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James K. Baxter Complete Prose Volume 4

The Wellington Years — 1949-1965

The Wellington Years



The Name and the Game; in New Zealand Listener (hence forward NZL) no. 510 (1 Apr. 1949) 16-17.

The protagonist of the story, who was twenty-three years old, the same age as JKB became that year, had been married for five months. JKB hadpage 196 married four months earlier. On 9 December 1948 he married Jacqueline Cecilia Sturm (born 1927) at St John’s Cathedral, Napier. Soon afterwards he and Jacquie moved into rented accommodation in Park Road, Belmont, Wellington. Then JKB began work at an abattoir in Ngauranga, an experience which provided the background for this story. (In 1950 they shifted to shared accommodation at 105 Messines Road, Karori.)

In 1939 the National Broadcasting Service, under the direction of James Shelley, established NZL as a weekly magazine. (Its first issue was dated 30 June 1939.) Its founding editor was Oliver Duff (1883-1967), editor and writer. See SB. When Duff retired in 1949 Monte Holcroft (see SB) became his successor. Alexander McLeod (1967-72) followed Holcroft. But Holcroft was called out of retirement as interim editor when McLeod was dismissed. Ian Cross (1973-77) then took over. Cross was succeeded by Tony Reid (1977-80). Other editors and editorial arrangements followed until 1990 when the magazine was sold to Wilson and Horton. From then on it no longer had a significant role as a provider of space for New Zealand writers.


Why Writers Stop Writing; in Hilltop 1:2 (June 1949) 26-27. Described as ‘An adaptation and synopsis of a talk given to the Literary Society of Victoria University College, 27 May 1949.’

Hilltop was a journal of Victoria University of Wellington’s Literary Society, succeeding Broadsheet in 1949 and being succeeded by Arachne. Three issues of Hilltop were issued (all in 1949). J.M. Thomson was the first editor. He was succeeded by W.H. Oliver.

JKB’s proposal of orthodox Christianity as a solution to life’s problems was consistent with the fact that on 4 November 1948 he was baptised as an Anglican (Jacquie was a formal witness) in the Church of St Michael and All Angels in Christchurch and that twelve months later, in November 1949, he was confirmed by Bishop Owen, who considered that the Sacrament of Confirmation resembled joining the navy. (He had been a naval chaplain.) That day JKB told a correspondent that he hoped the Church would break ‘her uneasy marriage’ to the State. The religious influences which he had experienced as a child were his father’s undenominational Quakerism and his mother’s relaxed Presbyterianism.

When JKB wrote ‘I regard [pessimism] not as a morbid, but as an accurate reading of the spiritual temperature of the times’ he was expressing his own natural temperament as well as acknowledging the effect of Original Sin – illustrated by the closing stanza of ‘Wild Bees’, which he began in 1941 and completed in the year he gave this talk, after putting it through many drafts:

Fallen then the city of instinctive wisdom.
Tragedy is written distinct and small:
A hive burned on a cool night in summer.
page 197 But loss is a precious stone to me, a nectar
Distilled in time, preaching the truth of winter
To the fallen heart that does not cease to fall. (CP 83)

[Frederick] Louis MacNeice (1907-63), Irish poet and dramatist, was born in Belfast. After graduating from Merton College, Oxford, he lectured in classics at the University of Birmingham. In 1936 he began teaching in London. In 1939 he finished writing Autumn Journal which conveyed his reflections on the war-darkening decade of the 1930s. During World War Two he worked for the BBC, writing more than sixty radio scripts, most of them intended to communicate the links between Britain and the USA or Britain and Russia. After the war he produced plays for the BBC. As the years passed he drank more and more, sometimes to the point of oblivion. He also had a number of affairs. In August 1963 he died as a result of pneumonia, contracted after he was caught in a storm while on the Yorkshire moors recording sounds for a radio play. Auden considered that the poems of The Burning Perch, his final collection, were among the best he had written.

R[onald] A[llison] K[ells] Mason (1905-71), poet and unionist: see SB.

Daniel (Dan) [Marcus] Davin (1913-90), novelist: see SB.

Montague (Monte) [Harry] Holcroft (1902-93), editor and writer: see SB.

Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936), classical scholar and poet, shared with Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), the great poet and novelist, a prevailing note of melancholy, even fatalism. Both men served as literary exemplars for R.A.K. Mason, but JKB was entirely unaffected by Housman’s poetic example and echoed Hardy only during the early 1950s.

love poems have to be a little sentimental: perhaps because they are intended to be instrumental in achieving some other effect, e.g. reconciliation.

To counter pessimism JKB advocated ‘orthodox Christianity’, a further revelation of his interest in religion, evidenced by his becoming baptised as an Anglican that year.


Blue Peter; Hilltop 1.3 (Sep. 1949) 10.

Blue Peter is the name given to a particular flag of a ship, a white flag with two concentric squares, the larger one blue, the interior, smaller one white. When it is raised on a ship in harbour it means ‘All persons are required to return to ship as the vessel is about to sail.’


Man Alone; review of the novel by John Mulgan. Hamilton: Paul’s Book Arcade Ltd. 1949; in LF vol. 3 no. 4 (Dec. 1949) 374-376.

John [Alan Edward] Mulgan (1913-40): see SB.

John Reece Cole (1916-84): see SB.

James [Munro] Bertram (1910-93), writer and academic: see SB.

Albert Camus (1913-60) was a Frenchman born in Algeria. His first andpage 198 best novel, The Outsider (also known as The Stranger) was published in 1942. A sometime Communist, then an anarchist, he found no solutions to life spent in a meaningless or indifferent universe. Ultimately an absurdist, his philosophy was unacceptable to JKB. In 1957 Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.


At Dead Low Water and Sonnets; review of the collection by Allen Curnow. The Caxton Poets, No 5. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1949; in LF vol. 4 no. 2 (June 1950) 164-166.

JKB does not reveal that the title poem was dedicated to him when it was published in Year Book of the Arts in New Zealand 1 in 1945. On later occasions he repeated his criticisms of Curnow’s verbal complexity and his practice of rewriting earlier poems.

Year Book of the Arts in New Zealand: Wellington. no. 1 (1945)-7 (1951). Nos. 6-7 as Arts Year Book. Charles Brasch reviewed the first number in LF 1 (1947: 70).

William Empson (1906-84), literary critic and poet, wrote Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930) which considered the ways in which the conflicts within a poet are revealed by a close reading and careful analysis of language. His poetry was arid, erudite and founded on attention to the technique of literary construction. JKB, who was more interested in what was said than in how it was said, had little liking for Empson’s poetry or for Curnow’s writing in a similar complex, allusive and ambiguous mode.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89), unconventional poet and literary critic of the Victorian period, experimented with sound, syntax and prosody. Because of his individuality he is a dangerous model for any poet. Curnow wrote some early pieces which are rather Hopkinesque. Hopkins had also influenced the young JKB. On 26 January 1944 JKB wrote to Ginn: ‘He is great – that is all one can really say, except for reading him again and again. I may be unusually susceptible to him; anyway he is like the bread, the water of life to me as far as poetry goes (it goes a long way.)’ (VUW Library, MS McKay 28/31; Millar 319).

This review is the most carefully argued piece of critical prose which JKB had yet written. His argument and analysis are carefully considered and developed because he was writing about a man who seemed to want to be his patron. It is not known how Curnow responded to the review.


New Zealand Poets; review of The Axe: a verse tragedy, by Allen Curnow. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1949 [i.e. 1950]; Mine Eyes Dazzle, Poems 1947-49, by Alistair Campbell. Christchurch: Pegasus Press, [1950]; Shadow of the Flame, poems by Hubert Witheford, with wood engravings by E. Mervyn Taylor. Auckland: Pelorus Press, 1950; A Century of New Zealand’s Praise (2nd edition), by Arnold Wall. Christchurch: Simpson & Williams, 1950; inpage 199 NZL 585 (8 Sep. 1950) 12.

In the year after JKB wrote this review he identified (in Recent Trends in New Zealand Poetry) the performance of The Axe in Christchurch in 1948 as one of the keynote events in New Zealand literature. He had attended the performance in the Little Theatre at the university in the company of Glover and was rather drunk. As a result, he told his parents, he was in a mood to appreciate it. After the audience left he took the stage and performed a Highland Fling and then danced the characters of a waterfall, a tree, a ploughman, a hunter. He felt ‘Energy like electricity or heavy water in my limbs flowing out of my shoes and fingertips and the sheer delight of expressing something, and no one objecting.’ (McKay 107).

It was also reviewed by M.K. Joseph in LF5 (1951: 65).

Alistair Te Ariki Campbell (1925-2009): see SB. He became a member of the Wellington group of poets which included JKB, Louis Johnson, Peter Bland, Anton Vogt and others. Like JKB he was employed as an editor by the School Publications Branch of the Department of Education. In the year following this review JKB would say in Recent Trends in New Zealand Poetry that ‘Alistair Campbell is the outstanding poet of the Wellington group.’ He added that ‘The control of a near-speech rhythm seems second nature to Campbell. His view of South Island mountain landscape is essentially animistic; and the hesitancy of many older poets is shorn away.’

Mine Eyes Dazzle was reviewed by Basil Dowling in LF(4, 1950: 244).

Pegasus Press (1947-86), which published Campbell’s book, was established by Albion Wright and his partner and editor Robin Muir to compete with his friend Glover’s Caxton Press. The elegant edition of Campbell’s poetry was their first publication. By the time the Press closed it had published almost one hundred books of poetry and twenty books of fiction (eight of them by Janet Frame).

Hubert Witheford (1921-2000), poet: see SB.

[Ernest] Mervyn Taylor (1906-64) was a highly accomplished illustrator who worked in this capacity and as art editor for the Department of Education. As a wood engraver he enjoyed an international reputation.

Arnold Wall (1869-1966), writer and academic (see SB) was Allen Curnow’s uncle by marriage.


AmericanPoet; review of Poems, 1938-1949, by RobertLowell. London: Faber and Faber, 1950; in NZL 603 (19 Jan. 1951) 9.

Robert [Traill Spence] Lowell [Jr] (1917-77) was educated at Harvard University (1935-37) but after an argument with his father he went south to the home of the poet and critic Allen Tate where he lived for two months in a tent pitched on the Tate’s lawn. He then followed Tate to Kenyon College in Ohio where he graduated in 1940 with a degree in classics before attending Louisiana State University (1940-41). While still in Ohio he became apage 200 Catholic and married Jean Stafford, a fiction writer. He was also jailed for five months as a conscientious objector. In 1944 his first book of poetry was published (Land of Unlikeness. Cummington, MA: Cummington Press, 1944). In 1947 he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship and the Pulitzer Prize for his second poetry collection Lord Weary’s Castle (New York: Harcourt, 1946). The Mills of the Kavanaughs (New York: Harcourt, 1951) was marred by his internal turbulence: he had left the Catholic Church, divorced Jean Stafford and suffered a serious episode of manic-depressive mental illness. Unable to be without a woman, he married Elizabeth Hardwick. During the 1950s he taught at a number of universities.

He originally wrote tightly orchestrated rhetorical poems but in 1959 in Life Studies (Farrar, Straus & Cudahy) he presented very personal ‘confessional’ poetry in a much looser format. These poems were informal, colloquial and autobiographical and the book was awarded the National Book Award. (In 1968 the second edition was published by Faber and Faber.) For the Union Dead (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1964) anchored his personal concerns in general history. Another collection, Near the Ocean (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), was published in 1967. Farrar, Straus & Giroux also published Notebook 1967-68, the first of several volumes of unrhymed sonnets, in 1969. (In the same year JKB wrote the unrhymed sonnets for Colin Durning which were published as Jerusalem Sonnets.) The poems Lowell wrote during the 1960s were often much more public than previous writing and presented his feelings about social events. He was a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War.

In 1970 he moved to England where he taught for six years. Then in 1972 he divorced Elizabeth and married Englishwoman Caroline Blackwood. He explored his feelings for her in The Dolphin (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973), which was awarded the 1974 Pulitzer Prize. His last book of poetry was Day by Day (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1977), which openly and in a relaxed manner considered the relationships and the mental problems that had beset him. In the same year the National Academy awarded him the National Medal for Literature. His Collected Poems was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1997, the year he died of congestive heart failure, after collapsing in a taxi in New York.

In a review of Near the Ocean JKB regarded Lowell as a ‘campus laureate’ presumably because his only listed occupations were editorial assistant 194142, consultant in poetry 1947-48, university instructor and lecturer 1950-77, and writer in residence 1967.

JKB’s hostile estimate of one of the great collections of Lowell’s poetry is in sharp contrast to his eventual opinion. He later admitted that ‘Lowell has helped me to use words as a straitjacket to contain the violent experiences of the manic-depressive cycle’ and mentioned that he saw Lowell in a new light after reading Hugh B. Staples’ Robert Lowell: the First Twenty Years.

Spoon River Anthology: this collection of poems by Edgar Lee Masters was published in 1916. It comprises the epitaphs of 244 (fictional) residents ofpage 201 (again fictional) Spoon River, Illinois. Because they are dead they are able to speak honestly. An example is ‘Amanda Barker’ (no. 8):

Henry got me with child,
Knowing that I could not bring forth life
Without losing my own.
In my youth therefore I entered the portals of dust.
Traveler, it is believed in the village where I lived
That Henry loved me with a husband’s love,
But I proclaim from the dust
That he slew me to gratify his hatred.

The Spoon River Anthology may have partly influenced JKB to write ‘Book of the Dead’ (1951), a poem which contains epitaphs for five people buried in a Wellington cemetery, plus two wrap-around stanzas. JKB’s equivalent poem to ‘Amanda Barker’ reads

‘Loth was I to leave earth,
The house built newly, the gully farm
With my dear love ploughing; but beyond harm
The bones that proved too small for childbirth.’
Stranger, of your charity
Pray for the soul
Of Mary Hamilton
That she in light perpetual tarry. (CP 116)

The epitaphs by Masters are sceptical and explore some unpleasant nuances of human behaviour whereas JKB’s more subdued narratives invite the viewer to pray for the dead.


Religious Opinion; review of A Year of Grace, chosen and edited by Victor Gollancz. London: Victor Gollancz, 1950; in NZL 609 (2 Mar. 1951) 13. The sub-title describes this book: ‘Passages Chosen and Arranged to Express a Mood about God and Man’.

Perennial Philosophy: the concept of the universality of certain truths about consciousness, humanity and reality. The term was first used by Agostino Steuco (1497-1548) in his 1540 book of that title. The German philosopher Gottfrieid Leibniz (1646-1716) used the term to mean the basic ideas underlying all religions, especially their mystical elements. Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) popularised the idea in The Perennial Philosophy (1945).

The fact that JKB was invited by the NZL editor to review this book shows that by this time at the latest he was aware of JKB’s interest in philosophy, religion and spirituality.

page 202

Poetry at Home; review of On the Level, mostly Canterbury poems, by W. Hart-Smith (printed by the Timaru Herald, 1950), and Imaginary Islands, by M.K. Joseph. Auckland (printed by Whitcombe & Tombs, 1950); in NZL 610 (9 Mar. 1951) 12.

William Hart-Smith (1911-90), Australian/New Zealand poet: see SB.

Christopher Columbus, Christchurch. Caxton Press, 1948.

Basil Cairns Dowling (1910-2000), poet: see SB.

Michael Kennedy Joseph (1914-81), poet and novelist: see SB.

The highest test . . . a good ballad: JKB’s remark suggests that he was not truly a modernist poet and that his literary tastes were formed by the poems his father read to him when he was a child.


Nature Poet; review of Collected Poems by Andrew Young. London: Jonathan Cape, 1950, in NZL 619 (11 May 1951) 15.

Andrew John Young (1885-1971), Scottish poet and clergyman, was awarded the Queen’s Medal for poetry in 1952.


Recent Trends in New Zealand Poetry. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1951. (Text of a talk given at Canterbury University College during the New Zealand Writers’ Conference, 8-11 May 1951.)

After the conference JKB’s talk was broadcast on National Radio. It was subsequently published by the Caxton Press.

The conference was mounted as part of the celebrations for the foundation of the Canterbury settlement. In the course of its deliberations Pat Lawlor, secretary of the Literary Fund, led a session on ‘Little Reviews’. Unexpectedly and scathingly he denounced the younger school of poets and authors, ‘a few hundred frustrated young men and women’, for the ‘shallowness of literary jargon flourished by the new school . . . jangledisms and pitiful polemics . . . the awful closet of profanities and obscenities’. His remarks caused uproar and he and the other committee members were put through the wringer. Afterwards Sargeson informed Maurice Duggan (who had been declined a grant) that ‘Lawlor was shaken right to his bottom’. However the ruckus subsided when JKB began his address on ‘Recent Trends in New Zealand Poetry’. Lawlor was so impressed by it that he publicly declared that he had done JKB an injustice when he included him in his sweeping condemnation. He became a friend of JKB, who often consulted him as he moved towards Catholicism. (As a result of the dissatisfaction caused by Lawlor’s remarks Guy Scholefield later resigned as chairman, replaced by Ian Gordon who survived in the job for twenty-two years.)

Reacting to JKB’s talk, a contributor to Critic (Otago University) remarked that ‘Baxter was 19 when he emerged as an important poet, now at 25 he takes his place as the profoundest critic we have. It is an extraordinary achievement.’ (7 June 1951, p. 8). Elsie Locke commented on his address inpage 203 Here and Now (9 June 1951, p. 27), emphasising ‘its wisdom, its penetration, its social awareness, and its superbly phrased language’. In Landfall W.H. Oliver wrote of the ‘almost magical nature of his performance, the power over people made up variously of honesty, pure and precise wording, and the originality of the thing said.’ (LF vol. 5 no. 3, Sep. 1951, 222).

W[illiam] (Bill) H[osking] Oliver (1925-), historian, poet, writer, became the author of James K. Baxter: a Portrait (Wellington: Port Nicholson Press, 1983, and Wellington: Godwit Press/Bridget Williams Books, 1994). See SB.

In a review of the Caxton publication (LF5, 1951, p. 317) Fairburn ended by answering his own question: ‘could anything as good have been produced in New Zealand in the twenties, or in the thirties? Indubitably, no. We move, we make ground.’ (LF 5, 1951, 317).

Sargeson, who met JKB for the first time, described him as ‘a smooth-featured pink and blond young man with polite manners and a very lovely voice’ (King, Sargeson, 313).

JKB sketched a situation which would become increasingly more urgent to him over time when he wrote, ‘One of the functions of artists in a community is to provide a healthy and permanent element of rebellion; not to become a species of civil servant.’ Also: ‘I do not advocate that we should all put on sackcloth and ashes. But I think it reasonable and necessary that poetry should contain moral truth and that every poet should be a prophet according to his lights.’

‘Short Biographies’ supplies notes on the writers mentioned in this talk, namely, Alfred Domett, David McKee Wright, John Barr, Jessie Mackay, R.A. K. Mason, Eileen Duggan, Denis Glover, A.R.D. Fairburn, Allen Curnow, Charles Brasch, Eric McCormick, Alistair Campbell, J.R. Hervey, William Hart-Smith, Basil Dowling, Ursula Bethell, W.H. Oliver, Hubert Witheford, Patrick Wilson, Louis Johnson and Ruth Dallas (real name Ruth Mumford).

Landfall: a New Zealand quarterly. Christchurch. no. 1 (Mar. 1947)-. While on leave in London from war service Denis Glover had discussions with his host Charles Brasch about the need for a new, well-funded literary magazine. It would be printed by Glover’s Caxton Press. Brasch looked at international journals which presented literature in a wider context and was especially interested in Christopher Dawson’s Dublin Review. After returning to New Zealand he set the wheels in motion and discussed possible titles with others. He liked ‘Antipodes’ and ‘South’; others liked ‘Tuatara’, but eventually someone (perhaps Lawrence Baigent) suggested ‘Landfall’, based, presumably, on the title of Allen Curnow’s Landfall in Unknown Seas. Brasch edited the first eighty numbers (1947-66). His chosen successor was Robin Dudding, who edited nos. 81-101 (1967-71). Dudding’s editorship was ended after a series of disagreements with the owners and he was replaced by Leo Bensemann who edited nos. 102-113 (1971-75). Peter Smart edited nos. 116140 (1975-81), and David Dowling nos. 140-159 (1982-86). After that page 204the magazine was edited by a series of Boards. For further information see Charles Brasch (SB).

Arachne: a literary journal (Victoria University of Wellington Literary Society) Wellington. no. 1 (Jan. 1950)-3 (Dec. 1951). It superseded Hilltop.

Hilltop: (Victoria University of Wellington Literary Society) Wellington. nos. 1-3 (Apr.-Sep. 1949).

