I've been thinking about Scott's review of my chapbook the last couple of days. While it is mostly positive (and more than fair - I am very greatful for his generous reading), There is one thing that bothers me a bit, aside from the Swinburne comment and general (negative) characterization of Victorian excesses (which is relativly standard, but, i think based on masculinist value judgements privileging the (Allen) Curnow-Brasch brand of muscular, austere modernism. Though I must qualify this by saying this is a general comment, Scott does not (wholly) prescribe to this viewpoint, though there is, I think, a subtle indictment in his description of "the flowery, pre-modernist style of unfashionable female writers like Eileen Duggan and Ursula Bethell").
What I found disarming though was his characterisation of my influences being "exotic overseas poets" (my emphasis). I find this strange. Not only does it imply some novelty value, but also, through the ecological connotations of the word (not neccessarily intended, but nevertheless there), that I am involved somehow in bringing "outside influence" - coded (somewhat) negatively - into the pristine enviroment of NZ lit (which, rather than pristine, i would characterise as somewhat stifling, aside from a few notable exceptions).
Firstly I wonder how the importing of, or identifying with, US/Canadian/Continental precidents/influences (which, as Scott notes with regard to Michele Leggott, I am most definately not the first to do. There was those writers grouped around FREED magazine in the late sixties and early seventies, see Murray Edmond and Michele Leggott's anthology Big Smoke. Many of these writers drew from the US, where the recent developments had been documented in Donald Allen's New American Poetry. Later came the influence of Langpo, poststructuralism and fluxus, reflected here in the work most notably of Wystan Curnow and Tony Green, both of whom are active across artistic disciplines, alongside Alan Loney (who straddles both generations) and Michele Leggott.
Secondly, I wonder how this (especially in light of the precidents cited above), is any different from the earlier generation of Curnow, Glover, Brasch et al. Here I quote Curnow (quoted in Alan Loney, "Entitled / Unentitled: New Zealand Poetry" in Reading, Saying, Making: Selected Essays, p 83): "we all began reading Pound and Eliot, [and] shared our modernity with Auden, MacNeice, Day Lewis or Spender”. These NZ writers were hell-bent on creating a distictly 'New Zealand' literature, yet were still modelling there work on old-world (or older-than-us-world, in the case of the Americans mentioned) influences.
Furthermore, in this information age the ability to share influence, theory, thoughts and practice internationally at near instantaneous speed is, i think, something that should be grasped with both hands. No longer is it (particularly) difficult to read diversely. Though most of the shop shelves are dominated my NZ poetry (most of which is published by Victoria or Auckland University Press), that is not all, or even most, of what we have access to. We can read more, and more widely. I find it surprising that more people don't do this - especially when those who read novels tend to read precious little NZ work, and we have such a strong tradition of the novel here.
ARUNDHATI ROY ~
1 hour ago