Letters – Issue 18

For the record

I’d like to correct Alan Loney’s interpretation of the Landfall grant figures supplied to him by the Arts Council (now Creative New Zealand), in your March 1995 issue. Landfall has had a turbulent administrative history in recent years, so it is not surprising that only those intimately involved know what actually happened and when.

The annual grant figure of $9750 quoted for both 1994 and 1995 (covering Nos 187‑190) is correct. The “1993 cumulative grants $24,710” is a misleading figure, however. Landfall became a semi‑annual publication in 1993, not 1994, as Loney states. It received a total of $9155 for the two issues (185‑186) published in that year. For the four issues (181‑184) published in 1992 it received a total of $17,316 from the literature fund (although grants for issues 182‑183 were not actually uplifted until 1993). An additional grant was received from the visual arts fund for the (controversial) “text‑art” issue 182 and a further sum was granted towards producing an index.

And for the record: Landfall remains open for business with the “ANDers” and any writers who may regard themselves as engaging with related writing practices. I have no desire to exclude such writing, or to deny it an outlet – indeed I welcome it. My point was merely that journals exclusively devoted to so‑called “experimental” or “avant garde” writing usually attract small audiences. I’m sure even Alan Loney, with his distinguished history of publishing in this area, would confirm that.

My aim is not to exclude any writer or style but simply to present a range of the work currently being produced in New Zealand. That includes writers such as – to pick a pair whose work has been generating some heat in your columns – Michele Leggott and Murray Edmond, or indeed Alan Loney himself, should he see fit to submit his work. The key requirement is that it be good ‑ according to the editor’s subjective and fallible assessment ‑ of its kind.

Chris Price, Wellington


Above criticism

As a member of the great non‑academic dead‑poet-reading unwashed, it is with mingled glee and incredulity that I have followed the correspondence regarding your review of the recent poems by Murray Edmond and Michele Leggott.

Imagine then my joy when I discovered that our household possesses earlier works by both these Auckland University academics acquired when a member of the family was taking a New Zealand literature paper for which they were required reading. This revelation sparked memories of an occasion when, having read a few samples, I opined in my ignorant way that this was a load of old rubbish and urged the student to say so. “Mind your own business,” replied the student. “I want to get a pass and that’s not the way to achieve one.”

The pass having duly been achieved I wonder if either poet could answer a simple question. Apparently it is okay to write scathing reviews of other people’s poetry (for example, Edmond’s comments on Alistair Paterson). But, if students of literature feel it is unwise to criticise their work, academics at other universities apparently lack the knowledge, and a publication like New Zealand Books has the wrong philosophical stance, is there anyone alive who is qualified to have an opinion? I also wonder whether there is any check on the seemingly incestuous situation where Auckland University publishes poems by its own staff, which some at least consider to be of doubtful merit and also makes their poems required reading for courses? If a politician tried something like that there would be a huge uproar. But then politicians are not above criticism.

Jim Eagles, Tauranga


Good advice

Simon Cauchi’s sharp letter saying I should practise what I preach amounts to good advice. Mea culpa. My reference to a 1545 Frankfurt edition of Theocritus should certainly have been acknowledged, and the work to which Mr Cauchi alludes is exactly right. On my copy of the essay however the editorial responsibility for that work is given to RANDALL M LEOD [sic], with the essay itself under the name of “Random Cloud” [also sic]. The words “Randall McLeod” are mentioned in the essay only once, in a list of those the author thanks for reading drafts, in the NOTES on page 152. Indeed, the header giving the name of the author on every page of the text is “CLOUD”. The essay title is FIAT ƒLUX. The question raised by Randy McLeod’s differing signatures is: what status does, or should, authorial intention have, when it comes to editing (read “altering”) or reading, other people’s texts.

Alan Loney, Auckland



In her review of Kevin Ireland’s Sleeping With The Angels, Anne French writes that several of the stories “first appeared in Metro, and the whole collection has that magazine feel – competent, sometimes clever, amusing in places, but contrived and insubstantial”.

In the seven years I was at Metro we published stories by Owen Marshall, Vincent O’Sullivan, Lloyd Jones, Marilyn Duckworth, Lauris Edmond, Rosie Scott, Stephanie Johnson, Barbara Anderson, Albert Wendt, Russell Haley, Michael Gifkins, Sue McCauley, C K Stead and Peter Wells (and, inadvertently, Martin Amis). How many of them could be accused of producing “contrived and insubstantial” work?

As I recall, we published everything Ireland submitted – whereas we published perhaps a quarter of the poems Anne French submitted.

Stephen Stratford, Auckland


Why politics?

Is your journal’s name to be changed to “New Zealand Books and Politics’? The world – of politics – is too much with us, late and soon (apologies to Wordsworth), and numbers of periodicals are devoted to such dreary discussions, let alone the daily press.

What conceivable reason can be given for introducing such lengthy political exercises into a literary journal? They are not even hung on the hook of books reviewed. Useless, anyway, for politicians’ words rarely relate to what they will do, given the chance or the pressure: but even if some may maintain that they have a use, if only by providing paper dart to throw at them later, they are unreadable, at least by me.

If you continue on this course, I shall not long remain a Friend of New Zealand Books.

Shirley Smith, Wellington

Editor’s note: Both the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books carry political essays. [Editor: Colin James]

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