Holcroft wrote a cautious editorial entitled ‘A Conference of Writers’ about the event; and in the same issue of the Listener (no. 621, 25 May 1951, 7) ‘Augustus’ wrote a lighthearted appraisal of it.

Recent Trends in New Zealand Poetry was reviewed by A.R.D. Fairburn in LF 5 (1951) 317.


More Poems; review of book by Eileen Duggan. London: Allen and Unwin, 1951; in NZL 628 (13 July 1951) 12.

Eileen May Duggan (1894-1972), poet: see SB. Whereas Fairburn, Glover and Curnow felt a need to dethrone the best poet of the generation preceding theirs, JKB did not take aim at her. His critical concern would increasingly become the generation which preceded his – including Mason, Fairburn, Glover and Curnow.

the parallel is closer and more apt than many will care to admit: JKB may have meant to imply that whereas Bethell, an Anglican in an Anglican establishment (Christchurch), was acceptable to the religious sceptics Curnow and Glover (descended from Christchurch Anglicans), Duggan was of Irish Catholic non-Christchurch lineage, and so less acceptable.

Joan Stevens (1908-90) reviewed More Poems in LF (6, 1952: 77). See SB.

Other reviewers were mainly Catholic, including, J.C. Reid (see SB) in Arts Year Book (7, 1951: 136); M.K. Joseph (see SB) in Zealandia (3 Jan. 1951: 6); and Pat Lawlor (see SB) in NZT (16 May 1951: 16).


Outside the Walls; review of The Sun among the Ruins, poems by Louis Johnson. Christchurch: Pegasus Press, 1951; in NZL 639 (28 Sep. 1951) 12.

Louis [Albert] Johnson (1924-88) (see SB), a close friend of JKB’s, shared similar concerns about the prescriptive nature of Curnow’s and Brasch’s management of poetry in New Zealand.


Introduction to Verse 1951. (Glenco) Wellington, [1951?]. [p. 5].

This small anthology (apparently edited by Judith Alley) included work by students at Wellington Teachers’ Training College. The first volume appeared in the previous year as Verse 1950 and was reviewed by Brasch in LF 5 (1951):

226. Two of JKB’s poems were included in NZ Poetry Yearbook: ‘To a Jet Pilot’ (p. 11) and ‘Hell’ (p. 12). Both were uncollected. On 1 February 1951 JKB enrolled at Wellington Teachers’ College andpage 205 began training as a primary-school teacher. The college was headed by two liberal administrators, W.J. Waghorn, principal, and Walter Scott, vice-principal. Scott was especially helpful to him. Walter [James] Scott (190285) graduated with honours in Latin from the University of Otago and then taught at secondary level until 1936 when he was appointed a lecturer in English at Wellington Teachers’ Training College. He introduced tutorial techniques into his teaching practice and included in the curriculum short stories by Sargeson and poetry by Fairburn, Glover and Curnow. In 1948 he was appointed vice-principal. He became principal in 1958. At a later time JKB wrote to Scott about those days, ‘I rarely felt at ease at Training College being near the centre of the manic-depressive booze mill from which by the grace of God I have walked out sane; but you more than any other person there helped me to adjust, as far as I did adjust, and that because you have not accepted the role of father-figure which we teachers so fatally tend to accept.’ (7 Feb. 1956; McKay 131).

JKB was also helped significantly by another member of staff, Anton (Tony) Vogt (see SB). That year Vogt chaired an open forum at the New Zealand Writers’ Conference in Christchurch. A selection of his verse appeared alongside that of JKB and Louis Johnson in Poems Unpleasant (1955).

While studying at teachers’ college JKB became a member of what he called the ‘Wellington group’ of poets which included W.H. Oliver, Alistair Campbell, Louis Johnson and Pat Wilson. Their work, along with poems by Kendrick Smithyman and Charles Spear, was represented in the journal Hilltop and its short-lived successor, Arachne.

Kendrick Smithyman (1922-95), poet: see SB.

Charles Edgar Spear (1910-85), poet and academic: see SB.


Introduction [to Alistair Campbell’s Mine Eyes Dazzle], (Pegasus Poets Series, no. 1), Christchurch: Pegasus Press, 1951.

This was the second edition of the very successful collection first published in the previous year. The first edition did not have an Introduction. The first four books of the Pegasus Series were Campbell’s Mine Eyes Dazzle, The Falcon Mask, by Hubert Witheford, The Bright Sea, by Pat Wilson, and Roughshod among the Lilies, by Louis Johnson.

Artemis: in Greek mythology, the daughter of Zeus and Leto, goddess of fertility and the hunt. Aphrodite: in Greek mythology, the goddess of beauty, love and sexuality.


Choice of Belief in Modern Society; in Critic vol. XXVIII.1 (6 Mar. 1952) 1,7. [Abridgement of an Address delivered at Curious Cove at the NZ University Students’ Association Congress, 1952.] Also in Canta XXIII.3 (9 Apr. 1952) 1,8.

page 206

The arguments advanced in this article are similar to those in the many addresses JKB gave during the last five years of his life. It seems that in the presence of university students he felt driven to interpret and make sense of life and society in a way which would bring them freedom and change their lives, presumably because he recognised some of the issues he experienced when he was their age.

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon (1886-1967), English poet and novelist, was educated at Clare College, Cambridge, where he studied history and law but did not complete a degree. During World War One he was sent to France and the war poems he wrote depict the horrors of that conflict. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery and recommended for the Victoria Cross. As a result of meeting working-men in the trenches he became something of a socialist after the war. Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, a fictionalised autobiography, was published in 1928 and won the James Tait Black Award for fiction. This was followed by Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, another fictionalised autobiography, which gave a trench soldier’s view of the period between the spring of 1916 and the summer of 1917. The author appears in the book as ‘George Sherston’. Robert Graves is both ‘David Cromlock’ and ‘Dick Tiltwood’. (This is the book which JKB reviews.) The publication of Sherston’s Progress in 1936 closed what came to be called the Sherston Trilogy.

Humankind cannot bear too much reality.’: actually,

. . . human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
(T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets 1: Burnt Norton, ll. 44-5).

David [Watt Ian] Campbell (1915-2009), Australian poet, lived on a station in New South Wales before he attended Jesus College, Cambridge, where he graduated BA in 1937. He returned to Australia in 1938 and joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1939. He served in the South Pacific, became a wing-commander, and was awarded the DFC. After the war he returned to a grazier’s life and to poetry. His first collection, Speak with the Sun, was published in London in 1949. This was followed in 1956 by The Miracle of Mullion Hill (1956) and Evening under Lamplight (1959). He produced thirteen books of poetry and two collections of short stories. In 1970 he was awarded the Henry Lawson Australian Arts Award. ‘Hatter in Utopia’ was included in his first collection Speak with the Sun (1949).

Martin Buber (1878-1965), Jewish philosopher, religious scholar and writer, wrote an essay on existence in 1923 which was translated into English as ‘I and Thou’. He advocated ‘dialogical relationships’ as the pathway to healthy interpersonal relationships.

Francesco Bernardone (1181-1226), universally known as St Francis of Assisi, was the son of a prosperous cloth merchant. After a religious experiencepage 207 he sold some of his father’s cloth so that he could apply the money to the rebuilding of a dilapidated church. In order to convince him to return the money his father took him before the Bishop of Assisi and asked him to rule that Francis should renounce any claim to family possessions. When the Bishop asked Francis to give the money back to his father he did so. Then he took off all his clothes and gave them back also. The Bishop was so moved by his constancy and desire to live in poverty that he wrapped him in his own cloak and became his supporter.


Denis Glover’s Poetry; review of Sings Harry and Other Poems, by Denis Glover. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1951; in NZL 664 (28 Mar. 1952) 12.

In Recent Trends in New Zealand Poetry JKB used a poem from the sequence to illustrate his belief that Glover had written poetry ‘of greater formal perfection and emotional depth than that of any other New Zealander’.

When he claimed that ‘Sings Harry’ was ‘the only successful myth yet created by a New Zealand poet’ he was implicitly downgrading Allen Curnow’s myth of nationalism in favour of Glover’s wry personalism.

Ishmael: according to Jewish tradition Sarah offered her servant-girl Hagar to her husband Abraham so that she could become pregnant and bear a son who would then be regarded as their true child. He was called Ishmael. Later Sarah gave birth to a son, who was named Isaac. Later still, determined that her son Isaac should not have to share his inheritance with Ishmael, she asked Abraham to send Ishmael away. So he and Hagar were despatched into the desert of Paran where they wandered for years until Ishmael married a woman from Egypt and became the father of various non-Jewish nations.

Fool: presumably the Fool in Shakespeare’s King Lear, who tried to convince the king of the flaws in his character, the treachery of people he trusted, and the disasters in store for him. The Fool exited from the play when he had succeeded in helping Lear to recognise the truth of what he had been saying.


Social Delinquency in Modern Literature; an unsigned article in Critic XXVIII.9 (24 July 1952) 7.

Prose fiction which JKB had read by this time included works by Camus, Cary, Dickens, Fielding, Forster, Greene, Joyce, Mailer, Melville and Erich Maria Remarque.


Early New Zealand Poetry; Hocken Misc-MS-0682; Estates of Mrs H. Miller and Miss Ethel Law: Poems and lectures by James K. Baxter.

The Hocken typescript is headed ‘Adult Education Discussion Course / New Zealand Literature Lecture 6 / Early New Zealand Poetry / by James K. Baxter’. The lists of question-based discussion documents show that this document was intended for distribution among those who attended the course. JKB delivered Lecture 6 and Lecture 7 (below).

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Internal references indicate that the talk was delivered in 1952.

Mrs Miller was the wife of the university librarian Harold Miller. She and her husband became close friends of JKB and Jacquie.

Miss Ethel Law tutored JKB in Latin. She became his close friend and confidante and he discussed with her his marital and family situations and his religious odyssey. He often sent her copies of poems he had just written.

Matthew Arnold’s brother was Thomas, known as ‘Thomas the Younger’. Tom Arnold (1823-1900) was the second son of Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School. After achieving first class honours at University College, Oxford, he emigrated to New Zealand where he tried unsuccessfully to set himself up as a farmer. In 1850 he moved to Tasmania, where he became a Catholic. Returning to England he taught at Newman’s University College, Dublin and the Oratory School in Birmingham.

James Edward FitzGerald (1818-96), New Zealand politician, was born in Bath, England, of Irish parents. He married Frances Erskine Draper in 1850 and after a quarrel with her father the couple emigrated to New Zealand, where FitzGerald acted as agent for the Canterbury Company. He also founded and became first editor of the Lyttelton Times. In 1853 he was elected Superintendent of the Canterbury Province and was also elected to parliament, so beginning a life dedicated to social service.

Biographical notes on the following are included in SB: Alfred Domett, William Pember Reeves, Ursula Bethell, Arthur H. Adams, Thomas Bracken, Jessie Mackay, Eileen Duggan, John Barr, David McKee Wright and B.E. Baughan.

An early Otago poet: JKB’s father Archibald Baxter.


Modern New Zealand Poetry; Hocken Misc-MS-0682; Estates of Mrs H. Miller and Miss Ethel Law: Poems and lectures by James K. Baxter. This item is headed ‘Lecture 7’ and is part of the course mentioned in the previous note.

It includes a list of symbols and their interpretation which JKB included in the third of the Macmillan Brown Lectures in 1955.


Broadsheets; review of Seven Poems, by John Caselberg and The Dark Ages, poems by J.M. Thomson. Christchurch: the Griffin Press, 1952; in NZL 694 (24 Oct. 1952) 14.

John Caselberg (1927-2004), poet, prose-writer and artistic collaborator with painter Colin McCahon: see SB. J[ohn] M[ansfield] Thomson (1926-99), music scholar and editor: see SB.


New Light on Eliot; review of T.S. Eliot and Walt Whitman, by S. Musgrove. Wellington: New Zealand University Press, 1952; in NZL 695 (31 Oct. 1952) 12.

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Sydney Musgrove, academic and critic: see SB.

When the University of New Zealand was dissolved in 1962 and the New Zealand University Press consequently went out of existence the surviving stock of T.S. Eliot and Walt Whitman was given to the University of Auckland. All copies were quickly sold and the book was reprinted in Auckland.


Across the Tasman; review of Australian Poetry, 1951-2, selected by Kenneth Mackenzie. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1952; in NZL 699 (28 Nov. 1952) 12.

W[illiam] Hart-Smith (1911-90), poet: see SB.


The Maori Motif; in Here and Now III.3 (Dec. 1952) 51.

The first issue of Here and Now (described as ‘an independent monthly review’) was published in Auckland in October 1949. Its editorial panel comprised A.R.D. Fairburn, Mary Dobbie, J.F. McDougall, R.W. Lowrie, M.K. Joseph, D. Knight Turner and Frank Hofman. The opening sentence of ‘Kick-Off (an editorial)’ asserted that ‘This journal has been founded in the belief that free discussion is an essential part of the democratic process.’ It survived for two numbers (the second being in November 1949) but was not published again until November 1950, at which time the names of the original editorial panel did not reappear. It survived until 1957.

While acknowledging the harm done by Pākehā to Māori, the tone of JKB’s letter was not consistent with his later opinion.

Noel Hilliard (1929-97), novelist, short story writer and journalist: see SB.

Francis Otto Matthiessen (1902-50), sometime professor of History and English at Harvard University, was the editor of The Oxford Book of American Verse (New York: Oxford University Press, 1950). His anthology, which began with the colonial period, represented fifty-one poets. In the year the anthology was published Matthiessen committed suicide, possibly because he feared disclosure of his homosexuality and socialist activities.

Johannes Carl Andersen (1873-1962), anthropologist: see SB.

Sir Apirana Turupa Ngata (1874-1950), politician and scholar: see SB. JKB was referring to the fact that Ngata made a large collection of songs and chants from around New Zealand and translated some of them.

David Ernest Beaglehole (1906-65), social anthropologist: see SB.

Roderick [David] Finlayson (1904-92), short story writer: see SB. The School Publications Branch of the Department of Education commissioned him to write stories for children so between 1952 and 1960 he interacted with JKB, who was his editor. Like Finlayson, JKB became a Catholic. In 1954 JKB remarked in ‘Back to the Desert’, a consideration of Sargeson’s stories, that in Sweet Beulah Land Finlayson ‘takes his notebook to the Maori tangi’.

Te Rangi Hiroa/Sir Peter Henry Buck (1877-1951), medical officer and anthropologist: see SB.

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Te Puea Hērangi/Princess Te Puea (1883-1952) was a grand-daughter of Tāwhiao Te Wherowhero, the second Māori king. After the death of her mother she became a leader of Tainui, in the Waikato, and a strong advocate of Kingitanga. During 1913-14 she established a village where people could be treated for smallpox and this proved so successful that the outbreak was isolated and no one died. In 1918 she took responsibility for one hundred children who were orphaned during the influenza epidemic. She also took steps to improve the economic situation of her people. In 1937 she was awarded a CBE. Even though Tainui lost their land as a result of the Government-sanctioned military invasion in 1860 she accepted the need for reconciliation. When she died in 1952 she was recognised as a great and compassionate leader who had made the position of the Māori king of national significance.


The Birth of Christ; review of The First Christmas, by Rubina Green. (Illustrations by Rachel Miller). Wellington: H.H. Tombs, 1952; in NZL 701 (12 Dec. 1952) 14.


Voyage and Discovery; review of Dominion, The Voyage, To a Friend in the Wilderness, by A.R.D. Fairburn. Wellington: NZ University Press, 1952; in NZL 713 (13 Mar. 1953) 12-13.

Fairburn’s newest collection, published in 1952, brought together his three important long poems, ‘Dominion’, ‘The Voyage’, and ‘To a Friend in the Wilderness’. In the same year JKB co-authored a volume, Poems Unpleasant, with Louis Johnson and Anton Vogt. In 1953 he attended Victoria University College, while receiving a salary provided by the Teachers’ College. His third poetry collection, The Fallen House, was published that year.

He applauds Fairburn’s ‘humanist’ qualities, as he had previously approved of Eileen Duggan’s growing humanism. Later he admired this quality in Louis MacNeice’s poetry. See No. 311, ‘A Human Testament’.


[‘Centurion’ and Notes on a Poem]; in Outlook 16.11 (24 Mar. 1953) 100-111.

Outlook was a journal of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand.

The editor provided an Introduction to JKB’s notes: ‘James K. Baxter, author of the poem on page 10 of this issue, has given permission for the publication of the following notes on the poem. They explain some of the points the poet is trying to make in the poem, thus contributing to a fuller understanding and appreciation of it. And in addition they constitute a sermon in themselves.’ (p. 11).

The inclusion of this poem is one of three exceptions to the principle that this volume does not include poems as primary items. In this case it is necessary to include the text of the poem to provide a context for the notespage 211 which follow and also because the poem, which is not included in CP, would otherwise be unavailable to readers.


A Meditation; review of The Paschal Mystery, by Louis Bouyer, translated by Sister Mary Benoit. London: Allen and Unwin, 1952; in NZL 715 (27 Mar. 1953) 14.

The book’s sub-title is ‘meditations on the last three days of Holy Week’.

Louis Bouyer (1913-2004), a French Lutheran, was ordained a priest in 1936. Three years later he became a Catholic. After joining the Congregation of the Oratory he became a priest. From then on he taught sacramental theology, spirituality and liturgy chiefly in France, but also in England, Spain and the United States. In The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism (1956) he argued that only the Catholic Church preserved the positive principles of the Reformation.

This review signals JKB’s growing interest in the Catholic religion.


Starveling Year; review of book by Mary Stanley. Christchurch: Pegasus Press, 1953; in NZL 719 (24 Apr. 1953) 13.

Mary Isabel Stanley (1919-80): see SB.

The book was reviewed in LF (7, 1953: 139) by A.W. Stockwell and in Here and Now (Apr. 1953: 32) by Louis Johnson.


Man in Leather Breeches; review of The Journal of George Fox, edited by John L. Nickalls. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952; in NZL 724 (29 May 1953) 13.

George Fox (1624-1691) founded the Society of Friends (known as Quakers). Son of a weaver, he became a dissenting preacher and travelled through England, North America and the Low Countries. In his teachings he used the Bible but gave precedence to conscience. Because he opposed the Established Church, he and his followerswere often beaten and imprisoned for blasphemy, conspiracy and other inconvenient offences. They were persecuted under Cromwell and Charles II and this did not stop until the passing of the Act of Toleration in 1689 ended the uniformity laws under which they had been persecuted.

Fox began his journal in the mid 1670s. After his death it was edited by Thomas Ellwood, a friend of Milton’s, and was first published in 1694. Parts of it were constructed or reconstructed by Ellwood and others. Nickalls’ edition, which is regarded as definitive, includes passages excluded from Ellwood’s edition.

JKB was probably offered this book for review because Monte Holcroft (who became editor in 1949) knew that he had attended Quaker schools in New Zealand and England. For JKB’s more considered thoughts about Quakerism see No. 87, ‘Without Dogma [1]’. JKB’s verdict, expressed inpage 212 the sentence ‘But his emphasis on good works and his placing the inward light of the Holy Spirit before Scriptural authority were greatly beneficial’, is significant because JKB retained his belief in the primacy of good works until the end of his life; and in his last year he would also give primacy to the work of the Holy Spirit.


Body, Heart and Mind; review of An Italian Visit, by C. Day Lewis. New York: Jonathan Cape, 1953; in NZL 732 (24 July 1953) 13.

C[ecil] Day Lewis (1904-72), poet, was Anglo-Irish. He was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, and then became a schoolmaster. In 1928 he married Mary King. He was a member of the Communist Party from 1935 to 1938 but became disillusioned with the Party and during World War Two he worked for the Ministry of Information (satirised by Orwell in 1984). In 1946 he lectured in English at Cambridge University and from 1951 to 1956 was Professor of Poetry at Oxford. He had a nine-year affair with the novelist Rosamund Lehmann. (An Italian Visit was written after he visited Italy with her.) He married Jill Balcon in 1951. One of their two children was the actor Daniel Day-Lewis.) He was poet laureate, succeeding John Masefield, from 1968 until his death in 1972. He wrote numerous books and his Complete Poems was published in 1992.

‘The Loss of the Nabara’, a narrative poem about a sea battle, was included in Day Lewis’s Overtures to Death and Other Poems (London: J. Cape, 1938).


Strong Drink Not a Food; (letter to editor); in Here and Now III.10 (Aug. 1953) 326.

Even though poems are not normally included in this prose collection an exception has been made in this case because the item is actually a rhyming letter to the editor.

These tongue-in-cheek verses conceal the fact that JKB had a serious drinking problem. (He told Brasch, ‘Drunk I am either a bore or a savage or both.’ (McKay 144). JKB’s satirical verse ‘Drink and the Devil’ had already been published in Critic XXVIII.9 (24 July 1952) 7. McKay (143-148) discussed his alcoholism.

