Rumours of Defect Perfection's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Friday, October 03, 2008

A new editor has taken hold and is meddling industriously behind the scenes, making minor Faustian bargains to bring Defect Perfection back from beyond the veil.

The journal website is the first aspect being revamped and will open at www.defectperfection.org.nz by year's end. From there we aim to retake the original form of annually published anthology, starting with a 2008 edition in early 2009.

In the interim, please feel most welcome to submit content; your stories, poems, interviews, photography, etc. will appear on the new website and may be considered for the 2008 anthology.

If you'd like to subscribe to the mailing list and be notified of news and progress, please send an email with "subscribe" in the subject to defectperfect@gmail.com.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

The day we fall in love
with the Stukas of experience
dawns fine: out of a refugee

run sky, the crosses fall.
You bear yourself along
the road with all you

own at noon. The sun seems
somehow German, as the moon
was French last night.

The hour we meet in person
the fascists of conviction
can’t be told: they’ll trial

their new-made weapons on
your ground (they sense a hole
your Fuhrer wants to hide).

In the meantime, it is both
inadvisable and not worth
the candle to avoid what

waits: you just can’t buy
what falls from your personal
sky in the swastika shape.

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman 14.12.06

Making a Mark

Thursday, June 21, 2007

We all want to make our mark, and make it forever. We build squares in a
world naturally made of curves. Even the straightest line - the horizon
- has an inevitable bend.
This is a sand sculpture. Or drawing, depending on how you want to look
at it.
I am exploring notions of perspective, our environment and the quixotic
quest for permanence.
The two images are of the same thing - sky, sea, sand, sculpture -
viewed from different angles. The first is called 'perspective', the
second, 'corrective'.
You can already see the work of the tireless tide at the base of the
mark I made. My sand-sketch didn't last long. I keep its grainy remains
in a rectangular box of pixels that you see now before you, but even
that will fade.

Thanks for looking

Clare Bycroft

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I'm not your typical teenager.

No, it's not because my name is Kitty Wilde. What were my parents thinking? I
guess they could have given me Panther or Tiger as a middle name or something
equally bad and tease-worthy. But, they didn't give me a middle name so I'm
stuck with Kitty Wilde. Oh yeah, Kitty isn’t short for Katherine either.
I don't see my parents that often – they reside mostly in the fifteenth
century but occasionally they'll take a trip here to the twenty first century.
Yip, this is the first indication that I am not your typical teenager.
You see, where I live and who my parents work for has a HUGE focus on history
and time travel.

It's called Interchron. Am I allowed to tell you that? Hmm, maybe not but I've
said it now haven't I? Anyway, what they do is send people back in time to
learn what REALLY happened in history. Problem is, most historians living now
dispute what the field researchers bring back because there's no evidence

We can't exactly tell them where we get all our facts from because they'll
either: think we're crazy and deserve to be locked up, or they'll try and get
their hands on the ability to travel through time. Well, we know they won't
try for another two hundred and twelve days (we've had advanced warning).
To the outside world we don't exist. Or, if we do they think we're some weird
'society' and I've even heard us be described as a cult. If only they knew
what we did...

Growing up here is definitely different to growing up in the normal twenty
first century world. We get taught stories from history when we're just
toddlers and once we hit five not only do we learn maths, English and all that
other normal stuff but we learn history. And a lot of it. The coolest part
about getting this kind of education is once you turn fifteen the field trips

Not everyone gets the chance to go on these field trips – only the best in the
class are selected. I don't know if that's really fair for the others but it
is definitely a great motivator to get on and study.

Anyway, the last field trip I went on was definitely the best. We visited the
Titanic. No, I’m not kidding. And no, I didn’t see Rose or Jack – they never
existed. I saw heaps of other people though: Captain Smith, Margaret Brown
a.k.a The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Ben Guggenheim, the Carter family and heaps
more. So many of them died though and I knew who wasn’t going to make it and I
tell you, it’s really hard not to run up to someone and tell them to do this
or that so that they actually survive.

Because there were so many people on board we didn’t get any funny looks and I
guess that everyone thought we belonged somewhere. We didn’t go to the first
class area much before we hit the ice berg because back then…society ruled. So
glad it’s not like that now.

We were well prepared – we had studied what we knew from books and biographies
and things and from a first hand account of one of our field researchers who
established himself on board. He left with us though and his pseudonym drowned
or froze to death. But with all this studying and learning what we had, there
was one thing that intrigued me – who let the dogs out?

Yes, there were actually dogs on board. And no, I’m not referring to that
catchy but derogatory song either.

My curiosity piqued, I made my way to the kennels when the ship slowly started
slipping beneath the Atlantic, to watch and see who it was. No one came for
ages and I started getting worried that no one was going to do it. I couldn’t
understand why no one was letting them go. Then I thought that maybe they
weren’t let go and that was just a rumour that got around later.

The ship was sinking and sinking and I thought ‘stuff it,’ and jumped out of
my hiding place. No, it wasn’t then that I came face to face with the person
who freed the dogs, so I started letting them go and I realised something very

I was the person who let the dogs go.

