifically on the Māori rejection of the notion of future punishment – to an example: On the day in question the minister endeavoured to explain the sacred mysteries of our religion to a number of the chiefs who were present. They listened attentively to all he said, and expressed no doubts as to its truth, only remarking that ‘as all these wonderful circumstances happened only in the country of the white men, the great Spirit expected the white man only to believe them’.33

The scene ends with the assembled Ngāpuhi Māori bursting into ‘a loud laugh’ at being presented with the ‘torments of hell’ and requesting a blanket in exchange for their time.34 Looking back on his response to Earle in the 1930s, E. H. McCormick reflected that Earle and a few writers like him had seemed to form ‘a bridge between the tradition I knew [based on English literature] and the tradition, still unformulated, to which I aspired’.35 In his influential Letters and Art in New Zealand (1940), McCormick laments that New Zealand – and New Zealand literature – began not here, nor with Māori literature, but with the Victorianism of the nineteenth century, effectively dismissing each of these potential histories even as he charts them.36 This, for the most part, remained the status quo for the rest of the twentieth century.37 If we set aside the nationalism of McCormick’s vision, it becomes possible to see something worth recovering from writing such as Earle’s, composed when the geopolitical balance of power had not yet shifted and organised colonisation was not yet certain. These texts are not yet (strategically) saturated in a sense of ‘Old New Zealand’, already lost, which marks even very early colonial period texts such as ‘Pākehā Māori’ Frederick Manning’s Old New Zealand (1862) or Lady Barker’s Station Life in New Zealand (1870). As Pacific historian and ethnographer Nicholas Thomas observes of the voyage literature, if we can see these early encounters and representations as ‘replete with contradictions and contradictory possibilities, if their uncertainties meant that other things easily could have happened, it is perhaps easier to imagine that other things can happen now’.38 For those new things to happen now, Māori texts should speak alongside European texts. The greatest limitation of literary approaches to early New Zealand writing, in particular in relation to the pre-1830s, has been the perceived absence of texts by Māori. New work is showing that even the absence of Māori written texts in English is somewhat inaccurate. We now know, for instance, that the translator on board the Active with

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.002 Published online by Cambridge University Press

A World of Waters

25

Marsden and Nicholas was a young man Mowhee (Maui) who would go on to become a Sunday school teacher in England and the author of a conversion narrative published posthumously in 1817, making it possible to claim him as the first published Māori writer.39 But a large part of what happened here in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was an encounter between a European written culture and a Māori oral one, which brings into question the limits of what we mean when we talk about literary history, a question addressed more specifically by Arini Loader in Chapter  2. Of course, most early Māori literature makes no reference to Europeans at all. But there are also a number of texts that either record or give some indication of the content and form of Māori narratives that circulated orally in response to first contact, often recorded much later by Europeans. Te Horeta te Taniwha of Ngāti Whanaunga, for example, who was a child when Cook first visited, had his first-person narrative recorded later in the nineteenth century. When his account is juxtaposed with the European voyage texts, there is a marked difference in perspective. In Judith Binney’s words about what happens when one pays attention to such Māori narratives, ‘The focus of attention is different; the sympathetic identifications are different; the encrustation of meaning around events is different’.40 Te Horeta tells, for instance, of how ‘our old chiefs’ were asked to draw maps in charcoal on the deck of the ship and of how they communicated the names of geographical locations, but that the visitors ‘did not appear to understand’ the additional meanings they tried to explain about the associations of names and places, here the association of Muri-whenua (North Cape) with Reinga or the spirit world.41 Te Horeta’s account of a shooting in the first days of contact records an effort to understand events similar to that marking the European voyage literature, but from the other side of the beach, from the shore rather than the ships.42 There are also texts in te reo Māori, the Māori language, such as the many waiata (songs or poems) in various manuscript collections of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, first composed in  – or in reference to – this period. These changed with the needs of different generations of tellers and most were composed by Māori women, a strikingly absent voice in writing in English. Many waiata incorporate change in their imagery and narratives, referencing guns, alcohol, money, blankets, tobacco, and the new colonies of Australia.43 Nicholas’s Voyage to New Zealand contains a scene in which assembled rangatira on board the Active sing a waiata composed by the daughter of the late Te Pahi on the subject of his visit to Port Jackson.44 Some waiata also seem predictive, such as what Binney

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.002 Published online by Cambridge University Press

26

I ng ri d Horrock s

calls the ‘ominous song’ of Ngati Kahungunu priest Toira, ‘Tiwha tiwha te pō’ (‘Dark, dark is the night’), which in the nineteenth-century manuscript collection where it was recorded was carefully dated 1766, before the arrival of the Endeavour.45 At the same time, one of the effects of the scholarly return to the text and to the archive, both written and oral, is that the ‘encounter’ model for analysis has been challenged, moving beyond the analytical metaphor of the cross-cultural collision of ‘two peoples’ and ‘two worlds’ so influentially and richly set in motion by biculturally focused historical work such as Anne Salmond’s.46 Arguing for new histories of the wider Pacific, Nicholas Thomas writes, ‘interesting as this two-sided process is, it was not all that was going on’; at least as important were the new contacts between different islanders that were set in motion by European exploration.47 For Tony Ballantyne, working within the framework of the new imperial history, the more useful metaphor is that of ‘entanglement’, invoking a more complex web of engagement and range of interdependences that more deeply unsettles the metropole-periphery relationship.48 European writings tend to include only passing allusions to cross-cultural encounters between different Pacific peoples. However, what has emerged from a rereading of the Endeavour corpus in relation to Aotearoa-New Zealand, for example, with a different ‘focus of attention’ in the reading, is that the most important person who arrived on the Endeavour from a Māori point of view may not have been Cook or Banks, but Tupaia, the Raietian priest, navigator, cartographer, linguist, and translator who had joined the ship in Tahiti. The voyage literature records that Tupaia engaged in long conversations with local Māori and that he was soon being greeted by name as the Endeavour sailed on, mapping the coastline.49 Such new emphases make it clear that one of the stories the texts of this period tell, in part by failing to tell it, is of encounters between Pacific peoples. Figures such as Tupaia and Mai, the Tahitian who joined the second voyage, have been taken up by contemporary Māori and Pasifika academics, writers, and artists in particular. Alice Te Punga Somerville begins her reassessment of the place of Māori literature in relation to the Pacific, Once Were Pacific:  Māori Connections to Oceania (2012), with Cook’s reported astonishment at Māori preference for tapa cloth ‘above every other thing we had to give them’ and Tupaia’s newly recognised painting of this moment of exchange.50 She writes: For Māori – for us, for me – these moments in which Māori and the Pacific are reunited suggestively complete the cycle that started when our ancestors navigated their way to Aotearoa generations ago. . . .

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.002 Published online by Cambridge University Press

A World of Waters

27

I like to imagine Tupaia recognizing the significance of that moment in which Māori acquired the first new influx of material culture from one of their ancestral homes – tangible affirmation of oral traditions and cultural practices that had been passed down through generations of isolation from the rest of the Pacific – and choosing that as the image to record for posterity.51

For Somerville, such ‘re-membering’ is part of the ongoing project of decolonisation. Robert Sullivan, a poet and academic of Ngāpuhi/Irish descent who has spent time in Hawaiì, and New Zealand–born painter Michael Tuffery, who is of Samoan, Tahitian, and Cook Island descent, have placed Tupaia and other such Pacific voyage explorers at the centre of creative works that seek to bring the complexity of ‘a new lens, two’ to revisionary reimaginings of contact period and its legacies.52 As Sullivan writes, ‘Into the new age the waka glides / through halls of mirrors’.53 Notes 1 John Savage, ‘Account of Moyhanger, The Native of New Zealand’, in Some Account of New Zealand (1807), facsimile ed. (Dunedin:  Hocken Library, 1966), 95–6. 2 Vincent O’Malley, The Meeting Place: Māori and Pākehā Encounters, 1642–1840 (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2012), 55. 3 Peter Gibbons, ‘Non-Fiction’, in The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English, ed. Terry Sturm, 2nd ed. (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1998), 31–118, see p. 33. 4 Alex Calder, The Settler’s Plot:  How Stories Take Place in New Zealand (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2011), ix–x, 35. 5 Alex Calder, Jonathan Lamb, and Bridget Orr, ‘Introduction’, in Voyages and Beaches: Pacific Encounters, 1769–1840 (Honolulu:  University of Hawaiì Press, 1999), 1–24, see pp. 1, 3–4. See also Nicholas Thomas, Discoveries: The Voyages of Captain Cook (London: Penguin, 2003), xxxi–xxxiv; Rod Edmond, Representing the South Seas:  Colonial Discourse from Cook to Gauguin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 23–62. 6 Vanessa Smith, Intimate Strangers: Friendship, Exchange and Pacific Encounters (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2010), 15. For influential formulations of this argument see, in particular, Jonathan Lamb, Preserving the Self in the South Seas, 1680–1840 (Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 2001), ch. 3; Anne Salmond, The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: Captain Cook in the South Seas (London: Allen Lane, 2003). 7 Kathleen Wilson, The Island Race:  Englishness, Empire and Gender in the Eighteenth Century (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), 54–91. 8 John Liddiard Nicholas, Narrative of a Voyage to New Zealand Performed in the Years 1814 and 1815, in Company with the Rev. Samuel Marsden, Principal

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.002 Published online by Cambridge University Press

28

9

10 11 12 13 14 15 16

17 18

19 20

21 22

23 24 25 26

I ng ri d Horrock s Chaplain of New South Wales (1817), facsimile ed. (Auckland:  Wilson and Horton, 1971), 1:301. Augustus Earle, Narrative of a Residence in New Zealand; Journal of a Residence in Tristan da Cunha (1832), ed. E. H. McCormick (Oxford: Clarendon, 1966), 132; Anne Salmond, Two Worlds: First Meetings between Maori and Europeans, 1642–1772 (Auckland: Viking, 1991), 386–402. Lamb, Preserving the Self, 101. Wilson, The Island Race, 59; Lamb, Preserving the Self, 100–13. Paul Carter, The Road to Botany Bay: An Exploration of Landscape and History (1987) (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 69. Greg Dening, Mr Bligh’s Bad Language:  Passion, Power, and Theatre on the Bounty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 177. Stephen Turner, ‘A History Lesson: Captain Cook Finds Himself in the State of Nature’, Calder et al., Voyages, 89–99. James Cook, The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyages of Discovery, ed. J. C. Beaglehole, Vol. 1 (Cambridge:  Published for the Hakluyt Society, 1955), ccxi (Greenwich MS), 171. Rachel Standfield, ‘Violence and the Intimacy of Imperial Ethnography: The Endeavour in the Pacific’, in Moving Subjects: Gender, Mobility, and Intimacy in an Age of Global Empire, ed. Tony Ballantyne and Antoinette Burton (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 31–48, see pp. 31–3. Cook, The Journals, 281. See also Wilson, The Island Race, 175. Anna Seward, Elegy on Captain Cook (London: J. Dodsley, 1780), Eighteenth Century Collections Online, http://gdc.gale.com/products/eighteenth-century -collections-online/ (accessed 9 December 2013). The Goddess ‘HUMANITY’ becomes ‘BENEVOLENCE’ in subsequent editions. Ibid., 8–9. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ‘The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere’, in William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads 1798 and 1800, ed. Michael Gamer and Dahlia Porter (Peterborough, ON:  Broadview, 2008), lines 225, 622. Nicholas, Narrative of a Voyage, 1:99; see also 1:77, 86–7. O’Malley, The Meeting Place, 7–8. For an overview of this approach in New Zealand historical analysis, see Paul Monin, ‘Maori Encounters and Colonial Capitalism’, in The New Oxford History of New Zealand, ed. Giselle Byrnes (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2009), 125–46. Nicholas, Narrative of a Voyage, 1 9, 38–41, 181–2, 250, 276, 330, 365, 369; 2:43, 338. Judith Binney, ‘Introduction’, in William Yate, An Account of New Zealand and of the Church Missionary Society’s Mission in the Northern Island (1835) (Wellington: Reed, 1970), v–vii. Gibbons, ‘Non-Fiction’, 36; Lydia Wevers, Country of Writing:  Travel Writing and New Zealand, 1809–1900 (Auckland:  Auckland University Press, 2002), 102. Nicholas, Narrative of a Voyage, 1:61–2; Yate, An Account of New Zealand, 82–4.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.002 Published online by Cambridge University Press

A World of Waters

29

27 Tony Ballantyne, Entanglements of Empire:  Missionaries, Māori, and the Question of the Body (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2015), 217. 28 Ibid., 23. 29 Wevers, Country of Writing, 110. 30 Richard A. Cruise, Journal of a Ten Months’ Residence in New Zealand (1820) (1823), ed. A. G. Bagnall (Christchurch: Pegasus Press, 1957), 178, 188. 31 W.  J.  T. Mitchell, Landscape and Power, 2nd ed. (Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 2002), 27. 32 McCormick, preface, in Earle, Narrative of a Residence, vi; Wevers, Country of Writing, 85. 33 Earle, Narrative of a Residence, 132–3. 34 Ibid., 133. 35 McCormick, preface, v. 36 E. H. McCormick, Letters and Art in New Zealand (Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs, 1940), 17. 37 Jane Stafford and Mark Williams, Maoriland:  New Zealand Literature 1872–1914 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2006), 10–22. 38 Nicholas Thomas, ‘Liberty and License:  The Forsters’ Accounts of New Zealand Sociality’, Calder et al., Voyages, 134. 39 Alice Te Punga Somerville, ‘Living on New Zealand Street: Maori Presence in Parramatta’, Ethnohistory 61, 4 (2014), 655–69: 658–9; Alison Jones and Kuni Jenkins, He Kōrero – Words between Us: First Māori-Pākeha Conversations on Paper (Wellington: Huia, 2011), 45–54. 40 Judith Binney, ‘Māori Oral Narratives, Pākehā Written Texts:  Two Forms of Telling History’ (1987), Stories without End: Essays 1975–2010 (Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2010), 70–85, see p. 72. 41 Te Horeta as recorded by John White, Ancient History of the Maori, 5:129, 125, in Jones and Jenkins, He Kōrero, 28. 42 Te Horeta as recorded by Charles Heaphy, in The Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature, ed. Jane Stafford and Mark Williams (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2012), 20–1. For an account of a Ngāpuhi view from the beaches, see also Pat Hohepa, ‘My Musket, My Missionary, and My Mana’, Calder et al., Voyages, 180–201. 43 Jane McRae, Ngā Mōteatea: An Introduction by Jane McRae; Māori Translation by Hēni Jacob (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2011), 79. 44 Nicholas, Narrative of a Voyage, 1:53. 45 Judith Binney, ‘History and Memory:  The Wood of the Whau Tree, 1766–2005’, Byrnes,The New Oxford History of New Zealand, 77. 46 Salmond, Two Worlds. 47 Nicholas Thomas, Islanders: The Pacific in the Age of Empire (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2010), 16. 48 Ballantyne, Entanglements of Empire, 16–17. 49 Salmond, Trial of the Cannibal Dog, 133, 189; Joan Druett, Tupaia:  The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook’s Polynesian Navigator (Auckland: Random, 2011), esp. 288–91.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.002 Published online by Cambridge University Press

30

I ng ri d Horrock s

50 Alice Te Punga Somerville, Once Were Pacific: Māori Connections to Oceania (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), xv. 51 Ibid., xxi, xxx. 52 Robert Sullivan, ‘The Great Hall’, in Voice Carried My Family (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2005), line 15. On Sullivan and Tuffery, see Somerville, Once Were Pacific, 51–8, 191–3; Bridget Orr, ‘ “Maui and Orphic Blood”: Cook’s Death in Contemporary Maori Poetry’, The Eighteenth Century – Theory and Interpretation 49, 2 (2008): 165–79. 53 Robert Sullivan, ‘Waka 42’, in Star Waka (Auckland:  Auckland University Press, 1999), lines 1–2.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.002 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter  2

Early Māori Literature The Writing of Hakaraia Kiharoa Arini Loader

Rārangi maunga tū te ao, tū te pō, rārangi tangata ka ngaro, ka ngaro.1

Over the course of the long nineteenth century, Māori produced thousands of pages of written work, a large selection of which lies on shelves in libraries and other archival institutions in Aotearoa-New Zealand and around the world. Genres include correspondence, whakataukī (proverbs), biography, historical accounts, travel journals, and descriptions of customs, religious beliefs, and more. This collective body of work is written almost exclusively in te reo Māori, the Māori language, and scholarly work has tended to focus on its translation into English. The emphasis on translation is not surprising given the sustained and systematic violence wreaked upon Māori by European colonisation, and later perpetuated by assimilatory ideology and government policy that severely undermined the health of the Māori language. Despite efforts to revitalise the Māori language, it remains today in a critically endangered state. Translations are, however, products of their own time, place, and context. Reading the texts in the language in which they were first written, in their own idiom, and with their own turns of phrase, tone, meter, and style enables unparalleled access to the first literature of Aotearoa-New Zealand – to Māori literature. Due to the ruptures caused by ongoing colonial processes, reading early Māori literature often involves intensive upskilling in language proficiency as well as detective work as we follow leads, peel back layers, explore, search, and rediscover that which has sometimes been right in front of us the whole time. In June 1852 Hakaraia Kiharoa wrote down the words of some sixty-nine waiata (songs) filling eighty-five pages of manuscript.2 Written into the age-worn pages are examples of all the major types: waiata tangi (laments), waiata aroha (love songs), and oriori or pōpō (lullabies); waiata that form a class of their own such as ‘tangi tamaiti’ (laments for children), as well as waiata that defy classification altogether. The waiata refer to ancient 31

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.003 Published online by Cambridge University Press

32

Ari ni  Loader

conflicts, contemporary events, and religious beliefs. They explore the lacerating grief of love lost, and mourn the passing of great rangatira (chiefs). Line upon line spill over the pages in a continuous stream of imagery, metaphor, simile, and all other manner of Māori poetic ornament. Kiharoa writes in clear, slanted, thin, carefully formed and flourished letters of black ink. The visual symmetry of the text is a striking testament to the talent and skill of but one of te ao Māori’s nineteenth-century writers.3 Truly, the waiata in Kiharoa’s manuscript exemplify what Apirana Ngata referred to as, ‘Te tohungatanga o nga tautitotito’, ‘The poetic genius of the composers’.4 Yet the historical record contains little on Hakaraia Kiharoa and even less on his work as a writer. He was the eldest child of Kiharoa and Parerape, his siblings were Moroati and Ria, and he also had a brother, Wiperehama Te Mahauariki, through his father’s union with Te Kuraturoto.5 Kiharoa married Katerina Te Kaiwakarato in 1843 and they had one surviving child, a daughter, Mere.6 There are few memorials to Kiharoa. One is his barely readable headstone in the grounds of Rangiātea churchyard, which reads: E tapu ana tenei hei whakamaharatanga ki a Hakaraia Kiharoa te kai whakaako o Otaki. I mate i te 4 o nga ra o Hune i te tau 1852. H[K]a hari nga tupapaku e mate i roto i te Ariki.7

Another memorial to Kiharoa is his manuscript of waiata. A  smudged note on the inside cover page, written in the distinctive hand of Governor George Grey, provides some useful clues: Written by Te Uramutu, or Zachariah Kiharoa a young chief of the Ngatiraukawa [sic] tribe at Otaki, in the early part of 1852, he died in the month of June – a few weeks after he had finished this manuscript. GGrey June 20th 1852. Wellington.

Grey’s note records the range of names by which Kiharoa was known. ‘Kiharoa’ is taken from his father, the rangatira, warrior, and contemporary of Te Rauparaha and Hongi Hika.8 Kiharoa (Snr) was born at Maungatautari in the Waikato region, the territorial stronghold of the iwi (tribe) Ngāti Raukawa, who descend from the Tainui waka, one of the major migratory waka (canoes) upon which Māori arrived from islands further out in Te Moananui-a-Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean) to settle in Aotearoa-New Zealand. He was one of the rangatira who led Ngāti Raukawa on the major migrations of the early nineteenth century, travelling down from Waikato to the southern parts of Te Ika a Māui, the North Island of Aotearoa-New Zealand. Kiharoa (Snr) signed the Treaty

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.003 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Early Māori Literature

33

of Waitangi and is also interred at Rangiātea. The name of his father roots Hakaraia Kiharoa in the upper echelons of Ngāti Raukawa whakapapa and affirms his position as a rangatira of substantial rank and influence. ‘Zachariah’ was Kiharoa’s baptismal name and is transliterated into te reo Māori as ‘Hakaraia’. He may have been known as ‘Zachariah’ to non-Māori and ‘Hakaraia’ to Māori.9 That he has a baptismal name, and one so obviously biblical, announces his conversion to Christianity. The significance of ‘Te Uramutu’ is unknown and he may also have been known as ‘Te Reinga’.10 Names are deeply important to Māori, particularly in terms of the strong oral dimension of Māori history, traditions, and customs. As McKinnon notes, ‘In the oral tradition everyone who is to be remembered is named. No name, no memory’.11 It is notable that Grey records two different names or sets of names by which Hakaraia Kiharoa was known, ‘Te Uramutu’ and ‘Hakaraia Kiharoa’, the former name perhaps being older and predating Kiharoa’s baptism. Moreover, Kiharoa might have been known as ‘Te Uramutu’ to particular individuals or groups and as ‘Hakaraia Kiharoa’ to others. It is also possible that the name or names by which he was known depended on the situation or context at hand. Grey also records Hakaraia Kiharoa’s iwi, Ngāti Raukawa, and the geographic location of its community at Ōtaki, on the southwest coast of Te Ika a Māui. He gives the date that the manuscript was written as June 1852. In a final, rather understated, comment, Grey writes that the ‘young chief ’ died just a few weeks after completing the manuscript. The timing is compelling  – Kiharoa may well have been very ill when he was writing the manuscript; indeed, so ill that he died shortly after completing it. Although Kiharoa has been in many ways hard to find, the written taonga he left in and of his manuscript has proven a lasting tribute to his memory. This textual memorial has been kept safe all these years among Sir George Grey’s collection of Māori manuscripts. A  highly controversial nineteenth-century colonial governor, Grey was an insatiable collector who built up several collections of rare artefacts, books, and manuscripts including Māori-language texts.12 By his own admission, Grey collected these Māori-language materials in order to learn the language and to know more about Māori customs and practices – part of the imperial project of building archives of knowledge about (and over) those peoples Britain ruled. In 1851 Grey part-published a collection of song texts, Ko nga Moteatea, me nga Hakirara a nga Maori, and the complete book was published two years later in 1853. This work was the precursor to Apirana Ngata’s classic four-volume Nga Moteatea series. Of the 533 waiata in Grey’s Nga Moteatea, thirty-nine were taken

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.003 Published online by Cambridge University Press

34

Ari ni  Loader

from Kiharoa’s manuscript. Grey held Kiharoa in such high esteem that he dedicated Henry Tacy Kemp’s 1854 Māori-language translation of The Pilgrim’s Progress to Kiharoa, whom he remembers as: He rangatira no ‘Ngatiraukawa’, he hoa aroha tahi no nga Pakeha, no nga Maori, he kaiwhakaako i te rongopai o te karaiti, a, mau tonu te pai ki a ia.13 A chief of the ‘Ngatiraukawa’ tribe, a warm friend alike of the European and Maori race, a Christian teacher and an excellent man.14

This dedication echoes and expands upon the (now illegible) words inscribed on Hakaraia Kiharoa’s gravestone. That Grey considered Kiharoa ‘friendly’ to both Pākehā (Europeans) and Māori, combined with his high status and role as a Christian teacher, positions him as a valuable friend and ally in Grey’s mission to govern both Māori and Pākehā. Grey’s description of Kiharoa as ‘an excellent man’ emphasises that he thought highly of him and suggests a warm friendship had developed between them. Just as Kiharoa’s gravestone states that it was erected in his memory (‘hei whakamaharatanga ki a Hakaraia Kiharoa’) so too is the translation work dedicated to his memory, ‘hei whakamaharatanga ake ki a Hakaraia Kiharoa’. However, while on the gravestone Kiharoa’s role as ‘te kai whakaako o Otaki’, ‘teacher of Otaki’, is the single defining feature of his life, Grey’s dedication adds more. Spatial constraints would have played a part in both cases, especially on the gravestone. Even so, it was Ngāti Raukawa who subscribed the fifteen pounds required for Kiharoa’s gravestone and therefore presumably decided on the wording.15 The iwi chose to set Kiharoa apart for his work among them as a teacher, remembering his instrumental role in bringing and disseminating ‘The Word’ to his people’ – both the Christian message and literacy. Grey’s dedication, however, connects Hakaraia Kiharoa to a hugely important text in both the English literary tradition and the Christian faith – a text that was, at the time, second only in popularity (at least in the Christian world) to the Bible. The dedication thus connects Kiharoa to the wider Christian world and its literature, and to the broader English literary tradition. This is, of course, no mere accident or coincidence. In affixing Kiharoa’s name to the text, Grey reinforces the messages he wants The Pilgrim’s Progress to convey to Māori; Kiharoa is, in short, recast as an exemplary Māori pilgrim, one who has successfully completed the journey from ‘the first conviction of sin’ to ‘the entrance to the Celestial Kingdom’.16 Kiharoa is transformed from an important Ngāti Raukawa rangatira to ‘Christian’, a Māori literary hero embedded in the most well-known Christian allegory of all time.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.003 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Early Māori Literature

35

Like the character of Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress, Kiharoa was guided and taught by people along his journey to Christian enlightenment; someone had first to teach the teacher. The man most responsible for Kiharoa’s work as a Christian teacher was the venerable Christian Missionary Society missionary Octavius Hadfield. Hadfield arrived on the Kapiti Coast in 1839 after Tāmihana Te Rauparaha and Mātene Te Whiwhi travelled to Te Waimate in the Bay of Islands to request a missionary for their region. Hadfield answered the call and rose to meet the challenges of being responsible for the religious health of a large Māori and increasing white settler population. His people were spread out over an extensive geographic region, taking in Ōtaki and Waikanae and extending out into the Manawatū and Rangitīkei areas, as well as Tōtaranui (Queen Charlotte Sound) at Te Tau Ihu, the top of Te Waipounamu (the South Island). Hadfield’s lifelong energy, dedication, and passion for his work set him apart from many other missionaries. His opinions on matters concerning Māori, and on the governance of New Zealand, favoured Māori; he publically and vehemently chastised the government’s stance on, and involvement in, the Taranaki war, making him for some time ‘the most unpopular man in the colony’.17 Hadfield baptised Kiharoa in 1840, a year after arriving on the Kapiti Coast, subsequently appointing him head teacher at Ōtaki with his Ngāti Raukawa people; Rīwai Te Ahu was Kiharoa’s counterpart at Waikanae with Te Āti Awa. Kiharoa served his people well and his untimely death had a major impact on Hadfield’s mission. In his 1852 report to the Christian Missionary Society, after observing the generally steady improvement of Māori engagement with the mission and its message, Hadfield notes ‘I can hardly pass over the news of Hakaraia Kiharoa’s death’, thus conveying a sense of the enormity of this event. He then writes what can only be described as a eulogy, recalling, among other things, Kiharoa’s early interest in Christianity: He was a sincere, humble, unostentatious Christian, who said but little.18

Hadfield mentions Kiharoa’s tombstone, as well as George Grey’s intention to dedicate the translation of The Pilgrim’s Progress to him. Interestingly, Hadfield also records something of Kiharoa’s writing activities, noting: During my long illness he kept up a constant correspondence with me on all matters connected with the welfare of his tribe, and conveyed to me, during the war, information that was frequently of much use to the government.19

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.003 Published online by Cambridge University Press

36

Ari ni  Loader

The illness that Hadfield refers to was serious enough to keep him confined for almost five years (from late October 1844 to October 1849)  to the home of his friend, the Wellington magistrate Henry St. Hill. Frustratingly, however, I have been unable to locate any of the letters to Hadfield that Kiharoa is said to have written.20 Family tradition has it that Hadfield burnt a great deal of his papers, perhaps with the aim of avoiding future libel cases against his family.21 Hadfield’s comment that Kiharoa wrote information ‘of much use to the government’ also suggests that these letters might raise ill-will towards Kiharoa from Māori who opposed the colonial government. A  major point of difference between Grey and Hadfield is illuminated here. Grey was a voracious collector who appears to have kept everything, including material that does not paint him in a good light; Hadfield, it seems, burnt texts to prevent their being used against his descendants. Although Grey has been roundly criticised for his ‘heavy-handed’ editing of the Māori manuscripts, his glaring lack of acknowledgement of Māori sources, and his ‘cut and paste’ knitting-together of disparate versions of Māori history and traditions to form one unified narrative, he at least kept the manuscripts. Grey, Hadfield, and the iwi tell us about Kiharoa in different ways, utilising different forms and taking different approaches. It is to Grey’s collection of Māori manuscripts I now turn, and specifically the manuscript that Hakaraia Kiharoa wrote. The first waiata in Kiharoa’s manuscript is an apakura, a specific form of waiata tangi composed by women in the wharemate (resting place for a body) during the tangihanga as part of the grieving process: 1

5

10

15

Ma wai e ranga to mate i te ao, Ka nawaia na koe ra i, Ma koutou e, ma te reinga e, Taku tirotiro noa i waenga i te hono tatai, Ka ngaro te whanaunga e-i, Ka ngaro te whanaunga, Haea mai ra, to hei kakapiripiri, Ki a tau atu ia, ki runga te puiti, Hikakatia ra, te more o to iho, To ihu ki a hara taumata e-i, Ki a hara taumata, ka taka pu mai, te wai o Hikihiki, Raparapateuira, Hokaia Tinirau, Te moana ka tere, i raua ai koe ra-i, Kihai koe i raua i te whanga paraoa, No Whakamoetoka,

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.003 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Early Māori Literature

20

37

Ka pau te tipona, Ki te harakeke mata, Tau atu ko te urunga e-i, Tau atu ko te urunga, E Pou a Hine, I poua iho ra, te pou ki Rarotonga, Kia tina, kia whena, Ka tere te papa, ki Nukume Hawaiki e-i.22

That Kiharoa chose to record an apakura first in the manuscript attests to the predominance of tangi as a class of waiata, at least among the song texts that have survived to the present day.23 A  concise comment that begins the manuscript, however, suggests another reason why this type of waiata appears first in the manuscript: Ko te timatanga tenei o nga waiata katoa he apakura.

Kiharoa’s comment can be simply interpreted:  ‘The opening waiata in this manuscript is an apakura’. But an alternative interpretation is that in a whakapapa (genealogy) of waiata, apakura occupy the first position; that is, apakura are the waiata from which all other waiata descend.24 Whakapapa order the universe, demonstrating and reinforcing relationships, and explaining how phenomena belong in the world in relation to other phenomena. A  parallel example in a manuscript written by Mātene Te Whiwhi begins, ‘Ko te timatanga tenei o nga whakapapa ki nga tupuna’ (This is the beginning of the genealogies of the ancestors).25 What follows is a whakapapa that begins with Te Pō Tuatahi (The First Night) and moves through epochs of time, cycling through to Hoturoa – the kaihautū (commander) of Tainui waka  – and onwards through a constellation of prominent ancestors to arrive at several contemporary Ngāti Raukawa / Ngāti Toa Rangatira, including Te Rauparaha, his son Tāmihana Te Rauparaha, Mātene Te Whiwhi, and Hakaraia Kiharoa. This whakapapa fills eight pages of the manuscript, five of which feature two columns of names per page. However, as Te Whiwhi writes at the very beginning of the text, everything begins with Te Pō; Te Whiwhi’s opening comment, ‘Ko te timatanga tenei o nga whakapapa ki nga tupuna’ refers not only to the beginning of the manuscript but to the beginning of all time. To return to Kiharoa’s manuscript, as well as referring to a specific type of waiata composed by women, apakura is also the name of a famous tupuna wahine (female ancestor). According to the narrative recorded in another manuscript written by Mātene Te Whiwhi, Apakura was the wife of Tūwhakarangi whose parents were Rata and Tongarautawhiri. Apakura

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.003 Published online by Cambridge University Press

38

Ari ni  Loader

and Tūwhakarangi were the parents of the tipua (hero) Whakatau.26 Apakura’s sister, Te Kohu, begat Hineteiwaiwa: Rātā (m) = Tongarautawhiri (f ) , Tūwhakarangi (m) = Apakura (f ) , (Nihakatau) Whakatau (m)

Te Kohu (f ) , Hineteiwaiwa (f ) = Tinirau (m) , Tūhuruhuru (m)

In the story of Tinirau, Tutunui, and Kae (Ngae, in northern dialects) related by Te Whiwhi, Hineteiwaiwa, Tinirau’s wife, and a group of women including Raukatauri, Raukatamea, Itiiti, Rekareka, and Ruahauatangaroa travel to the island home of the tohunga (ritual expert) Kae. They intend to kidnap him by stealth and return him to their home with Tinirau to face punishment for killing and eating Tūhuruhuru’s pet whale, Tutunui.27 The women perform waiata and other entertainments for Kae and his people in order to make him laugh, allowing them to identify him by his misshapen teeth. After some time, Kae can no longer contain his mirth: he opens his mouth and laughs, revealing his teeth with bits of whale meat still stuck between them. Eventually, the people retire for the night and when everyone is sound asleep, the women carry off the sleeping Kae to meet his fate. The women who performed this deed have been referred to as the earliest kapa haka, a group or groups of performers who stand in rows to perform Māori song, haka, and dance.28 If not the first, they are certainly one of the earliest remembered examples of a group of musical performers. By way of genealogical and narrative whakapapa, Apakura is thus linked to the first kapa haka troop. The connection to Apakura is reiterated in the final two sections of the waiata that begins Kiharoa’s manuscript. The waiata can be divided into four main sections, the divisions marked by the ‘e-i’ at the end of lines 5, 10, and 23, the final line of the waiata. These repeated vowel sounds give a helpful clue as to where the waiata pauses or comes to a natural resting point. This would, of course, be even more evident in the oral context where the ‘mita’ (literally ‘meter’) of the waiata would be more apparent. The repetition of key phrases at lines 5 and 6 (‘Ka ngaro te whanaunga’), 10 and 11 (‘Ki a hara taumata’), and 19 and 20 (‘Tau atu ko te urunga’) likewise signals natural resting points. The pattern identified here also corresponds to significant shifts in the waiata’s content, the images it invokes, and the emotions it expresses. The overall impression is of a journey; for the composer and singers, it is a journey through the stages of grief that

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.003 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Early Māori Literature

39

accompanies the death of a loved one. For the dearly departed, the journey is both physical and spiritual; as the physical body, the tūpāpaku, begins to decay, the wairua (spirit) begins its journey ‘home’ to Hawaiki. Accordingly, the first section of the waiata expresses the initial shock felt at the loss of a loved one. This is evident in the opening line, ‘Ma wai e ranga to mate i te ao’ which can be interpreted as, ‘Who will avenge your departure from this life?’29 An underlying question, however, asks what kind of death the recently lost one suffered: the manner in which one dies made (and makes) a great difference in how the death is mourned.30 The poet ends this section, ‘Taku tirotiro noa i waenga i te hono tatai / Ka ngaro te whanaunga e-i’, ‘Though I look about in vain here amongst the living / My dear one is gone’. Here, the reality of the situation is brought home with resounding finality. The waiata’s second section moves further into the depths of grief and refers to its physical expression. The first line, for example, ‘Haea mai ra, to hei kakapiripiri’, refers to the slashing (‘hae (-a)’) of one’s skin with sharpened shells or obsidian out of anguish at the death of a loved one. This could also be a play on words, whereby the slashing of human skin echoes the process used to extract scent from the ‘kaka piripiri’, the stalks of Hymenophyllum demissum, a fern. Māori commonly used scented oils to help mask the odour of the tūpāpaku. The nose, ‘ihu’, is mentioned at line 10 and appears to acknowledge the tūpāpaku’s high-born status; in Williams’s dictionary, ‘hīkaka te ihu’ means ‘to show scorn’.31 In the final phrase in this section, ‘Ki a hara taumata’, the composer urges the deceased to turn up their nose in scorn, perhaps at the living world, as befits both their high status and their removal to an alternative realm. The third section of the waiata marks a significant shift, and is in fact the beginning of the work’s second major part. Whereas the first was taken up with the grief of those left behind and related from their perspective, this second part concerns the deceased’s impending spiritual journey. At line 11, the beginning of section three in my four-section scheme, karakia (incantation) is invoked in the phrase, ‘te wai o Hikihiki’. One explanation of ‘hiki’ is ‘a charm for raising anything from the water’32 and the phrase also explicitly names water (‘wai’): a literal translation is thus ‘the waters of Hikihiki’. ‘Hikihiki’ could be a place, the name of an ancestor, the personification of a place, something else, or any or all of the above. Whatever the referent, the complete phrase, ‘Ka taka pu mai, te wai o Hikihiki’ suggests a radical change in the sentiment and direction of the waiata at this point, with the ‘crashing down’ (‘Ka taka pu mai’) of ‘te wai o Hikihiki’. Water, specifically the ocean, becomes crucial from this point onwards.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.003 Published online by Cambridge University Press

40

Ari ni  Loader

The invocation of karakia precipitates a tohu or sign in the sky, as ‘Raparapateuira’ (line 12)  or lightning flashes. Tinirau is then named (line 13), thereby summoning the story of Tinirau, his pet whale Tutunui, and the tohunga Kae into the context of the waiata. This story is very ancient and is known throughout many islands of the Pacific. Its oceanic location is reinforced here by the earlier mention of ‘te wai o Hikihiki’, as well as the drifting ocean waters at line 14. Similarly, ‘Whanga paraoa’ is named on line 15, which is a play on words; ‘whanga’ means bay, harbour, and ‘any stretch of water’33 while ‘parāoa’ is the Māori name for Physeter macrocephalus, more commonly known as the sperm whale.34 ‘Parāoa’ here again recalls the story of Tinirau and Kae by making reference to the whale Tutunui. Whangaparāoa Bay, in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, is also the place where, after their long journey from Hawaiki, both the Tainui and Te Arawa waka made landfall in Aotearoa. The waiata’s reference to ‘whanga paraoa’ is thus rich in significance, particularly to Ngāti Raukawa who trace descent from Tainui waka. This third section of the waiata ends with the figurative waka coming to rest, having completed its journey across the oceans, ‘Tau atu ko te urunga e-i’ (line 19). ‘Te pou ki Rarotonga’ at line 21  – literally ‘The post at Rarotonga’  – echoes ‘[T]e Pou a Hine’ (The Post of Hine) one line earlier. ‘Hine’ is a generic term for ‘woman / female’ and features in Māori cosmology in names such as ‘Hinetitama’, ‘Hineahuone’, and ‘Hinenuitepō’. One possibility is that ‘E Pou a Hine’ is more strictly grammatically rendered ‘Te Pou a Hine’, and that this relates again to the story of Tinirau. Hineteiwaiwa and Tinirau are the parents of Tūhuruhuru and, following a difficult birth, the tohunga Kae is fetched to perform the tohi, or baptismal rites, for the baby:  so begins the story of Kae’s relationship with Tinirau and Hineteiwaiwa. Hineteiwaiwa, Tinirau’s wife, is furthermore the atua (deity) of childbirth and te whare pora, weaving, and female arts. In one tradition, Tura, an ancestor connected to childbirth practices, built a special house for his wife to give birth in so she would not perish as commonly occurred. Inside this house Tura placed two pou (poles): the first, the ‘pou-tama-wahine’, was for her to hold on to and the second, the ‘pou-tama-tāne’, was for her to lean against. Once their child Tauiraahua was born, Tura cut the umbilical cord and offered the whenua (placenta) to the atua Mua. Tauiraahua then underwent the tohi rite.35 ‘[T]e Pou a Hine’ could refer to ‘te pou-tama-wahine’, referencing as it does the female element juxtaposed with the male element invoked in te ‘pou-tama-tāne’. Within the context of the waiata ‘[T]e Pou a Hine’ also gestures more broadly to

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.003 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Early Māori Literature

41

whakapapa, to genealogical connections (both conceptual and historical) between Māori who settled in Aotearoa and Māori elsewhere in the Pacific. This connection is made quite explicit in the phrases ‘[T]e Pou a Hine’ and ‘Te Pou ki Rarotonga’. Links across time and place  – arising from the whakapapa, ocean, imagery, traditions, and history shared between Māori who settled in Aotearoa and Māori who still live in Rarotonga – are remembered. The references to a time and place before Māori arrived in Aotearoa come to a resounding conclusion in the final line of the waiata: Ka tere te papa, ki Nukume Hawaiki e-i.

The figurative waka makes landfall and rests here where the ‘post of Hine’, as well as that at Rarotonga, might be fixed into the earth. A further purpose of these posts was ‘securing’ the waka, anchoring it literally in the land and fastening it to ‘papa’ (a shortened version of the earth mother’s full name, Papatūānuku), here reinforced with the phrase, ‘ki Nuku’, another contraction of ‘Papatūānuku’. This reading of just one of the sixty-nine waiata recorded by Kiharoa in his manuscript is neither conclusive nor comprehensive, but is rather offered as a something of a beginning or conversation starter. These and many other early Māori manuscript texts combine to form a substantial body of rich material that remains largely unexplored, yet has so much to contribute within the broader frame of the literary history of these islands. Notes 1 ‘A range of mountains stands but a line of people is lost’. One interpretation of this whakataukī (proverb) proffered by Hirini Mead is, ‘The art of the ancestors remains while the people, the artists have disappeared forever from this world of light’. Te Maori:  Maori Art from New Zealand Collections (Auckland: New York: Heinemann; American Federation of Arts, 1984), 20. 2 A note on orthography:  in direct quotes, I  have used macrons only if they appear in the original. Otherwise I  follow current orthographic preferences, adding macrons over long vowels in the Māori language. 3 E kore e mutu aku mihi ki taku hoa tungāne a Michael Ross. I would like to acknowledge the generous assistance of Michael Ross whose expertise in the realm of Māori literature has strengthened this work exponentially. 4 A. T. Ngata, Nga Moteatea Part I (Wellington: Reed, 1972), ix, xv. 5 Hemi Nikora, ‘Connections’, Otaki Historical Society Journal 11 (1988), 90–2: 91. 6 Barbara Swabey and Helen Dempsey, ‘The Historic Graves of Rangiatea’, Otaki Historical Society Journal 2 (1979), 33.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.003 Published online by Cambridge University Press

42

Ari ni  Loader

7 ‘In sacred memory to Hakaraia Kiharoa, teacher of Otaki / Died on the 4 of June in the year 1852 / There is joy to those who die in the Lord’ (ibid.). Note that the gravestone records Kiharoa’s age as thirty years, which positions him as one of the ‘younger’ chiefs of Ōtaki – a contemporary of such men as Tāmihana Te Rauparaha and Mātene Te Whiwhi. 8 A. T. Ngata, Nga Moteatea (Hastings: E. S. Cliff and Co., 1928), 45. 9 E.g., Mātene Te Whiwhi was known as ‘Martyn’ to non-Māori and Tāmihana Te Rauparaha was known as ‘Thompson’. 10 Swabey and Dempsey, ‘The Historic Graves of Rangiatea’, 33. Variations in orthography include ‘Te Uremutu’ and ‘Te Urumutu’. See David Simmons and Merimeri Penfold, Ngā Tau Rere: An Anthology of Ancient Māori Poetry (Auckland: Reed, 2003), 104. 11 ‘Te Ao Māori; Whakapapa, Archaeology, Contact’, in Bateman New Zealand Historical Atlas:  Ko Papatuanuku E Takoto Nei, ed. Malcolm McKinnon (Auckland:  Bateman in association with Department of Internal Affairs, Historical Branch, 1997), Plate 9. 12 Grey’s collecting and bookish activities are the subject of Donald Jackson Kerr’s Amassing Treasures for All Times:  Sir George Grey, Colonial Bookman and Collector (New Castle, Delaware:  Oak Knoll Press; Dunedin:  Otago University Press, 2006). 13 John Bunyan, He momoea, otira ko nga korero o te huarahi e rere atu nei te tangata i tenei ao a, tapoko noa ano ki tera ao atu (Pilgrim’s Progress), trans. Henry Tacy Kemp (Poneke: Te Toki, 1854). 14 Ibid. 15 Church Missionary Society, The Missionary Register 42 (London:  Seeley, Jackson & Halliday, 1854), 111. 16 ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’, Christian Book Summaries 3, 42 (October 2007), http://www.christianbooksummaries.com/library/v3/cbs0342.pdf (accessed 16 September 2016). 17 June Starke, ‘Hadfield, Octavius’, in Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara  – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/ biographies/1h2/hadfield-octavius (accessed 16 September 2016). 18 Church Missionary Society, The Missionary Register, 111. 19 Ibid. 20 I have also been unsuccessful in locating the manuscript text Kiharoa and Hadfield worked on which formed the basis of a school primer later brought to print by Henry Tacy Kemp and George Grey (see Shef Rogers, ‘Crusoe among the Maori: Translation and Colonial Acculturation in Victorian New Zealand’, Book History 1 (1998): 188. 21 June Starke, ‘Octavius Hadfield’, Otaki Historical Society Journal 3 (1980), 13. 22 For ease of reading I have followed the line length and other minor editorial changes made by George Grey in his Ko nga Moteatea me nga Hakirara a nga Maori (Wellington: Robert Stokes, 1853), 229. 23 Ngata, Nga Moteatea Part I, xvi. 24 I am indebted to Michael Ross who pointed this out to me.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.003 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Early Māori Literature

43

25 Matene Te Whiwhi, GNZMMSS 77, 1851 (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Public Library), 2. 26 ‘Ka moe a Tongarautawhiri i a Rata, Ka puta ki waho ko Tuwhaka-rangi, ka moe i a Apakura, Ka puta ki waho ko Nihakatau, Ehara i te mea i whanau tangata mai, engari he maro, No te haerenga o Apakura ki tatahi ka whiua tona maro ki te moana, ka ahuahungua mai e Rongotakawiu, ka tupu ko Whakatau . . . te tuakana o Apakura ko te Kohu, ta te Kohu ko Hineteiwaiwa, ka moe i a Tinirau ka hapu te tamaiti, ka whakamamae kaore e puta ki waho, Katahi ka whakahuatia te karakia . . . Katahi ano Tuhuruhuru ka puta ki waho’, Matene Te Whiwhi. GNZMMSS 46, 1852 (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Public Library), 28–31. 27 ‘Katahi ka utaina te waka o Hineteiwaiwa, rupeke ake ki runga ki taua waka nei hokorua Ko Hineteiwaiwa/Ko Raukatauri/Ko Raukatamea/Ko Itiiti/Ko Rekareka/Ko Ruahauatangaroa . . . Ka hoe ratou ka tae ki te kainga o Kae, Ka hui tera iwi ki te matakitaki . . . Ka whakakitea nga mahi a Raukatauri i reira, te haka, te waiata, te putorino, te koauau, te tokere, te ringaringa, te ti rakau, te pakuru, te papaki, te porotiti . . . katahi ano a Kae ka kata ka kitea nga kikokiko a Tutunui e mau ana i nga niho, he niho tapiki hoki tona niho . . . te kitenga ano e nga wahine ra i nga kiko o Tutunui e mau ana i te niho o Kae, Ka tineia te ahi . . . ka rotua te whare e nga wahine ra, Ka whakamoemoea, kia tupuatua a Kae e ratou, Ka warea te whare katoa e te moe, me Kae hoki . . . katahi nga wahine ra ka whakararangitia, puta noa ki to ratou waka, matatira tonu te tokorua nga mea nana i tiki atu a Kae, hapainga tonutia, i roto ano i ona takapau, ka hoatu ki te whatitoka, ka kapohia atu etehi, ka peratia tonutia, tae atu ana ki nga mea i runga i te waka, ka ata whakamoea ki runga ki te waka, haere atu ana a Kae i a Hineteiwaiwa raua ko Raukatauri, Ka tae ki to raua nei kainga, ka kawea a Kae ka whakataria ki te poutokomanawa o te whare o Tinirau’. Ibid., 28–35. 28 Valance Smith, ‘Kapa haka – Māori performing arts – What is kapa haka?’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/kapa -haka-maori-performing-arts/(accessed 16 September 2016). 29 H.  W. Williams, A Dictionary of the Maori Language (Wellington:  GP Publication, 1975), 323. 30 Ngata alludes to this in Apirana Ngata and Pei Te Hurinui Jones’s Nga Moteatea: He Maramara Rere No Nga Waka Maha, Part II (Wellington: Reed, 1974), xvi–xxxv, where he identifies seven different types of death and the features of tangi appropriate to each. 31 Williams, Dictionary, 49. 32 Ibid. 33 Ibid., 487. 34 Ibid., 264. 35 Hope Tupara, ‘Te whānau tamariki – pregnancy and birth – Birth in Māori tradition’, Te Ara  – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra .govt.nz/en/te-whanau-tamariki-pregnancy-and-birth/page-1 (accessed 16 September 2016).

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.003 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter  3

Samuel Butler’s Influence Simon During

Who was Samuel Butler? He was born into a prominent Anglican family in 1835. His grandfather was a famous headmaster and bishop; his father a rich clergyman, and he himself, intended for the Church, was given a gentlemanly education first at public school and then at Cambridge. But after graduation his family’s plans for him began to go awry. He worked in an East End parish, where it became clear that a career in the Church was impossible for him.1 And the alternative professions that his father proposed – the military, teaching, the law – were no more attractive, perhaps because they supported a social system he was beginning to question. So in 1859 his family agreed to let him immigrate to Canterbury, New Zealand, providing him with the capital to set up as a farmer there. Canterbury was approved by Butler’s family because it was a colonial project under Anglican sponsorship. It had been settled as recently as 1850 in the last of the enterprises organised on the basis of Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s theory of systematic colonisation, but was managed by the Canterbury Association, which deployed Wakefield’s theory on the Church’s behalf. It was named after the Canterbury Pilgrims; the departure of the association’s ships involved highly publicised religious rituals at Canterbury Cathedral; its governing board was dominated by Churchly Tories.2 On the face of it, the Canterbury Association was an incoherent enterprise since Wakefield’s systematic colonialism drew upon secular-utilitarian political and economic principles. His system’s key mechanism was ‘sufficient price’ based on the notion that, if colonial land prices were set at an artificially high level, and protected both from market forces and the anarchy of individual purchases from Indigenous peoples, then land sale profits could be used to solve the endemic problem of colonial labour shortages so as to enable purified versions of British society, capable of self-government, around the globe. In effect, Wakefield’s scheme used centralising policies associated with the Benthamite radicals to serve a 44

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.004 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Samuel Butler’s Influence

45

post-Burkean conservative purpose, namely the reinvention of traditional estate-based rural community – all this based on a faith in the translocatability of British society.3 The Times reported the departure of the first ships bound for Canterbury like this: A slice of England cut from top to bottom . . . a complete sample of Christian civilization, weary of the difficult fight for breath within the compass of these narrow isles, took ship. . . . At the head of the pilgrims stood an actual bishop, behind him were working clergy, working schoolmasters, working landlords, working labourers, workers every one. Between deck and keel were the elements of a college, the contents of a public library, the machinery for a bank, yeah the constituent parts of a constitutional government.4

The notion that Britain could be reproduced on unfamiliar terrain is obvious here but The Times’s repetition of ‘working’ mocks the project’s utopianism at least as much as it reports on it. And indeed Wakefield’s principles were rapidly abandoned after the first ships arrived at Canterbury since his system presupposed agricultural techniques – small holdings dependent on rotation – that turned out to be unviable.5 So with Governor Grey’s help in ‘preempting’ so-called wastelands from the Māori, the new colony expanded outside its original borders. This involved the expropriation of more land from the local iwi (tribe), Ngāi Tahu, in a move that betrayed principles agreed between Māori and Pākehā (Europeans) in the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. Māori protests, including a petition to Queen Victoria by their leader Matiaha Tiramorehu went unheeded. New acreages were opened up as vast pastoral leaseholds for sheep farming, priced not by acreage but by numbers of stock carried. Given the high world wool prices of the time, this assured Canterbury’s economic success. It was when the confessional colony that had attracted Butler’s family’s support was coming undone, and the new territory had been made available, which the twenty-four-year-old Samuel Butler arrived. After a hard search for an unleased block, he was granted rights to an isolated fifty thousand acre sheep-run overlooking the Rangitata River at the foot of the Southern Alps. He named his farm Mesopotamia, built himself a small hut there, and tended and increased his flock. He held his land for five years, before selling out, doubling his money and returning to London. Butler’s period in New Zealand had a profound effect on him. In a letter to his aunt two years after arriving, he wrote: ‘I felt an immense intellectual growth shortly after leaving England – a growth that has left me a much happier and liberal-minded man’, going on to note that in the ‘total

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.004 Published online by Cambridge University Press

46

Si mon Duri ng

wreck of my own past orthodoxy, I fear I may be as much too sceptical as then too orthodox. . . . The total change that my opinions have undergone during the last two years has made me very cautious in believing myself to be right now. Indeed, I have very few positive opinions at all. I don’t know why I write this’.6 As this letter begins to make clear, in Canterbury, Butler’s scepticism seems quickly to have extended beyond religion to cover almost all inherited sanctities and established values, in a methodical program of negation, whose resting point was irony, that is, a contained scepticism as to the effects of negation. The question of why Butler’s colonial experiences transformed his thought and self-understanding remains uncertain. It may be that he was influenced by colonial contempt for the metropolitan establishment that was regarded as unnecessarily safeguarding Māori rights. But in 1863 his father published A First Year in the Canterbury Settlement, a selection of his letters home, which poses Butler’s experience in different terms. Canterbury Settlement is remarkable because it presents with loving care the everyday skills required to succeed as a pastoralist. Here an English gentleman turns unaffectedly to the manual labour required of the pioneering New Zealand farmer; that is, to an existence unsupported by either a service class, or by domesticity, or by the everyday power of money. It reveals that Butler was very far from Benedict Anderson’s model of the ‘bourgeois colonialist’ who embarked for the colonies in order to play ‘aristocrat’ by exploiting native resources and labour – in part, of course, just because the Wakefieldian scheme that might have allowed him to mimic the English landed gentry had unravelled.7 Butler sheared, fenced, scabbed sheep, and built and lived in a mud-floor hut. He walked or rode across mountains and rivers where no European had gone before. He mixed with people from across a wide range of classes and backgrounds if not necessarily quite as an equal, at least in the terms of the easy colonial masculine sociability that would soon come to be called mateship. Even his body was transformed:  it toughened, darkened, and indigenised itself:  he was sometimes misrecognised as Māori. This is the life presented in Canterbury Settlement. In one letter, for instance, Butler describes a group of young pastoralists he met back-country: Here we were bona fide beyond the pale of civilisation; no boarded floors, no chairs; everything was of the very simplest description. Four men

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.004 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Samuel Butler’s Influence

47

inhabited the hut, and their life appears a kind of mixture of that of a dog and that of an emperor. . . . They have no cook, and take it in turn to cook and wash up. . . . They are all gentlemen and sons of gentlemen and one of them is a Cambridge man. . . . Every now and then he leaves his up-country avocations, and becomes a great gun at the college in Christ Church, examining the boys; he then returns to his shepherding, cooking, bullock-driving, etc. . . . The fact is, people here are busy making money; that is the inducement which led them to come in the first instance, and they show their sense by devoting their energies to the work. Yet, after all, it may be questioned whether the intellect is not as well schooled here as at home though in a very different manner. Men are as shrewd and sensible, as alive to the humorous, and as hard-headed. Moreover, there is much nonsense in the old country from which people here are free. There is little conventionalism, little formality, and much liberality of sentiment; very little sectarianism, and, as a general rule, a healthy sensible tone in conversation, which I like much.8

Here it is pretty apparent what the Canterbury experience and Butler’s ultimate success as a colonist came to mean for him  – liberation from what he elsewhere described as the ‘science-ridden, culture-ridden, afternoon-tea-ridden cliffs of Old England’ across various registers of his life and work.9 At the level of life practice, Canterbury meant a line of flight into self-sufficiency and a certain masculinity, into labour and pragmatism. At the social level, it permitted him to make a partial break with his identity as a gentleman. He declassed himself, even if without removing himself from the social recognition and privilege attached to gentility. In the final analysis, after all, he treats labour ethically rather than as an economic necessity. Probably most important for his future cultural impact, his colonial self-reformation meant a turn towards a plain ‘sensible tone’, which merged a conversational directness of address with the detachment and lucidity of reportage. That mode would later allow W. B. Yeats to praise Butler as the ‘first Englishman to write without style’, a judgement to be shared by Virginia Woolf and Cyril Connolly among many others, and allow him to become a pioneer of modernism.10 Upon his return to Britain in 1865, freed from the need to labour at a profession, Butler experimented with a version of bohemian everyday life from the small, cheap suite of rooms he rented in London. From there, in 1873 he published his second book, the so-called utopian novel, Erewhon. It too was based on his Canterbury experiences, sections of it having been written in New Zealand. It tells the story of a settler, Higgs, who like Butler, but accompanied by a pusillanimous, Christianised Māori guide, Chowbok, broaches a previously unreconnoitred pass through a mountain

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.004 Published online by Cambridge University Press

48

Si mon Duri ng

range in a search for pasture. But instead of discovering arable land or an isolated Māori community, Higgs finds a strange society named Erewhon. Higgs believes that he has discovered one of the lost tribes of Israel, and that this will make his fortune – in a satirical reference both to the exploitative relations of the colonists to those whose lands they have acquired (Erewhon is an anti-colonial text) and to the belief of the colony’s leading churchman, Samuel Marsden, that Māori were indeed one of the scattered Israelite tribes.11 In fact, Erewhon, though sealed from global history and located in the Antipodes, references Europe. Most simply, it’s an inversion of the Wakefieldean ideal, which satirises the superstructure of British class society, namely the Church and the education system. In Erewhon, the established church becomes a banking network lacking substantial relation to normative life or spirituality. Erewhonians also pay respect to what is called the ‘hypothetical language’, an equivalent of Europe’s classical learning, but again that respect bears no relation to practical forms of life. Erewhonians, like Butler’s colonials, are, in the end, committed to utility. If British institutions are satirised in Erewhon, British values are ironised. All machines have been banned on the grounds that, unless checked, society becomes a function of technology rather than vice versa  – probably in ironical reference to Carlyle and Arnold’s critique of society’s growing dependence on technology. More startlingly still: immoral acts – including crimes – are regarded as medical pathologies while actual diseases are treated as if they were criminal. Events outside one’s control – a sickness – are judged more harshly than those that one is responsible for  – like a crime. It’s not just that morality has no supernatural sanction but that it doesn’t exist at all. Negative moral terms – evil, wrong – don’t elicit stigma. And here Butler moves out of Eurocentrism: this inversion of health and morality is drawn in part from Māori, as he noted in his preface to the 1901 edition of his novel. In Frederick Maning’s Old New Zealand (1863), acclaimed during Butler’s time in Canterbury, Māori utu (or payback for a transgression of tapu or mana [spiritual restriction or prestige]) is described in similar terms to what in Erewhon is called ‘straightening’, namely, the physical correction of faults or transgressions, including those that were unintended.12 And according to contemporary observers like the ethnographer, Edward Shortland, Māori regularly tapu-ed the sick, while, like the Erewhonians, they neither at first fully grasped the European concept of theft, nor the social structures from which that concept took its meaning.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.004 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Samuel Butler’s Influence

49

In effect Erewhonian social values are imagined on the basis of that negation to the point of irony that was a consequence of Butler’s experience of colonial liberation, and that was enabled by the undoing of the Wakefieldian conservative utopia in Canterbury. Certainly the novel offers insufficient grounds for judging the alternative society that it presents. It provides no entry to the answers of questions like: Is it right to reject technology? Is it right to think of crime as a disease and disease as a crime? In that reticence, however, it prises apart a hegemony that binds morality to social order, cultural value to formal education, spiritual life to Christian doctrine, and that, in the same stroke, defines the human against the technological. Reading the text becomes an adventure into a place where society turns away from orthodoxy – like Māori lifeways and also like the early settler colony as Butler experienced it. Nonetheless some values are endorsed: the most important of which is male physical grace  – in this case the attractiveness of Erewhon’s inhabitants, which obviously tends to sanction the society in which they live. When Higgs first meets the people of Erewhon, they, in their beauty and ‘unconsciousness of self ’, remind him of Northern Italians who are in turn versions of Māori before they became demoralised by European contact. Here, as well as in his later Italian travel book Alps and Sanctuaries, Butler hints at a society adequate to the sublimity of its natural setting, peopled by locals of extraordinary physical charm. It’s as if, in his writing, physical grace is all the more valued because societies are translocatable, able to be repeated and blended across space and time: in part that’s the effect of his taking advantage of the capacity to imagine a society from the bottom up – the Wakefieldean capacity. By folding elements of Northern Italian Catholic village society, Antipodean settler colonies, and pre-colonial Māori society into one another, and so undermining identities based either on geography or on degrees of civilisation, not only are intracultural values ironised but also the physicality of colonial life takes central stage. Erewhon was a success, unlike the many books that Butler wrote over the next thirty years. In these, he mocked Christian supernaturalism, polemicised against Darwin, and scandalously reinterpreted canonical literary texts. He praised the works of neglected Renaissance artists. He published a cantata about a stock market crash. He created himself as a debunking, maverick, intellectual personality for a tiny readership, largely on the basis of that neutral prose that was committed to ordinariness but removed from collective experiences and norms. Then soon after his death in 1902, The Way of All Flesh appeared. It made him famous, and was quickly recognised as foundational for the ‘modern movement’,

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.004 Published online by Cambridge University Press

50

Si mon Duri ng

having a transformative impact on writers such as Shaw, Joyce, Forster, Lytton Strachey, and notably, George Orwell. Butler’s place in the canon was secured: the novel remains, for instance, the twelfth-ranked bestseller in Random House’s ‘Modern Library’ series.13 Here Erewhon’s irony and satire harden and become concrete. Again pretty much for the first time in Britain, the received middle-class culture of respectability and gentility were shown to be based not just on false supernaturalisms, arbitrary prohibitions, and hypocrisy but also on cruelty as lived out in families and as institutionalised in an education system designed to repress a fundamental aestheticism that Butler, in his plain style, called, ‘being on good terms with [the] senses and appetites’.14 The Way of All Flesh presents itself as Ernest Pontifex’s story as told by a family friend, Mr Overton. Ernest – Butler’s alter ego – is tyrannised by his unimaginative father who is compensating for his having been bullied by his father. Ernest’s mother is a weak emotional blackmailer; his father’s toady. And the two institutions that the family most serve are again savagely criticised: the Church is a nest of falsity, and the education required to inculcate gentlemanly identity, a torture machine. Ernest’s struggle towards becoming a writer in London takes him through stages that echo Butler’s own  – he’s converted to Evangelicalism and assists a curate in a poor London parish where his vocation weakens. But instead of emigrating like Butler, he is imprisoned for no real crime and then makes a disastrous marriage. His regenerative encounter with a wider world happens not on a remote Canterbury farm but in a grubby London shop. Ernest’s trajectory requires him to reject not just his father’s authority but his family’s affective bonds and the values and structures supporting those bonds, which is why we can say, looking back, that The Way of All Flesh popularised a model of intergenerational conflict, an Oedipal account of psycho-socialisation. Here struggle and fragmentation are inserted into the fabric of familial, and thence social and cultural, reproduction. At the novel’s end, Ernest attains the style of life that Butler pioneered, rejecting moral earnestness, religious orthodoxy, sensory restraint, humanist progressivism, and domesticity and joining instead London bohemian life as an adventurous, unmarried cultural dissident.15 Two points about The Way of All Flesh are worth emphasising. Erewhon’s insistence on physical charm is even more pronounced here. A character called Towneley (‘the handsomest man whom he [Ernest] ever had seen or ever could see’), aristocratic, irresistible, is an instance of a type that Ernest can never emulate but who represents ethical existence’s best possibilities. And Towneley is an object of desire too, in a weird repetition

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.004 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Samuel Butler’s Influence

51

of those still more snobbish fantasies into which Ernest’s mother often falls and that indicate her actual indifference to the Christian precepts that she professes. Here we begin to understand that Butler’s rejection of orthodoxies was, at least in part, an expression of a complex sexuality, which, I’d suggest without pursuing the matter further, cannot be well described as either closeted homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, queer, or even as homosocial. It seems to be a sexuality primarily interested in having sex with women but disposed to loving male bodies, subjectivity, and social presence. Certainly, it’s detached from the desire to form intimate relationships except with men – mainly out of contempt for the domesticity that conventional femininity supported and was supported by. That’s a mode of sexuality that becomes available on colonial frontiers, where women were especially marginalised and instrumentalised. This, then, is another instance of Butler’s transmission of colonial lifeways to the centre. These, however, are not the terms that Butler used to conceive of relations between his, or anyone’s, life and writing. For him, ‘influence’ was the concept that best described the flow from living to thinking as well as, more generally, from the past to the present. He was a theorist of influence. Butler’s understanding of ‘influence’ developed out of his interests, not in literature or art, but in biology. While in Canterbury, he read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, after which his view of history and culture was transformed. Once converted to evolutionism, he replaced concepts of progress, and received morality and political justice by his aesthetico-vitalist creed based on physical grace, sensual delight, plainness, and intelligence. It is as if he were able to transform his experiences of pioneer farming into a principled and philosophised form of life through a speculative biology that Darwinism put into play. Yet Butler was not an orthodox Darwinian: he supported the Lamarkian thesis that adaptive behaviours can be inherited, or, to use his own formula, that life is memory. By this he meant that subjectivity is constituted by the flows and traces of sensations, images, and thoughts that pass from moment to moment, from generation to generation both through the body and through networks of cultural communication. These flows of influence are ontologically primary:  compared to them, differences between self and other, consciousness and unconsciousness, even between life and death, are epiphenomenal. So for Butler, ‘to live is to influence, as well as to be influenced’ and hence ‘to die is not longer able either to influence or be influenced, and man cannot be held dead until both those two factors are present’.16 Of course insofar as influence is recursive – it’s

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.004 Published online by Cambridge University Press

52

Si mon Duri ng

the influence of an influence of an influence  – and insofar as nobody influences nobody, nobody ever dies. Butlerian subjectivity is the opposite of what Lukacs a little later was to call a ‘charnel house of long-dead interiorities’.17 Although his account of influence is abstract, Butler did describe the forms of subjectivity it entails in some detail. All human beings, he argued, are constituted by an ‘infinite number of distinct centres of sensation and will’, each inhabited by the presence of all those who have produced the world that we live in.18 Innumerable selves and centres, carried in our bodies and the culture, flow into us and ‘fight within us and struggle for our possession’.19 This notion stands outside identity thinking because the individual has been splintered into a collection of singular influences, none of which in itself constitutes an identity. Furthermore, flows of influence sediment: they gradually become habitual, unconscious – consciousness being the result of a failure of adaptation. At the same time, identity also spills outwards:  machines, tools, technologies, and communicative apparatuses are all extensions of selves: ‘we are so linked in to the external world that we cannot say where we either begin or end’.20 Butler lived this theory out. For him, some individuals, powerful centres of sensation and will, live in others especially broadly and intensely, and there can be little doubt but that he organised his life to become such a strong centre of influence. Indeed he was recognised in those terms early – as a young man, his aunt wrote him a letter passionately deploring his secularising influence on friends  – and after his death, he was, of course, recognised as influential in disseminating a certain modernism across educated society.21 It is in this context, for instance, that we have to understand the role of recording in his life. For him, to think, to hear, to see was to record, using whatever apparatus worked best. He wrote incessantly, never moving without a notebook into which he transcribed conversations, gossip, suggestions, thoughts, and opinions. He sketched and painted continually. After the invention of the Kodak, he became a compulsive shooter of snaps. He was materialising and preserving his mind and sensorium so as to allow it to enter the streams of influence and subjectivity – effects that for him constituted Being. This theory of influence is particularly important because, if we apply it to Butler, it allows us to reframe his life and work by emphasising the memories that inhabit them, unconsciously or not. Let me gesture at two examples, both of which enter Butler from the history of colonialism. It is clear that his life repeats structures first established in Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. After all, like the young Butler, Crusoe breaks from his

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.004 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Samuel Butler’s Influence

53

father in a quasi-Oedipal move, and removes himself from civil society and what Defoe calls the ‘Middle Station’ of life by embarking on colonial adventures and labours, through which he enriches and stabilises himself. Butler is inhabited and influenced by Crusoe. In terms of his own theory, Robinson Crusoe, a founding text for settler colonialism, constitutes one centre of ‘sensation and will’ in him. Another more obscure case is Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Dalrymple’s 1771  ‘Plan for benefitting distant unprovided countries’ in which Franklin and Dalrymple asked: How could the West avoid destroying Indigenous Pacific societies through contact without denying them the benefits of European technology? Their answer? Resist the temptation to land on island communities that have had no outside contact, but rather send them unmanned craft packed with European implements that they can then decide to take up or not as they wish. A  concept like this is repeated in Erewhon, which pictures a society sealed off from the rest of the world and that refuses European technology. So again in terms of Butler’s theory, Franklin and Dalrymple’s policy document, flowing through an influence stream, forms a nodal point within his own fiction. And here we encounter a significant limit to Butler’s theory of influence. One problem with citing both Defoe, and Franklin and Dalrymple as influences upon Butler is that they contradict one another. After all, Robinson Crusoe affirms settler colonialism as a testing but liberating form of life for settlers, while Franklin and Dalrymple have a strong understanding of colonialism’s destructiveness on Indigenous peoples. It is just possible to reconcile this contradiction to Butler’s theory because he does conceive of selves, and by implication, of texts and cultures, as consisting of multiple centres in struggle with each other. For all that, however, his theory of influence takes no account of any sphere in which various interests contest each other and are reflected upon – that is, the domain of politics. In that light, it begins to look as if Butler’s account of influence is a means of avoiding questions that demand politics. Politics matter here in particular because, in New Zealand, the tension in Butler’s work between what we can call its Robinson Crusoe and Ben Franklin strands resonates especially strongly because it speaks to the divide between Pākehā and Māori. There Butler does not so much help create social and cultural divisions as emerge from, and remain constrained by, them. After all, many Māori still believe that something like the Franklin solution to European expansion (i.e., no contact except under Indigenous terms) remains a great lost historical opportunity  – which would have prevented landgrabs like that from which Butler made a fortune. On the

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.004 Published online by Cambridge University Press

54

Si mon Duri ng

other side, the Crusoe ideal of independent entrepreneurial settler sovereignty remains a crux of the Pākehā national imaginary. My sense is that culture and theory provide little help in addressing this division: certainly no deeper analysis of Butler’s influence can help resolve it, not even a reminder of the ways in which his writing incorporates certain Māori customs that are thence drawn into the streams of colonial influence. Only political and legal processes can rectify colonial-era injustices, and thereby release settler colonial literature and culture such as Butler’s from the stigma of being enabled by the colonial system that deprived Māori of their land and rights. Notes 1 Philip Henderson, Samuel Butler:  The Incarnate Bachelor (London:  Cohen and West, 1967), 25. 2 C. E. Carrington, John Robert Godley of Canterbury (Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1950), 65ff. 3 Philip Temple, A Sort of Conscience:  The Wakefields (Auckland:  Auckland University Press, 2002), 419. 4 Ibid., 449. 5 See Harry C. Evison, Te Wai Pounamu:  The Greenstone Island:  A  History of the Southern Maori during the European Colonialization of New Zealand (Wellington:  Aoraki Press in association with the Ngāi Tahu Maori Trust Board & Te Runanganui o Tahu, 1993), 332–4. 6 Samuel Butler, The Family Letters of Samuel Butler, 1841–1886, ed. Arnold Silver (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press 1962), 104–5. 7 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities:  Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991), 150. 8 Samuel Butler, A First Year in Canterbury Settlement, with Other Early Essays (London: A. C. Fifield, 1914), 49–50. 9 Ibid., 304. 10 See Peter Raby, Samuel Butler: A Biography (London: Hogarth, 1991), 300, for a summary of later writers’ responses to Butler’s style. 11 See Laurie Gluckman, ‘Judaism and Maoridom: Some Interfaces’, in Identity and Involvement:  Auckland Jewry, Past and Present, ed. Ann Gluckman (Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1990), 225–44. 12 See Joseph Jones, The Cradle of Erewhon:  Samuel Butler in New Zealand (Melbourne:  Melbourne University Press, 1960), 146ff, for a description of possible Māori borrowings in Erewhon. 13 See http://www.randomhouse.com/modernlibrary/100bestnovels.html (22 November 2014). 14 For good studies of Butler’s impact see Elinor Shaffer, Erewhons of the Eye: Samuel Butler as Painter, Photographer, and Art Critic (London:  Reaktion Books, 1988)

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.004 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Samuel Butler’s Influence

15 16 17 18 19 20 21

55

and Jonathan Rose, The Edwardian Temperament, 1895–1919 (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1986). For the citation, see Raby, Samuel Butler, 103. Samuel Butler, Ernest Pontifex, or, the Way of All Flesh (1903), ed. Daniel F. Howard (London: Methuen, 1965), 356. Samuel Butler, Erewhon Revisited:  Twenty Years Later Both by the Original Discoverer of the Country and by His Son (London: A. C. Fifield, 1908), 133. Gyorgy Lukacs, The Theory of the Novel (London: The Merlin Press, 1971), 63. Samuel Butler, Life and Habit, ed. Henry Festing Jones and Augustus Theodore Bartholomew (London: Jonathan Cape, 1923), 83. Ibid., 43. Ibid., 83. For his aunt’s letter see Raby, Samuel Butler, 111.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.004 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter  4

Maoriland Reservations Jane Stafford

In the summer of 1907–8, Blanche Baughan went for a walk in the newly established State Reserve in Fiordland. She followed the track that had been cut by Quintin Mackinnon in 1888 from Lake Te Anau, through the bush and over the pass to Milford Sound. Initially fuelled by private enterprise, the various tourist activities of the area – huts, steamers, guiding, and the track itself – had been taken over by the Tourist Department in 1903.1 Baughan’s account of her experience, The Finest Walk in the World, was published in the London Spectator in September 1908, reprinted in a number of local newspapers, enlarged for local publication as ‘an exquisite booklet’,2 reprinted four times between 1909 and 1926, and included in two collections of her travel writing, Studies in New Zealand Scenery (1916) and Glimpses of New Zealand Scenery (1922). The work is a distillation of the concerns and ambitions of late colonial New Zealand, ‘Maoriland’ in Australian parlance, a descriptor enthusiastically taken up locally as a way of distinguishing what made New Zealand unique and consequently marketable among other settler societies within the British Empire. Charles Baeyertz’s semi-official Guide to New Zealand, ‘authorised by the New Zealand Government’, which went through multiple editions between 1902 and 1912, succinctly identifies these points of difference on his title page: ‘The most wonderful Scenic Country in the World. The home of the Maori. The Angler’s and Deerstalker’s Paradise’.3 The product of this official push to sell the beauties of the landscape to the world, Baughan’s ‘booklet’ is oriented towards external approval. Its claim to attention is the sublimity of the landscape – ‘wedding beauty to wonder’, ‘full of a bewildering glory’4 – and the challenge to extend the reach of poetic language to measure it adequately: The Clinton [River]! Gently parting the massed Bush with its open road of radiance, green as moss, glowing as an emerald, pellucid as the air, it glides and gleams along like a living jewel, a creature of crystal – exquisite, unspeakable!5 56

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Maoriland Reservations

57

Too insecure to stand alone, much of this language works through simile and contrast – nothing is; it is always like, or better than. To this end, the essay is punctuated by comparisons with the landscapes of other countries. The Milford Sound is like the fiords of Norway and the Lauterbrünnen Thal ‘but more stupendous and very much more beautiful’;6 its Sutherland Falls are higher than Yosemite Falls.7 The benchmark comparison is that of England: native flowers are renamed (‘red mistletoe’, ‘primroses’)8 and the wilderness, far from being threatening, replicates English spaces of cultivation and culture: ‘we might almost be walking through a park – a park of English beeches in May’, Baughan assures her readers.9 The surroundings are ‘like an orchard in Kent in flower-time’;10 ‘[t]he Stream . . . looks almost as quietly fair as the Avon’.11 But at the same time the superiority of the present place is stressed: ‘the tui pipes overhead in tones sweeter than those of the thrush’;12 ‘there is no such moss in England! And no such trees either!’; ‘no English sun! he is twice as bright’.13 This strenuously imagined New Zealand setting manages, almost comically, to concentrate and distil all those aspects of other places that might be favourable to the visitor while avoiding any suggestion of threat or discomfort: ‘Yes, the tropic light, jungle luxuriance, the snows of Switzerland, the safety of England – here they are all at once’.14 In this unalarming context, Baughan celebrates the grandeur of the mountains but at the same time reassures the potential visitor that their more intimidating aspects can be contained and given meaning. Unlike later, mid-twentieth-century poets like James K.  Baxter for whom these mountains are ‘matrix and destroyer, / Resentful, darkly known’,15 Baughan follows John Ruskin’s affirmation that they ‘are invariably calculated for the delight, for the advantage, or the teaching of men’.16 The Milford scenery is indeed ‘[a]we inspiring’, the mountains a ‘huge, dominating Presence’,17 ‘towering up darkly through mists’, or ‘imminent and dread with storm’.18 It ‘sounds awful’, Baughan concedes; ‘it is awful! yet it is anything but awful only’. Sublimity, grandeur, and awe reveal what Baughan describes as ‘a harmonizing contradiction’.19 Just as New Zealand can be one place and all places, so the bush contains a resolved paradox: ‘delicate magnificence’,20 beauty and terror, peace and purpose. ‘Contrast is a characteristic note of the Track’, Baughan states, ‘you meet it everywhere, and everywhere it is extraordinarily clear and amazingly harmonious’. Baughan situates her walk within the conventional aesthetics of European landscape description. In the same fashion, she calls upon the European literary canon to link her account to an elsewhere that is textual as well as geographic. In this she is following a somewhat anxious colonial