The prime minister of New Zealand in 1953 was Sidney Holland, leader of the National Party, whose term as prime minister extended from 1949 until 1957.


Renaissance Man; review of Selections from the Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, edited with commentaries by Irma A. Richter. London: Oxford University Press, 1953; in NZL 735 (14 Aug. 1953) 12.

This book has rarely been out of print. The most recent edition was published in 2008.

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Is There a Colour Bar in New Zealand? in Student no. 5 (Sep. 1953) 9-11. JKB’s account of the difficulties faced by Māori mirrors the opinions he held later in his life.

His ‘toad’ quotation was not quite accurate. In Rudyard Kipling’s prelude to ‘Pagett MP’ it reads ‘The toad beneath the harrows know / Exactly where each tooth point goes.’ The poem was a blistering attack on ‘fools like Pagett’ and other ‘idiots who govern the land’ who in the course of their short visits to India criticised the imagined comfortable lives of English residents.

Ngāti Poneke: realising that Māori emigrating to Wellington needed a centre where they could preserve and develop their art, culture and social life, Māori leaders established Ngāti Poneke Young Māori Club in 1937; it was an urban marae for Māori of any iwi. Its home has been in Thorndon since 1944. In May 1980 a meeting house was opened at Pipitea Marae, Thorndon Quay.


Notes Towards an Aesthetic; in Salient Literary Issue (Sep. 1953) 28-31.

You are a constitutional psychopath!’: This is similar to the charge that Fern levelled against the main character in Horse, JKB’s autobiographical novel. The letters ‘A.M.D.G.’ are an abbreviation of ‘Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam’ (‘For the greater glory of God’).

The manuscript of the Brandenburg Concertos, by Johann Sebastian Bach, was dated 24 March 1721 but all six concertos were written earlier. It is not known which concerto JKB was referring to, or even if he was referring to the entire collection.

D.P.: Displaced Person.

The quotation is from Robert Burns’s song ‘Open the door to me, O’ (1793). The Scottish text refers to ‘The wan Moon’. In ‘The Symbolism of Poetry’ (1900), Yeats remarked that ‘There are no lines with more melancholy beauty than these by Burns’.

François Villon (1431-63), thief, burglar, vagabond, murderer and poet. Born in Paris he undertook university studies before embarking on a criminal life. In 1461-2 he wrote ‘Le Grande Testament’: its 2023 stanzas anticipated his death by hanging.


Arawata Bill, a sequence of poems; review of book by Denis Glover. Christchurch: Pegasus Press, 1953; in LF vol. 7 no. 3 (Sep. 1953) 214-216.

William O’Leary (1865-1947) was born in Tuapeka, Otago. After a minimal education he prospected for gold in South Westland for at least fifteen years before taking a paid position as ferryman on the Waitoto River. He resigned in 1928 and spent most of the remainder of his active life prospecting in the Arawata River Valley. Commonly known as ‘Arawata Bill’ he died in Dunedin Hospital at the age of eighty-two. Late in life he admitted to an associate that his prospecting, while unsuccessful, had allowed him to live in the remote country he loved. Because he was a Catholic it is appropriatepage 214 that he addressed his prayer to Mary, mother of Jesus. In the light of JKB’s devotion to Mary it is interesting that he should isolate this passage as being particularly good.


Critic’s Philosophy; review of Towards Fidelity, by Hugh l’A. Faussett. London: Victor Gollancz, 1952; in NZL 738 (4 Sep. 1953) 12.

Hugh l’Anson Faussett (1895-1965) was an English biographer, literary critic and writer on religion. Author of twenty-three books published between 1917 and 1966, including studies of Keats, Tennyson, Donne, Coleridge, Tolstoy, Cowper, Wordsworth and Whitman, he became a regular reviewer for The Times, The Times Literary Supplement and The Guardian.

Towards Fidelity, a collection of essays, was sub-titled A Meditation in Middle Life. It was also reviewed by Anton Vogt in the Radio ZB Book Review programme on 13 September.


Milton’s Epic; review of Two Poetical Works of John Milton. Volume 1. Paradise Lost, edited by Helen Darbishire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953; in NZL 741 (25 Sep. 1953) 14.

Helen Darbishire was born in Oxford and educated at Oxford High School for Girls before going on to Somerville College from where she graduated with first-class honours. From 1908 she was a fellow and tutor at Somerville. She was appointed lecturer in 1926 and was Principal from 1931 until her retirement in 1945. She retired at Grasmere, where she became a trustee of Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage. A Milton and Wordsworth scholar, her last publication was an edition of Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal (1958). The book which JKB reviewed established the coherence of Milton’s punctuation.


Ryecroft and Gissing; review of The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, by George Gissing. London: Phoenix House Ltd. 1953, through A.H. and A.W. Reed; in NZL 744 (16 Oct. 1953) 12.

George [Robert] Gissing (1857-1903) was the author of twenty-three novels. While attending what is now the University of Manchester he was prosecuted for theft and sentenced to one month’s imprisonment. Afterwards he moved to the United States where he struggled to support himself by writing short stories for the Chicago Tribune. Returning to England in 1877 he married but continued to struggle to make a living, this time by writing novels. Howeverhis wife’s increasingalcoholism causedhim toseparate from her in 1883.

His early novels dealt with poverty and the lives of the working class. Later novels were about commercialism in the publishing trade, religious charlatans, and the place of women in society. He married again in 1891 but in 1902 his second wife was certified insane. Towards the end of his life he lived in France with a Frenchwoman. He died in 1903, aged fortypage 215six, shortly after The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft was published. His most autobiographical novel, it explores the life of a struggling writer who eventually receives a legacy which enables him to retire to the country.


Machines and People; review of Art and Technics, by Lewis Mumford. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952; in NZL 747 (6 Nov. 1953) 14.

Mumford (1895-1990) was the author of thirty books about art, architecture and urban planning. He took a philosophical approach, and his books on the impact of technology earned him an international reputation. In 1975 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. In 1986 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts (USA).


Songs before Twilight; review of An Introduction to Welsh Poetry, from the beginnings to the 16th Century, by Gwyn Williams. London: Faber and Faber, 1953; in NZL 749 (20 Nov. 1953) 14.

Gwyn Williams (1904- ) Anglo-Welsh poet and translator, taught English for many years in the Middle East and produced several important collections of Welsh poetry which he translated into English. He also published four books of his own poetry.

Cymric: the Welsh language.


After the Elizabethans; review of Five Stuart Tragedies, edited with an Introduction by A.K. McIlwraith. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953. The World’s Classics; in NZL 750 (27 Nov. 1953) 13.

A[rchibald] K[ennedy] McIlwraith also edited Five Elizabethan Tragedies (London: Oxford University Press, 1950) and Five Elizabethan Comedies (London: Oxford University Press, 1951).


Poet and Patrons; review of Selected Letters of Robert Burns, edited and introduced by DeLancy Ferguson. London: Oxford University Press, 1953; in NZL 760 (12 Feb. 1954) 10-11.

[John] DeLancy Ferguson was the author of Pride and Passion: Robert Burns 1759-1796 (London: Oxford University Press, 1939). He was a contributor to R.L.S.: Stevenson’s Letters to Charles Baxter (Port Washington, N.Y. Kennikat Press, 1973), and to The Merry Muses of Caledonia, edited by James Barke and Goodsir Smith (Edinburgh: Macdonald, 1982). The prefatory note mentioned that ‘some authentic Burns texts’ were contributed by Ferguson.

The Complete Letters of Robert Burns, edited and introduced by James A. Mackay (Alloway, 1987; 2nd edition 1990) owed a debt to Ferguson.

By highlighting the shadow cast upon Burns by his position in society JKB was able to get to the heart of Burns’s predicament. In comparison, an Australian reviewer regarded the letters as ‘endlessly factual’.

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Dylan Thomas; (letter to editor); in NZL 763 (5 Mar. 1954) 4.

See ‘Welsh Prodigy’ (an announcement of a radio programme about Dylan Thomas in which Curnow, Glover and Baxter participated), NZL 757 (22 Jan. 1954) 17, in which JKB declared that Thomas should be aligned with Yeats and Eliot ‘as poets of the same unmistakeable stature’.

Kenneth Mckenney did not think much of JKB’s contribution (letter to editor; in NZL 761; 19 Feb. 1954). In reply, JKB declared that he was at a disadvantage because he had not met Thomas, whereas both Glover and Curnow knew him. (Glover had spent time with him in London and Curnow had met him in London in 1949, stayed with him and his wife for a week at their home in Laugharne, Wales, and spent more time with Thomas in the United States in 1950. (See Curnow’s ‘About Dylan Thomas’, in Look Back Harder; Critical Writings 1935-1984. Edited with an Introduction by Peter Simpson. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1987, pp. 319-325.)

In his 1965 article ‘With Stubble and Overcoat’ JKB disclosed that before 1954 he was so affected by Thomas’s Deaths and Entrances that he carried it ‘in the inside pocket of my working coat – through the iron works, the freezing-works, the pubs – drunk and sober – until those poems were part of the structure of my mind.’


Men of God; review of Robert Payne’s The Fathers of the Western Church. London: Heinemann, 1952; in NZL 764 (12 Mar. 1954) 13.

It was previously published in New York by Viking Press (1951).

[Pierre Stephen] Robert Payne (1911-83), biographer, was born in England and educated at the universities of Capetown (1931-83), Liverpool (1933-36) and Munich (1937) and the Sorbonne, University of Paris (1938), in which year he became a correspondent in Spain for The Times. At the beginning of the Second World War he became an armament officer in Singapore. After its fall he escaped to China and became a translator in Chungking, China, for the British ministry of information. In 1942 he was a correspondent for The Times in Changsha, China.

He also wrote truckloads of non-fiction. More than one hundred of his books were published in his lifetime, including a companion volume to the book reviewed by JKB, The Holy Fire: The Story of the Fathers of the Eastern Church (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957). Other books included ‘The Life and Death of ’ Hitler, Trotsky, Lenin, and Gandhi. He wrote biographies of Ivan the Terrible, Shakespeare, The White Rajahs of Sarawak, Lawrence of Arabia, Karl Marx, Mao Tse Tung, Albert Schweitzer, Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill, Jesus Christ, Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo. His many other topics included books about the Crusades, Troy, ancient Rome, ancient Greece, Islam, Persia, the Spanish Civil War and a book entitled The Corrupt Society: From ancient Greece to present-day America. He also wrote fiction under a variety of pseudonyms.

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Aboriginal Legends; review of Australian Legendary Tales, by K. Langloh Parker. Selected and edited by H. Drake-Brockman. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1953; in NZL 766 (26 Mar. 1954) 13.

K[atie] Langloh Parker (1856-1940) published her book in 1897. She also wrote two other books of folklore and an ethnography of the Eulayhi tribe. As a girl she was saved from drowning by an aborigine, an incident recorded in the film Picnic at Hanging Rock, directed by Peter Weir. ‘They Call the Wind Mariah’, a popular song, was based upon this book.


A Woman’s Love Poetry; review of The Riddle of Emily Dickinson, by Rebecca Patterson. London: Victor Gollancz, 1951; in NZL 769 (15 Apr. 1954) 13.

Emily [Elizabeth] Dickinson (1830-86) is one of America’s greatest poets. Patterson’s claim that Kate Anthon was the subject of the most passionate letters and love poems which Emily Dickinson wrote shocked the academic community in 1951. The book was heavily criticised for peddling a lesbian agenda and for its lack of notes, evidence and scholarship. Some readers believe that Dickinson’s ardour was directed at Thomas Higginson, a literary critic, or Charles Wadsworth, a Presbyterian minister, or even Otis Philips, an elderly judge. But now Patterson’s thesis seems more credible – although those who accept it are likely to believe that the woman in question is Susan Gilbert, a friend of Kate Anthon’s and Dickinson’s sister-in-law. They knew each other intimately for fifty years and Dickinson wrote more than three hundred letters to her (more than to anyone else). In one of them she confessed that her love for Susan was like that of Dante for Beatrice. None of this interested JKB. He was more concerned about the quality of her poetry than the source of its energy.


Poet and Critic; review of A Hopkins Reader, selected and with an Introduction by John Pick. New York and London: Geoffrey Cumberlege and Oxford University Press, 1953; in NZL 772 (7 May 1954) 13-14.

A revised and enlarged edition was published by Image Books in 1966. Pick was the author of Gerard Manley Hopkins: Priest and Poet (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1942) which was reprinted at least three times in 1946. He argued that critics of Hopkins’s poetry tended to overlook the fact that Hopkins was primarily a priest and that his poetry was moulded by his priestly activities and the spirituality of the Jesuits, including the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. The philosophy of Duns Scotus was a further factor in his formation and in the nature of his poetry.

At the beginning of 1944 JKB praised Hopkins in a letter to his friend Noel Ginn: ‘He is great – that is all one can really say, except for reading him again and again. I may be unusually susceptible to him; anyway he is like the bread, the water of life to me as far as poetry goes’ (McKay 66). Hopkins’spage 218 influence is evident in some of JKB’s early poems including ‘Hill-Country’ (CP 7). Later in life he asserted that Hopkins’s poetry was used inappropriately in Catholic schools for doctrinal reasons. See No. 628, ‘Letter to a Catholic Poet’, in which he remarks that ‘The hatred you have felt for Gerard Manley Hopkins is natural enough. He is of course the blue-ribbon winner in the Catholic dog show – a poet of international status, a pure-minded priest, and unquestionably dead. This saintly and somewhat androgynous Jesuit is served up as cottage pie for pupils in the Catholic schools’.


Songs from the Mind; review of Four Metaphysical Poets: Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Crashaw, by Joan Bennett. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953; in NZL 775 (28 May 1954) 14.

This is a revised edition of the book first issued in 1934. It was further revised and published as Five Metaphysical Poets (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959). The additional poet was Andrew Marvell.


Poetry in New Zealand; (letter to editor); in NZL 776 (4 June 1954) 5.

New Zealand Poetry Yearbook (1951-64) was founded in Wellington by Louis Johnson as an alternative vehicle for writers who were excluded by the prescriptive policies of Curnow and Brasch. Curnow’s negative reviews of the first two volumes in Here and Now ensured that literary blood would be spilt during later exchanges. Curnow’s second review, in the form of an open letter to Johnson, angered Johnson (NZPY editor) and JKB. JKB responded in part by writing a number of anti-Curnow epigrams, some of which he sent to me. Some were published in the Poetry Yearbook (subsequently abbreviated as NZPY).

John Cowie Reid (1916-72), university lecturer and literary critic: see SB.

George [Henry] Duggan (1912- ) a Catholic priest and controversialist: see SB. In a letter to the editor Duggan agreed that ‘love is a noble thing’ but argued that it is ‘primarily a relationship between persons and only secondarily a biological phenomenon’ (NZL 780, 2 July 1954, 5).

JKB’s poem makes a concealed reference to Goldsmith’s ‘When Lovely Woman Stoops to Folly’ and states that the thought of ‘Woman’, including mother and wife, compelled him to write.


Without Dogma [1]; review of The Quaker Approach to Contemporary Problems, edited by John Kavanaugh. London: Allen and Unwin, 1953; in NZL 776 (4 June 1954) 13.

Also published in New York by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 1953.

Kavanaugh was public relations director of the American Society of Friends. His book includes articles on business, civil liberties and science, by prominent Friends Kenneth Boulding, Henry Cadbury and Kathleen Lonsdale.

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Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946) was born into a prominent Quaker family in New Jersey. He studied at Harvard and Balliol College, Oxford, from which he graduated in 1891. In 1913 he became a British citizen. A recognised authority on the English language, his autobiography Unforgotten Years (1938) was widely acclaimed.


The Fire and the Anvil; notes on modern poetry. Wellington: New Zealand University Press, 1960.

The first edition was published in 1955, the second in 1957, the third in 1960. The first edition was described as ‘The substance of the Macmillan Brown lectures delivered at Victoria University College in June 1954.’ In this collection I have preferred to use the third edition because JKB gave me an annotated and corrected copy of it in 1961.

The three lectures were afterwards edited and delivered as talks on Radio 2YC on three consecutive Wednesdays beginning on 16 March 1955. They were subsequently broadcast on other YC stations. A note to this effect was published in NZL 815 (11 Mar. 1955) 15.

New Zealand University Press: James Hight (1870-1958), professor of history, economics, and political science at Canterbury University College became rector in 1928. He was a member of the senate of the University of New Zealand for thirty-six years and pro-chancellor for ten years. From at least 1924 he argued in favour of the dissolution of the University of New Zealand and the establishment of separate universities. Author of academic publications and text books for schools he strongly advocated, from at least 1914, the establishment of a university press. In 1947 he was knighted for his services to the university and the community. Largely as a response to his efforts the University of New Zealand Press was set up in 1947. (It was not dissolved until 1962 when the University of New Zealand was separated into its particular components.) Apart from JKB’s literary study, other important publications were F.H. McDowell’s two-volume (one million words) Buttermaker’s Manuals (1953) and Keith Sinclair’s Origins of the Maori Wars. Auckland University Press was founded in 1966, strengthened by its association with Oxford University Press. In 1979 Victoria University Press was founded. The Canterbury and Otago university presses were founded in the late 1980s. The university presses originally issued academic publications but later began issuing general titles.

Although JKB was a fulltime primary school teacher in 1954 he was still studying at VUC so he was in contact with Ian Gordon who invited him to deliver the Macmillan Brown lectures. Professor John Macmillan Brown, JKB’s grandfather, made an endowment to the University of New Zealand to fund a set of lectures on his (Macmillan Brown’s) books ‘or on topics arising from them.’

Ian A. Gordon (1908- ), university academic: see SB.

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JKB may have known that Emily Dickinson said that ‘It is better to be the hammer than the anvil.’ On 15 April he reviewed Rebecca Patterson’s book about her in the NZ Listener.

The lectures were dedicated to Frank Sargeson. JKB admired Sargeson’s writing and his compassion and acknowledged that he was ‘a pioneer and vital power in the literature of this country’. On 1 December 1955 JKB wrote to tell Sargeson that his prose had ‘the guts and hardness which I would like to see in New Zealand poetry, including my own.’ (King, Sargeson, 321).

The copy used to provide the text bears the following dedication: ‘to John Weir / with love / on the occasion of his ordination’. It was signed and dated 4 July 1961. It also carries a note by JKB: ‘This confused and sincere book still expresses a good deal of what I feel about poetry and the artist’s vocation, though I was not baptised into the Church when I wrote it, and most of it was written between or during savage drinking bouts. But apparently the Holy Spirit did not refuse some aid to my soul, irritated by the “fatal four disorders” – I think the extraordinary alcoholic suffering may have forced me towards honesty.’ The reference to the ‘fatal four disorders’ was occasioned by a discussion we had been having about Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem ‘Felix Randal’.

JKB made the following annotations to the text:

In ‘The Criticism of Poetry’

1.‘a simple ethical interpretation may not be applicable to every aspect of human knowledge’ is glossed ‘viz. moralism’;
2.‘the Church’ is glossed ‘C. of E. not R.C.

In ‘The Creative Mask’

1. ‘But man’s creative energy and those works which are not necessary to salvation, yet are the product of man’s free will and part of his destiny, remained on the whole outside its sphere, and emerged with the Renaissance as secular aesthetic humanism’ is glossed ‘vide Berdaeyev, the Greek Orthodox theologian’.
2. ‘fear to accept orthodoxy lest their present armour should be called intellectual arrogance and stripped from them’ is glossed ‘this was my point of tension before conversion’.
3. The stanza beginning ‘The veils descend. The unknown figure’ is glossed ‘This is how I remember my own adolescence. The poem is George Barker’s – Barker lost the Faith. Pray for him.’
4. The stanza beginning ‘Of a great nation, alone’ in the original editions but ‘I thought of Britain in its cloud’ in this version is glossed ‘the whole stanza has been reversed by a printer’s devil, so it must be worth knowing’.
page 221

In ‘Symbolism in New Zealand Poetry’

1.‘neither happiness nor sanctity can be attained by a simple act of the conscious will’ is glossed ‘because the whole man is more than rationality or volition’.
2.JKB’s comments on Robin Hyde’s Houses by the Sea are glossed ‘the sexual factor is not everything, but worth saying, because so rarely truly admitted’.
3.He underlined the words ‘[As Auden writes,] Narcissus is not the archetype of the poet as such, but of the poet who loses his soul for poetry.’
4.Alongside Louis Johnson’s ‘Magpie and Pines’ he wrote ‘a bloody fine poem’.
5. He annotated Lewis Mumford’s ‘Displaced Person’ with the words ‘the D.P. is Christ’.

The Utopian novels he referred to were written by Macmillan Brown under the pseudonym ‘Godfrey Sweven’. They were Riallaro, the archipelago of exiles (1901) and Limanora, the island of progress (1903).