If you travel back in time you can’t alter anything because back in our time,
our present it’s already happened!

I wonder what else I’ve already done in the past and am going to do…in the

Nicola Temby

Frank Sargeson's "More Than Enough": A Review

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Frank Sargeson’s prose style is efficient, direct and self-effacing, and it is well-suited to the man. I have gleaned this from the second book in his autobiographical writings, which is called “More Then Enough”, was written between 1971 and 1973, and chronicles his life and work from the early 30s to the 1970s (or thereabouts), during which time he worked and lived primarily at his borrowed bach on the Auckland’s North Shore. Having approached this book after a sustained bout of Dickens reading, I was particularly struck by the plainness of Sargeson’s style. He tends to avoid punctuation, sometimes in a manner that would invite disapproval from English teachers, and as well as being long his sentences are swift and unmannered, like this one:

It is perhaps remarkable that despite the stream of rejection slips I became accustomed to, and despite my applying a rigorous self-scrutiny to every page of the stories I wrote and finding all of them without any exception falling short of the standards I had set for myself, I never over at least four years doubted that if I would if I persisted at last succeed in writing something which would be clearly marked by a quality special to myself.

If Dickens were to express the same information in a single sentence, it would probably run something more like this:

It is perhaps remarkable, that despite the stream of rejection slips I had become accustomed to; and despite my applying a rigorous self-scrutiny to every page of the stories I wrote; and despite finding that all of those pages, without any exception, fell short of the standards I set myself: I never at once doubted, over at least four years, that if I persisted I would at last succeed in writing something, which would be clearly marked by a quality that was special to myself.

To say that Sargeson’s writing is swift and unmannered is not to say, of course, that it is careless and crude. I imagine that it is pretty hard to find a writing style that allows one to write a hundred and fifty pages of narrative prose without boring or irritating the reader: it would need, for a start, to be even without being monotonous, and varied without being erratic. And to my admittedly untrained ear, it looks as if Sargeson’s style achieves both of those goals while at the same time causing the reader to concentrate rather on the things that he writes than the way in which he writes them. His rhythm, like other distinctive rhythms, is such that after spending a reasonable amount of time in its company the reader starts to discover that rhythm in other writing she reads, whether it be in letters to the editor or other novels: it is as if the reading faculty has been so clearly impressed by this particular mood and pace and style that the imprint has struck down into a deeper tissue than usual, and so that mood and pace and style is still present and active when one goes and reads something else, in a kind of literary after-image. And so in that sense it is a striking style of writing; but for some reason this does not make it an intrusive style. Rather the reverse is true: something in the swiftness of Sargeson’s prose means that he is able to convey a lot of matter clearly and directly and without any interference from the manner of its presentation. At one point Sargeson hints that this directness was an ideal to which he consciously aimed. He writes about one particular afternoon that is very heavily impressed on his memory, for the reason that it brought him a kind of epiphany of style, a discovery that one particular style, which appeared seemingly by accident in a prose piece he was writing that afternoon, was the one for him:

For the time being I was done with elaboration and complexity, with involved and decorated prose which I had hoped would express what I had to say, and by its very complication prove to the reader that what I had to say was valuable. What especially delighted me was that despite the simplicity of my sentences, they could in a page-long sketch achieve an unexpected totality not to be compared with the meagre sum of parts. I remember exactly my day of discovery, a Saturday afternoon when, with speed and sureness never before known to me I wrote the five hundred or so words required for ‘Conversation with my Uncle.’ (51)
Of course it was not quite as easy and immediate as all that. It looks as if Sargeson continued to ask and answer questions about the proper style to adopt well into his writing career, as I suppose most writers do, and it seems like it was a long time before this perfectionist settled upon a style that he could comfortably regard, if not as perfect, at least as satisfactory.

Was language merely the tool the novelist worked with, or was it part of the raw material of life he worked upon? Or was it a complex and difficult combination of both? If language was only a tool then the less attention it attracted to itself the better, and all fine writing and delight in words for their own sake had better be done without. But things of that kind might very well be permitted if language was part of the raw material…And there was no end to the number of questions, all so difficult and complicated I felt I must collapse under their burden. (94)

And other, more specific questions were also in need of answers, one related to the questions about place and identity that Sargeson (as anyone, I am sure) was interested in, and which I want to write about later on: “It made me uncomfortable to remember that I had myself aimed at a kind of Galsworthian prose style. [Does anyone know Galsworth?] So the question became inevitable: whether their might not be an appropriate language to deal with the material of New Zealand life?” (93)

The style that Sargeson finally settled upon (at least as it appears in this book) is distinctive not only for the structure of his sentences; and perhaps his unerring directness might be more easily traced to his language rather than his syntax. Sargeson repeatedly mentions his great admiration for poets, and his even greater admiration for Poets, and considers that, in light of the relative lack of renown enjoyed by this fine species, it might be a good idea if prose writers put more poetry into their writing, so that society in general was properly imbued with their subtle and fragrant art. If he takes up is own advice, however, he does so with enough subtlety that it is hard to find passages that are poetic in any obvious way. His diction is spare, as his use of the more recognisable poetic devices. As far as I can tell this is not, however, a fault, and the absence of any “delight in words for the sake of it”, or metaphor for the sake of it, means both that the “raw material” of his writing comes more directly to the reader, and that the poetic passages are more striking and effective when they do arrive. On the seventeenth page of the book he writes about his response to the news that he most probably should leave his uncle’s farm, saying that he “experienced a kind of shattering.” The figure would be innocuous and uninteresting if it were not that the previous seventeen pages had been written without aid from such devices: his discipline generates a poetry of its own.