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

58

Jane Sta f f ord

stylistic convention:  Baeyertz’s one-page introduction to his Guide contains ten literary allusions, ranging from Byron’s Bride of Abydos to the Delphic oracle, the latter in the original Greek and in English translation. The literary references peppered throughout Baughan’s work do not carry any great weight of meaning in themselves. Instead they connect New Zealand to an educated global literary network associated with but not confined to the political empire. They reassure the reader that this landscape does not demand new forms of apprehension but is an extension of what has already been written – more beautiful, more awe-inspiring, more compactly various, but essentially familiar. It is not just that the Milford Track is like Switzerland – it is also that, in describing it, the Maoriland writer is able to employ the same literary registers and associations as would their English equivalent. Thus the native bush (in fact, evergreen) is enhanced by reference to Autumn ‘laying here and there / A fiery finger on the leaves’, lines from Tennyson’s In Memoriam.21 The texture of the undergrowth is described as making ‘a winning wave, a deserving note’, a line from Robert Herrick’s poem ‘Delight in Disorder’.22 The weka is ‘a snapper-up of trifles’, a phrase taken from The Winter’s Tale.23 The reaction of the observer to the track’s grey crags, blue-white glaciers, and snow-peaks – ‘Thy thoughts are very deep’  – comes from Coleridge’s ‘Hymn before Sunrise, in the Vale of Chamouni’, where the ‘awful Form’ of the ‘dread and silent Mount’ ‘[utters] forth God’.24 There are classical tags: the description of the mountain’s ‘compacted might’ is from Longinus on the sublime;25 at the end of the walk the sea is greeted with the words of Xenophon’s Spartan Ten Thousand, ‘O Thalassa, Thalassa!’26 And there are references to figures from the Victorian fairy-story world: nixies and undines,27 ‘fairy-ferns . . . fairy feathers, fairy parasols and trees’, the setting ‘the picture of Fairyland’.28 Significantly, sources are not given  – the reader is flattered by the assumption that he or she is taking part in a conversation marked by appreciative sensibility but also by literary familiarity. The only author cited is Baughan’s fellow New Zealand poet and personal friend Jessie Mackay: the atmosphere at the height of the pass is described as ‘ “Rich gloom of the air, / Of velvet and vair”, (as Jessie Mackay puts it in her beautiful “Valley of Rona”)’.29 The local product is tentatively included alongside the canonical, even though it may need explication. The literary agenda of the Maoriland author was complex: to communicate the particular and specific nature of the landscape; to defuse its fearful aspects by endowing it with spiritual and moral meaning; to find a form of poetic diction and literary reference with which to familiarise the locale

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Maoriland Reservations

59

and bed it in the wider literature of empire and home; and to allow for the fact that it was all about to be changed. The Milford Track, Baughan reminds her readers, is the gift of ‘a paternal Government’:  ‘the forest is a State Reserve, and comparatively few men come here, no dogs, and no guns’.30 In 1903 the Scenery Preservation Act was passed to purchase and protect sites of scenic importance throughout the country, and a commission, headed by the Surveyor-General, S. Percy Smith, was set up ‘to seek out needed scenes’.31 The Milford Track’s beauty, both winsome and fearful, is thus carefully sectioned off from the activities of the modern nation – the bush burning, road building, and farming of modern New Zealand. In the same way the literary style of The Finest Walk is sectioned off from any impulse towards modernity or modernism, existing and having purchase only within a literary reserve appropriate to the wish fulfilment and self-invention of the new Dominion. John Newton describes Baughan’s travel writing as constituting ‘not so much a place as a structure of feeling’.32 Strenuously adjectival, paratactic, stalled and circular, consciously anti-realist in tone while purporting to extol the real, it is an exercise in linguistic excess rather than a text that points to anything outside itself. If there was a literary model for Baughan’s work, as opposed to an actual landscape of inspiration, it was Alfred Domett’s 150,000-line poem Ranolf and Amohia: A South-sea Day-dream, written during the 1850s and 1860s while Domett served in a number of administrative and governmental roles including, for a time, that of premier. The work was published in London on his retirement in 1872. Domett was a friend of Robert Browning and Ranolf and Amohia mimics Browning’s philosophical poetry. Its dense and at times incomprehensible argument is attached, at times tenuously, to the romantic tale of the young shipwrecked Briton Ranolf, ‘Supreme Civilisation’s tender heir’, and his love for the Māori princess Amohia, on whose ‘tempting twisting lips, no stain / Of tattoo had turned azure’.33 New Zealand readers were proud of this work, which they saw as ‘the principle achievement of Australasia in poetry’.34 But they tended to consume it excerpted rather than its totality, preferring the empurpled description of scenery to Ranolf ’s extended disquisitions on the ‘echoes of profoundest things’.35 After its revision (and enlargement) in 1883, Ranolf and Amohia was not republished but selected passages were regularly included in local anthologies, newspaper articles, and in the school readers for the new universal state education system that Domett himself had instituted. Maoriland authors were aware that the purchase of such writing was limited, and that, outside the boundaries of the State Reserve, another less picturesque reality existed, one harder to fit into the conventions of

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

60

Jane Sta f f ord

nineteenth-century landscape description. Domett had carefully set his poem in the period prior to the arrival of the New Zealand Company settlers so that he did not have to deal with the reality of the new colony, which he described in a letter to a friend as ‘a damned dull collection of log huts’.36 Jessie Mackay demonstrates the uneasy coexistence of registers, sublime and prosaic, in her poem ‘Poet and Farmer’, which begins: The diamond dews begem the wings of morn; The sable tui’s liquid notes are trilling; The myriad voices of the day awake;– (Susan, I guess that hog is fit for killing!)37

In Baughan’s poem ‘A Bush Section’, published in her collection Shingle-Short, and other Verses in the same year as the first incarnation of The Finest Walk, excesses of description and competitive hyperbole are set aside. The diction is necessarily unpoetic and fractured; the landscape delineated is one of past alteration and present stasis – a settler year zero. In contrast to the ‘deep busyness’ of the track, ‘the home of Growth, abounding, exultant’,38 here, nothing moves: Ay, the Fire went through and the Bush has departed, The green Bush departed, green clearing is not yet come. ‘Tis a silent skeleton world; Dead, and not yet re-born, Made, umade, and scarcely as yet in the making; Ruin’d, forlorn, and blank.39

Gothic descriptions of the burnt bush are common in settler literature – the young Katherine Mansfield displays her facility in the notebook she kept in her journey through the Urewera District in 1908: Everywhere on the hills great masses of charred logs – looking for all the world like strange fantastic beasts, a yawning crocodile, a headless horse, a gigantic gosling, a watchdog – to be smiled at and scorned in the daylight, but a veritable nightmare in the darkness. And now & again the silver tree trunks, like a skeleton army, invade the hills.40

In Baughan’s poem, all the tawny, tumultuous landscape Is stuck, and prickled, and spiked with the standing black and grey splinters Strewn, all over its hollows and hills, with the long, prone, grey-black logs.41

The Finest Walk familiarises what it describes with reassuring similes; in ‘A Bush Section’ conventional comparisons do not work. There is a willed discomfort about the language, a sense of its not quite fitting. Instead of

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Maoriland Reservations

61

displaying its easy inhabitation of the world of Romantic literature or classical allusion, the poem’s viewpoint, that of a child, conveys the paucity of the settler experience. Thor Rayden, ‘the taciturn, grave ten-year old’, may, the poem’s conclusion suggests, be the hope of some future New Zealand society, but he is now constrained by a limited and pinched understanding of what he sees around him: The sky is a wide black paddock, without any fences, The Stars are its shining logs; Here, sparse and single, but yonder, as logg’d-up for burning, Close in a cluster of light. And the thin clouds, they are the hills, They are the spurs of the heavens, On whose steepnesses scatter’d, the Star-logs silently lie . . .42

Baughan is here being forced into an alternative way of writing to The Finest Walk, one that acknowledges a disconcerting gap in the confidently articulated agendas of late colonialism. If the bush section  – and by implication the settler society it represents  – is ‘made, unmade and scarcely as yet in the making’, then the paddock, the central image in Baughan’s sequence of that name in the same collection, is settlement achieved and domesticated, though not without troubling undercurrents. The Finest Walk and ‘A Bush Section’ both exhibit a purity of tone; what is being described is intimately bound up with how it is being described. In ‘The Paddock’ literary style is less homogenous: there are varied, clashing, hybrid, and inchoate voices that reference the past, recent, and archaic, as well as a disputatious present. ‘The Paddock’ is a work of almost seventy pages and is hard to classify – MacD. P. Jackson describes it as ‘a kind of pastoral oratorio’; Peter Alcock suggests the term ‘cantata’.43 It is reminiscent of Arthur Hugh Clough’s Carlylian ruminations on work and emigration in ‘The Bothie of Toper-na-fuosich’, or the energies and polemics of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh. In ‘The Paddock’, the archly artificial, the realist, and the nostalgic are set side by side. There are the lyrical voices of the natural world in the style of The Finest Walk – ‘Song of the White Clover’, ‘Song of the Creek’, ‘Song of the Seeds’– which celebrate fertility, purposeful growth, and harmony. They are counterpointed with realistic individual voices, conversations, and monologues, rendered in matter-offact prose and in halting poetic lines in the style of ‘A Bush Section’. The human speakers are the settler Elizabeth, her younger sister Janet, and the old Māori woman Hine. Elizabeth and her husband Andrew represent

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

62

Jane Sta f f ord

achieved settlement – with work and self-sacrifice, the bush of The Finest Walk has been obliterated, the bush section has been made productive and transformed into paddocks. Elizabeth says: There lay our Bush Section: grown, Paddocks, You! And all our own . . . From our hill-top of What Is, So we view now What Has Been.44

Elizabeth is ‘[s]miling, settled and serene / Home amid the wilderness’.45 Janet, however, sees her life on the farm as one of constant work and overwhelming stultification, and longs to escape: ‘I want something to grab, and grip and grapple with. Something  – Oh, tough!’ she demands; at present she is ‘[s]tuck here, stagnating, half alive, /A melancholy, meek, moss-cover’d log – Mouldering inside’. Narratives of unachieved settlement and settler despair are common in this period, anticipating by a good half-century Curnow’s complaint of a ‘land of settlers with never a soul at home’.46 Mansfield’s short stories ‘Millie’ and ‘The Woman at the Store’, written in 1912 and 1913, respectively, show women brought to the brink of insanity by loneliness, work, and the spiritual poverty of the place in which they are trapped. In ‘The Paddock’, Janet’s complaint is more pointed, underwritten by the language of Baughan’s feminism, and concerns spiritual as well as physical survival. But Janet’s stance also expresses a more generalised concern about the viability of colonial culture, associated with but not confined to expressions of anxiety about the possibilities for a national literature. In Baughan’s short story ‘An Active Family’, the narrator laments: Art comes at all times scantly to the backblocks; and with what hope can Literature appeal to brains exhausted already by the exhaustion of the body? While, on the other hand, what have we in place of these, to exercise our higher faculties, and so give us, in addition to material existence, life?47

In ‘The Paddock’, Hine is first seen through the eyes of the Pākehā (European) characters in terms of her extreme age, her oddness, and her irrelevance to the business of the farm. Janet says: That ancient Maori princess arrived just as I had got the bread in, and is now squatting in the kitchen, telling the children the queerest tales . . . a poor old soul she is indeed! I believe she grows a year older every week . . . such a hunchy, bunchy lump of tatters, and tattoo! . . . that dried-up, puckery brown desert, with two tired camp fire eyes at one end – her poor old peering eyes . . . .48

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Maoriland Reservations

63

This description parallels that of Pipi in Baughan’s short story ‘Pipi on the Prowl’. Both figures are characterised by age and physical disintegration: Pipi is a ‘little mummy-like old Maori woman, bundled about with a curious muddle of rag-bag jackets and petticoats, and hobbling along the high-road on crippled bare brown feet’.49 Devious and infantile, a trickster at best, Pipi’s only link to a reality outside that of the condescending Pākehā narratives that surround her is her assurance that she ‘came of a princely race’.50 Hine, in contrast, speaks at length, albeit in the language and conventions of European Romanticism. An emblem of Māori extinction, she is presented as the stereotypical colonial figure, the last of her race: Once when a chief was dead, another chief took his place – When the old net was rotten, behold, another was used – But what successor to me? Lo, white with spray, warp’d with the sun, A canoe water-logg’d, a basket worn-out, A plank cast off from the house of my kins-folk – I, I only, am left!51

Hine’s words recreate the world before settlement  – the setting of Domett’s Ranolf and Amohia – inhabited rather than pristine as in The Finest Walk. It is a world of native forest, flax-flat, palisaded pā with meetinghouse and store-pits, with all the daily interaction and formal ceremonial of traditional Māori society. This world is revealed to the reader but hidden from and irrelevant to the Pākehā inhabitants of the farm. Hine is allowed to be far more eloquent than Elizabeth and Janet, with their stunted practicalities and discontents, and is given a far more poetic register with which to express herself. But she is not accorded the intellectual status Domett gives to Amohia, whose explanations of Indigenous mythology are seen as having equivalence with European systems. Just as Maoriland readers preferred the descriptive rather than the conceptual passages in Ranolf and Amohia, so Baughan’s Hine evokes sentimental empathy rather than intellectual respect. The archaism of her speech points to the fact that she references a world that no longer exists; her memories in the present are simply dismissed as ‘the queerest tales’ told to Pākehā children. Baughan’s language of sublimity in The Finest Walk cannot be transferred from the State Reserve to the bush section or the paddock; in the same way, Hine’s rhetoric, by implication a translation from her original Māori, has no place in the present. The In Memoriam quotation Baughan uses in The Finest Walk comes from a passage where Tennyson sees the landscape as imbued with a sense

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

64

Jane Sta f f ord

of communal memory and story: ‘meadows breathing of the past, / And woodlands holy to the dead. . . . Memories of bridal, or of birth, / And unto myriads more, of death’. Those who inhabit the same place over time and share these narratives, the poet asserts, ‘count as kindred souls’.52 The past constitutes a problem for Maoriland writers. They are conscious that their surroundings are without Tennyson’s consoling, layered, and interpretive storytelling. In Jessie Mackay’s poem ‘The Ancient People’ the inhabited landscape of European legend  – ‘Cairn and cromlech’, ‘misty Albyn’, ‘the land of Fingal’s rest’ – is contrasted with ‘the bright unstoried waters’ of the new place ‘where found their children room’.53 In ‘Phantom Ford’, New Zealand is ‘the young land that has love but for history’ and the landscape is figured as baffling, withholding its meaning. The poet is in need of an interpretive trick: ‘Read me the rune’ she demands, ‘for I faint in the mystery’.54 In the epigraph to her 1909 collection Land of the Morning, Mackay sees New Zealand as in need of story and song that she can supply: ‘Come I, a dreamer, late and lightly sowing / Dream-seed on water, songs upon the flowing / Of your white furrow’ she promises.55 As participants in the intellectual and literary networks of the nineteenth-century world, these writers could co-opt the interpretive stories of European myth as ‘dream-seed’:  Maoriland writing is full of Scottish, Irish, and Scandinavian source material, at times with a licensed diasporic justification, at times simply eclectic and modish. Mackay’s work, in common with a number of her fellow authors, displays an attachment to the Scottish literature of her forebears. But more often it inhabits a generalised ballad world of ‘the days of yore’, Victorian medievalism, a fantasy of nostalgic modernity: ‘Here’s to the home that was never, never ours. . . . Here’s to the selves we shall never, never be. . . ’.56 The reader is not asked to place themselves anywhere specific – except in the imagined and to a great extent invented past: ‘No park have I, nor pleasaunce’ says Mackay’s eponymous Walter the Minstrel, ‘but broad and far in many a star/ My angel-meadows run’.57 However, the particularities of place could be tentatively registered. Mackay’s ‘The Call of the Upland Yule’ is set not in unspecific ‘angel-meadows’ but a local landscape of river bed, track, lake, bluffs, kea, and toi toi that, the poem suggests, may have more substance for the local reader than the fairy tale world of Europe: (Tower nor turret pleases you, Nor grove o’ the white May-thorn, When comes the call of the upland Yule To the blood of the mountain born) . . .58

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Maoriland Reservations

65

‘The Ancient People’, in the same collection, suggests that the legends and the myths of Europe can be transported and settle along with the owners of those stories – the imaginary landscape of Europe can still be ‘[m]ine though the world divide’.59 Mackay places Hertha, mother of Odin, in the South Island mountains, the Norns in the Dunedin suburb of Roslyn,60 and the ‘dim Earth goddess’ on the Canterbury hills.61 Tennyson and Longfellow are significant influences, Longfellow’s use of both Scandinavian and American Indigenous sources being particularly suitable for New Zealand adaptation. In a complex web of literary and geographic interconnection, Mackay’s ‘Sunset on the Kaikouras’ echoes Longfellow’s 1847 poem ‘Tegnér’s Drapa’, a tribute to the Swedish poet Esaias Tegnér. Both poems are laments on the death of Balder, in Scandinavian mythology the son of Odin. But in Mackay’s poem, Balder’s funeral ‘ship of fire’, with his corpse laid out on its deck, is redirected from the northern hemisphere of Balder’s origins to the Pacific: Not the north shall wholly keep him; Taniwha and Toa weep him; Kiwa’s serpents give him wail.62

As this suggests, a more immediate and distinct source of mythological material than Norse or Scottish was that of Māori culture. This could, it was felt, supply that need for story that was found lacking in the arid landscape, physical and psychic, of the bush section, at the same time as solving – in an imaginative and literary sense, at least – the problem of where to place Māori in the modern nation. Ranolf interprets Amohia’s explanations of Māori legendary knowledge as indications of a universal system of mythological synchronism, a favourite Victorian organisational model – ‘that savage story strangely rings/ with echoes of profoundest things’ he says at one point.63 But he is generally dismissive of the particularities of Māori culture:  carvings are ‘dwarfish forms’ with hands ‘like toasting forks’;64 a haka is ‘a mob of maniacs, swayed / By one insane volition’ acting ‘in rank virulence of savagery’.65 In his political dealings with Māori society Domett was as known for his lack of sympathy, complaining of Māori ‘subtlety, cunning, cupidity, and perfect disregard for truth in deed and word . . . whatever excellences they are coupled with, and these are many’.66 A  generation later, the Pākehā population was more numerous than Māori, relations less personal, attitudes more sentimental and nostalgic. Maoriland, as the name suggests, taps into a body of appropriated material taken from colonial collections and translations, all dependant on

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

66

Jane Sta f f ord

the concession that Baughan’s Hine articulates – that the material has no modern owner: Lo, a bubble of foam on the crest of the incoming wave, And after the rising and poising – the passing away!67

Ventriloquised by respectful Pākehā poets, Maoriland literature sets out laments such as Hine’s, spoken from a present in which Māori have no place, or recreations of voices that are figured as extinct, or versifications of legends that have no present owner. To Mackay, New Zealand is ‘Land of the morning’; that is, the site of settler modernity and optimism for the future.68 But it is also ‘Kiwa’s golden daughter’, Kiwa being the guardian and controller of the ocean in Māori mythology. Mackay’s poem ‘The Lost Tribe’ suggests that this romanticised world belongs to the past, a time when ‘the World was wide and wondrous’ and populated by Odin, the Kraken, and Prester John. ‘Now’ says the poet ‘the World is all too narrow / Veil of wonder all withdrawn’. But in a literary sense at least, New Zealand might serve as a place that resists the unpleasant connotations of the present: Age of deeds, not dreams, prolific, Stay awhile thine iron hand, Here in isle of the Pacific Leave us yet a wonderland.69

Edith Searle Grossmann’s novel The Heart of the Bush, published in 1910, plays with this sense of New Zealand as ‘wonderland’, or as The Finest Walk puts it, ‘the picture of Fairyland’. Grossmann, a friend of both Baughan and Mackay, contrasts the modern, ordered, and masculine space of the farm, and its associated milk factories and frozen meat facilities, with the wilderness of the bush and mountains above, ‘this wild solitude of shaggy banks and Alpine water and rocks’.70 It is a landscape from which Māori have been removed. Dennis, the hero farmer, is pseudo-Indigenous – he is Scottish but is mistaken for a native, a gesture to a colonial sense of the affinity between Celtic and Māori societies: Dennis was by blood and birth a barbarian, of a race that had come from the wilds of the Highlands and the Isle of Achill, and had rooted itself here in the still more savage country amongst the Alps of Maoriland.71

There are no Māori characters in the novel. Above the farm, in the bush and the mountains, there are bones, battlegrounds, the remnants of ‘stone clubs and axes’,72 and ghosts. Their interpreter is the Tohunga who, despite his Māori title, is Pākehā  – as with Dennis, he has become indigenised

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Maoriland Reservations

67

and he now possesses and controls what little is left of Māori knowledge. The bush here is not The Finest Walk’s sublime world of reassuring spiritual meaning. When the Tohunga offers to take Adelaide there, she naively expects that ‘it would be much better than a fairy pantomime; it would be playing a part in an original and living legend of Maoriland’. But she comes to see that the reality of the bush and mountains is not a space for either the pretty or the feminine: There is something appalling in the loveliness of these snow heights, barren of all verdure, something unearthly in the intensity of light, in the unmixed colour of the sky, the silence and the whiteness of the snow, the icy glitter of the frozen water, the grim blackness of the rocks, and most of all the colourless grey desolation that dominates these great stony moraines of Maoriland.73

The struggle here is not with the land, as with Elizabeth and Andrew, but between male and female. Grossmann’s landscapes of settlement and wilderness are heavily gendered; Adelaide ‘had come into her husband’s world, and, somehow, it did not seem quite meant for her’.74 She finally triumphs as Dennis is forced to forsake both his ambition to climb Rangatira, ‘the snow peak beyond the glacier’,75 and his plans for the frozen meat trade – the technologies of a future New Zealand – for an accommodation with a feminised version of Maoriland: picnics in a fairy tale bush, described in the language of reserved safety of The Finest Walk. When Maoriland writers play with the schematics of landscape description  – of primeval forest, burnt bush, or productive paddocks  – they are not simply struggling with a still inchoate and necessarily unstable sense of place; they are also constructing a literary language – or rather a suite of literary languages. The lush hyperbole of the Victorian touristic fairyland; the ‘stuck, and prickled, and spiked’ discomfort of clearance and settlement; the uneasy inhabitation of a carefully structured present counterpointed and at times undercut and made unstable by nostalgia for an appropriated past do not point to a confident and clearly expressed national literature or even secure nationalist impulse. But they do point to the places where the literary stances of an imported literary sensibility will need, in some future ‘marvellous year’, reconfiguration. This is both an internationalist and a nationalist impulse, a tentative literary nationalism within empire, though one that signals its connections to wider global literary networks: registering place but often in the language of another place; constructing a past but often in terms of another people’s past; telling a story but one with other narratives suppressed or elided within it.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

68

Jane Sta f f ord Notes

1 See Anon. ‘Te Anau to Milford Track’, Southland Times, 28 October 1903, 2. 2 Anon. ‘Publications Received’, Otago Witness, 13 October 1909, 63. 3 C.  N. Baeyertz, Guide to New Zealand:  The Scenic Paradise of the World (Dunedin:  Mills, Dick and Co., 1906), title page; Lydia Wevers, Country of Writing:  Travel Writing and New Zealand, 1809–1900 (Auckland:  Auckland University Press, 2002), 182. 4 B. E. Baughan, The Finest Walk in the World, 3rd ed. (Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1911), 50, 27. 5 Ibid., 14. 6 Ibid., 14, 17. 7 Ibid., 8. 8 Ibid., 8, 10. 9 Ibid., 8. 10 Ibid., 31. 11 Ibid., 45. 12 Ibid., 8. 13 Ibid., 10. 14 Ibid., 43. 15 James K. Baxter, ‘Poem in the Matukituki Valley’ (1949), Selected Poems, ed. J. E. Weir (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1982), 15. 16 John Ruskin, ‘Of Mountain Beauty’, Works, Vol. IV, ed. E.  T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (London: George Allen, 1904), 384. 17 Baughan, The Finest Walk, 20. 18 Ibid., 23. 19 Ibid., 46. 20 Ibid., 23. 21 Baughan, The Finest Walk, 7; Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam, xcix. 22 Baughan, The Finest Walk, 41; Robert Herrick, ‘Delight in Disorder’. 23 Baughan, The Finest Walk, 13; The Winter’s Tale, Act 4, scene3, lines 25–6. 24 Baughan, The Finest Walk, 16; Coleridge, ‘Hymn before Sunrise, in the Vale of Chamouni’. 25 Baughan, The Finest Walk, 20; Dionysius Longinus, On the Sublime. 26 Baughan, The Finest Walk, 49; Xenophon, Anabasis. 27 Baughan, The Finest Walk, 39. 28 Ibid., 29. 29 Ibid., 25. 30 Ibid., 7, 13. 31 Geoff Park, ‘The Ecology of the Visit’, Landfall 200 (Spring 2000): 27. 32 John Newton, ‘Colonialism above the Snowline:  Baughan, Ruskin and the South Island Myth’, Journal of Commonwealth Literature 34, 2 (1999), 85–96: 89. 33 Alfred Domett, Ranolf and Amohia: A South-sea Day-dream (London: Smith, Elder, 1872), 151, 17.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Maoriland Reservations

69

34 Douglas Sladen, introduction, A Century of Australian Song (London: Walter Scott, 1888), 7. 35 Domett, Ranolf and Amohia, 130. 36 Robert Browning and Alfred Domett, ed. F. G. Kenyon (London: Smith, Elder, 1906), 81. 37 Jessie Mackay, ‘Poet and Farmer’, Sitter on the Rail (Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1891), 60. 38 Baughan, Finest Walk, 41. 39 B. E. Baughan, ‘A Bush Section’, Shingle-Short, and Other Verses (Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1908), 79. 40 Katherine Mansfield, Notebooks, Vol. 1, ed. Margaret Scott (Lincoln and Wellington: Lincoln University Press and Daphne Brasell), 136. 41 Baughan, ‘A Bush Section’, Shingle-Short, 79. 42 Ibid., 84. 43 MacD. P. Jackson, ‘Poetry’, in The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature, ed. Terry Sturm, 2nd ed. (Auckland:  Oxford University Press, 1998), 420; P. C. M. Alcock, ‘A True Colonial Voice: Blanche Edith Baughan’, Landfall 102 (June 1972): 173. 44 Baughan, ‘The Paddock’, Shingle-Short, 145. 45 Ibid., 140. 46 Allen Curnow, ‘House and Land’, A Book of New Zealand Verse 1932–50, ed. Allen Curnow (Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1951), 141. 47 B. E. Baughan, ‘An Active Family’, Brown Bread from a Colonial Oven: Being Sketches of Up-country Life in New Zealand (London: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1912), 139. 48 Baughan, ‘The Paddock’, Shingle-Short, 155. 49 Baughan, ‘Pipi on the Prowl’, 1. 50 Ibid., 12. 51 Baughan, ‘The Paddock’, Shingle-Short, 185. 52 Tennyson, In Memoriam, xcix. 53 Jessie Mackay, ‘The Ancient People’, From the Maori Sea (Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1908), 17–18. 54 Jessie Mackay, ‘Phantom Ford’, Land of the Morning (Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1909), 60. 55 Mackay, epigraph, Land of the Morning, 8. 56 Mackay, ‘Song of the Drift Weed’, From the Maori Sea, 7. 57 Mackay, ‘Walter the Minstrel’, Land of the Morning, 25. 58 Mackay, ‘The Call of the Upland Yule’, Land of the Morning, 59. 59 Mackay, ‘The Ancient People’, From the Maori Sea, 17. 60 Mackay, ‘Dunedin in the Gloaming’, Land of the Morning, 66. 61 Mackay, ‘Spring Fires’, From the Maori Sea, 10. 62 Mackay, ‘Sunset on the Kaikouras’, From the Maori Sea, 36. 63 Domett, Ranolf and Amohia, 130. 64 Ibid., 144.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

70

Jane Sta f f ord

65 Ibid., 372. 66 Quoted in Jean Stevenson (‘Adroit’), ‘Alfred Domett:  His Life and Work’ (MA thesis, University of New Zealand, 1933), 27. 67 Baughan, ‘The Paddock’, Shingle-Short, 198. 68 Mackay, epigraph, Land of the Morning, 7. 69 Mackay, ‘The Lost Tribe’, Sitter on the Rail, 37. 70 Edith Searle Grossmann, The Heart of the Bush (London:  Sands and Co., 1910), 182. 71 Ibid., 99. 72 Ibid., 180. 73 Ibid., 200–1. 74 Ibid., 204. 75 Ibid., 201.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.005 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter  5

Katherine Mansfield Colonial Modernist Bridget Orr

In an extraordinary tribute by one preeminent New Zealand writer to another, Witi Ihimaera’s dedicatory address or mihi to Dear Miss Mansfield (1989) offers Mansfield his ‘highest regard and gratitude for having been among us and above us all’.1 Recognising that Mansfield’s writing captures ‘the common experiences of mankind’, Ihimaera nonetheless stitches her into a whakapapa or genealogy of New Zealand literature that has issued in the bicultural ‘years of fulfillment’ bringing such (Māori) women writers as Patricia Grace and Keri Hulme to prominence.2 In the bipartite collection that follows, Ihimaera binds Mansfield’s writing further into a bicultural, indeed Māori tradition, through textual ‘variations’ of stories ranging from ‘The Woman at the Store’ to ‘At the Bay’. While the ‘variations’ provide oblique or sometimes scathing commentary on the gender, race, and class violence that subtends Mansfield’s evocation of the world of high colonialism, the novella that forms the first part of the volume performs another kind of tributary provocation and appropriation. On the basis of a suggestion canvassed in Pat Lawlor’s book about Maata Mahupuku that the latter was in possession of a manuscript authored by Mansfield, the story teases the reader into following a literary detective hunt to track down the missing novel.3 The conclusion assures the reader that the manuscript did in fact exist but, in accordance with Māori custom, was destroyed by Maata. As the narrator explains to the reader, when Mansfield died, the manuscript ‘which was also Katherine Mansfield, became a tupapaku – the dead Katherine – and all the more tapu (sacred) for that. It was something which, in Māori tradition, would have been returned at the tangi – like a piece of greenstone or feather cloak – to be joined again with the person and taken with her to earth, as an act of honour and aroha’.4 But because the manuscript was also Maata, she had to carry the tūpāpaku with her until her own death, resisting the European presumption that it should be made public, so ‘that when she died the 71

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.006 Published online by Cambridge University Press

72

Bri dg et Orr

manuscript which was both Katherine and herself should be closed away with her like a jeweled locket’.5 Ihimaera’s version of Maata stands in contrast to the heroic work of scholarship performed by Margaret Scott, patient transcriber of Mansfield’s notoriously difficult handwriting, which produced a lengthy extract of the embryonic novella that is published in The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks (2002). Following a process initiated by John Middleton Murry, Scott’s transcription renders all of Mansfield’s private jottings, journal entries, and rough copies public for use by other scholars or simply as a fascinating if fragmented narrative. Ihimaera’s novella asserts the identification of writer, lover, and textual object and the cultural necessity of their return to the earth, to an obscurity that ensures a privacy repeatedly violated by publication. In a sense, Maata can be read as a rebuke to those who have exploited Mansfield’s literary remains for pecuniary or professional gain but also as a competitive claim to the remains of a departed person of high mana (prestige) of the kind that sometimes occurs at tangi (funerals), where quarrels can erupt as a tribute to the prestige of the person who has died. Ihimaera’s tributary claim to Mansfield introduces another axis in an already complex scene of reception. Katherine Mansfield has had a distinct role in both New Zealand’s literary history and in the formation of Euro-American modernism.6 In the last twenty years, however, the division between the cultural narrative of the colonial nation-state and the development of modernism generally has become increasingly porous.7 Modernism is beginning to be understood less as an aesthetic movement invented in the metropolis and exported to (colonial) peripheries and more as a transnational cultural process generated by high capitalism and identifiable in diverse locales and forms. The new perspective on modernism as a global phenomenon not only extends the canon beyond figures like Eliot, Pound, and Woolf but also allows us to rethink the relationship between a colonial or provincial culture of origin and the achievements visible in a metropolitan career, exemplified by Mansfield’s complex web of affiliation to the local and metropolitan.8 As numerous commentators have noted, Mansfield’s reputation both in New Zealand and abroad has been shaped to an unusual degree by her biography. Brigid Brophy’s laconic summary is perhaps the most amusing version of the legend generated in large part by her widower, John Middleton Murry: Once upon a time a sensitive soul was born in New Zealand, took the name Katherine Mansfield and came to Europe, where she wrote evocative

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.006 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Katherine Mansfield: Colonial Modernist

73

fragments, loved delicately, and died young  – technically of pulmonary tuberculosis but really because life was too gross for her. Fortunately, this banal person never existed.9

After her death, Murry devoted a good deal of time to publishing letters, journal entries, and unfinished stories, creating a myth of a pair of childlike innocents crushed by the tragedy of romantic illness. Although Mansfield’s sophisticated metropolitan contemporaries admired her fiction, with Virginia Woolf famously admitting in her diary that she had been jealous of her writing, the combination of the Camille cult, Mansfield’s colonial status, and her gender all combined to limit serious critical appreciation of her work for many decades.10 Her reputation in New Zealand was not assisted by the development of cultural nationalism in the middle decades of the twentieth century; to writers such as Frank Sargeson, Allen Curnow, and A. R. D. Fairburn, Mansfield was an irrelevance, and an irritating one at that, because her fame made her inescapable. A very masculine annoyance is legible in Sargeson’s 1948 radio talk, ‘Katherine Mansfield’, in which he locates her in a specifically ‘feminine tradition’, characterised by ‘isolated details and moments of life’, potentially beautiful and significant but always in danger of failing badly and becoming tenuous and indeed trivial.11 For Sargeson, Mansfield’s weaknesses as a writer arose from the fact she ‘spent much of her life in a state of suspension between two hemispheres’, ‘virtually free from any sense of social tradition’.12 In an essay published some thirty years later, C.  K. Stead pays more respectful attention to Mansfield’s formal inventiveness but shares Sargeson’s sense that she was culturally deracinated. He suggests, however, that her ‘detachment’ from ‘the European context’, her ‘superficial’ ‘social sense’, and her lack of ‘custom’ were creatively freeing.13 Revisiting the question of the relation between Mansfield’s New Zealand origins and expatriate maturity, Vincent O’Sullivan dismisses the issue as ultimately trivial, arguing instead that she should be read as an exemplary ‘twentieth-century voice’, a Heideggerian existentialist avant la lettre.14 In O’Sullivan’s account, a temporal event  – the Great War  – was of more definitive importance in shaping Mansfield’s perspective and writing than her incessant mobility. O’Sullivan’s assessment dovetails to some degree with metropolitan perspectives on Mansfield, which underwent considerable changes in the 1980s. In addition to the definitive editions of letters and notebooks edited by Scott and O’Sullivan, various collations of specifically New Zealand

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.006 Published online by Cambridge University Press

74

Bri dg et Orr

material put together by Ian Gordon (including The Urewera Notebook [1978], and Undiscovered Country [1974]) made a pitch for revising her expatriate status. At the same time, more scholarly and in many cases feminist biographical work began to be published, as Anthony Alpers’s revised Katherine Mansfield: A Biography (1980) was joined by studies by Gillian Boddy, Claire Tomalin, Cherry Hankin, Kate Fullbrook, and others.15 Essay collections edited by Rhoda Nathan and Roger Robinson also contributed to this revisionary work.16 How did Mansfield emerge from the new wave of gender-sensitive and theoretical critique? Sydney Janet Kaplan’s influential Katherine Mansfield and the Origins of Modernist Fiction (1991) provides a powerful argument that Mansfield was absolutely central to modernism, that she ‘articulated a particular kind of modernist aesthetics and created a dramatically new structure for fiction’.17 By her late twenties, Kaplan argues, Mansfield successfully merged experimental techniques of symbolism, impressionism, internal monologue, stream of consciousness, and cinematic visual effects with feminist protest, insight, and self-assertion.18 An implicit feminist with a heightened awareness of ‘the self ’ as multiple, shifting, and performative, Mansfield appears in this account as a triumphant exponent of a modernism, ‘full of doubts, questionings and terrors’ but open to the ‘undiscovered, unexplored’ garden of the world. Kaplan’s work was important in arguing for Mansfield’s centrality to Euro-American modernism and as part of an ongoing (and still incomplete) project to document the role of women writers, sexuality, and gender in that formation. Angela Smith extended this work by focusing on the tense if productive relationship between Virginia Woolf and Mansfield, and further studies on the role of illness in Mansfield’s writing and the importance of her location in magazine publication have shed new light on these important aspects of her work.19 But the long overdue attempts to reconceptualise Mansfield’s writing in terms of postcolonialism have provided the most compelling recent claim for recognising Mansfield’s centrality to ‘global’ modernism. The first such accounts are those published by Lydia Wevers, and Jane Stafford and Mark Williams, while a another wave of transnational critique by Janet Wilson, Elleke Boehmer, Saikat Majumber, and others has appeared in the last decade.20 Wevers’s demonstration of the way Mansfield deliberately subverts tropes of the colonial tale in ‘The Woman at the Store’ and ‘Millie’ has contributed to an extended revision of the ‘regional’ stories, while her essay on the late stories of childhood as narratives of national ‘reaffiliation’ has been equally provocative. In ‘ “The Sod under My Feet”’, Wevers argues

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.006 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Katherine Mansfield: Colonial Modernist

75

that Leslie Beauchamp’s death, symbolic of Europe’s fragmentation and corruption, impelled Mansfield to imagine an open and inclusive version of the patriarchal family that morphs beyond its nominal master’s control into a more expansive model of community.21 Replicated and connected to a web of other such families, the evocation of bourgeois domesticity in ‘Prelude’, ‘At the Bay’, and ‘The Garden Party’ begins to represent the new settler nation. For Wevers, this ‘deeply conservative’ vision is dependent on a determined exclusion of New Zealand’s Indigenes, who cannot be incorporated into the founding myths of the white colony, despite the fascination with Māori Mansfield displays in earlier writing such as ‘How Pearl Button Was Kidnapped’. Later critics such as Richard Brock and Saikat Majumber contest the presumption that Mansfield actively represses class, gender, and racial conflict in the late stories, however, pointing to the moments of terror or violence that erupt periodically into the bourgeois idyll.22 Sharing Wevers’s vital insight that New Zealand figures as the master metaphor for her aesthetic, however, and that the image of the misted, half-hidden island only partially and occasionally visible is paradigmatic of her method of apprehending and representing ‘life’, Stafford and Williams show that Mansfield’s early acculturation in ‘Maoriland’ is central to her mature achievement. In an important revision of the presumption that 1890s New Zealand was the literary wasteland complained of by the teenaged Mansfield, Stafford and Williams resituate her in a highly literate environment of social progressivism thoroughly attuned to metropolitan fashions of all kinds. While still in New Zealand, Mansfield’s interest in ‘sex-problem’ stories presented problems socially and in terms of publication but she had quite enough material and cultural resources (as a member of the colonial upper class) to create a highly aestheticised persona and deliberately reject the possibility of pursuing a career as a local writer. When she departed for Europe however, she took with her a sensibility and a style already shaped by staple tropes of Maoriland writing and of Australasian regionalism: she was imbued with the sense that mystery and indeed danger lurked in the natural environment, and she was fascinated by the precise auditory and visual contours of Aotearoa-New Zealand.23 Katherine Mansfield is not usually seen as a war writer. But her colonial modernist fiction is shaped by two great conflicts – the New Zealand Wars whose aftermath she witnessed most directly in the Ureweras, and the Great War, which killed her brother. The land wars between Māori and the Crown fought in the 1860s secured New Zealand as a British colony and World War I – notably the Gallipoli campaign – is now seen as

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.006 Published online by Cambridge University Press

76

Bri dg et Orr

having made ‘New Zealanders conscious of their identity as a nation’.24 There can be no question that her passage through the central North Island as a teenager shaped her understanding of the violence at the heart of the colony. On Monday November 18, 1907, she records her responses to Petane where they spent their first night under canvas: ‘Round us in the darkness the horses were moving with a most eerie sound – visions of long dead Maoris – of forgotten battles and feuds – stirred in me’.25 The camp was a battle site where numerous Māori had been killed in 1866 by British forces under a Major Fraser. Arriving some days later at Te Whaiti, deep in Tuhoe territory, she observed ‘a great bright coloured crowd almost threatening looking  – a follower of Rua with long Fijian hair and side combs’,26 a gathering that preceded a confrontation between the Māori prophet, Rua Kenana, and Pākehā (Europeans) authorities shortly afterwards. Ignorant of the particular reasons for resentment, she was highly sensitive to Māori hostility and resistance while equally responsive to hospitality and charm. Mansfield’s fictional depictions of Māori/Pākehā relations characterise Europeans as aggressors, just as violence centres even her most perfumed scenes of colonial life. But despite intermittent spurts of revulsion for her fellow Pākehā, Mansfield is also powerfully appreciative of their positive qualities: ‘This is the way to travel – it is so slow and so absolutely free and I am quite fond of all the people – they are ultra-Colonial but they are kind and good hearted and generous – and always more than good to me’.27 While Mansfield understands it as intrinsic, the solidarity that fixes the group surely arises from their shared identity as Europeans moving through often hostile terrain, meeting physical challenges and enduring minor hardships. The Urewera expedition can be understood, in short, as a symbolic embodiment of settlement, an ‘ultra-Colonial’ experience of the testing liberty that affiliated otherwise highly disparate people. In the aftermath of her brother Leslie’s death in a military training accident in France, in October 1915, Mansfield was precipitated into writing her greatest stories, among them ‘Prelude’, ‘At the Bay’, and ‘The Garden Party’. Written to memorialise ‘the lovely time when we were both alive’, Mansfield wrote not just to recreate her family history but to make ‘our undiscovered country leap into the eyes of the old world’.28 However domestically focused therefore, her Wellington stories evoke beach colonies, ex-urbs, and inner-city neighbourhoods marked by an ultra-Colonial heterogeneity of social and racial groups whose capacity for solidarity is constantly at issue. Both ‘the Bay’ and countrified Karori share the social

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.006 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Katherine Mansfield: Colonial Modernist

77

variation of pastoral, the first a holiday resort with a rural hinterland where boundaries are porous and the second an undeveloped suburb where shared schooling and physical proximity render hierarchies precarious. The drive to police Karori’s social merging animates ‘The Doll’s House’, where resistance to snobbery is unmistakably endorsed. While all of New Zealand might have been thought of as pastoral – ‘the Dairy-Maid of the Empire’ – it is striking that the specifically urban locales Mansfield invokes also share this peculiarly colonial social jumble, both spatially and psychologically. In his recent ‘(post)colonial’ account of ‘The Garden Party’ as Jamesonian national allegory, Emmanouil Aretoulakis invokes Franz Fanon’s characterisation of colonial cities as profoundly divided between European quarters and nonwhite slum districts.29 In fact, however, such spatial, social (and racial) division is always partial and unstable in Mansfield’s depictions of New Zealand urban space. Notebook 45 begins with a lengthy description of ‘Our house in Tinakori Road’, which soon gives way to a description of the neighbourhood: Tinakori road was not fashionable, it was very mixed. Of course, there were some good houses in it – old ones like ours, for instance, hidden away in wildish gardens, & there was no doubt that land there would become very valuable, as Father said, if one bought enough & hung on. It was high, it was healthy, the sun poured in all the windows all day long, and once we had a decent tramway service, as Father argued But it was a little trying to have ones own washerwoman living next door who would persist in attempting to talk to Mother over the fence  – & then just beyond her ‘hovel’ as Mother called it there lived an old man who burnt leather in his back yard whenever the wind blew our way. And then, just opposite our house, across the road, there was a paling fence & below the paling fence, in a hollow, squeezed in almost under the fold of a huge gorse-covered hill, was Saunders Lane. And further along there lived an endless family of halfcastes who appeared to have planted their garden with empty jam tins and old saucepans and black iron kettles without lids.30

Here we find the mingled pyschogeographic space in which ‘The Garden Party’ takes place. Further exploration  – and implied critique  – of the social attitudes ventriloquised here is legible in another unpublished portion of the Notebooks, in part of a play Mansfield called both ‘A Ship in the Harbour’ and ‘Toots’. Focused on relationships within rather than bordering the household, the extant scenes depict the reception of an English son-in-law called Duncan by the Brandons, a New Zealand family who show strong resemblances to the Sheridans of ‘The Garden Party’.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.006 Published online by Cambridge University Press

78

Bri dg et Orr

Duncan’s arrival is prefaced by an exchange between Toots, the family matriarch, and the housemaid Jennie; after hearing from Jennie she has been drinking tea with the gardener in the kitchen for two hours, Toots gives Jennie her instructions: Toots: And Jennie  – put a can of really hot water covered with a towel in Mr Henderson’s room. (Jennie nods and goes.) I don’t want the poor soul to feel that he has fallen among absolute Māoris. Bee: (very pink, folding up her work) I must say I do disapprove, my dear, of the way you treat your servants. I had Jennie in the most perfect order while you were away. She was like a little machine about the house. And now she answers back – she’s got all her wretched Colonial habits again. Toots: I know – it’s my fault. It’s my weakness for human beings. If ever I feel that a servant is turning into a machine I always have to give her something to turn her back again – a petticoat I hadn’t finished with, or a pair of shoes that I love my own feet in, or a ticket to the theatre.31

Toots’s humane if patronising identification with her servants (and even Māori) is marked here as peculiarly ‘Colonial’, as is the servants’ tendency to start behaving as their employers’ equals by ‘answering back’. As the scene continues, speech continues to signify the Colonial/English divide:  Toots’s son Pip addresses his mother in French and Duncan in Italian, remarking of his own affectation:  ‘Observe with what ease the young Colonial rolls the foreign tongue’. Toots follows Pip’s comment by instructing her son ‘If there is no hot water in Duncan’s room – just curse down the kitchen stairs, won’t you?’ In her final exchange with Bee, in which the latter praises Duncan’s ‘charming english voice’, Toots reveals her dislike for the new arrival: ‘(naively) Isn’t it strange that I can’t take to him? Somehow he doesn’t seem to be in the least one of us – not to belong in the very faintest degree to our tribe if you know what I mean’.32 This scene suggests the self-consciously, emphatically ‘Colonial’ Brandons share a linguistic range and competence that allows them to communicate effectively across national differences as well as up and down the social scale, amplifying social bonds. They can speak to servants sympathetically or forcibly; they are linguists and their ‘tribe’ implicitly includes Jennie and the gardener. In ‘Toots’, only the anglophile and snobbish Bee finds the ingratiating and emphatically univocal and English-accented Duncan an engaging interlocutor. The Brandon household may be informed by casual racism and class hierarchy, but both racial and social distinctions are presented as weak, likely to be overturned by the continuing regression to the ‘Colonial habits’, which everyone in the community shares.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.006 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Katherine Mansfield: Colonial Modernist

79

These extracts from the Notebooks support Wevers’s conviction that Mansfield’s late stories not only analyse class, racial, and gender difference but also begin to demarcate horizontal communities of identification. In a powerful reading of ‘The Garden Party’, Christine Darrohn argues that the dead workman for whom Laura Sheridan mourns can be understood as a figure for Mansfield’s brother, Leslie. She suggests that the story’s depiction of a middle-class girl breaking out of her privileged world hides another that points to the way the Great War ruptured middle- and upper-class illusions of their own security.33 ‘The Garden Party’ may put middle-class ambivalence on display but the implicit textual judgement about such responses is surely much more certain. Like the Beauchamp household in Tinakori Road, the Sheridans are drawn into relationships with their neighbours that function as moral thermometers but also point to possible ‘re-filiation’, as Colonials of very different class and racial origins experience the common tragedy of sudden death. As Darrohn points out, in a judgement shared by Ormond Burton, the most potent theatre for national bonding was war, deliberately memorialised in the metropolis as a cross-class and imperial sacrifice. In the year Leslie Beauchamp died, most New Zealand soldiers were not yet fighting in France but in Turkey, as part of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps’s doomed attempt to take control of the Dardanelles from the Turks at Gallipoli. Historians have begun to document the extent to which the Gallipoli campaign served as a fulcrum for the establishment of New Zealand national identity in a way already familiar to Australians.34 Differentiating themselves from beery, riotous Australians and immature Englishmen, ‘Enzedders’, ‘Fernlanders’, ‘Diggers’, or ‘Kiwis’ became conscious of themselves as unusually egalitarian, practically and physically competent and stoic. Their identity was not least distinct from that of other colonials and the English because it was racially mixed. Those veterans who recalled the taking of Chunuk Bair all remembered the haka echoing through the night that presaged the death of three hundred Turks.35 Claiming a role for Māori forces at Gallipoli, Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck) proclaimed that ‘we are the old New Zealanders. No division can truly be called a New Zealand division unless it numbers Māoris among its ranks’,36 while Maui Pomare instructed Parliament that it was ‘when their blood co-mingled in the trenches of Gallipoli’ that the unity of Māori and Pākehā as New Zealanders was confirmed.37 Pressure from the public for a national day of remembrance on April 25, when the Gallipoli campaign began, started immediately. Mansfield’s work of mourning for her brother in the late New Zealand stories has been

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.006 Published online by Cambridge University Press

80

Bri dg et Orr

richly documented but never seen as corelative to the process of national grieving and reconstitution that followed the sacrifices of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. It is not just familial allegories of social and sexual reproduction that serve to define (and test) national identity. In recording the specifics of ambivalence over, displacement of, and repression of grief for the war dead in stories from ‘The Garden Party’ to ‘The Fly’, Mansfield didn’t just make her country newly, beautifully visible to the old world but voiced a loss that provided, paradoxically, new terms for turning the colony into the nation. Notes 1 Witi Ihimaera, Dear Miss Mansfield:  A  Tribute to Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp (Auckland: Viking, 1989), 10. 2 Ibid. 3 See P.  A. Lawlor, The Mystery of Maata (Wellington:  Beltane Book Bureau, 1946). 4 Ihimaera, Dear Miss Mansfield, 55. 5 Ibid. 6 For the former, see Linda Hardy ‘The Ghost of Katherine Mansfield’ and Bridget Orr ‘Reading with the Taint of the Pioneer:  Katherine Mansfield and Settler Criticism’, in Critical Essays on Katherine Mansfield, ed. Rhoda B. Nathan (New  York:  G.  K. Hall, 1993), 75–92 and 48–60, respectively. For the latter, see Sydney Janet Kaplan, Katherine Mansfield and the Origins of Modernist Fiction (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1991). 7 For two recent accounts, see Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker, eds., Geographies of Modernism: Literatures, Cultures, Spaces (London and New York: Routledge, 2005) and Mark Wollaeger with Matt Eatough, The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). 8 For the former, see Andrew Gurr, Writers in Exile:  The Literary Identity of Home in Modern Literature (Brighton, UK: Harvester Press, 1981). 9 Brigid Brophy ‘Katherine Mansfield’s Self-Depiction’, Michigan Quarterly Review 5 (Spring 1966), 89–93: 89. 10 For Woolf ’s and Mansfield’s relationship, see Angela Smith, Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf: A Public of Two (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999). 11 Frank Sargeson, ‘Katherine Mansfield’, in Conversations in a Train and Other Critical Writings, ed. Kevin Cunningham (Auckland: University of Auckland/ University of Oxford University Press, 1983), 28–33, see p. 29. 12 Ibid., 32. 13 C. K. Stead, ‘Katherine Mansfield: The Art of Fiction’, in In the Glass Case: Essays on New Zealand Literature (Auckland:  Auckland University Press/ Oxford University Press), 30. 14 Vincent O’Sullivan, Finding the Pattern, Solving the Problem: Katherine Mansfield the New Zealand European (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1989), 15.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.006 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Katherine Mansfield: Colonial Modernist

81

15 See Gillian Boddy, Katherine Mansfield: The Woman and the Writer (Ringwood, Victoria:  Penguin 1988); Claire Tomalin, Katherine Mansfield:  A  Secret Life (New  York:  Alfred A.  Knopf, 1988); Cherry Hankin, Katherine Mansfield and Her Confessional Stories (London:  Macmillan, 1983); Kate Fullbrook, Katherine Mansfield (Brighton, UK: Harvester Press, 1986). 16 Nathan, Critical Essays; Roger Robinson, ed., Katherine Mansfield: In from the Margin (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1994). 17 Kaplan, Katherine Mansfield, 17. 18 Ibid. 19 See Mary Burgan, Illness, Gender and Writing:  The Case of Katherine Mansfield (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994). On Mansfield and magazines, see Jenny McDonnell, Katherine Mansfield and the Modernist Marketplace: At the Mercy of the Public (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). 20 See Lydia Wevers, ‘How Kathleen Beauchamp Was Kidnapped’, in Nathan, Critical Essays, 37–47; Wevers, ‘ “The Sod under My Feet”:  Katherine Mansfield’, in Opening the Book: New Essays on New Zealand Writing, ed. Mark Williams and Michele Leggott (Auckland:  Auckland University Press, 1995), 31–48, see pp. 31, 48; Janet Wilson, introduction, Katherine Mansfield and the (Post)colonial, ed. Janet Wilson, Gerri Kimber, and Delia da Sousa Correa (Edinburgh:  Edinburgh University Press, 2013); Saikat Majumdar ‘Katherine Mansfield and the Fragility of Pakeha Boredom’, Modern Fiction Studies 55, 1 (Spring 2009):  119–41, 193–4; and Elleke Boehmer, ‘Mansfield as Colonial Modernist: Difference Within’, in Celebrating Katherine Mansfield: A Centenary Volume of Essays, ed. Gerri Kimber and Janet Wilson (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 57–71. 21 Wevers, “The Sod under My Feet”, 40–1. 22 Richard Brock, ‘Disapprobation, Disobedience and the Nation in Katherine Mansfield’s New Zealand Stories’, Journal of New Zealand Literature 24, 1 (2006): 58–74. 23 Jane Stafford and Mark Williams, Maoriland:  New Zealand Literature 1872–1914 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2006), 142–70. 24 Ormond Burton, The Silent Division: New Zealanders at the Front, 1914–1919 (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1935), 121. 25 Katherine Mansfield, The Urewera Notebook, ed. with introduction by Ian A. Gordon (Wellington: Oxford University Press, 1978), 37. 26 Ibid., 53. 27 Ibid., 45. 28 The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks, Vol. 2, ed. Margaret Scott (Wellington: Daphne Brasell and Lincoln University Press, 1997), 16, 32. 29 Emmanouil Aretoulakis, ‘Colonialism and the Need for Impurity: Katherine Mansfield, “The Garden Party” and Postcolonial Feeling’, in Wilson et  al., Katherine Mansfield and the (Post)colonial, ed. 45–62. 30 Scott, Notebooks, 2: 24. 31 Ibid., 104. 32 Ibid., 106.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.006 Published online by Cambridge University Press

82

Bri dg et Orr

33 Christine Darrohn, ‘ “Blown to Bits!”:  Katherine Mansfield’s “The GardenParty” and the Great War’, Modern Fiction Studies 44, 3 (1998): 513–39. 34 See Christopher Pugsley, Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story (Auckland: Reed, 1998); John Crawford and Ian McGibbon, eds. New Zealand’s Great War: New Zealand, the Allies and the First World War (Auckland: Exisle, 2007). 35 Maurice Shadbolt, Voices of Gallipoli (Auckland:  Hodder and Stoughton, 1988), 62. 36 J. B. Conliffe, Te Rangi Hiroa: Life of Sir Peter Buck (Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1971), 127–8. 37 Maui Pomare, New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Hansard 177 (1916), 942.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.006 Published online by Cambridge University Press

P a rt   I I

1920–1950

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter  6

Colonial Ecologies Guthrie-Smith’s Tutira and Writing in the Settled Environment Philip Steer The writing of the 1930s–50s, often defined by the novelty of its attempt to articulate a sense of national identity through representing the landscape, is productively unsettled by the broader concerns of ecology that would position it within a longer historical arc of settlement’s transformation of that landscape. The cultural nationalist writing of the 1930s onwards, as well as the preceding Maoriland era that it sought to differentiate itself from, is equally encompassed by the process described by James Belich as ‘recolonisation’, the export-driven expansion of farming that ‘transformed the New Zealand countryside, and considerably homogenised it’ from the 1880s onwards.1 As ecologists and environmental historians have pointed out, New Zealand constitutes one of the most extreme examples of the global anti-ecological project of settler colonisation:  driven by the economic imperatives of the forestry industry as well as by the expansion of pastoral production, its environmental history until the mid-twentieth century is one of widespread destruction and radical transformation.2 It was on this violently modified and ever more industrialised terrain that New Zealand literature took its increasingly distinctive shape. In an essay in the first volume of Landfall (1947), T. H. Scott sought to outline the typical social pattern of New Zealand’s rural hinterland through a portrait of a fictional settlement named, with some irony, Te Whenua (‘The Land’). Sketching its typical features, ‘the clumps of trees and the plantations of “old man macs” and pines, the river, the “long drain”, “the factory” ’, he describes how the everyday activities of its children might reveal traces of the wetland ecosystem only recently displaced: [O]ne day they unearth . . . the remains of a fallen tree running under the ground. And then in imagination they add a forest of trees to the flax swamp. . . . Then too there are stones from a hole dug on a ridge to bury a calf. Someone, enlarging the hole, pointed out the deliberate way the layer 85

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.007 Published online by Cambridge University Press

86

Phi li p Steer was placed. . . . [H]e remarked that these were [left by] foraging Maoris who used the oven coming this way from their pa at Orimu. And so the children create in their mind’s [sic] eyes a swamp with its standing flax rising above the raupo, and see it forested at the fringes and crossed with the tracks of men.3

The essay in several ways exemplifies the Pākehā (European) texts that inform this chapter’s focus on narrative and poetic attempts to comprehend local ecologies and the place of settler culture within them. Scott’s complex historical and spatial sensibility enables a self-conscious critique of the widespread lack of settler ecological awareness: for Pākehā, ‘the present and the recent past are connected with the older past by having rubbed it out, like words rubbed off a slate’.4 Yet the essay also demonstrates the extent to which Māori perspectives are absent, relegated to the past, or, at best, introduced secondhand within this archive. That representational absence arises out of the relationship between increasing English-language dominance from the turn of the century, the disruption of traditional Māori communities, and the ‘loss of manawhenua or authority that accompanied the inability to maintain a relationship with the ancestral landscape’.5 Although falling outside the ambit of this chapter, it is important to note that Māori engagement with ecological questions at this time was powerfully expressed in other aesthetic domains, notably the carving and painting of meetinghouses and oral narrative forms such as whakataukī (proverbs).6 In what follows, ‘ecology’ will be used synonymously with ‘environment’ and ‘nature’ to invoke a sense of the localised or place-specific relationships between Pākehā, nature, and Māori, in contrast to the static  concepts of ‘landscape’ or ‘place’ that have tended to frame critical discussions of pre-1950s New Zealand writing. In thematic terms, ecological reading shifts nature from being a matter of ‘setting’ to an explicit concern, in recognition that it was one of the primary spheres where the violence of colonisation was enacted. A  different yet related critical challenge is raised by ecology’s understanding that species, cultures, and temporalities comprise interconnected and complex systems. At a formal level, attending to ecology problematises concepts of scale, structure, and perspective, and blurs generic distinctions between fiction, poetry, memoir, and nonfiction. This chapter centres on those pre-1950s modernist experiments that gave fullest expression to these thematic and formal concerns, most notably Herbert Guthrie-Smith’s Tutira:  The Story of a New Zealand Sheep Station (1921):  deliberately constrained in its perspective to ‘one sheep station in one province’, its concerns nevertheless range in scale from the geological epochs that produce gradual landscape change

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.007 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Colonial Ecologies

87

through to the tiniest weeds.7 That discussion is prefaced by an account of the ecological vocabularies produced by Maoriland-era writing, focusing on portrayals of New Zealand’s forests and their destruction, and it concludes by pointing to the paradoxical environmental awareness that permeates mainstream cultural nationalist writing through its constant highlighting of ecological absence. New Zealand writing about nature during the ‘recolonial’ period is largely predicated on asserting the settler’s separation from the ecosystems that surround them yet are doomed by their presence. The contradictory mixture of complicity and distance shaping this dynamic – which operate across aesthetic, sentimental, and ideological registers – is given early expression by Lady Barker’s account of ‘burning the run’ in Station Life in New Zealand (1870): ‘We always avoided burning where a grove of the pretty Ti-ti palms grew; but sometimes there would be one or two on a hill-side growing by themselves, and then it was most beautiful to see them burn. . . . [T]he poor palm would bend and sway, tossing its leaves like fiery plumes in the air, and then it was reduced to a black stump, and the fire swept on up the hill’.8 Barker’s account in part foreshadows the predominant ecological concern in New Zealand literature at least until the 1920s with the bush and its eradication, and poetry usefully indicates the formal and thematic challenges that the topic produced for settler writers. In works such as Anne Glenny Wilson’s ‘The Forty-Mile Bush’ (1889), nature is reduced to an aesthetic experience that sustains the settler presence, so that the extensive forest of the northern Wairarapa becomes a ‘somnolent’ and ‘aromatic glade’, and despite it being actively decimated at the time the speaker is able to conclude that its ‘branches wave and beckon me in pity, / To seek again thy hospitality’.9 By contrast, ecological catastrophe is explicitly thematised in Alexander Bathgate’s ‘To the Moko-Moko or Bell-bird’ (1890), where the unsteady meter and creaking rhyme scheme unintentionally reinforce the poem’s apologetic inability to imagine any outcome other than the species’ extinction: Fain we’d retain Thy chiming strain, Thy purple throat and olive hue: Yet we wish in vain.10

William Pember Reeves’s rapidly canonised ‘The Passing of the Forest’ (1898) stands out among these late-Victorian forest poems, though not for

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.007 Published online by Cambridge University Press

88

Phi li p Steer

its tone of tragic regret (or, as Patrick Evans puts it, ‘bogus lament’),11 its occlusion of Māori from the landscape, or its romanticised figuration of the precontact environment. Instead, it uniquely invokes the complexity and diversity of the Indigenous ecosystem, the ‘forest world, its wealth of life, / Its jostling, crowding, thrusting, struggling race’, and its teeming birdlife.12 Later including the poem as an appendix to his influential history of New Zealand, The Long White Cloud – Ao Tea Roa (1898), Reeves would follow it with a brief comment on the ‘economic danger’ of the ‘shocking wastefulness’ of deforestation, language that encapsulates the struggle to define and justify the value of Indigenous ecology to the settler population and economy.13 The fullest Maoriland-era representation of deforestation occurs in William Satchell’s novel, The Toll of the Bush (1907), set in Northland’s kauri forests. Satchell’s plot centres on the amorous entanglements of the immigrant Hernshaw brothers, Robert and Geoffrey, a domestic focus that relegates nature to the background for most of the narrative, but what Satchell does more explicitly than most of his contemporaries is ally a Gothicised representation of the forest with a sense of Indigenous identity. This strategy posits the local environment as incommensurable with settlement, as Geoffrey’s lover, Eve Milward, reflects: ‘What wonder if it be true, as the bushmen believe, that the forest demands its toll of the destroyers. It needs no stretching of the imagination to believe that in this great silent outburst of life there is a soul that can offer resistance. Stephen, our bushman, is a firm believer in – in – what should one call it? . . . Uto [sic] is the word . . . payment in expiation’.14

In accordance with this view of settler colonisation as a war against ecological ‘resistance’, the novel culminates in the orgiastic destruction of the forest by fire. Toll of the Bush thus stands out as the period’s most thoroughgoing attempt to legitimate settlement as a process of environmental annihilation, concluding with the settlers raising a toast to ‘the country of our children – the Fairest Land in the World’ amidst the ashes of the forest that once covered the region.15 One element of the turn against colonial forms of writing from the 1920s onwards is the emergence of an environmentally minded critique that contributes to a broader scepticism about the shallow and instrumentalised attitude towards place produced by capitalist values. When Allen Curnow’s poem, ‘The Unhistoric Story’ (1941), turns its disenchanted historiographic gaze to the present moment, it is to mourn the death of the ‘pilgrim dream’ at the hands of a national economy organised around

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.007 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Colonial Ecologies

89

industrialised agriculture, ‘Among the chemical farmers, the fresh towns; among / Miners, not husbandmen, who piercing the side / Let the land’s life’.16 Similarly, Jean Devanny’s notorious account of docking lambs on a King Country sheep station in The Butcher Shop (1926) is in service of a socialist critique of the capitalist legitimation of violence towards the natural world: ‘Savage and brutal, ay? The docker’s teeth are joined in and tear the living flesh so that there may be prime New Zealand mutton. . . . The poor tiny ear must be slit to preserve property rights, and out of it all, in the end, step the fashionable lady and gentleman’.17 Such works serve to defamiliarise an emergent, energy-intensive economy of primary production enmeshed within global systems of consumption, a situation that is now so familiar as to be virtually invisible. At the same time, as John Newton points out, ‘we do well to remember that the “hard frost” of literary nationalism, at the same time as freezing out the Tangata Whenua, shut down other settler idioms which inhabited that landscape differently’.18 One such alternative imaginary is a form of environmental consciousness that began to emerge at this time in works by Ursula Bethell, Robin Hyde, and Herbert Guthrie-Smith. Sharply differentiated by genre, scope, and geography, these texts nevertheless cohere around a project of modernist formal experimentation conducted in the service of an ecological sensibility founded on a complex understanding of difference and connection. Bethell’s poetry, and especially her first collection, From a Garden at the Antipodes (1929), might appear a strange place to locate environmental concern, in light of its emotional orientation towards England and its concern with establishing and maintaining the artificial ecosystem of an English-style garden. Yet a poem such as ‘Pause’ (1929) registers the settler’s presence within and alongside a range of ecological systems, as well as refracting that perspective through an awareness of the multiple temporalities of the landscape: I think how freely the wild grasses flower there, How grandly the storm-shaped trees are massed in their gorges, And the rain-worn rocks strewn in magnificent heaps. ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... In a very little while, it may be, When our impulsive limbs and our superior skulls Have to the soil restored several ounces of fertiliser, The Mother of all will take charge again, And soon wipe away with her elements Our small fond human enclosures.19

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.007 Published online by Cambridge University Press

90

Phi li p Steer

Informed equally by her commitment to Anglican theology and her knowledge of natural history, Bethell’s multiperspectival approach holds the quotidian in productive tension with nature, and diverges from the ‘South Island myth’ of a ‘bare and inimical landscape’, emptied of its human history, that shapes so much poetry of the time.20 In ‘Levavi Oculos’ (1936), where Bethell again turns her attention to the hills, aesthetic appreciation is further complicated by recognition of the violence that has produced the landscape: Wish not for these again their cloak and vesture, The rich and dark array, fire-burned and axe-felled By foreign tribes, (even ours, ours, the invaders), But hail these clean lines[.]21

Almost despite itself, the poem acknowledges that even the most sublime experience of the South Island landscape is a testament to prior and ongoing human presence, deliberately embracing the settler reader in its acknowledgement of ‘our’ invasive, environmental violence. Robin Hyde’s work best demonstrates the possibilities for comparable formal complexity within the novel, where it appears in the service of a more overtly political ecology. Most notably in the second Douglas Stark novel, Nor the Years Condemn (1938), the portrayal of nature is intrinsically connected to a critique of the dispossession and marginalisation of Māori. At the point where her protagonist takes up work at a hydroelectric power scheme, Hyde’s techniques of allusion and personification, coupled with a multivocal style, invoke a complexly stratified environment where the vast economic and energy infrastructure of the state exists in disdainful proximity to a Māori population dispossessed in the colonial wars and in an antagonistic relationship to the natural forces that have shaped the river over millennia. Hyde’s anthropomorphic account of the river as female resists the objectification that the hydroelectric scheme is premised upon, repositioning it in a deeper temporality that frames the engineering project as the repetition of an earlier act of sexual violence: The river had been through this before. Four thousand years ago, red fists of volcanic fire had caught her throat, shaking her to and fro, almost squeezing the life out of her; earthquake flung himself upon her, growling like a dog, and she saw her cliffs totter and crash into the stream. In the morning, she lay in the new bed where the violators had tossed her[.]22

The historical depth afforded to the landscape in Nor the Years Condemn underpins the novel’s account of a spatially discontinuous environment produced by the overlapping of ecosystems, geology, and ethnicity. In

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.007 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Colonial Ecologies

91

contrast to the ‘conquest by exotics’ that defines the ostensibly settled landscape ‘back towards Auckland and civilization’, Hyde demarcates a geological and environmental border where ‘the native things took over’: ‘great terraces showed the lake levels of ancient days, and with the ti tree, which was the predominant, mixed a stubborn little wax-belled heath, the only alien thing to be seen, and growing native in the process of holding on’.23 In pointed contrast to the rhetoric of literary nationalism, the narrative works to make the general point that it is ‘arrogant’ to view this as ‘Man’s country’, associating a masculine perspective with an instrumentalising approach to nature that fundamentally misunderstands it.24 In contrast, Hyde’s ecology complicates and enriches the landscape by triangulating its different Pākehā, Māori, and natural histories, and in doing so is able to reimagine the relationships among them. When Bill Pearson turned to the subject of the land in his mid-century excoriation of settler society, ‘Fretful Sleepers’ (1952), he echoed the dominant pattern of cultural nationalist writing in finding fault with the disposition of the nation’s farmers. ‘[N]o farmer that I know draws breath with a change of light on the foothills, sieves the earth through friendly fingers. If he did he wouldn’t let it run wild with gorse and blackberries, then cruelly put a match to them regardless of soil erosion’.25 The anecdote belies the seeming paradox that the New Zealand farm had already produced one of the most extensive and significant works of ecological writing in world literature, Guthrie-Smith’s first-person account of the environmental changes brought about on a single Hawkes Bay sheep station by settlement’s agricultural economy. The complexity and scale of Tutira emerges paradoxically out of a ‘purposed localism’26 of geographic and political scope that deliberately eschews its potential for national allegory: the original preface describes its method as ‘a record of minute alterations noted on one patch of land: for the author’s purpose, indeed, New Zealand is bounded on the west by the Mohaka River, on the east by the Arapawanui run, on the south by the Waikoau, on the north by the Waikari’.27 This bioregional narrative begins with an account of its geological history and geographical features, before turning to the complex history of the Ngai Tatara hapū (a subtribe now known as Ngāti Kurumōkihi) of the Tangoio iwi (tribe). Guthrie-Smith gives the Ngai Tatara presence a spatial particularity as well as historical density in his account of Tutira’s geography by ‘us[ing] as threads on which to string our narrative’ the main trails and place names by which the hapū traversed and inhabited the landscape.28 The pastoral history of Tutira was inaugurated with its initial lease in 1873, and Guthrie-Smith took possession in 1882; throughout the book,

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.007 Published online by Cambridge University Press

92

Phi li p Steer

his account of learning to farm the land and his encounters with his Ngai Tatara landlords are interspersed with chapters that painstakingly detail the history of plant and animal species on the property and the consequent changes to the station’s ecology over that time. Formally and thematically, the most distinctive feature of Tutira is its ecological vision of interconnectedness. Guthrie-Smith portrays the landscape as if it were an archive, such that ‘nature’ is always revealed to be the explicable product of discernible historical forces. Concerning Tutira’s geology, for example, his experience of the 1931 Napier earthquake enables him to reconsider ‘a vast conglomeration of tall earth-pinnacles’, and to ‘read their story aright’ as ‘records of a long-past shake’.29 At the human scale, a ‘sure and infallible sign’ of former Ngai Tatara settlements can be read from the presence of specific plants that persist at the margins of vanished whares (houses) and paths.30 And at a species level, the instinctive behaviours of generations of sheep have produced pathways that ‘might well puzzle any man who has not followed each step in its strange metamorphosis’.31 These different ecological layers are not merely kept in parallel but, as Alex Calder notes, are constantly brought into contact in service of ‘an historical vision in which the distributions of both humans and weeds are of equal interest and are complexly interrelated’.32 This rhizomatic vision is expressed at a figurative level through metaphors and anthropomorphisms that defamiliarise species boundaries. Erosion is likened to ‘the dissolution of a beast when first the flesh decays’, while the seemingly inert blackberry bush is revealed as a predatory species able to ‘seize’, ‘tether’ and finally consume unfortunate sheep.33 Thus, narrative provides the formal means by which such a dynamic system might be plotted, while figurative language serves to reveal and illuminate the interconnections between divergent entities. What emerges from Guthrie-Smith’s painstaking account is a strikingly nonlinear sense of temporal progression, in contrast to what Lawrence Jones describes as the contemporary ‘myth’ of settlement as the straightforward establishment of an antipodean Better Britain. The ‘obvious literary vehicle’ for that myth in the 1930s was the multigenerational sheep station romance, notably Nelle Scanlan’s Pencarrow novels (1932–9), with their underlying ‘view of history as progress’, yet by contrast very little is straightforward in Tutira.34 These difficulties arise from the difficult natural conditions pertaining at Tutira, the scale of the challenge of ‘breaking in the run’ by radically transforming the local ecosystem into grassland, and the vicissitudes of the global wool market. At the same time, Guthrie-Smith also makes it clear that the station is

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.007 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Colonial Ecologies

93

never a stable environment. His tireless cataloguing of new plants reveals patterns of ebb and flow rather than simple acclimatisation, while the land’s inability to sustain a constant level of production  – ‘[T]he feature that stands out foremost and pre-eminently is the lessened fertility of to-day’s surface soil as compared with that of the early ‘eighties’, he observes in 1940 – places a question mark over the future of the pastoral industry.35 The surprising consequence of treating settlement from a naturalist’s point of view, regarding it as an interlinked and unstable series of invasions and attempted adaptations, is to denaturalise it by revealing its artificiality. Tutira’s ecological sensibilities thus also complicate more recent critical and historiographical accounts of settlement and ‘cultural colonisation’. It is simply too fraught and self-conscious about its own complicities to conclude, as Patrick Evans does, that it is merely ‘a parable of good settlement, of rightful possession by Pākehā’.36 One problematic consequence that arises from Guthrie-Smith’s ecological narrative is its tendency to depoliticise the forces that drove settlement. Following the logic of Tutira, Calder concludes that its value lies in the impression it conveys of ‘humans as organisms whose migrations from one landmass to another are only to be expected’, a biological formulation of colonisation that leaves larger-scale cultural processes and formations – ideology, capitalism, racism, and so on – considerably diminished in importance.37 At the same time, however, Tutira makes a genuine contribution to the critique of settlement by introducing a diversified understanding of value. By its third and final edition (1940), Guthrie-Smith strikes a tone of melancholy doubt about the merits of the pastoral enterprise: ‘my substitution of one flora for another; my contribution towards more quickly melting New Zealand through erosion into the Pacific – a question of ethics this, of simple right and wrong, one increasingly clamatory in years’.38 At another point, Guthrie-Smith draws on his experiences with local iwi to consider the impact of farming from an entirely different perspective: ‘Aue, taukari e, ano te kuware o te Pakeha kahore nei i whakaaro ki te mauri o te whenua. Alas! Alas! that the Pakeha should so neglect the rights of the land, so forget the traditions of the Maori race, a people who recognised in it something more than the ability to grow meat and wool’.39 On the one hand, the scale and impact of ecological change is framed in ethical terms, rather than justified for financial or ideological reasons; on the other hand, the land is not merely imagined passively in terms of productivity or aesthetics, but held to bear intrinsic rights. Through such interventions, Tutira raises questions that continue to circulate within

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.007 Published online by Cambridge University Press