JKB quoted a section from Lawrence Durrell’s mildly pornographic ‘A Ballad of the Good Lord Nelson’. Oliver remarked (p. 66) that JKB habitually read the poem to gatherings of the Student Christian Movement, while simultaneously keeping a sharp eye on girls in the group. This was an expression of his tendency, carried on since adolescence, to shock people. But he was probably also making a point – perhaps the one Durrell made in the ballad’s closing stanza:

If they’d treat their women in the Nelson way
There’d be fewer frigid husbands every day
And many more heroes on the Bay of Biscay
Aboard the Victory, Victory O.
Lawrence Durrell: Collected Poems 1931-74. Edited by James A.
Brigham. London, Boston: Faber and Faber, 1980, p. 113

JKB wrote later ‘I think that I, despite the formlessness of my three essays in The Fire and the Anvil, attempted something which was not reviewing, or a guidebook tour, or (though this is more doubtful) simply the expression of personal intuitions about life and literature.’ (See No. 274, ‘Nobody Loves a Critic’.) The published lectures were severely criticised by E.A. Horsman of Otago University College in LF 12 (1958) 186. JKB, in a letter to his mother of 7 August 1954, described the lectures as ‘charts of progressive knowledge of aesthetics rather than statements of dogma’ (McKay 142).

James Bertram was the NZL reviewer of the first edition of The Fire and the Anvil. In the course of his review he identified an error of fact on JKB’spage 222 part and as a consequence drew fire from Alistair Campbell. Bertram then wrote an explanatory letter to the editor under the heading ‘The Poet as Critic’ (NZL 868, 23 Mar. 1956, 5).

Sir: In general, I think it better that a reviewer keeps silence under fire. But since, in trying to absolve Mr. Baxter, I seem to have exposed myself to another poet’s scorn, will you allow me to summarise the points at issue?

(1) Mr Alistair Campbell in his compelling but enigmatic poem ‘The Return’ (Mine Eyes Dazzle, 1st edn., p. 42) has ‘The drowned Dionysus’, who, in death has lost the ‘Glare of divinity’. This is clearly the god Dionysos or Bacchus, who even in Greek legend travelled as far afield as India; for the purposes of Mr Campbell’s poem he meets a sandy end in a southern Pacific creek-mouth.
(2) Mr James Baxter, who should know the poems of Mr Campbell at least as well as I do, on p. 63 of his The Fire and the Anvil either misquotes, or is betrayed by the printer into misquoting, the lines as referring to Dionysius. He then proceeds, repeating the error in spelling, to draw a quite misleading parallel with Mr T.S. Eliot’s ‘drowned Phoenician Sailor’ in The Waste Land. Dionysus is a god; Dionysius would be a man (an English analogy would be Christ, and Christian used as a proper name), and the whole point of the poem would be changed.
(3) In my review, I drew attention to the slip in Mr Baxter’s quotation. I queried the original text of the poem only because Mr Baxter’s Dionysiusman interpretation was so confident that I thought he might possibly have Mr Campbell’s authority for it. Obviously he has not; his interpretation remains purely subjective based upon a faulty text (as I tried to indicate in my review, by showing that the reading ‘Dionysius’ was contradicted by the lines that follow).

Finally – since all this is concerned with misprints or possible misprints – may I ask you to correct a slip in an earlier sentence in my review? I wrote: ‘Mr Baxter is potentially a social critic of formidable powers.’ Through an intrusive ‘not’ I was made to appear to have written the reverse of this. I hope Mr Baxter will forgive me, and your printer, an unintended slight; and that Mr Campbell will realise that I do value, and read, my own first edition of his very striking book of poems.

The ideal audience the poet imagines’: from ‘Squares and Oblongs’, in Poets at Work (New York, 1948, p. 176).

prosody: JKB’s regular excursions into discussions about prosody were always unhelpful and an indication that he never abandoned his schoolroom lessons on that subject.

Thomas Campion’s words are from Observations in the Art of English Poesie (1602).

I had long had haunting my ear’: from a letter by Hopkins to Canon Dixon in 1878 regarding Sprung Rhythm.

Alexander Pope: by Edith Sitwell (London: Faber & Faber, 1930).

Once as we were sitting by’: from Roy Fuller’s poem ‘Spring, 1942’.

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Basil Dowling, J.R. Hervey, Ursula Bethell, Eileen Duggan, Mary Stanley, John Mulgan, Robin Hyde: see SB.

Laurie Lee (1914-97) wrote ‘November’.

The fine delight that fathers thought’: from ‘To R.B.’, by Gerald Manley Hopkins

When William Topaz McGonagall (1825-1902) sent his first poem ‘To the Rev. George Gilfillan’ to the man he addressed, Gilfillan remarked that ‘Shakespeare never wrote anything like this!’

M.H. Holcroft (1902-93), author of Discovered Isles: a Trilogy: The Deepening Stream, The Waiting Hills, Encircling Seas (Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1950). Hubert Witheford (1921-2000) author of The Falcon Mask (Christchurch: Pegasus Press, 1951).

sleep, death, desire’: from Voyages II, by Hart Crane.

The veils descend’: from The True Confession of George Barker (1950).

Riallaro: the archipelago of exiles, by Godfrey Sweven [John Macmillan Brown]. London/New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1901; and Limanora: the Island of Progress. London/New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1903.

Our beautiful inheritance’: by Kendrick Smithyman; included in The Blind Mountain (Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1950).

The Fire and the Anvil was reviewed in NZL 866 (9 Mar. 1956: 12) by James Bertram; Numbers 5 (May 1956: 26) by Robert Chapman; and LF XII (1958: 186) by E.A. Horsman.


‘Apple Mash; a moral fable’; in Numbers 1 (July 1954) 17-21.

Numbers, Wellington. 1 (July 1954)-10 (1959); also as v. 1 - 3 no. 2.

The journal was co-edited by a committee of five, JKB, Louis Johnson, Erik Schwimmer, Charles Doyle and Richard Packer, but Johnson was the executive editor. Its purpose was to provide a vehicle for writers which was more hospitable and less prescriptive than Landfall. It survived until 1959. Johnson, who had been a married student when JKB was at college, became one of his closest friends.

Epigraph: Henry IV, Part 2, II, 4, 1506.

JKB’s ‘moral fable’ is in debt to the Genesis narrative of the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and also to George Orwell’s allegorical novel Animal Farm (1945).


Without Dogma [2]; (letter to editor); in NZL 780 (2 July 1954) 5.

In 1936 JKB attended a Quaker school in Whanganui; at that time the family lived in a rented house on St John’s Hill. (The Whanganui setting moved him to write his early poems, ‘The Bay’, CP 44, set in Kai-iwi Bay, and ‘Virginia Lake’, CP 74.) During 1937-8 he attended another Quaker school: Sibford School in Sibford Ferris, near the edge of the Cotswolds, Oxfordshire, England. (He later recalled some of his unwanted experiencespage 224 in ‘School Days’, CP 194.) During that last year the family returned to New Zealand.

In his letter JKB confesses his belief in the traditional Christian doctrines formulated in the Nicene Creed of the resurrection of the body, Christ’s descent into Hell, and the Communion of saints. He may have learned these when he was a practising Anglican. At the end of his letter, however, he makes reference to Bunyan, the Protestant saint, whose writings he read as a child.


Public Faces; review of Persona Grata, by Cecil Beaton and Kenneth Tynan. London: Allan Wingate, 1953; in NZL 782 (16 July 1954) 14.


The Eastern Mind; review of The Culture of South-East Asia, by Reginald le May. London: Allen and Unwin, 1953; in NZL 784 (30 July 1954) 12.

This was the first edition of a book sub-titled ‘the heritage of India’. Earlier books by the same author include An Asian Arcady, the Land and People of Northern Siam (1926), Siamese Tales Old and New; the Four Riddles and Other Stories (1930) and A Concise History of Buddhist Art in Siam (1938). He also wrote Buddhist Art in South Asia (1938).

Etruscan Places is a collection of D.H. Lawrence’s travel writings published posthumously in 1932.


American Voices; review of The Penguin Book of Modern American Verse, selected, with an Introduction and notes by Geoffrey Moore. London: Penguin Books, 1954; in NZL 787 (20 Aug. 1954) 13.

Geoffrey [Herbert] Moore (1920-99) read English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, before teaching at several American universities. After returning to England he joined the Department of American Studies at the University of Manchester. In 1962 he was appointed Professor of American Studies at the University of Hull. He wrote a number of books about American literature and edited the Penguin Book of American Verse (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd, 1977). A tireless promoter of the United States, he enjoyed fast cars, the high life, and sun-bathing, and frequently surprised his colleagues by returning from overseas academic study and lecture trips looking tanned.

A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry was not edited by William Carlos Williams, as JKB suggests in this review, but by Oscar Williams (1900-64). His true name was Oscar Kaplan but he was anxious to conceal his Jewish origins and published under a pseudonym. The anthology was issued by Scribner’s (New York, 1946) and also by Routledge and Kegan Paul (London, 1947). William Carlos Williams, who was critical of it, wrote to Louis Zukofsky, ‘But if you happen to stumble across Scribner’s latest, ‘A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry’, edited by O. Williams – look into it and die of laughing. What a sell!’ Yet for most readers it was a successful and popular compilation. Oscar Williams, an unsuccessful poet, published several verypage 225 successful anthologies which were widely used in high schools and colleges in the United States. During his lifetime they sold an unprecedented two million copies.

southern poets: a renaissance of southern literature in the United States began about 1920 with such writers as William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams. But JKB was referring specifically to the southern poets, including Merrill Moore, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate and Robert Penn Warren (also a novelist) who were connected with Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where they were known as ‘the Fugitives’ and published a journal of that name between 1922 and 1925. However the movement’s most famous journal was The Southern Review, founded at Louisiana State University in 1935. Robert Penn Warren was one of its co-founders. It survived until 1942 and was revived in 1965.

Karl [Jay] Shapiro (1913-2000) was a professor of English at the University of Nebraska. From about 1964 he used a more open form verse than previously.


Lisping in Numbers; (letter to editor); in NZL 788 (27 Aug. 1954) 5.

The NZL editorial of 16 July 1954 considered the first issue of Numbers to be ‘amateurish’, pretentious, and marked by ‘haste, inadequate preparation, and undefined purposes’. The committee of Numbers defended itself in the NZL issue of 30 July. Louis Johnson and J.C. Sturm (JKB’s wife) replied on 20 August, and JKB one week after that.

The editor’s title for the correspondence (‘Lisping in Numbers’) is a play upon a line from Pope’s ‘Epistle to Dr Arbuthnott’ explaining that, as a child, ‘I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came’. The editor realised that both Pope and the founding committee of the new journal knew that the word ‘numbers’ could refer to verse (in the sense of counted feet and metre).


Christian Belief; review of The Birth of Christianity, by Maurice Goguel, translated from the French by H.C. Snape. London: Allen and Unwin, 1953; in NZL 791 (17 Sep. 1954) 14.

This was a translation of the second volume of Professor Goguel’s trilogy Jesus et les origins du christianisme.


Exotic Landscapes; review of The Baths of Absalom, by James Pope-Hennessy. London: Allan Wingate, 1954; in NZL 797 (29 Oct. 1954) 13.

British biographer, historian and travel-writer [Richard] James [Arthur] Pope-Hennessy wrote West Indian Summer (1943) which was also about his experiences in the West Indies.


Dante in the Antipodes; in Numbers vol. 2 (Nov. 1954) 1-2. A guest editorial.

page 226

Barker’s ‘Channel Crossing’, which JKB cites approvingly, may have influenced his revisions to ‘Crossing Cook Strait’, a poem which he began in 1947.


George Barker in an Irish Hat; review of A Vision of Beasts and Gods, by George Barker. London: Faber and Faber, 1954; in Numbers no. 2 (Nov. 1954) 38-39.

JKB’s epigraph is taken from a song by John Keats (1795-1821) which he included in a letter of 2 Jan. 1819 to George and Georgiana Keats: ‘There is just room, I see, in this page to copy a little thing I wrote off to some Music as it was playing’. The song followed:

I had a dove and the sweet dove died;
And I have thought it died of grieving:
O, what could it grieve for? Its feet were tied
With a silken thread of my own hand’s weaving . . .

By referring to the song JKB was implying that Barker had caused the decline in the quality of his own verse.

George [Granville] Barker (1913-91) was born in Essex and brought up in London by an Irish Catholic mother. He abandoned school at the age of fourteen. T.S. Eliot respected his early poetry and accepted his second collection for Faber and Faber in 1935. He earned a reputation as one of the great poets of his generation, but his tortured verse seldom proved a useful model for other poets. In ‘The True Confession of George Barker’ (1950) he wrote a long confessional poem about the ‘erotic itch’. (JKB cited a stanza from it in The Fire and the Anvil.) Towards the end of the poem even Barker grew tired of his scatological recitation:

. . . Swill
Guzzle and copulate and guzzle
And copulate and swill until
You break up like a jigsaw puzzle . . .

Barker’s quarrelsome religious attitudes, sex themes and diffuse language were a significant but rarely happy influence upon JKB’s poetry during the 1950s. He was bohemian in his poetry and lifestyle and T.S. Eliot (admittedly otherworldly and upper-crusty) considered him ‘a very peculiar fellow’. Barker had marriages or affairs with five women, leaving fifteen children and eighteen books. JKB contends that Barker’s focus upon his own unromantic affairs instead of a ‘genuine concern for the misery of the human race’ brought about his decline as a writer.

JKB cites Barker’s ‘Goodman Jacksin and the Angel’ (1954).

page 227

Roy Fuller reviewed this book in London Magazine in October 1954.


A Poet’s Letters; review of Letters of William Wordsworth, selected and with an Introduction by Philip Wayne. London: Oxford University Press, 1954; in NZL 798 (5 Nov. 1954) 13-14.

On 28 August 1942 JKB told Ginn, ‘I have read much of Wordsworth. He is often, undoubtedly, most lyrical; but there is also in him a certain didactic smugness which destroys much of the pleasure I would otherwise receive by reading him.’ (28 Aug. 1942; VUW Library, MS McKay 28/2; Millar 143).

JKB’s opening sentence, ‘One reads the letters of a great poet for various reasons – not least among them, the hope of discovering some part of the circumstantial scaffolding of his poems’ applies to the prose in this volume.

The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, edited by Alan G. Hill in seven volumes, was published in Oxford by the Clarendon Press, 1967-88. JKB advanced the hypothesis that the exclusivity of Wordsworth’s relationship with his sister Dorothy led to the decline of his poetry.


The Phoenix and the Crow; a parable; in The Spike (1954) 57-59. The personality and experiences of YZ mirror JKB’s personality and experiences.

The Spike (1902-61) was a journal of the Victoria University College Students’ Association. Originally a biennial journal of student news, from 1930 it became a journal of student literature. It was published annually.


On the Side of Life; (reply to a questionnaire); in NZPY IV (1954) 23-26.

He is not just bringing light to the Gentiles; the Gentiles themselves are the source of most of his light: years later he repeated this sentence in the course of a radio interview with me. See No. 652, ‘An Interview with James K. Baxter’.

For seasons must be challenged: actually,

But seasons must be challenged or they totter
Into a chiming quarter

Where, punctual as death, we ring the stars . . .

The lines cited by JKB from ‘I See the Boys of Summer’, by Dylan Thomas, are not exact.

Although JKB said that he would accept ‘A literary grant, with no strings attached’ he did not have the opportunity until he was offered the Burns Fellowship for 1966 and again for 1967.

Best Poems: New Zealand Best Poems, ed. C.A. Marris. Wellington: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1932-43.

Eric [Hall] McCormick (1906-95), literary and art critic: see SB.

Robert Chapman, (1922- ), political scientist and editor: see SB.

page 228

James Bertram (1910-93), writer and editor: see SB.

Erik Schwimmer (1923- ), editor and sociologist: see SB.

W.E.A. lecture: Workers’ Educational Association lecture.


Back to the Desert; in James K. Baxter as Critic; a selection from his literary criticism by Frank McKay. Auckland: Heinemann Educational Books, New Zealand, 1978: 167-177.

McKay mentions that the editor Hella Hofman (she changed her name to Helen Shaw), an admirer of Sargeson, wrote to JKB inviting him to contribute to a literary symposium, presumably because she knew (perhaps from Sargeson) that he was sympathetic to Sargeson’s writing. He was not long married and not yet committed to the Wellington literary scene so he agreed and finished writing it within three months. It was published in The Puritan and the Waif; a symposium of critical essays on the work of Frank Sargeson (Auckland: H.L. Hofman, 1954). Because no publisher could be found she issued the collection in fifty cyclostyled copies. A second printing of fifty copies was issued in 1955. Afterwards Sargeson wrote to tell JKB that he agreed with Maurice Duggan who considered it a brilliant piece of writing. Sargeson admitted, perhaps tongue in cheek, ‘You paraphrase much better than I write.’ (McKay 122).

It is significant that JKB dedicated The Fire and the Anvil (a book about poetry) to Sargeson, a prose writer – presumably because of his use of contemporary techniques and language and because of his pioneering role in the development of New Zealand literature. Yet when he was younger he told Ginn (25 May 1944), ‘Have read Sargeson, who strikes me as able but of a style and plotting too cut-down for this NZ society: Europeans have to prune their material; we have to build it up.’

Here the stone images’: from T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’.

Wit with his wantonness’: from ‘In Time of Pestilence 1593’, by Thomas Nashe (1567-1601).

A.P. Gaskell (Alexander Gaskell Pickard, 1913-2006), short-story writer, artist and teacher. Gaskell wrote vigorous and varied stories notable for their insight into characters. The Big Game and Other Stories (Caxton, 1947) was applauded by Sargeson. The best of Gaskell’s stories were collected by R.A. Copland (editor) in All Part of the Game (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1978).

G[avin] R[obert] Gilbert (1917-94), a short-story writer influenced originally by William Saroyan, published a successful collection of stories in Free to Laugh and Dance (Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1942). His work of allegorical fiction Glass Sharp and Poisonous was published in 1952.

In the article JKB referred implicitly to the environment of his own alcoholism: ‘The morbid lucidity of hangover, the empty raw morning sky looking between curtains. Along the bar the derelicts, overblown pansies,page 229 lost men, going through the ritual of a church of negativism, their thoughts crawling sluggishly like a hive of smoked bees.’ (Late in 1954 JKB joined Alcoholics Anonymous and began a determined attempt to give up alcohol. His progress towards complete abstention from alcohol is discussed in McKay 145-150.)


Tales from the Irish; review of Irish Sagas and Folk Tales, retold by Eileen O’Faolain, illustrated by Joan Kiddell-Monroe. London and Oxford: Geoffrey Cumberlege/Oxford University Press, 1954; in NZL 802 (3 Dec. 1954) 13.

‘Fergus Oisin and the Children of Lir’: ‘The Tragedy of the Children of Lir’ is part of the Irish Mythological Cycle. That and various stories about Oisin are included in Lady Augusta Gregory’s Gods and Fighting Men (1904). JKB’s remark implies that these stories were read to him by his mother when he was a child.

If, as is likely, JKB read his review in NZL he would have been interested to see boxed below it an advertisement seeking two assistant mistresses for Friends’ School, Whanganui (his former school, described in the advertisement as a ‘Co-educational Boarding School’).


The Delphic Voice; review of Fourteen Men, and other poems, by Mary Gilmore. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1954; in NZL 802 (3 Dec. 1954) 13.

Dame Mary Jean Gilmore (1865-1962), poet, prose writer and social crusader, was a close friend of Henry Lawson for a time. (He may even have hoped to marry her.) By her death she had become a household name and an iconic figure in Australia.

Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-70), Australian jockey and poet. On 23 June 1870, when his Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes was published, Gordon realised that he could not afford to pay the printing bill and had no prospects. Next morning he woke early, walked into the scrub, and shot himself. Bush Ballads became a seminal book in Australian poetry.


Master of Style; review of Selected Poems, by T.S. Eliot. London: Faber, 1954; in NZL 808 (21 Jan. 1955) 14. When JKB was still in his teens he was critical of Eliot’s obscurity and mandarin writing. Now he acknowledged his mastery of poetic style.

Harold Edward Monro (1879-1932), British poet and anthologist, was proprietor of the Poetry Bookshop in Bloomsbury and published and promoted the poetry of other writers.


Thoughts Taking Shape; review of Letters of John Keats, selected by Frederick Page. London, New York, Toronto: Oxford University Press and Geoffrey Cumberlege, 1954; in NZL 812 (18 Feb. 1955) 12-13.

page 230

JKB makes an interesting link between a great conversationalist and a great letter-writer. In this context it is important because JKB was a remarkable conversationalist and his letters and poems continue those conversations.


