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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 12. 1963.

Literary Magazines Don't Get Off the Ground

page 9

Literary Magazines Don't Get Off the Ground

We may measure a university's standards in part at least by its publications—which gives added interest to the recent appearance of Auckland's Kiwi and Victoria's Experiment 10.

Unhappily, although it is clearly the best story in either magazine, Albert Wendts's "The Bayonet" can give us little cause for satisfaction over these standards, in spite of the comfortable editorial comments of Renato Amato.

In this story an illegitimate boy, Siaki, comes to an acceptance of his position and a realisation of his manhood by means of lust, murder and not infrequent urination.

The techniques are dishonest; and the sexual imagery in particular is abused, sometimes bordering on the ridiculous—when Siaki tries to rape Mala: "He glanced up. The bayonet gleamed erect in the sunlight." The characterisation is too often less than satisfactory; Mr. Wendts's Americans are very conventional. Motivation is similarly doubtful: why do Mala's taunts about Siaki's illegitimacy involve his secret fear, denial of his manhood? It is all too convenient and contrived. Worst of all it is not a true reflection of the undoubted talents Mr. Wendts has shown elsewhere.

The only prose contribution to Kiwi is Tim Heath's "Aamata"—there is an odd preponderance of poetry from Auckland. This work is distinguished by exceptionally good dialogue, a technique.

Experiment's second prize-winner, Murray Rowlands, has not mastered: but the effect is spoiled by strangely bare and transparent technique—the opening paragraphs are disconcertingly unsure, especially with archness such as" . . . the houses lacked the paint of mine."

John Parkyn's 'The Last Lecture,' which received no place in Experiment is a far more accomplished work, despite the unnecessarily harsh comments from Mr. Amato. In the main Victoria reached a higher standard in the prose.

It's poetry contributions are not up to the standard of Experiment 9. Kirsty Northcote-Bade is not as accomplished or as appealing in theme as last year's prizewinner. Elizabeth Allo. Maarten van Dijk, despite the successful greyness and rhythm of "November '43," is not sufficiently unobtrusive: and Mr. Wendts's "These Sea-Chained Isles" is often excellent prose rather than poetry. Kiwi, however, opens on an infinitely inferior note with a tantrum by Jim Langabeer. This is later supported by the multitudinous adjectives and hyphenated neologisms of Chris Mathews "Rose," and by the lack of cohesion of Brian Muir's "Solitude" and Heather Mac-pherson's "Contrasts" (in which even the epigrammatic neatness of the second stanza and the enigmatic completeness of the ending cannot subdue every element to a pattern).

The standard is assured, however, by the precise intellect-ualism of Myke Savage, and the more sensuous competence of Eleanor Clarke, who is particularly successful in the mellow warmth of "Grandfather's Violin," despite some doubtful imagery elsewhere. There is a little pretentiousness and struggling for rhyme in K. O. Arvidson's "That woman like a season but not this," bat at times, especially in the last stanza, it reaches a peak unusual in these magazines. Similarly excellent in parts is Jack Lasenby's "Absent thee a while."

Whose is the flightless bird? Neither Kiwi nor Experiment 10 get off the ground, and comparison tends not to be of quality but rather of editorial matters. Kiwi's editorial, outlining the value and the problems of such student productions, is possibly the highest point in either magazine. Generally, too, Kiwi is more revealing and more satisfying. Renato Amato appears to have sought "literacy" contributions, whatever that may mean; his phrase, "I am unable to let it stimulate me" may be significant. But Tyme Curnow and Terry Snow have asked particularly for "less writing in reverse, less reflection on the reflection," perhaps they have avoided, by a greater awareness, too much evidence of the general lack of honesty, the "hollowness of substance."

Peter Robb