94

Phi li p Steer

New Zealand literature and society about how the environment is valued, represented, and interpreted. While Tutira stands alone amongst pre-1950 literature for the extent of its engagement with environmental concerns, a much wider range of writing and theorising about the nature of Pākehā society can also be productively revisited from an ecological perspective. In John Mulgan’s Man Alone (1939), the legendary taciturnity of the protagonist, Johnson, is of a piece with the ‘quietness and sickness’ that first greets him on his arrival, and is subsequently encountered repeatedly amongst the war veterans struggling to survive on marginal Waikato farmland.40 Virtually every region in Mulgan’s novel is similarly silent, empty, and visibly damaged by what Guthrie-Smith called ‘the ecstasies of improvements’: ‘Going down to the farm by service car was seeing a new country open out like the raw edges of a wound’, the narrator observes, while farming is a ‘battle they were . . . fighting with the land’.41 In contrast to Tutira’s detailed plotting of temporal change, time is evanescent in the blank farmlands of Man Alone: ‘It passed the first day as it did in all the three years he was there’, the narrator observes of Johnson’s labour at the Blakeways’s farm, while his incurious workmates are only ‘interested in the things in front of them’.42 Echoing Scott’s description of rural Te Whenua as ‘dispersed, formless, and without noticeable organization’, the devastated Waikato landscape of Man Alone comes to seem not just a backdrop but an integral part of Mulgan’s account of settler sociality. An ecological perspective expands the interpretative horizon of such texts beyond the familiar critical concern with social isolation, instead allowing the multifarious forms of blankness registered in so much cultural nationalist prose and poetry  – relational, societal, spatial  – to be read as testament to the active and ongoing processes of environmental destruction and the continuing tendency to imagine settler society in opposition to nature. As ecologist Geoff Park suggests, such absences bear deep and ongoing cultural significance: ‘Many people love the geometric tapestry of a broad, farmed plain. . . . I  see history’s invisible violence in the . . . monotonous geometry of long straights, stopbanks and shelterbelts bending in the wind. There is tragedy in nature’s absence’.43 The sense of an intrinsic relationship between Pākehā identity and ecological nullity had begun to crystallise in texts such as Blanche Baughan’s celebration of settler potentiality, ‘A Bush Section’ (1908), which takes its place in the aftermath of a forest burn-off preparatory to the sowing of pasture, or

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.007 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Colonial Ecologies

95

Alan Mulgan’s suggestion that such a smouldering landscape might be settler society’s most significant and characteristic creative act: Yet if some ask: ‘Where is your art, your writing By which we know that you have aught to say?’ We shall reply: ‘Yonder, the hillcrest blighting, There is our architecture’s blazoned way’.44

Mulgan’s bleak poem partially belies his reputation as the stodgy representative of a literary order that was clear-felled by the Phoenix generation, and it prompts consideration of the kind of writing and culture that might be established on such a blighted landscape. That question is taken further in Frank Sargeson’s short story, ‘“Gods Live in Woods”’ (1943), which triangulates the blankness of the settled landscape with a critique of Pākehā cultural dispositions and the formal qualities of critical realism. The story is set on a declining King Country farm, similar to that found in Man Alone, where a remnant of the original forest has somehow been retained: Everywhere else you saw only the grass, sheep and cattle dotted about, fern and manuka getting away, the fire-blackened skeletons of trees still standing, and the great bare faces [of landslips] with the clay and papa showing. It was as though everything there was to see was there to be seen. But looking up towards the bush wasn’t at all the same, you couldn’t help but feel that it was quite different.45

By associating the ‘settled’ landscape with an anxious, depthless, and excessive visibility, Sargeson raises the possibility that some of the most characteristic features of critical realist prose – clipped and undemonstrative speech, a lack of description, and the absence of stylistic flourishes – might be testament to the devastated ecologies upon which the writing of the cultural nationalist era was founded. Notes 1 James Belich, Paradise Reforged: A History of the New Zealanders from the 1880s to the Year 2000 (Auckland: Allen Lane, 2001), 70. 2 Paul Star, ‘Humans and the Environment in New Zealand, c. 1800 to 2000’, in The New Oxford History of New Zealand, ed. Giselle Byrnes (South Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2009), 50–66; Graeme Wynn, ‘Destruction under the Guise of Improvement? The Forest, 1840–1920’, in Making a New Land: Environmental Histories of New Zealand, ed. Tom Brooking and Eric Pawson (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2013), 122–38. 3 T. H. Scott, ‘From Emigrant to Native: Te Whenua’, Landfall 1, 4 (1947): 254–5. 4 Ibid., 255.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.007 Published online by Cambridge University Press

96

Phi li p Steer

5 Margaret Forster, ‘Recovering Our Ancestral Landscapes:  A  Wetland’s Story’, in Māori and the Environment: Kaitiaki, ed. Pātaka J. G. Moore, et al. (Wellington: Huia, 2010), 199–218, see p. 207. 6 Merata Kawharu, ‘Environment as a Marae Locale’, in Moore et al., Māori and the Environment, 222–3; Deidre Brown, ‘Indigenous Art Animals’, in A New Zealand Book of Beasts: Animals in our Culture, History and Everyday Life, ed. Annie Potts, Philip Armstrong and Deidre Brown (Auckland:  Auckland University Press, 2013), 159–75. 7 Herbert Guthrie-Smith, Tutira:  The Story of a New Zealand Sheep Station (1921) (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1953), vii. 8 Lady Barker, Station Life in New Zealand (1870) (Auckland:  Golden Press, 1973), 198–9. 9 Anne Glenny Wilson, ‘The Forty-Mile Bush’, in A Treasury of New Zealand Verse, ed. W.  F. Alexander and A.  E. Currie (Auckland:  Whitcombe and Tombs, 1926), 55. 10 Alexander Bathgate, ‘To the Moko-Moko or Bell-Bird’, in The New Place: The Poetry of Settlement in New Zealand, 1852–1914, ed. Harvey McQueen (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1993), 70. 11 Patrick Evans, The Penguin History of New Zealand Literature (Auckland: Penguin, 1990), 50. 12 William Pember Reeves, ‘The Passing of the Forest’, in The Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature, ed. Jane Stafford and Mark Williams (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2012), 101–2. 13 William Pember Reeves, The Long White Cloud:  Ao Tea Roa, (1898) 4th ed. (London: Allen and Unwin, 1950), 384. 14 William Satchell, The Toll of the Bush (1907), ed. Kendrick Smithyman (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1985), 96. 15 Ibid., 242. 16 Allen Curnow, ‘The Unhistoric Story’, in Collected Poems, 1933–1973 (Wellington: Reed, 1974), 79–80. 17 Jean Devanny, The Butcher Shop (1926) (London: Duckworth, 1928), 184. 18 John Newton, ‘Colonialism above the Snowline:  Baughan, Ruskin and the South Island Myth’, Journal of Commonwealth Literature 34, 2 (1999), 85–96: 94. 19 Ursula Bethell, ‘Pause’, in Ursula Bethell:  Collected Poems, ed. Vincent O’Sullivan (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1997), 2. 20 Newton, ‘Colonialism above the Snowline’, 91. 21 Bethell, ‘Levavi Oculos’, Ursula Bethell: Collected Poems, 34. 22 Robin Hyde, Nor the Years Condemn (1938), ed. Phillida Bunkle, Linda Hardy, and Jaqueline Matthews (Auckland: New Women’s Press, 1986), 187. 23 Ibid., 191–2. 24 Ibid., 191. 25 Bill Pearson, ‘Fretful Sleepers:  A  Sketch of New Zealand Behaviour and Its Implications for the Artist’, in Fretful Sleepers and Other Essays (Auckland: Heinemann, 1974), 1–32, see p. 28. 26 Guthrie-Smith, Tutira, 419.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.007 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Colonial Ecologies 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45

97

Ibid., viii. Ibid., 74. Ibid., 42. Ibid., 69. Ibid., 181. Alex Calder, The Settler’s Plot:  How Stories Take Place in New Zealand (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2011), 156, 139. Guthrie-Smith, Tutira, 26, 282. Lawrence Jones, Picking Up the Traces: The Making of a New Zealand Literary Culture, 1932–1945 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2003), 177, 180. Guthrie-Smith, Tutira, 309. Patrick Evans, The Long Forgetting:  Post-Colonial Literary Culture in New Zealand (Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2007), 123. Calder, Settler’s Plot, 155. Guthrie-Smith, Tutira, xiii. Ibid., 325. John Mulgan, Man Alone (Auckland: Penguin, 1990), 9. Guthrie-Smith, Tutira, 18; Mulgan, Man Alone, 18, 100. Mulgan, Man Alone, 19. Geoff Park, Ngā Uruora:  Ecology and History in a New Zealand Landscape (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1995), 73. Alan Mulgan, ‘Dead Timber’, in Golden Wedding and Other Poems (Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1964), 33. Frank Sargeson, ‘Gods Live in Woods’, Frank Sargeson’s Stories (Auckland: Cape Catley, 2010), 210.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.007 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter  7

Defiance and Melodrama Fiction in the Period of National ‘Invention’, 1920–1950 Alex Calder

As Lawrence Jones tells it, the Great New Zealand Novel was ‘most anxiously and fruitlessly anticipated’1 in the years between the two world wars – the period of national ‘invention’2 – when writers and critics were looking for something big from somewhere small (though not without a complicating sideways glance at our major expatriate miniaturist, Katherine Mansfield). The prognosticators were deluded, of course – and not only for the boosterish reasons documented by Jones. They had failed to detect the appearance of a GNZN in 1920, before one was looked for in earnest. No one was aware the messianic book had arrived – but this is only one of several signs by which a GNZN can be known. For a second, consider the resonance of plot in that novel: Jane Mander’s The Story of a New Zealand River. The frostily beautiful Alice Roland and her daughter Asia travel upriver to the ‘appalling isolation’ of her new husband’s bush property.3 It is the late nineteenth century. Also on the raft, and incongruous in this setting, is Alice’s piano  – an instrument the heroine plays with Chopin-like intensity. Over the time span of the novel, the kauri forests are cleared and a small community takes root around Tom Roland’s timber mill. Alice will slowly relinquish her genteel and class-conscious ways, adapt to her new-world environment, and find true love with her husband’s foreman, the sensitive David Bruce. Alice, the starchy Puritan, becomes a New Zealander; her daughter, the feisty Asia, becomes the New Zealand woman of the future. In short, The Story of a New Zealand River is an ambitious, feminist-minded birth-of-a-nation story. Moreover, like many classics, the book would find its largest audience outside its own time. In the 1930s and 1940s, a younger generation of writers regarded Mander’s achievement as a foundation to build on. In the 1960s, the novel was serialised to acclaim on late morning radio, enthralling housewives and retired folk by the thousand – and millions more would be drawn to the story when Jane Campion reinvented its basic scenario in her Oscar-winning movie, The Piano (1993). But of all 98

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.008 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Defiance and Melodrama

99

the qualifications that might be urged in favour of Mander’s novel, the tell-tale sign and most evident symptom of a GNZN is that, truth to tell, The Story of a New Zealand River is not so much great as minor but worthy. Katherine Mansfield asked herself why the book was boring. Wearied by an author ‘not sensible of the dangers of the leisurely style’, numbed by ‘frequent allusion to the magnificent scenery’, irked by the novelist’s ‘adherence to the old unnecessary technical devices’  – she felt let down, ultimately, by the ‘timidity’ of the writer.4 ‘How is that timidity to be explained?’ the young genius inquired. Mander, she was sure, was not untalented  – the writing was at times ‘fresh’, ‘vivid’, ‘sturdy’, even ‘violent’ – yet she felt her older compatriot wrote as if ‘round the corner there was a little band of jeering, sneering superior persons ready to leap and laugh if the cut of the new-comer’s jacket is not of the strangeness they consider admissible’.5 Mansfield is writing  – one is tempted to say jeering and sneering – for the London Athenaeum. But she is not being dismissive; she is inquiring into the conditions of literary production in a small and distant province. I doubt Mansfield knew that Mander, much like herself, was an impoverished expatriate bohemian intellectual, whose semi-insider status in Manhattan’s advanced literary circles mirrored Mansfield’s own relation to Bloomsbury. Nor could she have known that, back in New Zealand, this supposedly timid book would be regarded as an inflammatory sex novel. (In Whangārei, Mander’s home town, the permission of the head librarian had to be obtained before the book could be borrowed by adult readers). But Mansfield knew that any halfway decent writer of New Zealand fiction was bound to have a problem with jeerers and sneerers. The last words of her review are: ‘Let us defy them’. The Story of a New Zealand River sets the pattern for much of the fiction that follows in its marked antipathy to outmoded social conventions. Who are we on our New Zealand river? We might look to the skies for an answer, but the contours of an identity begin to form when it is asserted, insistently, that we are not genteel, class-conscious, god-smitten sons and daughters of English Puritans. Mander’s construction of this nonidentity bears an attenuated relation to social facts. The Otamatea, the river of her own childhood, was first settled by the Albertlanders, a sect of religious nonconformists who arrived from Birmingham in the early 1860s, only to leave a legacy of ghost towns and farms broken by isolation. Her father’s milling business was a mopping-up operation, not the opening of a frontier. Moreover, two of Jane Mander’s siblings married local Māori, but fluid local boundaries such as these are not represented in a novel in

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.008 Published online by Cambridge University Press

100

A lex Calder

which one of only two signs of prior habitation by Māori is a burial cave, disturbed by Tom Roland the very day he will be crushed to death in a logging accident  – at a stroke, removing an obstacle to love and ‘good’ settlement. Tom, portrayed as an energetic, coarse, practical-minded colonist, has the function of a scapegoat. In an earlier period, such a character might have been a nation builder, but in the period of national ‘invention’, the wrongs of the Pākehā (European) nation are symbolically heaped onto characters like these, as if by way of acknowledging that progress does not come without a price, and that the alienation of Māori from their land, like the logging of the kauri forest, links us all to an obscure but easily compartmentalised sort of wrong. ‘This is not who we are’ is a claim easily made by a text and can be voiced in standard realist modes. Statements about who we are, by contrast, lack positive definition. This is not such a problem for poetry. Allen Curnow’s lines, ‘And whatever islands may be / Under or over the sea / It is something different, something / nobody counted on’ confidently express a national ‘something’, which is still beyond words, as does his proleptic gesture: ‘Not I, some child born in a marvellous year / will learn the trick of standing upright here’.6 For fiction writers, by contrast, voicing an immanent identity is more of a problem. The traditional mode for representing a character whose essence is not articulable within established social codes but who has something urgent to say is melodrama. And if I were to advance the claim that The Story of a New Zealand River is a GNZN with a straighter face, it would be because it so perfectly encapsulates a division in the fiction that would come to be written in the period of national ‘invention’. Much of the novel consists of standard realist representations of place and character and dialogue. One chapter begins: ‘Mrs Brayton sat back on the big lounge in front of her library fire, an open book on her lap, her reading spectacles – the only kind of artificial aid she deigned to use – on the end of her nose’ – and the author goes on to describe the picture in her mind’s eye for another two paragraphs before a visitor arrives and Mrs. Brayton utters the words, ‘Come in’.7 But there are also many passages in which something is communicated by means of gestures and looks – much like the acting one finds in the silent movies. ‘Alice felt as if she would choke. Words strained painfully out of her throat were strangled at birth. She turned agonised eyes on Bruce’.8 On the one hand, a ‘reliance on the old technical devices’; on the other, ‘moments’ as Mansfield put it, ‘when her real talent flashes out, [when] her characters move quickly, almost violently’.9 Perhaps the surest of all

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.008 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Defiance and Melodrama

101

the hints Jane Campion would take from the novel was to emphasise the melodramatic presentation of its inarticulate heroine. Unlike Alice, Holly Hunter’s Ada really is mute – defiantly, eye-glaringly, mute. The problem of asserting a woman’s voice in a colonial society made by and for men is also central to Jean Devanny’s The Butcher Shop (1926) – and not just thematically. In March of that year, the prime minister’s secretary received an urgent telegram from London. Instruct watch for new novel entitled ‘Butchers Shop’ by Jean Devanny Wellington lady. Publishers Duckworth, London, alleged depiction of station life New Zealand disgusting indecent communistic Bert.10

Thanks to the vigilance of Bert, ports could be sealed against this menace. But one copy had already slipped through. The editor of The New Zealand Herald, not wishing to publicise this ‘rotten stuff’, immediately dispatched his review copy to the censor’s office. ‘The board considers this a bad book all round – sordid, unwholesome, and unclean’, came the report. ‘We are of the opinion it should be banned’.11 It stayed banned until 1958. The Butcher Shop is a twisted version of the ‘Mills and Boon’ sheep station romance. Might the handsome bachelor owner of a large sheep run fall head over heels in love with the pretty new housemaid? Of course he will; and the novel begins, rather than closes, with Margaret’s marriage to Barry Messenger. Margaret soon discovers that sheep station life is not pastoral but a brutal industry. Dogs are chained, beaten, starved. Docking is a euphemism for the bloody business of amputating tails from newly born lambs – half of whom the shepherd will then castrate with his teeth, spitting the ‘oyster’ into a billy. In Mansfield’s ‘At the Bay’ (1921), by contrast, the cutely anthropomorphised thought-bubbles of Wag the dog and Florrie the cat might come from a Disney cartoon. Yet Mansfield is observant about animals. Her sheep run forward in ‘little pattering rushes’. Behind them, ‘an old sheep dog, his soaking paws covered with sand, ran along, but with his nose to the ground, but carelessly, as if thinking of something else’.12 Devanny has no interest in this kind of enlivening detail; she sees classes and types. In her analysis, shepherds and shearers are as sheep. Drink keeps them docile and the bosses conspire to keep wages low. When Margaret visits a neighbouring farm she is appalled to discover that the pelts stretched on a wire fence come from cats. Her selectively outraged sensibilities are a comment on the ideological underpinnings of our meat industry. Devanny’s ultimate target, though, is the assumptions men and women make around gender.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.008 Published online by Cambridge University Press

102

A lex Calder

In standard romance, the alluring rival is a temporary obstacle in a couple’s path to married bliss. In The Butcher Shop, the competing love interest arrives only after marriage and after the appearance of several children. The complications prove insurmountable – not practically, but ideologically. Margaret loves Barry for his decency, but Glengarry, the darkly handsome Scots foreman, is the man she wants to have sex with. Both men are invested in codes of male honour: the employee respects the husband’s rights; the husband commits suicide rather than stand in the way of his wife’s happiness. Margaret’s womanliness – to slip into the language of the novel – is outraged. In the closing scene, clutching a dripping razor, she speaks her Manichean truth – ‘Never again shall man claim property rights in me’. The observing character’s eyes drop to the bed: ‘And Jimmy saw that Glengarry’s throat was cut from ear to ear’.13 Melodramatic endings are like exclamation marks. In tragedy, the ‘pity and terror’ we might feel for a ruined heroine like Margaret is predicated on the inner necessity of the action. Instead, the conclusion of The Butcher Shop adds shock value to a thesis, drawn from Engels’s treatise on the history of the family, and which Devanny has elsewhere registered through drawing-room dialogue and prosy epiphanies. As a writer, no one is more defiant than Devanny but her imagination is crippled by revolutionary certitude. A  partial exception is her presentation of a Māori character, Jimmy Tutaki, where she seems less sure of her ground. Jimmy is positively portrayed as the closest friend of Margaret and Barry  – and the reader is meant to feel dismay when Margaret, in her jealous preoccupation with Jimmy’s adulterous liaison with Miette, wounds him with a racist slur. Yet Devanny has also read deeply in eugenics and believes in the existence of higher and lower racial types. At one point, Jimmy contemplates the frozen carcasses of sheep being loaded into a cargo ship – ‘mutton for the overseas maw’.14 As the passage develops, we learn that Jimmy resents the Pākehā theft of the land, yet he knows this is what is meant by ‘Progress’ – and that progress is both remorseless and ‘good’. If this were a silent movie, the title card would be the sentence: ‘Racial emotions stirred within him’. The chapter concludes:  ‘And his heart turned to water, and his eyes spilled over their tears with anguish for the death of his race, for the death of his race which was slowly sinking, sinking, with thinned blood and loosened muscle and sagging belly back into the earth which was the dust from which it sprung’.15 Devanny’s use of repetition – like a passage of overblown film music – indicates the episode has been conceived melodramatically, as does the transformation of an everyday scene into a matter of life and death. Moreover, Devanny presents

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.008 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Defiance and Melodrama

103

us with a version of melodrama’s recognition tableau. The veil falls away and Jimmy responds to a more essential truth. Insofar as Devanny is a schematic Marxist, Jimmy’s feelings articulate what we might call the historical occult – a hidden rationale for the way things are. Insofar as the passage works differently or better than that, it is an instance of the way the melodramatic mode, in Peter Brooks’s formulation, serves to ‘locate and articulate the moral occult’ – by which he means, broadly, ‘a domain of operative spiritual values which is both indicated within and masked by the surface of reality’.16 Little wonder when a generation supposes, with Allen Curnow, that New Zealand has not been invented yet, that its occluded reality has yet to be given form by artists, writers, musicians, its key scenes will involve tableaux of recognition, of shock and revelation.17 We must not suppose melodrama is the only or even the most common mode in which fiction was written in the interwar period. The largest exceptions, at least by page length, are panoramic family sagas tracing the story of the land and the people, represented by Nelle Scanlan’s best-selling ‘Pencarrow’ series and by G.  B. Lancaster’s many historical romances, the most important of which is the comparative settler trilogy set respectively in Tasmania (Pageant 1933), New Zealand (Promenade 1938), and Nova Scotia (Grand Parade 1944). Roderick Finlayson’s many stories of Māori life are a form of pastoral focused on a culture in transition, in which truer and warmer values associated with the past are under pressure from changes Māori make in response to the allure and dangers of the modern. And then there is that rarest of New Zealand genres, comedy. Frank S. Anthony might well have become the P. G. Wodehouse of backblocks Taranaki. His most significant work is the novel Gus Tomlins (1977), left unpublished at his death from tuberculosis, in 1927, at the age of thirty-five. Gus, and the narrator, Mark, are like a contrasting pair of bachelor nitwits from the Drones Club, but with no pedigree, and no Jeeves to help them out on their rickety, undercapitalised farms. Like Bertie Wooster, Gus  – ‘emanating horsepower from every pore’  – is the confident hatcher of schemes designed to unlock female hearts and open the purse of a rich uncle.18 But the girls, Vi and Rosie, are not won over when Gus persuades Mark that he might best overcome his shyness by wearing a ballerina’s costume to the local dance, or when, in the evening’s rainy aftermath, the girls endure the flooded sidecar of Gus’s motorbike as he struggles with the starter and his ten-shilling suit shrinks to splitting point. As with Wodehouse, there is a lively comedy of incident, but the humour depends most of all on the texture of the prose. Anthony is the first New Zealand writer to find a vein of comedy in the laconic

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.008 Published online by Cambridge University Press

104

A lex Calder

understatement and comic circumlocutions of rural blokes. Anthony’s work, in its scattered early appearances in magazines and radio broadcasts, might be construed as a form of pastoral, but Gus Tomlins is far from that. Mark and Gus are both returned servicemen who, in the immediate postwar land boom, have paid four or five times over the odds for swampy stump-ridden land that will never pay its way. While a popular radio adaptation based on the magazine stories ends with the double marriage of Gus and Vi, Mark and Rosie, the novel closes with an extended sequence in which Gus, in a last desperate scheme, spends all his money on ‘eruptite’ and becomes obsessed with clearing his farm of stumps, leaving a dynamited landscape of mud and craters that resembles ‘a battle ground that had been heavily shelled’.19 Gus has been comically established as the kind of character who will check his motorbike’s petrol tank with a lighted match, but it is not remotely funny when the ‘eruptite’ misfires and he has to crawl for miles, as if through no-man’s-land, with a badly broken leg that is ‘a raw mass of torn flesh, rags of trouser, mud, and blood, all mixed together in the most horrible way’.20 Anthony anticipates more celebrated accounts of the human cost of settlement found in such poems as Denis Glover’s ‘The Magpies’ or John Mulgan’s Man Alone, that other novel in which the futility of the Great War comes to characterise the debt-gripped farmer’s struggle with third-class country. When Anthony’s unpublished writings were discovered in the 1970s, Frank Sargeson told a friend:  ‘it could mean for the future, Anthony Sargeson and [R. H.] Morrieson will all be one person’.21 That future composite might be identified by an ostentatious use of the kiwi vernacular, by the filtering of a story through a naïve narrator, by attention to the sorrows and joys of mateship. One could add a dozen lesser names – the so-called sons of Sargeson – and catch the flavour of much of the fiction written in this period: anecdotal, unpretentious, making values plain without having to spell them out. It is part of Sargeson’s achievement that he is so closely associated with establishing a local period style, but it would be a mistake to suppose this achievement defines him. For all that Sargeson might look like a national icon, publishing homegrown stories in Tomorrow or with the Caxton Press, he was nonetheless also associated with international modernist publications such as New Directions and Penguin New Writing, and was rather more interested in securing infrastructure for local writing than in trumpeting a distinct national identity. What we had in common with other settler literatures particularly intrigued him. A recurrent theme of his letters is the deplorable example Mansfield had set in making London the epicentre of her literary career. Sargeson, by contrast,

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.008 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Defiance and Melodrama

105

advocated following ‘the right colonial tradition’: one in which Melville and Twain were precedents, and which was represented to himself most usefully in the example of Sherwood Anderson.22 They both came from the same sort of place. Winesburg, Ohio, is a small rural town that pushes people out of shape, turning them into versions of the ‘grotesques’ who populate Anderson’s fictional world. Hamilton, New Zealand, was associated in Sargeson’s mind with ‘The Grey Death, puritanism and wowserism gone most startlingly putrescent’.23 Sargeson particularly admired the American’s use of ‘the short, suggestive sentence’  – a style, he observed in an essay of 1935, ‘that can be used to great advantage by an emotional writer’.24 In the face of emotion, characters would be inarticulate, bound by their ‘commonplace words and phrases’, but Sargeson began to see how the writer, like a composer, could repeat and develop a ‘short arresting statement’ to disproportionately powerful ends.25 Emotion might be skirted, barely hinted at, but could be brought in like a missing third dimension. In the early sketches, narratorial phrases like ‘a hard knocker’ or ‘I never wanted to be a good boy’ develop implications through repetition, semaphoring the author’s contempt for the constrictions of small-town life.26 Later stories would use essentially the same techniques in more subtle and searching ways. Sargeson wrote at a time when love was not an openly available term for same-sex relationships. When the inarticulate narrators of stories like ‘A Man and His Wife’, ‘The Hole That Jack Dug’, ‘The Making of a New Zealander’, or ‘That Summer’ rattle on about missing their pals or sticking around for their mates, the author is doing the classic work of melodrama: locating a more vital truth behind social masks and orchestrating occluded expressions of devotion and loss. In the essay on Anderson, Sargeson noted that the ‘defect of the method is that page by page you get the impression that you are about to receive a new revelation, a revelation that never turns up’.27 That is exactly the problem with melodrama in this strangely inexpressive mode: somehow or other, a revelation has to ‘turn up’. The nudge might be too obvious, or, as with Maggie’s transvestism in ‘That Summer’, escape the view of persons upon whom telltale details are lost. A decade later, looking back on his departures from naturalism, it occurred to Sargeson that if the story is ‘intense or fantastic or grotesque enough it will always go over’.28 That is partly why there is a camp and edgy quality to many of his best stories. When Victor stuffs a randy tom cat into a blazing wood stove, when George moves in on a barking dog and strangles it with his bare hands, when Jack’s alarmingly large hole undermines hearth and home, Sargeson is relying on the

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.008 Published online by Cambridge University Press

106

A lex Calder

semi-figurative qualities of these actions to make a revelation ‘turn up’, and delivers his unspoken message with a melodramatic charge.29 Despite its title, Sargeson’s short story anthology, Speaking for Ourselves (1945), shows no interest on the part of its editor for questions of national definition that were concerning Allen Curnow in his anthologies of poetry. In his one paragraph introduction, Sargeson merely draws attention to the variety of his selection and takes satisfaction in observing that, in a country of our size, ‘so many writers exist who can achieve what I may perhaps be allowed to describe as a very decent competence in the craft of modern short story writing’.30 Although novels were difficult to publish locally in the years before state subsidy, I  doubt there is anything so very unusual behind our supposed affinity for the genre. The short story is, among other things, a genre in which aspiring writers are read by an audience of the same. In a small literary community without strong elites, the ‘decently competent’ were readily published, and a writer did not have to have progressed so very far up the slopes of Mount Parnassus before lodging one or two stories in the anthologies. Speaking for Ourselves is interesting both as an early example of this process and for what it tells us about ‘distinctiveness’ in a national literature. It would be hard to find a selection of stories more deeply dyed in the national wool. They exemplify ‘the social pattern’ described by Robert Chapman in his classic study and the social malaise diagnosed by Bill Pearson in his 1952 essay ‘Fretful Sleepers’.31 Furthermore, their settings do the work we see such settings do elsewhere in our literature – perhaps there is no more definitive treatment of a suburban setting than Sargeson’s ‘The Hole that Jack Dug’, published here for the first time. Yet a more apt term for the various settings of these stories would be the ‘domestic front’ – a setting that is by no means distinctively ‘ours’, and that articulates a war-weary longing for changes that seem unlikely to occur. For example, in Audrey King’s overlooked Mansfield-like story, ‘It Mustn’t Happen Again’, the narrator is the wife of a returned soldier – her heart shrinks at his appalling wish for everything to be the same. Conversely, in Greville Texidor’s ‘Anyone Home?’, a returning serviceman endures afternoon tea at his girlfriend’s family farm. In expectation of the marriage to come, she has just had all her teeth out, and sits painfully with a scarf round her jaw. As his former teacher prates on, as the mother apologises for the sponge and the father can’t say anything without an accompanying snigger, it seems to Roy that ‘the light shrieks silently’.32 Some writers would have been content to present a scene and create an atmosphere in a craftsman-like way, but Texidor is trying to do more than that. She is interested in the

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.008 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Defiance and Melodrama

107

scene behind the scene, and it is the propensity to believe in the existence of such scenes, and to develop an art that summons them, that makes her work part of our mid-century project of national ‘invention’. ‘Who are these people, really?’, is the unstated question behind the story, and the vacuous Mr. Withers, with his empty chuckle ringing on into the night, is the grim metonymic answer. Texidor works up an atmosphere that calls for melodramatic release like a ‘stagnant afternoon’ calls for rain,33 but she doesn’t have Sargeson’s genius for inventing action that will carry the displaced melodramatic charge. Stories by two of her younger contemporaries anticipate later directions. There is a glint of David Ballantyne’s future mastery of the gothic in his story about a knife-sharpening tradesman pestered by children, while Maurice Duggan looks to Joyce’s linguistic play – or to the not yet written novels of Janet Frame – for a space in which Texidor’s ‘silent shriek’ might be voiced by some rebooting of the language. What comes out though, is ‘Jumbly-wurden I kerkreekras on your crinite shadow’ – the streamed consciousness of Duggan’s ‘Abstract Arachnid’.34 The story, subsequently dismissed by Duggan as the silly work of a serious young man, might stand as evidence that the literary scene was less monochrome than we sometimes remember – as well as of Sargeson’s ability to spot talent early. John Mulgan’s Man Alone combines frontier mythology from ‘the right colonial tradition’ with his generation’s hopes for a transformed socialist order. It features a roving anti-hero who moves from one significant national setting to another, from farm, to beach, to city, to bush, as well as a powerful central section in which Johnson, a man on the run from society, escapes into and is tested by the wilderness. Of its time and of its place, the book closes with an image of Johnson crossing into Spain with the Brigadas Internacionales, a moment in which men moving purposively are framed against mountains and the encompassing sky. The scene that precipitates the larger arc of the story involves a love triangle that ends in the accidental killing of Johnson’s lover’s husband – but the melodramatic potential of this episode is curiously distributed between the characters. Rua, Johnson’s lover and a careless hussy, acts as a similar character might on the stage. ‘Her voice was thin and high-pitched. Great tears welled into her eyes’ as she declaims a truth she only now recognises: Johnson has been an evil interloper all along, has been ‘laughing at us both . . . Laughing at me’.35 Johnson, by contrast, replies ‘without emotion’; he speaks ‘softly, levelly’; he feels ‘as if he were labouring in a dream to explain something of great importance which could not be explained in words’.36 Johnson’s affect is as unhistrionic as many of Sargeson’s inexpressive narrators, and

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.008 Published online by Cambridge University Press

108

A lex Calder

aids the intimation of a scene behind the scene, with the difference that Mulgan’s occluded reality turns out to be the economic base of society and not, as in Sargeson, its emotional unconscious. Johnson later reflects: ‘There’s a reason why it went like that. . . . It came with working away there on that farm, just the three of us, and no pay’.37 But there is a masculine counterpart to the melodrama associated with Rua, another scene behind the scene which is flooded with energy of a different valence. In Man Alone, authenticity is most found in the prospect of committed men moving silently together and in Johnson’s solitary life-or-death journey through the Kaimanawa ranges. The novel, commentators have often noticed, appears to have two competing centres of value – one within the social, the other antithetical to it – but both are lightning conductors for the voiceless energies of the masculine sublime. At the beginning of this novel of betrayal, murder, and pursuit, the narrator encounters Johnson as a man who has been through all the wars and who has little to say. If, for most writers of the period, melodrama is a mode of shocked recognition, an unblocking of necessary speech, Mulgan’s ideal would be to foreclose on language, investing the occluded social or natural scene with the speechless celebration of what a man already knows. There was a second ‘right colonial tradition’ that suggested avenues for New Zealand writers. Duggan’s early pastiche of James Joyce has already been noted, and two important novels of the period, Dan Davin’s Roads from Home (1949) and Sargeson’s I Saw in My Dream (1949) are expressly indebted to the Irishman’s works. The roads from home in Davin’s novel are those the older characters have taken in emigrating from the poverty of rural Ireland, and those that will lead the children away from the stultifying Catholicism of the matriarch of the family, who would crush them all with her anxious love. The novel is geographically precise; one can easily follow the action with an Invercargill street map. It is also a novel in which the characters do not speak a great deal:  ‘Well words won’t help and there’s no more to be said’ – observes one character, stoically.38 The climax occurs after several of the characters have spent the day at the Gore races. The adulterous Elsie and her flashy lover, Andy, now disillusioned with each other, are driving back to town in his father’s powerful Buick. John, her staid but decent husband, whom Elsie has tauntingly suggested is not the father of their child, is the fireman on the train bringing the race-goers home. Andy is determined to get Elsie home before her husband so the decencies can be preserved. He speeds through the night, car and train rushing towards an unprotected level crossing on the outskirts of town. When geography and plot come together at the fortuitously

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.008 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Defiance and Melodrama

109

named Cemetery Crossing, realism has been left far behind; it is almost as if Elsie, pulled from the wreckage of the car, yet strangely radiant of face, were to raise a trembling finger and say, ‘You are the father of our child’ – while her husband sobs with forgiveness. Our writers have often looked to melodrama in staging a relation to place, but in Roads from Home, place becomes the voice of the melodrama. Sargeson’s I Saw In My Dream, conceived as an antipodean homage to Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as Young Man, begins with the writer as a very small child in bed peeking out:  ‘all of mother inside her nightgown, all except her head, the sleeves hanging empty, and bit by bit mother’s clothes went inside the nightgown, until she took it off and she was standing there with all her clothes on’.39 The book is another of Sargeson’s blasts against Puritanism, though the central character’s evasive account of an incident of sexual misadventure, his fear of being ‘locked up’, and his exile on a backcountry farm with a new identity, suggest we are reading autobiography transferred to an incompletely heterosexualised key. In his alarmingly worded publisher’s rejection of the second half the book,40 Denis Glover was dismayed to find such ‘hideously coy and artificial stuff as “Andy here put to me to bed with Bert . . . what say I  was to forget and cuddle him up” ’, compounded with the grotesque unlikelihood of ‘shepherds who call each other darling’.41 The ‘corked-arse attitude’ Glover deplored might better be described as a camping-up of the decade’s identity themes. ‘If it’s a question of place, I’m the wrong me’, reflects the narrator, ‘And you have to BE the right me’.42 Saying ‘yes’ to the right me is where the novel is headed, but it has, in a manner that borrows a little from Joyce’s paralleling of Dublin with a Homeric world, been doubling the story it tells all along. The novel is set in Waiamehea; the pun is of a piece with the way the novel literalises its metaphors and metaphorises its literal action, so that a colloquial expression like ‘as though he’s been swallowed up by the earth’,43 said in reference to the mysterious disappearance of the wild boy, Cedric, is, within a few pages, linked to the cave in which his parents sought to immure him, Platonic notions about caves, as well as a gay version of the myth of Eurydice. An allusive texture ought to be inconsistent with melodrama but, in the (not approving) words of W. H. New, the novel becomes ‘flush with melodrama’ as Sargeson ‘casts about for a resolution’.44 The narrator and a co-worker race against the threat of rain to set a clearing fire on the bush-clad hills. The original bush, we have learned earlier, is ‘only too willing and ready to talk to you – though in some language that you could no longer understand’.45 It replies later that night with a massive landslide that swallows up the

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.008 Published online by Cambridge University Press

110

A lex Calder

farmhouse and its sleeping inhabitants – a melodramatic sweeping aside of the Puritan-settler dream. The book closes with the narrator of this portrait planning to forge in the smithy of his soul a literature that gets place and identity in the right relation – or, in the moderately excited tones one expects of a Great New Zealand Novel: ‘He wanted to do something too. In his own way. Something special – yes YES’. Notes 1 Lawrence Jones, ‘The Wrong Bus: The “Sons of Sargeson”, Dan Davin and the Search for the Great New Zealand Novel, 1943–1956’, in Speaking Frankly, ed. Sarah Shieff (Auckland: Cape Catley, 2011), 27–30, see p. 27. 2 The phrase national ‘invention’ recalls Allen Curnow’s 1945 claim that ‘New Zealand doesn’t exist yet, it remains to be created – should I say invented – by writers, musicians, artists, architects, publishers’, ‘A Dialogue with Ngaio Marsh’, in Look Back Harder: Critical Writings 1935–1984, ed. Peter Simpson (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1987), 76–82, see p. 77. 3 Jane Mander, The Story of a New Zealand River (1920) (Auckland:  Godwit, 1994), 9. 4 Katherine Mansfield, ‘First Novels’, The Athenaeum, 9 July 1920, 49. 5 Ibid. 6 Allen Curnow, ‘The Unhistoric Story’ and ‘The Skeleton of the Great Moa in the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch’, in Early Days Yet: New and Collected Poems 1941–1997 (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1997), 220, 235–6. 7 Mander, Story, 167. 8 Ibid., 275. 9 Mansfield, ‘First Novels’, 49. 10 Cited in Bill Pearson, ‘The Banning of The Butcher Shop’, in Jean Devanny, The Butcher Shop (1926), ed. Heather Roberts (Auckland: Auckland University Press/Oxford University Press, 1981), 225–234, see p. 226. 11 Ibid. 12 The Stories of Katherine Mansfield, ed. Anthony Alpers (Auckland:  Oxford University Press, 1984), 441–2. 13 Devanny, Butcher’s Shop, 224. 14 Devanny, Butcher’s Shop, 143. 15 Devanny, Butcher’s Shop, 143. 16 Peter Brooks, The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama and the Mode of Excess (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), 5. 17 Curnow, ‘A Dialogue with Ngaio Marsh’, 77. 18 Frank S. Anthony, Gus Tomlins, ed. Terry Sturm (Auckland:  Auckland University Press, 1977), 124. 19 Ibid., 197. 20 Ibid., 201.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.008 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Defiance and Melodrama

111

21 Letter to Robin Dudding, 14 September 1974, in The Letters of Frank Sargeson, ed. Sarah Shieff (Auckland: Vintage, 2012), 524. 22 Letter to Maurice Duggan, 9 June 1944, in ibid., 75. 23 Letter to E. P. Dawson, 25 April 1944, in ibid., 70. 24 Frank Sargeson, ‘Sherwood Anderson’, in Conversation in a Train and Other Critical Writing, ed. Kevin Cunningham (Auckland:  Auckland University Press/Oxford University Press, 1983), 15–17, see pp. 15, 16. 25 Ibid., 16. 26 The sketches are, respectively, ‘Conversation with my Uncle’ (1935) and ‘A Good Boy’ (1937). 27 ‘Sherwood Anderson’, 15. 28 Letter to John Lehmann, 30 April 1944, in Letters of Frank Sargeson, 72. 29 The stories are, respectively, ‘Sale Day’ (1939), ‘I’ve Lost My Pal’ (1938), and ‘The Hole that Jack Dug’ (1945). 30 Frank Sargeson, ed. Speaking for Ourselves (Christchurch:  The Caxton Press, 1945), 7. 31 Robert Chapman, ‘Fiction and the Social Pattern: Some Implications of Recent N.Z. Writing’, Landfall, 7, 1 (1953): 26–52; Bill Pearson, Fretful Sleepers and Other Essays (Auckland: Heinemann, 1974), 1–32. 32 Greville Texidor, ‘Anyone Home?’, in In Fifteen Minutes You Can Say a Lot (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1987), 178. 33 See Allen Curnow’s ‘House and Land’, in Early Days Yet, 234–5. 34 Maurice Duggan: Collected Stories, ed. C. K. Stead (Auckland: Auckland University Press/Oxford University Press, 1981), 39. 35 John Mulgan, Man Alone (1939) (Auckland: Penguin, 1972), 124. 36 Ibid., 125. 37 Ibid., 182. 38 Dan Davin, Roads from Home (1949), ed. Lawrence Jones (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1976), 247. 39 Frank Sargeson, I Saw in My Dream (1949), ed. H. Winston Rhodes (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1974), 3. 40 Glover had published the first part as the novella When the Wind Blows in 1945. 41 Letter from Denis Glover to Frank Sargeson, 19 April 1948. Cited in John Newton, ‘ “Shepherds who call each other darling”:  Writing around Homophobia in Sargeson and Glover’, New Literatures Review 38 (Winter 2002), 29–45: 41–2. 42 Sargeson, I Saw in My Dream, 224. 43 Ibid., 210. 44 W.  H. New, ‘Enclosures:  Frank Sargeson’s I Saw in My Dream’, World Literature Written in English 14, 1 (1975) 15–24: 20. 45 Sargeson, I Saw in My Dream, 187–8.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.008 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter  8

Journalism and High Culture Robin Hyde among the Cultural Nationalists Nikki Hessell

Arraigning Journalism In 1937, Denis Glover published a poem that came to symbolise the conflicts between the writers we now think of as the cultural nationalists and an earlier generation of authors. ‘The Arraignment of Paris’, Glover’s satire on what he saw as the feminised nature of New Zealand literature and criticism, attacked a range of identifiable women writers and their patrons. One target was Iris Guiver Wilkinson (1906–39), the poet, novelist, and journalist better known by her pen name Robin Hyde, who would later commit suicide in London. Glover’s lines on Hyde exploit her reputation for unpredictability and hint at some key biographical details, especially her fragile mental health, brought on in part by the birth of one stillborn son and another son whom she was forced to foster out, and her subsequent morphine addiction. Hyde was in fact a contemporary of Glover’s, but also a writer with deep ties to the older critics and editors whom he wished to dismiss. Among them, though, there’s one who’s fairly good, a desolated star, a Robin Hood who ranges round among the greenwood trees from classic style to rabid journalese, who turns her pen from sonnet or from ballad to gossip pars, or recipes for salad. A pity she should lack a sense of humour . . .1

Glover had two favourite targets in his sights here – what his fellow cultural nationalist A. R. D. Fairburn called ‘the Menstrual School’ of poetry, and the press – but Hyde represented a particularly potent combination of the two.2 Her work had featured in Kowhai Gold, the 1930 anthology whose name became a byword for mawkish Georgianism in New Zealand poetry because of the apparently sentimental and derivative tone of the verse, but unlike her fellow contributor Fairburn, she did not appear to 112

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.009 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Journalism and High Culture

113

Glover to have turned away from the Kowhai Gold style. She was also, like many of her male contemporaries, a working journalist, but her journalistic output included work for sensational tabloids like the Truth and numerous stints as a contributor to the women’s and children’s pages of the press. Hyde was uniquely placed to act as a lightning rod for the dissatisfactions of cultural nationalist writers like Fairburn, Glover, and Frank Sargeson, who argued for an independent, authentic, robust, and indigenous voice in New Zealand literature that would no longer mimic nineteenth-century British models and that would direct its talent towards prestigious genres and forms. The obvious misogyny of Glover’s lines makes it easy to miss the role that journalism plays in his dismissal of Hyde, but questions of genre have significant consequences for how we interpret her work and her relationship with the cultural nationalists in the 1930s. In fact, it was Glover’s attitude to journalism, not his sexism, that Hyde regarded as most unreasonable, writing to a friend that ‘[h]e was quite justified in what he wrote of me, except the “rabid journalese” passages, which were arrant snobbery’.3 Genres are set in conflict with each other in Glover’s lines, with the ‘classic style’ that he associates with good poetry facing off against ‘rabid journalese’. The terms are revealing. Journalism – at least journalism of the sort Hyde was known for – has no claims to either the classic or the stylish; it exists outside the generic parameters that make for great literature. It also consists of a debased language, ‘journalese’, the title of Hyde’s 1934 memoir of her life in journalism, which Hyde is presumed to speak fluently. The fact that Hyde was a prominent journalist in the popular press is presented here as evidence of, at best, skittishness, as she is depicted ranging indiscriminately between genres that are apparently mutually exclusive. At worst, Hyde’s work in journalism is evidence of an illness, the ‘rabid’ nature of journalistic language and its demand for a stream of usable copy being interpreted as symptoms (or perhaps causes) of derangement in the writer. Glover’s sense of the incompatibility of poetry and popular journalism is highlighted in the extreme examples he chooses as characteristic of each form. The sonnet and the ballad suggest poetry at its most formal and traditional, while ‘gossip pars’ and ‘recipes for salad’ suggest journalism at its most trivial and ephemeral. Popular journalism is here elided with femininity, as Glover picks his examples from the women’s pages of contemporary newspapers and magazines. He is probably making reference to the fact that Hyde was for many years a ‘Lady Correspondent’ or ‘Lady Editor’, in charge of the women’s pages of prominent publications. But

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.009 Published online by Cambridge University Press

114

Ni k k i Hessell

he is also making a more general point about the cultural nationalists’ attitude to a literary career: it was a resolutely male endeavour that made little room not only for writers, but also for genres, that did not fit the model. Journalism for daily newspapers or popular magazines was inherently effeminate and unworthy; one did not want to get caught in what he later referred to as ‘that literary mincing machine’.4 Hyde responded publicly to Glover’s poem in an article in the Observer, suggesting the poem was ‘tinged with a jealous virulence’,5 and privately in a friendly letter, on both occasions downplaying the significance of the lampoon.6 But the poem raises interesting questions about Hyde’s place within the cultural nationalist movement of 1930s New Zealand literature. Much of Hyde’s energy was spent on journalism, often simply out of necessity as she tried to make a reasonable living from her pen. Her use of the pejorative title Journalese for her memoir points to her awareness of the stereotype of journalism as an inferior genre.7 Yet a careful examination of her journalistic oeuvre reveals two striking things. The first is the extent to which she used popular journalism to advance a cultural nationalist agenda; as Stuart Murray has argued in a slightly different context, ‘The marginal position accredited to her in relation to the period’s tradition has not only obscured the differences between her work and that of her contemporaries, it has also masked the similarities’.8 The second is the extent to which her poetry was informed by a persistent, and invigorating, dialogue with her journalistic writings, in ways that Glover’s model seems to suggest are impossible. In his influential 1960 introduction to the Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, Allen Curnow not only manifested the established cultural nationalist attitude to the press, but also reinforced the image of poetry and journalism as forces battling for the soul of Robin Hyde. Curnow portrayed Hyde stumbling towards a literary career through ‘the byways of daily and weekly journalism, where there was enough taste to perceive her talent, and enough booksy vulgarity almost to destroy it’.9 His vision of Hyde’s career is clearly marked by a division into an early period, dominated by journalism, and the last five years of her life, 1934–9, in which she not only travelled but produced her best poetry. What Curnow does not explicitly acknowledge is that this same late period also produced some of her most important journalism. His reference to her trip ‘from end to end of her own country’10 obscures the exact nature of the writing that Hyde’s travels around New Zealand from 1934 generated: not only some of her strongest verse, but some of her most significant reportage, in the form of a series of essays for the New Zealand Railways Magazine.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.009 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Journalism and High Culture

115

Hyde had already been working in public relations before her engagement with the magazine, and several of her early railway essays had originally been composed as copy for the Ministry of Industries and Commerce’s Tourist and Publicity section. In total, she published twenty pieces in the Railways Magazine about tourist sites in New Zealand, ranging from Northland to Stewart Island, between April 1935 and September 1937. Some of these pieces reported on travel that she undertook during this period; others relied on memories of places in which she had lived or had visited. Hyde’s essays coincided with a new push by the Railways Magazine to promote travel by both tourists and New Zealanders. In the early months of 1935, the magazine’s editor, George G.  Stewart, wrote that he was aiming ‘to help New Zealanders to find New Zealand – so that they, in turn, can help overseas visitors to find it’ and new writers like Hyde were brought on board to document their travels.11 Many of those involved formed part of the ‘leisurely-whimsy, feminine-mimsy’ literary culture, composed of sentimental male patrons and derivative female writers, that Glover had attacked in ‘The Arraignment of Paris’: Eileen Duggan, Pat Lawlor, Alan Mulgan and O.  N. Gillespie all wrote for the magazine.12 Stewart was part of that coterie, and the Railway Magazine was sometimes used as shorthand for precisely the kind of prose that writers like Curnow and Glover wished to stamp out.13 (Glover contributed four poems to the magazine but no journalism, resolutely maintaining the line between the two genres). But while many of the contributing journalists maintained allegiance to Kowhai Gold rather than cultural nationalism, the magazine’s desire to help New Zealanders to know their own country nevertheless created a canvas on which such an agenda could be outlined. Space was being offered for meditations on national identity, grounded in experiences of travelling the country. To exploit such an opportunity, however, a writer would have to work within the magazine’s brief: the instructions Hyde received were to produce pieces of ‘a bright and descriptive nature’ suiting the publication’s commercial aims.14 One way to conceive of this necessity, from the perspective of Curnow, Glover, and Fairburn, would be to consider it an unacceptable dilution of literature, the kind of promiscuous mixing of high and low that Glover’s lines on Hyde in ‘The Arraignment of Paris’ deplore. Another would be to see it as a chance to explore cultural nationalism in an altogether different register, one that would only be available to someone, like Hyde, who shared many of the cultural nationalists’ views on literature but knew how to flourish in the popular press.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.009 Published online by Cambridge University Press

116

Ni k k i Hessell

Hyde and the Railway Magazine: Journalism, Poetry, and Cultural Nationalism Hyde’s compatibility with the cultural nationalists, and her subtle differences from the literary coterie with which Glover associated her, can be seen if one compares her railway journalism with that of a key male member of that coterie. O. N. Gillespie was one of the ‘limply anglophile’ writers against whom the cultural nationalists positioned themselves.15 Gillespie’s essays on travelling around New Zealand appeared in the Railways Magazine at almost exactly the same time as Hyde’s; there are even some issues in which both writers have contributions.16 Their respective visions of New Zealand could not have been more different, however. Gillespie always registered the country’s achievements in terms of European points of reference. Napier’s Marine Parade contained ‘a formal garden which would be remarked upon for its dignity and range of blooms in Monaco or Nice’,17 while grounds in Hamilton had ‘the shining but gentle green of a thousand-year-old Dublin or Oxford lawn’.18 In particular, Gillespie subscribed to the popular idea that New Zealand had succeeded by emulating Britain. The beauty of Christ’s College comes from the fact that it is ‘the work of men who dreamed dreams; English dreams. . . ’.19 Throughout his essays, New Zealand is ‘a place built by chosen men of British ancestry’,20 a people ‘more British than the British’,21 whose homeland is the ‘Britain of the South’.22 It was this quality that made New Zealand special, in Gillespie’s eyes. Encouraging his readers to promote their country whenever possible, he wrote, ‘We have another England here, another “green and pleasant land.” We have its soil and are of its people, and we have added blessings in more sunshine, milder airs and grander natural features’.23 While Gillespie envisaged New Zealand as an improved version of Britain, Hyde imagined the country as a self-contained, unique environment, full of experiences that did not need to be compared with those available overseas. She was most impressed, in fact, by those parts of New Zealand that looked towards an independent future. Christchurch disappointed her for much the same reasons it pleased Gillespie: With Christchurch, City of the Canterbury Plains, the trouble is not, as some have supposed, too many bicycles, but too much decorum. The very same English gentility which was responsible for its grey Gothic arches, its avenues lined with fatherly chestnut and other trees, has done something repressive to its spirit of adventure. It is a city of charming people who, to my mind, rather lack the élan of young New Zealand.24

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.009 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Journalism and High Culture

117

Examples of Englishness in the New Zealand landscape struck Hyde as unsettling and unsatisfying rather than reassuring and desirable. When New Zealand tried to create old world institutions, Hyde found the effect jarring; she liked Whanganui’s Sargent Gallery eventually, for example, but admitted to ‘a first impulse to dislike it’, because its architectural features ‘are so very alien to New Zealand. . . ’.25 Likewise, Nelson appeared to have ‘something of old England’s brown and green farming face. . . . [The grass] wasn’t like our usual yellow grass, straight-haired and shining, but dappled with pink and blue wild flowers. A tui gave its little elegy in G as I came downhill; otherwise, the place wasn’t Maoriland’.26 The tūī’s elegy and the reference to ‘Maoriland’ would have sounded warning notes to the cultural nationalists, who routinely mocked the way references to New Zealand’s native flora and fauna were scattered through poetry in an attempt to create an authentic local literature and for whom the fin de siècle term ‘Maoriland’, like the twentieth-century label ‘Kowhai Gold’, had become a pejorative term for the worst excesses of Georgian literature in New Zealand.27 Curnow specifically linked Hyde to this practice when he wrote: In verse, all through the first quarter of this century, there was a good deal of honest striving after indigenous effect, words like kowhai and rata and tui being new toys: naïve sentiments were decorated with some appreciation of sensuous effect, but nowhere appeared the immediacy and initiative to be looked for in a poem. The early work of Miss Duggan and of Robin Hyde shows how talents above the commonplace could be drawn into the habit of sentimental posturing.28

Hyde’s railway journalism offers a complex response to Curnow’s interpretation of her work because it is full of such evocations of the New Zealand landscape. Hyde does not deploy them naively, however; she was not only aware of the freight that such descriptions carried in contemporary debates, but also shared Curnow’s views, writing that ‘One cannot make a poem or a story “New Zealand” by sticking a spray of kowhai in the corner like the brand on the side of frozen mutton’.29 Instead, Hyde reclaims the discredited language of the Kowhai Gold and ‘Maoriland’ writers and redeploys it in the service of the cultural nationalists’ goals. Her description of travelling in Northland, for example, does not simply drop terms like tūī and kauri into the writing, but relocates them within an explicit discussion about cultural credibility. The British novelist Charles Reade, she writes, was fathoms deep in scientific error when he described the Antipodes as a place where the birds have no song, and the flowers no scent. Charles had never heard a tui tinkle in the depths of the big kauri trees: nor had he made one

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.009 Published online by Cambridge University Press

118

Ni k k i Hessell of the party, when the service car, emerging from the last swart shadow of Waipoua’s giants, plunges into a grey-blue evening whose sudden sleepy fragrance makes one’s nose twitch in appreciation.30

Hyde resituates the debate about New Zealand identity, removing it from the context of the opinion of foreigners and the judgements contained in the written word and locating it instead in the physical stimulation of the native forests. The nonidentity encoded in the word Antipodes, which not only posits New Zealand as simply the opposite of Britain but also fails to distinguish between New Zealand and Australia, a common complaint of the cultural nationalists, is replaced by an identity encoded in the Māori words tūī, kauri, and Waipoua.31 The right and responsibility to define New Zealand’s nationhood should belong, she implies, to those who know both the way those words sound and the sounds they invoke. Hyde’s railway journalism thus marks her out as someone explicitly in dialogue with the cultural nationalists, echoing their sentiments in a genre they found distasteful but also reclaiming the language they had marginalised, for her own ends. It is not simply the presence of a cultural nationalist agenda in Hyde’s Railway Magazine essays that renders them important to the literary debates of 1930s New Zealand, however. ‘The Arraignment of Paris’ drew a clear line between poetry and journalism, with sonnets and ballads lining up against the ephemera of the popular press. Curnow drew a similarly sharp line between Hyde’s early journalism career and the last years as a poet. Hyde’s work regularly challenged these borders during her time as a railway correspondent from 1935 to 1937. Images and ideas cross genres, appearing as reworked and reimagined lines of writing in both forms.32 Moreover, some of the clearest examples of this crossover occur in texts (both poetic and journalistic) that consider the very questions of culture and identity with which the cultural nationalists were obsessed. Hyde’s hybrid writing thus offers a different kind of model of the cultural nationalist, one who not only breaks through Glover’s and Curnow’s binary of the poetic and the journalistic, but does so in the service of the most pressing artistic issue of the day. One example of this cross-fertilisation can be found in a comparison of the article ‘In Old Dunedin’ and the poem ‘Husband and Wife’. In the former, Hyde has this to say about her visit to Dunedin: . . . I could understand why one Dunedinite liked the stone quarries better than anything else in the city. The hard, new rattle of stone, leaping clean and blue from dents pickaxed out in the hills, had about it a sort of promise for the future. Something in progress, or about to happen differently,

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.009 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Journalism and High Culture

119

with a rattle and clatter of falling stones. I think the young are more impatient for their youth under the shadow of old trees and old houses than in other surroundings; and I think, too, that they are right. They have their own miracles to produce, their own city to pattern.33

Here, Hyde turns simple observations of a city’s key features into an assessment of the state of the nation and a prophecy for its future, but also reworks some lines from one of her poems of the previous year. In ‘Husband and Wife’, composed in 1936 while she was visiting Dunedin, Hyde stages a tense, charged dialogue between a man and a woman over competing priorities and attitudes to life.34 At one point, the man comments: It’s the cursed trick you have of sinking Into the last look of a far-stretched landscape, Printing your gaze on rocks that won’t forget you – I hear them leaping down the quarry-face Rattling clean and blue, now while we’re lying Here in the dark . . . .

The reworking of lines from this poem in the description of Dunedin’s quarry suggests that poetry and journalism could not simply coexist, but could provide fertile testing grounds for writing and rewriting key images. Glover’s distinction between the ‘classic style’ of poetic language and the feverish, overheated nature of ‘rabid journalese’ is partially collapsed in favour of a less bifurcated version of the writer’s thought processes and stylistic techniques. There is little to distinguish the generic trappings of ‘The hard, new rattle of stone, leaping clean and blue from dents pickaxed out in the hills’ from those of the lines ‘I hear them leaping down the quarry-face / Rattling clean and blue’. The same ideas could be expressed in virtually the same language by a writer who wished to do so. The interweaving of a key image in these two texts further suggests that we should read them alongside one another, as two literary instantiations of an idea that Hyde was working through in 1936–7. This reading process turns up other echoes between the two pieces, echoes that might not be so noticeable if the obvious example of the ‘clean and blue’ stone was not also present. The husband’s accusation that his wife treats nature as a kind of substitute lover is a case in point. You only found some place where rangiora And the ragged wilderness fuschia, red of bark, Shook down its little kisses on your skin, Where birds were loosed like javelins through your mind And berries made that stain on your under-lip.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.009 Published online by Cambridge University Press

120

Ni k k i Hessell

Hyde’s description of her visit to the Dunedin Botanical Gardens is noticeably less erotic and might seem at first glance to suggest the banal way in which poetic material is recast when it appears in journalism. The Gardens are within five minutes of the main street, and out of George Street, where the trams rattle along, one passes straight into Cosy Dell, rangioras, elderberries and supplejacks arching over the narrow bit of road. Dunedin people, also, are very nice to birds. One garden, belonging to a well-known resident, had bright-coloured scarlet and orange affairs, like artificial capsicum pods, filled with honey that the long-billed tuis can quaff, without competition from the thrushes and starlings.35

The birds and the flowers, including the specific reference to the rangiora, are present but rendered as straightforward examples of detail observed by the journalist. Yet the link to ‘Husband and Wife’ helps us to reread passages like this one. Hyde’s natural descriptions draw out a common theme in her Railways Magazine essays, in which she notices the presence of both native and introduced species, in general privileging the native. In this example, her flora consists of the native rangiora and supplejack, alongside the introduced elderberry. More pointedly, she describes a garden that has been planted in such a way that the native tūī can be protected from the introduced thrush and starling. These details thus bring together Hyde’s delight in the New Zealand environment and her insistence on the importance of the homegrown, whether in nature or in literature. While she again employs the vocabulary of Kowhai Gold, she relies here on the solid foundation of journalistic observation to justify her description; these are real tūī and rangiora, not poetic ornaments. And where the poem separates political commitment from a spontaneous love of nature, staging the split between these attitudes by assigning one to each interlocutor, the article synthesises them. As Mary Paul has pointed out, ‘[a]mongst left-wing intellectuals of the period the exchange [between the husband and wife] would have been a familiar one about political commitment versus faith in natural beauty, art, love, or aesthetics’.36 Reading the poem alongside the article suggests that Hyde represents both husband and wife in ‘In Old Dunedin’, a conjoined figure whose politics expresses itself through natural detail. A second example of this process can be seen in the relationship between Hyde’s Railways Magazine essay ‘Ways of the North’ and her poems of 1937. This essay draws on Hyde’s time living in a cabin in the far north of New Zealand between mid-February and mid-March 1937 after leaving the residential clinic where she had lived following a suicide attempt in 1933.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.009 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Journalism and High Culture

121

The article is linked with a number of Hyde’s poems, including ‘Whangaroa Harbour’, ‘The Last One’, ‘To Sarin, Who Drew a Tree and a Woman’, and ‘Descendants’. As in the Dunedin texts, images circulate between the journalism and the poetry in ways that encourage us to read the texts alongside one another. In ‘Descendants’ (1937), for example, which I reproduce here in full, Hyde describes the home of an elderly Māori woman: Somewhere behind her sliding wooden window Old Kahu pads about, scrapes off plates That did for starveling’s supper, turns down low Wick of a battered lantern, contemplates Ten children, cuddled in a threadbare rug; (Small dreams and puppy nakedness beneath); Watches the golden light crawl off a bug, Then grins her endless smile of broken teeth, Dreaming again of last month’s picture-show. The yellow corn-cobs from her sulky garden Shine up, barbaric wands with topaz set; Arrogant as the armlets of a dream Gleam on a platter, soiled and silver-wet, Three fish she caught with that old mended net. But brighter, watching days without surmise, With calm beyond the goad-man’s praise or pardon, The immemorial blaze of chieftain’s eyes, She need not call to memory, or forget.37

‘Ways of the North’ includes some of the same details as ‘Descendants’ to describe Hyde’s experiences with local Māori and with life in cabin country while also serving as a commentary on the poem’s intentions. To talk about the Maori without sentimentalising him is a difficult business; but it is a wonder to me that some of the north-travellers, who harp on poverty, hunger and dirt, haven’t even noticed the ease and grace of these people. One can’t visit such cabins without being offered a farewell gift, even if it is only a corn-cob or a Maori kit; and as corncobs and a broken fishing-net seem to constitute the total capital of many such little homes, perhaps that irregular generosity, not fitting into our economic schemes, has its value somewhere and somehow.38

‘Descendants’ could potentially be read in a sentimental vein, with its focus on Kahu’s dignified poverty, broken teeth, and links to her ancestor. But Hyde’s article reconstitutes the elements of the poem, seeing in the corncobs and the fishing net a potent political commentary on different systems of value and of capital in 1930s New Zealand. The two pieces of writing gain

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.009 Published online by Cambridge University Press

122

Ni k k i Hessell

resonances from their cross-fertilisation, with the generic ‘Māori’ of the article humanised by the portrait of Kahu’s life, and the sentimental tropes of the poem complicated by the facts of contemporary political debate. Hyde’s use of the key images of the corncob and the fishing net in both ‘Descendants’ and ‘Ways of the North’ raises questions about the role of the poet and the journalist, as well as about the functions of poetry and journalism. Hyde appears to combine both roles, and her skill in both genres, whenever she sets pen to paper. As a result, characteristics that we might expect to see in a journalistic article show up in the poetry, while poetic tropes and language appear in the journalism. The corncobs and the fishing net are at their most symbolic, for example, not in ‘Descendants’ but in ‘Ways of the North’. In the latter they stand for generosity and hospitality in an abstract way, while in the former they are closely observed details of the scene, given further specificity when they are described as ‘yellow corn-cobs’ and ‘that old mended net’ (my emphasis). It is not simply the case that the observational skill of the journalist allows Hyde to add a telling detail to a poem, or that the poet’s affinity with language and imagery occasionally elevates the banality of journalistic prose, however. Hyde’s railway journalism, when set alongside her poetry of the same period, shows that the genre hierarchies that Glover was keen to affirm require reconsideration. It is impossible to know which of these texts was composed first, and we should perhaps read them, like ‘Husband and Wife’ and ‘Old Dunedin’, as roughly simultaneous expressions of lessons learnt during a particular experience. But the uncertainty about chronology is a productive one, because it challenges us to question how ideas, and the language to express them, might incubate in different genres. Rather than think of the poetic elements elevating pieces like ‘In Old Dunedin’ and ‘Ways of the North’, we might instead consider the way in which the journalist’s eye and the poet’s voice combine to create the peculiar power of both the prose and the verse. Such an idea points towards the possibility of an alternative history of New Zealand literature to that which the cultural nationalists championed, one that includes the best of our ‘rabid journalese’. Notes 1 ‘The Arraignment of Paris’, in Denis Glover: Selected Poems, ed. Bill Manhire (Wellington:  Victoria University Press, 1995),  91–8. Courtesy of the Denis Glover Estate and Pia Glover, the copyright holder. 2 Cited in Lawrence Jones, Picking Up the Traces: The Making of a New Zealand Literary Culture, 1932–1945 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2003), 41.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.009 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Journalism and High Culture

123

3 Cited in Gillian Boddy and Jacqueline Matthews, eds., Disputed Ground: Robin Hyde, Journalist (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1991), 66. 4 Cited in Jones, Picking Up the Traces, 53. 5 ‘Gloves Off with Glover’, The Observer, 20 January 1938, 11. 6 Cited in Derek Challis and Gloria Rawlinson, The Book of Iris: A Life of Robin Hyde (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2002), 480–2. 7 Hyde often expressed disappointment about the effects of journalism on her poetry; see, e.g., her letter to John Schroder on 23 October 1928, cited in Challis and Rawlinson, The Book of Iris, 121. 8 Stuart Murray, Never a Soul at Home:  Literary Nationalism and the 1930s (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1998), 170. 9 Allen Curnow, introduction, The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, 2nd ed. (Auckland: Blackwood and Janet Paul, 1966), 57. 10 Ibid. 11 George G.  Stewart, ‘From a Smoker Window’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, January 1935, 13. 12 Denis Glover, Hot Water Sailor 1912–1962  & Landlubber Ho! 1963–1980 (Auckland: Collins, 1981), 94. 13 Chris Hilliard, The Bookmen’s Dominion:  Cultural Life in New Zealand 1920–1950 (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2006), 91, 100. 14 Challis and Rawlinson, The Book of Iris, 227. 15 Hilliard, The Bookmen’s Dominion, 13. 16 See, e.g., the issues for January 1936 and May 1937. 17 ‘The World’s Newest City  – The Miracle of Modern Town Planning’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, November 1935, 13. 18 ‘Hamilton  – The Empire’s Dairy Capital:  Where Grass Turns to Golden Wealth’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, June 1937, 13. 19 ‘ “Manners Makyth Man”: Our English Heritage in School and University’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, January 1936, 13. 20 ‘Perfect New Plymouth. Where Mount Egmont Reigns in Beauty:  The World’s Garden Town’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, August 1935, 15. 21 ‘ “Green Gold” New Zealand  – The World’s Richest Timber Farm’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, October 1935, 12. 22 ‘One Hundred Years Old:  The Problem of Our Centennial Celebrations’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, November 1936, 35. 23 ‘ “All Change Here . . .” Our Railway Junctions: A Journey of Discovery’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, June 1935, 13. 24 Robin Hyde, ‘On the Road to Anywhere:  With an Alpenstock at Arthur’s Pass’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, June 1936, 32. 25 ‘On the Road to Anywhere:  A  Matter of Pipis and Kowhai. Part V’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, January 1936, 37. 26 ‘The Stone in the Centre:  Looking Down From Nelson’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, July 1937, 42. 27 Jane Stafford and Mark Williams, Maoriland:  New Zealand Literature 1872–1914 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2006), 10–20.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.009 Published online by Cambridge University Press

124

Ni k k i Hessell

28 Curnow, The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, 23. 29 Cited in Boddy and Matthews, Disputed Ground, 62–3. 30 ‘On the Road to Anywhere: Palm Lilies and a Benedictine. “Sweet Evening” in Opononi. Part IV’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, August 1935, 43. 31 In 1948, Curnow refused Alan Mulgan permission to publish some of his poems in the Oxford Book of Australian and New Zealand Verse because of its Australasian conflation and Fairburn expressed support for Curnow’s decision: see Hilliard, The Bookmen’s Dominion, 103. 32 Some of these connections were first identified in Notes for Young Knowledge: The Poems of Robin Hyde, ed. Michele Leggott (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2003), http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/authors/hyde/yk.pdf (accessed 24 April 2014). 33 ‘In Old Dunedin’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, May 1937, 67. Hyde’s trip to Dunedin is described in Challis and Rawlinson, The Book of Iris, 364–78. 34 In Leggott, Notes for Young Knowledge. 35 ‘In Old Dunedin: A Barrel-Organ, Crab-Apples and a Castle’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, May 1937, 65. 36 Mary Paul, Her Side of the Story:  Readings of Mander, Mansfield and Hyde (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 1999), 167. 37 References to Hyde’s poems are to Young Knowledge: The Poems of Robin Hyde, ed. Michele Leggott (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2003). 38 ‘Ways of the North: Life in Cabin Country’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, August 1937, 21.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.009 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter  9

‘Simply by Sailing in a New Direction’ The Poetics of Distance Stuart Murray

The central irony inherent in all forms of cultural nationalism is that, in directing attention towards the local, the direction necessarily involves a consideration of the terms of separation and the nature of the geocultural space that is to be rejected in favour of the new; to emphasise the delimited requires the articulation of that which lies beyond its limits. For poets in New Zealand during the often heady days of literary nationalism, Allen Curnow’s proclamation of the ‘Reality’ of the ‘local and special’ as the source of the written nation came couched within a complex set of ambivalences about the real, the invented, and the relation between the two.1 The invention of the literary/poetic nation required the equal invention of the culture from which it was separating, so the distance the nationalists carefully crafted from their English peers was foremostly an ideological space of translation and adaptation. In fact, as I will show, this idea of distance involved more than speculation on the relationship between English and New Zealand writing; it also speaks to a wide range of internal debates that cut through the developing literary community: distance conceived in terms of gender; of attitudes towards English expatriates participating in the nationalist project; and between the arts  – conceived in a broad sense – and politics. If the 1930s were foundational in consolidating a ruling nationalism in New Zealand writing, they also shaped new countercurrents that worked within and outside of its boundaries. The first ever anthology of New Zealand poetry (or ‘verse’), edited by W.  F. Alexander and A.  E. Currie and published in 1906, inevitably focused on anxious questions of separation and distance, even as its bold dedication – ‘For New Zealand’ – gestured towards a future that would be inspiringly national. In the introduction to what they acknowledge is a collection of ‘minor poetry’, Alexander and Currie note that while there will be a time ‘which some of us look for, when New Zealand will be assigned a place among nations not only on account of its exports of wool and gold, or for richness and worth in horses and footballers, 125

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.010 Published online by Cambridge University Press

126

Stua rt Murray

but also by reason of its contribution to art’, it is nevertheless the case that ‘That time has not arrived’ and that what they term the ‘corpus of Anglo-Saxon literature’ still dominates the practice of writing (and indeed reading) poetry in the country.2 As if to prove the point, the second poem in the anthology – Eleanor Elizabeth Montgomery’s ‘To One in England’ – imagines the nature of the local in New Zealand in terms of the distance between the country and colonial homeland. ‘I send to you’, Montgomery begins, ‘Songs of a Southern Isle’, and continues: Songs from an island Just waking from sleeping In history’s morning; Songs from a land Where night shadows creep When your day is dawning.3

The discrepancy between ‘creep’ and ‘dawning’ only underscores the assumption that a greater sophistication lay thousands of miles away in the North Atlantic. For Montgomery, separation is weighted with the cultural baggage that comes with the necessity for a new ‘history’ in New Zealand and the linked normativity of British historical complexity. Though they would firmly reject the obsequiousness of the kind of ‘colonial verse’ contained in Alexander and Currie’s collection, the nationalists of the 1930s nevertheless had to fashion their own version of the distance between New Zealand and Britain. The process of forming what Allen Curnow famously termed the ‘anti-myth’ of New Zealand poetry, the rejection of a sentimental and nostalgia-tinged poetic that dominated writing at the start of the twentieth century, required a new attitude towards the literary sophistication of Europe.4 For all of his concentration on the local, Curnow acknowledged in 1937 that ‘whatever may be said or written about a national literature in New Zealand, England remains at the very least the “technical research laboratory”, where the finest and most advanced material is done with that material, the English language’.5 If a poetic nationalism was to take hold in New Zealand, it needed a tougher and smarter articulation of the distance between writing at home and the high-profile modernism of T.  S. Eliot, W.  B. Yeats, and W.  H. Auden that defined the leading edge of poetry in Britain. In his introductions to the various anthologies of New Zealand poetry Curnow edited between 1945 and 1960, and which he used to carefully outline a canon and tradition in local writing, he would highlight the value of R.  A.  K. Mason’s writing in the formation of a new national

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.010 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Simply by Sailing in a New Direction’

127

consciousness. Mason’s poetry had, Curnow asserted, ‘none of the familiar hazy compromise and pretence of “colonial verse” ’, but in fact Mason was not averse to seeing his poetry in terms of a literal distance between his writing position and that of other writers in English elsewhere.6 In ‘Song of Allegiance’, published in the collection Penny Broadsheet in 1925, Mason name-checks a number of English poets, ranging from Shakespeare to Housman, and including Milton, Keats, Donne, Byron, and Shelley, before noting that ‘they are gone and I am here / stoutly bringing up the rear’.7 Such a literal spatial positioning suggests not only connection, in terms of claiming to be part of a tradition of writing in English, but also the distance that necessarily exists between (to extend his own metaphor) the front and the back of such a tradition. James Bertram, reading the poem in the Hocken Lecture he gave at the University of Otago in 1971, noted that ‘even as a schoolboy, Mason knew he had joined not the front rank of colonial ballad mongers, but the rearguard of the English poets’.8 Granted that this is the case, it nevertheless appears that the cost of such association was the need to stress a physical separation. Mason’s Marxist commitment to a broad left-wing programme of social change marked him as an internationalist figure in a political sense, but his negotiation of distance in terms of his own poetry and writing in Britain was altogether more ambiguous. Such ambiguity was a constant marker of the poetry of the early to mid-1930s that sought to speak of New Zealand distinctiveness within a seemingly unavoidable context of British values, a process that took place around questions of both content and form. A.  R.  D. Fairburn’s long, sprawling poem Dominion, written in 1935 and published in 1938, ranges across several Depression-era topics, speculating on social change, power, and history, all in an often-garbled mix of rhythms and tones taken from the dominant English poetry of the period, especially sub-Audenesque registers expressing place, ideas of the modern as found in Louis MacNeice, and an Eliotic sense of fragmentation. Fairburn had published his first collection of poetry, He Shall Not Rise, in London in the 1930s, and lived in England between 1930 and 1932 (he left New Zealand in August 1930, professing to be ‘sick to death of this damned country’).9 His conception of distance involved a fierce pride in being able to trace a New Zealand lineage back through four generations and a commitment to New Zealand politics, and also a strong reading connection to English writing that saw his early poetry shaped by late Georgian models before he was pulled towards the kind of iconoclastic thought found in

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.010 Published online by Cambridge University Press

128

Stua rt Murray

D.  H. Lawrence (Lawrence was ‘a great artist, a great moralist  – a man of profound significance’, Fairburn wrote in 1931)  and the poetic complexity of the Auden generation.10 The complexities of negotiating the legacies of distance inform most of Fairburn’s poetry of the 1930s, which slips between influences without ever really subsuming them into a coherent individual voice. By 1937, writing in the literary journal Tomorrow, he would seek to distance himself from the new orthodoxies of English poetry in the 1930s, talking of ‘a sort of barrenness constantly threatening these younger English poets’;11 yet his own search for a sense of place that would, rejecting ‘barrenness’, be a source of national richness, never really bore fruit, in no small part due to the many ambiguities that ran through New Zealand poetry in the decade. For his part, in ‘New Zealand City’, the first poem in his 1937 collection Enemies: Poems 1934–36, Curnow aimed to carefully construct a sense of the mundane and ordinary in an account of New Zealand urban life, where such life is defined by absence or lack. So, we are told at the poem’s start that ‘Small city your streets hold no particular legends, / your brothels are inconspicuous as your churches’, while by way of contrast ‘London has spawned’ [. . .] ‘the importance of children / under an unstained sky’. What Curnow terms ‘The shadow of Empire’ falls in an inevitable fashion, ‘encompassing the east’, while ‘the wrinkled edge of empire embraces these islands’. For all that the legacy of Empire is unavoidable, the poem still stresses New Zealand’s novelty – ‘This is the land of new hopes’ – but such hope is immediately contextualised by its opposite in the following lines: ‘joined with a thousand year’s despair, / of children with senile faces’. This sense of a back-and-forth struggle over the meaning of distance and location characterises the poem overall, as it had with Fairburn’s writing. Curnow moves towards an idea (that he would develop in his later, more overtly public poetry) of a distinctiveness based on the downbeat qualities of the everyday; as the poem puts it, so ‘many overcoats / are put on and put off / and a thousand pens scratch / at desks’, while ‘rubber squeals on the tar / when a man goes home / at evening which must follow / any toil’s end’.12 Distance here is unavoidable, simply part of the business of being a New Zealander, and if this implies inferiority, then at least the recognition of the specific nature of such life begins the process by which the local might be understood, even domesticated. As the decade progressed, the poetry articulating distance kept the complexities of the relationship in terms of content but began to display more confidence as it negotiated questions of voice and public proclamation. For the poets of the 1930s and 1940s, there was obviously sense