Society and Happiness; (letter to editor); in NZL 813 (25 Feb. 1955) 5.

This item anticipates the topics and tone of much of JKB’s later writing of social criticism. When he ended his letter ‘I would recommend your correspondent to forget the “present monetary system” and take up the study of compost’ he may have been implying that, as he told me years later, Freud said that money was most useful for dunging the crops. (I have not been able to confirm that Freud made such a remark, so JKB may have been thinking of a remark attributed to J. Paul Getty: ‘Money is like manure. You have to spread it around or it smells.)


The Earnest Agnostic; review of The Root of the Matter, by Margaret Isherwood. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd. 1954; in NZL 814 (4 Mar. 1955) 13.

The book was sub-titled ‘a study in the connections between religion, psychology, and education’. Isherwood also wrote Searching for Meaning (London: Allen and Unwin, 1970).

St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), abbot and religious reformer.

Sri Ramakrishna (1836-86), Indian mystic.

Hesiod (c. 6th century BC), Greek poet.

Alfred Adler (1870-1937), Austrian doctor, psychologist and collaborator with Freud.

Meister Eckhart (1260-1328), German theologian and mystic.

Charles Langbridge Morgan (1894-1958), British novelist, prose writer and drama critic. JKB’s line of argument suggests that at this stage he was exploring his own religious situation.


Strictly Personal; review of A Personal Jesus, by Upton Sinclair. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1954; in NZL 818 (1 Apr. 1955) 13.

This book was first published by Evans (New York, 1952).

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) was a bred-in-the-bone socialist. The Jungle, his 1906 novel about the American meat-packing industry, caused such consternation that legislation was passed to address the problems he uncovered. As a political activist intent on addressing the issue of poverty among Californians he ran for the governorship only to lose after a torrid campaign during which he was denigrated as a Communist. In 1942 he won the Pulitzer Prize for a novel which was partly about the rise of the Nazi movement. By the time he died he was the author of more than ninety books. As a boy, his two greatest heroes were Jesus and Shelley. His lifelong enthusiasm caused him to write A Personal Jesus, but by this time JKB waspage 231 more interested in a Church than in someone’s personal delineation of Jesus. The NZL editor was obviously directing books about religion to JKB because he knew about his interest in the subject.


Close to Nature; review of The Lonely Fire, by Nan McDonald. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1954; in NZL 822 (29 Apr. 1955) 13.

Nan McDonald (1921-74) was born in Eastwood, New South Wales. After graduating with a BA from the University of Sydney she was employed as an editor by Angus and Robertson. She specialised in Australian poetry and edited the annual Anthology of Australian Poetry. The Lonely Fire was her second book of poetry. It was preceded by Pacific Sea (1947) and followed by The Lighthouse and Other Poems (1957) and Selected Poems (1967).


The Poet in Solitude; review of Selected Poems, by Walter de la Mare. London: Faber & Faber, 1954; in NZL 824 (13 May 1955) 12.

Walter [John] de la Mare (1873-1956), British poet, was born in Kent and educated at St Paul’s Cathedral School, London. After marrying in 1899 he struggled to support his wife and four children. For eighteen years he worked as a statistician for Standard Oil but he was considered a promising writer and in 1908 he was awarded a civil list pension which enabled him to write full-time. His reputation as a poet was confirmed by The Listeners, his 1912 collection. In 1921 his novel Memoirs of a Midget was awarded the James Tait Black Prize. His book of collected poems was published in 1969 and his short stories were collected in three volumes. He admired Eileen Duggan’s poetry and supplied an Introduction for her Poems (1937).

‘Nectarous those flowers’: from de la Mare’s ‘The Imagination’s Pride’, in The Veil and Other Poems (1921). When JKB identified in de la Mare’s poetry ‘fears of moral evil and spiritual isolation’ he was uncomfortably aware of his own similar fears.


Defenceless Village; review of The Postman, by Roger Martin du Gard, translated by John Russell. London: Andre Deutsch, 1955; in NZL (20 May 1955) 13.

Roger Martin du Gard (1881-1958), French writer, became a friend of André Gide and shared his homosexual interests. He became a successful writer of books which examined philosophical and religious issues through the hopes and conflicts of the upper class. After World War One he tired of Parisian life and withdrew to a country estate where he wrote his novel sequence Les Thibault (published 1922-1940). After World War Two he became further disillusioned (‘Europe is finished.’) He died, aged 77, with Gide at his bedside.

It is likely that Holcroft invited JKB to review this book because he had been a postman.

page 232

Over the Tin Fence: A consideration of the life and work of Oscar Wilde; in Numbers 3 (June 1955) 21-27.

JKB’s statement that the Victorians’ conception of human behaviour was ‘progressive and Utopian’ and excluded ‘the knowledge of the seed of moral evil in each person’s heart’ picks up the theme he expressed in his poems ‘Wild Bees’ and ‘The Fallen House’.

When JKB said, in relation to Wilde, that ‘the Church has before now provided a refuge for people of widely differing temperaments, and such a solution seems to have been in his mind when he desired the attendance of a priest at his deathbed’ he was expressing a thought which helped motivate him to become a Catholic three years later.


Juvenile Delinquency and Divorce; (letter to editor); in LF vol. 9 no. 2 (June 1955) 179-180.

JKB was replying to an article by D.H. Munro.

In 1954, as a result of a general moral panic over two events, an investigation was ordered into the moral situation of children and adolescents in New Zealand. The first trigger event occurred on 20 June 1954 when a fifteen-year-old girl entered the Petone police station and asked the police to break up ‘a milk bar gang’ which met for the purpose of sex. She said that she was especially concerned for the younger girls in the gang. The second incident occurred in Christchurch two days later (22 June) when Honora Rieper was murdered in Victoria Park by her daughter Pauline Parker and Pauline’s best friend Juliet Hulme. The fact that these sensational events occurred within two days of each other resulted in a general moral panic. Determined to appear to act responsibly the Government established an investigative committee under the chairmanship of Oswald Mazengarb, a queen’s counsel. The hearings lasted fifty-five days. Immediately afterwards a report was issued entitled Report of the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents(also known as ‘The Mazengarb Report’). Every household in New Zealand received a free copy. JKB considered the committee’s findings ineffective: it had discovered that some youth knew too little about sex while some knew too much, that some children felt unloved by their parents, that that some parents let their children drink alcohol, that some children wasted money on inappropriate things, that a closer link between school and home was needed, that religion was not sufficiently respected, and that some adults set a bad example.

Alfred Charles Kinsey (1894-1956), American biologist. In 1947 he founded at Indiana University the Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. He reported his findings in Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female (1953). The two books, which became known as ‘the Kinsey Reports’, had a profound effect throughout the world.

When JKB wrote that ‘the Catholic Church can set in motion processespage 233 of repair’ he was affirming the point made in the previous note. He referred in part to the Catholic Sacrament of Penance.

When he said ‘[Christianity’s] repressive and legalistic aspect has undoubtedly made many more delinquents than it has helped in their difficulties’ he was referring to Puritanism. Later he would condemn the Jansenistic attitudes he encountered in the Catholic Church.


Some Time Ago; in Meanjin XIV no. 2 (June 1955) 174.

A lightly revised version of this item is included in Part 5 of ‘Notes on the Education of a New Zealand Poet’ (The Man on the Horse. Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 1967).

Meanjin (1940- ) is the most important literary journal in Australia. It has published contributions (mainly poetry) by New Zealanders.


The Courts of Love; review of Strangers and Beasts, poems by Keith Sinclair. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1954; in NZL (10 June 1955) 12.

Keith Sinclair (1922-93), historian and poet: see SB. This was Sinclair’s second book of poems. His Songs for a Summer, and other poems was published by Pegasus Press, Christchurch, in 1952.

Strangers and Beasts was reviewed in Meanjin 14: 573 by A.D. Hope.

courtly love: the medieval notion of expressing love through chivalry, not generally between husband and wife, but towards other members of the noble class. It was an expression of linked eroticism and spirituality, actually impossible to achieve. JKB emphasised this failure, pointing to ‘the violent tension between real and ideal in the relation of the sexes’.

117.Head in a Bag; review of What Didymus Did, by Upton Sinclair. London: Allan Wingate, 1954; in NZL 831 (1 July 1955) 12. JKB’s closing barb about Sinclair’s novel may have been sharpened by his love for Mary, the mother of Jesus. JKB’s remark about the great Christian thinkers St Augustine, Albert Schweitzer and Nicolas Berdyaev is obviously satirical.


Shepherd of the Fold; review of George Herbert, His Religion and Art, by Joseph H. Summers. London: Chatto and Windus, 1954; in NZL 834 (22 July 1955) 14.

George Herbert (1593-1633) took orders in 1626 and devoted himself to pastoral work. His poetry shows the tension in a spiritual man who worries that his poetry is not written to further God’s work in the world. Like Eliot, JKB sometimes expressed a similar doubt.

William Cowper (1731-1800), poet and evangelical hymn-writer. Because of his close observation of nature he is regarded as a forerunner of the Romantics.

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The Moralist’s Cloak; reviews of Smoke on the Mountain, an interpretation of the Ten Commandments in terms of today, by Joy Davidson, with a Foreword by C.S. Lewis, and The Spiritual Life, by Evelyn Underhill. Both books were published in London by Hodder and Stoughton in 1955; in NZL 839 (26 Aug. 1955) 14.

Helen Joy Davidson (1915-60) (also known as Joy Gresham) was an American writer, atheist and Communist who converted to Christianity in the late 1940s. When her marriage broke up she visited C.S. Lewis in England. (She had been corresponding with him.) He enjoyed her company but considered that he could not marry her because of the Church of England’s position on divorce. Nonetheless after it was revealed that she had terminal cancer they were married by a friend of his at her hospital bedside. As a result many of Lewis’s friends and colleagues disapproved of the marriage and ceased contact with them. She died in 1960, aged forty-five. Afterwards Lewis wrote A Grief Observed (1961) under the name N.W. Clerk, in which he considered his loss and matters of faith.

Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941), by means of books, lectures, retreats and seminars, became an outstanding exponent of mysticism and the Christian spiritual life within the Church of England.

Mrs Be-Done-By-As-You-Did is a character in Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies which was written in 1862-63 and first published in serial form in Macmillan’s Magazine.

‘Dying nurse whose only care is not to please’ conflates parts of two lines from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (East Coker, section IV): ‘If we obey the dying nurse / Whose constant care is not to please’.


Venus in her Western Bed; in Salient Literary Issue (Sep. 1955) 5.

Alexander Sutherland Neill (1883-1973), was an innovative Scottish educator who advocated personal freedom for children. A Dominie’s Log (1916) was the first of dozens of books which he wrote. His last book was his autobiography, Neill, Neill, Orange Peel (1973).

Russell [Stuart Cedric] Clark (1905-66) became an official war artist during World War Two. When the war ended he returned to New Zealand and was employed as an illustrator at the School Journal, where his drawings, particularly of Māori subjects, were much admired. During the 1950s he became an illustrator for NZL.


The World of the Creative Artist; in Salient Literary Issue (Sep. 1955) 20-26.

About this time JKB published Traveller’s Litany (Handcraft Press, Wellington) a verse parable in the form of a single long poem. Central to this article on art is the admission that ‘There is no answer in the language of art, or science, to the real problems of adult life – How shall I avoid an inward page 235 death? How shall I learn to love my neighbour when he is so much like myself?

‘My soul stands at the window of my room’: from Karl Shapiro’s poem ‘Nostalgia’, which was published in 1942 when Shapiro was serving in the Pacific with the US Army Medical Corps.

‘There is a spirit of turbulence’: from George Barker’s ‘Letter to a Young Poet’.

‘The unveiled vision of all things’: from George Barker’s The True Confession of George Barker.

‘The godhead, the author, the first cause’: from Dylan Thomas’s prose statement preceding ‘In Country Sleep’ which was first published (posthumously) in Quite Early One Morning in 1954.

‘As the first Adam’s sweat’: from John Donne’s ‘Hymn to God, my God, in my Sickness’.


The Critic as Schoolmaster; in Numbers 1.4 (Oct. 1955) 2-3.

Numbers, Wellington 1 (July 1954)-10 (Oct. 1959). Also as v. 1-3 no. 2. It was founded by Louis Johnson, JKB, Erik Schwimmer, Charles Doyle and Richard Packer to provide a venue for writers who would have been culled by the austere policies of Curnow and Brasch, or who wanted a more inclusive and polyglot tone (see Note 89). Monte Holcroft criticised Numbers in NZL 782 (16 July 1954: 10). Jacquie Baxter and Louis Johnson replied in the issue of 20 August and JKB in the following issue. There would be a greater problem in 1959. (See No. 188, ‘The Fuss about Numbers’)

Encounter was an Anglo-American literary journal founded in 1953 by Stephen Spender and Irving Kristol. Spender was literary editor until 1967 when he resigned after it was revealed that the magazine was funded by the CIA. It ceased publication in 1991.

‘Alas the byrnied warriors’: JKB quotes loosely from the Old English poem ‘The Wanderer’ (ll. 95-6).

At a later time JKB mentioned that the line ‘The spring must run muddy before it can run clear’ was used by his father. He (JKB) used it in the first stanza of ‘A Ballad for the Men of Holy Cross’ (CP 337).


Poetry among the Ruins; review of Collected Poems 1928-53, by Stephen Spender. London: Faber and Faber, 1955, and Collected Poems, 1954, by C. Day Lewis. London: Jonathan Cape and the Hogarth Press, 1954; in NZL 845 (7 Oct. 1955) 12-13.

JKB’s remark that Spender ‘retreated to the library’ shows that he disapproved of his academic shift as well as his move towards the right in politics: these ‘murdered’ his gift for poetry. Collected Poems was issued by Faber and Faber in a revised edition in 1985 as Collected Poems 1928-85.

‘But we seek a new world from old working’: the line is from Day Lewis’s sequence ‘From Feathers to Iron’ (Poem 12).

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Day Lewis produced only two books of new poetry during his last twenty-seven years. The ‘spirited translations of Virgil’ at the time JKB made this remark were his versions of Virgil’s Georgics (1940) and Aeneid (1952); ‘the ghost of one much-loved woman’ was probably that of the novelist Rosamund Lehmann (sister of John Lehmann, editor of New Writing, later Penguin New Writing, and the London Magazine) with whom Day Lewis had a tumultuous and ‘very public’ love affair for nine years until 1951 when he abandoned both her and his wife Mary King to marry Jill Balcon, an actress twenty-one years younger.

‘Instinct was hers’: from ‘In the shelter’, by C. Day Lewis (ll. 13-16).


Outlook for Poetry; in NZPY V (1955) p. 7-9.

Originally broadcast as a talk from National Stations of the New Zealand Broadcasting Service.


Balanced Investigation; review of Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition, by D.S. Bailey. London: Longmans, 1955; in NZL 861 (3 Feb. 1956) 13.

JKB felt sympathy for homosexuals. He had already written a long article on Oscar Wilde and would consider their predicament in ‘The Pederasts’ (CP 343). It is not known whether Holcroft gave him this book to review because he knew of JKB’s interest in religion, homosexuality, or both.


Comparison of Two Eighteenth-century Satirists, Pope and Swift. Hocken MS-0975/125. Est. date.

This article has the tone of a radio talk (for the New Zealand Broadcasting Service). It has proved difficult to date but is estimated to have been written about 1956. It certainly appears to have been written after 1953 when JKB reviewed Irma A. Richter’s Selections from the Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (in NZL, 14 Aug. 1953). Its tone is like that of other writings from this period when he was attending Victoria University. The final sentence of the article mirrors some of JKB’s writings from his Jerusalem years: ‘. . . Swift defended the Irish poor with volcanic indignation; perhaps because, like himself, they were outsiders.’


Stories by Poets; review of The Burning Cactus, by Stephen Spender. London: Faber and Faber, 1936, and Adventures in the Skin Trade, by Dylan Thomas. London: Putnam, 1953; in NZL 863 (17 Feb. 1956) 16.

The ‘picaresque menageries’ of Thomas’s Adventures in the Skin Trade provided an impetus for JKB’s novel Horse (preliminary notes 1958-9, written 1962, published 1985). Thomas wrote most of his short novel in May-June 1941. It was subsequently published in three parts: ‘A Fine Beginning’ (1941); ‘Plenty of Furniture’ (Nov. 1952); ‘Four Lost Souls’ (May, 1953). Thesepage 237 ‘chapters’ were published together as Adventures in the Skin Trade in 1953, after Thomas’s death.


A Note on Henry Lawson; Meanjin vol. XV no. 1 (Mar. 1956) 33.

‘O rebels to society’: actually ‘Oh rebels to society! / The Outcasts of the West. / Oh hopeless eyes that smile for me, / And broken hearts that jest! . . .’ lines 57-60 of Lawson's ‘The Never-Never Country’ (1901).


Unwilling Pilgrim; review of Unwilling Pilgrim, by Paul Henderson. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1955; in LF vol. 10 no. 1 (Mar. 1956) 63-65.

[Helena] Ruth France (1913-68), alias ‘Paul Henderson’, librarian, novelist, poet: see SB.


The Story of Butch; Hocken MS-0975/147. It was published in NZ Parent and Child IV.3 (Mar. 1956) p. 24. Its sub title was ‘A fantasy’. Its earlier title was ‘The Flying Rabbit’. There may be an autobiographical element in this fantasy.


The Mathesons at Home; Hocken MS-0975/145. An earlier title of ‘The Mathesons at Home’ was ‘A Falling Star Relume’. Hocken holds another version entitled ‘An Evening at the Mathesons’.

The central character Mr Gantry was a schoolteacher whose poetry had been published in the Listener. This was also true of JKB (a teacher at Epuni School). Both men also liked the poetry of Dylan Thomas and Wilfred Owen and were concerned about young people.

‘And in the happy no-time of his sleeping’: actually,

There in the happy no-time of his sleeping,
Death took him by the heart. There heaved a quaking
Of the aborted life within him leaping. . . . (‘Asleep’, by Wilfred Owen)


The Sunlit Hour; (letter to editor); in NZL 868 (23 Mar. 1956) 5.

JKB reviewed Ruth Gilbert’s The Sunlit Hour, a collection of poems, on a radio programme entitled Book Shop. His negative review caused him to write this letter of reply to an irritated correspondent. Subsequent writers also took exception to his review, including Marie Bullock, whose comments are on the same page as JKB’s letter:

Sir: It is seldom one hears a really memorable book review over the air, but I feel I shall never forget certain phrases from James Baxter’s review of Ruth Gilbert’s The Sunlit Hour. All that last part where he attacks women writers in general I have thought meet to set down upon the tablets of my memory. Mr Baxter accuses us of ‘crankiness, cowardice and nullity,’ says we drove Robin Hyde into a corner, says we fall into the temptation of moralisingpage 238 about our biological functions.

If we women are to be attacked as women whenever we publish a book it is high time we returned to our 19th Century expedient of publishing under masculine pen-names. This would, of course, raise the interesting question of whose biological functions we could moralise about, but I suggest there is plenty of room for doing this from the male point of view. The exaltation angle has been sadly overdone.

Coloured by his attitude to his mother and his rejection by Jane Aylward, JKB’s early attitudes to women were often extreme and unjust.

Ruth Gilbert (1917- ). After Lazarus and Other Poems (1949) she published nine other collections of poetry. On three occasions she was awarded the Jessie McKay prize for poetry.

Robin Hyde (real name Iris Wilkinson) 1906-39: see SB.


From a Sunburnt Land; review of Australian Poetry, 1955, selected by James McAuley, and The Birdsville Track and Other Poems, by Douglas Stewart. (Both books were published in Sydney by Angus and Robertson in 1955); in NZL 871 (13 Apr. 1856) 13.

Douglas Stewart (1913-85), journalist and literary editor: see SB.


Something to Consider; in Student no. 2 (Apr-May 1956) 12-15, 18. This talk anticipates the talks JKB gave to students between 1966 and 1972 and reveals the extent of his religious conviction.

‘For over the known world of things’: actually ‘But over the known world of things’. These lines cited by JKB are from George Barker’s ‘Letter to a Young Poet’ in A Vision of Beasts and Gods (London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 1954).

‘Confessio of the Latin Archpoet’: ‘The Archpoet’ was the pseudonym of an unknown German poet who wrote in medieval Latin ten poems advocating the sensual life. His ‘Goliardic Confession’ is the best of these.

The Dream of the Rood: an early Christian poem in Old English. Its author is unknown but it is sometimes attributed to Caedmon (7th Century) or to Cynewulf (c. 770-840).

‘the led-astray birds, whom God . . .’: JKB cites lines 43-46 from Dylan Thomas’s ‘Over Sir John’s hill’ (Dylan Thomas: The Poems, with an Introduction and notes by Daniel Jones. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1971).


To Have and To Hold; in Numbers 5 (May 1956) 8-13.

