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So wide, can’t get around it, John Newton

James K Baxter: Complete Prose
John Weir (ed)
Victoria University Press, $200.00,
ISBN 9781776560370

James K Baxter’s Collected Poems which appeared in 1979 remains the most monumental object in New Zealand verse. But it contains a mere 700 poems; the total corpus is said to approach 3000. There’s a fat hardback edition containing some but not all of Baxter’s plays (he wrote about 30). It’s anyone’s guess how much shelf-space the letters will eventually occupy – but a single correspondence, the letters to Noel Ginn, already runs to 570 pages in Paul Millar’s edition of 2001. All this from a writer who died at 46. Laurence Baigent describes locking himself in the bathroom to try to get away from Baxter’s barrage of talk: “But even then, like the baying of the hound of heaven, Baxter’s voice pursued him through the door panels,” writes John Weir in his introduction. Others have recounted the same manic deluge. And Baxter seems to have written as compulsively as he talked.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Non-fiction, Review and Short stories

A lonely Orpheus, Liam McIlvanney

The Snake-Haired Muse: James K Baxter and Classical Myth Geoffrey Miles, John Davidson and Paul Millar Victoria University Press, $50.00, ISBN 9780864736581   “What happens is either meaningless to me, or it is mythology.” Though James K Baxter’s vatic pronouncement

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Posted in Literature, Non-fiction, Poetry and Review

Being a bard, Dougal McNeill

Selected Poems of James K Baxter Paul Millar (ed) Auckland University Press, $40.00, ISBN 9781869404611 Maurice Shadbolt called Baxter “a Bard, our only one”. It’s unusual now to read the term used without irony or self-consciously distancing care; but, with

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

Poets for the ear, Hugh Roberts

James K Baxter: Poems  Sam Hunt (ed)  Auckland University Press, $29.99,  ISBN 9781869404345 Doubtless: New and Selected Poems  Sam Hunt Craig Potton Publishing, $29.99, ISBN 9781877333811 Googling the phrase “New Zealand’s greatest poet” finds hits evenly divided between James K

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

Pioneers of bicultural spirituality, Paul Morris

Ratana: The Prophet  Keith Newman Raupo, $40.00, ISBN 978014310972 Double Rainbow: James Baxter, Ngati Hau and the Jerusalem Commune  John Newton Victoria University Press, $40.00,  ISBN 9780864736037 Pakeha and Maori find themselves in Martin Heidegger’s phrase “thrown” together in our

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Posted in Health, Maori, Non-fiction and Review

Speaking frankly of Frank and James K, Stevan Eldred-Grigg

An Affair of the Heart: A Celebration of Frank Sargeson’s Centenary ed Graeme Lay and Stephen Stratford Cape Catley, $49.99, ISBN 0908561938 O Jerusalem – James K Baxter: An Intimate Memoir Mike Minehan Hazard Press, $24.95, ISBN 1877270385 Two icons

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Posted in Essays, Literature, Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

Young Jim, W H Oliver

Spark to a Waiting Fuse: James K Baxter’s correspondence with Noel Ginn 1942-1946 ed Paul Millar Victoria University Press, $49.95, ISBN 086473400X I began this book thinking that a shorter one might have been enough for a smallish collection of

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Posted in Letters, Literature, Poetry and Review

Buying into Baxter? Rob Jackaman

Beyond the Palisade James K Baxter (ed Paul Millar) Oxford University Press, $29.95, ISBN 0 19 558406 6 Autumn Testament James K Baxter (ed Paul Millar) Oxford University Press, $29.95, ISBN 0 19 558386 8 Not arriving in New Zealand

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Posted in Literature, Poetry and Review

More than the myth he became, Tom Beard

I was four when Baxter died and living on the other side of the world. It seems that everyone here has a Baxter anecdote ‑ something along the lines of “I remember finding Jim passed out next to my letterbox”

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Posted in Opinion

Wielding the jawbone of an ass, Fleur Adcock

I last saw Jim Baxter towards the end of 1962, eating steak and chips for lunch in a restaurant on Lambton Quay. I was about to leave for England, but not so imminently that I felt the need to make

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Posted in Opinion
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