Sport 8: Autumn 1992
French is the most traditional of these six poets, not only in her approach to the rhetoric of poetry but also in her unvoiced assumption that some totem figure must occupy the centre of her attention.
Three of the gentlemen I mentioned in my opening—the patriarch, the fogey, and the man on the mountaintop—are only ever persuasively answered if a writer has first felt and understood, thoroughly experienced, exactly what their claims upon her/him are. Hawken is so impressive because she has been there, done that, and gone on. The reason I don't warm to Robert Sullivan's rather brash Jazz Waiata, I suspect, may well be that I don't believe, despite his genuflexions to Curnow and Baxter, that he has seriously grappled with organization of social and spiritual life, with the concept of tradition, or with the aesthetic ideas that have at one time or another been imagined to express the noblest in humanity. Maybe I do him an injustice; but lines like these seem awful: