Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 10. 24 May 1972
the walled garden
the walled garden
Russell Haley, 38, studying for PhD at Auckland, lecturing in English, married, 'The Walled Garden is first published book of poetry'. And many images crown in. War. Blan faces in Spain. A crouching lion of rock. Odd glimpses outside the world of mind.
When he came back from the desert
his features had been chiselled away.'
Bright kaleidoscopes that are but words, words cut and dessicated, words rolled and falling, leaving a taste in the mouth.
'Hitler has only got one ball
in the Working Men's Club
7 x 9=54
among the draped
Words groping form, a lion, a phallus, finding nothing. The questing, the shedding of emotion, the biting fantasy.
Commissioner Gerder in his heat-lined
with disposable hands
amd removable feet
and removable feet
never forgetting the dispensible head
What is he?
Why the mirrors say
and the hi-fi plays
that he's a green-grass flame
live water in a bowl of roses'.
Russell Haley, breaking out from himself, his home, his walled garden, invests his pen with phrases, his mind with visions and a determination for novelty. Often he does not fuse mind and pen sufficiently to achieve any meaning. Often his experimentation merely confuses and obstructs, or makes a farce of surrealism, taking the vision and wrenching it to pieces.
'Hagg ardm o the rsis terh ands
mepo rnog raph icph otog raph
sofh erse Iftfi reey oung menc
love nfoo tedj umpi ntot heph
otog raph cove rher sexw ithr
inge dfin gers'.
Where more order is found, more control and less flamboyance, as in the first two poems, 'The Walled Garden' and 'Spanish City', he is decidedly more effective. The blending of images, the lion, the poet, the spaceman, the explosive tension of the final part of 'The Wall lover, in the dark womb-like order of the garden, the explosive tension of the final part of 'The Walled Garden', the helpless terror of the enclosed barren poet, these point to Haley's genius.
'The doors slam shut and lock
blood stems the throat like mud
we fail to look
to touch and speak
the lion is just a stone
a weight on the ribs
I can cross the garden in three paces
what is real are the walls
one turn of the spade reveals
wet paper under exhausted soil.
Rhis paper, this stone, This
this heaviness the idea of order.
Alif lam ra.'
Mitchell attempts less, succeeds more. His book is an impressive unit, each poem building up, commenting on another. His pipedreams are primarily songs, and when they fail it is because the rhythm is broken, as in 'hush/ blazing house' or 'heavy habit', or else through deadly emphasis of cliches, as in 'high weather country'. (And why, please, show you are embarrassed about using cliches by putting them in quotation marks) But few of the poems are affected by this, and they are soon overlooked in a book that is so compelling. It is a book that cannot take itself seriously, tragic and dramatic masks being discarded after use to reveal the pervasive rule of burlesque