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.010 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Simply by Sailing in a New Direction’

129

in conceiving of distance in terms of what might seem to be clear correlating ideas, specifically a historical sense that characterised the separation between colonial homeland and periphery in a detailed account of time, and a concentration on a physical landscape that allowed for the depiction of a grounded and located sense of difference between the two locations. Both Curnow and Charles Brasch, another major figure in the period’s foundational literary nationalism, brought the two together in their poetry. The titles of a number of their major collections – Curnow’s Not in Narrow Seas (1939), a reference to New Zealand’s literal location in the Pacific, and Island and Time (1941); and Brasch’s The Land and the People and other Poems (1939) – indicate a concentration on questions of geography, society, and temporality. Curnow occupied a self-consciously ‘public’ poetic persona in his overtly historical poems of the period, including ‘House and Land’, ‘The Unhistoric Story’ (from where ‘Simply by Sailing in a New Direction’ is taken), and ‘Landfall in Unknown Seas’, the last specifically commissioned in 1942 to mark the three hundredth anniversary of Abel Tasman’s visit to New Zealand, the first by a European. The stress on the ‘unknown’ geography and ‘unhistoric’ – undemonstrative, undramatic, unheroic  – nature of nation building marks Curnow’s poetic here, where the country’s evolution always produces ‘something different, something / Nobody counted on’, as he terms it in ‘The Unhistoric Story’; but it is the focus on time that reworks the questions of distance. Eschewing the clichés that might surround any literal description of the physical distance between New Zealand and Europe, Curnow reconfigures the issues through a focus on the temporal. Similarly, in The Land and the People, Brasch invokes an idea of time in conceiving of a future in which New Zealand’s ‘expectancy and dream’ might problematically evolve in terms of an assured self-definition. Four poems in the collection are entitled ‘The land and the people’: in the first, Brasch, speaking of the generic ‘people’, asserts that ‘sometimes memory stirs in them / And leaning forward into time / They see the root become the flower’;13 while the last of the four claims that ‘The creeping of the dial / Towards night, and the emptying hourglass, / Are the only lives that thrive / Through trial and loss’.14 As with Curnow, time’s constancy here allows for a measured sense of the distance the new nation now occupies in relation to its colonial past; but time also delineates an unavoidable future in which, the nationalists saw, difference could only continue to develop as the distance between the present and past increased. Brasch’s land and people inhabit a world, like that in Curnow’s poetry, full of geographical markers. References to seas, mountains, straits, shore,

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.010 Published online by Cambridge University Press

130

Stua rt Murray

and bush fill the poems, all invoked to accentuate the specifics of New Zealand place. The poetics of distance never requires the actual detailing of similar geography in Britain; it is enough to know that New Zealand’s topographical features are (to again cite Curnow’s definition of reality) ‘local and special’ without any requirement to name the equally local specificities of the colonial homeland. What such literary mapping helped to accentuate was a narrative of physical colonisation – of encounter, settlement, and the primacy of the pioneer – that inevitably recast the country’s ‘newness’ in terms of a historicised and gendered sense of masculine capability. In 1906, Alexander and Currie had observed that: ‘In the generation of the pioneers that is passing away literary effort was inevitably a rare thing; men’s energies were set too sternly to battle with the material facts of life to leave them time for cultivating its graces’;15 but the nationalists of the 1930s and 1940s managed to recuperate notions of pioneering and settlement and situate it not as the opposite of poetry (in terms of labour needed in the face of the ‘material facts of life’), but rather as part of a poetics of separation and distance in which to write of place was to engage in a process of creating knowledge every bit as important as clearing the bush. In Curnow’s seminal settlement poem ‘House and Land’, for example, after the ‘historian’, ‘cowman and rabbiter’, and ‘old lady’ (each representative of an element of New Zealand society) have all failed to articulate the meaning of the ‘original homestead’, it is the poet who speaks the truth of the situation, namely that all are inhabitants in ‘a land of settlers / with never a soul at home’.16 ‘House and Land’ is dismissive of its ‘old lady’ precisely because she fails to understand distance. ‘People in the colonies’, she observes, ‘can’t quite understand’; Curnow stresses her lack of willingness or inability to realise her own location as a ‘colonial’ subject. But the dismissal points to one of the practices of exclusion through which the national poetics worked – old ladies were unlikely to convince as sources of knowledge for a generation of young literary men. If the nationalism produced through a concentration on distance and geography stressed the value of an ethics of settlement, its conversion into an idea of time championed youth over age. For the new wave of poets – Curnow, Brasch, Fairburn, Denis Glover – a concern with the ‘reality’ of the local naturalised assumptions about gender in particular. What male poets found in their need to focus on the nation was not the same sense of place that emerges in the writing of their female contemporaries. Here, then, is a different kind of distance, one operating within the literary culture.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.010 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Simply by Sailing in a New Direction’

131

Arguably, Ursula Bethell was an ‘old lady’ when she published her collections Time and Place and Day and Night, in 1936 and 1939, respectively.17 Born in England in 1874 to parents who had been living in New Zealand, she moved back to grow up in Canterbury, before then returning to Europe to finish her schooling in Oxford and Geneva. This global criss-crossing left her with a sense of self poised genuinely between cultures. ‘I am by birth and choice English’, she told the publishers of her first book of poems, From a Garden in the Antipodes in 1929, ‘but I have lived in New Zealand a good deal and shouldn’t like to be impolite to it’,18 while in 1940 she responded to claims from critic E. H. McCormick that she was too loyal to England by asserting that ‘You musn’t take me as a sample of a Country (England) or a Class! I wouldn’t be a good specimen – I am too variegated [. . .] That’s one of the sad things about me! – I don’t belong anywhere in particular [. . .] I  have not been able to settle’.19 Not being ‘able to settle’ was, of course, a state of crisis for the nationalists, with its implications of an inability to connect to place and the concomitant threat of a lack of self-knowledge. But this seeming separation was only an absence or lack when seen from one point of view, and Bethell’s poetry produced nuanced discourses of location and distance that are striking precisely because they eschew the terms in which the nationalists saw geography and belonging. Time and Place is, of course, a title that seems to belong squarely within an idea of nation as Brasch or Curnow might conceive it, but for Bethell the terms suggested different emphases. So, if Fairburn, Brasch, and Curnow wrote of cities, mountains, and shores within poetics that reserved the right to speak of geocultural scale and to generalise about social formations, Bethell’s focus was more on the ways in which distance generated personal relations and reflection. She was still concerned with the ‘ocean-salted south and east winds / Unremittingly sweeping over these headlands’, as she put it in ‘Weathered Rocks’ (from Time and Place),20 but her poems from the 1930s then turn such forces into often quiet commentaries on the details of rural or suburban life. In ‘Autumn Afternoon’, for example, Bethell writes: ‘On a small hillock, contented, contented / Beside a low valley, I  took my repose, / [. . .] While the calm afternoon drew down to its close’.21 The distances Bethell sees document the passing of the seasons, or  – on a smaller scale – the movement of hours through the day. Poems move towards the substantiating of emotions, or the recollection of memories, through trajectories that are very different from those found in her younger male contemporaries. ‘Waves’, from Day and Night, provides an excellent example.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.010 Published online by Cambridge University Press

132

Stua rt Murray

The waves appear to be emblematic of a classic nationalist sense of deep location: they are ‘the surge of unplumbed seas / Of being, from before time was; / Fundamental urge of atoms’; they produce an ‘incessant protoplasmic swell’ that inscribes ‘Marine memories’. But these features are then seen less as markers of ‘the land and the people’ (as Brasch might put it); rather they lead to considerations of ‘bewilderment’, ‘guilt, hidden hurt’, and of ‘terrible, hid joy’. Ultimately, Bethell suggests, the waves create reflections that are personal and theological; they are ‘Deep of soul’ – ‘Lord, Lord, / Out of the deep have I called, / Lord hear my voice’. ‘Listen again’, Bethell writes, ‘it is the Spirit / Come, saying come [. . .] Come, Lord!’22 In his anthology introductions, Curnow would lay stress on Bethell’s poetic accounts of location in order to bring her within the logic of his literary nationalism, cleverly positioning her as a formative, but also outlying, presence. In fact, her descriptions of geographical distance actually articulate the space between her work and the nationalist poetics that aimed to naturalise a certain sense of belonging; rather than a forerunner to an idea of a ‘mature’ poetic that would outline the realities of location, her writing reconstitutes the ‘smaller’ picture, not as loss, but as an absorbing spatial dynamic in its own right. Bethell’s comment that she was English by ‘choice’ introduces a necessary revision to the assumption that adopting a nationalist understanding of the local was somehow a natural decision. D’Arcy Cresswell, another poet Curnow would position as a proto-nationalist in his essays and anthology introductions, like Bethell, refused such dichotomies. In his two volumes of autobiography, The Poet’s Progress (1930) and Present without Leave (1939), Cresswell outlined a highly idiosyncratic account of the evolution of his own writing, often steeped in the heritage of classical forms, especially as they expressed pastoral representations of the English countryside. Present without Leave is particularly informative in respect of distance and separation, detailing as it does a number of back-and-forth journeys between Britain and New Zealand during the 1930s, where Cresswell’s literal in-between status aboard ship prompts numerous comparisons between the two locations. Whereas England exists in an often hazy glow of approval, seen through a filter of canonical poetry, New Zealand and New Zealanders in particular are the subject of a number of vicious attacks:  ‘There is no regard for free-speech among them’, he writes, ‘nor have they any talent for justice. [. . .] To disagree or to challenge, whether directly or indirectly they regard as a sign of moral evil in whomsoever shall venture to do so’.23 This last comment can interestingly

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.010 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Simply by Sailing in a New Direction’

133

be read in terms of Cresswell’s challenge to the emerging nationalist literary orthodoxy; his literary iconoclasm created frequent run-ins with other writers who found him exasperating. For all that Curnow would appropriate his New Zealand poems (such as the long 1936 Lyttelton Harbour), Brasch called his poetry ‘trivial and uninformed’, while for Fairburn the writing was nothing more than ‘a piece of very good imitation furniture’.24 For his own part, writing to Glover in 1936 Cresswell dismissed Tomorrow, the journal that carried so much of the emerging nationalist writing, whether poetry, prose or essay, as ‘a limp little rag. [. . .] Intelligent persons won’t be enticed from their English papers just for this’.25 Cresswell refused to believe that the politics and poetics of distance presented straightforward choices as to the ways in which a writer’s identity should develop, and when he spoke of the local it was with an attention to detail that was at odds with nationalist orthodoxies. He knew and admired Bethell and when, following her death in 1945, he wrote approvingly that ‘New Zealand wasn’t truly discovered, in fact, until Ursula Bethell, “very earnestly digging”, raised her head to look at the mountains’, what seems like a critical opinion that could have come straight from Curnow is in truth a very different idea of place.26 Bethell’s gaze from her garden to the Southern Alps comprehends a generative distance that, for Cresswell, is full not of the ‘local and special’ that comes from separation; rather it is precisely the connections with England and English writing, and the invocation of a long canonical tradition, that is to be admired. In Curnow’s critical writing, Cresswell is made to be the natural partner to Mason in terms of the early stirring of a nationalist poetic; in fact he rejected any sense that he was ‘stoutly bringing up the rear’ of any literary phalanx and remained, like grit in nationalism’s ointment, a reminder of the internal divisions and dissonant spaces in the New Zealand writing of the 1930s and 1940s. For poets such as Bethell and Cresswell, the position of exile was a complex creative space and not the simple uninformed forgetting and ignorance that Curnow presents in ‘House and Land’. That idea of complex creativity found an even greater expression in the 1930s poetry of Robin Hyde, which drew new parameters around questions of distance and found in separation a variety of personal and public themes that resist easy categorisation. Hyde’s poem ‘The Exile’, written in 1937, begins with what must be the firmest connection to place and locality imaginable: ‘This is my country; here my feet are set / Without question, in the soil I understand’. This, the poem implies, is a location of ‘lean hardships’ and ‘clean air’, all arguably recognisable nationalist images and metaphors of purged

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.010 Published online by Cambridge University Press

134

Stua rt Murray

newness. But even before its midpoint, the poem turns away from this lean/clean axis and becomes instead a space of dreams that create a ‘strange land’ and ‘strange sky’, where the speaker begs for ‘bitter bread’ and where the ‘harsh red rabble of singing passed me by’. The cleanliness of ‘my country’ has become the contested Yeatsian space of problematic association.27 Such disruptions of expectations, and the concomitant spaces made for explorations of self – especially gendered self – continually inform Hyde’s poetry of the 1930s. Her writing returns to the idea of ‘strange’ and ‘stranger’, not as markers of difference, but as the inevitable position of the poet or subject attempting to rationalise and live within the spaces created by distance. ‘I too am sold into strangeness’ Hyde writes in ‘Journey from New Zealand’, a poem outlining the beginning of a 1938 voyage that would take her first to China and then to England, in the fulfilment of a long-standing desire to ‘return’ to what she understood as an important source culture for her writing and thinking. ‘I too will look out of windows, thinking:  ‘How fair!’ or ‘Strange!’28 A subsequent poem about China and New Zealand, ‘Fragments from Two Countries’, begins ‘What is it makes the stranger?’, but that poem was finished in England, so two countries are in fact three, and the ‘strangeness’ of the connections spirals through the poem as a whole, producing impressionistic and half-grasped images of self and place.29 It is important to note that in her late poetry Hyde explores separation and distance in terms of actual pain and difficulty, a ‘reality’ that often appears to pass by the nationalists. It is one thing to want to embrace distance and its possibilities for self-regeneration, but another to face the realities such an embrace might demand. ‘Leave the nest early, child’ Hyde writes in ‘Prayer for a Young Country’, another 1938 poem: ‘Our climate’s changing, / Snow has a stiffer grip in every part: / Fingers of ice, about their treasons ranging, / Too soon shall set their purchase on your heart’. But if the desire to ‘leave’ here is understandable given the metaphor of a heart encased by winter, the next line asks simply:  ‘But where to turn?’ To separate oneself from the familiar, Hyde understood, is to risk facing impossible choices, or even the abyss.30 Curnow, writing in 1960, felt this move in Hyde’s poetry to be an example of an ‘incurably exhibitionist’ personality that produced writing that was ‘near hysteria’, an obviously gendered response that completely misses the constructed uncertainty of her writing.31 For Hyde, conceiving of distance failed to bring New Zealand into focus; in fact it prompted the reverse. ‘Yet in my heart’, she wrote in

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.010 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Simply by Sailing in a New Direction’

135

‘Journey from New Zealand’, ‘can only dissolve, reform, / The circling shapes of New Zealand things’.32 ‘Things’ is an instructive choice of word here, undoubtedly about the objects and detail of the local, yet also diffuse and lacking specificity. In place of the fixities of nationalist canon building, the careful alignment of poetry into rank and file in the critical essay or anthology introduction, Hyde found dissolution and circling, and expressed it in a poetic that fell away from certainties even as it suggested them. As she wrote in ‘Case Adjourned’, one of her final poems before she died in 1939, it is a ‘concrete world dark-edged with abstract seas’ that surrounds us, and the juxtaposition of the concrete and abstract catches the deliberately created insecurity (‘dark-edged’) that Hyde found in her contemplation of the literal and intellectual distances in which she lived.33 The ‘concrete world’ and its ‘abstract seas’ feel like the kind of topographical observation Brasch could have made in The Land and the People, but it is important to recognise the ways in which it is distinctive and different. The heritage of critical nationalism in New Zealand has meant that such terms, and others outlining place and location, have come to be seen within a singular lens, as if such an optic is the only choice possible. For Hyde, as with Bethell before her, the challenge of creating poetry that expressed questions of selfhood and society within the frame of distance produced work that found other topics and points of concentration than those favoured by the nationalists. The resulting poetic established a different sense of scale and different mode of performativity; it ‘made strange’ any assessment of the material culture of New Zealand in the 1930s and disrupted the majority channels of artistic expression through which such assessment was communicated. That poetic also allows us to see how the writing of the period contained its own fault lines, contested allegiances around issues relating to gender and cultural affiliation in particular. Separation was without, in terms of the ties to Britain the nationalist wished to sever, but it was within as well, in terms of the dissonance and disruptive opinions that made up the communities of poets publishing at the time. Curnow’s assertion that ‘reality must be local and special at the point where we pick up the traces’ was made in his introduction to the 1960 publication of The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse. By 1960, the argument for the centrality of nationalism in an understanding of New Zealand poetry appeared to have been won, and in his introduction Curnow appears to be underscoring the point. ‘Whatever is true vision belongs here’, he continues, ‘uniquely to the islands of New Zealand. The best of our verse is marked or moulded everywhere by peculiar

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.010 Published online by Cambridge University Press

136

Stua rt Murray

pressures – pressures arising from the isolation of the country, its physical character, and its history’.34 Such writing comes from a position secure in its critical conviction; that which is ‘unique’ to New Zealand must come from select ‘peculiar pressures’. In fact, those ‘pressures’ were the product of a selective and judgemental critical evaluation, and worked to normalise their method of selection. The actual terms of place, whether ‘mountains’ and ‘beaches’, or ‘things’ and ‘circles’, were far less stable than Curnow’s opinions suggest. To ‘sail in a new direction’, it transpired, was anything but ‘simple’. Notes 1 Allen Curnow, introduction, The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse (1960), in Allen Curnow, Look Back Harder:  Critical Writings, 1935–84, ed. Peter Simpson (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1987), 133–81, see p. 133. 2 W. F Alexander and A. E. Currie, eds. New Zealand Verse (London:  Walter Scott, 1906), xv, xx. 3 Ibid., 2–3. 4 Lawrence Jones, Picking Up the Traces: The Making of a New Zealand Literary Culture, 1932–1945 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2003), 173–293. 5 Allen Curnow, author’s note, Enemies: Poems 1934–36 (Christchurch:  Caxton Press, 1937), n.p. 6 Allen Curnow, introduction, R.  A.  K. Mason:  Collected Poems (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1971), 9. 7 R. A. K. Mason, Penny Broadsheet (1925), in Mason: Collected Poems, 45. 8 James Bertram, Towards a New Zealand Literature (Dunedin:  Hocken Library/University of Otago, 1971), 16. 9 Cited in Denys Trussell, Fairburn (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1984), 52. 10 Cited in Stuart Murray, Never a Soul at Home:  New Zealand Literary Nationalism and the 1930s (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1998), 117. 11 Ibid., 135. 12 Curnow, Enemies, 1. 13 Charles Brasch, The Land and the People (Christchurch: Caxton, 1939), 11. 14 Ibid., 33. 15 Alexander and Currie, New Zealand Verse, xiv. 16 Allen Curnow, Collected Poems 1933–73 (Wellington: Reed, 1974), 91. 17 Time and Place and Day and Night, Poems 1924–1935, were published by the Caxton Press in Christchurch. 18 Ursula Bethell, Collected Poems, ed. Vincent O’Sullivan (Auckland:  Oxford University Press, 1985), x. 19 Ibid., xii. 20 Ibid., 36. 21 Ibid. 22 Ibid., 61–2.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.010 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Simply by Sailing in a New Direction’ 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34

137

D’Arcy Creswell, Present without Leave (London: Cassell, 1939), 4. Cited in Murray, Never a Soul at Home, 51. Ibid., 29. Bethell, Collected Poems, xi. Robin Hyde, Selected Poems, ed. Lydia Wevers (Auckland:  Oxford University Press, 1984), 58. Ibid., 72. Ibid., 73. Ibid., 87. Curnow, Look Back Harder, 168. Hyde, Selected Poems, 72. Ibid., 97. Curnow, Collected Poems, 133.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.010 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter  10

‘Rough Architects’ New Zealand Literature and Its Institutions from Phoenix to Landfall Christopher Hilliard

In their preface to the first anthology of New Zealand poetry in 1906, W. F. Alexander and A. E. Currie struck an apologetic note. The first and second generations of European New Zealanders had ‘comparatively little time for things not practical – the columns must be set up before we turn to moulding the entablature’.1 Currie and Alexander were not the first to suggest that a New Zealand literature was an element of nation building  – and one that had to wait until the basics had been taken care of. In his poem ‘A Colonist in His Garden’, the former politician William Pember Reeves had dramatised an either-or choice between ‘culture’ and pioneering. Though the young colony might be bereft of art in the conventional sense, ‘Who serve an art more great / Than we, rough architects of State . . . ?’2 Both as a policy maker and as a theorist of state intervention in settler societies, Reeves was acutely conscious that the market and civil society could not be counted on to drive progress in a small colony. The failure of commercial publishers and periodicals to provide a basis for the development of New Zealand literature was one strand in the ‘cultural nationalist’ critique of the status quo in the 1930s and 1940s, and the prospect of government support for local writers was hotly debated. By the end of this period, a state literary fund was in place and local firms were publishing substantial amounts of new fiction and poetry. Even more significant for the literary history of this period were the institutions fashioned by writers, above all the run of literary magazines beginning with Phoenix in 1932 and culminating in 1947 with Landfall. This history of the institutions of New Zealand literature closely tracks the rise to prominence of the younger writers, most of them male, associated with Phoenix or the Caxton Press or both, and their displacement of what passed for a literary establishment, which was both resistant to modernism and receptive to writing by women. For many years, a narrative of the rise of literary nationalism was told more or less triumphantly, though 138

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.011 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Rough Architects’

139

some of those involved rejected the ‘nationalist’ tag; from the 1980s, critics and anthologists worked to question some of the exclusions entailed by this narrative and its attendant poetics. The nationalist narrative needs to be revised in another way as well. The international cultural politics of the 1930s shaped discussions about the direction of New Zealand literature. New Zealand writers found readers in Popular Front publications at home and overseas; and regardless of whether particular writers were on the political left, their relations with their interlocutors were informed by Popular Front assumptions about the social significance of literature and the urgency of finding new voices. Young and self-consciously rebellious writers chafed at the inadequacy and small-mindedness of publishing in New Zealand, but the supposed beneficiaries of the status quo were not impressed with it either. Nellie Coad, the president of the Women Writers and Artists Society, exclaimed in 1933: ‘I do wish a new group of people would arise who could break down the monopolistic conservative ring that now controls N.Z. publishing activity’.3 The weakness of the local publishing industry meant that it was difficult for a New Zealand novelist or poet to get a book out, much less earn anything from it. The largest operation, Whitcombe and Tombs, was ancillary to a printing business and a bookshop chain; Thomas Avery and Sons in New Plymouth and Brett in Auckland were also publishing businesses that were sidelines to printing plants. The judgements these firms made were not guided by the culture and tacit knowledge of an established publishing industry. Whitcombe and Tombs employed few if any editorial staff. Nonfiction books from this period, which far outnumbered novels and volumes of poetry, were often rambling and inconsistent. The publishers’ roots in the printing trade also showed in the way they routinely asked authors to shoulder some of the cost of publishing – a practice that nearly every British publisher thought undignified. Most of the volumes of poetry that Whitcombe and Tombs published were paid for by their authors; the company sold them on commission.4 Whitcombe and Tombs’s chief competitor from the 1930s onwards, A.  H. & A.  W. Reed, adopted similar practices. Reeds published Frank Anthony’s novel Follow the Call posthumously after negotiating with Anthony’s mother and sister. A.  H. Reed liked the book, but told the family he had other financial commitments and asked the family to bear the cost, some £100. The Anthonys would receive half the retail cost of each copy sold. The vanity-publishing character of the enterprise was further underscored when Reed encouraged the

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.011 Published online by Cambridge University Press

140

Chri stopher Hi ll ia rd

family to sell copies to people in their district. Reeds had the book in print only six months after Anthony’s mother first made contact with them.5 New Zealand was also too small, or too poor, to sustain large general-interest periodicals or profitable middle-of-the-road literary hubs, though the literary pages of New Zealand Railways Magazine served as a valuable platform for Wellington-based writers, as Nikki Hessell shows in Chapter  8. Largely by default, newspapers were peculiarly important in New Zealand literary life. Daily papers would ‘give something of a helping hand to younger writers’, wrote Robin Hyde in Journalese in 1934, thinking especially of Alan Mulgan’s efforts at the Auckland Star.6 Charles Marris claimed credit for empowering a younger generation through his literary editorship on the Christchurch Sun in the 1910s and 1920s.7 He could point to Eileen Duggan as one of his discoveries; later on he published early poems by Hyde and A.  R.  D. Fairburn. In Marris’s literary pages, and those of other New Zealand newspapers and magazines in the 1920s and 1930s, conservatism coexisted with openness. Sometimes, no doubt, that openness was a result of having to make decisions in a hurry with little editorial assistance rather than a consequence of principled eclecticism. As literary editor of the quarterly Art in New Zealand from 1928, Marris ran a campaign against modernist incursions into New Zealand verse.8 Marris was made to embody the badness of the literary establishment in Denis Glover’s verse satire The Arraignment of Paris (1937). ‘Paris’ leads a party of ‘lady poets’ on a country excursion, only to be brought down to earth by a roughly spoken ‘kiwi’ farmer. The sexist jokes are consistent with Glover’s general indictment of older literary men as guardians of a tradition in which female writers loomed large and whose poetics and social values were supposed to be essentially feminine. Making a space for writing that was more responsive to developments in literature elsewhere and to the realities of New Zealand life called for new outlets as well as new voices. Of these the most celebrated and mythologised was Phoenix, published out of Auckland University College in 1932–3. The magazine’s title invoked D. H. Lawrence, whose example underwrote a diverse array of literary enterprises at the time. The avowed model was the Adelphi, founded by John Middleton Murry, Lawrence’s friend and Katherine Mansfield’s husband. While the magazine was still a dream, Phoenix’s begetter, Bob Lowry, described it as ‘my Junior Adelphi’.9 In 1932 Lowry was in the second year of his Bachelor of Arts but already had years of experience as a printer, having bought his own hand press while still at Auckland Grammar School. (Owners of small presses and connoisseurs of type occupy a special place in the mythology

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.011 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Rough Architects’

141

of New Zealand literary nationalism.) He successfully pitched the idea of the magazine to the Auckland University College Literary Club. Lowry expected to be editor, but found himself displaced by the club secretary, James Bertram. Lowry resolved to bide his time until Bertram left for Oxford on the Rhodes Scholarship he had been awarded.10 Phoenix was more than a student magazine, but it was always enmeshed in the intrigues of student politics.11 In the two numbers that appeared under Bertram’s editorship, Phoenix was more critical review than little magazine. Its essays focused on literature and the function of criticism. Lawrence Jones has characterised Phoenix’s agenda as Arnoldian in its concern with criticism in an expansive sense and its insistence on the socially improving power of European high culture.12 T. S. Eliot was arguably a more powerful as well as more proximate influence, less for his refinement of Arnold than for his conception of the relation between the critical and the creative. For Bertram and his associates, as for Allen Curnow later, literary renewal interlocked with revaluation of the canon, as it did in Eliot’s poetic and critical programme of the late 1910s and early 1920s. As this suggests, Phoenix was not simply, or even primarily, a nationalist publication. The declaration it was often taken to stand for – ‘We are hungry for the words that shall show us these islands and ourselves; that shall give us a home in thought’  – originated in Eric Cook’s review of the first issue in a Christchurch student magazine. The embarrassments of what Bertram’s editorial referred to as ‘the usual atmospheric New Zealand pieces’, complete with the names of native birds and flowers, were no justification for a fixation on Europe.13 None of us would disagree, Bertram replied. He was fudging, but in a colonial setting the modernist work of wrestling literary tradition into contact with the contemporary situation often amounted to the nationalist enterprise of showing ‘these islands and ourselves’. When Bertram sailed for Oxford, he was succeeded not by Lowry, but by the poet R. A. K. Mason. Older than the rest of the Phoenix connection, Mason was also a committed socialist. He repudiated his predecessor’s professed aestheticism. The change of editor did not have much effect on the character of the fiction and poetry that Phoenix carried. In the essays Mason’s Phoenix published, however, political critique now took pride of place. Here too, although creating a national literature was not the avowed objective, a socialist critique of New Zealand life ruffled Pākehā complacency in ways that ‘nationalist’ writers and readers valued; and creative writing that troubled New Zealand myths, as Frank

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.011 Published online by Cambridge University Press

142

Chri stopher Hi ll ia rd

Sargeson’s stories did, could be prized, not just in New Zealand, as politically charged ‘proletarian’ literature. The Eric Cook who wanted a home in thought was an active member of the Communist Party. Mason’s Phoenix became involved in controversies about freedom of expression enveloping Auckland and its university during a time of civil unrest. However, when Phoenix ceased publication it was for less dramatic reasons:  unpaid debts and a contractual dispute. Though it lasted only four issues, Phoenix was a formative experience for most of the writers who came to dominate New Zealand literature, and ideas about New Zealand literature, after the 1930s. Phoenix brought previously scattered writers together, in many cases by chance. The life span of the magazine coincided with the couple of years Curnow spent in Auckland studying for the Anglican ministry before returning to Christchurch. He became an associate editor of Phoenix and every issue included poems of his.14 Away from Auckland for the summer vacation, Bertram planned and wrote much of the first issue with two high school friends living in the South Island, Charles Brasch and Ian Milner.15 Brasch’s poems appeared in numbers edited by Mason as well as by Bertram. Through Phoenix, Brasch encountered writers he would be bracketed with for many years to come; and Phoenix became a touchstone as Brasch made plans for what became Landfall. Lowry left Phoenix, Auckland, and a debt of £72 behind him and hitchhiked to Christchurch. There he began teaching Denis Glover about typography as Glover set up the Caxton Press. Caxton’s first production was a Canterbury University College little magazine, Oriflamme. By the mid-1930s, the press was printing poetry and essays by Curnow, Fairburn, and D’Arcy Cresswell. At the end of the decade, the press bought a quantity of new type, enabling it to set two longer works: Sargeson’s collection of short stories A Man and His Wife and M. H. Holcroft’s meditation on the sources and prospects of New Zealand culture, The Deepening Stream. In 1936 Caxton brought out the first of two slim collections of poems initially published in the Christchurch-based magazine Tomorrow. Many Phoenix alumni, including Curnow, Fairburn, Brasch, and Milner, published poetry, fiction, essays, and reviews in Tomorrow. Glover edited the anthology, entitled Verse Alive, in collaboration with H.  Winston Rhodes, lecturer in English at Canterbury University College and one of Tomorrow’s most prolific contributors. Founded in 1934 by the cartoonist Kennaway Henderson, Tomorrow was a forum for political critique and satire from the left – against government, bankers, the newspaper bosses. Creative writing and literary criticism were not among its priorities, and

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.011 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Rough Architects’

143

Tomorrow did not ‘actively solicit’ literary matter, but its contrary independence made it a destination for writers unwilling to submit their work to the likes of Marris.16 Publishing a poem in Tomorrow was thus not necessarily a sign of ideological affinity, especially in the first few years. (As the inclusive ethic of the left-liberal Popular Front was challenged from 1936 onwards by the fierce arguments about the Moscow trials and the Spanish Civil War, Tomorrow became less of a broad church, and the pages devoted to literature dwindled.) As with Phoenix under Mason’s editorship, however, there was a convergence between the advancement of a socialist or progressive culture and the advancement of a national literature. In their preface to Verse Alive, Rhodes and Glover stressed the need for New Zealand poets to assert their independence in bolder (and by implication more manful) ways than simply substituting tūī for nightingales. Writers must ‘communicate living experience, trivial and otherwise, in the language of today’.17 It was a message that the socialist, Rhodes, and the nationalist poet, Glover, could readily agree on. As Rachel Barrowman remarks, ‘One can . . . see . . . in both left and nationalist responses a self-conscious concern, a sense of responsibility, to create a culture where there existed only a cultural wilderness’.18 A distinct but related convergence explains the support that New Zealand writers who passed through Phoenix or Tomorrow received from the most substantial Popular Front literary publication in Britain, John Lehmann’s New Writing. Lehmann had worked with Virginia and Leonard Woolf at the Hogarth Press before launching his own magazine, one of whose proposed titles was the Forsterian ‘The Bridge’: the magazine was to bridge the gap between the establishment and avant-garde literary circles Lehmann moved in and the worlds of working-class life and politics. Lehmann assiduously sought out working-class writers to bring new accents and experiences into contemporary literature. He also made a point of publishing work from far-flung parts of the empire. New Writing – renamed Penguin New Writing during World War II after Penguin Books took over production  – published poems and stories by Brasch, Fairburn, Roderick Finlayson, Anna Kavan, Dan Davin, Erik de Mauny, and Greville Texidor. New Writing published some of this work for the first time, and in other cases took work that had appeared in New Zealand publications and presented it to an overseas audience. Glover sent Lehmann a copy of Curnow’s 1941 collection Island and Time, which included ‘The Unhistoric Story’, Curnow’s mordant but commanding poem about the mean disappointments of New Zealand history. Lehmann reprinted the poem twice in different variants of New Writing,19 few of

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.011 Published online by Cambridge University Press

144

Chri stopher Hi ll ia rd

whose readers could have known what lines such as ‘Vogel and Seddon howling empire from an empty coast’ alluded to. The New Zealand writer to whom Lehmann paid the most attention was Frank Sargeson. At D’Arcy Cresswell’s suggestion, Sargeson approached Lehmann directly and also by way of the South African novelist William Plomer, who admired Sargeson’s work. New Writing and its successor published Sargeson’s ‘White Man’s Burden’ (which had previously appeared in Tomorrow), ‘An Affair of the Heart’, ‘The Making of a New Zealander’, and the novella ‘That Summer’, spread over three numbers in 1943 and 1944. ‘That Summer’ resonated with at least one of the British working-class writers Lehmann published. The County Durham coal miner Sid Chaplin wrote to Lehmann to praise the contents of the April 1943 Penguin New Writing, and especially the first instalment of ‘That Summer’: ‘A grand piece of writing – it reads easy, and I do envy that colloquial style’.20 Penguin New Writing had a good war. With Penguin’s money, distribution network, and huge paper ration, the journal reached a larger audience than had previously been imaginable for a literary magazine. Sargeson’s New Zealand publishers were not so fortunate. Tomorrow annoyed the Labour government as much as its conservative predecessor, and in 1940 the police warned the printers that they risked breaching wartime emergency regulations. Tomorrow ceased publication as a result.21 The long record of censorship and self-censorship in New Zealand, together with the controversy over the government’s decision not to publish a critical history commissioned as one of the official publications commemorating the centennial of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1940, made many writers doubt that state support for writers would solve the deficiencies of New Zealand publishing. The most consistent lobbyists for state patronage were the older ‘men of letters’ who dominated the New Zealand branch of the international writers’ organisation PEN – Pat Lawlor, a compulsive organiser and a literary gossip columnist; the lawyer and old Railways Magazine hand C.  A.  L. Treadwell; the historian and parliamentary librarian Guy Scholefield; and O. N. Gillespie, who did public relations work for the government.22 Most of the PEN stalwarts were old friends of Charles Marris and Alan Mulgan and shared some of their literary outlook. Lawlor in particular took a dim view of the writers Caxton published, whom he regarded as highbrows or peddlers of sordid stories. Lawlor and Gillespie were also friendly with the legendary public servant Joseph Heenan, who combined literary interests with a passion for horse racing and as such impressed intellectuals for whom populism did not come naturally as a New Zealand ideal. Heenan

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.011 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Rough Architects’

145

was Undersecretary of Internal Affairs, the department responsible for such cultural initiatives as the New Zealand government operated at the time. He had been making ad hoc grants to writers and artists for some time and at first resisted calls to make state patronage more systematic and transparent. In the face of fresh entreaties from PEN in 1946, Heenan changed his mind, evidently aware that the existing informal arrangements might not long survive a change of government or his own looming retirement. When the Literary Fund started its work in mid-1947, PEN’s leadership was well represented on the advisory committee. Lawlor served as secretary. Heenan told the committee that the government had to pass over some ‘otherwise excellent members because they might be embarrassed if they became beneficiaries of the fund’.23 It was an acknowledgement that the older ‘bookmen’ of PEN were not major authors. Younger writers suspected that the Literary Fund was under the sway of reactionaries. Their suspicions were strengthened by Lawlor’s comments deploring the seaminess of modern writing in his address to the New Zealand Writers’ Conference in Christchurch in 1951. A special session was convened to discuss the Literary Fund.24 Shortly afterwards, Scholefield resigned as chair of the Literary Fund, to be replaced by Ian Gordon, Professor of English at Victoria University College. Before this changing of the guard, the Literary Fund had made a decision that was anything but cautious and hidebound. Unlike many of his peers, Curnow had not spent time away from New Zealand on a scholarship or war service. In 1948, Glover and Holcroft petitioned the Literary Fund on Curnow’s behalf for a grant to enable him ‘to spend a year in England’. The deadpan minutes of the meeting at which this proposal was tabled record that the advisory committee resolved ‘to enquire from Mr. Glover as to whether any writing was likely to emerge from Mr. Curnow’s proposed visit’.25 The committee eventually approved the request, but then the Prime Minister, Peter Fraser, made the same objection:  there was no guarantee of a return on the investment. The Christchurch man of letters J. H. E. Schroder, whom Glover lumped together with Marris and Alan Mulgan in one of his early squibs about the mediocrity of the literary establishment, managed to persuade Fraser that ‘being a young writer Curnow had much to gain from the literary aspect . . . on the point of security it was obvious from past performance that Curnow would go on writing’.26 The grant was supplemented by funding from the British Council and the Christchurch Press, which employed both Curnow and Schroder. Curnow left for London, where he worked for the liberal News

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.011 Published online by Cambridge University Press

146

Chri stopher Hi ll ia rd

Chronicle and got to know Dylan Thomas, among other writers. He came home through the United States, where he met Elizabeth Bishop and Richard Eberhart. The thirty-seven-year-old Curnow might still count as a ‘young writer’, but he was no newcomer. As an anthologist as well as a poet he had become the most powerful interpreter of New Zealand literature. In the early 1940s, Curnow started thinking about putting together ‘an anthology of the poets I really like’ and – a corollary – ‘an anthology that would dispose finally of the fifty-six poets of Kowhai Gold and the seventy-odd poets of the Treasury of New Zealand Verse  – or most of them’.27 The destruction was inseparable from the creation: as with Eliot – and F.R. Leavis, whom Curnow did not invoke but often echoed  – the exemplars of counterproductive poetics needed to be actively ‘dislodged’.28 Curnow’s lengthy introduction to A Book of New Zealand Verse, 1923–45 moved back and forth between critical commentary on individual poems and poets, and arguments about the challenge of a colonial literature. The persuasiveness  – or at least the inescapability  – of Curnow’s introduction owes something to this alternation between the register of the manifesto and the voice of the attentive reader. The programmatic statements perform a kind of judiciousness through their combination of generality and self-conscious precision: ‘The good poem is something we may in time come to recognise New Zealand by, not something in which we need to recognise the obvious traces of the New Zealand we know’.29 The introduction’s influence derived from Curnow’s rhetorical power, his judgements, and his standing as a poet:  the anthology had little institutional capital at its disposal. Where Kowhai Gold had been published by a big London firm, A Book of New Zealand Verse was taken on by the fragile Progressive Publishing Society and then, when that collapsed, the Caxton Press.30 Curnow’s anthology was one channel through which the writers originally associated with Phoenix became the new literary establishment after World War II; Brasch’s founding of Landfall was the other. A  private income enabled Brasch to devote his time to the quarterly (the family business was Hallenstein’s, outfitters to the men of middle New Zealand). Brasch tried to refrain from subsidising Landfall in other ways and waited until the magazine had been running for several years with a proven record of subscriptions and sales before seeking money from the Literary Fund.31 Brasch wanted Landfall to be seen to be paying its way, to show that New Zealand could support such a publication. The quarterly was nevertheless dependent on the de facto subsidy provided by its printer, Caxton, which

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.011 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Rough Architects’

147

absorbed Landfall’s losses over the two decades of Brasch’s editorship.32 The first grant from the Literary Fund, in 1951, became an annual award, and was mostly used to pay contributors.33 Through this annual grant, the state lent some security to an institution that had grown out of the literary culture that started to form around Phoenix. Landfall began as an expatriate’s undertaking. Over the many years he lived in Britain, Brasch thought about the New Zealand literary magazine he planned to establish some day. During World War II, Glover would stay at Brasch’s London flat while on shore leave from the British Navy, and over several years they discussed ideas for a magazine that they both saw as a successor to Phoenix. The first number of the new periodical appeared in 1947, little more than a year after Brasch returned to New Zealand. In his memoir Indirections, Brasch speaks of his ambivalence about Glover’s Caxton compatriots, whom he knew only through their writing and Glover’s representation of their views. Even the poem from which Landfall took its name, Curnow’s commission for the tercentenary of Abel Tasman’s arrival in New Zealand, Brasch damned with faint praise as ‘a good state poem’: ‘Landfall in Unknown Seas’ was ‘a work of imagination, but in a limited sense’. Brasch was wary of what he took to be the New Zealand mind-set of Curnow, Fairburn, and Mason. ‘[I]ts narrowness frightened me – small aims, no ideals (or dislike of talking in such terms); no looking before or after; it reflected all too closely the barren complacencies of suburban Christchurch’. Their ‘realism, honesty, and energy’ lacked the requisite impulse to pursue truth:  ‘imaginative truth above all, and truth in history, philosophy, religion’.34 It followed that a satisfactory periodical could not be ‘solely literary’: ‘It would have to be a journal both literary and general’, encompassing the sorts of historical, philosophical, and religious reflection Brasch thought was missing from the Christchurch mind.35 A  ‘literary review’ such as Landfall, Brasch wrote in his first editorial, would ‘inevitably be drawn far from its starting place’ into general questions.36 The movement of Brasch’s thinking here was very similar to Eliot’s as he sought to define the scope of the Criterion, which, together with the Adelphi and the liberal Catholic Dublin Review, guided Brasch’s plans for Landfall.37 In ‘The Idea of a Literary Review’ (1926), Eliot wrote: ‘I have seen the birth and death of several purely literary periodicals; and I  can say of all of them that in isolating the concept of literature they destroy the life of literature’. Such efforts foundered on ‘the impossibility of defining the frontiers, or limiting the context of “literature”. Even the purest literature is alimented from non-literary sources, and has non-literary consequences’.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.011 Published online by Cambridge University Press

148

Chri stopher Hi ll ia rd

It made more sense, Eliot argued, to think of literature ‘as the centre from which we move’.38 Moving outwards from a literary centre, being drawn far from a literary starting place, in practice meant pursuing cultural criticism through literary criticism in contemporary British periodicals with generalist leanings, such as Scrutiny (which subjected the texts of mass culture to close reading) and Horizon (where George Orwell and others used popular fiction to explore ideology). Landfall was a very different publication, but some of the most influential pieces of social criticism it carried either got at New Zealand culture through its literary products (as in Robert Chapman’s ‘Fiction and the Social Pattern’, 1953) or started from the vantage point of a creative writer (Bill Pearson’s ‘Fretful Sleepers’, 1952). As John Geraets notes, many of Landfall’s ‘social commentators’ also had poetry published in its pages.39 Some of these contributions, ‘Fretful Sleepers’ especially, helped set the parameters of discussions of Pākehā culture for years to come. In his early editorials, Brasch conjured with the tropes of national-identity talk that had been current since the time of Phoenix: New Zealand as an ‘offshoot’ of European civilisation, a cultural fragment that needed to ‘adapt’ to its immediate environment, to put down roots ‘in these islands’, to feel its way towards ‘maturity’. Brasch had taken up the burden of the rough architect of a national literature. Yet Landfall had its cosmopolitan side as well. Landfall was attentive to the arts overseas and followed events in China; it published Janet Frame as well as ‘provincial’ realism. And writing that one could ‘recognise New Zealand by’ was seldom altogether severable from the more general ambition to grapple imaginatively with the here and now. The literary nationalism of the 1930s and 1940s was both a project in itself and a by-product of modernist and left-wing impulses. Notes 1 W. F Alexander and A.  E. Currie, eds., New Zealand Verse (London:  Walter Scott, 1906), xiv–xv. 2 In Allen Curnow, ed., The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, 1923–45 (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1960), 100. 3 Chris Hilliard, The Bookmen’s Dominion:  Cultural Life in New Zealand, 1920–1950 (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2006), 33. 4 Dennis McEldowney, ‘Publishing, Patronage, Literary Magazines’, in The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English, ed. Terry Sturm, 2nd ed. (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1998), 631–94, see pp. 642–3. 5 Ibid., 651. 6 Robin Hyde, Journalese (Auckland: National Printing Co., 1934), 200.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.011 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Rough Architects’

149

7 C. A. Marris, ‘Our Younger Generation of Writers’, in Annals of New Zealand Literature: Being a Preliminary List of New Zealand Authors and Their Works with Introductory Essays and Verses (Wellington:  New Zealand Authors’ Week Committee, 1936), 18. 8 Lawrence Jones, Picking Up the Traces: The Making of a New Zealand Literary Culture, 1932–1945 (Wellington:  Victoria University Press, 2003), 150–1; Stephen Hamilton, ‘New Zealand English Language Periodicals of Literary Interest Active 1920s–1960s’ (PhD thesis, University of Auckland, 1996), 503, 505–6. 9 Rachel Barrowman, Mason: The Life of R. A. K. Mason (Wellington:  Victoria University Press, 2003), 163. 10 Ibid., 162–3. 11 Stephen Hamilton, ‘ “Red Hot Gospels of Highbrows”: R. A. K. Mason and the Demise of Phoenix’, Kōtare 1, 1 (1998): 5–11. 12 Jones, Picking Up the Traces, 23–4. 13 W. L. Renwick, ‘Show Us These Islands and Ourselves . . . Give Us a Home in Thought’, New Zealand Journal of History 21, 2 (1987), 197–214: 199 n. 14 Stephen Hamilton, ‘A Bibliographical Description and Nominal Index to The Phoenix, Auckland University College, 1932–1933’, Kōtare 2, 1 (1999), 30–8: 33–4. 15 James Bertram, Capes of China Slide Away:  A  Memoir of Peace and War, 1910–1980 (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1993), 46. 16 Rachel Barrowman, A Popular Vision: The Arts and the Left in New Zealand 1930–1950 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1991), 35. 17 H. Winston Rhodes and Denis Glover, preface, in Verse Alive, ed. Rhodes and Glover (Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1936), n.p. 18 Barrowman, A Popular Vision, 58. 19 MacD. P. Jackson, ‘Conversation with Allen Curnow’ (1973), in Allen Curnow, Look Back Harder:  Critical Writings 1935–1984, ed. Peter Simpson (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1987), 245–65, see p. 248. 20 Sid Chaplin, letter to John Lehmann, 22 October 1943, John Lehmann papers (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin). 21 McEldowney, ‘Publishing, Patronage, Literary Magazines’, 656. 22 Hilliard, The Bookmen’s Dominion, ch. 2. 23 State Literary Fund Advisory Committee minutes, 10 July 1947, Internal Affairs files (hereafter IA), series 81 (Archives New Zealand, Wellington). 24 Peter Simpson, ‘A Country in Search of Itself: The 1951 New Zealand Writers’ Conference’, in Writing at the Edge of the Universe: Essays from the ‘Creative Writing in New Zealand’ Conference, University of Canterbury, August 2003, ed. Mark Williams (Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2004), 123–40. 25 State Literary Fund Advisory Committee minutes, 25 February 1948, IA 81 (Archives New Zealand). 26 Ibid., 25 August 1948, IA 81 (Archives New Zealand). 27 Jackson, ‘Conversation with Allen Curnow’, 251–2. The Treasury of New Zealand Verse was the second (1926) edition of the Alexander and Currie anthology New Zealand Verse. 28 F. R. Leavis, ‘Milton’s Verse’, Scrutiny 2, 2 (1933), 123–36: 123.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.011 Published online by Cambridge University Press

150

Chri stopher Hi ll ia rd

29 Allen Curnow, ed., A Book of New Zealand Verse, 1923–45 (Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1945), 22. 30 Jackson, ‘Conversation with Allen Curnow’, 252. 31 James Bertram, Charles Brasch (Wellington: Oxford University Press, 1976), 33. 32 John Geraets, ‘Landfall under Brasch: The Humanizing Journey’ (PhD thesis, University of Auckland, 1982), 77–8, 349. 33 Ibid., 78. 34 Charles Brasch, Indirections:  A  Memoir, 1909–1947 (Wellington:  Oxford University Press, 1980), 387–9. 35 Ibid., 389. 36 Brasch, ‘Notes’, Landfall 1, 1 (1947), 3–8: 3. 37 Ibid., 3 (1947), 160–1. 38 T. S. Eliot, ‘The Idea of a Literary Review’, New Criterion 4, 1 (1926), 1–6: 3–4. 39 Geraets, ‘Landfall under Brasch’, 68.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.011 Published online by Cambridge University Press

P a rt   I I I

1950–1972

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter  11

Against the Social Pattern New Zealand Fiction, 1950–1970 Timothy Jones

‘We are . . .’, wrote C. K Stead in 1965, ‘and have been since about 1930, at that moment (a moment . . . prolonged through several generations) when a new society defines its consciousness while that consciousness is forming. . .’.1 Stead saw a continuity between the culture and literary production of the middle 1960s and the period of cultural nationalism preceding it; this moment of newness was a long one. Later readings of fiction produced between 1950 and 1970 describe it as an established style that looks back to the 1930s, when the tropes and methods of cultural nationalism and critical realism were set out, resulting in an extended period of literary and critical orthodoxy.2 Yet writers were finding ways of deviating within that remit. By the middle 1960s, New Zealand prose was still critical in focus, but not always strictly realist in substance. The period saw the development of a local literary infrastructure. Landfall, founded in 1947, provided a lasting forum for writers and critics, while fostering a sense of a national literary community. Landfall generated anxiety about elitism and cliquishness, but the journal’s success came in the context of a broader, popular enthusiasm for New Zealand writing. The period saw an increase in the organisation and professionalisation of the arts. Modest state support for publishers and writers was offered through the New Zealand Literary Fund, established in 1946. While it remained commonplace for New Zealand authors to publish in London, a local publishing industry continued to develop. The Pegasus Press and Paul’s Book Arcade were established in the later 1940s, and both A. H. & A. W. Reed and Whitcombe and Tombs remained important publishers of prose. Publication of novels, in particular, increased significantly. By 1964, it was possible to observe that ‘novels and poetry are issued so rapidly that scarcely a week passes without one or the other waiting to be reviewed’.3 This was accompanied by the development of an audience for local writing. Stead estimated that ‘of the books sold in any of the four main cities, about one-third are on New Zealand subjects and by New 153

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.012 Published online by Cambridge University Press

154

Ti mothy Jones

Zealand authors’.4 Not all of these books were prose fiction, but Stead’s observation suggests an established audience for local writing, and that cosmopolitan tastes coexisted with a willingness to read towards a national identity. The literary scene had centres of gravity (Landfall, Frank Sargeson) and peripheries (Ian Cross, Ronald Hugh Morrieson), and it was willing to make definitive declarations about the character of New Zealand writing and writers. Prose signalled its participation in ‘New Zealand literature’ through the adoption of a nominal realism, a commitment to the critique of that nominal real, and by addressing a handful of loosely connected themes and tropes. The representation of the nation was highly selective, emphasising the provinces, marginal lives, and seamy boardinghouses, while avoiding settled family life. The backblocks and masculine labour were typically depicted as a solution to the problems of existentially perilous cities and towns. This critique occasionally shaded into horror; madness might be caused by a national culture understood as a hangover from settler Puritanism. Writers perceived themselves as outsiders due to their psychic difference from the masses. There was a countercultural turn, which celebrated local versions of an international bohemianism and occasionally glanced towards Māori life as an alternative to buttoned-down Pākehādom. Social critique was balanced by a belated strain of Romanticism, especially visible in a group of narratives of heroic delinquency. The 1951 Christchurch Writers’ Conference saw female writers relegated by their male colleagues and was marked by vigorous dispute between the generations and regions over what constituted authentically local literary values. The conference signalled a ‘changing of the guard’ in the literary scene.5 James K. Baxter presented a well-received speech that insisted the younger generation were continuing the pioneering labours of the earlier, older writers,6 and that they all shared a critical realist purpose. Baxter hoped that writers might work against the ‘Unjust City’ which they presently occupied and speak ‘prophetically and sanely to a wide audience’.7 Robert Chapman’s essay, ‘Fiction and the Social Pattern’, was an outgrowth of the conference, and understood local fiction as committed to exposing the nation in prose that offered photographic, documentary truth.8 He saw this exposed nation – Pākehā (European) New Zealand – as an unhappy ‘homogenous society’, defined by a secularised Puritanism descended from settler culture, which proclaimed ‘Work, deny yourself and you will be prosperous and saved’.9 Chapman imagined the fiction writer, contrarily, as a romantic outsider, a man ‘clinging to the net which

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.012 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Against the Social Pattern

155

encloses a balloon, unable to live in the gas-filled interior, but in a fine though precarious position to see where the balloon is going and to tell from the whiffs of escaping gas how things are in the interior’.10 Those in the interior have neither the individuality nor the vitality of the writer; observation is construed as a heroic act. Chapman worried there was no audience for such a literature, for its ‘potential public are trying to forget, to ignore, to cover their defeats’.11 Alan Mulgan, one of the older generation of littérateurs, took issue with Chapman’s view objecting that Chapman implied ‘that happiness, joy and clean living (or at least the effort to attain them) are unreal’.12 Nevertheless, Chapman’s essay would substantially define the way that writers described the nation over the following two decades. Bill Pearson’s jeremiad, ‘Fretful Sleepers’, chimed with Chapman’s essay. Pearson’s New Zealand is populated by a mass of fearful, hypocritical, sexually prurient, and anti-intellectual ‘fretful sleepers’, possessed of a ‘willingness to persecute those who don’t conform’.13 Pearson’s complaint of cultural parvanimity is carried further than Chapman’s; he sees the nation as deforming the thought and culture of its writers and thinkers, ‘an artificial and alienated class living a threadbare life’.14 Yet the positive reception the essay received in literary circles suggested that ‘most readers appeared to welcome it as if it referred to anyone but them’.15 Writers might have understood themselves as romantic outsiders, but this conception was, paradoxically, a shared project. Chapman’s and Pearson’s essays set out the arguments that persistently informed the period’s novels and short fiction, particularly those works that offered wider social views; these are fictions of the pattern. Pearson’s own Coal Flat (1963) explored the problems set out in these essays without assuming the dire tone of ‘Fretful Sleepers’. The West Coast town of Coal Flat is provincial, but is asked to stand for New Zealand more generally. The novel offers a broad social canvas and indexes the concerns of the era’s prose – the importance and difficulties of organised labour; Māori life, considered as a counterpoint to Pākehā ways; the danger of repressive cultural modes, especially to children; disturbed psychology; and a scepticism of Catholicism. The hero, Paul Rogers, tries to help one of his students, Peter Herlihy, whose antisocial behaviour is manufactured by an emotional separation from his father, and imported comic books. Peter is the sad result of the social pattern; yet Dr Alexander, who leads the local socialist discussion group, opines that Peter, ‘the odd one out’, might become an artist or writer, for he ‘has a nose for all the weaknesses and rotten parts of his society’.16

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.012 Published online by Cambridge University Press

156

Ti mothy Jones

Ian Cross’s The God Boy (1957) treated similar concerns, although illustrated across a narrower social purview. Jimmy, a Catholic misfit like Coal Flat’s Peter, is understood as a product of the forces of the social pattern, which ensure his parent’s unhappiness and act upon him too. Chapman had noted the preponderance of children (by which he means Pākehā boys) in fiction, suggesting that ‘childhood is the period of fullest union with [the writer’s] community’, and thus offered a lens for critique of that community.17 Jimmy has a breakdown, triggered by his father’s abuse of his mother and his mother’s abortion. Abortion, as it is in Dan Davin’s 1949 ‘The Quiet One’, becomes another symptom of Chapman’s pattern,18 a dangerous act manufactured by sexual hypocrisy and stultifying social and legal codes. The collapse of Jimmy’s family is seen as an inevitable consequence; their Catholicism is depicted as an exaggerated and superstitious version of the secular Protestantism of the pattern. The pattern was not limited to the provinces; it defined the cities too. Noel Hilliard’s Maori Girl (1960) provides an account of Māori urbanisation. Netta Samuel shifts from her rural Māori community to Wellington, described as a lively but still unjust city, a site of endemic racism, grubby boardinghouses, and low-paid work for domestic migrants. Netta, in her quiet way, resists the edicts of the pattern and the anxious hypocrites it produces; her Pākehā beau, Arthur, is attracted by ‘her simplicity . . . she was straight-out’.19 There is the risk that Netta is asked to stand for all Māoridom at moments like this – she is a romantic Indigene, the opposite of the unwholesome city. The novel occupies a troubled space in the twenty-first century, for its Pākehā author describes the experience of Māori girlhood, raising the issue of a very late colonial appropriation of Indigenous narrative and experience. Nevertheless, a sympathetic reading suggests Hilliard sensitively treats the materials of rural Māori childhood and migration to the cities, and predicts Witi Ihimaera’s earlier stories. Maurice Shadbolt’s 1959 cycle of stories The New Zealanders borrows its structure from James Joyce’s Dubliners in offering a series of locations and narratives that together describe the nation. A snobbish Englishwoman has difficulty settling on a farm, but her daughter experiences a near-romantic epiphany when she accepts her place in New Zealand;20 a family struggles to deal with the social consequences of the father’s socialist convictions in the wake of the Great Depression;21 a gang rape in a small town, perpetrated by delinquent bicyclers, is excused through dishonest parochialism.22 Nevertheless, the necessity and inescapability of national identity is affirmed; one character exclaims ‘Countries are much like suits of clothes. I think it is better to wear only the dirty suit of one’s own country than

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.012 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Against the Social Pattern

157

to keep covering it up with the dirty suits of other countries’.23 Cultural nationalism is reified. Yet the collection also suggests a sea change; an unconventional and artistic Auckland bohemian scene is depicted and London becomes an important extension of New Zealand, a place where young Pākehā might affirm their identity as New Zealanders. Shadbolt’s bohemians attempt to turn their back on the edicts of the pattern. This turn  – away from the pattern  – characterised much of the era’s fiction, which simply ignores milieu where the pattern was focussed. The growing ‘Nappy Valley’ suburbs, the baby boom, the ready availability of housing and employment, a newly raised standard of living – all facts of life for many New Zealanders24– were of little interest to the nation’s writers, with the possible exception of Janet Frame. Frame is treated substantially elsewhere in the present volume, but it is worth noting that her early stories and novels register the depleting energies of the pattern within the home, so that the domestic interior becomes a space of crisis. More often, however, fiction deemphasised societal representation in favour of sketching out a heroic mode of delinquency, offering young Pākehā a romantic response to a nation that was prosperous and safe but uptight and dull. Bohemia, boardinghouses, and the backblocks became crucial locations, offering readers an alternative vision of New Zealand to that in which most of them lived. Apparently realist in approach, this work nevertheless avoids depicting the substance of the real. This idiosyncratic agenda was often visible in Sargeson’s later work. ‘Just Trespassing, Thanks’ (1964), offers a near-Arcadian vision of bohemian Auckland. Retired misfit Edward Corrie pines for a vanished, pastoral New Zealand, lamenting the encroaching suburb about him. He is visited by three sexually and criminally licentious youths who, surprisingly, share the retiree’s literary interests. Edward understands the trio as woodland spirits, visitants from the vanished bushland; his happy encounter with the group – they discuss the transportive power of poetry and feast on tinned food – imagines continuity between generations of outsiders, united in their disdain for the pattern. Maurice Duggan, one of the ‘sons of Sargeson’, offers a similar, only lightly ironic Lawrentian romanticism in ‘Along Rideout Road That Summer’ (1963). Buster O’Leary, seventeen, runs away from his puritanical home to the Hohepa farm where he works and has a summer fling with Puti Hohepa’s daughter, Fanny. The Māori farmstead becomes an enlivening and sexually satisfying space apart from the humdrum O’Leary household. Buster is caught between romance and realism, driving a tractor while quoting Coleridge, and reflecting on how to manage the ‘shock

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.012 Published online by Cambridge University Press

158

Ti mothy Jones

of recognition of a certain discrepancy between the real and the written . . .’25  – of how to inhabit the disappointing local while looking towards something grander. The story negotiates between the provincial and the pastoral, parleying between the vernacular style of New Zealand prose and a conscious literariness; in doing so, it seems to suggest that literary provincialism as much as the culture of the pattern keeps the possibility of sublimity at a distance. This discrepancy cannot be resolved, and Buster shoots through, thus avoiding the responsibilities of adulthood. This mode of heroic delinquency is played out at length in Maurice Gee’s 1962 debut novel, The Big Season. Rob Andrews, star of the Wainui rugby side, finds he prefers his new mate, the socialist and burglar Bill Walters, to his life with the team, his father’s expectations, and his fiancée. Rob’s overwrought attraction to Bill’s outsider masculinity distances him from respectable provincial life; he takes up pig hunting over rugby, and this new pastime offers opportunities for a more authoritative masculine self-making. Rob looks to the older man for guidance; Bill recalls how he raped a starving Italian teen during the war, opining: ‘I reckon I don’t have to know any more about the way things are than I learned in those few minutes . . .’.26 Bill’s criminal actions apparently offer worldly insight to their perpetrator, and Rob takes this as wisdom. The story of an older man mentoring a sentimentally attached protégé is also described in Barry Crump’s first novel proper, the best-selling Hang on a Minute Mate (1961). Sam Cash tells charismatic yarns celebrating manual rural labour as redemptive, the appeal and plenitude of the backblocks, and romantic mateship. Sam describes a male identity that refuses any kind of social obligation – ‘working when you feel like it or have to . . . no one to explain to when you get yourself into trouble’.27 To be properly manly in these terms is to resist the social pattern. Yet the novel takes an unexpected turn in its final chapters. Sam Cash abandons his young cobber and offers an obviously falsified yarn; their mateship and the authority of Sam’s narratives are revealed as untrue, registering the imaginariness of the life described. Jean Watson’s Stand in the Rain (1965) also questions these visions of romantic delinquency. A beat novel that celebrates pig hunting in place of jazz, it describes Sarah’s relationship with the feckless dreamer, Abungus. The pair meet on the fringes of bohemia and drift from job to job. Sarah withholds any kind of judgement of the limited Abungus, but she does not romanticise delinquency, focusing on practical considerations that go unmentioned in texts written by men; the pair can scarcely support themselves and rely on the kindness of friends and strangers to survive.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.012 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Against the Social Pattern

159

The  details of the real repudiate chauvinist romance. That Watson was married to Crump  – who might very well be Abungus  – underlines the authority of the novel’s devalorisation of masculine delinquency. Sylvia Ashton-Warner’s 1958 Spinster offers an alternative, female version of the delinquent hero. Anna Vorontosov teaches in a remote school. Her unorthodox, romantic pedagogy looks for moments of special authenticity; she plays her students Schubert and encourages their expressive dances28 before she addresses writing or arithmetic. Anna understands her students – largely Māori – as existing outside the strictures of the Pākehā social pattern. She develops a new method for teaching reading to them, which emphasises material drawn from their own lives over imported narratives, thus establishing her class as genuinely local readers. Anna presents herself as ‘a vague incompetent artist . . . let loose among children; if not a lunatic of the uncertifiable class’.29 Anna’s supposed madness is a mark of difference, but also a potentially dangerous yet perspicacious state into which outsiders might enter; Anna’s psyche has much in common with those of Janet Frame’s heroines of the period, such as A State of Siege’s Malfred Signal. Anna, one of many analogues for the writer or artist, is powerful because of her difference. As a teacher-artist, Anna is able to positively change the milieu she inhabits, something that eludes Crump’s and Gee’s heroes, before she too flees the demands of employment and personal relationships. If the appeal of leaving everyday life and obligation behind was a constant theme, Stead’s story, ‘A Fitting Tribute’ (1965) takes the urge to shoot through to its extreme – into fancy. Julian Harp, bohemian outsider, discovers how to fly unaided by engine. In doing so, Harp becomes a national hero, but presumably perishes; he ‘died as he had lived, a Man Alone . . .’.30 Stead’s tale knowingly rehearses many of the commonplaces of the period’s literature, Truth and the Landfall letters pages – communism, coffee houses, flatting, the programming offered by the NZBC – offering a satire on modish literary mores as much as a tribute. While it chides escapist romance, it also affirms the impulse to reject wider New Zealand society, describing the mass as gormless onlookers, unable to understand individuality or genius. The delinquent romance offered authentic and appealing prerogatives for readers as they embraced a national identity. The city remains unjust, but the backblocks might redeem. Gee’s The Big Season depicts the bush as a place where visitors might venture into places undisturbed since ‘the old Maori tribes’, and encounter vistas where they are left ‘[d]efending themselves against awe’.31 Crump’s Sam and Jack dream of a land of plenty

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.012 Published online by Cambridge University Press

160

Ti mothy Jones

where there are ‘sheep and a cow for fresh milk. And deer and pigs in the bush. . . . And an old truck under the trees to get bits off’.32 This dream is a gesture against the cities where people ‘work by hours and minutes and save their money to buy things they don’t want’.33 The backblocks provide an escape from the deleterious effects of the pattern; going whitebaiting apparently cures the troubled Peter Herlihy in Coal Flat. The forces of the pattern could not always be exorcised  – a problem explored, sometimes gleefully, in a local Gothic that colours a number of narratives as the 1960s progressed. This mode sits alongside the delinquent romance in turning away from realism, but rather than describing a method of escape, the Gothic is used as a mode of social critique, pointing, appalled and impishly, towards specific anxieties. Grotesquery erupts in suburbs and provinces, seldom troubling the sacral backblocks. Sargeson’s 1965 story, ‘City and Suburban’ is indicative. The narrator would be unthinkable in earlier Sargeson. One of the ‘new average – the latter-day common man, the runner among the ruck in the urban rat race’34 – he is an accountant, and, unexpectedly, a melancholy philosopher. He imagines that a severed finger, discovered by his children on the beach, is a severed penis, and seems to prefer the idea of literal emasculation to the tiresomeness of his profession, his wife, his children, and even their seaside holidays. Such an unmanning is understood as a ‘drastic attempt at a solution’,35 thus presumably excusing oneself from the responsibilities of suburban masculinity. The mutilation becomes an imaginary solution to a real problem. Alcoholic breakdown is presented as a similarly uncertain response to middle-class living in Graham Billing’s gleeful and rueful The Slipway (1974). Geoffrey Targett, like Sargeson’s narrator, is an unhappy husband and father. The novel clocks the changing economic situation at the opening of the 1970s, as Geoffrey’s shipping business collapses alongside its increasingly addled owner. Nevertheless, Geoffrey is at heart a romantic. He drunkenly seeks moments of redemption, going fishing rather than taking action to recover his business and refloat his fortunes. A nighttime trip to recover a lost dog from a kennel becomes a weird journey to the gates of a delirious underworld, where the Leith has become the Lethe; the novel closes with Geoffrey, ruined, entering into a ‘lonely nightmare’, unable to successfully turn away from the insistence of the real.36 Ronald Hugh Morrieson’s The Scarecrow (1963) and David Ballantyne’s Sydney Bridge Upside Down (1968) are often regarded together; both are provincial Gothics narrated by near-adolescent boys, and both gained substantial attention locally long after their publication. Yet despite these

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.012 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Against the Social Pattern

161

similarities, the visions of small-town life offered by the two novels are opposite. The Scarecrow’s Neddy Poindexter is unlike many of the boys in the period’s fiction; he is unruly without being maddened. The town of Klynham, where the Poindexters live – essentially Hawera – is, of course, shaped by the social pattern. Nevertheless, the threat the Poindexters face is less from the people of Klynham seeking to enforce the pattern, and more from the travelling magician Salter, a murderous necrophile and stranger to town. Although it often shares the gleeful, wicked energy of The Scarecrow, Sydney Bridge Upside Down is a queasier proposition, depicting the collapse of an aspirational provincial dream alongside the disintegration of Harry Baird’s family. Harry, profoundly shaped by the pattern, confuses sex with violence; he is unhealthily fixated on his cousin Caroline, and it gradually emerges that he is a killer who haunts the abandoned meat works on the edge of town. Harry’s ghastly play in the works seems to suggest some kind of terrible gap, a lack, a pitfall within the national psyche. The late Morrieson novella, Pallet on the Floor (1976) makes a similar claim; as one of Morrieson’s characters notes, ‘Our whole environment is one of death. By death we live, by death we die’.37 The abattoir signals a morbidity at the heart of the nation’s material prosperity. It is worth noting that the delinquent heroes of the era embrace all manner of jobs as they drift, but never covet a role at the works. Sargeson’s short novel The Hangover (1967), a fantasia on Chapman’s essay, describes an Auckland ‘brick bungalow Gothic’.38 Alan, a nice young engineering student, is revealed as a madman, pederast, and killer, dangerous to his family and the bohemian circles he is moving within. His madness is, once again, the product of the pattern. Chapman’s essay supplies the curious image that closes the novel. Chapman describes a ‘social milling machine’ that mints ‘citizen coins’, but insists that writers must display the ‘bent bad pennies’ that are produced alongside the true.39 The Hangover concludes with the bad penny Alan slumped next to a ‘mindless automatic machine’ in his basement. It produces fake antique buttons milled from gemstones, an absurd reconfiguration of the process of manufacture that provides a symbol for Alan’s pattern-retarded humanity. Sargeson had hoped Chapman’s essay would allow the development of a ‘new position’, a cultural space that would facilitate evasions of the social pattern.40 This new position is certainly visible in the delinquent romances, where literate outsiders repudiate or excuse themselves from the life of the pattern; but in the grotesque mode of The Hangover and similarly horrified works, the pattern unmakes men as well as producing them.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.012 Published online by Cambridge University Press

162

Ti mothy Jones

Despite this interest in the literary Gothic, the period maintained a distinction between authorised ‘New Zealand literature’ and popular genre fictions, especially popular fictions that appealed to a female audience. Nelle Scanlan’s Pencarrow family saga was republished in the 1950s, achieving domestic sales of eighty thousand copies by 1960.41 Others would enjoy considerable international success, without necessarily receiving notice in New Zealand; Dorothy Eden discovered commercial success with her thrillers, and Essie Summers started producing romances, eventually achieving boggling international sales of seventeen million.42 Crime fiction was popular; Ngaio Marsh continued to produce mysteries, Elizabeth Messenger wrote thrillers alongside her newspaper food column, and Arthur E.  Jones’s sleuth, Felix Holliday, appeared in novels and on the ZB network. Adrienne Geddes’s 1964 The Rim of Eternity and Bee Baldwin’s 1965 The Red Dust offered early local science fiction. Nevertheless, these kinds of writing remained more or less unacknowledged by the literary field. The distance between popular genre fictions and literary productions was a feature of most literatures during the period, although the maintenance of this distance seems to have been a special concern for New Zealand authors, part of their commitment to developing and educating an appropriate readership for their work. Chapman feared that the more efficaciously the writer mounted his critique of New Zealand life, ‘the less likely he is to be read . . .’.43 Writers anxiously signalled the readerly preferences and dispositions they expected their audience to possess. Coal Flat’s Paul Rogers campaigns against American comics, while Miss Dane is sent up for trying her hand at writing women’s fiction. The Big Season laments Carol’s preference for light romance novels and the sort of canonical reading she is taught in university. In Spinster Anna produces a series of junior readers with local rather than imported narratives. A local readership demanded the assembly of a local taste, which valued the homegrown, highbrow, serious, and masculine, articulated through exclusion as much as inclusion. Yet despite the emphatic rhetoric of rootedness and locality, most writers would agree with Dan Davin in acknowledging the importance of international literary culture on New Zealand writing44  – so long as the imported influence was of an authorised sort. This selectiveness informed representational practices more generally. Chapman understood prose realism as ‘the imaginative uncovering of reality’, and that ‘comment . . . is in the inclusions and the omissions’.45

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.012 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Against the Social Pattern

163

Chapman’s realism does not attempt to represent the breadth or variety of New Zealand life, preferring strategic selections that suit the purposes of the critical realist project. Taken wholly rather than as individual works, the fiction of the period seems to lose touch with what was for many, the substance of the everyday. The life of the family and the suburb was neglected; if The New Zealanders describes a range of sites in which national identity might be discovered, this includes London but not, apparently, Nappy Valley. If family life is presented, it is usually in disarray. At the Christchurch Writers’ Conference, Pat Lawlor grumbled that the prevalent ethos of Landfall modernism had ‘little or no regard for spiritual values or for interest in home or family life. As both are intimately concerned with art and literature . . . such disregard is, to me, incomprehensible’.46 Lawlor’s presentation was out of tune with the conference and very poorly received. Similarly, the life of recent immigrants to the country remained largely unexplored. Between 1947 and 1968, 225,000 new settlers  – mainly European  – arrived, and distinct immigrant communities developed.47 Writers preferred to focus on Pākehā figures with generations-long attachments to the nation as a more stable location in which to describe a New Zealand identity. Renato Amato was one of the few writers to describe the migrancy ignored by others. ‘One of the Titans’ (1967) depicts the life of a recently arrived Italian road builder, Guiliano Martine, who hopes he might be recognised as  – quite literally  – a nation builder, but remains alienated by ‘the Johnnies and Chrises and Tommies around him’.48 The literary fiction of the 1950s and 1960s represents a small classical period, with many works in an established style offering a consistent vision of the nation. Substantial claims were made for fiction’s mimetic acuity. It is possible to argue any individual work of prose is realist; but taken as a whole, the era’s fiction was too selective in its focus, both too romantic and too grotesque to be read uncomplicatedly as realism. The period may have been repressive, but it enjoyed both prosperity and some surety of identity. Fiction dismissed these conditions as inadequate; in doing so, a space opened between nominally realistic fiction and the real it purported to represent. Joan Stevens, surveying the New Zealand novel in the early 1960s, admitted the ‘edges of society are ragged’ but believed that readers of much New Zealand fiction ‘tend to bypass the literary question’ and consider the mimetic value of the text, asking ‘ “Is New Zealand life really like this?” Usually they then answer themselves, “No” ’.49 Dennis McEldowney noted that fiction described New Zealand as ‘a dreary . . .

