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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 23. 21st September 1972

Books — Over the Horizon

page 15


Over the Horizon

Drawing of a flying device

While it would be unwise to set up the New Zealand Listenet as the Edinburgh Review of the twentieth century, its wholesalely destructive (almost Gagerite) review of Baysting's first selection of poems made the valid front that the selection was uneven. Different themes, and different style contrast to the point where, if it were not for the general level of competence, one might imagine oneself reading James K Baxter.

The Listener notwithstanding standards for first books of New Zealand poetry are not high, and these poems show more wit versatility and observation than the work of many older poets. The poems surpass their predecesors read at Lit Soe poetry meetings in distant years. What disturbs less than the variety of poetry, since an absolutely homogeneous first book of poetry is an academic utopia, is its motivation. There is, so much wit that poems often seem Jeux d'esprit. The emotions of the poet occasionally appear, like tears from under dark glasses, exotic and restrained, though expressing commitment. The style avoids complexity like heroin in a pilgrimage towards transparency.

Why are these poems written. They are too elegant to be alive, too simple to describe complexity, and too balanced to cope with universal neurosis. Like well tended trees at the centre strip of a motorway, they embody a formal and irrelevant symmetry, though Baysting, unlike the Ministry of Works gardeners, understands that the entire operation is an unconscious joke. The humour, still, seldom passes the unsound barrier of absurdity. Alter the absurd simplicity of Bob Dylan. Baysting's wit is romantic nostalgia for the days of Bracken. Alan Brunton's poems in the 1972 Arts Festival Literary Yearbook exhume better a far more meaningless and therefore realistic world. Without endorsing any particular Auckland 'school' (schools of poetry are still impossible in New Zealand) it is lime for poets to copy those who shout loudest since shouting is the only possible form of poetry. Where Poetry is shouting, the only differences between poems are between the scream and the rave.

—Owen Gager

Photo of a man