Expressions of disillusionment with marriage entered JKB’s writing early. By 1956 he was also experiencing what he described in The Flowering Cross (p. 29), ‘massive disturbances and irrational fears of an alcoholic who is drying out’.

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Evening Voices; review of The Moon is Up, an anthology for older people, with commentaries by Dorothy Saunders. London: Phoenix House Ltd., through A.H. and A.W. Reed, 1955; in NZL 881 (22 June 1956) 14.


Talking of Writing; in Here and Now no. 52 (July 1956) 22.

JKB was one of a group of writers asked ‘to comment on any problems and difficulties facing them in trying to make a living by writing.’ (The contributing writers were JKB, Louis Johnson, Denis Glover, Alistair Campbell, Anton Vogt and John Reece Cole.) The symposium of opinions was collected by Brian Bell. JKB’s note was prefaced by the remark, ‘In agreeing with the various strictures on the NZBS and the Literary Fund Mr Baxter had this to say.’


A Tree in Cypress; review of The Tree of Idleness, by Lawrence Durrell. London: Faber and Faber, 1955; in NZL 883 (6 July 1956) 13-14.

The lines JKB cites are from the title poem.

In 1953 Lawrence Durrell (1912-90), novelist and poet, lived in the hilltop village of Bellapais, Cyprus, and often sat with other Cypriots under a particular large, shady tree, watching the world go by. Locals called this tree ‘The Tree of Idleness’ because it was reputed to give the gift of idleness to those who sat under it. The area beneath it is now a restaurant. He left in the following year because of the Cypriot Revolution. A widely read and successful novelist, it was thought, wrongly as it turned out, that he would receive the Nobel Prize for Literature for The Alexandria Quartet (1957-60) which was centred on the war years he spent in Alexandria, Egypt.

Durrell provided JKB with a literary example: ‘Durrell loosens up the chains of association, helping me to avoid heavy aphorisms about Time or God, and keep the eye on the invaluable sensory image’. He sometimes used the two-line non-rhyming stanza which JKB adopted for many of his late poems, including ‘Jerusalem Sonnets’.


Anaemic Ghosts; review of The Ghost Book, Strange Hauntings in Britain, by Alasdair Alpin MacGregor. London: Robert Hale, 1955; in NZL 885 (20 July 1956) 14.

Alasdair Alpin MacGregor (1899-1970) was a Scottish photographer and writer (mainly of travel books and folklore). He tended to romanticise his subjects.


The Lower Slopes; review of Collected Poems 1927-1955, by Bryan Guinness. London: Heinemann, 1955, and The Witnesses and Other Poems, by Clive Sansom. London: Methuen, 1955; in NZL 887 (3 Aug. 1956) 14.

Bryan [Walter] Guinness (1905-92), 2nd Baron Moyne, wrote plays, poems, novels and memoirs, but not for a living, because he inherited the page 240 Guinness brewing fortune. He married Diana Mitford, and Evelyn Waugh dedicated his novel Vile Bodies to them. A little later she left him for the fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley. (They married in 1936 at a private ceremony in the home of Joseph Goebbels. Adolf Hitler was one of the guests.)

Clive [Henry] Sansom (1910-81) was born in London and emigrated to Australia in 1949. This book was a collection of thirty-four verse monologues spoken by people who had met Jesus. The Witnesses is still used as performance poetry in churches.


The Voyage of the Hurunui, a ballad; review of book by D’Arcy Cresswell. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1956; in Here and Now 54 (Sep. 1956) 30-31.

[Walter] D’Arcy Cresswell (1896-1960): see SB.

a new job in the civil service: In May 1956 JKB resigned from Epuni School and took up a position as sub-editor of the School Publications Branch of the Department of Education. According to McKay (p. 151) the goal of School Publications was to provide written indigenous material which aimed ‘To make New Zealand seem to its future citizens more important and more worthwhile than anything else.’ JKB’s task was, by editing or writing, to provide bulletins for primary-school children.


Critics and Poets; review of The Edinburgh Review and Romantic Poetry (1802-29), by Thomas Crawford. Auckland: Auckland University College, Bulletin no. 47, English series no. 8, 1956; in NZL 893 (14 Sep. 1956) 13.

In 1802 The Edinburgh Review was founded by Henry Erskine and Francis Jeffrey to provide a forum for British radicals. Its contributors included Macaulay and Carlyle. It survived until 1929.

Thomas Crawford (1920-) was a Burns scholar who was a lecturer in English literature at the University of Auckland from 1953 to 1960, senior lecturer 1960-62, and associate professor 1963-65. After that he was attached to universities in Scotland, Canada and the United States. In an article entitled ‘Baxter’s Burns’, published in ka mate ka ora: a New Zealand journal of poetry and poetics (New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre) Douglas Neill has revealed a connection between JKB and Crawford. Both men were friends of Bill Pearson. Paul Millar told Neill that he thought it very likely that Crawford attended drinking sessions with JKB and Pearson in Auckland. Crawford reviewed JKB’s poetry collection Howrah Bridge and other poems in LF 64, and JKB probably read two chapters extracted from Crawford’s Burns: A Study of the Poems and Songs (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1960), which were also published in LF.


A Whirlwind Voice; review of The Human Age, by Wyndham Lewis. London: Methuen, 1956; in NZL 895 (28 Sep. 1956) 13.

[Percy] Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957),founder of Vorticism and the avantgardepage 241 journal Blast, began a trilogy of novels when blindness forced him to give up painting. He then set about writing Monstre Gai and Malign Fiesta, which were published in 1955 as The Human Age. In the following year he inserted The Childermass (1928) as part one of the collection and republished it as a trilogy still entitled The Human Age. Set in the afterlife, it portrays an artist who needed to be detached from experience in order to portray it. Some now regard Lewis as the most original artist of his time. His novel The Apes of God (1930) satirised the London literary scene, especially the Sitwell family.

John Moffett was then literary editor of the Otago Daily Times. He had been a journalist and worked his way up the chain of command until he became editor. He married his first wife Valmai Livingstone in 1928 and his second wife Margaret Yates in 1938. He died in 1961 when he and Margaret were visiting England.


Time and the Bell; in Education, V.3 (Oct. 1956) 46-49. ‘Time and the bell’: The opening lines of Part IV of Burnt Norton from The Four Quartets, by T.S. Eliot.

A[lexander] S[utherland] Neill (1883-1973) was a Scottish psychologist. He believed that traditional educational practices were useless, even harmful, and cofounded Summerhill School, a coeducational, child-centred boarding school.

This article seems to have been written while JKB was still teaching at Epuni School, i.e. before May of that year. One of the last questions he asks in the article is ‘Why am I teaching at all?’

Shortly before 5 October 1956 JKB gave a radio talk entitled ‘Psychology and the Arts’. No copy of the text has been found. A reviewer identified as ‘R.D. McE.’ [R.D. McEldowney] contributed a comment about it to NZL 896 (5 Oct. 1956) 23. The comment is collected at this point because it reveals some of JKB’s attitudes to his topic and indicates the effect that JKB’s delivery usually had upon his hearers:

Psychology and the Arts

Listening to James K. Baxter is rather like listening to Dylan Thomas. Not superficially so – he doesn’t, like those who merely imitate the Thomas style, draw out a string of unlikely adjectives. He insinuates into the ear a procession of lively pictures which the ear would like to stop and delight in while the mind hurries on to see what kind of an argument they make. I find this process so seductive, and so overwhelming, that I do not usually discover any reservations I might have about his theme unless I have a later opportunity to read the script in cold print and cold blood. So I have as yet no reservations about his talk on Psychology and the Arts, and may never have any. I liked his insistence that for all the help a knowledge of psychology can give the artist, especially in arming him with the courage to look deeper into his own perceptions, a really great poem leaves both thepage 242 psychologist and layman limping behind on crutches. This disposes of the psychologists who patronise Sophocles and Shakespeare for having seen, however crudely, things we now know to be indubitable scientific fact.


A Book with a View; review of A Book of Australian Verse, selected and with an Introduction by Judith Wright. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1956; in NZL 889 (26 Oct. 1956) 13.

‘Boldness be my friend’: from William Shakespeare’s Cymbeline 1.6. Also the title of a 1952 autobiography by Richard Pape (1916-95), a World War Two hero, who in 1965 returned his medals to the queen as a protest against the award of the MBE to the Beatles.

Eve Langley (1908-74) (born Ethel Jane Langley) poet and novelist: see SB.

A second revised edition of Judith Wright’s anthology was issued in 1968.

A great poet does not necessarily become a great anthologist. There is no doubt that Judith Wright (1915-2000) was a great poet. In her lifetime she produced more than fifty-six collections of poetry and short stories. Like Curnow in New Zealand her achievement was recognised when she was awarded the Queen’s Medal for Poetry.

When she wrote that ‘the true function of art and culture is to interpret us to ourselves, and to relate us to the country and the society in which we live’ she appeared to wave a nationalist and regionalist banner behind which many poets did not wish to march. So her narrow selection in 1956 reminded JKB of the restrictive editorial policies of Allen Curnow. Yet she would have agreed with JKB that the function of the poet was to be ‘a cell of good living’ within society. Her concerns for the environment and for the rights of the first people of Australia took a prominent and practical direction.


The Shaken Earth; review of The Lisbon Earthquake, by T.D. Kendrick. London: Methuen and Co. 1956; in NZL 902 (16 Nov. 1956) 12.

T[homas] D[owning] Kendrick (1895-1979) was an archaeologist and writer who became director of the British Museum from 1950 to 1959.


Spiritual Crisis; review of The Outsider, by Colin Wilson. London: Victor Gollancz, 1956; in NZL 904 (30 Nov. 1956) 12.

Wilson wrote The Outsider in the reading room of the British Museum when his home was a sleeping bag on Hampstead Heath. It brought him fame overnight but he soon exhausted his fans, not least because by 2004 he had written over one hundred and ten books in categories which did not appeal to many readers.


A Herbal Whiff; in Here and Now no. 56 (Dec. 1956) 4.

This was JKB’s letter of reply to Kendrick Smithyman who had written a letter (‘The Old Phonus-Bolonus’ in Here and Now no. 55, Nov. 1956, p. 4) criticising JKB’s review of Cresswell’s The Voyage of the Hurunui.

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The Town under the Sea; in Meanjin XV (Dec. 1956) 341-2.

An earlier version was published in the ODT (28 Jan. 1956) 4.

The impetus for this story may have come from Dylan Thomas’s ‘Quite Early One Morning’, a radio talk broadcast on BBC Wales on 31 August 1935. It was first published in 1946. On 18 March 1944 JKB told Ginn,

Anyway, I like his prose. It is impressionistic; and to my mind there are only three types of readable prose: journalistic; fact-statement; impressionist. The first jars, and wins by trading on ignorance. The second is the birth of literature; though of course there is no pure fact-statement, it must sway to the word-bolsters of journalism or the subjective truth of impressionism. The last is the natural development of prose as an individual medium: into it come the tricks of style which depart from objective truth for the sake of emotional effect . . . ‘daffodils, the trumpet-blare of golden flame’ – a phrase good or bad but at any rate illustrating my point, made up on the spur of the moment. (Millar 345)


Walking up Castle Street; in Meanjin XV (Dec. 1956) 343-344. It was published in ODT (21 Jan. 1956) 4 with the title ‘As I Walked down Castle Street’.

a girl ghost: the blond girl he could not forget was Jane Aylward. The dark-haired girl he did not look after was Jacquie Sturm, who became his wife.


[Note accompanying an early version of Jack Winter’s Dream]; in LF vol. 10 no. 3 (Sep. 1956) 180. The play was published on pp. 189-194.

It was written ‘for the speaking and the singing voice, and for radio’ in May 1956 but was not presented on radio until 26 September 1958 when the New Zealand Broadcasting Service produced it. Bernard Beeby was the director. Ashley Heenan composed the music which was played by the National Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of John Hopkins. In 1960 Richard Campion produced it at the Unity Theatre, Wellington. The production was reviewed in LF, XIV (1960) 197.

It was published in LF in 1956 (see reference above) and separately published (with The Wide Open Cage) in Two Plays: The Wide Open Cage, and Jack Winter’s Dream (Hastings: Capricorn Press, 1959). It was then published by Price Milburn for Victoria University Press, Wellington, 1979. Finally it was included in Collected Plays [of] James K. Baxter (edited by Howard McNaughton, Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1982; henceforward abbreviated as CPl).

Regarding the play’s appearance in LF, Fairburn wrote to Brasch,

I’m a bit surprised to see Master Jimmy’s JackFrost cropping up in Landfall. First we have D. Thomas giving a demonstration that a Welshman can do anything an Irishman can do better, and pinching Joyce’s toys. Now we have Jimmy showing that a Scot can beat Thomas at the same game. But this time the plagiarism is raw. Or don’t you agree? (Fairburn, Letters, 253)

page 244

He returned to the subject in a letter to Glover of 15 Nov. 1956, in which he discussed his plan to visit Wellington: ‘And young Master Baxter – is he still busy with his poetry-writing machine (Dept. of Cybernetics). God knows I lean if anything towards over-indulgence, but if Charles drops another great hunk of ersatz as “Jack Frost” into his hold again he stands a risk of freezing up everything around for miles and putting Landfall into a new ice age.’ (Fairburn, Letters, 259).

JKB, later, did not greatly value Jack Winter’s Dream, referring to ‘its wooden-legged derivative stomping’. In ‘Writers in New Zealand: a questionnaire’ he said ‘Once I earned £50 in one year by writing; and for my worst (and only) piece of sustained non-critical writing, Jack Winter’s Dream, I received about £20 from the N[ew] Z[ealand] B[roadcasting] S[ervice] and about £15 from Landfall. That kept me in tobacco for the year, but not in coffee.’

In 1960 Richard Campion produced it on stage in the memorial theatre at Victoria University College. The National Film Unit produced a version on film in 1979.


Dylan Thomas and Swinburne; (letter to editor); in NZL 906 (14 Dec. 1956) 5. The quotation is from Thomas’s ‘In Country Sleep’, Part 1, stanzas 8 and 9.

Charles Brasch replied in NZL 910 (18 Jan. 1957) 5:

Sir: Why does Mr James K. Baxter find it necessary, in your issue of December 14, to praise Dylan Thomas at the cost of patronising and denigrating Swinburne? Both poets make incomparable music; an adult catholic taste might be expected to enjoy both, and to appreciate their very different qualities.

But they are too close to us for any secure judgment to be made about their relative greatness. Swinburne’s place in English poetry is far from being settled; it will take at least a century to settle Thomas’s. And while his work may be more to our taste now, when Swinburne comes to be read again with a less partial mind than Mr Baxter shows, the balance might conceivably tip the other way. I do not mean that we should suspend all judgment, or cease to exercise our taste, waiting on posterity. But blackand-white judgments which exalt one poet only to damn another seem to me about as sensible as grading poets mechanically like eggs.


Christian Living; review of The Renewal of Man, by Alexander Miller; Man’s Knowledge of God, by William J. Wolf; Doing the Truth, by James A. Pike; Hardness of Heart, by Edward Cherbonnier; The Strangeness of the Church, by Daniel T. Jenkins. The Christian Faith Series, Reinhold Niebuhr, consulting editor. Victor Gollancz Ltd. London, 1956; in NZL 912 (1 Feb. 1957) 12.

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Alexander Miller (1908-60), Presbyterian minister and theologian, was born in Scotland. He earned a Master’s degree at Auckland University and a doctorate at Stanford. While undertaking his ministry in New Zealand he frequently demonstrated against militarism and social injustice and was jailed several times. He was the author of a number of books about faith and living and became the first professor of religion at Stanford. In 1958 the Pacific School of Religion awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity. The Renewal of Man was first published by Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, in 1955.


Disgruntled Foghorn; (letter to editor); in Here and Now no. 57 (Feb. 1957) 5.

This is JKB’s reply to a letter (‘A Blast from Fiji’) by Jack Thornton in Here and Now no. 56 (Dec. 1956) p. 4, which criticised all of the contributors, including JKB, to Bell’s symposium ‘Talking of Writing’. Thornton wrote from Fijito say that their commentswereinsincere or ‘therambling ofposeurs’. Regarding low fees for freelance writers, he said, ‘I tried to have the matter raised at the NZ Writers’ Conference – or whatever the gathering of everyone who had heard the name of T.S. Eliot was called when it happened about seven years ago in the South Island. From my bed and table in Wellington I sent forth blasts across Cook Strait – only to be informed that the writers were gathered to discuss writing, and not rates of payment. My intrusion of the matter offended the hobbyists.’ Thornton gave up on literary politics and preferred to spend time in a Fijian kava saloon where he could hear ‘true, uninhibited poets sing every night’.


The Primary School Bulletin; in Education VI.1 (Feb. 1957) 62.


Immanuel’s Land, stories by Maurice Duggan. Auckland: Pilgrim Press, 1956; reviewed in Education VI.1 (Feb. 1957) 65.

Maurice Duggan (1922-74), short-story writer: see SB.


Parable; in Numbers Six (vol. 2 no. 2, Mar. 1957) 7-8.


New Zealand and Disarmament; (letter to editor); in Here and Now no. 59 (Apr. 1957) 2.

Andrew J. Johnston: no information available.

Alun [Morgan] Richards (1907-2000): see SB.


The Innocent Eye; review of One Foot in Eden, by Edwin Muir. London: Faber and Faber, 1954; in NZL 923 (18 Apr. 1957) 13-14.

Edwin Muir (1887-1959) was born and shaped on a farm in the Orkney Islands. He moved to Glasgow with his family when his father lost his page 246 farm in 1914 but became depressed. Within five years his parents and two brothers died and he was unhappily employed in uncongenial and sometimes unpleasant factory or office work. He was rescued from his depression in 1919 when he married a charming, outgoing woman. (He said later ‘My marriage was the most fortunate event of my life.’) They moved to London and later lived in Europe and then in the United States for some years.

Muir was a religious man and his Eden was both the Paradise that Milton saw and the Orkney Islands where he lived as a boy. The setting of the Fall was both the Garden of Eden and the city where he became depressed and unhappy. This archetypal image was used in a similar manner by JKB in a number of poems which he wrote during the 1950s.

Muir produced seven collections of poetry in his lifetime. His Collected Poems was published by Oxford University Press (New York, 1965) and The Complete Poems of Edwin Muir was published by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies (ed. Peter Butter) in Aberdeen in 1991.


In Memoriam A.R.D. Fairburn; in Salient XX.6 (9 May 1957) 4.

It is not known why JKB wrote such an abbreviated tribute to Fairburn, but it is possible that he felt too emotional to write a longer piece. It is also not known if he was aware of Fairburn’s growing dislike for him.

Fairburn died on 25 March 1957. Just before that he wrote to Allen Curnow. The greater part of it was not about his illness but about JKB’s Jack Winter’s Dream:

Yes, I read that thing of Baxter’s, and it seemed to be making my lung worse, so I chucked in my hand. You showed me about a page when he sent it to you. And then Chas publishes it entire (don’t know if also in the stud sense) in last September’s Landfall (which was sent to me because I had a thing in it.) It (JW’s Dream) had an 11-line NOTE at the top I don’t remember seeing on the copy I sent you. This, when I read it later, on receiving my copy, seemed to me to be extremely impudent for he uses the words: ‘The debt to Dylan Thomas is obvious enough; less obvious, but equally real, is the debt owing to my father for many fertile conversations on every subject from . . . etc.’

Do ring – or, better still, drop in. I still can’t go to the ’phone except for short, sharp apocalyptic communications. And forgive my morphine-muddled prose.

This seems to have been the last letter he wrote.


New Poets; review of Uncertainties, and other poems, by John Press. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956 and The River Steamer and other poems, by E.J. Scovell. London: Cresset Press, 1956; in NZL 930 (7 June 1957) 13.

John [Bryant] Press (1920-2007), poet and critic, worked for the British Council and compiled several monographs for the Council’s literary series ‘Writers and their Work’, the title borrowed by James Bertram and Oxfordpage 247 University Press for their series on New Zealand writers.

E[dith] J[oy] Scovell (1907-99), poet. This was her third collection of poetry. It was followed by The Space Between (1982) and Listening to Collared Doves (1986).


New Zealand Poet Defends ‘Bohemian Reaction’ in Society; (a newspaper account of a lecture entitled ‘Poetry as Bush Carpentry’ which JKB delivered to the Otago University Literary Society); in ODT (3 July 1957) 11.

Earlier that year he published The Iron Breadboard: Studies in New Zealand Writing (Wellington: Mermaid Press). These poems successfully parodied the work of the major contemporary New Zealand poets, but caused him problems, as he acknowledged, because they were deeply resented by some of the writers he targeted. Later in the year he published ‘Songs of the Desert’ in The Night Shift; Poems on Aspects of Love (Wellington, Capricorn Press). This joint publication included poetry by JKB, Charles Doyle, Louis Johnson and Kendrick Smithyman. JKB’s loose sequence comprised thirteen immature poems written between 1946 and 1948 and a stronger end poem written in the year of the book’s publication. JKB never abandoned his preference for bohemianism.

For the poet is a man who, without sanctity, claims the original viewpoint and some of the spiritual freedom which society has granted (or refused to grant) to the saints. At this time JKB was very concerned about his spiritual condition and religious affiliation with the Anglican Church. He had begun praying in the Catholic Church of St Mary of the Angels in Boulcott St and in St Gerard’s Monastery on the hill above Oriental Bay and discussed his situation with some Catholics, including Pat Lawlor. Frank McKay has said that one day JKB stopped him in Lambton Quay and asked him to detail his reservations about Anglicanism. When McKay said that he did not accept the validity of Anglican orders JKB replied ‘If I thought that I’d become a Catholic tomorrow.’ (McKay 156).


A Painful Joy; review of Selected Poems, by Lawrence Durrell. London: Faber & Faber, 1957; in NZL 934 (5 July 1957) 13.

In this review JKB insists on the need for ‘the ‘nuclear structure of experience’ at the heart of a poem and rejects the developing school of word play and aestheticism. See his reference in the following item to the mandarin writing, the ‘subtlety and urbanity’ of Wallace Stevens which produces ‘dull and trivial’ poems.

A recent selection of Durrell’s poetry was made by Peter Porter: Lawrence Durrell: Selected Poems, London: Faber & Faber, 2006.


Critical Approaches; review of Predilections, by Marianne Moore. London: Faber and Faber, 1956 and The Metaphysicals and Milton, by E.M.W. page 248Tillyard. London: Chatto & Windus, 1956; in NZL 945 (20 Sep. 1957) 16.

This collection of essays on poets was as wonderfully stimulating as Marianne Moore herself. Her Collected Poems (1951) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. An admirer of track athletes, baseballers and boxers (especially Muhammad Ali) she attended sporting functions in a black cape and a tricorn hat. She had a stroke soon after she threw the first pitch to open the 1968 baseball season at Yankee Stadium and after several more strokes died in 1972, the same year as JKB.

E[ustace] M[andeville] W[etenhall] Tillyard (1889-1962) was a Fellow in English at (and later Master of) Jesus College, Cambridge. He was a classical scholar and teacher and the author of a number of books on Shakespeare and Milton and their world order.


Poets in a Diminished World; review of Pegasus and Other Poems, by C. Day Lewis. London: Jonathan Cape, 1957; Visitations, by Louis MacNeice. London: Faber and Faber, [1957]; The Inheritors, poems of 1948-55, by Richard Church. London: Heinemann, 1957; The Stones of Troy, by C.A. Trypanis. London: Faber and Faber, [1957]; The Descent into the Cave and Other Poems, by James Kirkup. London: Oxford University Press, 1957; The Sense of Movement, by Thom Gunn. London: Faber and Faber, 1957; Union Street, by Charles Causley. London: Hart-Davis, 1957; in NZL 948 (11 Oct. 1957) 12.

MacNeice’s Visitations was issued in five editions (1952-58) after being first published in London by Faber & Faber in 1952.

Richard [Thomas] Church (1893-1972) wrote seventeen books of poetry between 1917 and 1946. His Collected Poems was published two years later. This was followed by two more books of poetry before his death in 1972, the same year as JKB. He also wrote three novels and three volumes of autobiography.

C[onstantine] A[thanasius] Trypanis (1909-93) was primarily a classical scholar although he wrote five small collections of poetry. (The Stones of Troy was recommended by the Poetry Book Society, as was JKB’s In Fires of No Return in 1958.)

James [Falconer] Kirkup (1918-2009) was an Englishman who wrote thirteen books of poetry. His name became widely known in 1977 when he was successfully prosecuted by Mrs Whitehouse for blasphemy after he wrote about the love of a Roman centurion for Christ dying on the Cross.

Thom[son William] Gunn (1929-2004). His parents divorced when he was aged ten and his mother committed suicide when he was a teenager. (Her body was discovered by Thom and his brother.) He attended Trinity College, Cambridge, and his early poetry was associated with ‘The Movement’, which included Philip Larkin. He emigrated to the United States in 1954 and in California adopted a lifestyle of drugs, homosexuality and poetry. Afterpage 249 receiving many awards for his poetry he died in 2004 as a result of substance abuse.

In this review JKB is intolerant of the casualisation of poetry and the fact that ‘The link between poetry and significant action is snapped’ although he considered that Causley’s poetry was exempt from this stricture. He was also interested in the fact that Causley wrote about homosexuality and noted that other poets in the group were homosexuals. He preferred Causley’s rhetoric to Beckett’s reticence but his attitude to rhetoric changed later.

waiting for God[ot]: JKB had decided not to wait any longer. On 17 September 1957 he began the first of a series of formal conversations and instructions in preparation for becoming a Catholic. Jacquie was infuriated. Matters became so acrimonious that they separated in October. It is not surprising that he began the following item with de Rougemont’s words ‘Happy love has no history’.


Romantic Love; review of Passion and Society, by Denis de Rougemont, translated by Montgomery Belgion (a revised and augmented edition). London: Faber and Faber, 1956; in NZL 953 (15 Nov. 1957) 13.

The book was first published in English by Faber in 1941. In the previous year Harcourt Brace and Co. had published her Love in the Western World (New York, 1940). It has been republished in a revised and augmented edition by Princeton University Press (Princeton, 1983).

The words of one sentence in his review are glued together by personal experience: ‘a complex narcissism through which many lives founder daily in divorce, violence or suicide.’ And when he mentioned that ‘Only in a monastic community could you or I avoid its influence’ he may have already arranged to visit the Cistercian monastery of Our Lady of the Southern Star at Kopua in Hawke’s Bay. He made a week’s retreat there in December.


In the Case of Bohemia versus Suburbia; in Viewpoint, NZ Art Teachers’ Association, Wellington (Dec. 1957) n.p. [p. 10].

An account of the lecture JKB gave to university students earlier in the year is found in ‘New Zealand Poet Defends “Bohemian Reaction” in Society’ (a newspaper account of a lecture entitled ‘Poetry as Bush Carpentry’, which JKB delivered to the Otago University Literary Society).

JKB defined Bohemia as ‘a state of mind, a view of oneself’. He described its influence as ‘essentially liberating’ and in opposition to suburbia and its values. With such a starting-point the outlook for marriage was gloomy: ‘Bohemian and suburbanite are accustomed to glare at each other across barbed wire.’ Yet the close of his parable suggests that he was hoping for reconciliation with Jacquie.

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Akitio: A Country School and its Community; in Education VII.1 (Mar. 1958) 41.

JKB made a fact-finding visit to Akitio in late 1857. His visit resulted in one of his finest poems – ‘At Akitio’ (CP 184). This article sketches some of the material he used in the poem. He had learned from Lawrence Durrell of the need to buttress reality by making a close, precise, and selective reference to the environment. His article emphasises the link between the school and its community.


Nonsense Wins; review of The Body’s Imperfection, the collected poems of L.A.G. Strong. London: Methuen, [1957]; Collected Poems, by John Pudney. London: Putnam, 1957; Not Waving but Drowning, poems by Stevie Smith. [London]: André Deutsch, 1957; in NZL 969 (14 Mar. 1958) 14.

L[eonard] A[rthur] G[eorge] Strong (1896-1958), Anglo-Irish critic, novelist and poet, taught C. Day Lewis in Oxford and became his friend. Most of his writings have an Irish background. He wrote studies of James Joyce, Synge and Yeats. His autobiography Green Memory was published by Methuen (London, 1961).

John [Sleigh] Pudney (1909-77), widely read English poet during World War Two when he published six collections of poetry while serving with the Royal Air Force’s creative writing unit. He also produced biographies, novels and short stories.

One can forgive a poet anything but ordinariness. JKB is continuing his assault upon the casualisation of poetry by contemporary poets. He regarded the widely celebrated poetry of [Florence Margaret] Stevie Smith (1902-71) as an exception. She wrote deceptively simple poetry often imbued with deep irony, drawing much of her inspiration from religion and the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales. She tried not to read her contemporaries so that her writing style would not be affected.


Old and New; review of New Poems, 1957, a P.E.N. anthology, edited by C. Day Lewis, Kathleen Nott and Thomas Blackburn. London: Chatto and Windus, 1957, and The Hawk in the Rain, poems by Ted Hughes. London: Faber and Faber, 1957; in NZL 974 (18 Apr. 1958) 14.

Kathleen [Cecilia] Nott (1905-99) was a British poet (four collections) and rationalist.

Thomas [Eliel Fenwick] Blackburn (1916-77), British poet, was once described as ‘A dark brooding man who quenched his despair with drink and barbiturates’.

Edward (Ted) [James] Hughes (1930-98), English poet, wrote poetry founded on the beauty and struggles of animal life, his metaphor for human life. Later he based his poetry on mythology. He was recognised as a great contemporary poet and became poet laureate (1984-98), in succession topage 251 John Betjeman, but only after Philip Larkin declined. His personal life was much less successful. He married the American poet Sylvia Plath, with whom he had a complex relationship. She committed suicide, as did his other lover Assia Wevill, with the difference that Wevill also killed their child. His third relationship with a nurse survived from 1970 until his death.


Around the Clubs . . . Newman Society; report of a talk given by JKB to the Newman Society. The report was published in Canta XXVIII.6 (12 June 1958) 8.

The report, written by P[eter] F. M[enzies], was reprinted in Canta XXVIII.7 (26 June 1958) 7. Below the report is a photograph of JKB with the caption ‘After this what?’

The Newman Society was the Catholic university students’ society at Canterbury University College. It was named after Cardinal John Henry Newman.


Two Kinds of Simplicity; review of Then there was Fire, further poems by Minou Drouet, translated from the French by Margaret Crosland. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1957; The Strange Islands, poems by Thomas Merton. London: Hollis & Carter, 1957; in NZL 986 (11 July 1958) 13.

Marie-Noëlle (Minou) Drouet (1947-) was a French musician, poet from a young age, and children’s writer.

Thomas Merton (1915-68), American poet, spiritual writer, monk and mystic, was a son of Owen Merton, a New Zealand painter, and Ruth Jenkins, an American artist and Quaker. At first antipathetic to Catholicism, he was received as a Catholic in 1938 while completing an MA in English at Columbia University. In 1941 he entered the Trappist abbey of Gethsemani (Kentucky). His autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain (1948) was a best-seller and persuaded many men to enter monasteries world-wide. (An English edition was released under the title Elected Silence.) His books became classics of spiritual writing. He also wrote on themes connected with social matters and interfaith dialogue.

JKB recognised in Merton one of his own themes: the overwhelming of sin by the redemptive act of Christ, whom he referred to in ‘In the Case of Bohemia versus Suburbia’, as ‘The man on the cross’. When JKB wrote in his review that Merton was ‘the best Catholic apologist I have ever read’ he himself had been a Catholic for almost six months.


Poet is ‘first N.Z. link’ in East cultural exchanges; Auckland Star, 15 July 1958.

JKB’s visit to India became one of the most pivotal events of his life, ultimately helping him to decide to form a therapeutic community at Jerusalem.

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The Outsider; review of Religion and the Rebel, by Colin Wilson. London: Gollancz, 1957; in NZL 987 (18 July 1958) 14.

JKB regards Wilson’s book negatively partly because he himself had just become a member of an established Church and did not regard the position of the outsider favourably. He may have been amused that rather than writing books about religion and existence Wilson later wrote or contributed to booksabout Jack the Ripper, the occult, unsolved crimes, sex, madness, mass murder, cults and fanatics, and mind mysteries.


Marxist Poet; review of Collected Poems, by Michael Roberts. London: Faber & Faber, 1958; in NZL 989 (1 Aug. 1958) 13.

Michael Roberts (1902-48), English poet and anthologist, was interested in Communism for a time during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1936 he edited The Faber Book of Modern Verse (London: Faber & Faber). JKB acquired it when he was young.


The Lonely Rebel; review of Baudelaire, a self-portrait, selected letters translated and edited with a running commentary by Lois Boe Hyslop and Francis E[dwin] Hyslop. London: Oxford University Press, 1957; in NZL 991 (15 Aug 1958) 12.

In his teens JKB wrote and published prose-poems which showed Baudelaire’s influence. As an adult he still felt a connection with the lonely promethean poet.


A Drained Life; review of Edward Thomas, by H[enri] Coombes. London: Chatto & Windus, 1956; in NZL 993 (29 Aug. 1958) 14.

[Philip] Edward Thomas (1878-1917), Anglo-Welsh poet and essayist, served in World War I from 1915 until his death. When JKB wrote that Thomas’s life was ‘sandbagged by domesticity’ he may also have been thinking of his own life.


Created from Pain; review of Collected Poems 1930-1955, by George Barker. London: Faber and Faber, 1957; in NZL 995 (12 Sep. 1958) 13-14.

In the review JKB remarked that Barker was ‘a religious poet, recording an agonising private war with God’. Four days after the publication of those words JKB wrote to Roderick Finlayson (aware that Finlayson had converted to Catholicism), ‘It seems to me that it is time I became a true Catholic. There will be various difficulties along the road; though a secret desire in which I trust is leading me along that road, most private feelings and many intellectual habits pull against it.’ (16 Sep. 1957; McKay 156). On the following day he began receiving religious instructions from Fr George McHardy, an assistant priest at St Mary of the Angels parish in central Wellington. His progress away from Anglicanism deeply offended Jacquie and was a further factor inpage 253 the series of events which led to their separation in October. On 11 January 1958 he was received into the Catholic Church. A month later he wrote again to Finlayson:

The gas has come out of my air-balloon and I am back on the dry solid earth. This longing to be somebody has deep roots in my nature: it is a cancer, not a plant. But now the longing to be a nobody, to be lost among the mountains and the rivers of the Mass, stands beside it, planted by God – and the two may well wrestle till I die, when, Yeats tells us, at stroke of midnight God will win. Do you know why [God] made me a Catholic? Because I am like a diabetic and cannot live without His insulin; without conscious continual contact with Him I’d be a lost man; and He knows this and will not let me go even when I struggle like a child that wants to leave its mother’s arms. (12 Feb. 1958; McKay 161).

He was drawn to the Catholic Sacraments of Eucharist and Confession. When he wrote of Barker that ‘He is a religious poet, recording an agonising private war with God; an erotic poet who records exactly the nightmares as well as the sensual paradise open to a lover’ he could have been referring to himself. His religious struggles are documented in Part 3 of In Fires of No Return, a collection of poetry published by Oxford University Press in 1958, which was awarded the Jessie Mackay Poetry Award for that year.

He spoke as much of himself as of Barker when he said, ‘We both love and destroy what we love.’


Jack Winter’s Dream; a Play for Voices [account of the play and its production for radio]; in NZL 996 (19 Sep. 1958) 8-9.

This item is an extended advertisement for the play of that name which was produced by the New Zealand Broadcasting Service on 26 September 1958 at 8 p.m. The production included music by Ashley Heenan played by the National Symphony Orchestra. The taped production was edited by Roy Melford. In the article Bernard Beeby, New Zealand Broadcasting Service Supervisor of Productions, disclosed that the NZBS intended to send Jack Winter’s Dream to the BBC which had requested New Zealand material. ‘There is a lot of imagination in the work, and colour – and it is New Zealand colour’, Beeby said. (See also NZL 999 (10 Oct. 1958) 18 by N.L.M.)

It was published by Louis Johnson’s Capricorn Press (Wellington, 1957).


A Writer’s Vocation; in Manuka (1958) pp. 11-12.

JKB’s admission that he was ‘a writer by vocation; also a husband and a parent’ emphasises his desire for reconciliation with Jacquie. He also believed that God intended him to be both a writer and a husband if he was ‘to become myself, the man God intends me to be’. Recalling the time when his parents tried to persuade him to take his university studies seriously and become an academic he remarked that he had heard an ‘obscure voice’ saying, ‘You arepage 254 meant to be someone else, someone else whom you have not yet become, and one of the ways you will find your true self is by writing.’ He heard that voice again when he was moved to resign from the School Publications Branch of the Department of Education and when he finished his term as Burns Fellow in Dunedin in 1968.


The Aardvark and the Onager; Hocken (ARC-0027) MS 1136/007. Est. date.

Even though I do not know the date of this item I have placed it here because JKB, who at this time had felt obliged to leave home, was trying to re-establish his marriage, and this was the theme of the parable.

The manuscript was donated to the Hocken by Millicent Baxter in October 1975.


Journal of Trip to Asia; Hocken MS-0975/103.

The journal begins on 15 September [1958], the date when JKB flew from Wellington to Auckland; the last full date provided is 5 December [1958], when he was visiting Madras.

Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich (c. 1342-c. 1413): this book is a devout and powerful expression of Julian’s mystical relationship with God. It is thought to be the first book in English to be written by a woman. Psalmus XLVII ‘the thighs of the north’: this may be an incorrect reading; I cannot trace the reference.

Till We Have Faces: a Myth Retold is the title of C.S. Lewis’s 1956 novel. It is actually his reworking of the myth of Cupid and Pysche (representing sacred and profane love). Ungit represents Aphrodite.

The Little Flower of Jesus: a popular name accorded by Catholics to MarieFrancoise-Thérèse Martin (1873-97), a French Carmelite nun, whose devout and sacrificial life and remarkable visionary experiences were recorded in the autobiography she wrote at the instruction of her religious superior. Published after her death it revealed her sanctity. This and many miracles led to her canonisation in 1914 as St Thérèse of Lisieux (where she died).

Akasaka Prince Hotel: Presumably what is now (2012) called the Grand Prince Hotel, Akasaka, an upscale hotel in Chiyoda, Tokyo, which is currently described as having spacious guest-rooms and thirteen restaurants and bars.

Chagasaki: I have not been able to identify this place. Chigasaki is a city on the eastern bank of the Sagami River, in central Kanagawa Prefecture.

[Joseph] Hilaire [Pierre René] Belloc (1870-1953), writer and historian, was especially notable for the manner in which his Catholic Faith impregnated his writing and ideas. How the Reformation Happened was first published in 1928.

J[ohn] B[ingham] Morton (1893-1979) was the main author of Hilairepage 255 Belloc, which was published in London in 1953 by the Catholic Truth Society. J.P. Boland also contributed to the study. In addition Morton wrote Hilaire Belloc: a Memoir, which was published two years later.

J[ohn] P[ius] Boland (1870-1958) graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, before being called to the Bar. He did not practise law but entered politics instead, representing his constituency in the House of Commons. He took a special interest in literacy and the development of the Irish language. In 1896 he won the gold medal for tennis in the singles and doubles at the first modern Olympic Games. He died on St Patrick’s Day 1958, just a few months before JKB left for Asia.

Iwanami Publishing Company: founded in 1913 by Shigeo Iwanami. It is now (2012) known as Iwanami Shoten. Its head office is in Chiyoda.

Fujihakawa: not identified.

Writing paper for conference: according to McKay (p. 166) JKB had been asked by a UNESCO delegate from Paris to present a paper on ‘Teaching Aids other than audio-visuals’.

Husband of the [Lord]: if this is the title of a book I have been unable to identify it. The expression is based on Isaiah 54.5: ‘For your Maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty . . .’ This is sometimes interpreted in conjunction with 1 Peter 3, 1-7: ‘Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands . . .’ JKB was obviously considering his role (headship of the family) in relation to his wife and children.

crying doll: probably a Kokeshi doll. These wooden dolls with sad eyes originated in the Tohuku region between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries where they were sold to tourists. The artisans who made them were known as Kijiya. The dolls made a crying sound when their necks were turned.

Chōshi, in Chiba Prefecture, is located on the Pacific Coast. It is the easternmost city in the Greater Tokyo Area and is famous for its fishing port.

DEATH OF THE POPE: JKB’s capitalisation indicates what importance he put upon this event. Pope Pius XII was born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli in 1876. After a period as Cardinal Secretary of State he was elected pope on 2 March 1939.

Je suis forçat; je suis nègro: JKB’s adaptation of an extract from Arthur Rimbaud’s Une Saison en Enfer.

Leo’s book on Goa: in 1963 a book entitled Nehru Seizes Goa was published in New York by Pageant Press. Its author was Leo Lawrence. So it is possible that in 1958 JKB was reading an earlier version of a book on Goa by the same author. Lawrence’s book was fiercely critical of the takeover.

Shiva: a Hindu deity; the Supreme God.

Rama: the embodiment of truth and morality; an ideal son, husband and king.