The discipline of the prose has its counterpart in the discipline of the man, who had not only to bear the trials that face anyone who wishes to write fiction books prolifically and well, but also the various extra hardships that face an ill person who wished to pursue that vocation in New Zealand in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Only a person who has made a sustained attempt to write good novels will know what are the difficulties involved in such a task, but Sargeson does well to convey them to the normal reader.

This is the true core and essence of the matter: nothing on the paper to begin with, and within a couple of hours, or three or four…there must be words made into sentences, everything scrawled, corrected, deleted, interlined, word kites flying in the margins; yet all with life breathed in, with the heat of energy manifest as wit and humour, pain and tragedy, comedy and laughter, maybe just plain narrative line – all hanging together, fitted to the pattern of what has already appeared upon a hundred pages of two hundred yesterdays, and will appear upon another hundred of many more tomorrows. (77)

…but I knew well that the sort of writing I was attempting could be achieved only by the exercise of a rigorous discipline; that there must be the daily facing up to a blank sheet of paper, on which after so many hours there would be words and sentences – which any intelligent person of good-will might find interesting to read. (31)

Writing too was a mighty consumer of energy, besides a task one often went to with reluctance-not solely on account of its difficulty, but because every problem had to be wrestled with in solitude. (22)

To keep all of this up day after day required not only a great love for literature and a strong hope of eventually succeeding artistically and perhaps also critically, but also a great resolve. Even Sargeson, successful though he eventually became, had times when his interest in writing and his self-belief became frayed, and needed either outside help or mulish resolve to stop them from falling apart altogether. He was told at one point by Denis Glover (New Zealand poet, printer and soldier) that he and his writing were “pre-war”, and that accordingly he should forget about ever getting anything decent published (113); he was, as any writer must be, dismayed and overawed by the genius of past artists (95), and despaired of ever achieving what they had; his work was frequently rejected by his London publishers. And Sargeson’s need to work hard was heightened, at least in his own eyes, by his perceived lack of any great natural talent. He affirms quite blandly and openly that he really was not overly gifted at all, and hence that “everything over many years had to be learned.” And learning meant forcing oneself to learn, especially when disillusion or hardship made learning an unnatural process: at such times “there could be no room for excuses, for any elasticity of discipline, and even a touch of brutality might well be an advantage.” (131) Success requires hard work: somehow I think that has been said before, but it is worth repeating, and Sargesons’ case is interesting not only for the resistance he received from his human limitations (however large they really were), but from the environment in which he lived.

Sargeson’s environment was New Zealand in the middle years of the twentieth century. His relationship with this environment is complex and interesting, and the various shades and changes of that relationship may be regarded as one of the main themes of the book, as I expect they are a theme of Sargeson’s fiction. At its best, Sargeson’s connection with the New Zealand of his time is deep and innate, an aspect of the relationship that is clearest in his devotion to his uncle and his work on a farm somewhere in New Zealand (I don’t think a place-name is given). He writes feelingly about life on the land:

…it was a profound satisfaction to be exhausted at the end of a long day: the work had been its own sufficient reward, and I am sure it was the same with my uncle quite regardless of repetition year after year. Nothing, I told myself, could be more attractive than full stretch of wits and body followed by rest renewal repetition – in other words the prolongation of human life from day to day at a level which kept one right in touch with the commonest elements of human history and experiences. (14)

He writes just as feelingly of his uncle, who like Sargeson lives a life devoted to doing the kind of work in which “every problem encountered had to be wrestled with in solitude” (22), and who was to Sargeson a man of such fine quality that he (Sargeson) hesitated to represent him in fiction, afraid that his art could not do justice to the original.