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.012 Published online by Cambridge University Press

164

Ti mothy Jones

wasteland, in which we try to escape from our puritan consciences. . . . Yet heresy keeps breaking through, my senses keep denying the truths which reason preaches to them . . . however much I try, I cannot find life miserable and wretched’.50 McEldowney understands the nation presented by the literature as an article of faith, not as lived truth. Indeed, the literary and wider arts scene was enjoying unprecedented levels of interest. Stead suggested that New Zealanders were ‘among the most literate people in the world’ and were reading ‘about themselves more rapidly than the citizens of any other country’.51 Landfall received an enthusiastic letter from the Feilding Community Centre (Feilding!) noting that ‘New Zealand is full of people who are keen on the arts . . . it is nearly as easy to be guided through the arts in New Zealand as it is to be directed to the nearest T.A.B. agency’.52 Hyperbole, surely, but perhaps no more distant from the real than a significant number of the period’s fictions. Notes 1 C. K. Stead, introduction, in New Zealand Short Stories: Second Series (1966), ed. C. K. Stead (Wellington: Oxford University Press, 1976), n.p. 2 Stuart Murray, Never a Soul at Home: New Zealand Literary Nationalism and the 1930s (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1998), 249. 3 James Burns, ‘New Zealand Writing, 1964’, Books Abroad 39, 2 (1965): 152. 4 Stead, New Zealand Short Stories, n.p. 5 Peter Simpson, ‘A Country in Search of Itself: The 1951 New Zealand Writers’ Conference’, in Writing at the Edge of the Universe: Essays from the ‘Creative Writing in New Zealand’ Conference, University of Canterbury, August 2003, ed. Mark Williams (Christchurch:  Canterbury University Press, 2004), 123–140, see p. 124. 6 Heather Murray, ‘Celebrating Our Writers: 1936, 1951 Part II: 1951’, Journal of New Zealand Literature 12 (1994): 119–34: 122–3. 7 James K. Baxter, ‘Recent Trends in New Zealand Poetry’, in James K. Baxter as Critic, ed. Frank McKay (Auckland:  Heinemann Educational Books, 1978), 1–11, see pp. 10, 12. 8 Robert Chapman, ‘Fiction and the Social Pattern:  Some Implications of Recent N.Z. Writing’, Landfall 7, 1 (1953), 26–58: 31. 9 Ibid., 31, 36. 10 Ibid., 31. 11 Ibid., 54. 12 Alan Mulgan, ‘Letter’, Landfall 7, 4 (1953): 297. 13 Bill Pearson, ‘Fretful Sleepers’, in Fretful Sleepers and Other Essays (Auckland: Heinemann Educational Books, 1974), 1–32, see p. 4. 14 Ibid., 23, 25.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.012 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Against the Social Pattern

165

15 Paul Millar, No Fretful Sleeper:  A  Life of Bill Pearson (Auckland:  Auckland University Press, 2010), 194. 16 Bill Pearson, Coal Flat (Auckland and Hamilton:  Paul’s Book Arcade, 1963), 212. 17 Chapman, ‘Fiction and the Social Pattern’, 33. 18 Ibid., 49–50. 19 Noel Hilliard, Maori Girl (London: Heinemann, 1960), 213. 20 Maurice Shadbolt, ‘The Woman’s Story’, in The New Zealanders (New Zealand: Whitcombe and Tombs Limited, 1959), 9–38, see p. 38. 21 Shadbolt, ‘After the Depression’, in The New Zealanders, 39–54. 22 Shadbolt, ‘Love Story’, in The New Zealanders, 75–106. 23 Shadbolt, ‘River, Girl and Onion’, in The New Zealanders, 235–56: 256. 24 Jenny Carlyon and Diana Morrow, Changing Times: New Zealand Since 1945 (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2013), 3. 25 Maurice Duggan, ‘Along Rideout Road that Summer’, in Summer in the Gravel Pit and Other Stories (New Zealand:  Blackwood and Janet Paul; London: Victor Gollancz, 1965), 55–74, see p. 56. 26 Maurice Gee, The Big Season (London: Hutchinson, 1962), 133. 27 Barry Crump, Hang on a Minute Mate (Wellington:  A. H. and A. W. Reed, 1961), 153. 28 Sylvia Ashton-Warner, Spinster (1958) (London: Virago, 1980), 60. 29 Ibid., 264. 30 C. K. Stead, ‘A Fitting Tribute’, The Kenyon Review 27, 2 (1965), 279–301: 280. 31 Gee, The Big Season, 59. 32 Crump, Hang on a Minute Mate, 144. 33 Ibid., 88–9. 34 Frank Sargeson, ‘City and Suburban’, in Frank Sargeson’s Stories (Auckland: Cape Catley, 2010), 257–63, see pp. 257–8. 35 Ibid., 262. 36 Graham Billing, The Slipway (London: Quarter Books, 1974), 191. 37 Ronald Hugh Morrieson, Pallet on the Floor (Palmerston North:  The Dunmore Press, 1976), 126–7. 38 Frank Sargeson, The Hangover (London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1967), 71. 39 Chapman, ‘Fiction and the Social Pattern’, 55. 40 Frank Sargeson, ‘Letter’, Landfall 7, 3 (1953): 227–8. 41 Carlyon and Morrow, Changing Times, 88 42 Rachel McAlpine, The Passionate Pen: New Zealand’s Romance Writers Talk to Rachel McAlpine (Christchurch: Hazard Press, 1998), 11. 43 Chapman, ‘Fiction and the Social Pattern’, 54. 44 D. M. Davin, introduction, in New Zealand Short Stories (1953), ed. D. M. Davin (London: Oxford University Press, 1957), 6. 45 Chapman, ‘Fiction and the Social Pattern’, 32. 46 Quoted in Simpson, ‘A Country in Search of Itself ’, 128. 47 Carlyon and Morrow, Changing Times, 29.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.012 Published online by Cambridge University Press

166

Ti mothy Jones

48 Renato Amato, ‘One of the Titans’, in The Full Circle of the Travelling Cuckoo (Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1967), 67–72, see p. 70. 49 Joan Stevens, The New Zealand Novel 1860–1960 (Wellington: A. H. and A. W. Reed, 1961), 73. 50 Dennis McEldowney, The World Regained (London:  Chapman & Hall, 1957), 155. 51 Stead, New Zealand Short Stories, n.p. 52 W. K. McIlroy, ‘Letter’, Landfall 8, 2 (1954): 142.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.012 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter  12

Janet Frame Myths of Authorship, 1950–1990 Marc Delrez

It can be argued that Janet Frame has appeared, in the decade following her death on 29 January 2004, as the latest in a line of mythmakers spawning narratives about her life and work. This was in part the outcome of the impressive corpus of posthumous publications released by the Janet Frame Literary Trust, including a volume of correspondence1 and an autobiographical novel2 that further documented the public’s perception of the writer’s personality. Then a volume of collected essays and nonfictional pieces, significantly entitled Janet Frame: In Her Own Words, aimed to strengthen this sense of a finally established correlation between the written oeuvre and the author’s intentions, by dispelling some of the more ‘stubborn myths built up around her’,3 including the notion that she never expressed personal opinions about her work. Such myths, the editors of In Her Own Words suggest, should finally make way for an alternative perspective that the author may fully occupy, like those of her characters who inhabit ‘warm first person country’ in the rare moments of self-realisation staged in her fiction.4 This impulse to conflate authorial intentionality and lived subjectivity in fact coheres with the project inscribed in Frame’s autobiography, a trilogy published in the 1980s and repeatedly described by the author in terms of a desire ‘to make [herself ] a first person’ after years of alienation when she was viewed as ‘a third person – as children are’. Indeed she claimed that children can be seen to constitute an ‘oppressed minority’, referred to as ‘ “they” until they grow up’;5 so that the publication of the autobiography, in which she narrates the story of her life from her own self-conscious viewpoint, amounted to an affirmation of maturity. It came across as an author’s endeavour to seize hold of the perspective over her own life story after it had been confiscated by generations of scholars allegedly claiming to know Frame better than herself. The posthumous legacy is then in line with the counterdiscursive aims of the autobiography, reminding us that Frame would forever fight for control over her own posterity. The question can be asked if, in 167

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

168

M a rc   D e l re z

the process, further critical discussions of her writing have been effectively preempted, or if it is just that they were cast as a form of disrespect  – another case of helping oneself ‘to the wisdom of the dead without their protest’, as Frame has called postmortem redescriptions of the wishes of the deceased.6 The present survey of the rich mythography enveloping Janet Frame can only share in this carefully constructed condition of sacrilege. Yet, as one critic has hinted, a rehearsal of the myth may be crucial in view of the complex narrative that is released, an important one ‘both for Frame and for those interested in literary history’7 in spite of the sensational items contained in the account  – which might make for ‘fabular literary history’.8 The more risky mythemes are well-known: a working-class and poverty-stricken background; the illness and traumatic death of siblings; an invalid diagnosis of schizophrenia; long years wasted in New Zealand’s psychiatric system; the application of countless doses of electric shock treatment, shredding the recipient’s memory; the Hubert Church Memorial Award for Prose for The Lagoon and Other Stories (1951), resulting in the last-minute cancellation of the lobotomy planned on its author; and her consequent discharge from hospital, leading Frame to seek shelter in the army hut at the back of Frank Sargeson’s garden, where she would pen her first masterpiece, Owls Do Cry (1957). In view of the dramatic nature of this material, one understands that Frame may have wished to keep a measure of control over the story of her life, lest it should assume chimerical proportions and invite more prying or prurience on the part of strangers. Importantly, this would involve an attempt also to direct the public attention back to her written work, perhaps the main objective of the autobiography. The autobiographical project was indeed prompted by the image projected by Frame’s earliest critics, starting from a biographical sketch published by Patrick Evans9 which had contained inaccuracies and prompted her to write to him that ‘writing fiction (and not writing autobiography) [was her] pastime’.10 This admittedly veiled warning did not prevent Evans from including further biographical information in a second, influential monograph on Frame,11 part of it drawn from an early autobiographical essay, ‘Beginnings’,12 that Frame would later regret publishing because of the way it apparently encouraged reviewers to refer to her mental illness. As Maria Wikse indicates in her book-length study of Frame’s ‘biographical legend’, the commentators at the time agreed, for example, that, even after leaving hospital, the writer would typically ‘[avoid] public exposure’, preferring to lead ‘a reclusive life’13 potentially betokening a form of social

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Janet Frame: Myths of Authorship, 1950–1990

169

maladjustment; or they would refer to her physical appearance in terms of ‘a disembodied presence’ that gave ‘no hint of the state of her mind’14 – an inscrutability swiftly equated with an intractable difference. This is the context in which, in 1974, Frame decided to make public the clean bill of mental health she had obtained from R. H. Cawley, her London psychiatrist, for that specific purpose. This document states unambiguously that the writer has ‘never suffered from a mental illness in any formal sense’, so that anybody ‘referring to her “disordered mind” ’15 was running the two risks of ridicule and litigation. It is in the same spirit that the three volumes of Frame’s autobiography were later presented, as a way of redressing ‘some details which have been incorrect’ in commentaries about her life, so that her self-writing was advertised as a long-overdue ‘honest record’ of her lived experience.16 At the same time the seasoned reader of Frame will appreciate the irony inherent in the fact that, in a good deal of her fiction, similar attempts to ‘fight for your point of view, almost as if you were dead’, are associated with imposture, certainly for the creative artist whose invention springs ‘from the core of [her] being because there’s nothing else there’;17 while the effort to outline a consistent first-person perspective involves a form of submission to the more centripetal forces of personality, likely to result in the self-defeating construction of a ‘skin-trapped I’. The artistic challenge facing the writer involved in the fashioning of an ‘I-book’ involves the necessity of solving the problem of self-centredness together with the consequent sense of ‘separation between the “I” and the [other] characters in the story’.18 If this reflexive comment from Living in the Maniototo (1979) can be seen to reflect on Frame’s own authorial practices, then the pursuit of her artistic vocation is evoked in terms of a surrender of her everyday self, meant to induce the sort of ‘negative capability’ required to make a sense of otherness emerge within the text. More often than not, this is experienced as a predicament. As the matter is phrased in The Adaptable Man (1965), ‘the inconvenient fact about people is that their minds and feelings have no boundaries. Skin’s not a very efficient hedge. People do invade’.19 The possibility then exists that Frame’s much-advertised construction of a ‘first person’ for herself in her autobiography aims not only to redress errors of fact, or to project a sense of her own psychological coherence, but also to outline and embrace an alternative ontological space in which other selves will intrude, however painful this may be. She certainly confesses in An Angel at My Table (1984) that the gesturing towards a first-person perspective, when it fails to intersect with the point of view of others, tends to result in an art of impoverished portraiture

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

170

M a rc   D e l re z

centering on ‘a shadowy “I”, almost a nothingness, like a no-woman’s land’.20 By contrast, the personal narrative offered in the autobiography often gestures towards a sense of lived experience that will seem plural – ‘denying the existence of a “pure” ’ autobiography and confirming . . . a separate story accumulating to a million stories’.21 This transpersonal scope is achieved notably by means of metafictional procedures at first sight unexpected in an autobiography, a genre that normally privileges referentiality and should not include disclaimers to the effect that the narrator has ‘invented, mixed, remodeled, changed, added, subtracted’ from the experiences actually undergone by the historical Janet Frame.22 Thus Simone Oettli-van Delden points out that the autobiography flouts the conventions of the genre through the various ways in which it undermines its own claims to factual truthfulness, ‘foregrounding the reflexivity of the text itself and emphasizing the notion of authorship, so very important in Frame’.23 This suggests that the trilogy is of a piece with the novels, which have been interpreted in the light of ‘the operation of a prescriptive authorial presence’ easily detected in the texts.24 By stating that she views autobiography as a form of ‘found fiction’,25 Frame confirmed the notion that the two genres may seem coextensive, not so much because her novels draw heavily on her personal experience (as has been claimed)26 but rather for the converse reason, namely that her life story may well rest on ‘invented memories’.27 It is consistent that, when the moment comes in An Angel at My Table to evoke the eight years spent in mental institutions, she does so not by resorting to the allegedly superior truth-value of a factual narrative but by referring the reader to her fictional treatment of this material in her novel Faces in the Water (1961). Also, the writing of the trilogy can be read as an exercise in gradual self-effacement, as metaphors for the creative life increasingly accumulate up to the point when, in the third volume, ‘subject and narrator all but disappear’,28 absorbed into the Mirror City summoned to figure forth the writer’s imagination. This may seem surprising, if the aim was to oppose the myth of the author’s retiring disposition in real life; but then Frame’s ulterior intention may have been less to scuttle the legend than to divert attention from it, quite in keeping with the logic of ‘avoidance’ illustrated in her more experimental fiction.29 Besides, as has been argued, the mode of self-confession, with its desire to persuade, keeps on deferring to the sanctioning power of the implied confessor, which is why Frame may have had to keep her distance from ‘a confessional discourse that would subject her once again to an authority’ threatening to dominate her.30

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Janet Frame: Myths of Authorship, 1950–1990

171

Thus the three volumes of autobiography, which allegorise imagination and show its mechanisms at work within the text, can be said to pursue the programmatic objective of offering a key for understanding the novels; while the latter, too, tend to outline their own ‘theoretical terrain’31 prior to verifying it through ‘the modus operandi of the text’.32 In other words, the epistemological meeting point linking Frame’s fiction and her autobiography can be sought in their shared poetics – an approach to meaning as dependent on fictionalisation rather than on a grounding in fact. In this context, it should be noted that Jane Campion’s award-winning filmic rewriting33 of the biographical legend, which has proved so instrumental in increasing Frame’s popularity, surprisingly produced a more realistic narrative for ‘An Angel is not a deconstructive film in the sense of drawing attention to its own artificiality’.34 This is because the film largely sacrifices the analytic intelligence governing the written text – the voice of the adult Frame pondering her earlier experience and doubting her powers of memory – which only survives vestigially in a limited number of rather neutral voiced-over passages. Such diminished mediation presumably aims to create greater intensity of affect and a more powerful sense of witnessing a ‘true story’. Paradoxically, this includes scenes drawn from Faces in the Water, so that fiction is here made to serve the purpose of representing the supposedly ‘real’ experience of the psychiatric ward. Thus the film, in spite of its superficial faithfulness to Frame’s portrait of the artist (as a young woman), somehow runs counter to the spirit of a text that undermines its own realism. The biopic may have been overassertive in other respects, too. The decision (evident from the outset) to place the protagonist at the heart of an iconic New Zealand landscape, ‘with its green hills and ubiquitous sheep’,35 buttresses the construction of Janet Frame as a representative of the national (Pākehā/European) temperament and experience. There is here an affirmation of identity and belonging that is legitimated by the more self-consolidating features in the autobiography, including those moments of imaginative bonding with the land in which the child Janet, when exploring her environment, is overcome by ‘a delicious feeling of discovery, of gratitude, of possession’.36 This strategically opposes the critical view of the work in terms of ‘perpetually intersecting discourses of marginality which include the marginality of the author herself ’.37 In other words, the myth of mental instability is potentially reinforced by an approach to nationality predicated on the fact of cultural distance  – the peripheral condition supposedly common to New Zealanders  – in

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

172

M a rc   D e l re z

view of their joint dismantling of ‘all notions of a centre to consciousness and self ’.38 An examination of the Frame legend must therefore include a consideration of the author’s relation to her own cultural identity and of her complex understanding of the workings of literary tradition, which, whether national or international, may offer contrasting suggestions as to what constitutes a legitimate dwelling place for the artist. It is relevant that the film, like the written autobiography, gives pride of place to Frame’s experience as an expatriate living and travelling in Europe between 1956 and 1963, and culminates in a momentous homecoming seen as an end of exile and a literary beginning finally affording a ‘wonderful view over all time and space’.39 At first sight Frame’s attempt at a consolidation of her personal perspective dovetails with the sort of collective voice articulated by Frank Sargeson through his early anthology of New Zealand short stories, Speaking for Ourselves. She recalls the impact of discovering this collection, alongside the early poetry of James K. Baxter40 and Allen Curnow’s A Book of New Zealand Verse, as a student in Dunedin in 1945:  ‘I could read in Allen Curnow’s poems . . . about our land having its share of time and not having to borrow from a northern Shakespearean wallet. I could read, too, about the past, and absences, and objects which only we could experience, and substances haunting in their unique influence on our lives’. She further marvelled at Denis Glover’s daring in ‘using the names of our own rivers’, and recognised that Charles Brasch’s conversations with the ocean echoed her own youthful propensity for confiding, silently, in the Clutha River. In other words, she would perceive with sudden clarity that she could affiliate herself with these worthy predecessors, who importantly signalled the necessity of ‘focusing [her] imaginative vision back onto the country, and onto the specific places in which she actually lived’.41 Michael King further remarks that, through her association with Sargeson, Frame would later make the acquaintance of all these mythic figures  – and of others such as C. K. Stead – so that she could all the more easily imagine herself as an active member of a budding national tradition. That she conceived of her identity along those lines is possibly confirmed by her decision in 1960 to change her name by deed poll to Janet Clutha, an act of identification with a part of the land that could be trusted to ‘speak for [her]’.42 It seems apt, in view of her determination to dislodge factuality through aestheticism, that she would henceforth endorse her books through her given name and live her life under a pseudonym. However, while Frame’s work has been placed in the national lineage by some New Zealand critics, this has occurred at the cost of ‘some effort’43

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Janet Frame: Myths of Authorship, 1950–1990

173

whenever it was felt that she failed to espouse the major trends of the tradition, especially the social realism favoured by Sargeson. For example, Owls Do Cry – the title of which continues to borrow from a ‘Shakespearean wallet’ of images – caused unease on account of its skewed rendition of the Depression years in the country, as the Withers hardly seemed a representative New Zealand family.44 Conversely, in spite of her social satire, and with some justification given her transformative poetics, the critics have tended to consider that she ultimately subverted the social-realist foundations of the national literature. In consequence, when her work was not found simply unassimilable, it was initially made to stand within an alternative tradition of sensitive (or impressionistic) writing by female New Zealanders, including Katherine Mansfield45 and Robin Hyde.46 Amusingly, Frame would dissociate herself from the former through her flippant representation of ‘our great writer’, in the posthumous In the Memorial Room (2013), under the features of Margaret Rose Hurndell whose ‘unnaturally pink plastic gums’, replaced in modern ‘dental prosthetics by a more natural color’,47 indicate her belonging to a bygone age and an archaic aesthetics. Simultaneously this meticulous recording of visual details confirms Mark Williams’s perception that Frame’s work, for all its ‘affectionate delinquencies’ against language and reality, continues to be governed by ‘a reverent attention to the actual’.48 It is therefore possible to consider that there is after all ‘an essential link between Sargeson and Janet Frame’, provided it is recognised that Frame’s realism, as inherited from her influential predecessor, typically mutates into ‘a richer version of its own possibilities’.49 This is possibly because, as C. K. Stead remarks, the move beyond realism sometimes aims to ‘get nearer to reality, not to dispense with it’.50 In the specific case of Frame, the ambiguous truce with realism usually takes the form of a parodic rehearsal of familiar codes, which pursues the twofold ambition of representing the local scene effectively (i.e., often, satirically) whilst concurrently gesturing towards what is left out in this imitative (mimetic) manoeuvre. It is worth pointing out that Frame’s identification of  – and with  – a New Zealand tradition of writing, albeit presented as a watershed in her autobiography, has not curbed her penchant for international, especially European, intertextual references. In Living in the Maniototo alone, explicit or hidden quotations from the work of Robert Southey, Thomas Campbell, Shelley, Hopkins, Yeats, Eliot, and Shakespeare have been spotted;51 while The Carpathians has been read as an oblique homage to the poetry of R. M. Rilke.52 This may seem to run counter to the injunctions of a literary nationalism that ‘encouraged a reaction against the

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

174

M a rc   D e l re z

stubbornly English elements in New Zealand culture’,53 so that Frame’s perceived internationalism begged the question of her adoption of a modernist aesthetics, or even of a possible doffing of the cap in the direction of American postmodern literary culture.54 In fact, a close examination of the setting of these novels reveals above all an almost prophetic apprehension of the force fields of globalisation, as New Zealand is here characterised by its relation of proximity to both Europe and the United States in cultural and socioeconomic terms. This perception, which extends the reflection on historical continuities across the hemispheres already initiated in Intensive Care (1970), amounts to a ‘strong political statement’55 to the effect that sharp lines of division and oppression are seen to run internally across each of these areas; those lines follow notably the racial boundary rather than separating north from south as the facts of geography, or an approach to New Zealand identity predicated on distance, might at first suggest. In other words, Frame can be ascribed a postcolonial sensibility that, instead of a frontal opposition to metropolitan attitudes, privileges rather an internal descent into the interstices of imperialist discourse meant to emphasise from within the epistemic limitations of the imperium. This strategy, in keeping with the pastiche of realism described in the preceding text, allows her, almost in passing, to point to Māori people as the primary victims of the colonisation of New Zealand, according to the view that a long-standing deficit in representation has allowed them to emerge as ‘heirs to a more or less undone culture’ subsumed under the ‘post-colonizing’ strains of the country’s dominant rhetoric.56 It is then by deliberate design that Frame ends up perpetuating the occultation of Māori experience in her fiction, which of course largely predates the Māori Renaissance that would, as of the 1980s, bring more equilibrium, in the country’s ‘discursive politics’, to its postcolonising and its postcolonised forces.57 At the same time she would always question the option of ‘nativization of feeling as a valid basis for White New Zealanders’ process of authentication’ in cultural terms,58 despite the occasional acknowledgement, as in A State of Siege (1967), that it would be tempting to be able to claim ‘knowledge and understanding of times . . . never experienced’.59 It is because no such shortcut to cultural identity is available for the Pākehā that Frame revels in the luxury of her European literary roots, whilst measuring the immensity of the challenge awaiting the New Zealand artist who must attend to local realities as if she were witnessing ‘the first day and night on earth’.60 In Scented Gardens for the Blind (1963) this situation is viewed in terms of an epistemological discrepancy, or a crippling mismatch between a foreign (possibly Shakespearean) code

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Janet Frame: Myths of Authorship, 1950–1990

175

and the antipodean landscape: ‘I would have made potions from dragons’ blood, glitter dust from the bodies of bats, in my ritual standing not upon heaths or moors, but upon this antipodean beach by a Pacific sea sprayed with light from the ripe, squeezed, bitter sun’.61 In this respect, the posthumously published Towards Another Summer (2007) stands apart from Frame’s other works in view of the centrality granted here to an essentially New Zealand intertext, in keeping with the novel’s exploration of the feelings of homesickness experienced by the protagonist, a New Zealander resenting the severities of the London winter in 1963. The book’s title and epigraph are derived from a poem by Charles Brasch, ‘The Islands’, which articulates a sense of restlessness characteristic of the national sensibility, suggesting that the trope of the migratory bird central to the text(s) signifies less a wish to come out of exile than the necessity of assuming ‘a nomadic existence’ in one’s search for an infinitely receding home.62 This testifies to a protean view of identity, attuned to ‘the continual processes of invention and evasion that produce a nation’.63 A  similarly dynamic approach to national history is signified by another poem that haunts the narrative, Allen Curnow’s ‘Landfall in Unknown Seas’, with its recommendation that ‘a more faithful memory’ should be aspired to so as to avoid a ‘self-important celebration’64 of the national history – something that Frame, too, dismisses as ‘a self-confident bleating of one’s identity, which, put forth at the appropriate time and place could even be disguised to resemble a fanfare of importance’.65 The revision of value urged by this novel takes two complementary forms, as it self-consciously invests in clichés of national identity identified as ‘a code which everyone understood’66 whilst mobilising poetry as a point of fugue potentially decentering such code.67 Thus a dialectical movement is instigated within the work as it establishes a correspondence between the puncturing of platitude and the invocation of a superior meaning and form encoded in poetry. In a sense, the cultural pedigree of Frame’s poetic affiliations may then matter less than her wish to define fiction in terms of the ability to dislodge ossified language and revitalise it through an injection of poetry of whatever origin. It is then no paradox that, while her comments on her own poetic efforts amount to ‘a lifetime . . . of self-deprecation’,68 Frame would repeatedly interject sections of free verse, of her own devising, among the prose chapters constituting the bulk of her novels. If, in Owls Do Cry, the more lyrical passages can be ascribed to the enlarged consciousness of a specific character (the inspired Daphne), as of The Edge of the Alphabet (1962) these poetic sections would appear rather as another version of the main story, produced by the novel

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

176

M a rc   D e l re z

as it undertakes to revise its own aesthetic and semantic premises. They may, for example, provide a perspective for a character otherwise obliterated by the text, as happens in Intensive Care; or articulate the sensibility developed by a human-cum-animal consciousness, as in Daughter Buffalo (1971); or allegorise and speak for one of the book’s governing metaphors, as in Living in the Maniototo: ‘I am Hypotenuse’.69 In every case the function of these free verse passages, which can seem extremely obscure in places, is not only to signify on the edge of meaning but also to recall and intensify the lyrical dimension already apparent in the surrounding prose. This testifies to a metamorphic view of fiction where ‘a multi-layered structure’70 allows for a dialogue between linguistic and ontological levels, as the rich spoil and riot of the words yield a paradoxical vision of intuited loss. This paradox, that an intense immersion in ‘familiar recognitions’71 may bring about uncanny conversions of knowledge,72 has been explored in the light of a variable quality seen to lie at the heart of the ‘dominant language’73 deployed by Frame’s more conventional characters; or as an effect of her predilection for strategies of literal expression since the literal, by virtue of constituting ‘the ground zero of metaphor’, points to adjacent layers of meaning ‘subliminally encoded’ in the texts.74 As Mark Williams has also recognised, this ‘politics of language’, by dint of focusing primarily upon its own aesthetic operations and remaining somewhat underdetermined (or ‘disengaged’) as to its field of concrete application, fails to resolve itself ‘into any discernible position’ or pre-existing political agenda.75 This in turn accounts for ‘the plethora of distinct interpretive approaches that have been imposed on Janet Frame’s fiction’,76 because her aesthetic speculations on the partiality of realism have been conscripted to ‘every discursive moment’ intent on cultivating an alternative narrative, ‘from the fissured author to subversive fiction, from feminism and queer theory to abjection and melancholy, from autobiography to linguistic theory’.77 It should be added that Frame’s writerly concerns also lend themselves to the most diverse philosophically informed readings, ranging from the utterly materialist to the purely idealist. She proclaimed the inescapable centrality of materialist – even utilitarian – models of explanation, in keeping with her approach to reality as a necessary starting point for her fictional transformations: ‘Men and women have always used the materials around them to supplement, enhance or replace or transform the material within themselves. My laborious journeys to and from Mirror City were another instance of the politics of use’.78 However, owing to

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Janet Frame: Myths of Authorship, 1950–1990

177

her heuristic understanding of her own prose of utility, such a profession of materialism has not prevented her work from being scanned for indications of ‘belief in the existence of an ideal of an original, a place only partially glimpsed, which makes transcendence possible’.79 Hence the frequent observation that Frame is drawn to ‘Platonic ideas, which, in spite of their unmodern bias against materialism, are directly relevant to the maker of fiction’.80 It is impossible to predict whether any of those critical trends are likely to acquire precedence over others in the future of Frame studies. While it is the case that the writer continues to be ‘placed in conversation with  . . . philosophers . . . with whom she shares sympathies’,81 the latter have included, at the materialist end of the spectrum, Bill Brown and his ‘thing theory’,82 or else, on the idealist side and in recognition of ‘Frame’s seemingly insatiable desire for a beyond’, Emmanuel Levinas and his ethical transcendence.83 In between these philosophical extremes, an exegetical rapport has been seen to exist with the work of Sigmund Freud84 and Jacques Lacan,85 of Jean-Paul Sartre and the French existentialists,86 or of Jean Baudrillard,87 by critics keen to expand on a tradition previously rather fixated on the influence of Martin Heidegger.88 The fact that an overwhelming majority of these interventions carry so much conviction can be seen as a tribute to the width and depth of the writer’s philosophical culture, whilst also suggesting that her interest in imaginative processes finds a ready reflection in the creative impulse energizing the work of the more original thinkers of her century. A  comparable claim of versatility can finally be made in respect of her religious dispositions, variously identified as Christadelphian,89 Roman Catholic,90 or even Buddhist,91 though in this connection, too, it may be less important to establish the facts of Frame’s life than to recognise her determination to probe them for echoes of something else. Notes 1 Pamela Gordon and Denis Harold, eds., Dear Charles, Dear Janet: Frame and Brasch in Correspondence (Auckland: The Holloway Press, 2010). 2 Janet Frame, Towards Another Summer (Sydney: Vintage, 2007). 3 Pamela Gordon, ‘Preface:  Frame Unframed’, in Janet Frame:  In Her Own Words, ed. Denis Harold and Pamela Gordon (Auckland:  Penguin, 2011), 5–6, see p. 5. 4 Janet Frame, Living in the Maniototo (New York: Braziller, 1979), 63. 5 Elizabeth Alley, ‘ “An Honest Record”:  An Interview with Janet Frame’, Landfall 178 (June 1991), 154–68: 155.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

178

M a rc   D e l re z

6 Janet Frame, Yellow Flowers in the Antipodean Room (New  York:  Braziller, 1969), 202. 7 Gina Mercer, Janet Frame:  Subversive Fictions (St. Lucia:  University of Queensland Press, 1994), 227. 8 Lydia Wevers, ‘A Girl Who Is Not Me’, Commonwealth Essays and Studies 33, 2 (Spring 2011), 56–65: 56. 9 Patrick Evans, An Inward Sun: The Novels of Janet Frame (Wellington:  New Zealand University Press/Price Milburn, 1971). 10 Janet Frame, personal letter to Patrick Evans, 13 November 1974; quoted in Michael King, Wrestling with the Angel: A Life of Janet Frame (Washington, DC: Counterpoint, 2000), 394. 11 See Patrick Evans, Janet Frame (Boston: Twayne, 1977). 12 Janet Frame, ‘Beginnings’, Landfall 73 (March 1965): 40–7. 13 Maria Wikse, Materialisations of a Woman Writer: Investigating Janet Frame’s Biographical Legend (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2006), 13. 14 Vanessa Finney, ‘What Does “Janet Frame” Mean?’, Journal of New Zealand Literature 11 (1993), 193–205: 194. 15 Victor Dupont, editor’s postscript, in Commonwealth: Miscellanies/Mélanges, ed. Victor Dupont (Rodez: Subervie, 1974), 175–6. 16 Alley, ‘An Honest Record’, 161. 17 Janet Frame, The Carpathians (London: Bloomsbury, 1988), 44. 18 Frame, Living in the Maniototo, 61. 19 Janet Frame, The Adaptable Man (New York: Braziller, 1965), 72. 20 Janet Frame, An Angel at My Table: Autobiography 2 (London:  The Women’s Press, 1984), 27. 21 Janet Frame, To the Is-Land:  Autobiography 1 (London:  The Women’s Press, 1982), 161. 22 Janet Frame, The Envoy from Mirror City:  Autobiography 3 (London:  The Women’s Press, 1985), 154. 23 Simone Oettli-van Delden, Surfaces of Strangeness:  Janet Frame and the Rhetoric of Madness (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2003), 25. 24 Jan Cronin, The Frame Function: An Inside-Out Guide to the Novels of Janet Frame (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2011), 14. 25 Alley, ‘An Honest Record’, 161. 26 Even the most sophisticated readers of Frame, like Lydia Wevers, grant that there is no reason why ‘autobiographical sediments should be excluded from notice’; Wevers, ‘A Girl Who Is Not Me’, 64. 27 Alley, ‘An Honest Record’, 161. 28 Finney, ‘What Does “Janet Frame” Mean?’, 201. 29 See Susan Ash’s seminal essay, ‘ “The Absolute, Distanced Image”:  Janet Frame’s Autobiography’, Journal of New Zealand Literature 11 (1993): 21–47. 30 Valérie Baisnée, ‘Through the Long Corridor of Distance’:  Space and Self in Contemporary New Zealand Women’s Autobiographies (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2014; Cross/Cultures 175), 40.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Janet Frame: Myths of Authorship, 1950–1990

179

31 Jan Cronin, ‘The Theoretical Terrain of the Text: Reading Frame through The Edge of the Alphabet’, Journal of New Zealand Literature 2–3 (2003–4), 45–63: 45. 32 Jan Cronin, ‘Contexts of Exploration: Janet Frame’s The Rainbirds’, Journal of Commonwealth Literature 40, 1 (2005), 5–19: 6. 33 An Angel at My Table, directed by Jane Campion, 1990 (Hibiscus Films in association with NZ Film Commission and Channel 4). 34 Wikse, Materialisations, 169. 35 Ibid., 170. 36 Frame, To the Is-Land, 18. 37 Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures (London and New  York: Routledge, 1989), 109. 38 Ibid., 104. 39 Frame, The Envoy from Mirror City, 190. 40 James K. Baxter, Beyond the Palisade:  Poems (Christchurch:  The Caxton Press, 1944). 41 King, Wrestling with the Angel, 79. 42 Frame, An Angel at My Table, 34. 43 Lorna M. Irvine, Critical Spaces:  Margaret Laurence and Janet Frame (Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1995), 41. 44 H. Winston Rhodes, review of ‘Owls Do Cry’, Landfall 44 (December 1957): 327–31; see also Ruth Brown, ‘Owls Do Cry: Portrait of New Zealand?’, Landfall 175 (September 1990): 350–8. 45 See Linda Hardy, ‘The Ghost of Katherine Mansfield’, Landfall 172 (December 1989): 416–32. 46 See Dorothy Jones, ‘Flying Godwits and Migrating Kiwis:  Towards Another Summer’, Kunapipi 29, 2 (2007): 11–17. 47 Janet Frame, In the Memorial Room (Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2013), 12. 48 Mark Williams, Leaving the Highway: Six Contemporary New Zealand Novelists (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1990), 25. 49 Ibid., 20. 50 C. K. Stead, Answering to the Language: Essays on Modern Writers (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1989), 238. 51 C. K. Stead, ‘Of Angels and Oystercatchers: A Diary in the Third Person for Janet Frame’, in The Inward Sun: Celebrating the Life and Work of Janet Frame, ed. Elizabeth Alley (St Leonards, NSW: Allen and Unwin, 1994), 43–59, see p. 50. 52 Jeanne Delbaere, ‘The Carpathians:  Memory and Survival in the Global Village’, in The Ring of Fire:  Essays on Janet Frame, ed. Jeanne Delbaere (Sydney: Dangaroo Press, 1992), 202–8. See also her ‘Daphne’s Metamorphosis in Janet Frame’s Early Novels’, ARIEL 6, 1 (April 1975): 23–37. 53 Williams, Leaving the Highway, 13. 54 See, e.g., Nick Perry, ‘Flying by Nets:  The Social Pattern of New Zealand Fiction’, Islands 3, 2 (1987): 161–77. 55 Mercer, Subversive Fictions, 220.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

180

M a rc   D e l re z

56 Simon During, ‘Postmodernism or Postcolonialism?’, Landfall 155 (September 1985), 366–80: 370. 57 Ibid. 58 Carmen Luz Fuentes-Vásquez, Dangerous Writing:  The Autobiographies of Willa Muir, Margaret Lawrence and Janet Frame (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2013; Costerus New Series 199), 175. 59 Janet Frame, A State of Siege (Christchurch: Pegasus, 1967), 118. 60 Frame, The Envoy from Mirror City, 28. 61 Janet Frame, Scented Gardens for the Blind (1963) (New York: Braziller, 1964), 11. 62 Leila Golafshani, ‘Self as a “Migratory Bird”: Janet Frame’s Towards Another Summer’, Hecate 34, 1 (2008), 104–19: 112. 63 Mark Williams, ‘ “Tending the Ovens”: Janet Frame’s Politics of Language’, Commonwealth Essays and Studies 33, 2 (Spring 2011), 66–77: 76. 64 Allen Curnow, Collected Poems 1933–1973 (Wellington: Reed, 1974), 132. 65 Frame, Towards Another Summer, 234; emphasis in original. 66 Ibid., 227. 67 Marc Delrez, ‘Fossil Capacities in the Work of Janet Frame’, Journal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies 2, 1 (2014): 69–81. 68 Bill Manhire, introduction to Janet Frame, The Goose Bath: Poems, ed. Pamela Gordon, Denis Harold, and Bill Manhire (Auckland:  Vintage, 2006), 16–23, see p. 17. 69 Frame, Living in the Maniototo, 70. 70 Daria Tunca, ‘Paying Attention to Language, Replicas and the Role of the Artist in Janet Frame’s Living in the Maniototo’, Journal of Postcolonial Writing 42, 1 (May 2006), 32–43: 32. 71 Janet Frame, ‘Departures and Returns’, in Writers in East–West Encounter, ed. Guy Amirthanayagam (London: Macmillan, 1982), 85–94, see p. 87. 72 Chris Prentice, ‘Janet Frame’s Radical Thought:  Symbolic Exchange and Seduction in Living in the Maniototo and The Carpathians’, in Frameworks: Contemporary Criticism of Janet Frame, ed. Jan Cronin and Simone Drichel (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2009; Cross/Cultures 110), 155–80. 73 Alice Braun, ‘ “Wear Wise Saws and Modern Instances like a False Skin”: Dominant Language at Play in Janet Frame’s The Lagoon and Other Stories’, in Chasing Butterflies: Janet Frame’s The Lagoon and Other Stories, ed. Vanessa Guignery (Paris: Publibook, 2011), 97–107, see p. 97. 74 Marc Delrez, ‘The Literal and the Metaphoric: Paradoxes of Figuration in the Work of Janet Frame’, Commonwealth Essays and Studies 33, 2 (Spring 2011), 10–20: 10. 75 Williams, ‘Tending the Ovens’, 76. 76 Ibid., 75. 77 Wevers, ‘A Girl Who Is Not Me’, 57. 78 Frame, The Envoy from Mirror City, 146. 79 Janet Wilson, ‘The Inner World: Living in Janet Frame’s Maniototo’, in Routes of the Roots:  Geography and Literature in the English-Speaking Countries, ed. Isabella Maria Zoppi (Rome: Bulzoni, 1999), 631–49, see p. 635.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Janet Frame: Myths of Authorship, 1950–1990

181

80 Williams, Leaving the Highway, 47. 81 Jan Cronin and Simone Drichel, introduction, in Frameworks, ed. Cronin and Drichel, ix–xxvii: xviii. 82 See Lydia Wevers, ‘Self Possession: “Things” and Janet Frame’s Autobiography’, in Frameworks, ed. Cronin and Drichel, 51–65; and Andreia Sarabando, ‘ “The Dreadful Mass Neighborhood of Objects” in the Work of Janet Frame’, forthcoming in Journal of Postcolonial Writing (2015). 83 Simone Drichel, ‘ “Signposts to a World That Is Not Even Mentioned”: Janet Frame’s Ethical Transcendence’, in Frameworks, ed. Cronin and Drichel, 181–212: 183. 84 See Jennifer Lawn, ‘Playing with Freud: Radical Narcissism and Intertextuality in Frame’s Intensive Care and Daughter Buffalo’, in Frameworks, ed. Cronin and Drichel, 25–47. 85 See Patrick L. West, ‘The Lacanian Real and Janet Frame’s Living in the Maniototo’, in New Zealand Literature Today, ed. R.  K. Dhawan and Walter Tonetto (New Delhi: Indian Society for Commonwealth Studies, 1993), 86–101. 86 See Anna Smaill, ‘Beyond Analogy: Janet Frame and Existential Thought’, in Frameworks, ed. Cronin and Drichel, 67–88. 87 See Prentice, ‘Janet Frame’s Radical Thought’, in Frameworks, ed. Cronin and Drichel, 155–80. 88 This critical strain goes back to an early article by Jeanne Delbaere-Garant, ‘Death as the Gateway to Being in Janet Frame’s Novels’, in Commonwealth Literature and the Modern World, ed. Hena Maes-Jelinek (Brussels:  Didier, 1975), 147–55. 89 See Williams, Leaving the Highway, 32–5. 90 An ‘idea’ she experimented with for a brief spell in 1977. See King, Wrestling with the Angel, 411–12. 91 See Cindy Gabrielle, ‘Janet Frame in East-West Encounters’, Journal of Postcolonial Writing 49, 3 (2013): 328–39.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.013 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter 13

Te Ao Hou Te Pataka Alice Te Punga Somerville

Before Ihimaera published his first novel in 1973, there was no Maori literary tradition. Mana Magazine (November/December 2014)

Members of the New Zealand Women Writers’ Federation meeting on two successive nights at Wakefield House in Wellington seemed at first interested, then surprised, astonished and delighted at the revelation of the quality of Maori literature, both in its ancient and traditional oral forms, and in the more modern work of today’s poets and story-tellers. Te Ao Hou 71 (1973)

A recent profile of iconic Māori writer Witi Ihimaera, a national Māori magazine with an estimated readership of one hundred thousand, enthused that prior to Ihimaera’s first novel ‘there was no Māori literary tradition’.1 Certainly, Tangi was the first novel in English published by a Māori writer, but in 1972 Ihimaera had published his now classic collection of short fiction, Pounamu Pounamu, and Hone Tuwhare his third collection of poetry. Indeed, Māori people had been writing and publishing since the early nineteenth century and the Māori literary tradition, when not limited to written literature, is centuries old; when not limited to Aotearoa, it stretches back across the Pacific for millennia. Te Ao Hou, a magazine published by the Maori Purposes Fund Board of the Department of Maori Affairs between 1952 and 1975, is full of Māori writing. This chapter traces key aspects of Te Ao Hou by exploring four metaphors by which it has been – or might be – understood. Firstly, the magazine proclaims its own historical and cultural context through its name Te Ao Hou, usually translated as ‘The New World’; this metaphor heralded the entry of Māori people into a particular kind of modernity. Secondly, Te Ao Hou was introduced by its first editor as a ‘marae on paper’, a cultural and social space for diverse Māori discussion, self-expression, and participation. Another metaphor draws on the proverb ‘ka pū te ruha, ka hao te 182

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.014 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Te Ao Hou: Te Pataka

183

rangatahi’ (when the old net is worn out, the new net goes fishing); this emphasises that while things are necessarily remade, a new product need not signal departure from an established practice. Finally, I will propose the metaphor of the pataka (storehouse) as a way to think about reading Te Ao Hou’s mid-twentieth-century Māori writing in the first decades of the twenty-first century.

The New World The title, Te Ao Hou  – and its subtitle until 1962  ‘The New World’  – signals, naturalises, and promotes Indigenous cultural change. The notion of a new world was not new; according to Te Rangihiroa’s (Sir Peter Buck’s) recollection of the formation of the Young Maori Party reprinted in issue 7, the turn of the nineteenth century had also been described as ‘te ao hou’. Over 50 years ago, an old man said, ‘We old people are not clear of the age of stone, te ao hou is for you young people’.2

In the Māori version published alongside Te Rangihiroa’s article, the phrase provided in English as ‘the age of stone’ appears as ‘te Ao Maori’, a difference that rather strikingly and clearly distinguishes between a ‘Maori’ world and this ‘new’ world. By the middle of the twentieth century, those who had been identified as the ‘young people’ of ‘te ao hou’ – Te Rangihiroa, Apirana Ngata, and Te Puea  – had become the elders whose passing marked the end of another ‘Ao Maori’ and, accordingly, another ‘ao hou’. The period from 1952 to 1975 is not a single entity:  changes in government policy, national focus, and Māori experiences are reflected across the seventy-six issues. Rather than being a snapshot freezing a specific Māori moment, the magazine is more like a film in which interwoven narratives unfold over time. Although the Māori community experienced rapid and tumultuous upheavals over the nineteenth century, the highest rate of land alienation and the largest movement of people took place in the twentieth. These were the heady days of assimilation, in which the Maori Affairs Department was engaged in bringing Māori people into the kinds of urban, educational, and leisure spaces that are associated with modernity in a settler state. Maori Affairs housing and hostels were set up, training and education was arranged, and Māori – alongside migrants from the Pacific islands – found employment in the developing industrial economy of New Zealand’s provincial and major cities. There were new

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.014 Published online by Cambridge University Press

184

Ali ce Te Pung a Somervil l e

foods, architectural styles, child-rearing techniques, organisations, and global links. This was the new world! By 1975 the Māori population had changed a great deal; a majority now lived in urban areas, and Māori had an unprecedented place alongside non-Māori in a full range of vocational and social spheres. But at what cost? In the final issue, Henare Dewes published a haunting and passionate poem titled ‘Te Ao Hou’, which decries the loss of traditional knowledge (‘we know not where to find  / Te Whare a Tane’) and the commercialisation of Māori cultural forms (‘that which you hold sacred / gesticulates from behind the windows / of a Pakeha shop’).3 The poem specifically identifies modernity as a threat to ‘Maoritanga’ (Māori culture):  ‘Let not the ‘garment of Tu’ / become a moth-ball of modern neglect’, ‘hold tight your Maoritanga / lest your calabash overflow / with the fat of modern living’. Of course, another place is known as the ‘New World’ – the Americas – and in this way ‘Te Ao Hou’ gestures to the connection between Māori and other Indigenous experiences. Several articles explore Māori travel beyond New Zealand to connect with other Indigenous people and vice versa; in 1960 Evelyn Patuaua, a teacher and writer based in Sydney, published an article about the acclaimed Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira, describing the tragic circumstances of his passing in distinctly Māori terms: ‘Albert was brokenhearted, his mana was desecrated’.4 Another kind of Indigenous connection is found in the existence of the magazine; Te Ao Hou was one of several produced by settler governments as midcentury tools of assimilation. These various publications can be read profitably despite and beyond the conditions of their first production. Writing about the 1965 special issue of ‘The Indian Today’, Chadwick Allen argues for reading these publications comparatively and globally ‘rather than within the more typical context of isolated and isolationist American [or, we might consider, New Zealand] discourses’.5

A Marae on Paper In the first editorial, Schwimmer suggested that ‘Te Ao Hou should become like a “marae” [gathering place] on paper, where all questions of interest to the Maori can be discussed’.6 Why describe a printed periodical publication as a marae? Because Māori writers – and Māori readers – actively participated in the production and consumption of Te Ao Hou. While it is possible to be distracted by the four non-Māori editors – Eric Schwimmer (1–30, 36–7), B.  E.  G. Mason (31–5), Margaret Orbell (38–54), and Joy Stevenson (55–76)  – who shaped the magazine and, by extension, the

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.014 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Te Ao Hou: Te Pataka

185

range of its published Māori voices, the critical conversation about the publication should not be reduced to an account of its editors. Indeed, Schwimmer’s final editorial reflects on Te Ao Hou’s first decade by offering a parable of two travellers: Now the editor of Te Ao Hou resembles this second traveller: he does not go around selling favourite stories and ideas, but rather he gets the people to give him their own songs, their own stories and ideas, and he then makes a permanent record of them all. He gives the Maori people the opportunity to hear their own voice.7

Of course, there were already active Māori writers, as signalled by a notice in the first issue: Two more books by Reweti T. Kohere were published last year. . . . One is a small collection of proverbs entitled  He Konae Aronui. . . . . Also published last year was The Autobiography of a Maori.8

These writers quickly formed the backbone of its early Māori publications. A call for ‘contributions, especially from Maoris’ appeared in every issue, and the invitation was consistently issued in te reo Māori for contributions in the Māori language. By 1958 a note on the contents page announced the publication of twenty-two ‘authors of full or part Maori descent’ in issues 21–4.9 In his 2002 monograph Blood Narrative, which includes the most in-depth analysis of Te Ao Hou to date, Allen draws attention to the difference between the English language version of Schwimmer’s first editorial, which suggests the magazine is like a marae, and the Māori language version – ‘Ano te ahua o tenei pukapuka he Marae’– in which the ahua (shape, appearance, structure) is a marae.10 Allen highlights aspects of the magazine’s structure that echo marae or marae ceremony, including the development of a section – ‘Haere ki o koutou tipuna’ – that greets and farewells the dead. Māori structural (and aesthetic) forms might also account for the genealogical element of biographical pieces, including an article about Queen Elizabeth’s coronation accompanied by an extensive whakapapa (genealogy).11 Similarly, the editorials are like whaikōrero (formal speeches) that state the business of the day and acknowledge links between listeners/readers. Like most marae, Te Ao Hou was functionally bilingual:  sometimes pieces were in English, sometimes in Māori, and sometimes both languages appear side by side. As at any marae, the range of Māori voices was diverse in origin, form, and focus, and the contemporary was mixed with the historical and ancestral. Nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century written texts were

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.014 Published online by Cambridge University Press

186

Ali ce Te Pung a Somervil l e

republished:  nineteenth-century texts including the diaries of Wiremu Toetoe Tumohi and Te Hemara Rerehau Paraone who travelled to Hamburg in 1858–9; excerpts of earlier publications by prominent Māori scholars such as Te Rangihiroa and Pei Te Hurinui Jones; and key speeches, biographies, and articles by and about twentieth-century politicians and leaders. Contemporary writers published journalism, creative work, cultural information, and instructional pieces. Echoing the marae practice of allowing all people to speak at a hui (gathering), writing by children appeared alongside the writing by adults. Readers became writers by way of the publication of letters to the editor, a venue that was actively used to correct or expand on specific details in earlier issues. Regular advertisements for Croxley writing paper and pen pal notices provide evidence of Māori engagement in domestic (rather than public) writing. People participate in marae proceedings by listening and doing as well as speaking; Te Ao Hou acknowledged, nurtured, and maybe even produced a Māori readership. The first editorial states:  ‘this publication is planned mainly to provide interesting and informative reading for Maori homes’.12 The diverse interests of a Māori readership were catered for by regular sections for women and children, and with sections on farming, gardening, and sports. Although the magazine ran many instructional pieces (handcrafts, cooking, performing arts), in issue 36 Schwimmer expressed frustration that people were not heeding the advice provided. Contrastingly, a letter to the editor from Olive Ormsby in issue 37 opens, ‘I had to tell you how I  love Te Ao Hou with all my heart’, and claims that because of the magazine she is now ‘proud of being a Maori’ and ‘so interested in the whakapapa of my people’.13 A regular book review section and advertisements from publishers, bookshops, and iconic New Zealand literary magazines such as Mate and Landfall demonstrate that Māori people were understood to be readers beyond Te Ao Hou. International as well as domestic subscriptions to Te Ao Hou were available, echoing the profiles in the magazine of many Māori individuals and groups who travelled and lived outside New Zealand. Māori were not just readers and subscribers but collectors of the magazine. After the first few issues, readers were advised that the price for past issues had increased because of demand. In issue 35 Pei Te Hurinui Jones expresses his desire for specific issues so he could complete his collection of ‘the set’. Just as the conversation at one marae may be referred to in other gatherings, some of the pieces published first in Te Ao Hou enjoyed publication and circulation beyond the magazine. Schwimmer’s editorial in issue 29 highlights the success of Arapera Blank whose short

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.014 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Te Ao Hou: Te Pataka

187

story ‘Ko Taku Kumara Hei Wai-U Mo Tama’, published in Te Ao Hou in October 1958, won the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Award. Pei Te Hurinui Jones’s six-part profile of the poet Puhiwahine was published throughout issues 28–33, followed by an engagingly creative ‘Epilogue’ in issue 34; these were later compiled as a stand-alone publication.14 Hirini Moko Mead’s series of stories about Tawhaki was later published as a volume by the Department of Education as the first of their Te Whare Kura series of Māori language school publications. In a 1973 article, Rowley Habib writes about accepting a literary prize for Contemporary Maori Writing (1970) on behalf of its editor Margaret Orbell; many texts and writers in the book had first appeared on Te Ao Hou’s pages.15 That Te Ao Hou functioned as a marae was not necessarily welcomed by those who initiated the magazine. Allen notes a 1954 memo from then-Minister of Maori Affairs, E. B. Corbett: At outset the magazine was intended to assist the promotion of the objectives of the Government. . . . I am given to understand that the magazine is now being regarded as the ‘marae of the Maori people’ where diverse subjects and thought are brought for discussion. This was never intended.16

Perhaps inadvertently, Corbett’s comments tell us as much about the magazine as a marae (where ‘diverse subjects and thought are brought for discussion’) as they do about ‘the Government’ and its ‘objectives’. In his 2004 response to Allen’s research, Schwimmer suggests that some of the negative feedback Allen uncovered may have been withheld from him because ‘T. T. Ropiha, head of the Department of Maori Affairs, and other prominent Maori in senior departmental positions were aware of the journal’s popularity among Maori’.17 Specifically, he recalls that overtly political pieces were not submitted during the period of his editorship and frames this strategic Māori engagement with the magazine in the terms of the marae metaphor he had introduced almost five decades earlier: This discretion of Maori authors during my editorship illustrates an aspect of marae etiquette. Although that etiquette does not rule out challenges, Maori recognized that this ‘marae on paper’ was precarious and did not wish it to fall apart. Their attitude was protective.18

Ka pū te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi Despite being named to emphasise the new, Te Ao Hou focuses a great deal on the old. A  pertinent whakataukī, or proverb, referenced throughout

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.014 Published online by Cambridge University Press

188

Ali ce Te Pung a Somervil l e

the magazine provides the title of a 1956 short story (in English) by Rora Paki: ‘Ka Pu Te Ruha Ka Hao Te Rangatahi’: A new era has dawned for us! It has crept up on us unsuspectingly, we either didn’t see it coming or perhaps wouldn’t admit to ourselves that it was coming  – and lo  – it is here! . . . to-day our defences are burst wide open and our foundations shake beneath us and we can repeat the old proverb in fact and in truth – ‘Ka pu te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi’.19

The whakataukī had appeared in the very first issue, in a biographical piece about Te Rangihiroa in which G. S. Roydhouse wrote: ‘ “The old net is laid aside, and the new net goes afishing”, was a proverb Peter [Buck; Te Rangihiroa] quoted frequently when he was last in his homeland. He used it, too, for the finish of his memorial ‘Vikings of the Sunrise’.20 In the 1964 reprint of the story of Ponga and Pihihuia, a character cites the whakataukī, ‘Kua pu te ruha i a koutou, a, ko tenei, waiho kia hao te rangatahi’; in the parallel English version this reads: ‘You old people have seen and felt the joys of life and its power: allow us young people to enjoy them also’.21 The translation emphasises that the whakataukī is not about obsolescence or inadequacy but inheritance. Although literary, visual, musical, material, theatrical, and many other art forms were highlighted in Te Ao Hou, this section focuses on the ‘ruha’ and the ‘rangatahi’ of the Māori literary tradition. From its inception, Te Ao Hou took for granted that the traditional oral forms and texts in the Māori world comprise its literature, many of which had already been written during the nineteenth century, as Arini Loader shows in this volume. Referring to the publication Nga Mahi a nga Tupuna, which had appeared ‘under the name of Sir George Grey’ but ‘closely followed manuscripts written [by] Maori chiefs’, Schwimmer noted: When the history of Maori literature comes to be written, the early years of European contact will be shown to have been very rich in fine and powerful songs. Since then Maori literature has not died. Around 1900 especially, much excellent work was published, some in Maori and some in excellent English.22

Some of these texts, such as whakataukī, waiata (song), and poetry, appear in Te Ao Hou in stable forms whereas others, such as histories and stories, are retold by individual authors, as in Mead’s highly popular series of Tawhaki stories and Pine Taiapa’s ‘How the kumara came to New Zealand’.23 A  subgenre of nonfiction writing involved the transcription and elucidation of traditional poetry and proverbs. Māori enthusiasm for writing had remained strong throughout the twentieth century and

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.014 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Te Ao Hou: Te Pataka

189

ethnography, literary explication, and other nonfiction forms from that period are reprinted in the magazine alongside contemporary nonfiction and journalism, such as travel and sports writing, biography, and journalistic reports on conferences, meetings, and relevant legislation. Alongside this traditional and nonfiction writing, we find the earliest publications of some of our best-known creative writers: Hone Tuwhare, Rowley Habib, J. C. Sturm, Witi Ihimaera, Arapera Blank, Patricia Grace, and Harry Dansey. We also find other writers whose published work highlights the diversity and number of Māori voices on and off the page. The presence of Māori creative work increased over time, perhaps a result of editorial policy, writerly output, and demographic changes. A series of literary competitions designed to prompt the production of Māori writing in both languages was launched in the fifth issue. Although few submissions were received and none was deemed to merit a prize or publication, the results of a second competition were announced in issue 18: Mead won first prize for his English-language story ‘Constable McFarland’. In 1960, Pita Sharples, still a school pupil at Te Aute College, won the English category of the sixth and final literary competition because of what the judges described as his ‘mastery over form’.24 Most of the English-language ‘short stories’ might today be described as creative nonfiction and have a contemporary focus; the entry for ‘Short Stories’ in the index published in issue 48 is annotated: ‘some could be more strictly described as reminiscences’.25 Alongside the literary competitions, the publication of J. C. Sturm’s ‘For All the Saints’26 in issue 13 launched ‘A Series of Short Stories by Maori Authors’; Sturm was followed Rora Paki, Rowley Habib, and Kate Shaw. Despite issue 28 (1959), a themed ‘Maori Writers’ Issue’, being the first anthology of modern Māori creative writing, the editorial describes it as an extension rather than a departure:  ‘In addition to these older forms we notice, as a quite recent development, the emergence of Maori writers attempting the novel, the short story and modern verse forms’.27 The issue profiled Māori people writing fiction in English (Dansey, Blank, Durie), poetry in English (Tuwhare and Habib), and nonfiction in English (Jones, about Puhiwahine). The only story in te reo Māori, ‘Ke haere a Tawhaki ki te tangi’, is by ‘Moko’ (the pen name of Hirini Moko Mead who published his English writing under ‘S. M. Mead’), described as the only known contemporary writer of Māori language short stories. Despite Māori-language entries being invited for all of the literary competitions, the judges often declared that few or none were suitable to publish; in issue 14 when results of the first competition were announced, the editor

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.014 Published online by Cambridge University Press

190

Ali ce Te Pung a Somervil l e

claimed that ‘much of the best writing by Maori today is in English’.28 In issue 24 Schwimmer pleaded: ‘Teachers of Maori are badly in need of good modern Maori texts for their children to read’.29 One of the early examples of poetry in Māori, and the first contemporary composition, is Pei Te Hurinui Jones’s translations of the poetry of Omar Khayyam into Māori.30 Following Schwimmer, Mason increased the number of creative pieces in each issue although his publishing of several Pākehā (European) writers meant the proportion of Māori writers was relatively low. Orbell restructured the table of contents upon becoming editor; her first issue, number 38, listed pieces under ‘Stories’, ‘Articles’, and ‘Features’ rather than order of appearance. This method of signalling – and thus welcoming – creative work was maintained by Stevenson until the journal closed. Many Māori tried their hand at making these new literary nets: several published more than once and some developed their creative form over successive publications or took the opportunity to move across genres. Many who published modern creative writing went on to work in nonliterary (or not exclusively literary) fields, including Pita Sharples, Mason Durie, Hirini Moko Mead, and Pei Te Hurinui Jones; conversely, Evelyn Patuaua published nonfiction in Te Ao Hou but later published poetry. J.  C. Sturm appeared mainly in Te Ao Hou as a book reviewer but also published reportage and, less frequently, short fiction. Between 1959 and 1975 Harry Dansey published reflections, a short story, articles, biographies, retellings of traditional stories, and modern poetry. Rowley Habib was an early and prolific contributor of creative and journalistic work; a profile of Habib in issue 47 is subtitled ‘A New Voice in New Zealand Writing’.31 Habib also presented his work in 1973 at the presentation of traditional and modern Māori literature described in the epigraph of this chapter, alongside Tuwhare, Mead, Dansey, Arapera Blank, Ihimaera, and Colleen Sheffield. In the final issue Ihimaera, who by then had a reputation both in and beyond Te Ao Hou (described as ‘one of the high priests of the reflective movement in contemporary Maori creative writing’ in Paul Katene’s review of Pounamu Pounamu) published an article about the Second Maori Writers and Artists hui.32

Te pataka Most of the material discussed here – the historical and literary contexts, the range of genres and voices contained within the Te Ao Hou’s ‘walls’ – could have been written forty years ago. When we read the magazine in the first decades of the twenty-first century, we might turn to a further

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.014 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Te Ao Hou: Te Pataka

191

metaphor for the magazine: a pataka, or storehouse, in which things have been carefully placed for future retrieval. No longer a marae in which we might actively participate or gather, as a storehouse, Te Ao Hou enables the safekeeping of diverse Māori voices from a key period of recent Māori history, which each day is remembered by fewer of those who actually experienced it. Pacific, postcolonial, and Indigenous literary studies provide contexts and comparisons that were not available to Te Ao Hou’s first readers. Certainly Te Ao Hou provides something of a prequel to the blossoming of Māori published writing that followed, but in a wider sense it nudges us to move beyond a literary history that focuses only on certain genres, publication forms, and people. Two kinds of treasures are seen here: the pataka, a structure with inherent value regardless of content; and the things it has preserved inside because of its distance from the ground. A time capsule, Te Ao Hou holds contents that prompt and enable further consideration today. Some of its assertions and assumptions  – that Māori engage in reading and writing, for example – are often now (mis) remembered as new or untrue. Issues that feel central to contemporary Māori conversations, such as the Treaty of Waitangi and tribal specificities, barely ruffle its pages; conversely, features of Māori public life such as the church and the Māori Women’s Welfare League have a more subtle profile now. The Pacific is present: Pacific people (especially students at Māori boarding schools) contribute creative work, and links between Māori and the rest of the region are a recurring theme. In numerous ways Te Ao Hou is a pataka of te reo whose Māori-language materials have been read by native speakers, learners, and infrequent users of te reo: reprints and first-time publications of many texts written in the Māori language; stories written for children; and the regular bilingual crosswords in which Māori words in the puzzle corresponded with English-language clues. The magazine provides insight into changing attitudes towards the language, its users, and its future. Learning and development of the language and literacy in te reo, and orthographic conventions for the language, were overtly debated and encouraged in editorials and comments from judges of the Māori language categories of the literary competitions; these parallel similar discussions today. Reading Te Ao Hou in the twenty-first century, one has a sense of excitement but also of loss and missed opportunities. We have never seen Arapera Blank’s novel, nor Rowley Habib’s. The names of writers who contributed one or two pieces, or who appear in lists of active writers, have become unfamiliar. Although J. C. Sturm wrote with striking insight and vision about Māori engagements with science fiction in issue 14, few

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.014 Published online by Cambridge University Press

192

Ali ce Te Pung a Somervil l e

Māori have written the genre apart from Kāterina Mataira whose impressive series of novels in te reo began with Te Ātea in 1975.33 Māori and New Zealand scholarship makes insufficient use of the critical, creative, and cultural work published in Te Ao Hou. From today’s perspective we might notice the ‘marae on paper’ played a part in the broader government strategy of Māori urban migration that adversely affected actual marae. While many of the instructional pieces sound quaint today, the changes in lifestyle they promoted contributed to undermining Māori social, cultural, and familial structures, the end result of which produced, or at least enabled, forms of dysfunction in the present. Te Ao Hou is not, of course, a transparent window into the Māori world as much as a public conversation in a state-supported publication. As in any pataka, certain items have been selected, prepared, and stored. And what of the Māori literary tradition? What makes possible – and what is the harm of – a claim in 2014 that before 1973 there was nothing? It seems uncharitable to start this chapter by picking on editorial comment from a glossy magazine in order to emphasise the richness of the repository we find in Te Ao Hou. However, the appearance of Tangi is not less impressive because Māori people had been writing in two languages for so many decades and had been speaking, singing, and chanting poetry in the Māori language for centuries. In his 1976 radio interview with Stevenson, Whai Ngata explicitly traces a genealogy from earlier ‘stirring Māori newspapers’ of the nineteenth century to Te Ao Hou.34 Today, we might situate the magazine in the same whakapapa but trace it forward to include Māori radio and television, Māori online venues, and printed magazines such as Tū Mai, Te Karaka and, yes, Mana. A focus on literary whakapapa rather than literary singularity turns our attention to networks, links, and possibilities – to the recognition that there is always more. In 1954, a review by J. F. Cody, ‘The Life Story of Maggie Papakura’, cautioned against a restricted view of the Māori literary world, even when that view is fixed on eminently worthy people: There is a tendency, when surveying Maori writers, not to look beyond the two recently fallen giant totaras, Ngata and Hiroa; but there are many smaller trees that grew beneath their spreading branches.35

Te Ao Hou is a new world, a marae, a net, a pataka. It both promoted ‘giant totaras’ and provided soft and nourishing earth for the ‘smaller trees’ that would go on to flourish in their own time. And, in this ao hou of the twenty-first century, there are still giant tōtara, smaller trees, and spreading branches.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.014 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Te Ao Hou: Te Pataka

193

Notes 1 Leonie Hayden, ‘Māori without Pākehā’ (editorial), Mana 120 (December/ January 2014/2015): 6. 2 Sir Peter Buck, ‘Ko Te Ao Hou / Te Ao Hou – The New World’, Te Ao Hou 7 (1954): 14. 3 Henare Dewes, ‘Te Ao Hou’, Te Ao Hou 76 (1975): 40. 4 Evelyn Patuaua, ‘Albert Namatjira: Australian Aboriginal Painter’, Te Ao Hou 31 (1960): 29. 5 Chadwick Allen, ‘Unspeaking the Settler: “The Indian Today” in International Perspective’, American Studies 46, 3/4 (Fall/Winter 2005)/Indigenous Studies Today 1 (Fall 2005/Spring 2006), 39–57: 41. 6 E. G. Schwimmer, ‘No. 1’ (editorial), Te Ao Hou 1 (1952): 1. 7 E. G. Schwimmer, ‘The Two Travellers’ (editorial), Te Ao Hou 37 (1961): 1. 8 ‘Books That Will Interest You’, Te Ao Hou 1 (1952): 54. 9 ‘Maori Authors’, Te Ao Hou 24 (1958): 5. 10 Chadwick Allen, Blood Narrative:  Indigenous Identity in American Indian and Maori Literary and Activist Texts (Durham, NC:  Duke University Press, 2002), 46. 11 W. N. Panapa, ‘Te Kuini Raua ko te Iwi Maori/The Queen and the Maori People’, Te Ao Hou 4 (1953): 6–7. 12 Schwimmer, ‘No. 1’: 1. 13 ‘Letters to the Editor’, Te Ao Hou 37 (1961), 54. 14 Pei Te Hurinui Jones, Puhiwahine: The Maori Poetess (Christchurch:  Pegasus Press, 1961), 22–44. 15 Rowley Habib, ‘Contemporary Maori Writing Takes Major Placing in “Book of the Year” Award’, Te Ao Hou 71 (1973): 20. 16 Allen, Blood Narrative, 46. 17 E.  G. Schwimmer, ‘The Local and the Universal:  Reflections on Contemporary Maori Literature in Response to Blood Narrative by Chadwick Allen’, The Journal of Polynesian Society 113 (March 2004), 7–36: 12. 18 Ibid., 14. 19 Rora Paki, ‘Ka pu te ruha Ka hao te rangatahi’, Te Ao Hou 15 (1956), 6–9: 9. 20 G. S. Roydhouse, ‘Te Rangihiroa’s Rich Life, Rich Distinctions, Rich Legacy’, Te Ao Hou 1 (1952), 3–8: 8. 21 ‘Ponga raua ko Puhihuia/The story of Ponga and Puhihuia’, Te Ao Hou 46 (1964): 13–23, 43–5. 22 E. G. Schwimmer, ‘Maori Writers of Today’, Te Ao Hou 28 (1959): 1. 23 Pine Taiapa, ‘How the Kumara Came to New Zealand/Te takenga mai o te tipu kumara ki Aotearoa’, Te Ao Hou 23 (1958): 13–14. 24 E. G. Schwimmer, ‘Judge’s Reports’, Te Ao Hou 34 (1961): 26. 25 Index to back issues, Te Ao Hou 48 (1964): 63. 26 J. C. Sturm, ‘For All the Saints’, Te Ao Hou 13 (1955): 22–4, 43. 27 Schwimmer, ‘Maori Writers of Today’, 1. 28 E. G. Schwimmer, ‘No. 14’ (editorial), Te Ao Hou 14 (1956): 1.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.014 Published online by Cambridge University Press

194

Ali ce Te Pung a Somervil l e

29 E. G. Schwimmer, ‘Teaching the Maori Language’ (editorial), Te Ao Hou 24 (1958): 1. 30 Pei Te Hurinui Jones, ‘Omar Khayyam Translated’, Te Ao Hou 8 (1955): 22–44. 31 Anon., ‘Rowley Habib: A New Voice in New Zealand Writing’, Te Ao Hou 47 (1964): 14–15. 32 Paul Katene, ‘Pounamu Pounamu’, Te Ao Hou 74 (1973): 60. 33 Katarina Mataira, Te Ātea (Wellington:  School Publications Branch/ Department of Education, 1975). 34 Whai Ngata, interview with Joy Stevenson, 20 October 1976, ID47237, Māori Programmes, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision – Radio Collection. 35 J. F. Cody, ‘The Life Story of Maggie Papakura’, Te Ao Hou 9 (1959): 19.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.014 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter 14

Out of the Drawing Room and onto the Beach Drama, 1950–1970 Mark Houlahan

‘Consider, if you will, Te Parenga’.1 With this invitation the unnamed narrator of Bruce Mason’s The End of the Golden Weather summons audiences on to the beach ‘three-quarters of a mile long, a hundred yards wide at low water’, a lushly romanticised version of Takapuna Beach on Auckland’s North Shore where Mason grew up. These famous phrases initiate the major phase of playmaking in New Zealand. There had been theatres across New Zealand since the nineteenth century and a considerable amount of play writing from The Land of the Moa (1895) up to Mason’s generation. Howard McNaughton has comprehensively mapped this cultural archive, so this essay, and those here by David O’Donnell (Chapter 18) and Stuart Young (Chapter 22), need not retrace his steps.2 Yet it was Mason’s first solo play that first managed both to be stage worthy and to attract audiences in large numbers to overtly ‘New Zealand’ drama; then too the play has repeatedly been reprinted and subjected to multiple interpretations. In both senses then, as text for performance and interpretation, Golden Weather deservedly holds its status as a classic of New Zealand writing. Mason designed the piece to provide performance work for himself; over a twenty-year period (from the late 1950s through to the late 1970s), he staged it hundreds of times throughout New Zealand and overseas. The play has been reworked by Raymond Hawthorne as a script for a company of actors and adapted lovingly as a film by Ian Mune (1991). The solo play lives on in Peter De Vere Jones’s performance; in recent times the ‘Christmas at Te Parenga’ sequence has been performed by the actor Steven Lovatt on Christmas morning on Takapuna beach. Not much now remains on shore of the quite rural Takapuna Mason knew in the 1920s and 1930s, but the location superbly confronts the audience still with the dormant volcano, Rangitoto, which guards the entrance into Auckland’s harbour. Mason evokes it as ‘enormous, majestic, spread-eagled on the skyline like a sleeping whale. . . . it has a brooding splendour’.3 195

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.015 Published online by Cambridge University Press

196

Mark Houl ahan

Mason returned to the beach at Te Parenga as the location of another classic, The Pohutakawa Tree. Having invented the solo play as a vehicle for New Zealand voices, with Pohutakawa Tree he claims the stage as a space where issues of biculturalism could be embodied and discussed, again leaving the constricting drawing rooms of mid-twentieth-century English drama behind, using the beach (like Golden Weather) as its main location. Since the 1960s the story of the dual inheritance of Aroha Mataira torn between her birthright as a Māori and the legacies of colonisation has repeatedly riveted audiences.4 Mason used the springboard of Golden Weather to write and perform three other solo plays; so too Pohutukawa Tree spurred the writing of four more ‘Māori’ plays, comprising together a ‘healing arch’ stretching from the early contact period – with the irresistible story of Hongi Hika’s voyage to England (Hongi)  – through to the phase after World War II of Māori migration to New Zealand’s cities (Awatea, Hand on the Rail). The bicultural play of nation has been a strong influence on later Māori playwrights, most notably Briar Grace-Smith and Hone Kouka; Mason’s pioneering solo plays have led to the later triumphs of Jacob Rajan’s Krishnan’s Dairy, the most beloved solo New Zealand play since Golden Weather. Yet Mason was not the only post–World War II artist to think there ought to be New Zealand plays in New Zealand theatres. I  will return to his playmaking, but will focus first on the attempts by Allen Curnow and James K. Baxter to make convincing stage worlds out of their craft as poets; after investigating Mason’s achievements in more detail, I will close by considering the scintillating early plays of Robert Lord, easily the best new playwright of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Allen Curnow: Placing New Zealand at the Centre ‘There is no playwright in the pantheon’, lamented Allen Curnow, in the preface to his Four Plays,5 none celebrated for their achievements the way an Olympic medallist or an All Black would be. He imagines a future with a ‘New Zealander’s play that New Zealand audiences will go to, will want to see again . . . simply because they like it . . . a play about themselves and for themselves by one of themselves’.6 In Chapter  18 David O’Donnell shows what shape some of those plays, five to ten years later, took. Four Plays, meanwhile, preserves Curnow’s best attempts to make such plays from the late 1940s to the 1960s: ‘I wanted to place New Zealand at the centre’, Curnow writes.7 By design, then, his first, most significant stage play, The Axe, first performed in 1948, was of a piece with the nationalising

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.015 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Out of the Drawing Room and onto the Beach

197

energy of his 1940s poetry. Though Curnow’s lyric poetry of this period is insistently local and specific in its detail he locates The Axe on an unnamed Pacific island:  ‘shifting the scene . . . [so that] I  might mirror New Zealand’.8 On this Pacific beach Curnow plays out a story of culture conflict, the transition from pre-contact ways to the world of the Pākehā (European), dominated by Christianity and Western technology, here in the form not of guns but of the axe of the play’s title. Like the other playwrights in this chapter, Curnow wrestles with the task of discovering a dramaturgy sufficient for this tale. The material he assumes from the ethnographic writings of Sir Peter Buck (Te Rangihiroa). In form he appropriates the neoclassical experiments with the verse play made famous by T.  S. Eliot in Murder in the Cathedral and The Family Reunion. Could you use verse forms to break the imprisoning grip of fourth-wall realism and the well-made English play? Could you then use a different kind of poetry to link natural and supernatural worlds? Curnow borrows from Eliot in his use of Greek tragic form; the main actors are accompanied by two chorus characters who speak in counterpoint, observing the action on our behalf and drawing out the moral of the story. In The Axe the chorus thus sets up the beach scene, the long fourteen-syllable lines lending splendour to the scene: We are the island, the garden, the prison, the home; The doorway down to hell, the ladder into heaven. We do not come or go. We are here, where life is cast Upward, the bright vanishing spray, and the rainbow forms and fades.9

The chorus’s exchanges encapsulate the play’s problem. The rhetorical fluency is dramatically inert. All the characters sound not as if they were living through some heightened crisis of their lives but rather as if they were reciting from a decently chaste translation of a play in Ancient Greek that happens to be set on a Pacific Island. The chorus, the stage directions tell us will be ‘stylised’ in dress and mask, ‘so that they suggest an antiquity which is Polynesia, but universal, not of any immediately identifiable part of Polynesia’.10 This willed lack of specificity suggests a play that, however impressive in its first production in Christchurch in 1948, was too studied, too removed from the ‘real’ to achieve a lasting impact on theatre audiences. ‘The dramatic world’, McNaughton notes, ‘seemed to some theatre-goers as remote as that of Greek tragedy’,11 though the play was staged for the inaugural Auckland Festival of the Arts in 1953 and recorded for the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation.12

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.015 Published online by Cambridge University Press

198

Mark Houl ahan

Curnow’s verse play for radio Resident of Nowhere, written for the 1969 bicentenary of Cook’s arrival on the Endeavour is considerably more successful. Here he tells the story of James Busby, shuttling between the Bay of Islands in the 1830s and London in 1871, where Busby reflects back on his colonial adventures, claiming in particular his role in drafting the Treaty of Waitangi. The stiffly doom-laden atmosphere of The Axe is replaced by the comedy of manners that sugar coats the historical lessons, and suggests that, in the intervening twenty years, Curnow had learned to channel the poetic lightness that is the hallmark of Christopher Fry’s most successful midcentury verse plays. Ironical fluency is then the mark of The Overseas Expert, produced on radio in 1963 and the most revivable of Curnow’s plays. The Sopers live in the well-heeled, well-established Auckland suburb of Remuera. Bill, a successful businessman, distrusts the university learning of his son, who teaches high school in Whangārei a hundred miles north of Auckland. Can he persuade George Mandragora, the eponymous ‘Overseas Expert’, to invest in his company? Can he trust him to marry his daughter, Gillian? Here Mandragora is a lurid signifier, cueing readers and listeners. By alluding so overtly to Machiavelli’s famous Renaissance intrigue comedy La Mandragora (1518), Curnow wants us to know that George is less than he seems. Is he the wealthy son of an English aristocrat, or is he just George a New Zealand conman from Whangārei? The characters are broadly sketched, but they have an individuality that lends them credibility. They are given verse to speak that has an idiomatic fluency not achievable in the distantly high registers of The Axe.

