Letters – Issue 113

Critical attention
Good to see in your issue 112 (NZB Summer 2015) Vincent O’Sullivan’s obituary on W H Oliver who was married to my mother’s half-sister Dorothy. I remember discussing poetry with Dorothy and Bill 65 years ago.

More to the point it is good to see Michael Hulse making a case for O’Sullivan as an all-round writer. Hulse ends by taking it that Judith Dell Panny’s Let the Writer Stand is the only and first critical treatment of O’Sullivan. So I am sure you will be delighted to let your readers and Hulse know that entering Vincent O’Sullivan in the National Library of New Zealand’s simple search brings up in the first 15 items 6 booklets or books (the earliest dated 1998) all indicated to deal critically with Vincent O’Sullivan as a poet.

It is a pity that when Hulse was invited to review he was not made aware that such material was in print in New Zealand, and it reflects poorly on New Zealand Books and its backers that Hulse’s review was allowed to see print in terms that put both him and yourselves as editors in a poor light. We all sail by our own compasses and for all of us there is a judgement. It doesn’t pay to be ignorant or to feign ignorance in a country as small as New Zealand or a world as connected as ours today.
Niel Wright


Michael Hulse (University of Warwick) replies:
I didn’t claim Judith Dell Panny’s book was “the only and first critical treatment” of Vincent O’Sullivan’s work; I simply hoped it marked the start of substantial critical attention. It is a great pity that his work is not well known outside New Zealand, and I wish I could see signs of change in that.

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