Unfortunately, and despite this love for the land and for some of the people on it, Sargeson discovered many fellow citizens who were much more likely to fail in doing justice to Sargeson’s art, rather than the other way around. This is not to say that the locals were hostile or indifferent to Sargeson’s particular kind of literature, and that Sargeson resented their criticism; rather, that they were either hostile or indifferent to any kind of literature at all. He is not infrequently nagged by his parents to go and do something useful (law, for example, in which Sargeosn had a qualification and professional experience), instead of “wasting his time” with his literary work. He fields many suggestions, sometimes explicit and sometimes not, sometimes amiable and sometimes not, that his literary work is not really work at all, but a rather frivolous kind of holiday. He is very grateful for the company of Rex Fairburn, partly because the poet and lobbyist was a genuinely witty and learned person, and he gave “conversation which could be as fruitful as it was various as it was always possible”; but also because this intellectual vitality was, in Sargeson’s experience, “a rare kind of thing to encounter in my own country.” (49) When the German poet and scholar Karl Wolfskehl (I do not know this person) arrived in New Zealand, venerable in body and mind, and apparently named by Thomas Mann as “the last European man” (105), Sargeson often found cause to feel pained and embarrassed by how the Auckland response to his presence compared so unflatteringly to the response, say, of Venice; and at such times he “blushed for my country and its inhabitants.” (107) Even Rex Fairburn sometimes dismays Sargeson by setting his clumsy antipodean boot among the subtleties of European cultural life. And, overcome by his “momentous literary discovery” on that unforgettable Saturday afternoon, Sargeson did not expect that the significance of the event would be appreciated by his living companion, a “moderately literate” former sailor who responds to Sargesons’ excitement (“I had just discovered a new way of writing”) by clearing his throat and rustling his paper and doing not much else: and Sargeson writes resignedly that this man was “as good an index as any to the public reception I must expect from the environment I inhabited.” (51) Sargeson’s position is mirrored in that of another of his literary companions, Walter D’Arcy Cresswell; who, despite giving radio talks and readings that Sargeson describes as unsurpassed in New Zealand broadcasting, is deeply in debt with the green-grocer and is frequently in a state of uncertainty (more so than Sargeson) as to the source of his next meal. Meanwhile, Sargeson relies for the material for his weekly radio commentaries on snatches of broadcasts that he overhears while standing in shops or loitering in the evenings outside other people’s homes. (83)

So Sargeson found his own country a source of difficulty and doubt, especially when he compared its cultural achievements with those of England and Europe. But he also doubted his own capacities for the same reason. In the presence of Wolfskehl he is sometimes “weighed down by all that civilisation,” as he was when he walked the streets of England and the continent. For Sargeson, however, this awkwardness is as much an affirmation of his identity as it is a criticism, a reminder that he had in Europe “discovered myself to be truly a New Zealander, with my most truly spiritual place my uncle’s farm.” (111) It is worth looking at two more instances in the book in which Sargeson shows himself to be “truly a New Zealander,” before this essay comes to its belated conclusion: firstly, his garden; next, a man called Harry. These are interesting for their New-Zealandness, but also for other reasons.

For a long time Sargeson’s garden is for him not only a healthy-minded pastime but also one of his primary sources of physical nourishment. Wolfskehl regards this as a mark of his nationality: not only is this fellow able to write books, but he can also “grow his cabbage with his own hand.” (109) Sargeson’s garden is one of the more reticent characters in the book, but it is also one of the most important. As mentioned, it is a continuation of the earthy labour that he carried out at his uncle’s farm. And, as a very time-consuming task that is necessitated partly by his lack of money, it is a symbol of the lowly status in their own society of literary people, and the extra discipline that was required to sustain a writer’s life. But it is representative of the writing process itself, and although Sargeson does not make explicit the resemblance between his writing and his gardening (his style is too spare), the two activities make good companions. They both require some sort of raw matter before their important products can spring into growth. One of the things that I find astounding about anyone who writes fiction prolifically, is where they get their ideas from. To be sure, their material is the thoughts and doings of human beings, and those thoughts and doings are all around us; but one needs so many thoughts and doings to fill up a novel, and many more to fill up a life of novels, and surely such an abundance of output makes the amount of readily available input seem small and inadequate to the task. By way of comparison, arguments are all around us in the same way that thoughts and doings are: but how much more argumentation one must need, how much raw material one must have to collect, before one can write a book on philosophy, and how much more to fill up a lifetime of philosophising. Sargeson’s case is especially interesting, because he seems to have lived in such an isolated manner, detached from the thoughts and doings that he would seem to need in order to form a good base for literature. At times he had qualms about this sort of thing: he reports at one point becoming distressed by the “monstrous” need to question himself about “what exactly was this material of life.” (94)

Most of the time, however, Sargeson seems to have been quite well equipped with this raw stuff, the compost of literature, and perhaps he gained possession of it in much the same way he gained possession of the dead leaves, vegetable waste and manure (left by the horses and carts on his street) that he used as a base for his garden, a necessary grounding and a useful stimulant for the rich and varied produce that, like writing, comes forth in its best and fullest form only after years and years of “arduous and exacting compost-making.” (70) And, as with his compost, so with his writing: the trick, if you want to get enough raw stuff to spawn a novel or a garden, is to pick up the stuff that other people ignore or dislike or miss through the lack of effort. Sargeson loitered out on the road in the hope of some passing horse-shit much as he loitered outside other people’s houses so that (as well as getting his weekly radio broadcasts) he could gather up the manners and habits and phrases and symbols which those people let drop without knowing, and which they would not want to know about even if they could. A collector of other people’s waste does not look like a very salubrious individual: there is something eccentric and anti-social about collecting other people’s horse-shit, and there is the same unhealthy look about someone who makes living out of collecting other people’s habits and vices. But the other trick, to writing as to gardening, is to discover what is rich and healthy and pungent in the dropped waste of others, and to let those virtues feed a growth that will in the end be more palatable and enriching to the people who would not have the mind or the time to discover the same qualities in the original matter: and so Sargeson takes a conversation with an uncle and turns it into a symbol or a lesson, a parable of some kind; and so also writes about the “conforming people” who were “more or less the rule in my environment,” but does so in such a way as to bring forth what is healthy about their way of life, to “show them in their common humanity despite their occupational and household trappings.” (132)