‘A Bloody Great Gap’: James K. Baxter Baxter attended the first performance of The Axe, promptly notifying his mother that he intended himself to write a play – the young Baxter (he was then twenty-two) never lacked faith in his authorial prowess. It was eight years before Baxter finished his own first play, Jack Winter’s Dream, which was first staged as a radio broadcast in 1958 and then as a live play in 1960. Baxter greeted The Axe with muted enthusiasm, but he did not see it as a form to be followed: . . . I still had a mainly subconscious nagging feeling – ‘this is fine but it’s not quite drama; something has got clogged in the works’.13

He concluded that verse had come to be a ‘dead language in our theatre’.14 If there was to be poetry on stage, playwrights and directors would need to seek it by some other means. In the decade after Jack Winter’s Dream

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.015 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Out of the Drawing Room and onto the Beach

199

Baxter wrote nineteen more plays, a considerable output. Many of these (and certainly the best of them) premiered at Patric and Rosalie Carey’s Globe Theatre in Dunedin, a venue that encouraged counterculture programming and antiestablishment staging practices. This was before it was common practice for the New Zealand playwrights to work closely with the director on the first staging of their plays; Baxter’s dramaturgy shows strong signs of having been influenced by his discussions with Patric Carey around the integrated layering of verbal and visual stage effects. Baxter wrote only one play in verse, the slight Requiem for Sebastian: A  Verse Dialogue for Three Voices, but throughout his dramatic writing he disciplines his poetic gifts in striking passages of prose poetry, all the more effective on radio, where they were often heard. Jack Winter’s Dream borrows from Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood the device of a narrator unveiling a world of eccentrics to us, here a group of idle, dissolute tramps in an old gold-mining settlement. This is a dream play, not historical, but seems to be in some nineteenth-century past, long after the peak of Otago’s gold-mining era. Baxter combines a feel for the local environment and idiomatic New Zealand speech with the calculatedly overwritten register so familiar from Milk Wood: Jack Winter unrolls his swag by starlight. The smiling dead host welcomes him. He stretches out. And falls like a spinning stone into the dooms and dreams and fiery Sabbath of the eighty-years-undead.15

Jack is already dead; the approach to death and the links between the living and the dead emerge as major preoccupations in many of Baxter’s subsequent plays. He is more at ease in unfolding the situation of death and exploring its impact on character than in placing a death as a logical outcome of the plot. Death when it arrives is frequently senseless and sudden, as in the bottling of Skully at the climax of The Wide Open Cage, one of Baxter’s major plays:  ‘Hogan hits him with the bottle. Skully falls. Hogan bashes his head and shoulders again and again’.16 The randomness of this act highlights Baxter’s skill in unfolding dramatic incidents in a series of epiphanic, short-story-like moments. The limitation is then a difficulty with lacing these striking moments into wider narrative arcs. The Wide Open Cage is one of several three-act plays Baxter wrote, but they all have the feel of discursively panoramic one-act plays. The Wide Open Cage demonstrates Baxter’s strength in assembling men in groups on stage, frequently outsiders, as they are in Jack Winter’s Dream and 1967’s The Band Rotunda, where the location of a ‘small band rotunda. . . . A park bench beside’ marks a strong visual setting for the play.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.015 Published online by Cambridge University Press

200

Mark Houl ahan

The action draws on the ‘real’ of down and out life, as locations where, throughout New Zealand, street people might still hold informal gatherings.17 Here men drift on and off stage, bickering and bantering. They quarrel over a woman, Rosie, the only female character (Baxter’s characters are overwhelmingly male). At the climax alcoholic dementia drives Jock to suicide. The men take Beckettian comfort in each other’s company; like Beckett’s famous tramps, their irreligiousity drives them to arias of blasphemous eloquence, as when at the end of Rotunda Concrete Grady chastises Christ: There’s nothing else inside us but a bloody great gap. Maybe you can see the sense in it. I  can’t. You’ve been up there too long. Come down, you dirty mad old bugger! Come down and be buried.18

It is surely not far from this to the earthed eloquence of Foreskin’s Lament. These outsiders revel in their detachment from bourgeois life, forming on stage the kind of community to which, in life, of course, Baxter was increasingly drawn. Though he clearly distrusted organised religion Baxter continued to draw on the power of biblical rhetoric. This is strongest in another play from 1967, The Devil and Mr Mulcahy, where Baxter strives to make a virtue out of a self-consciously explicit biblical rhetoric. The Marshall’s farm is an extreme religious sect in family form. Mr. Marshall imposes the disciplines of a church elder. The temptations of the devil must at all points be foresworn. He thinks danger comes from without, in the form of the Irish Catholic farmhand, the eloquent, dancing Barney Mulcahy. Of course, Marshall has looked in the wrong direction. Rather it is his son Simon in love with his daughter Rachel, and able, through his upbringing, to dress his desire in gilded rhetoric. Purity can be preserved, but only by sacrificing Rachel. Simon shoots her offstage, bringing her body back on stage to revel in his conforming violence, allowing the audience to recoil from his perverted eloquence. The dramatic tact at work here likely draws on Baxter’s experiments with Greek drama for the Careys’ Globe Theatre, Dunedin. His two Greek plays, the story of Odysseus and Philoctetes, The Sore-Footed Man and The Temptations of Oedipus, are among his most accomplished play texts. In both, eschewing writing verse for the stage avoids the unearned pomposity that marks weak English versions of Greek tragedies. Instead the characters use a colloquial yet pure sounding English, allowing the characters to talk to each other without having to declaim or shout. Baxter retains the long expository speeches from Greek drama, but abandons the ritualised, distancing chorus, achieving a dynamic potential latent in these

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.015 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Out of the Drawing Room and onto the Beach

201

famous stories, the tropes of which fascinated him throughout his writing life. With moving restraint Theseus, in a powerfully underplayed moment at the end of Baxter’s Oedipus play, recounts the death of the hero: When the earthquake was over, we looked for his body – myself first, then the others – but it could not be found anywhere. Great cracks had opened in the soil and closed again.19

Bruce Mason’s Emotional Landscapes With his early death in 1972, Baxter’s potential as a playwright remained underexplored. The greatest accomplishments in playwrighting during this period are then clearly Mason’s. Whereas Baxter treated plays as an achievement of the left hand, something in which he was only fitfully engaged, Mason applied his virtuosic skills to all aspects of theatre in New Zealand: as an actor, as part of Wellington’s Downstage Theatre, as a critic and polemicist, and, most influentially, as a writer of plays for the stage, radio, and television. Of all these, The End of the Golden Weather and the major Māori plays endure as his signal achievements. The blend of material that make up Golden Weather gave full expression to Mason’s unique skills as a writer and performer, enabling his resonant plundering of the enduring New Zealand mythologising both of childhood and the beach; in so doing Golden Weather links to other iconic texts, such as Mansfield’s ‘At the Bay’ and Ian Cross’s The God Boy. Mason drew on material earlier published in short story form, and further explored the terrain of his beach childhood in his essay ‘Beginnings’, as well as in the later solo play Not Christmas but Guy Fawkes. In the latter the predominant voice is Mason’s. What sets Golden Weather above these is the generosity with which that voice shares the stage with so many other characters, distinctive and instantly recognisable to audiences. Mason seems to have cultivated a baroquely un-New Zealandish, mannered speaking style; and yet as a solo performer, he was able to quickly inhabit a whole range of characters.20 The title is taken from a book the novelist/narrator of Thomas Wolfe’s The Web and the Rock (1937) dreams of writing, in which ‘he wanted to present the picture, not merely of his youth, but of the whole town from which he came, and all the people in it just as he had known them’.21 Just so Mason shows us his Te Parenga from the perspective of his former, acutely observant child self. In that respect, as in his other autobiographical extrapolations, what Mason has constructed is a portrait of the colonial artist as a young man.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.015 Published online by Cambridge University Press

202

Mark Houl ahan

If we accept his invitation to the ‘country of the heart’ we accept also his judgement on his world. The play unfolds in five sequences, as if in homage to the well-made five-act play; or it may make more sense to think of these as a musical five-part invention, each exploring themes and variations on the golden weather of childhood. A poetic prologue sets the landscape and historical context, followed by ‘Sunday at Te Parenga’, ‘Christmas at Te Parenga’, ‘The Night of the Riots’, and the longest and most famous sequence, ‘The Made Man’,22 which is the most arresting of these, both in the voice of the solo performer, and in the group play and Ian Mune’s film.23 The ‘Made Man’ is the beach eccentric Firpo, living a marginalised life in a hut owned by wealthy relatives. He has taken his name from a South American boxer most famous for fighting the champion, Jack Dempsey (detailing Mason borrowed along with his title from Wolfe’s novel). Firpo is in training for the Olympics, most likely the 1932 Los Angeles Games.24 Firpo is challenged to a beach race by the group of young men who, as in beach resorts across New Zealand every summer, rule the beach and the waves. Firpo lacks stamina and is easily beaten. The narrator shares the humiliation with us:  ‘Firpo’s finished. That’s the end of the made man! He’s finished! Done, done, done’.25 In a coda we learn that Firpo has been reinstitutionalised. We learn too that Firpo’s unmaking has forged the narrator and by implication made Mason capable not just of conceiving this material as a solo play but forging within him sufficient nerve to perform it. He clears a space where the artist can perform. So many of Mason’s anecdotes, related in the solo plays, essays, and interviews that followed in the wake of Golden Weather, shape around similar epiphanies, where the young artist projects his absolute difference from the callous, philistine world around him. You could be an athlete, for example, or you could be an aesthete. In Mason’s vision of New Zealand, you would have to choose. Mason draws out sympathy for the gallantly deluded Firpo, setting himself against the customary New Zealand fetishising of sporting prowess; in so doing he strategically occludes his own considerable athletic talent.26 With Awatea Mason constructs a portrait (and a prophesy) of what a comparable Māori writer would produce. Matt Paku is the ‘awatea’, the shining light or beacon to the distant East Coast settlement of Omoana. Every year he returns from the city where he is a highly regarded doctor for a New Year’s Eve ‘hui’ or gathering. There is a feast with a traditional hangi, for which his blind father Werihe catches many kahawai. Matt’s city life is a carefully constructed fiction. Having failed at medical school, he works in the freezing works. In his regular letters home to his father he has built

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.015 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Out of the Drawing Room and onto the Beach

203

a parallel world, or second life, and peopled it with imaginary patients. These have been lovingly archived by Emma Gilhooly, Omoana’s fictional postmistress; excerpts from them appear in printed texts of the play, as if they really existed as a correspondence outside Mason’s imagination. As the play opens Matt is on the run, pursued by police. They contrive (somewhat implausibly) to delay his arrest for a night, allowing him one last New Year’s Eve, one last chance to acknowledge his father’s love while maintaining his father’s mana in the community. The play holds out hope for Matt’s future as a writer; Werihe learns the truth of his son’s life, but the learning is gentle and elegiac, and shears away from the full-blown Tennessee Williams inspired family melodrama it threatens to become. The exposé of a family nursing secrets is built from the models of Arthur Miller and Williams, but perhaps the most important precursor is Chekhov. From him Mason has borrowed the model for an entire society that is, in effect, a family writ large. In the midst of the feasting that enlivens the stage, this is also a society on the brink of apocalyptic change, facing the full consequences for the Māori shift to the cities after World War II and the perceived need to abandon the Māori world, te ao Māori. Mason’s earlier classic, The Pohutukawa Tree, constructs a very similar model for the society of Te Parenga, where Aroha Mataira stubbornly clings to the last piece of tribal land in the district. She clings as well to a rigid form of Christian belief, which is of no help when her children fail; her daughter becomes pregnant and her son a teenage drunk. Here too Mason offers a highly symbolist form of realism, most conspicuous in the large, gnarled pohutukawa tree. As the third-act opens, the stage directions note, ‘the hanging branch . . . is much lower on the porch’.27 The tree bends with the decline of Aroha’s fortunes. Reviewers of recent revivals of both plays have noted the contrived nature of their action. Yet the use of the coincidental and the implausible brings to life a generous vision of what New Zealand on stage might be like; there are few other New Zealand scripts where the stage world is so generously peopled, and where even the minor characters are so vividly and recognisably present to audiences. Then too the integration in both plays of Māori tikanga (protocol), waiata (song), and the kind of formal rhetoric (korero) found on a marae (gathering place) was unprecedented, and is a key part of the continuing success of these plays on stage. Both plays also feature prose arias, extended monologues for the main characters; these draw on the rhapsodic kind of rhetoric Mason unveiled in Golden Weather. Mason conceived the part of Werihe originally for Inia Te Wiata, a Māori bass singer with an international opera career and a

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.015 Published online by Cambridge University Press

204

Mark Houl ahan

powerful speaking voice – and for whom Mason then also wrote the main part in The Hand on the Rail, Hinewaru Karani. His son Rangi goes rogue in the city, killing a friend and then suiciding. Karani finds hope for the future through adopting his grandson, and the play ends on an optimistic note when the baby grips his grandfather’s finger; in terms of the metaphor that governs the play, by grasping tight to his grandfather, the new baby puts his hand on the rail that links to a sure sense of the Māori past: ‘He gripped it! Right round my finger! Like a little lion! Whakaringaringa!’28 Here as in Awatea and in Aroha, the matriarch in Pohutukawa Tree, Mason shows another aspect of his generosity as a playwright, crafting bravura parts for seasoned actors of Māori descent.29 These scripts remain supremely playable; actors and audiences alike continue to respond to the emotional landscapes Mason’s scripts so boldly traverse.

Robert Lord: ‘More Than Laughter’ Bert and Maisie (1983) and Joyful and Triumphant (1992) are rightly regarded as the most significant plays Robert Lord wrote in the final phase of his career, when he returned to New Zealand after a prolonged period in New York. From his beginning, in the early 1970s, Lord was a prolific and inventive writer for the stage. He stands out also among the quartet focused on here in that, from the start of his career, he worked in close association with theatres, actors, and directors.30 His very early plays, partly as a consequence, maintain an electric, uniquely theatrical presence. Lord was fascinated by ‘what happens in the dialogue when people talk’ and, in particular with what doesn’t happen when New Zealanders talk together.31 He did not see this as a sign of linguistic impoverishment, striving as Mason did to grant his characters his own baroque eloquence. Rather he saw New Zealanders as being subtle and decorous in the way they used words as defensive shields against each other. He sought to explore ‘deceit and honesty’ in equal parts. His first plays can be hard to categorise but can perhaps be best understood as lethally absurdist comedies of bad manners, exploring themes of people in groups and gender masquerades. These scripts also discard the novelising, preachy commentary on character Mason uses (in the manner taken from playwrights like Shaw); there are almost no stage directions or authorial guides to character. It is up to theatre companies to map out the taut emotional fields Lord economically sketches. It Isn’t Cricket, Lord’s first full-length play, comprises a series of seventeen short scenes, usually duets. Husband and wife, male and female friends, map out territories of dominance and submission. Cricket is

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.015 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Out of the Drawing Room and onto the Beach

205

not the agenda, but game playing certainly is. The relationships are not resolved here, and the play refuses to come to an explosive melodramatic climax. As the last scene ends the charades of personal life continue: Paul: Let’s have this game. Viv: You deal, Jason. Ja son: What’ll we play? Paul: It’s your decision.32

Glitter and Spit (1975) takes verbal masquerade a step further, exploring the links between gendered costumes and sexual identity. Daniel, a soldier who has served in a mysterious Special Forces unit, dresses in an array of period military uniforms. He finds Richard dressing in a tutu and admiring himself in a mirror. They fight; Daniel abuses Richard (‘Degenerate’, ‘pansy’, ‘vile little pig’)33 and then maims him. In the last scene, however, we see Daniel repent, and dress in the tutu, becoming attractive both to Richard and their friend Louise. The play is a wry carnival, a chamber of echoes from the heady pre-AIDS days of sexual revolution. Well Hung (1974), the best known and most frequently performed of Lord’s early plays, shows him using his skills at constructing dialogue and imagining lives based on deceit into a mainstream farce format; Lord partly wrote the play to show that he could contrive scenarios that would attract a mainstream audience.34 The action plays out over a single day in a provincial police station. A detective has come from the metropolis to lead a murder investigation, and several of the characters are suspects; then too they have other secrets to hide, such as the abortion Constable Brown must organise discretely as his pregnant girlfriend is the wife of his line manager, Sergeant Donnelly. Lord manages the necessary traffic of farce expertly, and the play has proven popular in recent revivals. Some of its detailing is now anachronistic (the process of obtaining an abortion would no longer be so secretive), but its satire on police and other forms of authority retains its charge. As Philip Mann says it is a good example of a successfully political comedy:  ‘[l]ike Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist’, Mann writes, ‘it gives us more than laughter to take home with us’.35 The play reflects a notorious early 1970s murder case, where Jeanette and Harvey Crewe were shot in their lounge, their bodies dumped and weighted down in the Waikato River; the police were shown to have planted evidence to achieve a conviction. The case is still live; and the true murderer remains unknown. Lord only uses seven characters in the play, and they could be seen as stock dramatic vehicles (the foolish stooge detective, the virile young policemen); yet through them a whole,

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.015 Published online by Cambridge University Press

206

Mark Houl ahan

unmistakeably New Zealand society comes vividly to life. The audience’s laughter arises out of the delight in recognising a heightened yet truthful image of themselves. Notes 1 Bruce Mason, Bruce Mason Solo (Wellington:  Price Milburn with Victoria University Press, 1981), 3. 2 See McNaughton’s chapters on ‘Drama’ in the first and second editions of The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English (1991), ed. Terry Sturm (Auckland and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998). 3 Mason, Bruce Mason Solo, 3. 4 Most recently in the adapted revival for the Auckland Theatre Company in 2009, starring Rena Owen (best known as the beleaguered Beth Heke in the excoriating 1994 film of Alan Duff’s novel Once Were Warriors). 5 Allen Curnow, Four Plays (Wellington: A. H. and A. W. Reed, 1972), 21. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid., 7. 8 Ibid., 8. 9 Ibid., 27. 10 Ibid. 11 McNaughton, Oxford History, 2nd ed., 339. 12 Throughout this period the support of public radio in recording and commissioning drama was a crucial medium and source of income for New Zealand playwrights. 13 Quoted in Howard McNaughton, introduction to James K. Baxter: Collected Plays, ed. McNaughton (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1982), viii. 14 Ibid., ix. 15 Ibid., 8. 16 Ibid., 32. 17 Ibid., 101. Band rotundas remain ubiquitous features of New Zealand towns and cities. 18 Ibid., 125. 19 Ibid., 260. 20 Mason’s performance can be sampled in a ‘Kaleidoscope’ documentary (1983) on the New Zealand on Screen website: http://www.nzonscreen.com/. 21 Thomas Wolfe’s The Web and the Rock (1937) (New  York:  Harper and Row, 1973), 422. 22 The phrase ‘The Made Man’ comes also from Wolfe’s novel. Both Wolfe and Mason echo The Winter’s Tale, where the shepherd endowed with a foundling princess and a chest of gold is proclaimed a ‘made old man’, Act 3, Scene 3, line 110. 23 Excerpts from Mune’s film can also be seen at http://www.nzonscreen.com/. 24 The narrator does not give his age in the script, but in the story, ‘Summer’s End’ (published in two parts in Landfall 9 and 10, 1949) from which Mason

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.015 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Out of the Drawing Room and onto the Beach

25 26

27 28 29

30 31 32 33 34 35

207

derived most of the material in the play, the main character is eleven years old. As Mason was born in 1931, the events recalled likely then unfold over the early months of 1932, the summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Mason, Bruce Mason Solo, 52. Richard Corballis documents the evidence for this in his ‘Running Out of Stream: Roger Robinson and Bruce Mason’, in Running Writing Robinson, ed. David Carnegie, Paul Millar, David Norton, and Harry Ricketts (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2011), 174–80, see pp. 177–8. Bruce Mason, The Healing Arch:  Five Plays on Māori Themes (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1987), 96. Ibid., 158. These would include George Henare, who as a young actor played a minor role in the first performance of Awatea; Rena Owen; and Don Selwyn, to whom Hand on the Rail is dedicated, and who played Karani in the first stage production in 1981. In his preface to the play (Healing Arch, 279–81), Mason describes this production in fulsome detail. This was the only Mason first night I have had the privilege of attending; I can vouch for the electrifying effect of Selwyn’s performance. By 1970 there were professional theatres, such as Wellington’s Downstage and Auckland’s Mercury, for which Lord developed scripts. As he comments in an interview with Rowena Cullen filmed at the University of Otago in 1987 when Lord was the Burns Fellow. Robert Lord, Three Plays, ed. Phillip Mann (Wellington:  Playmarket, 2013), 116. Mann’s introduction (13–29) is the best current introduction to Lord’s theatre. Robert Lord, Glitter and Spit (Wellington: Playmarket, 1975), 16. Philip Mann’s edition is the most accessible text of the play, containing revisions by Stephen Sinclair and including material Lord developed for a Canadian production of the play, when it was retitled Country Cops. Mann, introduction to Well Hung, in Lord, Three Plays, 222.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.015 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter 15

‘Physician of Society’ The Poet in the 1950s and 1960s Alan Riach

In 1951, James K. Baxter addressed writers at a conference at Canterbury University College, announcing that it was ‘reasonable and necessary that poetry should contain moral truth, and that every poet should be a prophet according to his lights’. The poet ‘should remain as a cell of good living in a corrupt society, and in this situation by writing and example attempt to change it’.1 For Baxter, the writer was the ‘physician of society’, not only offering diagnoses of spiritual and moral sickness at large but also providing an example that would help bring about radical change.2 The political imperative here was critical: Baxter would later write off Auckland as a ‘great arsehole’ and Wellington as ‘a sterile whore of a thousand bureaucrats’.3 What was being rejected and left behind by this passionate embrace of the social purpose of poetry was the priority of self-determined cultural nationalism. Such line-drawing bravura made for polarities, and the most polarised icons were Baxter and Allen Curnow, both magi, both masters: the latter authoritative and singular; the former, ostensibly, vernacular and communal. The polarity, however, is misleading. As self-determined shamans of New Zealand poetry, their shifting priorities overlapped, coincided, contradicted, and complemented each other. Meanwhile, very different poets, with different ideas of what poetry might mean and be and do, rose into the public domain and entered the argument, responded to each other and countered, agreed with, or fiercely disputed the terms and parameters. So many different aspects of social life were changing. Familiar pieties were being broken down, and a new sense of what rejuvenation or regeneration meant came into being as the 1950s turned into the 1960s. Curnow’s anthology, A Book of New Zealand Verse 1923–45, was revised and republished as A Book of New Zealand Verse 1923–50 and then again crucially in 1960 as A Book of New Zealand Verse 1923–60 by Penguin in their series of national poetries, alongside Spanish (1956), Italian (1958), German (1959), Russian (1962), Welsh (1967), Scottish (1970), and so on. 208

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Physician of Society’

209

The 1960 edition of Curnow’s anthology was the most emphatic display of the gauntlet of New Zealand’s canonical national authority in poetry. Baxter and others, Louis Johnson and Kendrick Smithyman among them, demurred at this objectification of a nationalist agenda, holding that in New Zealand poets need no longer be concerned with such self-determination, but rather should be free to roam at will. Key themes so memorably imaged by Curnow  – distance from Europe, alienation from tangata whenua (the people of the land), isolation from the big cities of modernism – were already seen as history and felt as constrictions. Inclusion and open dialogue, rather than lonely individualism or vatic pronouncements, were deemed more apt. Charles Brasch, founding editor of Landfall in 1947, began writing in the 1930s, but his finest work was in The Estate (1957), Ambulando (1964), and Not Far Off (1969). He wrote ‘The Islands’ (1948) in an era before global air travel was commonplace: ‘Remindingly beside the quays, the white / Ships lie smoking’ and ‘distance looks our way’.4 But did it? In fact, it was a distinction of Brasch that he began his poetry most often with a sense of personal contact rather than national assertion. He was concerned, as poet and as editor, with what could be brought into the ‘estate’ of his art, and how far the reach of his vision could take him. An imagery of ruined buildings and the rubble from which the new might be built is characteristic of this conservative and mannerly poet. Curnow, in ‘The Unhistoric Story’, wrote that New Zealand was ‘something different, something / Nobody counted on’. In ‘Landfall in Unknown Seas’ he declared that ‘Simply by sailing in a new direction / You could enlarge the world’.5 Fine words, but his phrase in ‘House and Land’ seemed more appropriate: this was ‘a land of settlers / With never a soul at home’.6 In ‘The Skeleton of the Great Moa in the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch’, he insisted, ‘Not I, some child, born in a marvellous year, / Will learn the trick of standing upright here’.7 These lines all come from poems dating from the 1940s. By the time of their inclusion in The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse in 1960, they seemed emphatically distant. Generations had been born, walking around upright and feeling at home. For generations before them, Māori had surely been feeling even more at home in Aotearoa. The point is that sensibilities whose priorities had been formed in different historical eras were working concurrently. Brasch and Curnow came out of earlier decades and published alongside wildly different poets who were just beginning. Of the older generation, A. R. D. Fairburn published Three Poems: Dominion and The Voyage, & To a Friend in the Wilderness

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

210

Al a n Ri ach

in 1952 and his Collected Poems appeared in 1966. Denis Glover’s most famous poems were collected in Sings Harry (1951), Arawata Bill (1953), and Selected Poems (1964) but both Fairburn and Glover read almost as if they had come from a pre-war folk tradition. Rural themes, grand narratives, pathos, and poignancy look relatively uncomplicated, almost pre-Freudian, but it would be mistaken to see them as simplistic. They seem simple but are very knowing. Some achievements were being consolidated while others were only starting. Curnow persisted, doggedly, strong, in 1962 with A Small Room with Large Windows:  ‘A kingfisher’s naked arc alight / Upon a dead stick in the mud’ is bright pastoral imagery but the poem ends with:  ‘a gannet impacting’  – images ‘Explode a dozen diverse dullnesses / Like a burst of accurate fire’.8 What’s bright destroys the dull as soldiers might, with machine guns. The military, competitive imagery hints that poetic authority is combative, a survivor’s art. Later, in 1967, there were the respectable squibs and satires of Whim Wham Land, but Curnow published no major poetry collections until, with renewed intensity and singleness of purpose, Trees, Effigies, Moving Objects (1972) and published a continuing series of driven, compelling, lyrical books through the following decades. The 1960s was not his era. The different camps, the competing priorities of the Wellington and Auckland groups,9 the polite sensibility of Brasch as opposed to Baxter’s vernacular tribalism, all seem more characteristic of the plurality of identities that characterised the 1950s and 1960s. After World War II, the integrity of national identity consolidated by Curnow may have seemed exclusive and hieratic, but its essence was a continuity of value. That sense of value was to be caught up in a more comprehensively fragmented literary scene, yet it retained its distinction, and for Curnow, that distinction resided in increasingly refined and steely aspects of personality and memory, as much as any theorised nationalism. When, in 1951, Baxter asserted the preeminence of poets centred in Wellington (including Alistair Campbell, W.  H. Oliver, Louis Johnson, and Hubert Witheford) over those in urban Auckland, he was emphasising the value of these writers making new beginnings. Louis Johnson’s argumentative, companionable spirit was a strong presence in five collections in the 1950s, including Roughshod among the Lilies (1951), New Worlds for Old: Poems (1957), The Night Shift: Poems on the Aspects of Love (1957), and Bread and a Pension (1964), and well after the 1960s, through till his death in 1988. He was a central figure in Wellington, generous in his editorial policies for New Zealand Poetry Yearbook (first issued in 1951),

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Physician of Society’

211

partisan in his determination to be nonprescriptive, though he had his own sharpened preferences. ‘Magpie and Pines’ (1952) begins with the ‘black-and-white gentleman doodling notes’ but then dropping down ‘with a gleaming eye’ to a road where a child stands, screaming. The conjunction of images  – an arbitrary grazing, an intensity of moment and human urgency, a sense of the general human condition  – may seem portentous, but Johnson narrows it down with a kind of humility: both ‘fidelities and fates’ find ‘the world waiting’ and the lover finds ‘small truth / in the broken silence’.10 ‘Bread and a Pension’ (1965) is rueful but strangely forgiving, even recuperative, its bitterness mollified by acknowledging the necessary strictures required in ‘maintaining order’. The poem finds human comfort in company: ‘The old guards knew how good / the guardroom fire could be’ because ‘it’s roundly human / and any decent man would want it the same’. The characters in the poem did as they were told: ‘fed prisoners, buried the dead, and, on occasion / loaded the cart with those sent to the flames’. W.  H. Oliver’s Fire without Phoenix:  Poems 1946–1954 was published in 1957 and although he continued to write long after this, his voice and themes were consistent in prioritising a balance between singleness of utterance and universality of application. Not for him the wildly idiosyncratic or the pontificatory pronouncement. ‘Augury’ begins by observing that ‘There are no signs. The sky is entirely bland / and empty of birds’; it concludes with the image of a single bird, signifying ‘a condition so common it needs no prediction:  / two narrow wings lifting the great firmament / and only for a moment a fragment of song’.11 These poems were different in tone and kind from the ‘naming-ofplaces’ poetry that Curnow had propagated or the personal profane satires and later pious reflections of Baxter. Hubert Witheford, in ‘At the Discharge of the Cannon Rise the Drowned’, describes a historical scene that might be a metaphor for the whole group’s moment and potential: Out of a port-hole bursts a smear of flame, A blast of thunder from the flood rebounds. With gliding leap, impelled by answering fire, Lazarus rises from his restless couch.12

But jousts continued. The 1956 Anthology of New Zealand Verse edited by Robert Chapman and Jonathan Bennett was intended to supersede Curnow by including a younger generation and new women poets, notably Mary Stanley, whose Starveling Year was published in 1953. Although the scene remained predominantly masculine, Stanley was writing poetry

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

212

Al a n Ri ach

that no man could have made: ‘Sestina’ opens by appropriating the New Zealand outdoor terrain to a physical proximity, and knows that what is happening is original: ‘The body of my love is a familiar country / read at the fingertip. As all children learn / their first landscape’. And ‘The Wife Speaks’ (1953) begins: Being a woman, I am not more than man nor less but answer imperatives of shape and growth.13

Baxter’s poems included obscene ballads and ferocious political polemic, hot and angry, in contrast not only to Stanley but most forcefully to the steely control of Curnow. Both had humour, but very different in kind: Curnow’s sardonic, dark, civilised, and high; Baxter’s ironic, low, tolerant, patient towards those with whom he felt in tune, and utterly hostile to the immediate establishment. The 1960s ended with Catholic confessional poems as he retreated to the small settlement at Hiruharama (Jerusalem), on the Whanganui River, dedicated to using his public image in raising awareness of the Māori world in the Pākehā (European) establishment. It worked, or at least, helped. The Fallen House (1953) and, most decidedly, In Fires of No Return (1958) announce the priorities, and The Ballad of Calvary Street (1960) includes violent scorn for conventional pieties; Howrah Bridge and Other Poems (1961), Three Women and the Sea (1961), and The Ballad of the Soap Powder Lock-Out (1963) pursue direct address to events of the moment. ‘Lament for Barney Flanagan’ (1953–4) draws to a close with: Cold in the parlour Flanagan lay Like a bride at the end of her marriage day. The Waterside Workers’ Band will play A brass goodbye to Flanagan.14

‘The Ballad of Calvary Street’ (1960) delivers its devastating contempt for political mediocrity with vicious élan: ‘two old souls go slowly mad, / National Mum and Labour Dad’. The gulf between them prompts their torturing of each other: Mum escapes into family photograph albums and Dad reads the sporting page in the newspaper, sitting in ‘Grunt Grotto’: A giant parsnip sparks his eye, Majestic as the Tree of Life; He washes it and rubs it dry And takes it in to his old wife – ‘Look Laura, would that be a fit? The bastard has a flange on it!’15

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Physician of Society’

213

The alienation Baxter identifies among native white New Zealanders infuriates him, especially those in ‘English to the bone’ Christchurch. In ‘An Ode to the Reigning Monarch on the Occasion of Her Majesty’s Visit to Pig Island’ (1963) the source of his rage is explicit: not only the presumption of ‘the English myth’ and the miserable ‘half-witted housewives’ who yearn for the Queen’s ‘image on the TV screen’ but a deeper, older history of family persecution.16 Before his birth, he tells us, British soldiers ‘crucified / My father on a pole / Because he would not take a gun / And kill another working man’. As the decade goes on, however, verse-letters to others, his younger contemporaries – the novelist Maurice Shadbolt, up-and-coming poet Sam Hunt, or his elective ancestral older brother in Scotland, Robert Burns – permit him a fraternity, a company that complements and confirms the solitary commentator on society’s hypocrisy. ‘A Small Ode on Mixed Flatting’ opposed Otago University’s ruling out such practice among students: ‘Have you forgotten that your city / Was founded well in bastardry / And half your elders (God be thankit) / Were born the wrong side of the blanket?’17 Baxter’s self-appointed role as moral doctor in a world of social corruption and hypocrisy increased his reputation as prophet and pontiff, mythic sage, and theatrical speaker of discomforting truths. His work began to be gathered in A Selection of Poetry (1964) and the later Baxter began to emerge in Pig Island Letters (1966). In his critical essays, Aspects of Poetry in New Zealand (1967) and The Man on the Horse (1967) he aligned himself with Robert Burns, Scottish poet of liberty and social egalitarianism, the common people’s bard. The Māori tribal world and the old Scots Highlands, pre-Culloden, of interwoven clans, were a connected heritage for Baxter. In 1968, he decided to form a spiritual community, founded on aspects of Māori life, to go beyond money and books, establishing a community on the Whanganui River at the remote rural settlement of Jerusalem in 1969. He became ‘Hemi’. In poetry, this effected a regeneration. The Rock Woman: Selected Poems (1969) gathered his work and in Jerusalem Sonnets (1970) and The Flowering Cross (1970) his Christian pieties were more an acknowledgement of common mortality than a claim for exceptional salvation. The first of the Jerusalem Sonnets delivers humour, humility, and wry commentary on his own vulnerable mortality in a way that would characterise this later Baxter, and there is a lonely charm in it. The ‘small grey cloudy louse’ is not ‘a pearl of God’ but ‘a fiery tormentor / Waking me at two a.m.’. He addresses the Lord, ‘Do You or don’t You expect me to put up with lice?’ and the last line gives the answer: ‘His silent laugh still shakes the hills at dawn’.18

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

214

Al a n Ri ach

Baxter died aged forty-six in 1972, his output prodigious. The shift from the immediacy and rage of the ballads to the serenity and nuanced tones of the later sonnets – many in two-line, long-line stanzas, allowing for sustained, tolerant, ironic, exhausted, quizzical, compassionate tones – is one of the most remarkable developments in modern poetry. If Curnow is characteristically consistent, austere, and intellectually alert at almost all times, Baxter is an imposing chameleon, form-shifting, a singular ego, assertive in one persona, reflective in another, raging and wittily scabrous one moment, then later, sadly resigned, but with endlessly resilient compassion. Individuals remained vital among the arguments. Alistair Campbell, of Scottish, Māori, and Pacific island ancestry, published his first book in 1950, Mine Eyes Dazzle, the title an allusion to John Webster’s classic Jacobean revenge tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi (c. 1613), when Ferdinand refers to his murdered sister the Duchess, with the words: ‘Cover her face. Mine eyes dazzle: she di’d young’.19 The quotation is apt: piercing laments for his parents, his brother, and his own lost youth are decidedly not sentimental or effusive. The love poems, dream or nightmare landscapes, and local references in his work belie the singular residual strengths and depths of his voice. A local character, Nobby Clark, might die in an old people’s home thinking of his burned tin shack, but at the end, Campbell asks, did he see at his door ‘the tattooed face of a long-dead chief / with a mind like a slaughterhouse floor?’20 In ‘The Climber’ he states the paradox of regeneration and loss succinctly: Sometimes the weather clears and far below I see the plains – what brought us to this height? The bones of fallen climbers shine like snow, And I secure each foothold as I go.21

Fleur Adcock, though living for a long time in England, retained her status as a New Zealand poet and, like Campbell, in understated, personal, and carefully poised poems beginning with The Eye of the Hurricane (1964) and Tigers (1967), established a significant reputation for her own voice as a woman writing out of her own experience, priorities, and judgements; exercising her openness to new forms; and a heralding a new generation. ‘Wife to Husband’ (1964) is a woman’s revision of Robert Lowell’s ‘To Speak of the Woe That Is in Marriage’, and ‘Advice to a Discarded Lover’ (1967), arguably, is a poem no man could have written and no woman could have written before Adcock: ‘In you / I see maggots close to the surface. / You are eaten up by self-pity, / Crawling with unlovable pathos’.22

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Physician of Society’

215

A  durable, quietly admirable, middle-class, suburban ethos prevailed in the work of Peter Bland, in Domestic Interiors (1964) and My Side of the Story: Poems 1960–64 (1964). In ‘Kumara God’ (1964) the reductive idiom is also, equally, curiously redemptive: after three days of slow rain, everything is ‘melting back, an elemental drift / Beyond time or season . . .’. The poet brings in from the garden the ‘little stone cramped kumara god’ and sets him on the mantelpiece, as if he stands for the poet, ‘Feeling around me this slow retreat / Of lives gone underground, of sleep turned solid’.23 Younger poets in Auckland, literally closer to Curnow, had different coordinate points from their Wellington or South Island contemporaries, through the 1950s and early 1960s. Kendrick Smithyman, formally and intellectually garrulous and widely read, and the historian Keith Sinclair, could both seem overbearingly learned and even patrician, but their intellectual curiosity is ingeniously hooked to particulars of place, history, and politics. Smithyman’s book on New Zealand poetry, A Way of Saying (1965), offered his own stylistically dense summary of the 1950s scene but gave little indication of how far it was to open out, and how quickly. In fact, the indications were there in Smithyman’s own poems, and indeed in Sinclair’s. The latter’s ‘The Bomb Is Made’ is a central Cold War text from 1963, its affinity clearly with Hone Tuwhare, whose writing was just beginning to appear. Smithyman’s rambling continuum of poetry – each poetic exfoliation indicating that there is more to be said – flows easily into the disruptions and oblique angles of the poets still to fully occupy the 1960s. In ‘Hints for the Incomplete Angler’ (1968) local references carry a universal implication not only with weight that might seem portentous but also with humour: . . . when he couldn’t heave any more at the net, When the old man snapper clung too hard, he set His nose to the sea away out east of the Head To give what was due from good years to the tide. Watch for the worms as you go, at your dinghy’s side.24

M. K. Joseph, perhaps better known as a writer of fiction, was a distinctive poet, a scholar capable of witty, comic, rich, good-humoured pastiches, but of meditative and philosophical reflections too. He can be razory and elegant. Imaginary Islands (1950), The Living Countries (1959), and Inscription on a Paper Dart:  Selected Poems 1945–1972 (1974) comprise an undervalued achievement. ‘Mercury Bay Eclogue’ (1959) is clever parody but piercingly perceptive when, in section IV, the modernists are

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

216

Al a n Ri ach

summed  up:  Yeats is promised a centre that holds, Eliot will find children’s laughter in the ‘locked garden’, and Pound has earned a kind of reverence: ‘By their imperatives are defined / Converging patterns in the mind’.25 The lines register not only academic appraisal but also personal emotional investment. Careful diction, firm affirmations of, for example, married love in a world of moral anarchy or confusion, make him a singular voice to be valued, in poems such as ‘Distilled Water’, ‘Girl, Boy, Flower, Bicycle’, and ‘Epitaph to a Poetry Reading’. The poetry of C. K. Stead, whose book The New Poetic (1964) defined modernist principles for a generation in lucid, compelling readings of W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot, continued to be as egocentric and carefully crafted as Curnow’s but generated by a different, if respectful and appreciative character. This was explicitly clever, highly referential, smart, and sharp; determinedly middle-class; made assertively coherent by predetermined meaning; and with scant patience for blunders or fumbling. Clarity of purpose and modernist fragmentation are not stable companions though. The title of his first collection, Whether the Will Is Free (1964), has no question mark:  it announces with assertive conviction the dilemma of uncertainty his modernist predecessors had expressed plangently. Eliot, in The Waste Land, and Pound, in The Cantos, may have idealised coherence but their poetics deployed fragmented narratives and broken phrases; they were urged by the pressures of their era, at least as much as by aesthetic predilection. Stead pinpointed this in the contrast between Yeats, on one side, Pound and Eliot, on the other:  the former respecting conventional syntax, the latter using a different logic of assemblage. This is neat scholarship but may have predicated a tidiness in his own poems that would only be knocked into the unexpected in later decades by unpredicted crosswinds of pathos or anger. Admired at the time, ‘Pictures from a Gallery Undersea’ (1964) draws in fragmented narratives and references in the manner of Eliot and Pound, but seems to rest on a yearning for value in coherence more in tune with Yeats. It portends hard, sharp intelligence and signals the prodigy, but Stead’s best work was still to come. As a critic and literary historian, however, his assessments of the era in the essays, ‘From Wystan to Carlos’ and ‘A Poet’s View’, are filled with the vital information only someone so keen as both a witness and participant could deliver.26 Vincent O’Sullivan’s professional academic authority and scholarship matched Stead and Curnow but his first collection, Our Burning Time (1964), had less to do with valorising local geography than with using a native sensibility to enter and occupy the classic European inheritance.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Physician of Society’

217

Later poems were to embody monologues of a distinctly vernacular, indeed vulgar, character, by turns happy and nasty. Not unaffectionate towards their subjects, the poems characteristically work through ironically twisting sympathies, displaying the limitations, vulnerabilities, and sometimes cruelties of personae and characters, while marking what virtues there are. This was a different way of relating New Zealand and European histories in a tough, clever, socially connected, imaginatively focused voice. Occupation and exploration were more important than vatic pronouncement or redefining traditions. O’Sullivan’s three anthologies of New Zealand poetry from Oxford University Press (1970, 1976, and 1987) expanded the canon Curnow had established, but complemented it in new ways. The future was open. Into it came Hone Tuwhare, the first Māori poet published in English, expansive in character, warmhearted, generally gamesome and good humoured, he could also be politically explicit and scornful of establishment priorities. Two years before Curnow’s Penguin anthology, in 1958, Tuwhare had published his poem, ‘No Ordinary Sun’ in the periodical Northland, and it gave the title to his first book in 1964. Here was a Māori, working-class Communist, writing in a style no contemporary white New Zealander was attempting: vernacular, both direct and oblique, using biblical rhetoric (‘enhaloed’ and ‘thine’) but addressing the nuclear empires, the big-power world of ‘the monstrous sun’, ‘the radiant ball’, and ‘these polluted skies’.27 Titles of some of his poems indicate Tuwhare’s universally companionable persona: ‘The Old Place’, ‘Friend’, ‘The Girl in the Park’, and ‘Tangi’ (1964), in which he is looking for the presence of Death, and finds it: . . . I heard her with the wind crooning in the hung wires and caught her beauty by the coffin muted to a softer pain – in the calm vigil of hands in the green-leaved anguish of the bowed heads of old women.28

If Curnow and Stead were respected and admired, and Baxter revered, Tuwhare was perhaps to be held in greatest affection by most people. Ten years Tuwhare’s senior, Denis Glover also turned his hand to the theme of nuclear holocaust but instead of impassioned directness, in ‘Here Is the News’ (1968) the tone is chilled and ironic: ‘When the BBC announced / The end of the world, / It was done without haste . . . / It was almost as if the BBC had won’.29

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

218

Al a n Ri ach

The turn from the 1950s could be understood as triggered by the publication of the anthology edited by Donald Allen, The New American Poetry (1960), which drew on a range of work by poets from the Beat, Black Mountain, New York, and San Francisco groups, all of them writing almost always in free or ‘open’ verse forms, following Ezra Pound’s injunction to write in the rhythm of the musical phrase, not in that of the metronome, and all of them hostile to, disillusioned by, or alienated from the academic groups of scholarly and formal poets, writing in ‘closed’ poetic stanzas structured by regular rhyme and rhythmic schemes. One local champion of the new poetry was Alistair Paterson, who began with Caves in the Hills (1965). The other, heavier-weight presence in 1960 was Curnow’s Penguin Anthology of New Zealand Verse, whose priorities impressed a new generation as stiflingly nationalist. Television was becoming more familiar in family homes; international air travel was becoming affordable and there was a closer sense of international events; more young folk were at universities and new currencies of music, drugs, flower power, and the pill were circulating. Media representation of all this evoked allurement and enthusiasm in some and fear, loathing, and repulsion in others. New Zealand had never only been farming, sport, and civil society, but now it was visibly becoming something else, something ‘nobody’ had ‘counted on’. International awareness prompted self-conscious protests, the assertion of different values. There was increasingly confident opposition to established conventions. The voices of Māori, feminists, environmentalists, artists, musicians, poets, writers, students  – all had more time on the air, even as the National Party, bastion of conservatism, dominated politics throughout the decade. In 1960, the Waitangi Day Act meant that a ‘national’ celebration could be enacted annually – but what sort of nation was it to be? The Auckland City Art Gallery hosted an exhibition of art from the Pacific. Equal pay for women began to be seen as a right. We might ask, then, where poets sat in the spectrum from conservative to progressive. But the more provoking and profound question is whether an inherited progressivism had become merely another kind of conservativism? Baxter’s antiestablishment position had a long legacy for those poets who scorned the emptiness of value in the affluent society, yet there was also a less anxious engagement with contemporary style and media, a more buoyant mood was abroad. Baxter’s religiosity and romantic-sinner loneliness – the alienation at the heart of the ‘imagined community’ – were becoming historical. According to Murray Edmond in ‘Poetics of the Impossible’, the second introduction to the anthology Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960–1975

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Physician of Society’

219

(2000), the release of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a’ Changin’ and Another Side of Bob Dylan (both 1964), and the poems printed as ‘liner notes’ with them, in terms of New Zealand poets writing at the time, ‘influenced typography, style and subject matter easily as much as anything in Allen’s 1960 anthology’.30 It’s crucial to understand how the changing poetics of the time  – the changing ways in which poems were written, structured (formally and tonally), performed, broadcast, recorded, and made public – were intrinsically engaged in the social, political, and international contexts of an era increasingly defined by race, consciousness, sex, the patriarchy, and the community.31 Certainly, as the decade went on, no readers, no citizens, could be unaware of the validity and value of the sensibilities of ‘others’. From 1952 Te Ao Hou made available the work of Māori writers such as Hone Tuwhare, Patricia Grace, and Witi Ihimaera.32 Samoan Albert Wendt began to publish poetry in the early 1960s.33 Later in the 1960s the diversification of voices continued with early poems published by Bill Manhire, Sam Hunt, and Russell Haley. Poetry was becoming increasingly a live performance art, as well as one to be read in published books. And the identities and priorities shaping a New Zealand ethos were not only those of white patriarchal convention. Emphatically, in the 1950s and more so in the 1960s, women began publishing at the centre of the scene: the first Collected Poems of Ursula Bethell appeared in 1950. Ruth France (as Paul Henderson) had published Unwilling Pilgrim (1955) and The Halting Place (1961). Gloria Rawlinson published The Islands Where I  Was Born (1955) and Of Clouds and Pebbles (1963). Ruth Dallas, in Country Road (1953), The Turning Wheel (1961), Day Book (1966), and Shadow Show (1968) demonstrated an authoritative self-possession that brooked no qualification: here were poems, many of the outdoor farming world, which rang true in terms of both craft and experience. Beginning to write and publish in the 1960s, Lauris Edmond, Rachel McAlpine, Elizabeth Smither, Jan Kemp, Heather McPherson, and Riemke Ensing were to leave no doubt that not only the experiences of women were legitimate subjects for poetry, but more: the judgements and perspectives of women were as valid as any that could be made into poetry. In the late 1960s, the crossover support of academics and poets was most productive in Auckland, where, at the university, Allen Curnow had been teaching since 1951 and Roger Horrocks, very much of the next generation, ran an American literature course that introduced racy new work to bright, mischievous, restless students. The period from 1969 to 1972 began with Alan Brunton launching One: The Word Is Freed in a tone of anarchic impatience: tired literary feuds, well-mannered politics, conventional

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

220

Al a n Ri ach

morality, pious moderation, and cautious poetics were scorned in a magazine that declared its ephemerality openly, announcing that it would run for only four issues.34 Alongside other ‘little magazines’ of the time, each with its own, but overlapping, constituencies, Freed seemed opposed to the authority, longevity, and critical coordinates of Landfall; nevertheless, Arena, Edge, Mate, Orpheus, and others effectively relativised Landfall and Islands.35 The ethos was no longer one of schooners running on the central mainstream tradition with outriggers all around, going in different directions, waywardly exploring various coves and currents. Rather, it was one of archipelagic identities between which moved multiple streams, as full of surf and foam bells as of darker currents and treacherous tides. As the decade turned to the 1970s, some of the ephemera was washed away (although an anthology like Big Smoke reminds us of the energy that produced it), and some of the subversive wit became established in lasting reputations – Bill Manhire, Ian Wedde, Sam Hunt. Freed began with a kind of manifesto by Alan Brunton: THERE IS THE PLACE OF INTUITION WHERE THINGS ARE INDIVIDUAL. THE ESSENCE IS THE METAPHOR, WHICH IS DISTINGUISHED BY ITS ACCURACY. ITS DIRECT COMMUNICATION.36

In other words, literalism is the enemy. Situationism is our friend. Beware, friends, and understand all art, every poem, as a contingency. It goes on: A WORK OF ART HAS NO RIGHT TO LEAD AN AUTONOMOUS MORAL EXISTENCE IN A WORLD DIVORCED FROM THE VALUE OF HUMAN LIFE.37

This is a manifesto of citizenship. Many of the poems of 1969, repudiations of inherited form, were staking their own ephemerality against the value of immediate fact. The poets considered it a risk worth taking. As Murray Edmond, in ‘Revolutionary Poem 5’, announces: SEE how the embryo plunges out (yrs too and, in our journalese, from womb to tomb, that far, on splayed toes (as birds in gregarious flight before they migrate

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Physician of Society’

221

with a shrill cry, the eyes unseeled the wings a new beat a shadow on the land like a whisper issuing from the rim of the lips out of BLACKNESS38

So the 1960s ended with blue-skies experimentalism, theory as liberation, self-granted permission for work unpredicted, refreshing, but curiously enmeshing fashionable cynicism with idealism of another kind. What persisted was the comprehensiveness of the nationality, a middle-class tolerance and indeed the opportunity for encouraging new energies. Critical thinking was hard pressed to keep itself sharp amongst the woolly idealisms but Stead and Curnow were honed and ready. The establishment moved quickly to encompass the new energies throughout the 1960s, but the canon had – and has – its parameters. The proposition of defined borders was set forward firmly by the 1950s; in the 1960s those borders become as porous as the imagination could make them. But they continued and still exist. New Zealand poetry is not Australian, American, or, wholly, Pacific. How could it be? The best of this ethos stays open and curious, self-revising, endlessly rejuvenating; the worst, as anywhere, is closed. A summation of the decades might be noted in K. O. Arvidson’s poem ‘The Tall Wind’ from his 1973 collection, Riding the Pendulum, where we are invited to consider the weather pressing on the windowpane, the rain coming in, and how we might respond to the world: One of them laughed, and one said Thar she blows: we’ll find out now what this young charlie knows. There’s a tall wind out there, leaning on our door.39

The 1950s and 1960s in New Zealand poetry saw storms of fruitfulness and withering, levelling gales, but the times were indeed changing. Notes 1 James K. Baxter, Recent Trends in New Zealand Poetry (Christchurch:  Caxton Press, 1951), 18. 2 Ibid., 15. 3 James K. Baxter, ‘Ode to Auckland’ and ‘Wellington’, in James K. Baxter, Collected Poems, ed. J.  E. Weir (Auckland:  Oxford University Press, 1995), 597–600, 76. 4 Charles Brasch, ‘The Islands (ii)’, in The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, ed. Allen Curnow (Auckland: Penguin, 1960), 179. 5 Allen Curnow, ‘The Unhistoric Story’ and ‘Landfall in Unknown Seas’, The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse , 203–4, 205–8.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

222

Al a n Ri ach

6 Curnow, ‘House and Land’, The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, 201–2. 7 Curnow, ‘The Skeleton of the Great Moa in the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch’, The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, 205. 8 Allen Curnow, ‘A Small Room with Large Windows’, Early Days Yet: New and Collected Poems, 1941–1997 (Manchester, UK: Carcanet, 1997), 177–8. 9 See Peter Simpson, ‘ “The Trick of Standing Upright”: Allen Curnow and James K. Baxter’, World Literature Written in English 26, 2 (Autumn 1986): 369–78. 10 Louis Johnson, ‘Magpie and Pines’, in An Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English, ed. Jenny Bornholdt, Gregory O’Brien, and Mark Williams (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1997), 338–9. 11 W.  H. Oliver, ‘Augury’, in The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, ed. Ian Wedde and Harvey McQueen (Auckland: Penguin Books, 1985), 331. 12 Hubert Witherford, ‘At the Discharge of Cannon Rise the Drowned’, The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, 261–2. 13 Mary Stanley, ‘The Wife Speaks’, The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, 249. 14 Baxter, ‘Lament for Barney Flanagan’, Collected Poems, 136–7. 15 Baxter, ‘Ballad of Calvary Street’, Collected Poems, 213–14. 16 Baxter, ‘An Ode to the Reigning Monarch on the Occasion of Her Majesty’s Visit to Pig Island’, Collected Poems, 266. 17 Baxter, ‘A Small Ode on Mixed Flatting’, Collected Poems, 396–9. 18 Baxter, ‘Jerusalem Sonnets 1’, Collected Poems, 455. 19 John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi (c. 1613), act IV, scene II, line 259, ed. Elizabeth M. Brennan (London and Tonbridge: Ernest Benn, 1973), 76. 20 Alistair Campbell, ‘Nobby Clark’, in Collected Poems 1947–1981 (Martinborough: Alister Taylor, The Old Post Office, 1981), 69–71. 21 Campbell, ‘The Climber’, Collected Poems 1947–1981, 38. 22 Fleur Adcock, ‘Advice to a Discarded Lover’, Bornholdt et al., eds., An Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English, 268. 23 Peter Bland, ‘Kumara God’, Bornholdt et al., eds., An Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English, 258. 24 Kendrick Smithyman, ‘Hints for the Incomplete Angler’, Bornholdt et al., eds., An Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English, 326. 25 M. K. Joseph, ‘Mercury Bay Eclogue’, Bornholdt et al., eds., An Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English, 298–302. 26 C. K Stead, ‘From Wystan to Carlos:  Modern and Modernism in New Zealand Poetry’ and ‘A Poet’s View’, in In the Glass Case:  Essays on New Zealand Literature (Auckland:  Auckland University Press/Oxford University Press), 139–59, 259–71. 27 Hone Tuwhare, ‘No Ordinary Sun’, in Big Smoke:  New Zealand Poems 1960–75, ed. Alan Brunton, Murray Edmond, and Michele Leggott (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2000), 40–1. In the last line, the opening word is ‘thine’ as it was in the periodical Northland (May 1958), from which the Big Smoke text is taken. In later editions of Tuwhare’s poems, or anthologies in which this poem appears, it is, more usually, ‘your’.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘Physician of Society’

223

28 Hone Tuwhare, ‘Tangi’, in Mihi: Collected Poems (Auckland:  Penguin Books, 1987), 66. 29 Denis Glover, ‘Here is the News’, Bornholdt et al., eds., An Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English, 392–3. 30 In Brunton et al., Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960–75, 19–33. 31 The list is from Alan Brunton’s ‘1960–69:  Restoring the Commune’, Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960–75, 1–16. 32 See Chapter 13, ‘Te Ao Hou: Te Pataka’, by Alice Te Punga Somerville. 33 Albert Wendt’s Inside Us the Dead:  Poems 1961–1974 (Auckland:  Longman Paul, 1976) takes us across the decades. 34 Five issues in fact appeared, the final one sharply entitled, Free At Last. 35 The Listener, with a wide circulation beyond literary specialists, had been publishing poems since 1939. 36 In Brunton et al., Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960–75, 121. 37 Ibid., 122. 38 Murray Edmond, ‘Revolutionary Poem 5’, in Brunton et al., Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960–75, 129–30. 39 K. O. Arvidson, ‘The Tall Wind’, Riding the Pendulum (Wellington:  Oxford University Press, 1973), 27.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.016 Published online by Cambridge University Press

P a rt   I V

1972–1990

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter 16

From Hiruharama to Hataitai The Domestication of New Zealand Poetry, 1972–1990 Harry Ricketts and Mark Williams

James K. Baxter died of a heart attack on 22 October 1972 in the Auckland suburb of Glenfield. It was an unlikely, though not unfitting, location for the prophet against normality to quit the ordinary world that he had so imaginatively created and biblically lambasted. He had been driven to a doctor in one of those suburbs thrown up by postwar affluence, later collapsing on the doorstep. He sought help at a nearby house and died there among the suburbanites he had condemned for the spiritual emptiness of their materially comfortable lives. Looking back on Baxter’s legacy a decade later, the maverick young Auckland poet, Leigh Davis, who committed the Baxterian sin of taking a university degree and made it mortal by choosing a career in finance, playfully claimed that his generation’s distance from Baxter’s was one of marketing and outward presentation: You’re a big ghost, Jim St John, nice sheen on your forehead and noseridge’s catchy, spread over the billboard, nine years later . . I was in the mind for Jerusalem, but early Willy’s like a 1972 Listener. Barefoot for forty miles in the rain, kenosis, (who were you reading?) . . Then our literati were known for their sandals, their misery . . . & talent, leisure, demography, capital, markets, blew old icons up into large collected poems, where the audience knew the hagiography, or were instructed: ‘What is the inward part, or thing signified? The Body of Christ, taken indeed . .’ Who was Gaudier-Brzeska? (For what Willy assumes you shall assume, take it upon yourself ).1

But, of course, Baxter’s presence in our literary and cultural memory involves more than his theatrical adoption of a mendicant style of dress. 227

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

228

Ha rry Ri ck et ts and Ma rk Wil l ia ms

Over the two decades covered in this chapter, although his literary aura inevitably dimmed and flickered, he remained inescapable, as Fleur Adcock implied he would in her ‘In Memoriam: James K. Baxter’ (1974). Here, she gives her friend and near-contemporary a send-off that, while witty and sometimes irreverent, nevertheless finds its way to the correct elegiac conclusion: What can I do now, when [death] has become your own condition, but praise all that you gave to the tradition?2

And, willy nilly, that tradition included Davis, whose arcane, chatty sonnets in Willy’s Gazette were made possible by Baxter’s radical domestication and opening out of the form in his last years at the Whanganui River settlement of ‘Jerusalem’, or Hiruharama as its Māori inhabitants called it. Nor does Davis entirely dismiss the Christian heritage Baxter had so dramatically borne witness to. Penance and hagiography may not be encouraged in Davis’s lines, but Christian understandings of signification are knowingly deployed here within a post-Christian culture, just as they are in Allen Curnow’s 1986 poem, ‘Canto of Signs without Wonders’: The sign is what the maker means. Much more than that calls for an impossible presence of mind.3

Baxter’s poetic absence was, and remains, conspicuously felt, not least his commitment to the idea that poetry here could still be openly political and an agent for social change. Who wouldn’t want to have, for instance, his poems on the 1981 Springbok Tour – that nation-dividing moment still too thinly represented in the national literary archive? Even Baxter-sceptics have minded the gap he left. Bill Manhire, for instance, while acknowledging his distance from the poet who romanticised the world he grew up in as the son of a publican, has also been strongly conscious of the fluctuations of his sympathy and disenchantment towards Baxter and his work.4 The year 1972 was one of return and arrival as well as departure. After a mostly silent decade, Curnow splendidly returned with Trees, Effigies, Moving Objects  – the first in a series of richly demanding volumes over the 1970s and 1980s that reinforced his poetic authority at home while enlarging his standing in English-language poetry more generally. David Mitchell, who had been in Australia and Europe in the 1960s, struck a

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

From Hiruharama to Hataitai

229

welcome, if less exacting, note with his debut collection, Pipe Dreams in Ponsonby – poems that succeeded in being simultaneously countercultural, mildly provocative in their amorous politics yet conservative in their incantatory, romantic, even antique poetics. Mitchell brought home and localised the loose, seductive energies and typographical tics of American poetry together with a more cosmopolitan bohemianism, as in ‘th oldest game’: below th house a rusty plateau of ponsonby rooftops & chimneypots like paris recalls other mountains & other tents & voyages. voyages. here above the fine & foreign flesh of this strange SO familiar girl he makes th signs . . . & her silken stomach rises at the first & least touch to his cold fingertips & her pale eyes close against his lips . . .5

Three years earlier Alan Brunton, launching the magazine Freed, had called – in revolutionary capitals – for a new poetic informed by ‘THE / STRUGGLE WITH THE THEORY’ and liberated from a ‘GEORGIAN / ATTITUDE OF INDIFFERENCE’.6 Mitchell’s alternative culture is neither so self-parading, nor so interested in wholesale refructifications of poetic practice or theory. He offered instead carnal rhapsodies and anti–Vietnam War protests in an atmosphere of fin de siècle Paris (with a dash of early T. S. Eliot), as though its dandies, lovers, and decadents had been transported to Ponsonby with its immigrants, students, hippies, and workers. This dichotomy between the intellectual and the sensual, the grand and the domestic, runs through the period’s literature. It is present in the ongoing competing eminences of Curnow, the supreme ‘academic’ poet (ironic, epistemologically challenging, syntactically knotty, polished), and Baxter, the supreme ‘public’ poet (highly intelligent, yet suspicious of the intellect, polemical, devotional, bawdy). It is equally present in the strenuously international outlook of reformist literary groups associated with the universities – notably the little magazine, And (1983–5), edited by Davis, Alex Calder, and Roger Horrocks – as against the softer appeal of a local counterculture.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

230

Ha rry Ri ck et ts and Ma rk Wil l ia ms

The dichotomy figures also in divergent tendencies within feminism as well as the general counterculture. Consider, for instance, Adcock’s 1971 poem ‘Against Coupling’: how the lines coolly undercut the dreamy, self-absorbed, ubiquitous male sexuality of poems like Mitchell’s; how, in a teacherly tone, the speaker advocates masturbation to women as the obvious solution to the indignities and annoyances of actual sex (and perhaps also to the erotic self-indulgence of male poets): I advise you, then, to embrace it without encumbrance. No need to set the scene, dress up (or undress), make speeches. Five minutes of solitude are enough – in the bath, or to fill that gap between the Sunday papers and lunch.7

That said, most feminist poets embracing the female body with fiercely political, at times pseudoreligious, fervour in the 1970s preferred a less witty mode of attack on the traditionally male (strangle)hold over the subject. Enthusiasm, spirituality, and the display of emotion were much more in evidence. Heather McPherson elaborates a style of lyrical sapphism in Figurehead, A Face, while Rachel McAlpine in ‘burning the liberty bodice’ (1979) praises the female body with matter-of-fact but, in a still conservative society, provocative enjoyment: now you notice your thighs softly bumping together and how one lip lies delicious on the other in a lifelong kiss8

At times the liberatory politics of the sensual overwhelmed the poetry of the period, but a good deal of the work of feminist poetics was carried out, like Adcock’s, in self-consciously literary terms, taking apart a tradition in which women were the described not the describers. Hilaire Kirkland’s 1976 ‘Aubade’ speaks back to centuries of male poets addressing the dawn that signals the end of pleasure: ‘I need no false dawn for vision – / my blinded flesh shouting / sways up and burns with yours, / and knows its slow familiar aching’.9 Anne French in elegantly subversive poems, like ‘The Lady Fishermen’, speaks back to the canon and with humorous wit inserts women writers into the male tradition, while indicating an alternative one in the making: Imagine Jane Austen in thigh waders perfecting her rolling cast, or Miss Elizabeth Barrett dashing off to the bush for a weekend’s

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

From Hiruharama to Hataitai

231

pig-shooting. Mrs Melville perhaps, at the helm for the 2 a.m. watch while Herman snatched some sleep? Ludicrous. There’s no tradition. We’ll just have to improvise (with improvements).10

Politics and poetics are brought into unsettling arrangement in Dinah Hawken’s 1987  ‘Walking Together, Fifth Avenue’, where the speaker describes having seen two women – one rich, one poor – walking the fashionable avenue together.11 The poem is not, however, simply a wry or outraged observation of social inequality. The reader must notice behind the image of togetherness the differences between the two, where colour is not announced but shyly indicated (‘What you notice about the other / is not the dark colour of her shoes, / her skin or her thin uniform’). As readers of literary texts or of social distinction, we are invited to discover behind the face displayed by the poorer woman – ‘resolute, accurate, still’ – ‘the formula, / the knack’, indicating a device or even trick, a style or a way of presenting things that alerts us to the limits of what we notice in poems and everyday life. Along with Hawken, Lauris Edmond and Elizabeth Smither are, very differently, major voices of the period. Edmond’s ‘wisdom poetry’, as it has been called, opens out to the reader and the world; it is confessional, but never wholly reliant on the emotion displayed.12 Her tautly constructed poems often turn on crisp, lucent moments of reflection and discovery, as in ‘A Reckoning’ (1986) which weighs and measures the slow dissolution of a marriage: Our fears kept us close; pride too, and the small events’ unmerciful momentum. It was a walled garden, safe to quarrel in, love coming down on us reliably as rain. We were its keepers, so intent we did not see the change of sky, the gradual departures – then there was just a man, a woman slamming some old gate on a quiet plot . . .13

But Edmond can also take on larger themes. In ‘Latter Day Lysistrata’ (1980), she resists the apocalypse delivered by weapons that ‘destroy all life, leaving / buildings whole . . .’ by way of a reverent, Whitmanesque attention to the fragile, particular beauties of the body and the earth: Let us show them the vulnerable earth, the transparent light that slips

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

232

Ha rry Ri ck et ts and Ma rk Wil l ia ms through slender birches falling over small birds that sense in the minuscule threads of their veins the pulses of every creature. . . .14

Unusually for a poet, she achieved the kind of a broad, committed readership enjoyed by some novelists, and it may have been this popularity as much as the ‘confessional’ nature of her poetry that prompted several sharp dressings-down by C. K. Stead. In one essay, he suggests that the ‘truth’, ‘candour’, and ‘courage’ Edmond claims for herself in her 1986 poem ‘The lecture’ are ‘exactly what the writing lacks’.15 Edmond is also almost certainly the main target in Stead’s 2000 poem ‘Suffenia the Poet’: ‘she reads her lying verses in a lying-down voice / a neck-scarf hiding her wattles. . . . Saying over and above the words, “Believe me! Believe!” ’16 Smither’s poems, in contrast to Edmond’s, have a metaphysical density that makes them less graspable and perhaps more intriguing to return to: ‘The poets I like are tough. . . . You have to use all your senses to crack them open. They won’t give any toe-hold. It’s like trying to climb the Eiger when you’re basically very unfit’.17 They deliver no epiphanic meanings, but skip unpredictably among the divagations of an intensely mobile sensibility, registering everything from the price of butter to scenes from funerals or the curiosities of family. In the title poem of her 1981 collection The Legend of Marcello Mastroianni’s Wife, erotics are as much a play of language as of bodies: In bed while she ministered Territories of herself she spoke Into the darkness the litany she’d learnt: Whales, dolphins, the dove-like sea.18

Other Smither poems from the 1980s nudge up to the numinous without quite endorsing it – the veil in ‘The Veronica’s Veil Technique’ (1986) teasingly conflating a moment of transcendence with the act of writing: Certain that something is happening but what Press a convenient bit of cloth Against the nearest obvious manifestation. You should come away with a print in your hands . . .19

Yet a politics of the body and a shift to other kinds of domestication was not confined to feminist poetry. Ian Wedde in Earthly: Sonnets for Carlos (1975) inserts a politics deeply embedded in his understanding of language into a long, varied sequence without the lushness of body-centric feminism or (to look forward to 1988) the deft skewering of Anne French’s ‘Male

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

From Hiruharama to Hataitai

233

as Invader’ poems (‘Whatever he writes there’ll be no surprises’).20 In the sonnets, Wedde moves from celebrating the birth of his son to recording a Palestinian man savagely damaged by a land-mine, and from flatulence to beauty, mixing his oppositions at times with disturbing gravitas, at others with lightness and gusto: Hearts that break, garlic fervent in hot oil Jittery exultation of the soul Minds that are tough & have good appetites Everything in love with its opposite . . .21

‘Pathway to the Sea’ (also 1975) finds a similar way of domesticating the political (or should that be politicising the domestic?). Here the reader or ‘citizen’ is invited to see digging a drain as a microcosm of ever-expanding ecological urgencies. In ‘Driving into the Storm: The Art of Poetry’ (1981), one of the few notable poems to engage with the Springbok Tour, Wedde indicates a poetic mode appropriate to the grubbiness and tumults of contemporary politics, wherein: All language is a place, all landscapes mean something. In the back seat one passenger is taping up his knuckles. A less violent carload of travellers would be hard to find, but we too have places we arrive at and sometimes we can’t drive through. We have to stop, we must let the hidden meanings out. The confrontations that may hurt us into original thought.22

Wedde is a key figure in post-cultural nationalist New Zealand poetry. In his volumes of the 1970s and 1980s, he continually pushes the formal possibilities of poetry, extending its modes of responding to history and contemporary cultural change. He bridges at least some of the tensions between academe and counterculture, intellect and sensuality, in poems that, in addition to channelling and charting the chaotic energies of the time, try to make and critique them. Murray Edmond also interrogates the complicities of language in the discontents of nation. Over the period his poetry applies an increasingly severe constraint on the lyricism of his early work. In the 1981 poem, ‘Shack’ he visits the legacy of cultural nationalism without so much as a bow. The project of building the nation’s culture is

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

234

Ha rry Ri ck et ts and Ma rk Wil l ia ms

cut down from its high Curnowian purpose and domesticated to a more open and fragile, less daunting poetic: I read the word shack. I like it. It is a good solid small word. It would be good to live in a shack. In inflationary times a shack would be a good place to live. Welcome to the shack. It hardly exists.23

Wedde, Edmond, and Brunton all established their difference from existing New Zealand poetry by articulating and advertising the connection of their work to international models – the Dadaists, Black Mountain poets, Eastern European writers. They were keen to distinguish their newness from Stead’s promotion of a modernism well past its use-by date.24 Sam Hunt, an exact contemporary of Wedde’s, has had no such inclination. From the first, his poetic models were W. B. Yeats, James K. Baxter, and the ‘troubadeer’ poetic strain. In the mid-1960s in his teens he became, and has remained, one of the country’s most recognisable and loved poets, a Baxterian ghost minus the theology. Although his work has aroused little critical interest, it is worth observing not just the popularity but also the value of his kind of poetry. Romantic, formally consistent, large-hearted, at times pushing the blokey larrikin persona to the point of self-parody – Hunt remains in his fashion an acute chronicler of an unforgiving society, and, particularly in his moving poems about family and his dog Minstrel, another domesticator. David Eggleton, once affectionately known as the ‘Mad Kiwi Ranter’, sits somewhere between the popular and the strenuously intellectual. The most durable of the period’s performance poets and specialising in a raplike delivery rather than Hunt’s more bardic mode, he too refigures the nation for poetic use. In ‘Painting Mount Taranaki’ (1986) Eggleton hectically registers the busy profusion of contemporary life in snatches of culturally resonant detail that capture economic tawdriness, the layers of representation, the industrialisation of landscape, and above all the penetration of every minim of place by a globalised capitalism that is also cutely localised: So, to the French, whose own symbol is an ageing Brigitte Bardot, the mountain, just the same, could be a logo for the butter they’ve no-noed, dismissing a country’s living tannery with a sniff:

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

From Hiruharama to Hataitai

235

the hides of rain-slicked cows only acceptable in the corner of a page by Frank Sargeson.25

In a vein quite different from either Baxter’s or Wedde’s, Hone Tuwhare’s ‘To a Maori Figure Cast in Bronze outside the Chief Post Office, Auckland’ (1972) is one of the most effective political poems of the period. In his famous ‘No Ordinary Sun’ (1958), Tuwhare had addressed nuclear threat with rhetorical gravitas and echoes of Dylan Thomas and the Bible. Here, in a dramatic monologue, a controversial statue of a warrior in ancient style, speaks a contemporary argot, full of vigour, humour, and political sting: ‘I hate being stuck up here, glaciated, hard all over / and with my guts removed: my old lady is not going / to like it’.26 Sculptor Molly Macalister’s 1964 statue, however, is not the subject of the poem’s humorous assault on a lingering stereotype (Macalister had in fact wanted ‘to get away from thinking of the Maori just in terms of hakas and poi dances’, and some of the city councillors who commissioned the work objected that they had not been given the expected warrior in traditional fighting pose.27) What is most striking about Tuwhare’s warrior is that he speaks the language of the present, not that of some idealised past, redolent of battles and heroic deeds. His demotic English includes a range of speech registers:  the scientific-sounding ‘glaciated’ beside the colloquial ‘my guts hanging out’. There are Māori words, but they are placed in nontraditional contexts (‘mini-piupiu-ed bums’) and refuse to quarantine Māori language off as some pure, noble, no longer relevant archaism. There’s even a lively preference for a Labour hero like Michael Savage against the Tory city council, those perhaps who objected to the statue’s authenticity. The language ranges from the racial term for Māori at the time, Hori, to an emphatic objection to the effect of the cold (‘your balls mate’), to a good-humoured, lecherous observation of the shocking youth culture of the day:  ‘beatle-girls with their long-haired / boyfriends licking their frozen finger-chippy lips / hopefully’ (referring probably to the Beatles’ 1967 song ‘Penny Lane’ with its bawdy line, ‘A four of fish and finger pies’). How different to sexuality in Baxter:  defended, even celebrated, but always under the shadow of Puritan disapproval. In the final stanza Tuwhare’s agreeably irritable ancient warrior asserts his desire to be down with the action, in the present: ‘Somebody give me a drink. I can’t stand it’. The poem teases the reader with political references we should know more about, at the same time deflecting overseriousness by humour. It stretches us across the gamut of New Zealand English, Māori-English, and snippets of te reo, and, above all, the poem reminds us that the frozen

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

236

Ha rry Ri ck et ts and Ma rk Wil l ia ms

image of the Māori warrior corresponds to no reality beyond tourist clichés and 1960s tea towels. ‘We, Who Live in Darkness’ (1987) is often read in terms of the heightened politics of the decade.28 The poem in this reading enacts an argument between those calling for political activism/separatism and more moderate, accommodationist views. The poem derives its force from the suspense worked into the Māori story of creation. But the title is also biblical: ‘the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’ (Isaiah 9:2); hence there is a prophetic element here. This is clearly a poem about the struggle against oppression, about seeing the light, about the anticipation of a leader; it is also playful, irreverent, and inventive.29 It seems fitting then that, in ‘Dirty Silence:  Impure Sounds in New Zealand Poetry’, a 1991 essay looking back on our period, Bill Manhire should draw on Tuwhare to articulate a poetic of voice – or voices.30 Manhire is reacting here against the notion that poetry should raise and renew the ordinary activities and diction of everyday life. By contrast, he approves of poetry as ‘dirty’ language, a mix of different elements and idioms, where formal and colloquial exist side by side or a shift takes place from one to the other. Poems for him are conversations between different voices, just as society is – or ought to be. He uses as an example a sentence from a 1990 Tuwhare short story, ‘Don’t Go Past Me with Your Nose in the Air’: I just like the feel of the sun warm on my body, the birds busting their heart out in the trees; close my eyes and hold onto the memory of the sun, polishing the different colour of green on the tatara-moa, the harakeke, the totara, the puriri, the karaka – kia ora begorrah! Amen.

