Editorial – Issue 38

Salute to Lauris Edmond

On behalf of New Zealand Books, we’d like to offer Lauris Edmond our very best wishes on her 75th birthday, which she celebrated in April. At the same time, we’d like to express our appreciation of the pivotal role she has played in the establishment and continuing existence of this journal.

Lauris is best-known and best-loved as a poet of rare accomplishment and sensibility, and as a ground-breaking autobiographer. Her work as essayist, commentator, critic, editor, lecturer and champion of good writing is perhaps less widely recognised; and yet her achievements in these areas are also considerable and have made a lasting contribution to our literature and cultural life.

In the course of her writing career, she has, amongst other things, edited the School Journal, and an edition of
A R D Fairburn’s letters; she has been an anthologist and a reviewer; she has given numerous lectures and talks; and her creative writing classes have inspired a generation of writers. She has also been one of our most energetic literary ambassadors. Whilst engaged in these activities, she has both promoted and exemplified the qualities of generosity, wisdom, discrimination, wit and clear thinking.

In her dedication to good writing, Lauris has always adhered to the values that she herself expounded in “The Independent Outlook”, a graduation address she delivered to the School of Humanities at the University of Waikato in April 1993. Here, she drew her audience’s attention to the virtues shared by literary prose and the best analytical writing  – which may range from political commentary to feature articles to the review essay. She observed:

Serious prose – or indeed witty, amusing prose – is something any writer can be proud to produce . . . We now have a strong and growing tradition of  … informative, analytical writing that takes its place beside fiction, drama and poetry in expressing – perhaps shaping – the truth of our lives in these islands.

Lauris’s main vehicle in recent years for practising and encouraging such writing has been in the pages of New Zealand Books, for which she herself has penned many searching and highly readable pieces on subjects that include biography, masculinism in New Zealand literature, and even cooking. She is one of the founding members of the Peppercorn Press, publisher of this journal, and continues as an active force in both the Press and the publication. While she modestly refers to herself as the “institutional memory” of New Zealand Books, others (not least the editors) greatly value her fine judgement, gentle guidance and good humour.

Her special contribution to the journal has in very large part made it what it is today, a publication that fulfils the original aims of the founders – to foster, in her words, “lucid, grateful writing, free of academic jargon and an élitist tone … prose that speaks to thoughtful people everywhere, to all in fact who read and ponder the books written by New Zealand authors.” (from “New Zealand Books: The Making of a Literary Review”, in Under Review: A Selection from New Zealand Books 1991-1996 (1997))

Harry Ricketts & Bill Sewell

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