One who benefits from Sargeson’s diligent collection and application of manure, is a man called Harry. Harry has a great fondness for horses, but he has through an underhand manoeuvre from the authorities been banned from the racecourse, and is left to find other work for himself where he can. He lives at Sargeson’s bach for a good thirty years, impressing the writer with a devotion to reading the racing pages that is as steady and unflinching as Sargeson’s devotion to writing his pages of fiction. Sargeson admires Harry for a number of reasons, but most relevant here is his affinity with horses, an affinity that recalls the close link between Sargeson’s uncle and his farm. He writes:

When however I for the first time saw him on the horse, my revision of all previous notions about possible relationships between human beings and horseflesh was instant. I think I reacted much as the American Indians are said to have when they first saw a mounted Spaniard, and supposed that man and beast were blended into a non-divisible entity never before known to him. (66)

Harry’s horse dies, unfortunately, and because of the horseman’s reticence Sargeson is left to imagine how things transpired, an activity that of course was, along with his discipline and his constant collecting of local detail, a vital part of his novel-writing process: a writer, like a gardener, has not only to collect more raw matter than the normal person, but also to work on that matter with a special skill and intensity, so that as much as possible of its natural richness is used to the advantage of its products, and Sargeson’s evocative gifts ensured that he drew as much life as he could out of the seeds he was given: “Great areas of his life and character remained inscrutable to me, but for that very reason he was constantly stimulating my imagination. (71)” And of course there was also his profound interest in the lives of human beings, his “insatiable curiosity about every manifestation of natural life which has never in a life-time deserted me.” (57)

Harry was not a deeply learned German poet, but Sargeson found him both personally attractive and imaginatively fertile; and perhaps this is a sign of his fondness for his own country, and his willingness to call it his own. Of his relationship with Harry Sargeson writes:

Never when I had found myself moved by sympathy and compassion for the universal individual universally caught in the universal fate had I become involved to the point of saturation: that is to say some part of myself remained detached, resting in a state of reticence and reserve. Now I was to know what it was to be totally committed to another person.

Perhaps More Than Enough can be regarded as the story of Sargeson developing a broader commitment of a similar kind, a commitment to his own country. If not, it may without injustice be regarded as the story of his growing commitment to writing; and in that story one can find an account of the universal writer universally caught in the universal fate. One can find his struggles with his work, not only in his search for the right style and the right material, but also in his occasional questioning of his very desire to spend his life writing a page of creative literature a day, and of his ability to succeed at such an undertaking. And in the hostility and indifference of many of the people around him one can find the struggles that occurred between his chosen work and his environment, an environment which he did not choose but which he came to an intimate relation with, in fiction and in life.