Manhire observes that this is the kind of mix I think our liveliest poets can produce, a text which is a sort of conversation between words of different languages. That particular patch of text – kia ora begorrah! Amen – is such a conversation, and it happens to make perfect sense, although only in New Zealand. There can be no other place on earth where you could say those words and expect to be understood.31

The ‘adventures’ the poet must take in search of New Zealand ‘reality’ have been redirected from landscape and history to the mobile particulars of language use. C.  K. Stead’s earlier essay ‘From Wystan to Carlos:  Modern and Modernism in Recent New Zealand Poetry’ (1979) has been more noticed and argued over than Manhire’s. Stead’s essay is authoritative, clearly argued, and brusquely discriminating, but the view of modernism it offers skews the way we see the poetry of the two decades covered in this chapter. Stead

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

From Hiruharama to Hataitai

237

argues that modernism arrived belatedly in New Zealand and he traces its local provenance through significant figures – late Curnow and Baxter – but he has scant place for Tuwhare and finds Manhire at odds with his schema. The latter, in fact, fits awkwardly under even so spacious a literary umbrella as modernism, being in some respects quite traditional, using regular stanzas, for example, yet also given to lobbing bombs against his own seeming good behaviour.32 Stead’s late modernist mainstream cannot quite accommodate Manhire, whose preoccupations are not with the global movements of poetic form replicated at a national level but with the particulars of phrase and tone, the evasions of voice that speak and conceal the self, echoes of prior voices in contemporary ones, the unstable concentrations of influence and observation that make a poem. And it is these linguistic particulars of phrase and tone, not the cultural nationalists’ adherence to place, which produce the ‘New Zealand’ inflections of his poetry. Stead’s own poetry in these decades paid little heed to cultural nationalism. He sought outlets and an audience as much in the United Kingdom as at home. Indeed, his relations with New Zealand readers became increasingly frayed. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s he produced a number of adroit works and volumes, ranging from the excursions into European literary history in Quesada: Poems 1972–74 (1975) to the local habitations of ‘Scoria’ (1982). He also entered the gender wars with conspicuous bravery in The Clodian Songbook.33 Consistently felt is the alliance of loosely modernist methods of borrowing, bricolage, fractured perspectives with a lucid narrative delivered by an authorial voice. The latter is present in both the public and the private works – satires and classical translations, the history and memory poems. The 1980s saw the public side overwhelm the private as Stead became embroiled in cultural politics, especially those concerning gender and race. Leftist in politics, Stead had always been a meritocrat in respect to art and its evaluations. His objections to the attacks upon what was perceived as white privilege flowed into his poetry, with squibs against the Māori winner of the latest literary prize. His classically modelled satires on contemporary political follies, for all their cleverness, tend to be blunted by the personal animus of their delivery.34 In ‘After the Wedding’ (1988), however, a poem that sets the personal in the context of family history, beloved place, and wry reflections on age and meaning, Stead achieves something fine and utterly vivid in its imagistic recovery: In sleep I still trace those tracks below gum trees skirting the swamp

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

238

Ha rry Ri ck et ts and Ma rk Wil l ia ms through bush to that pool of pools where the small brown fish suspend themselves in shafts of light. My feet sink midstream in heaped silt clouding the flow.35

If Stead’s distinguishing virtue or vice, depending on preference, has been lucidity,36 Vincent O’Sullivan’s, at least initially, has been opaqueness, drawing on the symbolist line of modernism as Stead drew on the Poundian and imagist. Like Gregory O’Brien with his surrealistic deflections of poetry away from the personal, O’Sullivan never puts himself directly on display, but offers a less-than-gruntled panorama of contemporary manners by way of satire, extreme personae, and a sometimes densely metaphorical method. If we glimpse a source of the voices, squibs, domestic scenes, proletarian ruminations, and lyrical moments, it is a continually self-divided one. So, in Butcher & Co (1977), for instance, where Butcher struggles with his earthy appetites and metaphysical intimations, and in Brother Jonathan, Brother Kafka (1980) deeply split choices and anxieties are registered, if only partially explored. Like Stead, O’Sullivan gradually makes his own accommodations with Curnow, whose presence can be felt in the complicated threads of metaphor that seek to catch a roiling consciousness. In the mid-1980s, with The Pilate Tapes (‘a miniature Passion Play, rendered in a dazzling variety of tones’), O’Sullivan moved towards a style that would flower in the following decades, and in which the antinomies, far from being resolved, became increasingly productive of a poetry of consistently fluent complexity.37 By contrast with the pairing of Stead and O’Sullivan, Curnow and Manhire might seem like complete opposites (Curnow even appears in an early 1990s Manhire poem alongside the cartoon character, Judge Dredd, perhaps as a way of figuring a capacity to attend to wild differences of cultural kinds and influences).38 Nevertheless, to consider the two together is to shine a different light on the poetic developments in our period: the one, adamantine, judgemental, controlling every element of his work, given to authoritative pronouncement and correction; the other, mobile, wily, tough in his own way, yet tolerant of accident in the writing process. The key volumes in this respect are Manhire’s Good Looks and Curnow’s You Will Know What You Get There, which both appeared in 1982. There is a view that, in Good Looks, a new gravity appears in place of Manhire’s much noted playfulness, so that the relatively easily unpacked linguistic codes of, say, ‘Declining the Naked Horse’ now neighbour darker, more

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

From Hiruharama to Hataitai

239

impenetrable mysteries. Yet reading even apparently opaque Manhire poems is never unrewarding. As a way of thinking about Manhire in a history of New Zealand poetry, ‘Zoetropes’ (1984) presents typically rich opportunities: A starting. Words which begin with Z alarm the heart: the eye cuts down at once then drifts across the page to other disappointments. * Zenana: the women’s apartments in Indian or Persian houses. Zero is nought, nothing, nil – the quiet starting point of any scale of measurement. * The land itself is only smoke at anchor, drifting above Antarctica’s white flower, tied by a thin red line (5000 miles) to Valparaiso. London 29.4.8139

It is impossible to extrapolate an argument from this or locate a voice telling the reader what the poem ‘means’. It is not a wholly impersonal poem, yet the poet does not quite seem to be speaking to us directly. The poem may be read as working from a voice located in London while searching the newspaper for news of home, signalled by the disappointing Zs; if so, then ‘Zoetropes’, like William Pember Reeves’s ‘A Colonist in His Garden’ (1904) and Charles Brasch’s ‘The Islands’ (1948), reflects on New Zealand’s distance from the rest of the world, particularly Britain. But what in Reeves is a thriving, confident colony and in Brasch a distance-haunted coast has here become ‘only / smoke at anchor’ – though if we choose to take that initial ‘A’ as the ‘starting’ of Aotearoa (the Māori name for the country conventionally translated as ‘land of the long white cloud’) we can perhaps catch a glimpse of alternative origins. Even so, the poem certainly offers no resounding assertions about current identity or the meaning of settler nationhood. Instead we look at New Zealand through a shifting set of unlikely images, as if in the lens of a Victorian toy. Neither Reeves’s sense of empire as a benevolent connection between colony and home,

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

240

Ha rry Ri ck et ts and Ma rk Wil l ia ms

nor Brasch’s culturally displaced yearnings have any place in Manhire’s poem, which contains a suitably deflating imperial reference in the phrase ‘thin red line’. Nevertheless, it is rewarding to think about nation, sexuality, family, and death when reading poems like ‘Zoetropes’. It’s just that the reward will not generally be to come away with an exact meaning as we do with a Reeves or Brasch poem even after a fairly cursory reading. Andrew Johnston has observed that ‘Poetry [for Manhire] could quite properly be an instrument for subjective exploration, yet this subjectivity was not necessarily the same thing as narcissism or solipsism; it might even be a means to a truly public voice’.40 So exploring the personal may lead to something public; taking the singular may lead to the plural; seeking a true origin for a word or a name may lead to multiplicity. If so, the whole search for self or origin or nation is conducted as a humorous, playful business that is also serious but never earnest. Hence, often a Manhire poem involves code switching, a proper voice interrupted by another kind of speech – not just one that is ‘wrong’, but one that is more energetic, badly behaved, interestingly contrary, as in this moment from ‘Making History’ (1982): So now the past comes round again with all the benefits of doubt and fails at any rate to penetrate the brain. But pucker up, the lips are feeling really great and isn’t history the place where everyone felt great . . .41

The dominant voice of our period, however, remains that of Curnow, who effected in this ‘late’ phase of his spectacular but not unchallenged career a body of new work that changes the terms available to read all his poetry and casts anew his long, complex relationship with his country. That relationship goes well beyond the narrowly conceived and authoritatively delivered definitions in the 1930s and 1940s, subsequently rejected, but involves a consistently ambiguous and nuanced consideration of what the nation might mean if sufficiently strongly and critically imagined by its writers. In spite of the stern dismissals of literary opponents and the air of ecclesiastical certainty that hangs around his judgements, Curnow always notices the impediments to the realisation of nationalism, not to mention the nation. Curnow also moves from public to private modes. Andrew Johnston has drawn attention to the anti-romanticism working through many of the later poems, the negative thrust of philosophical engagement with a

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

From Hiruharama to Hataitai

241

post-religious viewpoint.42 ‘A Balanced Bait in Handy Pellet Form’ (1979), like several of Curnow’s most expressive poems of the 1980s (‘Impromptu in a Low Key’, e.g., ‘A Raised Voice’, ‘A Time of Day’), returns to a childhood scene, yet continues to position the self in a world intellectual rather than natural. Focused through an older narrator, ‘A Balanced Bait’ teleports him back ‘barefoot in frost’ on his way to school in Canterbury, in view of Mount Torlesse, but in order to keep worrying about language, naming, things: Fluent in all the languages dead or living, the sun comes up with a word of worlds all spinning in a world of words, the way the mountain answers to its name and that’s the east and the sea das meer, la mer, il mare Pacifico, and I am on my way to school barefoot in frost beside the metalled road which is beside the railway beside the water-race, all spinning into the sun and all exorbitantly expecting the one and identical, the concentric, as the road, the rail, the water, and the bare feet run eccentric to each other. Torlesse, no less, first mountain capable of ice, joined the pursuit, at its own pace revolved in a wintry blue foot over summit, snow on each sunlit syllable, taught speechless world-word word-world’s ABC. Because light is manifest by what it lights, ladder-fern, fingernail, the dracophyllums have these differing opacities, translucencies; mown grass diversely parched is a skinned ‘soul’ which the sun sloughed; similarly the spectral purples perplexing the drab of the dugover topsoil explain themselves too well to be understood. There’s no warmth here. The heart pulsates to a tune of its own, and if unisons happen how does anyone know? Dead snails have left shells, trails, baffled epigraphy and excreta of such slow short lives, cut shorter by the pellets I ‘scatter freely’, quick acting, eccentric to exorbitant flourishes of shells, pencillings, drab or sunlit things dead as you please, or as the other poet says, Our life is a false nature ‘tis not in

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

242

Ha rry Ri ck et ts and Ma rk Wil l ia ms the harmony of things. There we go again, worrying the concentric, the one and identical, to the bone that’s none of ours, eccentric to each other. Millions die miserably never before their time. The news comes late. Compassion sings to itself. I read the excreta of all species, I write a world as good as its word, active ingredient 30 g/kg (3%) Metaldehyde, in the form of a pellet.43

The narrator returns to the present and his garden, beset by pests, which he poisons. ‘A Balanced Bait’ is, among other things, a garden poem, and one that speaks to a nation preoccupied with cultivation. It is also a tautly compressed reflection on the process of killing, on compassion and inevitability, the dead corpses of humans piled up with those of bugs and snails. Metaldehyde is a domestic agent of mass destruction, and inevitably we are back with earlier colonial writers glancing sideways at their situation, an act of bridging that Curnow is uniquely able to perform. To end with a less strenuous garden poem: Jenny Bornholdt’s ‘In the Garden’ (1988), a suburban poem, in which nature is found not in the wild but in the garden: In the garden the bulbs run riot root systems go all over the place we crack open huge dry clods of earth and uncover white bulbs of onion flowers embedded like fossils their roots like thin streamers partying down through the soil. So we have a white flower propped on the top of a green stem A plain enough thing while underneath the feelers are out hooking into other systems forming the network the flower an undercover agent posted on the watch a decoy of simplicity.44

Here no need is felt to metonymise the garden into some larger cultural or national entity, to imply some anxious allegorical shape. Things are allowed

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

From Hiruharama to Hataitai

243

to be domestic, to be what they seem. Or are they? After all, that apparently simple weed, the onion flower, is ‘an undercover agent’, ‘a decoy of simplicity’, which is working away underground, its ‘feelers . . . / hooking into other systems’. That offers a fair analogy to the subconscious way certain poems work, poems like this one, while also hinting perhaps at other, less reassuring forms of surveillance, which were operating through our period. It would be an oversimplification to trace, across these decades, a movement from poet as outsider to poet tucked up comfortably in suburbia – Hataitai or Ponsonby.45 Poets do find their relations to nation, language, and self increasingly complex, nuanced, ambivalent – Curnow’s imperative of responsibility to locality having dissipated and Baxter’s call to wake the populace from their materialist slumber finding little resonance. Where poets in the late 1980s address the political, they tend to do so without overt address to the reader but, as Manhire’s ‘Zoetropes’ and Bornholdt’s ‘In the Garden’ do, by involving the reader in the process of meaning making. Notes 1 Leigh Davis, Willy’s Gazette (Auckland: Jack Books, 1983), section 1. We have observed the late author’s preferred style of punctuation. 2 Fleur Adcock, Selected Poems (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 52. 3 Allen Curnow, Early Days Yet: New and Collected Poems 1941–1997 (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1997), 54. 4 Bill Manhire, ‘Stranger at the Ranchslider’, Journal of New Zealand Literature 13 (1995), 11–22: 12. 5 David Mitchell, Pipe Dreams in Ponsonby (1971) (Dunedin:  Caveman Press, 1975), 25. 6 Alan Brunton, The Word Is Freed 1 (July 1969): n.p. 7 Adcock, Selected Poems, 34. 8 Rachel McAlpine, Fancy Dress (Auckland: Cicada Press, 1979), 15. 9 Hilaire Kirkland, Blood Clear & Apple Red:  Poems (Wellington:  Wai-te-ata Press, 1981), 28. 10 Anne French, Cabin Fever (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1990), 33. 11 Dinah Hawken, It Has No Sound and Is Blue (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1987), 19. 12 K.  O. Arvidson, ‘Affirming Lucidity:  Edmond’s “Wisdom Poetry” ’, New Zealand Books 6, 4 (October 1996): 1–3 13 Lauris Edmond, Seasons and Creatures (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1986), 39. 14 Lauris Edmond, Selected Poems (Auckland:  Oxford University Press, 1984), 73–4.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

244

Ha rry Ri ck et ts and Ma rk Wil l ia ms

15 C. K. Stead, Kin of Place: Essays on 20 New Zealand Writers (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2002), 285. 16 C. K. Stead, The Right Thing (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2000), 37. 17 Elizabeth Smither, in Talking About Ourselves:  Twelve New Zealand Poets in Conversation with Harry Ricketts (Wellington: Mallinson Rendel, 1986), 89. 18 Elizabeth Smither, The Legend of Marcello Mastroianni’s Wife (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1981), 9. 19 Elizabeth Smither, Professor Musgrove’s Canary (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1986), 10. 20 Anne French, The Male as Evader (Auckland:  Auckland University Press, 1988), 25. 21 Ian Wedde, Sonnet 31, Earthly:  Sonnets for Carlos (Akaroa:  Amphedesma Press, 1975), n.p. 22 Ian Wedde, Tales from Gotham City (Auckland:  Auckland University Press, 1984), 32–3. 23 Murray Edmond, End Wall (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1981), 38. 24 As discussed in the following text, the most sustained expression of Stead’s late modernist position is to be found in his 1979 essay ‘From Wystan to Carlos:  Modern and Modernism in Recent New Zealand Poetry’, in In the Glass Case: Essays on New Zealand Literature (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1981), 139–59. But the position underwrites much of his own poetic practice as well as his early criticism. 25 David Eggleton, South Pacific Sunrise (Auckland: Penguin, 1986), 75. 26 Hone Tuwhare, Deep River Talk: Collected Poems (Auckland: Godwit, 1993), 75. 27 Auckland Star, 6 October 1965; cited in Robin Woodward, ‘The Sculpture of Molly Macalister’, Art New Zealand 26 (Autumn 1983): 61. 28 See, e.g., Robert Sullivan, ‘An Extraordinary Poet’, Kunapipi 30, 1 (2008): 8–17. 29 There is also perhaps, in the poem’s halted movement towards ‘light’, a glance to Witi Ihimaera and D. S. Long’s groundbreaking anthology, Into the World of Light:  An Anthology of Maori Writing (Auckland:  Heinemann, 1982), to which Tuwhare contributed. 30 Bill Manhire, ‘Dirty Silence: Impure Sounds in New Zealand Poetry’, in Dirty Silence: Aspects of Language and Literature in New Zealand, ed. Graham McGregor and Mark Williams (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1991), 144–57. 31 Ibid., 151. 32 See Bill Manhire, interview with Iain Sharp, in In the Same Room, ed. Elizabeth Alley and Mark Williams (Auckland:  Auckland University Press, 1992), 15–36, see p. 33. 33 This witty, irreverent localisation of Catullus (part translation, part imitation) owes a clear poetic debt to Ezra Pound’s ‘Homage to Sextus Propertius’ (1917). 34 In this respect, Louis Johnson’s 1986 sequence ‘True Confessions of the Last Cannibal’, which puts the knife into several of the same shibboleths, might be thought more successful. 35 C. K. Stead, Collected Poems 1951–2006 (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2008), 201.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

From Hiruharama to Hataitai

245

36 See Damien Wilkins’s review of C. K. Stead’s novel The End of the Century at the End of the World in New Zealand Books 2, 3 (December 1992): 6. 37 This description of The Pilate Tapes is MacDonald P.  Jackson’s under the O’Sullivan entry in The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, ed. Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1998), 419. 38 ‘Allen Curnow Meets Judge Dredd’, Bill Manhire: Collected Poems (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2001), 158. 39 Bill Manhire, Zoetropes: Poems 1972–82 (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1984), 77. Courtesy of the author and Victoria University Press. 40 Andrew Johnston, ‘Entertaining Possibilities: Six Contemporary New Zealand Poets’, Meanjin 51, 3 (Spring 1992), 641–52: 643. 41 Bill Manhire, Good Looks (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1982), 45. 42 Andrew Johnston, ‘Late, Late Curnow: A Mind of Winter’, Journal of New Zealand Literature 25 (2007): 46–69. 43 Curnow, Early Days Yet, 103–4. 44 Jenny Bornholdt, This Big Face (Wellington:  Victoria University Press, 1988), 13. Equally we could have chosen Cilla McQueen’s ‘Vegetable Garden Poem IV’ from her collection anti gravity (Dunedin: John McIndoe, 1984). There, as in Murray Edmond’s ‘Shack’, house and garden stand for the nation with the prospect (or at least hope) of change, as the speaker listens ‘very carefully / to these new dialects of earth & air’ (11). 45 The phrase ‘From Hiruharama to Hataitai’ appears in an essay by Mark Williams, ‘Reconstructing the Canon? Editing the Oxford Anthology of New Zealand Poetry’, in Glimpses of New Zealand Literature, special Issue of The Literary Criterion, eds. Jane Stafford and Mark Williams (Mysore: Dhvanyaloka, 1998), 14–31: 29. Hataitai is a middle-class Wellington suburb, very different from the small rural Maori community where James K. Baxter established his commune in 1969 for those wounded by the dominant society.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.017 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter 17

The Novel, the Short Story, and the Rise of a New Reading Public, 1972–1990 Lydia Wevers

Two powerful currents brought about the social sea change of the 1970s and 1980s:  Māori activism, including a powerful new literary presence, and feminism. In these decades other things changed too, literary theory, cultural politics, and readership. A new internationalism arrived in New Zealand as literary and intellectual trends, notably postmodernism, became visible, as in Michael Morrissey’s 1985 anthology, The New Fiction. Keri Hulme won the Booker Prize for the bone people in 1985. The literary and intellectual landscape became more diverse as small independent publishers were established and new magazines founded, some for specialist audiences like the feminist publications Broadsheet and Hecate or the journal And, whose aim was to oppose and reform local literary discourse. Feminism gave a new prominence and marketability to woman writers. The New Women’s Press was founded in Auckland in 1982 following the success of women’s presses internationally, and mainstream publishers realised that women readers had always had a large market share. The advent of Witi Ihimaera and Patricia Grace as published writers not only developed a Māori readership but also fostered the publication of Māori-centred books including those in te reo Māori (Māori language),  and a Māori publisher, Huia Press, was founded in 1991. In 1972 Heinemann published Witi Ihimaera’s collection of stories Pounamu Pounamu. Although there was a long history of Māori publishing short fiction, poems, and other pieces, particularly in Te Ao Hou, Pounamu Pounamu was the first book-length work of fiction produced by a Māori author. It became a much-loved school and university text and created a Pākehā (European) readership for Māori fiction. Focused on the fictional village Waituhi, the stories recreate a pastoral version of Māori community life. Their lyrical register has also been critiqued for sentimentality.1 Ihimaera followed up with two linked novels Tangi (1973) and Whanau (1974), which are based on the same fictional community, then 246

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

The Novel and the Short Story, 1972–1990

247

a second collection of stories, The New Net Goes Fishing,  in 1976. In the 1980s Ihimaera stopped writing for a time, concerned that his portrayal of the Māori world was perpetuating dated ideas and perhaps responding to criticism that his work was naively sentimental about Māori life, failing to register Māori poverty, alienation, and social disadvantage.2 He eventually rewrote his early work, but his whole body of fiction has always been consistent in its primary objective, which is to represent the Māori world, Te Ao Māori, from the inside. Like Patricia Grace, whose first book Waiariki appeared in 1975, and like the majority of emergent writers at the time, Ihimaera chose the short story rather than the novel to make his debut. The dominance of the short story as a fictional form in New Zealand literature lasted most of the twentieth century but declined towards the end of the century when the market for novels trumped the market for short fiction all over the world. For decades the tested route to New Zealand authorhood was the publication of short fiction, and New Zealand’s distinctive preference for the form is shown by its major writers – Mansfield, Sargeson, Frame, Gee, Ihimaera, Grace  – all of whom began, and in Mansfield’s case concluded, their careers with short fiction. There are many ways of glossing this phenomenon, which has been ably analysed by W. H. New.3 To some extent modernist tenets applied to Mansfield’s choice of form, but for later and New Zealand–based writers who could not make a living writing, and for whom there was a limited range of local publishing venues, it made sense to start small with stories in the Listener or Landfall, on the radio, or in literary magazines published by small presses that proliferated in the more fluid, diverse, and shoestring publishing landscape of the 1960s and 1970s. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the shift towards longer narrative forms took place, and by the 1990s many writers, such as Elizabeth Knox, had begun their careers with a novel. In some respects, then, 1972–90 is a period of intense activity and equally intense change. The reading public expanded and diversified, publishers covered a wide spectrum of size and activity, not yet agglomerated into large multinational imprints, and literature took on a new political edge. Patricia Grace has said that she writes about ordinary people doing ordinary things but they happen to be Māori, which means that from the beginning her fiction has vividly evoked the lives of Māori in the everyday working world but has also delineated racism and inequality. Waiariki (1975) opens with a story called ‘A Way of Talking’. This phrase introduces the thematic connectedness that runs through the collection,

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

248

Lydi a  Wevers

which ends with a chant in Māori in the story ‘Parade’. It also indicates Grace’s political purpose, which has been consistent throughout her work, to find a way of talking by and for Māori. Her fiction deploys a narrative voice that has a distinctive register and idiolect. Māori words interleave with her image-rich English, and she makes no concessions to a reader who is not at least minimally acculturated to a bicultural society. When Grace was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2008 the judge commented that the award is a ‘landmark recognition of an indigenous writer’  that gives a ‘strong sense of the direction of important literature in the 21st century’.4 Grace’s work in the 1970s and 1980s established the terrain that has won her numerous awards.  Potiki  (1986), her third and most successful novel, describes the damage and violence wrought by postcolonial exploitation on a small Māori community. It was followed by her third collection Electric City and Other Stories (1987), which transferred Māori experience of alienation and dispossession to an urban setting. Ihimaera’s work has also followed a political trajectory but in a more self-conscious and dispersed way than Grace. His large historical novel The Matriarch (1986) spans five generations and recounts the history of land loss and disadvantage suffered by Māori, while also using a wide range of references to Western culture, especially Verdi’s operas. The following year Ihimaera published The Whale Rider, now a very successful film, which addresses sexism in Māori culture and society, and in 1989 Dear Miss Mansfield, which rewrites famous Mansfield stories from a Māori perspective.  Both Ihimaera and Grace significantly revised the national imaginary, away from the dominant tropes and masculinist modes deriving from literary nationalism and towards an othered narrative representing a politically contested and culturally divided social world. When Keri Hulme’s the bone people appeared in 1983 it confirmed these trajectories, but in a very different mode. The bone people emerged from a potent mix of feminist and Māori imperatives. Published initially by a feminist collective, the novel quickly gathered a readership, a mainstream publisher, rapturous reviews, and the Booker Prize. Joy Cowley heralded it in the Listener as a flowering of talent that was truly Indigenous: ‘seeds, shoots roots and all – from the breast of Papa’.5 As Mark Williams has noted, the bone people burst on an Aotearoa that was entering a year, 1984, of momentous change – the Fourth Labour Government was about to bring in wide-reaching and controversial reforms.6 With its dramatic and disturbing plot, mixing family violence, mysticism, and Māori alienation, the novel offers a graphic social critique

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

The Novel and the Short Story, 1972–1990

249

of how people behave towards children and a radical reordering of familiar stereotypes: the narrator is not only an asexual but also a potentially violent woman, the violent Māori man is the one capable of deep tenderness and redemption, and the mystery autistic child who belongs to neither of them brings about a new and potently metaphorical family. As a tale for the times the bone people struck a chord. Some of the response was hostile, as in C. K. Stead’s notorious review accusing Hulme of not being ethnically Māori enough to claim authorship as Māori, but the vigorous debate surrounding the novel, and the many theses and articles it has generated, mark out the novel’s historical impact.7 Partly this impact is to do with establishing a large, new, and international readership for an eccentric and difficult New Zealand novel, and part of it has to do with shifting the national discourse. Literary nationalism had a long history of patronising or ignoring women writers, a history that has been well documented by feminist scholars, notably Michele Leggott on the way Robin Hyde was left out of the national narrative.8 In the 1970s women writers had a triumphant resurgence. Like Grace and Ihimaera many women writers  traditionally made their debut in the more unassuming form of the short story. It was famously Janet Frame’s award-winning collection The Lagoon (1951), her first publication, that averted radical medical treatment, got her discharged from hospital, and kicked off her internationally acclaimed career as a writer. Lawrence Jones has periodised twentieth-century New Zealand literature into late colonial, provincial, and post-provincial, with the last period beginning in 1965.9 The term post-provincial, while it does not suggest some of the major changes taking place at the time, such as the rise of postmodern fiction and postcolonial discourse, does identify significant change. One of the hallmark publications, a popular rather than a critical success, was Fiona Kidman’s A Breed of Women (1979), the first overtly feminist novel in New Zealand. Loosely autobiographical as Kidman has described it in her autobiography At the End of Darwin Road (2008), A Breed of Women is a Bildungsroman, narrating the life story of Harriet Wallace, whose unconventional behaviour and preferences (e.g., marriage to a Māori man) puts her at odds with the conformist society she lives in and particularly its constrictive gender roles. The novel brought Kidman a large readership and significant recognition. She quickly followed with two more novels and a short story collection, all realist in mode and collectively examining the attitudes and choices experienced by women who occupy some kind of outside position in a narrow and judgemental

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

250

Lydi a  Wevers

society. Kidman worked in radio for many years and her fiction has a sure grasp of speech inflections and narrative voice, making her one of New Zealand’s most popular novelists. In 1987 she published an ambitious historical novel The Book of Secrets, which is still in print. The Book of Secrets is based on Norman McLeod, a Scottish preacher, who led a group of followers to Nova Scotia and eventually to Waipu in the Bay of Islands. Kidman’s novel narrates the history of three generations of women who accompanied him, and who illustrate the price of nonconformity in a restrictive and punitive religious and moral culture. The ‘book of secrets’ is the name given to a diary kept by the first of these women, Isabella, who is forced to live in a cave in Nova Scotia for her defiance of McLeod’s tyrannical authority, and the novel shows, over time, the way social pressures on women are resisted and change. Kidman’s focus on the condition of being female in New Zealand was preceded by other writers in the 1950s and 1960s, notably Marilyn Duckworth, Joy Cowley, Jean Watson, and Janet Frame. Marilyn Duckworth began publishing in 1959 and had produced four novels before 1970, in which underconfident young women endure unsatisfactory and emotionally barren relationships with unsatisfactory or malevolent men. After a silence of fifteen years Duckworth published Disorderly Conduct in 1984, Married Alive (1985), Rest for the Wicked (1986), Pulling Faces (1987), and Message from Harpo (1989). This group of novels reflects the changed literary and social landscape of the 1980s in that their narrative focus has expanded out from the tightly controlled domestic realism that characterises Duckworth’s earlier work and incorporates futurist or political elements. Disorderly Conduct takes place against the background of violent unrest caused by the 1981 Springbok Tour, for example, which provoked nationwide protest against apartheid, and the central character of Rest for the Wicked becomes a volunteer in an experimental sleep centre. Duckworth’s novels offer a wry commentary on contemporary social trends but are also bleak representations of a humourless and unsympathetic New Zealand, particularly in gender relations, though it is not always women who are at the receiving end. Many of Duckworth’s characters in the 1970s and 1980s are marginal people, caught on the periphery of the decade’s social and economic changes and in personally isolated circumstances. Stuart, the narrator of Pulling Faces (1987) lives in half a modular house. His ex-wife has left him for his brother and taken her half of the house with her. He embarks on a relationship with a woman who lives in a caravan and their precarious and fragile

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

The Novel and the Short Story, 1972–1990

251

emotional bond reflects the shaky foundations of their social existence, compromised by the new economic order. Realism has never been Janet Frame’s fictional mode, though her novels are sharply reflective of New Zealand life, especially what she represents as the tightly morally bounded and hypocritical world of suburbia. Frame published her last three works of fiction in the decade 1979–89:  Living in the Maniototo (1979), You Are Now Entering the Human Heart (1983), a collection of stories, and The Carpathians (1989). She also published her widely acclaimed three-volume autobiography in this period, which may be why her late novels all have ventriloquial narrators and, as in The Carpathians, destabilise the idea of a novelist in charge of a narrative. Temporally fluid and unable to be clearly positioned within any genre, mode, or discursive movement, Frame’s novels resist all categories while inviting ascription to many intellectual currents. Critics have identified her work as having postcolonial, postmodern, feminist,  and political drivers, but her fiction is never dominated by any one imperative except for its consistent representation of language as a textual medium that is inherently unstable and plastic, and that reflects a seminal reality as itself. It is hard to see Frame as part of the ‘women’s movement’ in any activist way, but her work does address the existential and political condition of women, and has been republished by feminist presses. In a complex and multivalent mode her fiction participates in a more general political awareness characteristic of the 1970s and 1980s. Joy Cowley’s Nest in a Falling Tree (1967) was followed by four novels in the 1970s about complex and emotionally ambivalent family situations. None of these novels has received critical or popular success but Cowley’s collection of stories, Heart Attack and Other Stories (1985), includes what is one of the most anthologised stories in New Zealand, ‘The Silk’, a poignant and beautifully articulated story of the deep emotional bonds between an elderly couple. Cowley’s contemporary Jean Watson published what has been described as a woman’s ‘on-the-road’ novel and a minor classic, Stand in the Rain, in 1965.10 She followed with a group of four novels that critique materialist values, informed by Watson’s interest in Vedanta philosophy and her increasing involvement with an orphanage in southern India. Watson’s shift from realism to a more mystical ‘alternative’ literature reflects a willingness to experiment with form and narrative in the 1970s and 1980s. The most obvious stream of ‘experimental’ literature came from writers influenced by American postmodernists, such as Donald

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

252

Lydi a  Wevers

Barthelme. Michael Morrissey’s The Fat Lady & the Astronomer (1982) uses a variety of ‘experimental’ forms, including ‘factions’.11 In 1985 he edited The New Fiction collecting work by New Zealand writers that had some affinity to postmodern objectives of undermining and destabilising reader assumptions, and challenged what Morrissey thought of as a stifling conformism. His thirty thousand word introduction denounced what he saw as a drab, beige history of dreary humanist short fiction and expounded the ‘new aesthetic fearlessness’ to which, he argued, the authors in The New Fiction belonged.12 The New Fiction featured twenty-one writers of whom sixteen were male, and included Keri Hulme, Ian Wedde, Stephanie Johnson, and Russell Haley. Morrissey’s claims to newness in 1982 now look historical, but at the time Wystan Curnow’s deconstructed poetic fictions and Morrissey’s ‘factions’ with titles like ‘Jack Kerouac Sat Down Beside the Wanganui River and Wept’ seemed to usher in a refreshing alternative to New Zealand’s long devotion to realist fiction. The most durable of the ‘new fiction’ writers, one who stayed in the postmodern register, was Russell Haley, though Ian Wedde’s Symme’s Hole (1985) and Hulme’s the bone people became the standout novels of the 1980s. Russell Haley’s The Sauna Bath Mysteries & Other Stories appeared in 1978. Haley’s stories challenged expectations of social realism by deploying an unreliable narrator, directly addressing a reader, and playfully blurring distinctions between text and referent – the 1970s reader was invited to participate in a different kind of fictional experience. Haley published another collection of short fiction and two novels that contributed to the shift of mode that characterised the 1980s, focusing attention on the text as text, on recognition of its textual strategies and narrative uncertainties. Janet Frame’s fiction, as Morrissey acknowledged in his introduction,13 had been doing such things for years but without the insouciant register of postmodernism, in which the text appeared to lose its admonitory role and become something to take less seriously. Like Keri Hulme’s short stories, Stephanie Johnson’s The Glass Whittler (1989) used postmodern fictional techniques to give a black edge to her ironic feminist fictions. Even the title of the collection suggests the contradictory impossibilities that confront women. Both Johnson and Hulme heighten the reader’s critical feminist awareness by destabilising narrative certainties; textually their fiction suggests the broader social and political dilemmas that confront women in daily life by forcing the reader to interpret narrative and not only receive it. But the work that most

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

The Novel and the Short Story, 1972–1990

253

emphatically took hold of a newly energised fictional register was Ian Wedde’s Symme’s Hole. Wedde published a highly praised novella, Dick Seddon’s Great Dive, in 1976 and followed with The Shirt Factory, a collection of stories including the novella, in 1981. In the preface Wedde wrote: You think of fiction as a kind of rhythm beneath the endless obsolescence of fact; a swell beneath the surface chop; oxygen you can’t see in the blood whose warmth you can sense under the skin you touch.14

Wedde’s marine metaphors and intent focus on the ‘I from which your writer’s impulse takes off’,15 his use of a split-self narrator, and the swoops and flows of his prose apparent in The Shirt Factory prefigure the style and rich textual fabric of his most celebrated novel Symme’s Hole (1986). Described as one of the most remarkable fictions produced in New Zealand,16 Symme’s Hole loops in strings of phrases and clauses, the broken sentences imaging (and imagining) a net, between the ‘submerged history’ of nineteenth-century New Zealand whalers, Moby Dick, and a present-day narrator trying to write, filled with alcohol and other substances, accused by his wife of being in the ‘Malcolm Lowry Club’, suffering writer’s block (apparently), shirking his domestic duties, and roaming through Courtenay Place while a torrent, a flood, of knowledge and novels and historical factoids pour through him in what seems like an unmediated stream but is in fact metaphorically, figuratively, and narratively connected. Symme’s Hole is an exceptionally original work. Wedde adopts postmodern fictional techniques, such as an ‘academic introduction’ by a ‘scholar’ from the University of Hawaiì, and interweaves historical facts, literary and artistic references, quotations, slogans, signs, all the imaginable onslaught of a textual world, to submerge the reader in what becomes, as a reading experience as well as narrative content, an oceanic novel. There has never been a real successor to Wedde’s mastery of postmodern fiction – Symme’s Hole managed to set in motion the whole postmodern circus of textual arabesques while remaining affective, thoughtful, and illuminating. In the same year another keynote novel was published. Patricia Grace’s Potiki depicted the stresses inflicted on traditional Māori lifeworlds and communities by the exploitative practises of colonisation and capitalism. Threatened by land sales and development, the tiny community of Te Ope is forced to confront and resist the outside world in what becomes a deeply rooted parable of sacrifice. The novel centres on Tokowaru-i-marama, a

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

254

Lydi a  Wevers

visionary child, the Potiki or last-born, who is born crippled and hunchbacked (resembling carved ancestors or tipuna on the whare whakairo) at the edge of the sea. Grace develops a Māori methodology for the novel, which is constructed like a spiral, with each story not a beginning or an end but marking a place on the spiral. Toko’s parents are called Mary and Joseph and the novel in some respects offers a deeply intercultural narrative of conflict and possibility in a colonised world, but it is also a story of whenua – the deep links Māori have to their home places, and the spiralling histories that connect them to it. Highly critically regarded for its artistry and masterful storytelling, Potiki also educated generations of non-Māori readers about Māori spiritual beliefs and how they are connected to the politics of resistance. The novel finishes violently with Toko’s death, which is followed by a regenerated community. Critics have pointed to the thin and almost caricatured representative of greedy land-grabbing Mr. Dolman, nicknamed Dollarman, as a weakness, but the almost tokenist depiction of the Pākehā enemy indicates Grace’s rich, complex, and ‘inside’ representation of Māori life, in a kind of reverse stereotyping. Many of Grace’s later novels hardly bother with Pākehā characters. The other side of Māori community came dramatically into focus with the publication of Alan Duff’s celebrated and sensational novel Once Were Warriors in 1990. Describing the family life of the Hekes, who live in a tough part of ‘Twin Lakes’, a lightly disguised Rotorua, Once Were Warriors focuses on gang culture and the ways in which disenfranchised Māori men create a warrior community characterised by the violence and criminality of gangs. The novel’s point – that the violent warrior model brutalises contemporary life, pointedly illustrated in the suicide of Grace Heke after she has been raped by, she thinks, her father – provoked considerable debate in New Zealand and produced large sales, suggesting a wide readership were concerned about what the novel revealed. While neither Grace nor Duff could be described as postmodern in their fictional techniques, both reimagined the novel as a Māori text:  Grace in the structure of the narrative and the rich textural use of Māori references and language; Duff in the staccato broken English deployed by his narrating characters, which mimics a Māori-inflected street language and gang idiolect. Once Were Warriors was critiqued for its rather crudely rendered moralism and lacks the stylish finesse of a writer like Grace, but the rawness and naivety of Duff’s writing found an audience that understood his fiction as authentically representative of a world that was only familiar to them from news headlines and popular reporting. From a

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

The Novel and the Short Story, 1972–1990

255

literary-historical point of view, the most important feature of Māori writing of the 1970s and 1980s was that it developed scale and diversity – like any other subject of fiction, the Māori world cannot be interpreted simplistically or unitarily. What Grace, Ihimaera, Hulme, and Duff achieved was the transformation of a foundational European literary form into something that not only reproduced a distinctive Māori voice but also treated narrative structure like a Māori artefact, connecting it to the cultures of carving and whakapapa. In 1976 Albert Wendt, born in Samoa and educated in New Zealand, published an influential essay ‘Towards a New Oceania’ in which he described himself as a ‘man of Oceania’ and argued that ‘Oceania’ stood for a connected body of Indigenous writing from Pacific island nations with a shared cultural and political identity.17 Wendt’s first novel Sons for the Return Home (1973) describes the casual and overt racism of New Zealand society. A Samoan student, one of the first of his generation to go to university, embarks on a love affair with a Pākehā girl and the novel robustly charts the contradictory cultural and emotional forces that come into play. The novel was immediately recognised as important and was followed by the linked stories of Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree (1974), which examine the changing world of postcolonial Samoa and ‘strike back’ at colonialism: Grandfather looked upon papalangi as beings to be tolerated because of their superior knowledge of machines (especially guns) and food (especially ice-cream . . .). Otherwise they were inferior in their arrogance; childish in their preoccupation with what they called ‘conscience’; completely without breeding and manners; physically weak and emotionally warped . . . insane in their lifetime preoccupation with acquiring material wealth. . . .18

The 1970s was a productive period for Wendt who published a short novel Pouliuli in 1977 and his epic family saga Leaves of the Banyan Tree in 1979, described in a review in Landfall as a ‘capitalist’s tragedy’.19 Wendt’s role as a leader, pathfinder, and critic in Pacific literature is illustrated by his 1980 edited anthology Lali, a showcase for new Pacific writers, which helped to establish the Pacific as a distinct field. Despite the internal geographical and cultural differences, Pacific writers, like Indigenous colonised peoples elsewhere, established the common ground of literary decolonisation, speaking across national differences and into a discourse shared by Māori, Native Americans, and many of the peoples of South Asia. In The Birth and Death of the Miracle Man (1986), Wendt’s use of black humour and layered short fiction represents Samoa’s complexity, resisting simple or essentialist grand narratives. Wendt’s high profile as an established and

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

256

Lydi a  Wevers

sophisticated writer has been foundational to the development of Pacific literature in New Zealand and internationally, and to its readership. Wendt works across a number of literary forms, but his most significant work has been in fiction. The 1970s and 1980s are also the decades that produced the signature works of Maurice Gee. Along with the burst of Māori and Pacific writing and the explosive growth of fiction by women writers, realist fiction by male writers, which for many decades had been the staple ingredient of ‘national’ literature, also flourished. From 1972 to 1990 Gee produced seven novels, two collections of short stories, and seven highly regarded and greatly loved children’s books. His great work, the Plumb trilogy, based loosely on the life of his grandfather, traces the generational shifts in the family of George Plumb, a stern Presbyterian clergyman. Plumb’s rectitude and high morality make him unsuited to connect emotionally with lesser beings, such as some errant family members, a disjunction that raises broader questions about New Zealand society and its well-documented Puritanism. Gee’s mastery of narrative and characterisation give the Plumb novels great emotional and historical depth. He uses interwoven temporal sequences of the aged Plumb remembering to link memory and events over time, suggesting repeatedly how people miss meaning and each other. Meg (1981) is focused on Plumb’s empathetic youngest daughter who is his caregiver in old age and who acts as confidante and mediator to her many siblings, most of whom have deviated from their father’s beliefs and behaviours in some way. Because each novel of the trilogy describes moral and familial dilemmas from an insider point of view, the reader is left to interpret and make their own moral and emotional sense of people and events. Sole Survivor (1983) is about Meg’s son Raymond and his cousin Duggie, who together exemplify a decline in social conscience, empathy, and conviction. Raymond is a hack journalist with no firm political or other convictions and Duggie is an ambitious politician, of whom Gee said in an interview that he has ‘no sense of the reality of other people’. Gee, like other novelists of his generation, witnessed and narratively recorded the great political shift that occurred in New Zealand in 1984 with the advent of the Fourth Labour Government and its neoliberal turn. In some respects Sole Survivor illustrates the terrain on which neoliberalism flourished, when the Presbyterian virtues exemplified by George Plumb were outfaced by economic and political expediency. Gee’s later novels Prowlers (1987) and The Burning Boy (1990) both critique a

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

The Novel and the Short Story, 1972–1990

257

materialist society and provincialism, offering a wide view of social history and a potent focus on the realisation of selfhood. Gee’s contemporaries Vincent O’Sullivan, Owen Marshall, Maurice Shadbolt, and C.  K. Stead are all major figures in New Zealand literature, though Gee, along with Frame, is the most significant novelist in the period. Marshall and O’Sullivan focused exclusively on short fiction during the 1970s and 1980s (though O’Sullivan also has a prestigious reputation as a poet), with O’Sullivan publishing five collections of stories from 1978 to 1992 and Marshall seven collections from 1982 to 1995. Both writers work, broadly speaking, in the masculinist tradition that derives from Frank Sargeson and literary nationalism – realist studies of provincial New Zealand life attacking Puritanism, examining gender relations, and largely focussing on male protagonists. Marshall in particular situated his fiction in small-town New Zealand life, often in the South Island where he lives. Rugby clubs, sports grounds, farms, the pub, unhappy marriages, drifters, and misfits populate his fiction, which offers a dark and often sinister view of apparently ‘normal’ New Zealand scenes. Marshall is a master of the art of the short story, establishing whole complex worlds in the space of a few pages, and delivering the moral and narrative ambiguities of the novel. From The Master of Big Jingles and Other Stories (1982) to Coming Home in the Dark (1995) his stories become progressively darker, their collective representation of white provincial New Zealand society more oppressive. Some places and characters recur – the ‘unlovely’ Ransumeen family and the fictional town Te Tarehi – which connect the separate collections into a broader discontinuous narrative.20 Most of Vincent O’Sullivan’s stories are also located in a New Zealand ‘heartland’ of suburbia and small towns, and are often focalised through outsiders or fringe dwellers. Latty, in ‘The Boy, the Bridge, the River’ is a Polish immigrant trying to establish new connections in a foreign place, and in ‘The Snow in Spain’ the narrator is a dwarf who participates as a human projectile in the sport of dwarf tossing. O’Sullivan’s sharp ear for social nuance often acts as a sardonic counterpoint to big moral questions posed by loss, or the past. In ‘Dandy Edison for Lunch’ a successful and well-off couple have lunch with Dandy Edison, a childhood neighbour, whose candour about his daughter’s prostitution and early death provides a disturbing and pointed contrast to their middle-class preoccupations. O’Sullivan frequently targets social pretension and hypocrisy, but his stories represent a broad social spectrum and focus most often on the loneliness or disappointment of the human condition. His acute ear

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

258

Lydi a  Wevers

and sophisticated sense of narrative structure allows for play with narrative unreliability and shifts, but his stories are never postmodern in mode; rather they draw on a poet’s talent for compression and tonal ambiguity, and are often very witty and darkly comic. C.  K. Stead, whose writing career mirrors O’Sullivan’s chronologically and generically (they are both academic writers, poets, novelists, and short story writers) emphatically established himself as a novelist in the 1980s. All Visitors Ashore (1984), a highly autobiographical roman à clef, was critically acclaimed. Based on Stead’s friendship with Frank Sargeson at the time Janet Frame was living in his garden, it recounts the period before Frame (‘Cecelia Skyways’) went to London, when she was writing her celebrated first novel Owls Do Cry. Stead had already achieved critical and popular success with his first novel Smith’s Dream (1971), a futurist political thriller that imagines a totalitarian takeover of New Zealand society. The novel was prompted by Stead’s involvement in anti–Vietnam War protests and later became a successful film (Sleeping Dogs, 1977), but Stead’s career as a novelist did not really begin until he retired early from his university job in 1986 and rapidly followed All Visitors Ashore with four more novels. Often described as a ‘metafictional’ writer for his use of narrative strategies like mixing history and fiction and introducing narratorial comment on the process of writing, Stead’s novels are nevertheless realist in mode and have a strong autobiographical component. The Death of the Body (1986) and The Singing Whakapapa (1994) both focus on academics whose lives are disturbed by love affairs, and whose moral and professional dilemmas are reflected in the way the difficulty of writing ‘truth’ and ‘fiction’ are foregrounded. Metaphorically rich, Stead’s fiction is nevertheless deeply and satisfyingly grounded in social and historical realism – Hugh Grady’s investigation of his great-great grandfather, John Flatt (a missionary and agriculturalist and actual historical figure) juxtaposes the historical events he researches in The Singing Whakapapa with a contemporary narrative about the Treaty of Waitangi, race relations, and extra-marital love. Stead has been a polarising figure in New Zealand literature for his divisive opinions, notably about Keri Hulme, but his presence as a novelist, poet, and critic is strongly marked in all fields. The historical novel is always a marker of the times and no less so in New Zealand in the 1980s. Maurice Shadbolt’s prolific output of fiction and autobiography was crowned at the end of the decade by publication of his trilogy about the New Zealand Wars, by then highly topical as the Waitangi Tribunal to hear and settle claims had been established in 1975. History, and particularly history associated with pioneering

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

The Novel and the Short Story, 1972–1990

259

settlers and Gallipoli, underpins all Shadbolt’s fiction, but with Season of the Jew (1986), Monday’s Warriors (1990), and The House of Strife (1993) he embarked on a fictional account of the wars that has been described as ‘perhaps the most important work of historical fiction yet produced by a New Zealand writer’.21 The trilogy overlaps chronologically and narratively with Ihimaera’s The Matriarch (1986), suggesting the historical revisionism that politically characterised the 1980s provoked literary response from both sides of the treaty debate. Each of Shadbolt’s novels is focused through a central Pākehā character, each reflecting an ambivalent position in the wars. Before the trilogy, Shadbolt published six novels of which the best known and critically received are Strangers and Journeys (1972), an epic family novel, and The Lovelock Version (1980), his first historical novel based on nineteenth-century history and ending with New Zealand’s experience at Gallipoli. It has been pointed out that Shadbolt’s focus is very much on men, male characters, and male history.22 Broadly speaking the same can be said for Marshall’s, Stead’s, and O’Sullivan’s fiction, which continued, despite feminism, the masculinist dominance in New Zealand cultural production during this period. Towards the end of the 1980s writers emerged who were later to become the new generation of New Zealand fiction. Elizabeth Knox’s first novel After Z-Hour, based in World War I  diaries, was published in 1987 and immediately marked her as an original new voice. Damien Wilkins’s first collection of fiction The Veteran Perils appeared in 1990, though he had been publishing stories in journals for years. He quickly established himself as a major new writer with two novels in the early 1990s. Nigel Cox’s Waiting for Einstein (1984) and Dirty Work (1987), elegant and offbeat city novels, moved away from the traditional realist preoccupations of New Zealand fiction. Similarly Lloyd Jones’s Gilmore’s Dairy (1985) combined suburban narrative realism with satire and black comedy, followed by Splinter (1988), a deft and satiric novel about Lower Hutt, and his sharply edged collection of short fiction, Swimming to Australia, in 1991. Rosie Scott’s Glory Days (1988), a street-smart novel of Auckland’s inner city and popular culture was followed by a collection of stories, Queen of Love (1989), that articulate female sexuality and rivalry, also explored in Nights with Grace (1990). Scott’s fiction displays candour about sexual behaviour and emotions that have been enabled by feminism and gay fiction; sexuality and the tough edge of the city are the narrative locations of her fiction about New Zealand. Scott moved to Australia in the late 1980s and is now regarded as an Australian writer. As in any literature, numbers of other writers surround those that history records. Noel Virtue’s novels about growing up homosexual in

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

260

Lydi a  Wevers

provincial New Zealand have been well received critically but, perhaps because he has lived in the United Kingdom since the late 1960s, he is not very well-known in New Zealand. There were a number of gay and lesbian writers in the 1970s and 1980s whose work appeared in anthologies or magazines (e.g., The Exploding Frangipani (1990), or who specialised in feminist futurist fiction (such as Sandi Hall’s The Godmothers [1982]), who represent some of the variety and diversity of fictional experimentation and genre expansion at this time, and who brought with them new reading publics. But the major historical shifts in the 1970s and 1980s, feminism and Māori activism, changed not only culture and society but also the fictional landscape. Notes 1 Witi Ihimaera draws attention critically to this lyricism in ‘Māori Life and Literature: A Sensory Perception’, Turnbull Library Record 15, 1 (Winter 1982), 45–55: 52–3. 2 Ibid. 3 W.  H. New, Dreams of Speech and Violence:  The Art of the Short Story in Canada and New Zealand (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987). 4 Robert Con Davis-Undiano, cited in The New Zealand Herald, 8 October 2007, http://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119& objectid=10468615. 5 Joy Cowley, ‘We Are the bone people’, review of the bone people, New Zealand Listener, 12 May 1984, 60. 6 Mark Williams, Leaving the Highway: Six Contemporary New Zealand Novelists (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1990), 84–5. 7 C.  K. Stead, ‘Keri Hulme’s “The Bone People” and the Pegasus Award for Māori Literature’, Ariel 16 (1985): 101–8. 8 Michele Leggott, ‘Opening the Archive: Robin Hyde, Eileen Duggan and the Persistence of Record’, in Opening the Book, ed. Mark Williams and Michele Leggott (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1995), 266–93. 9 Lawrence Jones, Barbed Wire and Mirrors:  Essays on New Zealand Prose (Dunedin: University of Otago Press), 1987. 10 Harry Ricketts, ‘Watson, Jean’, in The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, ed. Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie (Melbourne:  Oxford University Press, 1998), 577. 11 Nelson Wattie, ‘Morrissey, Michael’, Robinson and Wattie, Oxford Companion, 381. 12 Michael Morrissey, ed., The New Fiction (Auckland: Lindon, 1985), 19. 13 Ibid., 14, 39. 14 Ian Wedde, The Shirt Factory (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1981), 7. 15 Ibid., 9.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

The Novel and the Short Story, 1972–1990

261

16 Patrick Evans, The Penguin History of New Zealand Literature (Auckland: Penguin Books, 1990), 277. 17 Albert Wendt, ‘Towards a New Oceania’, in Mana Review 1, 1 (1976): 49–60; reprinted in The Arnold Anthology of Post-colonial Literatures in English, ed. John Thieme (London: Edward Arnold, 1996), 641–51. 18 Albert Wendt, ‘Pint-size Devil on a Thoroughbred’, in Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree (Auckland: Penguin, 1988), 34–64, p. 39. 19 Roger Robinson, ‘Albert Wendt: An Assessment’, Landfall 135 (1980): 276. 20 Paul Millar, ‘Marshall, Owen’, in Robinson and Wattie, Oxford Companion, 361. 21 Ralph Crane, ‘Shadbolt, Maurice’, Robinson and Wattie, Oxford Companion, 488. 22 Ibid.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.018 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter 18

‘DBed and chocolate wheaten beaten’ Drama Defining the Nation, 1972–1990 David O’Donnell

Roger Hall did not spring upon us, without visible forebears, like Athene from the skull of Zeus, but after some 20 years of gruelling cultivation of an inhospitable cultural desert, our diet, the locusts of public indifference, the honey of modest success. . . . [W]e have jointly and severally been John the Baptists, precursors, tilling the soil and preparing the ground. Bruce Mason (1978)1

The years 1972 through 1990 saw the realisation of Bruce Mason’s long-held vision for New Zealand playwriting. As Mason recognises, this period brought unprecedented commercial and critical recognition for New Zealand playwrights, although the groundwork for this success had been laid over the previous decades of largely unrecognised efforts by writers like himself. In the 1970s and 1980s, Roger Hall’s local and international box-office success, together with the critical acclaim for Greg McGee’s Foreskin’s Lament, proved for the first time that playwriting could become a viable career and make a vital contribution to the arts in New Zealand. This was also the era that saw a new professionalisation of New Zealand theatre. The establishment in 1973 of Playmarket, the national scriptwriters’ agency, gave playwrights for the first time a support body to promote their work. Playmarket’s biennial New Zealand Playwrights’ Workshop established in 1980 provided a rigorous structure for script development, with the first workshop yielding Foreskin’s Lament. The period saw a network of professional theatres established throughout the country. In 1972, the Arts Council–funded New Zealand Drama School converted from a one-year to a two-year course, signalling an increased commitment to professional theatre training. Although the school’s mission at that stage was solely to train actors, several graduates became important playwrights, including Jean Betts, Lorae Parry, Fiona Samuel, David Geary, Hone Kouka, Victor Rodger, and Vela Manusaute. 262

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘DBed and chocolate wheaten beaten’

263

Prior to 1972, many of the most challenging plays were created by writers working primarily in other literary forms, notably Sargeson, Curnow, Campbell, and Baxter. The dedicated playwright, such as Mason, was an isolated phenomenon. After the widespread recognition of Hall and McGee, however, there was a remarkable shift towards a body of playwrights for whom drama was their primary activity and income source. While there was undoubtedly a nationalist drive to establish a theatre that celebrated the uniqueness of New Zealand identity, history, and culture, the themes pursued by playwrights in the 1970s and 1980s were more often than not highly critical of aspects of New Zealand society and cultural identity. This critique found expression both in the social satire drama of writers like Hall and Robert Lord, and in a highly politicised engagement with New Zealand history and identity in the works of McGee, Mervyn Thompson, and Renée, among others. Playmarket cofounder Robert Lord is one of the most innovative and influential playwrights of this period. Dying at forty-six, Lord nevertheless produced a body of work distinguished by its variety, from the satiric farce Well Hung (1974) to the epic family drama Joyful and Triumphant (1992). Lord was a committed modernist, inspired by the works of Beckett, Albee, Pinter, Orton, and Stoppard,2 and all of these influences can be seen in his first play It Isn’t Cricket (1971). A  Pinteresque ambiguity governs Lord’s minimalist dramaturgy, in which the settings for the short scenes are not specified and the exact relationships between the characters are unclear. The spare dialogue sparkles with wit, masking a constant subtext of game playing and distorted truths. In Balance of Payments (1972), Lord took a darker absurdist approach to satirising New Zealand family life, while Heroes and Butterflies (1974) showed him exploring politics in a more epic vein. Well Hung demonstrated his ability to both satirise and empathise with New Zealand small-town culture, which he would probe more deeply in later plays such as Bert and Maisy (1983) and Joyful and Triumphant. In 1975, Lord migrated to New York in search of theatrical stimulation. There he continued to write prolifically, and some of his plays with American settings were also produced in New Zealand. Lord’s most significant success critically and commercially was produced shortly after he died in 1992. A  bittersweet evocation of Pākehā (European) family life, Joyful and Triumphant features meticulous plotting and finely drawn characters. Every scene takes place on Christmas

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

264

Davi d O’Donnel l

Day in the dining room of the Bishop family from 1949 to 1989, with each successive scene beginning later in the day, allowing Lord to give the impression of a single day. This forty-year time frame allows Lord to create succinct portraits of three generations of New Zealanders, with each character reflecting wider social changes. The father, George, a railway worker with staunch Labour values, conflicts with his capitalist son Ted, and Alice, the ‘true-blue National Party supporter’ neighbour. Thus Lord’s characters reflect class conflicts as well as cultural differences. When George’s teenage daughter Raewyn falls pregnant to her Māori lover, her parents force her to adopt out the baby, and Raewyn later rails against their ‘petty bourgeois, racist principles’.3 Lord contributes a moving study of familiar domestic conflicts, from trivial squabbles to the tragic death of Raewyn’s second child, balancing acute observation of family life with a sensitive empathy for all of the characters. Lord’s legacy signals a shift to a more sophisticated approach to New Zealand playwriting, fully informed by modernist developments in theatre internationally. While Lord’s career signalled a new era of professional playwriting, Roger Hall’s Glide Time (1976) proved there was a large, previously untapped audience for New Zealand plays examining current social issues through comedy. Hall built on the commercial success of Joseph Musaphia, whose farce about surrogate motherhood, Mothers and Fathers (1975), demonstrated the popular appeal of New Zealand–based comedy. Hall’s work consistently demonstrates near-Chekhovian empathy for the struggles of the average middle-class citizen. In Glide Time, public servants are portrayed affectionately, with the comedy emerging from the minutiae of everyday life. The result was that New Zealanders en masse recognised themselves on stage; Glide Time filled theatres in New Zealand and Australia and was adapted for radio as well as television.4 In Hall’s second play Middle-Age Spread (1977) he turned his attention to middle-class marriage. Hall experiments with temporality, interspersing scenes at a dinner party with flashbacks to past events, gradually revealing the deceits and dysfunctions beneath the veneer of respectability. As infidelities and a teenage pregnancy are revealed, the polite banter breaks down into accusations and bitterness. Finally, the dinner guests depart, leaving the hosts Colin and Elizabeth to contemplate the disastrous evening and the revelation of Colin’s affair with one of the guests. Elizabeth curtly demands ‘What do we do now?’; Colin replies, ‘What we do, Elizabeth, is the dishes’.5 In this open ending, Hall reveals the existential pathos of ordinary people who must carry on living, despite the emotional pain and disconnection they carry.6

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘DBed and chocolate wheaten beaten’

265

The darker themes that emerged in Middle-Age Spread continued in State of the Play (1978), which focuses on Dingwall, a disillusioned playwright, teaching a playwriting class in a small-town school. The meagre turnout includes a cynical young man, Neil, providing the main source of conflict in the play. The sense that Dingwall has sold out his artistic values is reinforced when Neil demands: ‘So what do you do this for?’, and he replies: ‘Ten dollars an hour’.7 Finally, Dingwall announces to his startled students that he is giving up writing, and when they protest, he launches into a monologue in which he vividly describes the intense struggle of the creative process, visualising inspiration as a ‘dark beast’ slumped in the corner of his study. He imagines the beast stirring, darkening his mind, mocking him, and excreting a ‘perfect maze’ over his brain.8 While Hall is noted for his ability to write one-liners that keep audiences constantly on the threshold of laughter, this scene reveals his ability to write dramatic monologues of considerable power. Throughout the 1980s, Hall’s comedies, pantomimes, and musicals continued to fill theatres, including the stage musical of the Murray Ball cartoon Footrot Flats (1983). He continued to experiment with Chekhovian realism in Dream of Sussex Downs (1986), a New Zealand adaptation of Three Sisters. Hall’s success contained the promise of financial security for the professional theatres, and was to prove inspirational for younger writers such as Anthony McCarten and Stephen Sinclair, whose Ladies Night (1988), a comedy about unemployed men rehearsing a male strip show, repeated the international success of some of Hall’s plays. While Hall’s industry provided incentives for aspiring writers to enter the profession, Mervyn Thompson worked tirelessly as a director, dramaturg, and mentor, as well as a playwright passionately pursuing a nationalist drama exploring social and political divisions. Thompson’s dislike of realist drama found potent articulation in his first play First Return (1974). This openly autobiographical work features a nightmarish chorus playing multiple roles with a vaudevillian menace. The protagonist Simon is tormented by an omnipresent alter ego named The Accuser, a shape-shifting muse who confronts Simon with the ‘demons’ of his past, portrayed by a chorus inspired by Strindberg and German expressionism. Unable to find contentment with his new partner Christine in London, Simon remains haunted by his working-class upbringing in a West Coast mining town. Thompson, who worked as a miner in his teens, uses vivid rhythmic imagery to evoke the conditions: ‘Down the pit where the water dripped and the horse I drove scattered rats before it’.9 The nonchronological narrative is driven by a relentless theatrical energy with the more realistic

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

266

Davi d O’Donnel l

scenes between Simon and Christine punctuated by rhythmic chants from the chorus. The play reflects Thompson’s own journey in crossing what The Accuser calls the ‘fragrant borders’ between working class and middle-class, coal town, and university.10 In London, Simon and Christine argue about his desire to return to New Zealand, where Christine says he will be ‘the big frog in the little pool’.11 Simon declines Christine’s suggestion of a trip to see a British castle, stating ‘It’s not my history’,12 and his writing is scathing about New Zealanders touring Europe on their oversease experience (OE): ‘the “legion of colonials” who, having turned their backs on an unsavoury heritage, try so desperately to be “international” ’.13 First Return is a visionary work in which Thompson transcends the particulars of his own story to paint a rough, multilayered portrait of New Zealand culture, giving the lie to Christine’s statement that ‘In those islands, the wages of creativity is death’.14 There are multiple resonances between First Return and Thompson’s final play Passing Through (1991), a solo ‘performed autobiography’ toured by Thompson shortly before his premature death in 1992. The ensemble energy of First Return gives way to solo storytelling and reflection on a life in the theatre, beginning with the teenage Thompson hovering in trepidation outside the hall where the Reefton Drama Club rehearses. After ‘Another half hour soaking under the black sky’,15 the boy goes in, is handed a script, and as he haltingly reads his first part, Thompson announces, ‘He has Found his Tribe’.16 In Passing Through, Thompson reviews the history of New Zealand theatre since the 1960s through a personal lens, evoking iconic personalities including Dame Ngaio Marsh and the Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski. But it is Mason whom he credits with inspiring him to become a playwright. Watching Mason perform End of the Golden Weather, Thompson is initially perturbed by how different Mason’s middle-class world is from his own; but he loses his critical objectivity, his programme becomes sodden with tears, and he concludes:  ‘Bruce, you have shown me the way’.17 Passing Through veers between a sense of pride in the emerging New Zealand theatre profession and a virulent critique of its newfound commercialism. In the Brechtian-inspired song that ends the play, Thompson attacks the light comedies like Ladies Night that had come to dominate programming in the professional theatres: But God it’s hard to write a happy ending When all that’s left of theatre is farce, Where naked bodies prance along the forestage And dollar bills protrude from every arse18

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘DBed and chocolate wheaten beaten’

267

Between First Return and Passing Through, Thompson created a significant body of dramatic work, including the historiographic song plays Songs to Uncle Scrim (1976), dramatising the effects of unemployment during the Great Depression, and Songs to the Judges (1980), which ambitiously charts the history of Māori land protests from Parihaka to Bastion Point. His adaption of John A. Lee’s Depression-era book Children of the Poor (1989) and his autobiographical solo show Coaltown Blues (1984) demonstrate his continuing commitment to dramatising the history of class struggle. In contrast, the love stories Lovebirds (1990) and Jean and Richard (1992) illustrate a more intimate engagement with romantic relationships, passion, and attraction. The broad range of Thompson’s writing, together with his deep engagement with history and politics, make him a major pioneering figure in the development of New Zealand playwriting. Thompson was the director who gave Foreskin’s Lament its public debut at the first New Zealand Playwrights’ Workshop in 1980. McGee’s play was immediately recognised as a cultural phenomenon, hailed by David Carnegie as ‘a major work in our literary, dramatic and theatrical development, and an important document of our social history’.19 In its uncompromising critique of the dominance of masculinist rugby culture in New Zealand society, Foreskin’s Lament remains a classic. The university-educated protagonist Seymour (nicknamed Foreskin) has returned to play rugby for his local team in his hometown. Like Simon in First Return, Foreskin is a ‘thinker’ who collides with an anti-intellectual bias in New Zealand culture. His urban left-wing values conflict with the old-school rhetoric of the team’s war-veteran coach Tupper. While Tupper claims that the point of the game is to ‘kick shit out of the opposition’,20 Foreskin argues for ‘social responsibility on the field’.21 Tupper has no time for ‘student buggers’ like Foreskin: ‘You need a good root up the Khyber and told to get on with it – a wife, couple of screaming kids and mortgaged to the tonsils’.22 Foreskin’s fears about Tupper’s violent team-talks are justified when he realises that the team bully Clean has deliberately injured Ken, the captain, in order to take over his position. While much of Foreskin’s Lament is highly realistic, including the opening scene in which the characters strip naked and shower in front of the audience, there is also a sustained comedy scene in Act 2 where Tupper gorges himself on a plate of food piled high with ‘everything from pavlova to legs of chicken’.23 This crowd-pleasing comic routine is as memorable as any written by Roger Hall, but the most spectacular rupture to the play’s realism occurs at its climax after Ken has died from his injuries. Foreskin

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

268

Davi d O’Donnel l

breaks the fourth wall, addressing the audience directly in a sustained poetic monologue. This ‘lament’ for Ken’s death, evoking myths and icons of New Zealand culture, was inspired by Alan Ginsberg’s Howl, yet also recalls Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt, a moment of alienation from the play’s narrative logic forcing the audience towards sociopolitical reflection. Foreskin reinforces his kinship with the audience, stating ‘I was born of the same mothers as you – all!’,24 highlighting a shared litany of cultural history characterised by intercutting names of legendary rugby players with violent rugby imagery and references to ‘kiwiana’ culture such as brands of beer and chocolate biscuits: Being jones-buggered, bokked scrummed rucked mauled hooked jinked cauliflowered around the ears skinnered on the knees brained on Tremaine DBed and chocolate wheaten beaten For our own god whose own we were.25

Finally Foreskin announces that he is ‘hanging up his boots’, directly challenging the audience with the repeated taunt ‘whaddarya?’ before the final blackout. The lament is one of the most potent moments in New Zealand playwriting, highly theatrical, poetic, political, and summing up many aspects of what Thompson called ‘the state of the nation’.26 As the momentum of New Zealand drama built in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a strong emphasis on dramatising New Zealand history as a way of exploring national identity. Key plays, Maurice Shadbolt’s Once on Chunuk Bair (1982) and Vincent O’Sullivan’s Shuriken (1983), examine the nation-building impact of New Zealand’s participation in the twentieth century’s world wars. Once on Chunuk Bair addresses a defining moment of New Zealand history: the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in 1915 and the ill-fated stand by soldiers of the Wellington Battalion on the hill called Chunuk Bair. Shadbolt stresses the inhumane conditions under which the New Zealand soldiers fought, battling persistent illness and a lack of water and sanitation. The uncompromising Colonel Connolly might be a younger version of McGee’s Tupper, leading his desperate men on a suicidal mission to conquer and hold the hill. The men keep up a barrage of humorous banter while they struggle to repair a broken machine gun, and to contact their headquarters to summon reinforcements. Although the Turkish forces are the official enemy, the most significant conflict for the Kiwi soldiers is with their British commanders. Connolly sees the New Zealanders as the

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘DBed and chocolate wheaten beaten’

269

underdogs of the British Empire, ‘a barbarian tribe from the Pacific’;27 as they prepare to capture Chunuk Bair he tells his men: ‘Today’s the day we got out from under’.28 Connolly conflicts with Frank, a trade unionist, and with Harkness, a newly arrived lieutenant who believes in England as ‘Home’ and the ‘old country’.29 Connolly reprimands Harkness for not knowing his own country,30 and later suggests he should study the military mottos of Te Rauparaha rather than the ancient Greeks.31 As it becomes clear that the British have abandoned them, the mood towards empire becomes increasingly cynical. Frank comments, ‘we’re up here while British politicians pick their noses’.32 Finally all but Frank are killed by ‘friendly fire’ from a British warship. The play ends with Frank’s defiant telephone call to the British general: ‘The last man’s message is. . . . Rot in hell. Fuck your war. Fuck you all. Forever’.33 Such anti-British sentiment permeates the play, depicting the Gallipoli campaign as distancing New Zealand from the values and politics of the ‘mother’ country. The play celebrates New Zealand’s emergence as an independent nation, with values founded on hard work and tenacity.34 When most of the soldiers have been killed, Harkness reports to Connolly: ‘It was the men, sir. They wouldn’t give up. Even the badly wounded. They tried not to cry out. . . . No other word, sir. Heroes’.35 With its visceral dialogue, grim humour, vivid characterisations, and driving narrative, Once on Chunuk Bair is unashamedly a tribute to the heroic status of the New Zealand soldiers at Gallipoli, a dynamic dramatic statement of New Zealand nationalism and postcolonial identity. In contrast to the nationalist emphasis in Once on Chunuk Bair, Shuriken (1983) demands a more profoundly critical response by dramatising a tragic incident in which forty-nine Japanese prisoners of war were shot and killed by New Zealand soldiers at the Featherston prisoner-ofwar camp in 1943. These soldiers are not the heroes of Shadbolt’s play, but deeply flawed individuals struggling to comprehend the warrior ethic of their Japanese prisoners. In a comic scene, one of the guards attempts to teach the Japanese the finer points of rugby, an effective satire on a New Zealander’s failure to empathise with cultural difference. Tensions mount as Adachi, an officer, threatens to kill the commandant and another prisoner commits suicide. O’Sullivan uses a Brechtian-inspired dramaturgy, juxtaposing realist dialogue with stylised physical theatre and projections. The dead Japanese solider appears as a spirit, wearing a mask from the Noh theatre. Speaking directly to the audience, the spirit tells us that he died honourably and that ‘to choose death is the final act of the warrior’.36 The dignity of the Japanese soldiers is expressed in poetic dialogue that is a

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

270

Davi d O’Donnel l

vivid contrast to the New Zealand vernacular, ranging from the kiwi-isms of Jacko to the more violent, misogynist aggression of the ‘smartarse’ Pom. In Shuriken, O’Sullivan embraces a confident theatricality, while also critiquing the mono-cultural nature of Pākehā society and raising more complex ethical questions than Shadbolt’s homage to the victims of the Gallipoli campaign. Once on Chunuk Bair and Shuriken have all-male casts, and their writers share with McGee and Thompson a gift for recreating the rawness of masculine dialogue from the battlefield or the rugby field. However, the 1980s also saw a flourishing of dramatic writing by women, bringing equally robust portraits of kiwi women onto the stage. While there had been a dynamic tradition of female playwrights writing for the amateur theatre from the 1930s to 1950s,37 in the 1980s a gender imbalance in scripts selected for professional theatre production began to be addressed. Female playwrights whose plays were produced professionally during the 1980s included Fiona Farrell, Rachel McAlpine, Carolyn Burns, Hilary Beaton, Fiona Samuel, and Renée. Many of these plays featured feminist themes that countered the dominance of masculinist narratives and values. Among the feminist writing of the 1980s, Hilary Beaton’s Outside In stands out for its grimly naturalist portrayal of life in a women’s prison. Beaton balances the brutality of prison life with an empathetic, nonjudgemental view of these women, who have little chance of rehabilitation and who seek to make up for the lack of love in their lives by pursuing romantic relationships with fellow inmates. One such relationship leads to the final tragedy. Yet Beaton also displays a gift for dark humour that makes her characters consistently compelling, as in this exchange dominated by Ma, a prisoner in her mid-fifties: MA: I need the break from me old man. Our marriage wouldn’t’ve lasted, if we didn’t take these separate holidays. KATE: Don’t fucken believe her neither. She did her ol’ man in, then crawled back in bed with him. MA: Best night’s sleep I ever got!38

In creating dramatic empathy for characters who function ‘outside’ mainstream society, Outside In broadens the scope of New Zealand drama and looks forward to plays created in collaboration with prisoners in the 1990s by Jim Moriarty, Miranda Harcourt, and Stuart McKenzie. Renée’s trilogy of historiographic plays Wednesday to Come (1984), Pass It On (1986), and Jeannie Once (1990) presents a feminist revisionist view of New Zealand history over an eighty-year time span featuring four

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘DBed and chocolate wheaten beaten’

271

generations of women from a working-class family. Avoiding wartime settings, Renée focuses instead on class struggle, structuring each play around the responses of these women to a key moment of class struggle in New Zealand history. Renée sets Wednesday to Come in the kitchen and sitting room of a house in a small town during the Great Depression, signalling her concern to depict the daily work of women in maintaining family life despite economic hardship. Iris’s husband Ben has committed suicide in a government relief camp, and after Ben’s brother Ted arrives with his coffin, the family learn that Ben became depressed due to the primitive conditions in the camp and the degradation of being harnessed to a plough like a horse. The play abounds with naturalistic detail as Iris and her mother Mary keep the household functioning despite this tragedy: washing dishes, ironing, and baking scones. Eventually Iris opens up Ben’s coffin and speaks to her dead husband in one of the most moving monologues ever written by a New Zealand playwright. Mixing tenderness with anger, her grief remains largely subtextual, as she challenges the corpse for not having the courage to carry on living: ‘You see, what you don’t understand is that we all have harnesses. And most of us survive somehow’.39 Iris draws attention to the exclusion of women from the history books when she tells Ben: ‘We’re the ones they leave out when they write up the books’.40 Iris’s daughter Jeannie becomes the protagonist in Pass It On, which depicts the roles played by women during New Zealand’s longest and most bitter industrial dispute, the 1951 waterfront lockout. Jeannie Once examines a community of Irish and Scottish immigrants in 1870s Dunedin, skilfully blending realism with the colourful theatricality of nineteenth-century melodrama and music hall. Another Jeannie (the grandmother from Wednesday to Come) struggles to make a living as a dressmaker in the town where she observes that class structures have been transposed from Europe:  ‘Oh this bloody place! I’d expected the differences, it’s the similarities that’ve been the shock!’41 Honoria, the wife of a patriarchal Presbyterian minister, is a vivid portrait of a woman whose values have become warped by fundamentalist Christianity. Grieving the deaths of her children on the sea voyage to New Zealand, and denied by her husband the opportunity of purchasing a new dress, Honoria burns his bible then places the blame for this transgressive act on Martha, her part-Māori housekeeper. Thus Renée shows how female solidarity can be eroded by patriarchal authority. Renée’s historiographic trilogy is a major achievement, a celebration of the strength and resilience of working-class

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

272

Davi d O’Donnel l

women during times of political turmoil, articulated through nonsentimental characterisation and dialogue. Although Renée has Māori and European ancestry, her work in the 1980s dealt mostly with Pākehā characters. The evolution of Māori theatre, focusing on Māori characters and subject matter, began in the 1970s with Te Raukura: The Feathers of the Albatross (1972) by Harry Dansey, credited as the first play by a Māori writer. Dansey examines the impact of colonisation on Māori land ownership, focusing on Taranaki iwi (tribes) and contrasting the military campaigns of Te Ua Haumene with Te Whiti’s peaceful and ultimately unsuccessful resistance at Parihaka. Death of the Land by Rore Hapipi refers to this same history of alienation of land, but is set in the 1970s where a whanau argue in the courts against the sale of their ancestral land to a Pākehā developer. In the Wilderness without a Hat (1985) by Māori poet Hone Tuwhare is set in the new meetinghouse of a marae (sacred, communal place) in the far north of the North Island, where the main characters decorate the space and restore their iwi’s ancestral carvings. Significantly, no one knows the names of some of the ancestral carvings, apart from an ageing kaumātua. Thus Tuwhare emphasises the need for younger people to learn Māori history and culture from their elders before the knowledge literally dies out. The play concludes with a dramatic conflict between different groups over whether a deceased relative should be buried in the church cemetery or on the hill above the marae. The carved ancestors, played by actors in skintight masks and wigs, come to life and settle the dispute, accompanied by stylised lighting and electronic music. Through the device of the ancestors, who speak in te reo Māori (Māori language) and English, the play symbolically suggests that the problems of the present can only be solved by reconnecting with the past. Like Dansey and Hapipi, Tuwhare emphasises the struggle for compensation for the loss of Māori land, specifically referencing the 1975 Māori Land March from Te Hapua to Parliament, which contributed to the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal: PAUL: It was a tapu march, old man. School kids and teachers – Māori and Pākehā – they joined in, hundreds of them. And working people. Railway men, freezing workers at Moerewa, cement workers at Whangarei, seamen and boilermakers in Auckland, Union members – all the way down the line of march to Wellington. All the tribes.42

In this play Hone Tuwhare ambitiously combines Western-style theatricality with Māori cultural practices, producing a syncretic drama depicting

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘DBed and chocolate wheaten beaten’