Michael Bycroft

Rocks, Tongariro Crossing, Rocks

The other day I did the Tongariro Crossing, and because of the fine blue weather I could well see that it is a rock-filled place up there, a crumbling Stonehenge of a place. There are rocks like teeth, all kinds of teeth. There are bared teeth, dull white with gums of moss and black lines marking the gaps between the long white slabs. There are broken teeth, chipped and rotted with moss and gnashing upwards from the sides of hills. There are breathing mouths, mouths with no teeth but great steamy breaths instead, curling over the edges of cliffs and dissolving round the woollen socks of walkers; and there is a pair of open jaws as well, black inside and black teeth sticking down from a black cavern splattered with white as if with blood and yawning out of the crater-wall at the top of Ngaurohoe.Rocks like truffles on the flats, deep black and multifariously lumped. Rocks like coal, flat-faced, many-faced, sharp-edged, dully shining, and black too, the kind of black that looks as if it will make a charcoal mess on your hands if you so much as breath on it. Great heaps of truffles and coal gather on the hillsides like moss and gathering moss on their dark faces themselves. Rocks coloured like chalk, a rich colour as if the pigment goes all the way down, and arranged in mosaics on the sides of mountains, unmoving mandalas laid down so carelessly by the chemical rain of volcanos. A mosaic of red rocks, rusty on the mountain side like a great lichen dappling on the surface of the mountainside. Rocks with lichen dappling on their surface. Ordinary rocks. Ordinary, dusty-dirty rocks, cut-your-bare-feet toe-stubbers, slightly orange slightly yellow and good for crushing into shingle and holding down tents in the wind and not much else I should think. Rocks sliced in two, one slice missing and the other slice with a sharp-edged crater like half of a split marble. Rocks red as a red desert. Rocks white as bird-shit, black as flies, and the red-desert rock stains a rock-face with a bashed gramophone horn of smoke, with a layer of black-fly rock above it in the same shape, only more bashed, and bird-shit rock splattering the face under the red-desert gramophone as if the bottom line of the gramophone were leaking, with a line of white on the lower edge. From far away the whole thing, smoky bashed old desert, with a big tube in the hillside opened up like a windpipe with a gray crust on the outside and the red dust dripping round the inside and some stones falling out the lower edge, from far away the whole thing like an open wound, bright and free and weeping in the high air, and a crust of skin on either side untouching. On a plane as flat as a lake, rocks. Big rocks widely spaced, preoccupied as a herd of cows. Rocks like human faeces, elongated, rudely clumped, messy as a skinned sausage. Rocks like rabbit faeces, light brown in neat circles. Rocks like cattle faeces even, great cow-pats of lava folding down the slopes in great cow-pat layers, not so fresh as once before and cracking at the edges, cracking and splitting at the edges into little fiords. Layered rocks. Layers you can touch from the track, long and narrow and round at the edges like a pile of surfboards. Layers sweeping up in proud angles up on top of hills, prows and visors, and layers making terraces on the sides of other hills, greenish on the top faces and long low cliffs where one terrace drops down to the next. Layers in the rocks with orange lines in between, orange lines like cobwebs on the rock-face. Rivers of rocks. Thin creeks, widely spaced, fiddling down in clay lines from the tops of long ridges to the bottom where they disappear. Wide rivers of rock, orange rock and rock ground to black sand, sweeping down the hills in great highways of rock, widening quickly from a point like a highway seen from a low angle, and also stringy, tangled rivers of rock and mud, tangled hairs of light rock and gray rock running across the plane in dry rivers. Rocks like cemeteries. Black rocks the size of golfballs. White rocks the size of golfballs, seasoning the plain. Black rocks on the hills in shingle clusters. Rocks like wrecked cars up close, and shrinking to full-stops from a distance. Rocks really pebbles that line the green lakes, chemical-green lakes, with the rocks around the edges making a minute frill around the edges and the rocks in the border shallows showing up yellow-green and the shores of gray rocks on the beach like the dull crust around a precious stone you’ve found inside a dull rock and split the rock into ringed steaks. Large rocks on a hill like an old old building, a temple or fort that’s crumbled down now and left its founding stones broken on the top and the crumbs all scattered down the slopes, smaller the further down you go. Black rocks like an old old battleground, all charred limbs and heads and spotted with mossy blood and dripping too. Rocks light as wood, black volcano rocks that file down your boots and rasp away your shins. Rocks that stab your heel on their wheeling way down the mountain, a high mountain and conical and slightly concave and high, high so that from the top everything else looks flat, even the stretch we climbed up earlier and tore our lungs on the steep rocks there. Rocks that fill your pack so that you have a hard time sitting down and a harder time getting up, and rocks that push your pack into your head into the rock on the ground when you’re on a steep bit on all fours. Rocks that make their way into your knees and clash at awkward angles, grinding away down there and jolting out your legs at strange angles every now and then. Rocks from the sun that fall down in rays and deliver headaches from on high. Rocks in your legs and chest, so when you stop and undo your chest-strap there is a great release, an expansion and relaxation, as if you’ve undone your chest altogether and all your sweaty innards have slid out, relieved. Rocks in your pack so that when you take it off you are much too light, and your walk feels strangely out of time, too easy like peddling with the chain off. Rocks that fill your head with rocks. Rocks, rocks, rocks. I went and did the Crossing the other day, and it’s a rock-filled place up there, a crumbling Stonehenge of a place.

Story About a Cow

Once on the edge of somewhere there was a large field. It was filled with grass and it was very large indeed. It was so large that the sky was not big enough to cover it, and at the far ends of the field, just above the horizon, you could see the stars and planets poking through, even during the day time. It was so big, in fact, that noone had ever found the middle – no one was sure whether or not there was a middle at all. Some people said that it was bigger than the whole world. Some said it was even bigger than two whole worlds. Some people even said it was bigger than everything put together, and that it was the Dwelling Place of Divine Oneness – but most people dismissed that as superstitious nonsense.

At any rate, it was a very big field. Not much lived on the large field. This was mainly because it was on the edge of somewhere, and not many things lived in somewhere, let alone on its edge. Something did live there, though. At a long way from the sides of the field – close enough to the middle to know where it was, but not close enough to see the stars and planets during the day time – there lived a cow named Arthur. Like most cows, Arthur was, for a cow, about medium height. He was black and white, and whoever had first painted him had almost run out of white after finishing one side, and so on the other side Arthur had patches of black which stood out like clumsy puddles. From one side, Arthur looked very much like an overgrown sheep. From the other side, he looked very much like a cow.