273

the need to reconnect with core aspects of Māori culture, themes expanded in Riwia Brown’s Roimata (1988) and developed further in the 1990s by Māori dramatists like Hone Kouka. As the range of Māori playwriting expanded, the 1980s also saw the beginnings of theatre written by and for Pacific Island migrants. Le Matau (1984) by Palagi (European) Stephen Sinclair and Samoan Samson Samasoni was the first play to deal seriously with the theme of Pasifika migration to Aotearoa, focusing on a young man, Ioane, who loses his connection with his Samoan family and heritage through assimilation into Palagi society. At a time when New Zealand audiences were not used to hearing other languages in the theatre, Le Matau included several scenes written entirely in the Samoan language. Le Matau established new themes about the impact of migration from the Pacific Islands that would be developed by Samoan playwrights in the 1990s. There is a continuing tradition of group-devised experimental theatre in contemporary New Zealand theatre originating in the 1970s with a number of touring avant-garde companies including Theatre Action, Blerta, Amamus Theatre, and Red Mole.43 Red Mole performed regularly from its foundation in 1972 until the premature deaths of the company’s cofounders, Alan Brunton and Sally Rodwell, in 2002 and 2006, respectively. Red Mole’s unforgettable style was a surrealist mix of satire, cabaret, music, puppetry, mask, and physical theatre, self-described as ‘Cubo-futurist performance’.44 Like Robert Lord, Red Mole’s core members were drawn to the artistic stimulation of New  York, relocating there in 1979, beginning a decade of travel and performance internationally. Brunton continued to write prolifically for the company, incorporating a multitude of artistic influences and reflecting the politics of the Reagan era. Brunton’s response to the United States’ bombing of Libya in 1986 was a farcical piece called The Evangelists, in which three members of the infantry enact military manoeuvres and petty quarrels on the lawn of a large house set in parklike grounds. This satire of White House military aggression under the guise of democracy reflects the fear of nuclear apocalypse that had escalated since the Cold War, ending with a final, Beckettian stage direction: ‘AND THEN, THERE IS NO MORE LIGHT’.45 Surrealism also influenced Stuart Hoar, whose first major full-length play Squatter remains a defining piece of the late 1980s. Championed by Mervyn Thompson, who directed its second professional production at Circa Theatre, the play took an epic approach to the ‘Squattocracies’, the great colonial estates of the South Island land barons broken up by the

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

274

Davi d O’Donnel l

Liberal government in the 1890s in order to open the land up for smaller farmers. Squatter focuses on one landed family, the Bilstrodes, and its attempts to hold onto power and thwart the democratisation of landownership. Loaded with anachronisms and intertextual references, with nods to Beckett as well as Brecht, Squatter is a celebration of theatricality as much as it is a critique of New Zealand’s class history. Squatter established Hoar as a major new voice, with a modernist aesthetic and single-minded dedication to the art of playwriting reminiscent of Robert Lord in the early 1970s. By 1990 New Zealand playwriting had reached the level of professionalism and recognition that Bruce Mason had dreamed of. In 1989 Playmarket reported that box office income from New Zealand plays performed that year totalled ‘nearly $3 million’.46 Ken Duncum’s Blue Sky Boys in 1990 at the newly professionalised BATS Theatre in Wellington heralded a new generation of playwrights. The year 1990 also saw the production at Taki Rua theatre of Whatungarongaro, collectively written by Roma Potiki and members of He Ara Hou theatre company, featuring a syncretic blend of realism and tikanga Māori (Māori customs) – a turning point in the development of Māori theatre. Despite the best efforts of playwrights like Mason, prior to the 1980s it would be difficult to make a case that there was a ‘canon’ of New Zealand drama. By 1990 however, that canon had unquestionably come into being. From Lord’s accessible modernism to Hall’s chamber comedies, the work of a diverse range of playwrights was regularly on view in professional theatres. As dedicated scriptwriters like Lord, Hall, Thompson, McGee, and Renée came to define this emerging canon, there remained significant contributions by writers best known for their work in other genres, notably Tuwhare, Shadbolt, and O’Sullivan. The increased dramaturgical confidence in the 1970s and 1980s led to dynamic experimentation with theatrical form, including the elegant modernism of Lord and Hoar, McGee’s beat poetry, Thompson’s expressionism, O’Sullivan and Renée’s epic theatre, Brunton’s surrealism, and the cross-cultural blendings of Māori playwrights. New Zealand theatre began to have some impact internationally, from Hall’s success on the West End to works by Lord and Red Mole performed in New York. In the 1980s there was a significant emphasis on historiographic revisionism, reflecting an increased interest among Māori and Pākehā alike in reconciling the ghosts of the colonial past, and redefining perceptions of national identity. While the professional theatres were all in urban centres,

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘DBed and chocolate wheaten beaten’

275

several of the best plays of this period were set in small towns, as if it was in the rural communities that the most intense aspects of New Zealand identity were expressed. The theatre took on new significance as an important cultural institution for artistic exploration and informed debate about class, gender, and intercultural conflicts within New Zealand society. Notes 1 Bruce Mason, Every Kind of Weather, ed. David Dowling (Auckland:  Reed Methuen, 1986), 280. 2 Robert Lord, Three Plays, ed. Phillip Mann (Wellington:  Playmarket, 2013), 18. 3 Robert Lord, Joyful and Triumphant (Wellington:  Victoria University Press, 1993), 64. 4 Later Hall revisits his Glide Time characters in a darker play, Market Forces (1996), in which he observes the effects of the New Right monetarist philosophies legislated by the Labour Government elected in 1984. 5 Roger Hall, Middle-Age Spread (Wellington: Price Milburn/Victoria University Press, 1978), 82. 6 A production of Middle-Age Spread in London ran for eighteen months and won the 1979 Laurence Olivier award for Comedy of the Year. 7 Roger Hall, State of the Play (Wellington:  Price Milburn/Victoria University Press, 1979), 78. 8 Ibid., 79. 9 Mervyn Thompson, Selected Plays (Dunedin: Pilgrim’s South Press, 1984), 65. 10 Ibid., 53. 11 Ibid., 60. 12 Ibid. 13 Ibid., 62. 14 Ibid., 67. 15 Mervyn Thompson, Passing Through and Other Plays (Christchurch:  Hazard Press, 1992), 138. 16 Ibid., 139. 17 Ibid., 149. 18 Ibid., 173. 19 David Carnegie, ‘The Metamorphoses of Foreskin’s Lament’, Australasian Drama Studies 17 (October 1990): 203. 20 McGee, Foreskin’s Lament (Wellington:  Price Milburn/Victoria University Press, 1981), 22. 21 Ibid., 47. 22 Ibid., 53. 23 Ibid., 70. 24 Ibid., 93. 25 Ibid., 96.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

276

Davi d O’Donnel l

26 See Michael Neill, foreword, in Greg McGee, Foreskin’s Lament (Wellington: Price Milburn/Victoria University Press, 1981), 10. 27 Maurice Shadbolt, Once on Chunuk Bair (Auckland: Hodder and Stoughton, 1982), 69. 28 Ibid., 56. 29 Ibid., 59. 30 Ibid. 31 Ibid., 90. 32 Ibid., 71. 33 Ibid., 101. 34 Ibid., 59. 35 Ibid., 83. 36 Vincent O’Sullivan, Shuriken (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1985), 38. 37 See Susan Ngaire Dunlop, ‘Role of Women in the Culture and Context of a Developing New Zealand Theatre 1920–1950’ (MA thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 2002). 38 Hilary Beaton, Outside In (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1984), 55. 39 Renée, Wednesday to Come (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1985), 38. 40 Ibid. 41 Ibid., 11. 42 Hone Tuwhare, In the Wilderness without a Hat, in He Reo Hou:  5 Plays by Maori Playwrights [ed. Simon Garrett] (Wellington:  Playmarket, 1991), 54–123, see p. 80. 43 See Murray Edmond, ‘Re-membering the Remembering Body: “Autonomous” Theatre in New Zealand’, in Performing Aotearoa:  New Zealand Theatre and Drama in an Age of Transition, ed. Marc Maufort and David O’Donnell (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2002), 45–68, see p. 65. 44 Alan Brunton, A Red Mole Sketchbook (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1989), back cover. 45 Ibid., 55. 46 Laurie Atkinson, ed., Playmarket 40: 40 Years of Playwriting in New Zealand (Wellington: Playmarket, 2013), 52.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.019 Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter 19

The Māori Renaissance from 1972 Melissa Kennedy

The Māori Renaissance is the most significant literary movement since cultural nationalism in the 1930s and 1940s. The latter produced a cogent body of literary and critical work that sought to wean the descendants of settlers from their colonial dependency; the former since the 1970s has asserted a separate nationalism within a bicultural nation, one with its own modes of expression, its own history, and its claim to represent a truly postcolonial Aotearoa-New Zealand. Both locally and internationally, the Māori Renaissance has been recognised for its transformation of European-derived genres of literary, cultural, and artistic practice to accommodate non-European experience; its joining of traditional and contemporary perspectives in aesthetic practice; and its uncompromising statement of cultural distinctiveness. After more than forty years the Māori Renaissance has a canon of major writers – Hone Tuwhare, Witi Ihimaera, Patricia Grace, and Keri Hulme – as secure in public consciousness and esteem as were Allen Curnow, Denis Glover, and Frank Sargeson in the mid-twentieth century. Moreover, it has accumulated cultural gravity over time, and faces as yet no concerted voice of opposition, as the literary nationalists did by the 1950s and, especially, the 1960s. The Māori Renaissance continues to dominate in new Māori writing today. Its governing tenets – continuity with the pre-European past, coequality in the bicultural present, positive cultural difference, the secure possession of a distinct world outlook, and special status derived from priority in the land – have considerably influenced non-Māori New Zealand fiction as well as national literary and cultural criticism across the humanities and social sciences. In both fiction and responses to it, the Māori Renaissance provides a literary road map of the turbulent years of the Māori sovereignty movement and an emerging national biculturalism that came to define the relationship between two peoples committed to a permanent partnership by signing the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. The debate in literary circles about the form, function, and impact of Māori fiction 277

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.020 Published online by Cambridge University Press

278

Meli ssa K ennedy

as a subgenre of – or counter to – the national literature mirrors and to some extent has engendered broader debates over Māori culture and identity, and shaped the way both Māori and Pākehā (Europeans) perceive themselves and each other. More specifically, Māori writing has raised questions about the social function of literature, the criteria by which we evaluate it, and the validity of categorising writers and their work by cultural identity, or of pinpointing unique features of Māori English and the Māori imaginary. These issues have reverberated in society at large in challenges over who is Māori, what constitutes Māori culture, and how it is circulated and regulated. Thus, Māori Renaissance literature reflects and rehearses the signal issues of New Zealand’s national sociocultural and political psyche of the past forty years, which has privileged the relationship between Māori and Pākehā in bicultural Aotearoa-New Zealand. The emergence of national biculturalism, which was significantly shaped by the cultural flowering of the Māori Renaissance and the political demands of the Māori sovereignty movement,1 took place in the changing sociocultural context of the 1970s and 1980s. From the early 1970s, regional and local identity markers faded, old imperial markets and loyalties lapsed, and a more global outlook was forced on the nation. Pākehā New Zealanders abandoned the entrenched idea of an assimilated monocultural nation in favour of a discourse of identity politics that valued choice, difference, and acceptance of cultural diversity. Within this context Māori – and Māori writers especially – emerged into a New Zealand mainstream newly open to exploring cultural differences and the possibilities offered by increased Māori separateness or sovereignty. This chapter describes Māori Renaissance literature with this historical context firmly in mind in order to account for the social and cultural pressures that have shaped Māori writing and its reception. The difficulty of defining the Māori Renaissance, especially its start and end dates, registers the conflicting energies that accompany any major cultural change. The common dating of 1975, the year of the hīkoi (land march) and associated cluster of events including land occupations at Bastion Point (1977) and Raglan (1978) and the founding of the Mana Motuhake Party (1979), anchors the Māori Renaissance in the separatist drive of Tino Rangatiratanga, the Māori sovereignty movement  – a changing, heterogeneous, and contested field. While the impetus of the cultural flowering is thus inseparable from the concomitant protests and demonstrations of Māori grievances around land and against assimilationist politics, it is also underpinned by a longer history of ‘underground’ twentieth-century protest.2 The cyclical process of vigorous contestation

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.020 Published online by Cambridge University Press

The Māori Renaissance from 1972

279

of the national mores, of rupture and renewal followed by a period of agreement and of the consolidation of new norms, are common both to historical renaissances3 and to those movements that have formed New Zealand’s national identity. At each step, the national literary tradition has played a role in shaping and bearing witness to these upheavals. From this longue durée perspective, the rise of Māori writing in the 1970s was part of a larger literary shift that replaced the previous dominant literary mode, which had centred on the provincial white male version of cultural nationalism of the mid-century period, and which had also – though more ambivalently – rejected colonial identity. The oscillating emphasis on newness and continuity in definitions of the Māori Renaissance is also evident in the history of Māori literature, the duration of which depends on what the observer chooses to notice or to regard as literature proper. By the mid-twentieth century, a very few Māori writers were being published in English, with very little recognition from the literary establishment, most concertedly in the Department of Māori Affairs triannual Te Ao Hou collection (1952–76), and most notably by J. C. Sturm (first published in Te Ao Hou 13, 1955), Rowley Habib (first published in Te Ao Hou 18, 1957), and Hone Tuwhare (first published in Te Ao Hou 28, 1959). The mainstream advent of Māori writing – its eager noticing by Pākehā – can be dated to a series of ‘firsts’: Tuwhare’s poetry collection, No Ordinary Sun (1964); Witi Ihimaera’s short-story collection, Pounamu Pounamu (1972) and novel Tangi (1973); Harry Dansey’s play Te Raukura, (1972); and Patricia Grace’s story collection Waiariki (1975) and her novel Mutuwhenua: The Moon Sleeps (1978). It is this popular notion of ‘firsts’, with their focus on a unique and new literary voice – as though Māori writing had appeared from nowhere – that grabbed literary attention and established the nomenclature of the Māori cultural renaissance.4 Literary analysis of the Māori Renaissance has tended to return to this body of work, although there is now increasing critical attention to the much longer history of Māori literature.5 While the number of Māori writers and literary publications has flourished since the renaissance, the above-mentioned writers remain central to the movement, and it is this early body of work that is predominantly taught in New Zealand schools and discussed internationally in postcolonial and Indigenous studies. Common to the different conceptions among Māori of their society, culture, and literature is the underlying desire to own their cultural interpretation and for this authority to be acknowledged by Pākehā. Thus, Māori took on a role to educate Pākehā about the Indigenous history and culture previously occluded by the dominant assimilationist discourse of

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.020 Published online by Cambridge University Press

280

Meli ssa K ennedy

a monocultural and monolingual nation. This didactic voice, focused on cultural differences unavailable to Pākehā, presented Māoritanga as separate and unique. In literature, innovations ascribed to the new voice of Māori Renaissance fiction, which Ihimaera described as ‘the view from the inside out’,6 emphasised literary values opposite to those prioritised by Pākehā. Thus, Into the World of Light (1982), the first anthology of Māori writing edited by Māori, in contrasting its own motivation with that of the Pākehā-sponsored Te Ao Hou, names the Māori Renaissance ‘a cultural revolution’.7 Pākehā, desirous of an authentic Māori voice through which to gain access to a unique Indigenous worldview, were quick to embrace the Māori departure from the national literary canon. The Pākehā desire for ‘a deep draft of ethnicity’ through a new, authentic Māori voice,8 presaged by Bill Pearson in the 1950s and 1960s as a hope that ‘Māori can help us find ways we wouldn’t have found for ourselves’,9 was perhaps most starkly described in Joy Cowley’s review of Hulme’s the bone people as the novel New Zealand had been ‘waiting’ for.10 The trajectory of the Māori publishing industry models the success of growing Māori cultural autonomy under biculturalism. In ‘Māori Life and Literature:  A  Sensory Perception’ (1982), one of the first essays to outline both the motivations and main directions of Māori Renaissance writing, Ihimaera describes the difficulty Māori writers experienced finding publishers in what was perceived to be an exclusively white literary marketplace.11 This lack was rectified by the 1991 establishment of a Māori publishing house, Huia, which today publishes the majority of work by and about Māori, and is the primary publisher of children’s books, dictionaries, and textbooks that form the basis of the Māori curriculum in both mainstream and Māori-language schools. The desire for Māori writers to make their voices and their experiences heard through mainstream literature has led to an exponential increase in Māori publication. Ihimaera and Don Long were the first to claim editorial control with their 1982 anthology, Into the World of Light, which was followed by the five volumes of Te Ao Marama (1992–6), and then the biennial Huia Short Stories collections (1995–), currently up to its eleventh volume in 2015. The flourishing of the written word is indicative of the successes of the Māori Renaissance. The extent to which Māori succeeded in mainstreaming their language and cultural values into national education (from Kōhanga Reo preschools to Wānanga universities), public broadcasting (radio stations and Māori Television), and political institutions (within government portfolios and a dedicated Māori Party) have made Māori role models in other Indigenous and minority cultural revitalisation programmes, including Irish Gaeltacht, Israeli Hebrew, and Japanese Ainu.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.020 Published online by Cambridge University Press

The Māori Renaissance from 1972

281

A distinct set of literary features considered unique to a Māori voice and worldview soon came to predominate. Chadwick Allen’s term ‘the blood/land/memory complex’ offers an expedient summary of the interlocking and generative topoi with which all Māori Renaissance literature is in some way engaged.12 Tellingly, Allen’s features support the separatist thrust of biculturalism; they describe what it is to be and feel Māori in exclusive parameters of biological and historical difference that cannot be shared by Pākehā. These themes are primarily conveyed through the literary modes of pastoral lyricism or social realism. Emerging strongly in Ihimaera’s first three books in the early 1970s, lyrical pastoralism conveys the perceived wholeness of past Māori life, family, and connection to the land, construed as deeply satisfying and even spiritual. These concepts are now commonly known in public discourse as in literature by their Māori terms:  whānau, whakapapa, tūrangawaewae, tikanga, and kaupapa Māori. Tuwhare’s well-loved poem ‘Papa-tu-a-Nuku (Earth Mother)’ captures the dual Renaissance and sovereignty energies that validate land-rights activism based on a long-running relationship with the land, celebrated through the shared Māori spiritual and community beliefs: We are stroking, caressing the spine of the land. We are massaging the ricked back of the land With our sore but ever-loving feet: hell, she loves it! Squirming, the land wriggles in delight. We love her.13

In a much different register from Tuwhare’s poetics, Hulme’s Booker Prize–winning the bone people captured the public imagination with its portrayal of Māori spirituality as located in the land and in guardianship of nature. The unique Māori connection with the land is imagined as powerful enough to heal the modern-day ills brought by colonisation and modernisation – massaging the land back to health, in Tuwhare’s poem, and as a cure for Kerewin’s cancer and Joe’s problems with alcohol, anger, and violence, in the bone people. The second mode common to Māori Renaissance writing, social realism, describes a harsh present featuring Māori as deracinated by urbanisation,

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.020 Published online by Cambridge University Press

282

Meli ssa K ennedy

marginalised by poverty and underachievement, and bleached by pressure to assimilate with the Pākehā mainstream. ‘Sad Joke on a Marae’ (1979), Apirana Taylor’s iconic poem of dispossession, portrays the cultural alienation of Māori who are marginalised from mainstream Pākehā society without a strong Indigenous tradition to fall back on. Tu, the freezing worker, who, with no tribe and no language except the fallen English of the pub, stands on his home marae (sacred place) and addresses the tekoteko (a carved human figure): In the only Maori I knew I called Tihei Mauriora. Above me the tekoteko raged. He ripped his tongue from his mouth and threw it at my feet. Then I spoke. My name is Tu the freezing worker. Ngati DB is my tribe. The pub is my Marae. My fist is my Taiaha. Jail is my home. Tihei Mauriora I cried. They understood the tekoteko and the ghosts though I said nothing but Tihei Mauriora For that’s all I knew.14

Redemption, Taylor suggests, is located in the difficult challenge or even the fight to reclaim one’s Māori cultural identity  – that which Joe also achieves by taking on the mantle of spirit guardian in the bone people. This figuring of Māori culture as an embattled repossession is repeated in the most recently published Māori novel, Tina Makereti’s Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings (2014). A part-Māori character born in the 1980s and brought up Pākehā discovers his Māori identity at university  – the result of the bicultural education opportunities gained by the Māori Renaissance and sovereignty movement. He claims: ‘I’m Māori first. . . . When I learnt te reo, and our culture, things started to make sense’.15 The character’s struggle for identity, however, suggests ongoing inequality between the nation’s two main cultural traditions, despite the access to Māori education enabled by mainstreamed biculturalism. The disjuncture within Māori Renaissance literature between the positive national imaginary of a rich

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.020 Published online by Cambridge University Press

The Māori Renaissance from 1972

283

Indigenous heritage and the negative realist portrayal of social hardship disproportionately affecting Māori people is not easily allayed or aligned. The tension in the fiction recalls and enacts the social and cultural upheavals of the 1970s and 1980s that pulled New Zealand  – and particularly Māori – in conflicting directions. The longevity of the tropes and themes identified in the preceding texts is striking, observable in Te Ao Hou stories of the late 1950s and early 1960s and continuing today. For example, Tirohia’s ‘Goodbye’ (Te Ao Hou 1959, Vol. 27)  describes a Māori family moving to the city, which foreshadows Ihimaera’s ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road’ (1972) and the driving force behind Grace’s Cousins (1998). The opposite journey of return, with the related concept of tūrangawaewae is also consistent, such as in J. H. Moffat’s ‘The Homecoming’ (Te Ao Hou, 1966, Vol. 56), Ihimaera’s Tangi and 2005 rewrite The Rope of Man, Grace’s Potiki (1986), and in Huia short stories, most recently by Jenny Brinsley and Arihia Latham-Coates’s (2007). As well as the tangi, Māori spirituality offered by dying elders is a common leitmotif, from Mikaere Worthington’s ‘Back to the Mat’ in Te Ao Hou (1962, Vol. 40), Ihimaera’s ‘The Whale’ (1972), and Hulme’s the bone people to Huia short stories by Trish Fong and Piata Allen (2007). Portrayals of violence, gangs, and prison culture first described by Bruce Stewart in ‘Broken Arse’ (1982; stage play 1991), also feature in poems and stories by Apirana Taylor, as well as in Duff’s novels, particularly the trilogy Once Were Warriors (1990), What Becomes of the Broken Hearted (1996), and Jake’s Long Shadow (2002). Stories of diverse forms of underachievement dominate the last few volumes of Huia Short Stories, with violence, broken families, broken dreams, addiction, school dropout, unemployment, homelessness, and poverty insistent. Continual recycling and reworking of these and other familiar tropes and themes suggests the ongoing relevance of the Māori Renaissance, which cannot end as a literary period as long as the issues of social and economic inequality within a Pākehā dominant society remain unresolved. Māori fiction has come to international literary attention not only for its unique content but also for its formal innovations, adapting Western narrative conventions of fiction – particularly the novel – to express a Māori imaginary. Ihimaera’s first novel, Tangi, in 1973 introduced the Western reader to the Māori foundation myth of Papa and Rangi, to funeral rituals, and to whānau, hapū, and iwi – the fundamental structuring principles of family, tribe, and subtribe  – while replicating in its oscillating narrative structure the call and response of a marae pōwhiri (welcome). In its foregrounding of emotional expression and close implication of the

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.020 Published online by Cambridge University Press

284

Meli ssa K ennedy

mythical and mystical world in the everyday, Tangi marks a significant departure from the plot-driven Pākehā realist narrative that until then had dominated in New Zealand fiction. Grace’s writing most clearly embodies a Māori-centred worldview contained in her fiction’s structure. In the early novel Potiki (1986), Grace conveys a cyclical or spiral sense of imbricated time and narrative:  ‘all time is a now-time, centred in the being’, and, ‘a story not of a beginning or an end, but marking only a position on the spiral’.16 In contrast to Western epistemology, Grace suggests a less hierarchical and more fluid interaction between the real act and the imagined reenactment as story. Stories are part of the fabric of life, communicated in multiple media: oral, sung, written, carved, woven, acted out in child’s play, and stored in all these forms as stories and memories held for safekeeping inside the meetinghouse.17 The rendition of the Māori vernacular is a singular achievement of Māori fiction, and experimentation with the English language is also integral to the unique Māori idiom and a form of resistance to Anglophone norms. Ihimaera, for example, calls English a ‘profane’ language, open for pillaging and ransacking,18 while Hulme experiments with language and literary interreference, and her texts are peppered with idiosyncratic spelling, word blends, sayings, and borrowings from a wide range of etymologies, languages, and liberal paraphrasing of other writers. As the majority of these early writers were not native or fluent Māori speakers, their inclusion of untranslated reo and the absence of a glossary appendix were strong political statements. The writers’ refusal to translate Māori language and its corresponding cultural concepts became examples of ‘writing back’19 theorised in the newly emerging field of postcolonial studies around this time, with Māori writing at the forefront of this international development in literary studies. The unique Māori worldview expressed in the writing offers alternatives to the dominant Western social and cultural forms and norms, such as of family, community, and social governance. Tuwhare’s ‘No Ordinary Sun’, a strong critique of nuclear testing in the Pacific, set the tone of Indigenous ecocriticism, while Grace’s Potiki (1986) and Dogside Story (2011) promote environmental sustainability and suggest post-development alternatives to capitalism. When registering contentious issues and problems that exist within Māori communities, the Indigenous cultural frame suggests methods of resolution outside of the state welfare system, guided instead by iwi-centred, marae-based (tribal and familial) protocols. Examples include Grace’s handling of psychiatric illness (Baby No-Eyes, Tu), child welfare and disability (Dogside Story, Potiki), and Ihimaera’s address of Māori homophobia (The Uncle’s Story), sexism (The Matriarch,

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.020 Published online by Cambridge University Press

The Māori Renaissance from 1972

285

The Whale Rider), and incest and family violence (Bulibasha, The Dream Swimmer). Some of these Indigenous social structures first suggested in the fiction are today incorporated into the broader national practice. Biculturalism has brought changes in education, health, and family welfare policies, for example. In business, Waitangi Tribunal reparations have empowered iwi to employ Māori-centred business models, which include rūnanga decision making, apprentice-like training schemes, and distribution of profits within the community. The Māori Renaissance has placed Māori literature not only at the centre of what used to be called ‘New Zealand literature’ but also in world literature, especially that dealing with Indigenous peoples and their struggles, where it has achieved unimpeachable authority. Since the Renaissance Pākehā have accepted that they have at most an ambivalent, muted role to play in Māori success. In their rush to embrace the Indigenous viewpoint, efforts by earlier Pākehā writers to understand and sympathetically write of the Māori–Pākehā relationship, notably by James K. Baxter, Roderick Finlayson, Bill Pearson, and Noel Hilliard, came to be seen as gauche, inaccurate, inappropriate, and even symptomatic of the Pākehā mainstream’s latent racism in its assumed role as writing for Māori. No post-Renaissance Pākehā writer has written a novel from a Māori point of view. Pākehā acceptance of Māori cultural separatism has predominated in literary circles following the strident attack on C. K. Stead’s 1985 critique of Hulme’s the bone people as not convincingly Māori and of Hulme as not Māori enough to be labelled a Māori writer.20 Since the polemics engendered by Stead’s critique, Pākehā have become more cautious in critiquing Māori fiction, which coincides with a national literary culture singularly lacking in debate.21 From the Māori side, the tendency in the fiction to focus on their own communities has led to an aura of self-sufficiency that gives an impression that Pākehā (characters, readers, and critics) are simply, as Patrick Evans puts it, ‘irrelevant’ to Māori concerns.22 More overtly, a significant amount of Māori writing takes an antagonistic position towards Pākehā, in characterisation, narrative style, and even authorial input. Ihimaera confronts his Pākehā readers in The Matriarch (1986) as ‘you, Pākehā’, repeated in his 2000 stage play Woman Far Walking.23 Alan Duff employs the same technique through his protagonist in Once Were Warriors: ‘it was what we lost when you, the white audience out there, defeated us. Conquered us. Took our land, our mana, left us with nothing’.24 In each case, the writer directly implicates the contemporary Pākehā reader or viewer in the grieving-and-grievance process of redress for colonial and assimilation-era misdeeds. The biculturalism

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.020 Published online by Cambridge University Press

286

Meli ssa K ennedy

that emerged, considerably shaped by the Māori Renaissance, is thus a relationship of difference, although moderated at times by signs of cooperation and recognition. The Māori-centred focus of most writing does not, however, correspond to a narrow outlook. One of the effects of New Zealand’s positioning of the national in relation to the international is the expansion of the Māori world to also encompass the global domain. In an early articulation of this optic, Ihimaera describes New York as ‘a Maori world’, citing spotting a whale in the Hudson River as inspiration for writing The Whale Rider, his most successful novel to date.25 Extending outside the bicultural national frame even further, Robert Sullivan in his 1999 poem Star Waka translates the traditional ocean-going canoe into one hundred different forms in 2001 lines of poetry as a gift to the new millennium. Among the modern forms of vessel, including a Honda waka and a space waka, Sullivan contemplates Māori as agents not only of globalisation but also of space travel: it is feasible that we will enter space colonise planets call our spacecraft waka perhaps name them after the first fleet erect marae transport carvers renew stories26

Star Waka translates a Māori view into endlessly expanding and new contexts, which does not dilute or threaten Māori culture because it is secure in and confident of its foundations. The success of the Māori Renaissance might be mapped in the scope of the routes travelled from the return home to the marae funeral of Ihimaera’s Tangi to Sullivan’s waka to the stars. What, then, is the future of Māori Renaissance writing? Although its continuity appears assured by current publication practices, the cyclical nature of renaissances and revolutions suggests otherwise. New Zealand’s literary history has been marked by a radical change in the dominant literary trend every forty years or so, responding in fiction to the ground shifts registered in society at large. The national biculturalism that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s in response to the changing international stage was inevitably shaped by the trends of the era, biases that are now becoming clearer as the focus shifts. Biculturalism, as cultural discourse and as policy, is increasingly challenged. Since the 2000s, expanding globalisation has brought new questions demanding attention, including of the limits of corporatisation in the social and cultural spheres, and of national immigration and multiculturalism. In particular, the 2008

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.020 Published online by Cambridge University Press

The Māori Renaissance from 1972

287

global financial crisis and subsequent recession has led to increasing attention to social inequality, shifting the emphasis away from culture to focus on social disparities of wealth and opportunity within the nation, of which Māori are overrepresented at the bottom of social and economic measures of well-being. In keeping with the spirit of renaissance as renewal and revisiting the past with new eyes, the Māori Renaissance continues to hold within its tensions and contradictions significant generative potential. Notes 1 Closer discussion of Maori sovereignty claims, successes, and its intersection with or co-option by national biculturalism is outside the scope of this essay. See Maria Bargh, Maori and Parliament: Diverse Strategies and Compromises (Wellington:  Huia, 2010); Dominic O’Sullivan, Beyond Biculturalism:  The Politics of an Indigenous Minority (Wellington: Huia, 2007). 2 Witi Ihimaera and D.  S. Long, eds. Into the World of Light (Auckland: Heinemann, 1982), 2; Ranginui Walker, Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou: Struggle without End (Auckland:  Penguin, 1990), 186; Mark Williams, ‘The Long Maori Renaissance’, in Other Renaissances:  A  New Approach to World Literature, ed. Brenda Deen Schildgen, Gang Zhou, and Sander L. Gilman (London: Palgrave, 2006), 207–26. 3 On the different definitions of renaissance applicable to the Māori context, see Chris Prentice, ‘What Was the Māori Renaissance’, in Writing at the Edge of the Universe: Essays from the ‘Creative Writing in New Zealand Conference’, University of Canterbury, August 2003, ed. Mark Williams (Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2004), 85–108. 4 See Alice Te Punga Somerville for closer analysis of the gap between ‘moment(s) of writing and dissemination’ from the 1950s and ‘waiting for the later acknowledgement (endorsement?)’ by Pākehā publishers:  ‘If I  close my mouth I  will die:  Writing, Resisting, Centring’, in Resistance:  An Indigenous Response to Neoliberalism, ed. Maria Bargh (Wellington: Huia, 2007), 85–111, see p. 87. 5 See Te Punga Somerville, ibid., and Chapter 2 by Arini Loader in this book. 6 Juniper Ellis, ‘Interview with Witi Ihimaera’, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 34, 1 (1999), 169–82: 176. 7 Ihimaera and Long, Into the World of Light, 3; italics in original. 8 R.  S. Oppenheim, ‘Pounamu, Pounamu’, Journal of Polynesian Society 84, 4 (December 1975): 507. 9 Bill Pearson, ‘The Māori and Literature: 1938–1965’, in Essays on New Zealand Literature, ed. Wystan Curnow (Auckland: Heinemann, 1973), 99–138: 137. 10 Joy Cowley, ‘We Are the bone people’, review of the bone people, New Zealand Listener, 12 May 1984, 60. 11 Witi Ihimaera, ‘Māori Life and Literature:  A  Sensory Perception’, Turnbull Library Record 15, 1 (Winter 1982), 45–55: 51.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.020 Published online by Cambridge University Press

288

Meli ssa K ennedy

12 Chadwick Allen, Blood Narratives:  Indigenous Identity in American Indian and Māori Literary and Activist Texts (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002), 14. 13 Hone Tuwhare, Mihi: Collected Poems (Auckland: Penguin, 1987), 24. 14 Apirana Taylor, ‘Sad Joke on a Marae’, in The Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature, ed. Jane Stafford and Mark Williams (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2012), 698–9. 15 Tina Makereti. Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings (Auckland:  Random House, 2014), n.p., EPUB file. 16 Patricia Grace, Potiki (1986) (London:  Capuchin Classics, 2009), 47, 198. References to the spiral as embodying the Māori imaginary include Eva Rask Knudsen, The Circle and the Spiral:  Australian Aborigine and New Zealand Maori Literature (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2004); Robert Sullivan, ‘The English Moko:  Exploring a Spiral’, in Figuring the Pacific:  Aotearoa and Pacific Cultural Studies, ed. Howard McNaughton and John Newton (Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 1993), 12–28; Witi Ihimaera, The Rope of Man (Auckland: Reed, 2005). 17 Stories and voices are literally thrown up into the rafters, the epicentre and repository of ‘information retention’, in Grace’s Dogside Story (Auckland: Penguin, 2001), 270. 18 Mark Williams, ‘Interview with Witi Ihimaera’, Landfall 179 (September 1991), 281–97: 285. 19 Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures (London and New  York: Routledge, 1989). 20 C.  K. Stead, ‘Keri Hulme’s “The Bone People” and the Pegasus Award for Māori Literature’, Ariel 16, 4 (1985):  101–8; Margery Fee, ‘Why C. K. Stead Didn’t Like Keri Hulme’s the bone people:  Who Can Write as Other?’, Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada 1 (1989): 11–32. 21 Lydia Wevers, ‘The Politics of Culture’, in Williams, Writing at the Edge of the Universe, 109–22; Mark Williams and Lydia Wevers, ‘Going Mad without Noticing: Cultural Policy in a Small Country’, Landfall 204 (November 2002): 15–18. 22 Patrick Evans, ‘ “Pakeha-style Biculturalism” and the Maori Writer’, Journal of New Zealand Literature 24, 1 (2006), 11–35: 30. 23 Witi Ihimaera, The Matriarch (Auckland: Secker and Warburg, 1986), 74, italics in original; Woman Far Walking (Wellington: Huia, 2000), 43. 24 Alan Duff, Once Were Warriors (Auckland:  Tandem, 1990), 47, italics in original. 25 Mark Williams, ‘Interview with Witi Ihimaera’, 285. 26 Robert Sullivan, Star Waka (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1999), 50.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.020 Published online by Cambridge University Press

P a rt   V

1990–2014

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Published online by Cambridge University Press

Ch apter  20

‘While History Happens Elsewhere’ Fiction and Political Quietism, 1990–2014 Dougal McNeill

The reception of two Booker Prizes, awarded almost thirty years apart, offers a position from which to assess mutations in literature’s place in cultural politics from the postcolonial 1980s to the globalised 2000s. Keri Hulme’s the bone people (1983; Booker winner 1985) is concerned with spiritual transformation and settled location, a tale centred on a few individuals and their fractured relation to the Māori world. Writing in the New Zealand Listener Joy Cowley greeted the novel as ‘textured with the rough and smooth of our own being’. ‘We have’, she affirms, ‘known this book all our lives’. Hulme’s achievement, in this review, is to have ‘given us – us’.1 Three decades on, and Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries (2013; Man Booker winner 2013), the longest book to date to have won the prize, and a multiperspectival, many-charactered exploration of materials, histories, and travels, was received in the same magazine as a strangely empty vessel. ‘It’s easy to be distracted from [The Luminaries’] lack of ambition where it really matters’, the reviewer, Guy Somerset, wrote; Catton, for him, had ‘set herself the creative writing exercise to end all creative writing exercises’.2 Catton’s enthusiastic reception elsewhere leaves Somerset’s sceptical view untypical of its time; his terms of dissent, however, reproduce a register from the first decade of the twenty-first century in New Zealand and elsewhere. Did culture lose the culture wars? Was the very commercial and critical triumph of The Luminaries a sign of literature’s full incorporation into the culture industry? Catton’s success may well have been literature’s failure, as the promise of the novel – for political commentary and critical reflection – is broken in favour of the emptiness of the exercise. Intervening in the aftermath of the 1951 Waterfront Lockout and speaking to a farmer-dominated, socially conservative New Zealand, Robert Chapman demanded that ‘the artist must sound his trumpet of insight until the walls of Jericho – the pattern as it is – fall 291

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

292

Doug a l McNei ll

down’.3 Bill Pearson’s ‘Fretful Sleepers’ published in the same year cried out for the country’s ‘aching need for art’ with which to work up ‘the threadbare constitution of social behaviour’.4 This tradition, whatever feminist and postcolonial modifications came in along the way, carried itself through to accounts of the bone people. Hulme, for her advocates, told ‘us’ something about ourselves, our land, our culture. By the time of The Luminaries there is, in cultural criticism, a sense that this project has been abandoned. The Fifth Labour Government (1999–2008), with Helen Clark as Prime Minister and Minister for the Arts, took steps institutionally and financially to promote and enshrine the nation building and identity-forming duties of the arts. Had this very ascension of the nationalist mode of reading to policy formation rendered its future uncertain?5 The expressions of this discontent are diffuse, and its causes uncertain; it centres itself, however, on worries about the creative writing programme and the depoliticisation of fiction, worries Somerset could have been confident would find an echo in his description of The Luminaries. The exercise, with its twin associations of idle pointlessness and sport, links the professionalisation of writing, the decline of nation-shaping work, and literature’s political emaciation into a New Zealand variation on that fretting Mark McGurl has traced as the feature of ‘the program era’, when ‘the university stepped forward in the postwar period both to facilitate and to buffer the writer’s relation to the culture industry and the market more broadly’.6 This structure of feeling is given a further moralising dimension:  no nationalism, the slogan might run, no politics, and thus nothing but free-floating cultural commodities. Patrick Evans bemoans the ‘deracinating global context’ in which New Zealand literature is now produced while also finding in ‘this essentially Pākehā business of self-indigenisation’ a ‘journey to nowhere’. His wish to run with the postcolonial hares and hunt with the cultural nationalist hounds is rendered coherent only by its lashing together and rendering synonymous politics and nation.7 This global context is mere supplement, for Stephen Turner, to an always existing bad faith; the ‘trumpets of insight’ do not sound now and could never have been blown: New Zealanders have a weak sense of history . . . the pervasive effect of contemporary settler culture in New Zealand, which is rather a problem of living in the present, living without history. This is to say that the will to forget the trauma of dislocation and unsettlement has taken the form of a psychic structure.8

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘While History Happens Elsewhere’

293

These are local variations on familiar complaints across Anglophone writing. In Britain ‘the political novel of public life has’, for Dominic Head, ‘been largely eclipsed by the novel that concentrates on isolated, individual lives’; in a different setting David Foster Wallace hoped for a new sincerity in American fiction.9 Attendant arguments around globalisation and fiction draw New Zealand literary politics into their ideological force field. The ‘embrace of transnationalism’ in literary studies globally, and the waning, in the face of Devolution and the continuing decline of Britain’s political or economic power, of ‘the ability of “English Literature” to stand for literature in English as well as literature by the English’ must reset the terms of the debate over politics and fiction.10 Older critical programmes looked for ways of finding the ‘trick’, as a celebrated poem by Allen Curnow phrased it in the 1940s, ‘of standing upright here’; this was updated, in the wake of postcolonialism and the Māori Renaissance’s reminder of the complexities of ‘here’, to calls for a rethinking of centre-periphery relations under the slogan of the empire writing back. But where now is the ‘centre’? Beijing? Berlin? How might what Bruce Clunies Ross calls the ‘reticulated system’ of international Anglophone literary relations be imagined by critics frightened of ‘deracinating’ contexts?11 Where is globalisation? Materialist criticism in New Zealand literary studies has, this last decade, been in a state of uncertainty, as nationalist criticism flounders in the face of global capitalism and the purchase of that ‘mobile metaphor’ postcolonialism has largely been spent.12 New ways of writing about politics and the novel  – ways succumbing neither to the too-easy critical alignment with ‘the acceptance and lack of antagonism current writers feel about their surroundings’ nor to the moralising gestures of an exhausted nationalism – are required.13 Chapman’s chosen metaphor for his analyst-artists as trumpeters of insight reveals its own limitations; novels cannot, after all, make noise. They are paper worlds, and thus demand readerly reconstruction. What place politics might have in fiction, or what relations and mediations there might be between the fictional and the political, is a question rarely asked by those charging contemporary fiction with quietism, of a retreat from the urgencies of late capitalism towards style and formal self-consciousness. But the absence of the political may be seen as a different mode of political engagement, stripped of easy messages and rhetorical posturing, placing responsibility on the reader to locate the political within the text. Bill Pearson’s ‘solution’ was ‘to look to the here and now’, and ‘to penetrate the torpor and out of meaninglessness make a pattern that means

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

294

Doug a l McNei ll

something’.14 What if this patterning were rethought by way of Northrop Frye’s rhetorical figuring of the charm and the riddle?15 For the former experience one turns to Elizabeth Knox’s Black Oxen (2001), a massive compendium of journals, stories-within-stories, intermissions, false starts, traps, and accounts of narrative psychotherapy, its characters including ‘a frail and elderly billionaire’, a ‘revolutionary hero’, and a ‘smooth and polished murderer’.16 Knox’s patterns of sound and association ‘make strange’ everyday experience: ‘Ambre was in the water – standing in the surf, her hands combing its flounces, at each wave her hair alternately gleaming on her back or billowing behind her in the water, a spilled ink that wouldn’t disperse’.17 This is a fiction of incantation and excess, the reader having to sift through superabundant information and plot streams, each running through the imagination as water through fingers, to try and work up something like coherence. For Frye’s pictorial affinities we could read the malevolent comedy of Barbara Anderson’s Change of Heart (2004), the narration of elderly dentist Oliver Gurth Perkins as his ordered world becomes disordered and, with it, his social outlook ceases to function. Anderson’s sentences take away as much as they give; her narration is shot through with an uncertain irony: Heaven knows how it will end, but I will start with the house where I was born and the little window where the sun came peeping in at morn, which is a steal from a second-rate poem. I  know it is second rate because my father, who was well educated, told me so.18

What seems, in the first line, to be the promise of realist and reliable narration has, by the second, transformed into something rather more demanding: each detail, and the certainty of each detail, is here linked to another, doubtful, piece of reportage or writing. Knox and Anderson, in very different forms, make their readers work at thinking about the possibilities of narrative. That exercise, given narrative’s world-shaping powers socially, is political all the way down. Volume and veracity are not always, in fiction, connected, and the quiet may be the furthest from the political quietist. Lloyd Jones, in his early fiction, demonstrated this through a series of bravura recreations of the humdrum and the everyday – of Lower Hutt, Splinter’s (1988) ‘town of modest achievement’19 offering as many opportunities for imaginative exploration as any more glamourous global city. Choo Woo (1998) took this into a more disturbing realm, the middle-class domestic novel disclosing trauma and sexual abuse. Jones’s most celebrated novel, however, did not follow through on these earlier works’ promise or achievement.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘While History Happens Elsewhere’

295

Mister Pip (2007), one of the most enthusiastically reviewed and commercially successful New Zealand novels of the 2000s, made great play of the ‘acts of magic’20 involved in literature and storytelling. Its tale, of globally little-known conflict in Bougainville, seems, at first, to follow a postcolonial drive to rediscovery and complexity; the ‘magic’ of story and personal redemption using Western narrative, and, centrally, Charles Dickens, perpetuates, however, as Selina Tusitala Marsh has argued, familiar Western fantasies in Pacific costume.21 Novels can be useful to think with and within: imagined as a technology, a machine for representation, their political possibilities take on a different order. The novel form, with its particular ability to render consciousness, is well suited to follow lines of inquiry. The political value reading offers here comes from how the novel form can prompt particular exercises in ways of thinking differently, forcing readers to think about their own role in constructing a sense of character and so on, as much, if not more than, the content and putative subject matter of ‘politics’ in a given text. A  school sexual scandal  – and the pupils’ newfound sense of the powers of disclosure  – organises Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal (2008), allowing it to follow the ‘breathy, shrieking realm of social and sexual investiture where girls are named without their knowledge, convicted, and condemned’ alongside its central plot lines, reflecting in turn on how ‘the girls at Abbey Grange are forever defining each other, tenderly and savagely and sometimes out of spite’, a skill ‘that will be sharpened to a blade by the finish of their fifth and final year’.22 A school can be a whole social world, contained as it is and ordered with its own ‘relative autonomy’; The Rehearsal thus produces totalising social representations in its tracing of the ‘stubborn dance of entitlement, aggressive and defensive’ across the school. Catton provides no soothing and meaning-making pattern or narratorial pronouncement; this text is, rather, something to work with. Neither Black Oxen, Change of Heart, nor The Rehearsal relies on any particular narrative intervention or nationally grounded detail or story; this can as easily be read as a sign of confidence in the powers of open fictionality as it can be marked down as a bleaching of New Zealandness from literary production. Berthold Schoene identifies what he calls a ‘critical malaise within cultural studies’ as ‘literature’s arcane representational strategies are read as a sign of its unworldliness and rapidly fading niche-market appeal rather than its intransigent, world-creative resistance to ideological vehicularisation’,23 and each of these novels, in the demands they put on readers for the active interpretation and creation of meaning, illustrate that world-creative resistance.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

296

Doug a l McNei ll

There is, to be sure, the raw material of politics and political life at the level of story to be found also in contemporary New Zealand fiction. The linked stories of Charlotte Grimshaw’s Opportunity (2007) hover just this side of metafiction, like Duane Hanson’s hyperrealist sculpture, offering overexposed grotesqueries of wealthy Auckland life, Remuera with its ‘junior solictors’ who ‘hoot at future dinners’.24 One of these stories is worked up into the novel The Night Book (2010) – a well-nigh Dickensian joining together of ‘master-strokes of secret arrangement’25 across the racial and class divides of neoliberal Auckland  – as the collision of David Hallwright’s election campaign (with Hallwright an obvious fictional double for John Key, conservative prime minister of New Zealand from 2008 until the present day) with obstetrician Simon Lampton’s private life and private dilemmas. Grimshaw makes her story out of the business of politics – the fundraising parties, the manoeuvres – and derives her narrative’s energies from politics’ combination of power and its erotic attractions, Hallwright’s ‘sharp grey eyes’ and his enthusiastic middle-class followers, ‘blue-ribboned, shining-eyed’ matching each other in complicities and deceits.26 The ‘twitch of nausea and self-disgust’ in The Night Book is ambivalent and multidirectional. If there is grim enough dissection of the empty affluence of Auckland’s wealthy for a Chapmanesque contribution to the social pattern, Grimshaw’s choice of a racialised abjection for her opening sequence, with Lampton delivering the baby of a prisoner Māori mother, handcuffed to the hospital bed, due to return after the birth to her ‘long sentence’ and her face ‘blasted, blood-shot, tear-stained’ and her ‘green eyes wild’,27 draws the reader’s affective responses into the thought world and class outlook of the very social strata the novel seems to critique and to distance. The experience is, productively, unsettling; the politics is in the reading of the novel, not in its observations of John Key. Evans complains that ‘there is a pressure to efface the localised referent’.28 He must, as part of his neo-nationalist project, figure globalisation as cultural homogenisation and this pressure as the wielding of editorial red pens in the service of global business. The novelists are not above a little teasing here. Damien Wilkins’s Max Gate (2013), a fictionalised account of Thomas Hardy’s last days with no connection to New Zealand apart from its author’s passport, has as its epigraph a quote from Virginia Woolf: ‘small boys write to him from New Zealand, & have to be answered’.29 But, whatever his programmatic motivations, Evans identifies a real shift in contemporary literature. What are the forces involved in that pressure, and how do they make themselves felt?

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘While History Happens Elsewhere’

297

New Zealand literature, or literature produced in New Zealand, circulates in a different cultural world now, certainly, as globalisation  – and accompanying it what Susan Buck-Morss calls ‘the first global ideological form’,30 consumerism – reorders the circulation of peoples and commodities. Fiction might offer, in its very erasure of the localised referent, a way of mapping this phase of full postmodernity or globalised late capitalism. This, on a first reading, seems one way to approach Carl Shuker’s The Method Actors (2005), a densely imagined criss-crossing narrative of various expatriate lives in Tokyo, with shopping involving ‘regular plastic supermarket bags . . . bags the same the first world over’.31 Shuker’s Tokyo setting, however, destabilises any too quick symptomatic interpretation of this as a narrative of endless sameness. Tokyo, after all, is a notoriously monocultural space, a global city in the world of finance that is, in the cultural or, indeed, political realm, still relatively minor, disconnected from the flows linking San Francisco and Shanghai, New York and Nairobi. Tokyo’s otherness, its historically specific client state relations to Washington, and its suppressed and traumatic recent-past imperial links with East Asia, bubble through Shuker’s text as fragments and visions of History. The ‘outsider’s guilt’ and ‘tourist imperative’ can make nothing of a city in which ‘each fragment’ is ‘too dense, overloaded with information’.32 A character from New Zealand is introduced as a ‘young man’ of ‘nationality not halfway decipherable’ for reasons both thematic and sociological.33 The obvious, para-literary sociological point needs stressing: nationality and ‘race’ are more difficult to read in the contemporary moment, as migration flows and shifting demographics blend and mutate the ways a ‘localised referent’ might become legible. Japanese social norms still permit reading for ‘race’ – it is difficult, in Japanese, to make the kinds of distinctions between ethnic or racial identity, citizenship and national belonging essential to any official multiculturalism  – and so the ‘minor chaos’ of Tokyo allows Shuker to pose globalisation’s problems for any idea of a national literature in narrative form. The ‘deep acidic loneliness of the foreigners in Tokyo, the city full of lonely people’ is, in The Method Actors, not the loneliness of lost authenticity at ‘home’ nor the response to a smoothly globalised space but rather the negotiation of these new pressures on national frames of identity and reference.34 ‘The nation-state’, Philip Leonard argues, ‘is in both an antagonistic and a co-operative relationship with global culture, both contesting the attenuation of national authority that globalisation threatens and participating in the opportunities it offers to national culture’: just as the state promotes the globalised culture industry at home, most famously in the

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

298

Doug a l McNei ll

subsidies to the kitsch and detritus of the Anglo-imagination recreated in New Zealand as Middle Earth by Peter Jackson, so too writers investigate what Leonard calls the ‘ambivalent and anxious condition of national globalism’.35 We may now refine this question of the referent by dividing Evans’s ‘global context’ into two more specifically literary subcategories. The globalisation of fiction is, after all, not identical to the fiction of globalisation, and we need to think, as Susie O’Brien and Imre Szeman put it, ‘not just about how globalisation is reflected thematically in fiction . . . but also about literature’s role in the narrative construction of the numerous discourses or “fictions” of globalisation’.36 Rather than seeing novels as the vessels for so many messages ‘about’ global capitalism, how might we learn to think with and through novels as they engage in the imaginative building of global story worlds? Texts, read in this manner, or as part of what Ngugĩwa Thiong’o calls reading ‘globalectically’, present political opportunities to ‘read a text with the eyes of the world’ and ‘to see the world with the eyes of the text’.37 Dylan Horrocks’s comic book Hicksville (1998/2010) encourages globalectic readings by running a putatively local and culturally nationalist story alongside or in ‘hidden polemic’ with a world-shaping, cosmopolitan one. Horrocks’s aesthetic – rural scenes of emptiness and unease, redolent of Colin McCahon’s early paintings – and story – of a New Zealand small-town generosity undone by inauthentic and commercialised Hollywood – complicate themselves through the comic’s metafictional meditations on its own artistry and tradition. Accounts of place are, for one thing, disputed: accounts of space are always already disputes over time and history. Hicksville evokes a certain wry and comfortable Kiwiana or small-town decency the better to undercut its myths of origin (see Figure 20.1). Colonial history stalks through Hicksville. Hicksville draws attention to its own edges, the ways in which the ‘local’ is written and rewritten in processes of contestation. A further turn from the familiar postcolonial map comes, however, as the utopian other-New Zealand, the small-town life subject to critique by the colonial elements introduced into Horrocks’s text, becomes, in another dialectical turn, the repository and guardian of lost U.S. popular traditions, a kind of post-capitalist haven of non-market relations where the nonalienated comic tradition as it should have been has flourished. This is an alternate history of global connection (see Figure 20.2). Comics, in Hicksville, are protected from market relations and placed under Māori cultural law. Horrocks’s dialectic globalises the local, with Hicksville first published in Canada, as it localises the global, with Māori

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘While History Happens Elsewhere’

299

Figure 20.1. Hicksville, Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2010, n.p.

Figure 20.2. Hicksville, Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2010, n.p.

terms existing in levelling alphabetical order alongside details of cartooning in the book’s notes.38 Hicksville does not comment on the national-global debate so much as it short-circuits these very terms, producing a ‘territorializing cosmopolitanism’, a form Emily Johansen has described as one that ‘allows for a consideration of the everyday experience of global connections in local places, and the cosmopolitical ethics that emerge from this recognition’. Works like Hicksville, to echo Johansen, enable ‘us to move away from the critically reified opposition between the local and the global, the parochial and the cosmopolitan’.39

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

300

Doug a l McNei ll

There are obvious reasons, institutional and ideological, why the state and its agencies should wish, as the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s Strategic Intentions 2014–2018 puts it, to fund and promote cultural works ‘distinctively “New Zealand” in form’ and to foster ‘inclusive New Zealand identity’.40 This is the language of the culture industry, and its deadening definitional obsessions with the ‘distinctively New Zealand’ have stultified more productive lines of critical inquiry. ‘One reason why literary studies falls short as anti-capitalist critique’, Emily Apter suggests, ‘is because it insufficiently questions what it means to “have” or lay claim to aesthetic property. Literary communities are gated’.41 Against the smug self-images of the day, in which the ‘all-purpose, ubiquitous’ use of ‘border-crossing’ as a term for cultural interaction carries on blithely while real borders remain in politics,42 and against the desperate, rearguard border-erecting efforts of a neo-nationalist criticism fearful of ‘deracination’ in an era of multicultural flows, the turn from politics in contemporary New Zealand fiction may, paradoxically, be its signal political contribution. What then of Stephen Turner’s outline of a society trying to ‘live without history’ and contorted by its ‘will to forget’? Again, an examination of the actual record of literary production from the last two decades suggests inconsistencies in the normative account. Turner’s work uses cultural intervention to political ends; specific cultural works, are, however, rarely exposed to extended attention. There has been, in the same moment that neo-nationalist and postcolonial criticism lamented the absence of history, a sustained revival, across Māori and Pākehā (European) writing, of the historical novel. This resurrection has been global, certainly, and not only in the Anglosphere. It makes little sense to try and abstract New Zealand literary trends from these global shifts, and local variants take their place in a global canon of revived neo-Victorians. But, nonetheless, the return of History to centrality in fiction is notable. Whatever else one might say about this body of work, its avid consumption cannot be evidence of a social formation on the run from its history. Lukács, in The Historical Novel, described history as ‘a process’, the ‘concrete precondition of the present’.43 These ‘concrete preconditions’ are, in much recent fiction, kept in view as ongoing points of tension and contestation. Tim Corballis’s The Fossil Pits (2005) runs two stories in parallel; a fictionalised account of Walter Mantell’s 1848 journey down the east coast of the South Island in order to persuade Ngāi Tahu within the ‘Canterbury Block’ to cede their lands in ways suitable to the Crown intertwines with a contemporary account of South Island rural violence. The historical Mantell’s belated sense of bad conscience haunts the novel, and

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘While History Happens Elsewhere’

301

it ends with ‘complexity failing’ and the image of a door pulled ‘silently closed’.44 Corballis’s historical writing is not the triumphant presentation of fact but is rather a dramatising of doubt and uncertainty. ‘I could never be a writer’, one of his characters remarks; ‘I realise that now – all I have are piles of paper, false, starts, spectacular failures, half-hearted research’.45 Twin impulses, one towards utopian pasts, or the concrete preconditions of alternate futures refound in the past, the other towards disenchantment and revisionist unmasking of the past, jostle and push against each other in contemporary historical fiction. The utopian impulse peers past 1840, to a world before the Treaty of Waitangi and its setting in place the concatenation of colonial encounters that will become the Land Wars, appropriation, and Pākehā domination. Annamarie Jagose’s Slow Water (2004) is set in 1836, just after the United Tribes have declared independence, when missionaries and Māori still must interact in power relations favourable to Māori. Fiona Kidman’s The Captive Wife (2004) takes up trans-Tasman relations, with Māori around Taranaki still a military and political force. Hamish Clayton’s Wulf (2011) returns to the 1830s also, taking Te Rauparaha’s reputation as its theme. These are narratives of open possibility, then, set before Māori-British relations had hardened into the certainties of colonisation. Alienation effects at the level of the sentence and word choice force readerly attention to linger over this possibility. Jagose and Clayton both write in a register borrowing from, and hovering around, Victorian English; their characters’ references to ‘the New Zealand language’ (as in Slow Water) and ‘New Zealanders’ (as in Wulf) are always descriptions of the Māori language and the Māori.46 These novels make Pākehā settlement something still to come, undecided, thinkable only now in its contingency. Jagose’s utopian impulse intertwines with the text’s libidinal drives: its loving representations of male sexual encounters; its frame narratives are love letters from young Māori to Mr. William Yates. Yates, disgraced in the historical record for his same-sex relationships, is, in Jagose’s novel, restored to narrative dignity and attention. Focalised primarily through him, Slow Water celebrates the ‘salt fraternity of the men’, the somatic awareness of love and eroticism, and attention to the new physicality of a different land. ‘Nothing’s known’, Yates thinks in the book, ‘until it’s lodged in the body, surrounded tick-like beneath the skin, sure as any memory’.47 Scenes of sexual encounter appear in the book, but these give less sense of its utopian powers than other, equally sensual, accounts of everyday life, such as this memory of horse riding: ‘Selim no fancy footer,

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

302

Doug a l McNei ll

yet at unexpected moments his steady tread and farmyard heat giving way to some rude force of life that caught his rider in its compass, causing him to throb beyond the limits of his skin’.48 The bulk of text time is given over to Yates’s journey to New Zealand; the inevitability of his disgrace and persecution can thus, for the reader, be ignored for whole stretches of imaginative reconstruction. Slow Water manages, amongst this, other kinds of alienation effects, the impulse to disenchantment thus bringing into view the waste and damage of colonial relations with revisionist and confrontational effect: ‘the sea [around the ship the Prince Regent] was littered all around with the ship’s floating rubbish, a skim of ash from the galley fire and lumps of human ordure that jiggled in shameful view, nibbled by fish in the poppling water’.49 Earlier historical fictions have been criticised for providing fantasies of ‘natural occupancy’, Pākehā restoration to uncomplicated presence on land.50 Clayton’s Wulf avoids this by taking as its object the unknown and unsettled European sailors and traders, their time spent onboard or anxiously ashore. Their narrations are confounded by symbols that stay ‘on the beach as a signal we knew nothing about, a sign of arcane knowledge’, by ‘the country’s secrets’ that ‘lay in the hands of its rivers’ and ‘secrets of leaves’, by the terrifying unlearnable knowledge found ‘in the flame-licked darkness’ and ‘that dark island’ out ‘in the midnight waters’.51 Wulf writes out the ways the soon-to-be settlers did not know the land or their relations to it: I tried to contain my surprise but in truth a gulf of disbelief had opened inside me. I  did not understand how they could have stepped so calmly over the threshold of our everyday, into a moment of history, and then so easily step back again to the routine of the ship. Though we had all seen New Zealanders before – though we’d slept with them, traded with them and exchanged clumsy words – none of us, not even Cowell, had come face to face with the Wolf.52

Wolf is the sailors’ name for Te Rauparaha, political leader and master strategist down the lower North Island littoral; his name evokes, but never makes parallels with, the Anglo-Saxon poem ‘Wulf and Eadwacer’, its ‘privileging dense allusion and raw emotion over strict narrative coherence’ giving Wulf points of affiliation rather than comparison. In this Clayton echoes the approach of Robert Sullivan’s long narrative poem Star Waka: Maori were also divine but we belong to an ugly side too

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘While History Happens Elsewhere’

303

collected slaves and wars we were imperfect gods not unlike the antiquarian beasts and gladiators of Europe but the waka carries us all above the water53

Above water in Wulf the recurrent images are of Māori institutional power: ‘hundreds of ships upon this road right now, their thousands of sailors. Within a hundred miles of us half a dozen ships are making runs for flax or hunting whales or seals. And they’ll come, all of them, to Kopitee’.54 Wulf’s style, with its early-nineteenth-century spelling of Kāpiti retained, does an unsettling job all of its own. By ‘refusing to let readers forget the old-fashioned and even embarrassing attitudes of early Pakeha’, Melissa Kennedy argues, ‘Clayton forces us to keep our literary pasts before us’.55 These are pasts, too, and not the stabilised list of ancestors and those to be excluded agreed upon by the cultural nationalists and their latter-day exegetes. ‘English literature’, as Stephen Greenblatt remarks, ‘was always an unsteady amalgam of . . . voices of the vanquished, along with the voices of the dominant English regions, and the English language itself, so securely and apparently imperturbably at the centre of the field, is revealed, under the pressure of examination, to be a mixed, impure, and constantly shifting medium’.56 This constant shifting takes place, significantly, in both Slow Water and Wulf at sea, between nations, states, and the settled traditions of the ‘localised referent’. The sea becomes landscape and feature, rather than a distance between landmasses:  ‘although Yates had seen more than one storm at sea, it was impossible not to be moved by the sight, the grey water running mountains high against a grey mountainous sky and the ship no more than a feather before the wind’.57 Seafarers live in state of movement and transformation – shades of Conrad’s ‘visions of remote unattainable truth, seen dimly’!58 – and on the run from national borders. The novelists, in their willingness to rediscover ‘salt-water networks’ and ‘leave the land and to embark’, offer a challenge to the hydrophobia of neo-nationalist criticism. New Zealand literature links itself and its history to the sea of islands.59 Eleanor Catton, with The Luminaries, sticks, for the most part, to land. Her contribution to this new historical tradition is to fossick about in a ‘strange tangle of association’60 and draw attention to once important areas now fallen from historical view (Hokitika and Dunedin); historical diversity and waywardness pressed out of official accounts – the ‘small clutch of tents and stone cabins some hundred yards upriver’ that is the

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

304

Doug a l McNei ll

Kaniere Chinatown, and a marker of continuous Cantonese settlement in New Zealand from the 1860s61 – and the sheer mass of material, chance, and half-forgotten events that make up history. The historical impulse in contemporary Māori fiction is more urgent and has more continuities with work from earlier decades. Major writers are still producing, after all. Patricia Grace’s Tu (2004) manages, with its laconic, understated narrator – ‘there was a war. I had to go. I’m glad I went’– and seemingly small-scale focus (‘I have not enlightened myself very much about recent experience. War is not for untangling, not by this little solider’) to cast into narrative the experience of the Maori Battalion, and thus one of the precipitant events of the world-changing postwar process of urbanisation that would lead, amongst much else, to the Māori Renaissance.62 The relationship with the past measured here is of a different order to Pākehā writing, however, and follows different rules. Cover-all terms like Linda Hutcheon’s ‘historiographic metafiction’ do scant justice to specific Indigenous traditions, and Grace writes of the presence of historical figures in her fiction such as Te Puea Herangi, whose status as ‘an outstanding figure in the history of our country’ means she ‘needs to be granted the honour which her own name brings’.63 Grace’s novel was inspired by a reading of her father’s diaries and, in a similar way, Paula Morris’s Rangatira (2011) takes as its narrator Paratene Te Manu, a Ngāti Wai rangatira (a leader of Ngāti Wai) and one of Morris’s ancestors. His journey to England in the 1860s is, in this fiction, another border-crossing and transnational example of the internationally-aware local resisting the nationalist restriction of the ‘localised referent’. Te Manu is always one step ahead of those who would fix him and his representations: Last time I was in Auckland, when the trees were still bristling with leaves, I was asked to pose for a photograph. I was happy to do this, even though it was quite a to-do. Someone had made pictures of me before, in a proper studio, in a proper city, so I knew what to expect. But this photographer just had a room behind a chemist’s shop, and a blanket hanging on the wall. His hair was slick with oil. He insisted that I wear a peacock feather tucked behind one ear. He stuck it there himself, and his fingers were as greasy as his hair.64

Te Manu’s smack at Auckland as not a ‘proper city’ links this novel with other accounts of Māori global encounters and exchanges. Tina Makereti’s Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings (2014) connects a local story with an international spread of experience – in this case, time in London leaving a character feeling as if it ‘had all happened as she’d wanted, but she could not say for sure what it meant’65 – and then pushes local

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘While History Happens Elsewhere’

305

familiarity towards local discovery in the Chatham Islands/Rēkohu. Makereti’s story draws on family stories and histories, but transforms them through this ‘necessary . . . thing called fiction’ into a more general meditation on the interconnected histories and identities involved in being Pākehā, Māori, and Moriori. Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings is another text linking past stories and present narratives. Local details, these novels suggest, may well be found elsewhere, as the ‘mixed, impure, and constantly shifting medium’ of English carries within it tales of ancestors, other centres, points of comparison, contrasts, and marks of departure. Elizabeth Knox’s Billie’s Kiss (2002)  – with its story of a shipwreck’s aftermath in the Western Isles of Scotland, eugenicist schemes, the impact of World War I, and the disruption of migration – may not be a ‘global’ novel at all but instead a fictional recreation of New Zealand–connected tales. Historical consequences show scant respect for current borders; their historians must, then, pursue them cross-country. Evans and Turner, for all their focus on settlement, are strangely quiet about the missing referent through much New Zealand fiction from the last decades: class and class conflict. Neoliberal restrictions and open, bipartisan attacks on organised labour, transformed New Zealand through the 1980s and 1990s to one of the most unequal countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Workers’ organisations, once powerful, were laid waste and managerial practices at work shifted power significantly to employers. Scarcely a ripple from these crashing waves of social decomposition figured in New Zealand fiction.66 There are signs, now, following the Global Financial Crisis, that a ‘return to class’ may be upon us. Pip Adam’s I’m Working on a Building (2013) proceeds backwards in narrative time, each chapter taking us closer to the book’s end and the story’s beginning as ‘years sped by like the torn landscape of a train window’.67 The novel’s end, therefore, and its climax in a rediscovered past, is in a previous financial crash, in another moment when ‘it was all gone in a year: the private school, the cars, the boat, the business’.68 Adam works to make the ‘concrete precondition of the present’ visible as a moment of history, to make neoliberalism’s story as narratable as any other and not, as the economists would have it, a feature of the natural order. What is next for the historical novel? Fredric Jameson has recently announced a ‘new form of the historical novel defined by its relation to the future fully as much as to past’; this form, he argues, ‘will necessarily be Science-Fictional inasmuch as it will have to include questions about the fate of our social system, which has become a second nature.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

306

Doug a l McNei ll

To read the present as history . . . will mean adopting a Science-Fictional perspective of some kind’.69 Is this form visible in the New Zealand literary sphere? Conclusions on the contemporary can only be speculative, but one recent novel gives cause to imagine a science-fictional turn is upon us. Emily Perkins’s The Forrests (2012) maps what feels, at first, like a familiar Auckland, ‘the burned knife by the stove top’70 an obvious reference to local cannabis use habits and ‘spotting’. Michael Forrest is mentally unwell, unemployed, living alone, despairing: this simple detail of a burned knife evokes not just location but class location as well, his place at the outer of Auckland’s social world. The family’s encounters in New Zealand, where, ‘Dot thought her father said, “At least we live in a cloud-less society” ’71 allow Perkins to map out the end of a particular sort of ‘cloudlessness’, with the onset of neoliberalism locally and the fractured relations of globalisation making class and class relations visible. The problems of money, of work, come to dominate the text, transforming material that seems to be about erotic relationships into investigations of social relationship and class struggle: something had happened to money; not just theirs, other people’s too, even those like them without investments. There was less of it. Andrew was made redundant and the teachers’ union lost a pay dispute. The kids needed help with student loans. Petrol. Food. The cost of moving house.72

What does this ‘something’, and its attendant vagueness, signify? When are these times? The shock of The Forrests, and its great aesthetic innovation, comes only in its last third, when the reader is forced into a realisation that this text transforms into a narrative of the future. Its setting becomes the future, a world in which New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy has been overturned and Dorothy and Andrew grow old in an Auckland transformed by some sort of economic crisis or collapse during the 2010s, ‘these times’ being future times, the representation of a world yet to come. The future Auckland of The Forrests is changed, and yet changed uncertainly: politics is different, with nuclear ships in the harbour; people are poorer; the social order is uncertain: ‘So I  hear there’s another nuke ship out there’, he said, nodding in the direction of the invisible harbour. A  bird purred from the bushes by the roadside. ‘Yeah, apparently junk. It’s circling while they find a place to process it. Debt cancellation’. She was repeating what stood in for news, what presented itself as news these days although nobody trusted the source. Maybe debt would be cancelled; maybe it wouldn’t.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘While History Happens Elsewhere’

307

‘I thought it was a Chinese deal’. ‘Could be. Law firms, tax havens, whatever’. Knowledge had been replaced by phrases that induced a vague paranoia. Like everyone they knew, Dot and Andrew had stopped looking out into the frames of the world. They crossed the road to dodge a couple of beige dogs that were snarling and chewing at each other’s necks.73

Perkins’s science fiction historicises the present by way of the future. This is an intensely sad novel, its future world’s sufferings predictable and all too imaginable. It is an historical novel of a potential New Zealand future. Perkins’ achievements, then, her generic discontinuities, act as comfort and spur, investigation and warning. ‘The sheer fucking hopelessness of it all’74 lies before us. Notes 1 Joy Cowley, ‘We Are the bone people’, review of the bone people, New Zealand Listener, 12 May 1984, 60. 2 Guy Somerset, review of The Luminaries, New Zealand Listener, 29 August 2013, 52. 3 Robert Chapman, ‘Fiction and the Social Pattern’ (1952), in Chapman, New Zealand Politics and Social Patterns, ed. Elizabeth McLeay (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1999), 21–58, see p. 51. 4 Bill Pearson, ‘Fretful Sleepers’ (1952), in Landfall Country, ed. Charles Brasch (Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1962), 330–72, see p. 345. 5 On this see Lydia Wevers and Mark Williams, ‘Going Mad without Noticing: Cultural Policy in a Small Country’, Landfall 204 (2002): 15–18. 6 Mark McGurl, The Program Era:  Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), 15. 7 Patrick Evans, The Long Forgetting:  Post-Colonial Literary Culture in New Zealand (Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2007), 174, 201, 35. 8 Stephen Turner, ‘Settlement as Forgetting’, in Quicksands:  Foundational Histories in Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand, ed. Klaus Neuman, Nicholas Thomas, and Hillary Ericsen (Sydney: UNSW Press, 1999), 20–38, see p. 21. 9 Dominic Head, The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 8; David Foster Wallace, ‘E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction’, Review of Contemporary Fiction 13, 2 (1993): 151–94. 10 Paul Jay, Global Matters:  The Transnational Turn in Literary Studies (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010), 1; Liam Connell, ‘Global Narratives: Globalisation and Literary Studies’, Critical Survey 16, 2 (2004): 81. 11 Bruce Clunies Ross, ‘Rhythmical Knots’, in Debating World Literature, ed. Christopher Prendergast (London: Verso, 2004), 291–318, see p. 297. 12 Vijay Mishra and Bob Hodge, ‘What Was Postcolonialism?’ New Literary History 36, 3 (2005): 377.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

308

Doug a l McNei ll

13 Anna Jackson and Jane Stafford, introduction, Floating Worlds:  Essays on Contemporary New Zealand Fiction (Wellington:  Victoria University Press, 2009), 7–22, see p. 9. 14 Pearson, ‘Fretful Sleepers’, 370. 15 Northrop Frye, Spiritus Mundi:  Essays on Literature, Myth and Society (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976), 126, 124. 16 Elizabeth Knox, Black Oxen (Wellington:  Victoria University Press, 2001), 13, 12. 17 Ibid., 362. 18 Barbara Anderson, Change of Heart (Wellington:  Victoria University Press, 2004), 7. 19 Lloyd Jones, Splinter (Auckland: Hodder and Stoughton, 1988), 55. 20 Lloyd Jones, Mister Pip (Auckland: Penguin, 2007), 200. 21 Selina Tusitala Marsh, ‘A Bogus Bougainville’, Dominion Post, 13 September 2007. 22 Eleanor Catton, The Rehearsal (Wellington:  Victoria University Press, 2008), 200. 23 Berthold Schoene, The Cosmopolitan Novel (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 29. 24 Charlotte Grimshaw, Opportunity (Auckland: Vintage, 2007), 95. 25 I offer here a slight misquotation from Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend (1865), ed. Adrian Poole (London: Penguin, 1997), 750. 26 Charlotte Grimshaw, The Night Book (Auckland: Vintage, 2010), 41, 291. 27 Ibid., 28–9. 28 Evans, The Long Forgetting, 181. 29 Damien Wilkins, Max Gate (Wellington:  Victoria University Press, 2013), 9; Virginia Woolf, Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 3 (New York:  Harcourt and Brace, 1980), 101. 30 Susan Buck-Morss, Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), ix. 31 Carl Shuker, The Method Actors: A Novel (Washington, DC:  Shoemaker and Hoard, 2005), 273. 32 Ibid., 128, 122. 33 Ibid., 1. 34 Ibid., 126. 35 Philip Leonard, Literature after Globalization:  Textuality, Technology and the Nation-State (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), 10, 4. 36 Susie O’Brien and Imre Szeman, ‘The Globalisation of Fiction/The Fiction of Globalisation’, South Atlantic Quarterly 100, 3 (2001), 603–26: 604. 37 Ngug ĩwa Thiong’o, Globalectics: Theory and the Politics of Knowing (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 60. 38 Ibid., 240–6. 39 Emily Johansen, Cosmopolitanism and Place: Spatial Forms and Contemporary Anglophone Literature (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 3.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

‘While History Happens Elsewhere’

309

40 Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Strategic Intentions 2014–2018 (Wellington: Ministry for Culture and Heritage, 2014), 9–10. 41 Emily Apter, Against World Literature:  On the Politics of Untranslatability (London: Verso, 2013), 15. 42 Ibid., 100. 43 Georg Lukács, The Historical Novel, trans. Hannah and Stanley Mitchell (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1969), 18. 44 Tim Corballis, The Fossil Pits (Wellington:  Victoria University Press, 2005), 284–5. 45 Ibid., 36. 46 Annamarie Jagose, Slow Water (Wellington:  Victoria University Press, 2004), 67; Hamish Clayton, Wulf (Auckland: Penguin, 2011), 161. 47 Jagose, Slow Water, 260, 75. 48 Ibid., 4. 49 Ibid., 117. 50 The term is Linda Hardy’s, from her ‘Natural Occupancy’, in Asian and Pacific Inscriptions, ed. Suvendrini Perera (Melbourne:  Meridian, 1995), 213–27, see p. 216. 51 Clayton, Wulf, 134, 33, 115, 114. 52 Ibid., 160–1. 53 Clayton, Wulf, 9; Robert Sullivan, ‘xxxii herenga waka’, Star Waka (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2001), 36. 54 Clayton, Wulf, 156. 55 Melissa Kennedy, ‘All Our Pasts before Us: Hamish Clayton’s Wulf’, Journal of New Zealand Literature 31 (2013), 150–72: 155. 56 Stephen Greenblatt, ‘Racial Memory and Literary History’, PMLA 116, 1 (2001): 52. 57 Jagose, Slow Water, 48. 58 Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim (1900) (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1949), 243. 59 Margaret Cohen, The Novel and the Sea (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), 14. The phrase ‘sea of islands’ is Epeli Hauòfa’s, from We Are the Ocean (Honolulu: University of Hawaiì Press, 2008). 60 Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries (London: Granta, 2013), 352. 61 Ibid., p. 257. 62 Patricia Grace, Tu (Auckland: Penguin, 2004), 261, 260. 63 Linda Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism:  History, Theory, Fiction (New York: Routledge, 1988), 56; Grace, Tu, 287. 64 Paula Morris, Rangatira (Auckland: Penguin, 2011), 17–18. 65 Tina Makereti, Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings (Auckland: Vintage, 2014), 66. 66 On this see Max Rashbrooke, ed., Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis (Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2013). 67 Pip Adam, I’m Working on a Building (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2013), 11. 68 Ibid., 188.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press

310

Doug a l McNei ll

69 Fredric Jameson, Antinomies of Realism (London: Verso, 2013), 305, 298. 70 Emily Perkins, The Forrests (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), 228. I draw here on my ‘The Forrests as Science Fiction’, Journal of Commonwealth Literature 50, 1 (2015): 1–13. 71 Perkins, The Forrests, 4. 72 Ibid., 214. 73 Ibid., 279. 74 Ibid.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316050873.021 Published online by Cambridge University Press