Arthur did very little. There were no flies, and there was nothing much to think about. Even if there had been something to think about, Arthur probably would not have thought it. Mostly, Arthur ate grass. But that was not all. Every three minutes, Arthur raised his right front leg off the ground and held it five hoofs off the ground, as if he was waiting for something enormous to happen. Then he put it down again. There was not much noise, apart from Arthur’s eating. Nevertheless, if a person were to find Arthur and open their ear right up and listen very carefully, she (or he) would hear a very soft, very dry and very insistent whining sound. This is the sound a maggot makes as it eats away a cow’s tongue. And the maggot said:

"It is that time of year again, and inevitably the atmosphere has changed. For there is in the wide noon of every year a certain vacancy in the air, a kind of drowsy emptiness that surrounds a maggot and his friends and insinuates itself into the joints and ripples of a the little creature, working its subtle poison on the tender parts. It is a vacant thing, but it has not the comforting formlessness of vacuum. Rather, it has the vacancy of dust, of not-quite-vaccuum, an almost-void of floating motes and dandruff, the kind of vacancy that tempts a creature with the fixity of substance only to torment him with substancelessness, with the falseness of its soft and yielding matter. It is a disease, but it is also a prison, a prison of an unusually paralysing kind. It is the prison of disorientation, of being lost among the empty inners of everything, and being hopelessly open. It is not a prison of somewhere, of iron bars and containment. It is the prison of everywhere, of large and changeless spaces, of slow, wandering uncertainty. It is the prison of monotony and nothing-to-do, of white time and settled space. It is not the prison of restraint, and it is not the prison of incarceration. It is the prison of ease. It is the prison of freedom."

Three minutes later the cow raised his right front leg off the ground. Then he put it down again.

Stupidity: A Sonnet

Stupidity, the least poetic vice,
Is grey, heavy grey. Golden lust, black hate,
Crimson rage: all excite, if not entice.
(Consider, too, the incompletely chaste.)
But simple lack of sense? Dull, dull. No sheen,
No blazing devil’s hue, no tempting shade.
Before, no wicked stratagem; and then,
No passion or despair, just dumb dismay.
He who, having looked a fool, belabours grief,
Betrays a spirit absent as his mind;
And if the spirit finds itself, and speaks:
“I missed a step. So what? Why mope? With time
I’ll ease the sore with verse, erase the fault.”
Mind replies: “Don’t be so obtuse, you dolt."

The Moral Legalities of Dancing

Wednesday, December 06, 2006



This legal dance step collects memoirs

from Egyptian milk baths to colonising spilt knowledge.

Meditating her next leap a United Glider passes.


Love life is a private signpost of change, public and unassuming,

a planet for all children, Jupiter has a dusts feather lying on a beach star gazing back strokes.


Channel discovery doubts the swamp.

Time scars a revolution of gulled-friend’s final say,

switching off repercussions of redressed dominion.


Living reflections under an opinion spell of misunderstanding,

old habits bridged neutral destiny,

so touch a Navigators question.


Cherry tree dissolves joke’s depth of wandering eyes,

…title plate all in our unique thinking.


Drugs or herbs caught Love’s lightning strike proposed by fear…

tasteful amusement laughs off complex aces

riding space and a pool imagines reality. ========================================

Environments travel slack deepening the judge, belly landing

the image of organized behaviour

dousing heritage to endeavour a verbal specialist.


Brothers lie calm watching migratory eagles tasteful amusement

managing to exist of no bodies beautiful plucking Sundown feathers.


A rubber haze of smiles research a speaker

milky rich of insulation. Books thick as fate soaking bliss

slide down a spare bed rung’s.



Society squashes intellectual glamour pigeons wooing

monopoly wet like your navel,

Graduation comes Wednesday, Thursday, Payday or salary


Healing fittest freedom territory to gratification,

a buffering metropolis for noon-western victims of non-agency

destroys the commuting locality.


An Earth crashing onlooker shares orbits with Mercury’s

Moon becoming tomorrow when poor arise railroad lights.


Standing there as a natural left over you Capitalise on a wrong investment.

A humble oxen rides the last reclining deprivation

with a face full of grime choosing yesterdays bargain.


An exempt seagull high as a dollar thrills cheap medicine deciding future miles ahead obliterating taxes paid through charity of a friendly sleeper.


Guided through hiccups and rain,

a spell so happy out of disaster deep down to wonder deserving no blunder, the straight baby face catches a blanket.


In the morning the line bends whilst traffic sits dodo rhythms contributing nothing honoured, feathers untangle a wish from tuft’s teardrops rushing free speech to demise.


A whisper of realms serious the silk suit fits

carefully away from interested gazes shrugging a root of disguise

relief to city faces.


Becoming too much to breathe we about face World

roles imitating in the highest form of lunacy.

Howls belong a catch



A dance of thunderheads lying here naked an Indian skips the heirloom crashing polite policy on the world's best driver.

Dews dry the sunlit dust.


Living very precious spheres floating back to sovereignty,

smugglers bear onward embellishment outlining countries

in sand.

No great white fang swallows a shallow channel.


Coral all colours timid across the surface listen silence brought

selling lonely tone remains of late Summer.


Concluded, a bystander studies audience banks of hard wisdom

standardised by fiction’s fashion of reclusion.

Thinned by emotion, obligatory statements and passions are relentless.

Reading the morning page side on side terror vanishes

drinking rodeo stalemates slack.

Tomorrow awakens rainbow synthesising heartbeats.


Executive beach star hotel breast strokes life,

resistant heavens listening to enemy plans scaring of mortal chaos.


Devolved promotion variables amongst the World populous,

a community sheds warm negotiation and advanced man wonders to unravel magic. Backstage a friendly newcomer appears.


No crisis like a pond which once held goldfish, crossroads of ignorance exist but final Summit dreams tear imagination exclusive of looks beyond sense.



Complete destitute and unsurpassed a Cherokee holds his pony and an Apache awakens the wind, meanwhile Black foot carries

water no longer.


Sitting back some cowboys give glances to those old chicken roots rocking.

Not constricted by construct disease or doing wrong,

the day over to dance ownership and no violence.



On the term declared sifting dirt at feet they drive by in luxury jet plane thirst sleeping over Winter solstice with a lightning cloud from car light.


A place to urinate up before branches broke the forest conscience

frozen to regain foreign shadows they

drift off to new simplicity…


Manene 2006 Josh Kahu-Noho

Disappearing Act

If I had a balloon, I would paint it red, all red, and let it carry me through the sky A drop of blood on a ceiling of blue

I would float and the air would whisper ‘don’t look down’ There is no ground; no green or brown;

no black or clay Just me and the day and a balloon painted red I would loose myself

in light and the music of the flight A lonesome polka dot,

a splash of jam, a pin-prick in heaven

Where? See there I’m sorry I

don’t, I can’t Just

watch What?

That, see,



Clare Bycroft

The Shape of a Key

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

She has made love with strangers
in rooms she didn't know.
She makes love to strangers
in rooms she doesn't know

The light fittings differ,
so do the cracks in the plaster
and the tune in the background,
but they are all a shade of white
and the cobweb pendulum
floats on the same breath of air.

There are kisses
mingled with her hair,
skin slides and rises
in peaks and troughs

Her eyes are closed,
her heart lies inside palace walls,
surrounded by a moat, beyond
a range of mountains
across a swamp.

Her mind is a dungeon
-a butterfly on the sill fans ruby wings,
its body the shape of a key.

Christina Pater

Southern Alps at Midnight

The soldier on manoeuvres
stands in the howling dark,
on rock crystallized to white

The night strips away camouflage,
opens his ribs and creeps around lungs,
to germinate a small seed,
the dream that is his life,
whenever he thinks of home.

Rae Pater

Adventuring Up North

My silent broodings hang over the head of the Hokianga,
where charcoal waters claim the tyreless rusten hulk of an old augustan logger;
the kereru sing to the kauri and sup greedily the cardinal fruit;
and ponytails flick sandflies, adrift in distant fields.

While in the settlement, as such; the pier sinks empty to the bay,
horse-shoes and hammer hang idly from iron pegs
and tidal swells quench the smelting-fires, stifling memories of Golden Age.
The town’s quaint sepia: a blink, forgotten from today.
This is all far from the Sky needle’s shadow
where I once sat sweating,
licking citric fingers,
waiting for a bus to come to take me past

Rangitoto’s volcanic ire, red-heavy under january’s kisses,
eclipsed by a mechanical ‘marvel’, lilting in fervent foreground –
red-russet oozing from anchor-bays: the effluent of the affluent
discarded discretely to help form sandcastles on next month’s beach.

And at the heart of Things to Come:
a juice bar in suits, a café in à la mode,
a man in the papers
sleeps under a tree.
When I’m flailing in the slipstream
in(evitable)transit from the Hokianga
I like to look north to the tranquil treehouse
and set sail for the greyhaven head of my harbour,

James Flewellen


The extent to which the book extends
is bound within its cover and stretches
through the vaunted halls of mind cathedrals
in signs and codes

The book whose spine
follows the circle of library walls
is God - according to Borges
-and spins circles through space.

The space between books on shelves
in the library,
any library at any time,
remains a universal constant
over which a librarian has no control.

This page, a leaf that turns through cycles.
These letters, catalogue of scrawl on the toilet wall
by those who seek light
as they travel down rows of shelves,
neatly filed volumes dissolving into atoms
of information
transmittable via brainwaves
anatomical cables bridge
print to thought.

A conversation with God,
with gods of words in ceremonial procession
covering page after page,
coordinated page and word.

Titles by authors long dead,
the scarecrow straw and stuff of their heads.
'Oh time thy pyramids,
thy labyrinth of letters'
how we scramble and climb
through their thorns and dust
for meaning
and find only the beauty of symbols,
a simulacrum of beauty.
We search now for alternatives
through spaces, silences, the narratives unwritten.

How long have we stumbled uncomprehending,
and who writes the findings of the search,
the narratives of the searchers?

Is there, somewhere, a writer penning
in slanted gold calligraphy ...
'In the beginning the word was ...'

Christina Pater

A Piece of Power

A piece of power,
A peace of paua.
A country of no
upheaval, war or
These elemental facts
are fiction to your
3rd eye, I never
married the girl who
Asked me, regret has to be
Reality, denial is
really faith, yet
I married her
in reality and divorced
myself from faith…
Josh Manene Kahu-Noho