Ganesh: in Hindu belief the Lord of beginnings and master of obstacles, patron of arts, science and wisdom. Ganesh is depicted with an elephant’s head.

page 256

Chula: a combustion chamber usually used indoors for cooking. It has space on top for one or more pots or pans. The combustion gases may be discharged through an opening but they can still cause eye and respiratory problems for those who are exposed to them.

Ribald Tales: Perhaps a version (probably English) of Honoré de Balzac’s Contes Drolatiques (1832-37).

n.p.: after Independence the Indian currency was reorganised. One rupee was divided into 16 annas or 64 pice. When India adopted the decimal system in 1957 non-decimal and decimal coins were valid. To distinguish between non-decimal and decimal pice the term ‘naya paisa’ (abbreviation n.p.) was applied to the coins minted between 1957 and 1964. This is the coin to which JKB refers. (The term ‘naya’ was dropped in 1964.)

The Vale of Bhang: bhang is a preparation of ground flowers and leaves of the female cannabis plant. It can be smoked or, after liquid is added, consumed as a drink. During festivals of Shiva it is frequently distributed as a religious offering. During the Holi festival it is widely consumed. Sadhus use it to achieve a transcendental effect. Government-sanctioned bhang shops are common throughout India. When JKB wrote ‘The Vale of Bhang’ he was obviously under the influence of the drug.

Sadhu: a mystic, ascetic or monk.

lakhs: a lakh is the number 100,000.

St Thomas Mount: a small hill in Chennai (formerly known as Madras) where St Thomas the Apostle was believed to have been martyred in 72 A.D. The Church of Our Lady of Expectation was built by the Portuguese in 1523.

Different pieces of writing make it clear that JKB’s hopes for his marriage and feelings about Jacquie fluctuated. But it is also obvious that the family’s reunion in India effected a genuine reconciliation. On 8 January 1959, while JKB, Jacquie, Hilary and John were staying in their rented house in Nizamuddin West, New Delhi, JKB wrote to Miss Ethel Law, his old friend and confidante, to report that matters had mended:

Dear Miss Law,

I am taking time off among the various concerns of work and the family, in order to let you know we are alive and happy in India – among many causes, thanks to your quiet, loving and intelligent help during the last months in Wellington. I do believe that Jacquie and I have reached the rock, the magnetic mountain, after coming so near to shipwreck. She is singing in the kitchen now, the old Jacquie and also a new Jacquie, less nervy and locked up in herself. Let me quote you a little poem I wrote for her last night – the reference to pagans would not include Virgil, though I fear a little that poor Catullus might come under the ban! –

Once I wrote of Jason’s fleece
Because your hair was long,

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But now I am a Catholic
I sing a different song.

For pagan songs and pagan hearts
In Hell’s deep marshes end;
But I think the Blessed Virgin
Would have liked you as a friend.

Like Hers your thoughts are straight and pure,
Like Hers your touch is mild,
As when you washed with your own hands
The sores of the dhabi’s child.

Though I must go to mass and pray
For both of us, it’s true –
I learn the truth from Holy Church,
I learn to live with you.

The third verse refers to a daily happening which leaves me (for once!) silent and amazed – when Jacquie washes and puts ointment on the sore and terribly dirty head of the child of the woman who does our washing for us. And I, like a blind man who all but lost a great jewel, have thought at times that it was my job to irrigate Jacquie’s deserts of unbelief; while she unconsciously has lived always in an area where love and humility are possible. I do long and pray for her to become a Catholic though; and no doubt God will bring it about when the time is ripe. Being blind, I did not love Jacquie enough; but now I see her as she is, and of course cannot do otherwise than love her.

The children have adjusted to India remarkably well – Hilary seems so much happier and more stable in herself, having accepted and digested our reunion; and John is growing, thank God, from a rather timid little boy into a real Anglo-Indian ruffian. The tight-rope-walking, the magicians, the musicians, the snake-charmers, the bullock-drivers – these fill their interior life with that richness and colour which every child needs. I have no fear for our future, which is truly safe in the hands of our loving Father. I know that some, such as yourself, in the Church of England, find that sense of an abyss of love supporting their souls and the whole visible world; but for me it was not so, it was a long hard search; and only now am I truly and deeply at peace. This peace of course does communicate itself to Jacquie – the meaning of marriage, as I now see it, is that God loves each through each. The sad thing about many marriages is that only the best people manage to keep on even keel – those with natural gifts of tolerance and wisdom and affection, those who have (as it were) a governor on the fly-wheel of the machine – whereas I believe that the view of marriage as an objective Sacrament makes it possible for the weak, sensual, piebald prejudiced people to struggle through without shipwreck into a true and loving calm. I have the saddest dreams about those friends of mine whose marriages have broken (the Campbells especially); I feel that they lost theirpage 258 way, poor things, and that one did not dare to try to help them; though perhaps prayer is all one can give. But I do not believe a husband or wife can ever be themselves when they have lost each other, not by death – which comes from God – but by what seems to modern eyes sufficient reason. They become half-people and terribly wounded; as I know from my own case and Jacquie’s. God has healed those wounds for us, and the world is good and solid at the core. . . . (Hocken Misc-MS-0682: Estates of Mrs H Miller and Miss Ethel Law: Poems and lectures by James K. Baxter 194445, 1959)


Notes from India; in Zealandia XXV.36 (24 Dec. 1958) 8.

JKB began his article with the words ‘Joy is the core and meaning of Catholic life: a blazing supernatural joy, crowning nature as the flame crowns a bonfire’ because he was writing it for Zealandia, a Catholic weekly newspaper based in Auckland. (Its first issue was published on 10 May 1934.) By 197172 he would not have written that sentence in the same manner. However in 1960 he wrote ‘To Our Lady of Perpetual Help’, which explored some of his sentiments about Mary. And in the item which follows this one he mentions Chesterton’s ‘deep love for Our Lady’ which ‘blows like a gale through his heart’ and brings energy and conviction to his poem ‘Regina Angelorum’. In this article JKB refers to Mary, ‘For me, who had no sister, you deigned to become a miraculous elder sister’. In ‘To Our Lady of Perpetual Help’ he refers to Mary as his ‘mother’ (‘Mother, below my life you live’, CP 222). In ‘The Family of Saints’ he referred to Mary as both ‘mother and sister’. He claimed that she was the sister he never had. He may also have faintly implied that she represented the mother ‘he never had’.


Imaginary dialogue between a sinful Catholic poet and a sorrowful Irish Jansenist; in The Two Baxters; Diary Notes by Pat Lawlor (With an Essay by Vincent O’Sullivan). Wellington: Millwood Press, 1979. pp. 23-26.

Lawlor received this item from India on 1 March 1959. (The book in which it is published is based on diary entries dated 1951 to 1972. These were originally published in Zealandia.) His diary entry for the day he received it (pp. 22-23) reads

Jim has sent me from India a prompt and witty rejoinder to my criticism of one verse in his ‘Ballad of the Holy Ghost’. In it he has dubbed me a ‘sorrowful Irish Jansenist’ and he may not be far wrong, for I am ultra-scrupulous on matters of sex and anything irreligious.

I must tell him, however, that a ballad with such a title could hardly carry the implication of the wording in his fifth verse. He is also critical of my references to the association of Lou Johnson and himself in a recent issue of Numbers.

‘Lou is a friend of mine; a very different man from yourself, but still as much a friend. . . . When my drinking was at its worst, and I was in real danger of impenitent despair, Lou, like yourself, showed me the greatest page 259 charity and helped me to move towards better things. I can never forget that.

‘As to his progress in the Faith, “the first fierce glory” has departed. At the same time I do have a natural sadness at the frequent absence of religious emotion. Perhaps God is weaning me so that I may take a more objective view of Him and the creation.

‘At any rate, I try not to let it worry me. I am a Catholic for good, Pat – the Church is my home, the only situation from which this bad old world makes sense.’

Pat Lawlor is the SIJ (sorrowful Irish Jansenist). JKB is the SCP (sinful Catholic poet). After JKB sent Lawlor a manuscript copy of ‘Ballad of the Holy Ghost’ Lawlor protested about the fifth stanza, helping to let the air out of JKB’s air balloon.

Patrick (Pat) Lawlor (1893-1979): see SB.

Lawlor, originally hostile to the young poets, moved to JKB’s side after hearing his talk to the 1951 Writers’ Conference. As JKB moved towards Catholicism, Lawlor became one of his religious mentors.

Lawlor’s moral and literary attitudes were salted by Jansenism, an outreach of Calvinism, proposed for the Catholic Church by Cornelius Otto Jansen (1585-1638). His theology emphasised human depravity. The movement made some headway in France but was opposed by the Jesuits and was ultimately declared to be heretical by Pope Innocent X in 1655, partly on the grounds that it denied the human function of free will. JKB interpreted as a relic of Jansenism the reaction of such Catholics as Lawlor to his bawdiness.


A Niggle at Catholic Verse; in Zealandia XXV.49 (26 Mar. 1959) 11.

Like JKB, Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was a Catholic convert. On later occasions JKB expressed his dislike for aspects of Hopkins’s verse and its influence. At that time he was rejecting the notion of crusading for ‘the working-classes’.


The Earthly Paradise; in Diary of a Visit to East Asia; Hocken, MS 0975/109.

Parts of this item are indecipherable to me.

Émile Verhaeren (1855-1916) was a Belgian poet who wrote in French, and a founder of the symbolist movement. He attended a Jesuit school at Ghent before studying law at the University of Leuven, but practised law only for a short time before devoting his energy to literature, especially poetry. He became an advocate for the avant-garde movement of the Nineties and published collections of poetry in 1883, 1886, 1888 and 1891. In that year he married Marthe Massin and his newfound happiness was expressed in three poetry collections in 1896, 1905 and 1911. The lines cited by JKB in his epigraph are taken from a poem (‘Le beau jardin fleuri de flammes’) in Verhaeren’s 1896 collection Les Heures Claires. By 1900 his writings werepage 260 translated into twenty languages and he was world famous. (In 1911 he came close to being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature but it went instead to his friend Maurice Maeterlinck.) A pacifist, Verhaeren was devastated by the outbreak of World War One. He died on 27 November 1961, from falling under a train.

In fact MS-0975/109 is not a diary or journal but a notebook JKB had with him in India. It begins with a list of characters and events for a projected novel to be entitled ‘The Adventures of Harry Glass’. (It ultimately became his novel Horse.) This was followed by ten pages of notes which seem to have been collected for writing up as his article ‘Kilokery and Kalekan’. Particularly relevant are his notes on the role of men and women in marriage. Towards the end of the notes he wrote two observations which are relevant to the plans for his Jerusalem community: ‘Relation to stranger – good luck from visit of stranger as guest.’ Also ‘Rule of hospitality’. The Kilokery and Kalekan notes are followed by the draft of a poem entitled ‘An Answer to de la Mare’. Afterwards JKB wrote some notes about his relationship with his wife. It is headed ‘Jacquie – Jim’:


Why could I never feel at one with her?

Because I will not fulfil her demand.


What was it?

A. Patience, good-humour, faculty of making decisions.

B. Sensitivity to detail, verve, rhythm, lack of stiffness.

(A and B tend to exclude each other. DETACHMENT needed for A., not really caring what she thinks of me. B. is libidinal, and detachment flatters the ego.)


Did I ever really love her?

Yes, by worshipping her. In fact she has at least 10 distinct selves – (i) Hippolyte – the young athlete – tomboy (ii) a lover of THINGS – objects, patterns, colours – nearly all her sexuality is expended on this (iii) the shrew, the domestic bully (iv) a self flaccidly life, curling up like a foetus (v) the writer (vi) a Spartan self, braced to avert difficulties (vii) the friend of others (viii) the dancer (ix) the good (?) mother . . . and so on. Some of these I love or admire; some I tolerate; some I abominate. I could get on better if the changes of selves were less unpredictable.

This is followed by a draft of titles of poems he was considering for inclusion in the volume which ultimately became entitled Howrah Bridge, notes for a talk on poetry, and a title (‘The Mind of the Church’) as well as a single deleted line of an article (perhaps for Zealandia). At that point he wrote the words ‘The Earthly Paradise’, following them with a note, ‘Dante places the Earthly Paradise at the summit of the Purgatorial Mountain’. His planning of this article was then interrupted as he recorded some thoughts on the relationship of husband and wife in marriage. He was obviously thinking about himself and Jacquie who, with their children, had joined him in India after their separation: page 261

Authority in the family: husband is head, wife is heart. Sometimes . . . special circumstances may make it necessary for wife to be head – this is abnormal. . . . Obedience in marriage rite is safeguard against actual danger of wife being conflicting authority. Neo-pagan view of dual authority, owing to human weakness, highly unstable.

Husband may seek to please his wife rather than God (uxoriousness) – e.g. offering of sacrifice before image of Caesar. (‘Imagined conversation’.)

‘Theo, my dear, I grant you this matter of incense burning is a very controversial issue. But have you considered it from every angle. What about me and the children? I can’t see that God demands you should abandon your own family . . .’.

‘Sin versus obedience . . .’

‘Oh, you are always so rigid and pig-headed. You never listen to advice. Septimus has burnt incense. And you must agree there’s not a better man in the whole outfit. The Bishops are too extreme.’

This was followed by a carefully printed manuscript of ‘The Earthly Paradise’ (repeated here), some notes for a talk on the negative effects of education, a draft review of Sacheverell Sitwell’s Journey to the Ends of Time, vol. 1, Lost in the Dark Wood (the review was published in NZL 1059, 11 Dec. 1959: 14), notes for a satirical article entitled ‘The Spigot Letters’, a list of characters (perhaps for a play), and some statements that may have been intended for an article.


Aspects of Indian Life; in Education VIII.3 (June 1959) 77-79.

Kali: Hindu goddess; consort of Shiva and controller of time.


The Fuss about Numbers; (letter to editor); in NZL 1033 (12 June 1959) 11.

The issue of February 1959 carried a story by Richard Packer which set the cat among the pigeons. Afterwards Wellington’s Evening Post argued that public money should not be spent on ‘indecent’ literature.

Louis Johnson described the problem:

In 1959 there was an explosion – created almost entirely by an unfriendly element of the daily newspapers – over the ninth issue of the Literary-Fundsupported magazine Numbers, but the Advisory Committee [of the New Zealand State Literary Fund] was not really put to the test over the incident. The editor of Numbers did not seek further grants for the publication, with the result that it collapsed after one more issue. (‘Poetry Yearbook and the New Zealand Literary Fund’, Comment, vol. 5 no. 2, Jan. 1964, p. 30)

In NZL (27 Feb. 1959) Monte Holcroft asserted in an editorial that there needed to be little magazines like Numbers which were intended for small, sophisticated reading audiences, where young aspiring writers could try their hand. JKB’s letter remarks that such a ‘moderate and judicious statement’ heartened him. He also referred to the matter in a letter to Pat Lawlor: page 262

There will always be small unstable periodicals whose editors fight more shadows than dragons, yet which do provide some standing-room for muddled boys and girls to sort out their ideas and talents.

Such butterflies (or wasps even) should not come too much under the critic’s hammer, and I am glad that you are now giving the controversy the go-by. (The Two Baxters, p. 26)

Louis Johnson made a defence in Numbers 10 (Oct. 1959). This proved to be the final issue of the magazine.

Richard Packer (1935-89), poet, became a journalist in Wellington and Christchurch and attracted the attention ofLouis Johnson. Prince of the Plague Country, his only New Zealand book, was published in 1964 and in the same year, along with JKB and Martyn Sanderson, he was cited as being the cause of the 1964 controversy over NZPY. Disgusted by New Zealand puritanism, which he considered to be the real issue, he left for Australia, becoming a journalist in Melbourne. He settled there and produced three other books.

Comment: a journal of social and political affairs with a Catholic perspective, edited between 1959 and 1970, first by W.H. Oliver, then by Vincent O’Sullivan. It began in Christchurch but soon shifted to Wellington. It was revived in 1977 and survived until 1982.


The Family of Saints; in Zealandia XXVI.9 (18 June 1959) 10.

JKB describes Mary as ‘mother and sister’.

He credits St Francis of Assisi with drawing him to the Catholic Church.


Explaining the Poets; review of Vision and Rhetoric, studies in modern poetry, by G.S. Fraser. London: Faber and Faber, [1959]; in NZL 1036 (3 July 1959) 13.

G[eorge] S[utherland] Fraser (1915-80), Scottish poet and critic, was a member of the New Apocalypse group which was interested in subjective, imaginative writing tinged with Marxist and Freudian ideas. The Modern Writer and his World (1953), his first book of literary criticism, was well-received. It was followed by Vision and Rhetoric. In 1949 he wrote his autobiography A Stranger and Afraid but ended it with the year 1947. It was not published until 1983.


The Monastic Life; review of A Secular Journal, by Thomas Merton. London: Hollis & Carter, 1959; in NZL 1038 (17 July 1959) 13.

The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani was founded in 1848 when forty-four Trappist monks emigrated from their abbey in Melleray, France. The foundation survives today on two thousand acres of farmland and also partly supports itself by a popular mail-order business selling cheese, fudge and fruit-cake. The Wall Street Journal once rated the fruit-cake ‘best overall’.

JKB’s closing statement foreshadows his move to Hiruharama and the mood of the poem ‘A Man Went on a Search’ (CP 487).

page 263

A Visit from Mr James Baxter; in The Patrician (annual magazine of St Patrick’s College, Wellington, 1959, p. 84.)

The report is signed ‘P.J.E.’ (for Peter James Ewart, 1941- ), who was professed as a member of the Society of Mary and was subsequently ordained a Catholic priest on 1 July 1967. He graduated BA from Victoria University, taught at secondary level, and engaged in parish ministry. He spent eleven years as executive officer for the New Zealand Catholics Bishops Conference.

This is the earliest recorded example of what later became a frequent practice of JKB’s – addressing English and religion classes in Catholic secondary schools. This visit would have been occasioned by JKB’s friendship with Frank McKay, who taught the class to which JKB spoke.


The Banyan Tree; review of The Culture and Art of India, by Radhakamal Mukerjee. London: Allen & Unwin, 1959; in NZL 1040 (31 July 1959) 13.

Radhakamal Mukerjee (1889-1968) was professor of economics and vice-chancellor at the University of Lucknow. He is an important figure in the history of the independence movement.


Mixed Voices; review of New Poets 1959, edited by Edwin Muir. London. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, [1959]; The Guinness Book of Poetry, 1957-58. London: Putnam, 1959; First and Second Love, sonnets by Eleanor Farjeon. London: Oxford University Press, 1959; Promises, poems 1954-56, by Robert Penn Warren. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1959; Life Studies, by Robert Lowell. London: Faber & Faber, 1959; in NZL 1042 (14 Aug. 1959) 14.

Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965), poet and children’s writer, had a talent for friendship: her friends included D.H. Lawrence, Walter de la Mare and Edward Thomas. Her best known piece of writing is the hymn ‘Morning has Broken’ which was made popular by the singer Cat Stevens.

Robert Penn Warren (1905-89), US poet, novelist and critic. Promises, poems received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. In 1947 his novel All the King’s Men (1946) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In 1979 he received a second Pulitzer Prize for poetry when Now and Then; poems 1976-78 was selected for the award. He is the only writer to have received the prize for fiction and for poetry.

Lowell’s Life Studies marked a turning-point in his poetry. From then on he wrote in a more open, relaxed style.


Byron and Allegra; (letter to editor); in NZL 1044 (28 Aug. 1959) 11.

At a second level JKB is talking about himself. Perhaps the editor recognised this because he annotated the letter ‘We don’t suggest abnormal egotism by Byron – just egotism, a condition not unusual in poets’.

page 264

Double Identity; review of Musings, verses by Duncan Hardie. Wellington: Capricorn Press, 1959; in NZL 1044 (28 Aug. 1959) 13.

Hardie came from Westport. His first book seems to have been Stray Thoughts (Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1936).


Japanese Theatre; review of Three Japanese Plays, from the Traditional Theatre, edited with an Introduction by Earl Ernst. London: Oxford University Press, 1959; in NZL 1047 (18 Sep. 1959) 12.

During the occupation of Japan by US forces at the end of World War Two, Ernst served as censor of Japanese theatre. After he returned to the University of Hawaii he revived Japanese traditional theatre. He published The Kabuki Theatre in 1956 and then Three Japanese Plays. He was on the teaching staff of the university for thirty-two years.


New Zealand Criticism; extract from an address to the PEN Writers’ Conference in Wellington in early September 1959. Reported by Ian Cross in Critic XXV.12 (28 Sep. 1959) 8-9.

In 1934, in Wellington, Pat Lawlor, writer and journalist, established a New Zealand centre for PEN, the international organisation for the promotion of literature. It petitioned the Government to establish a State Literary Fund (achieved in 1946). For thirty years PEN campaigned for a public lending right to advantage authors. It also established the first literary awards. In 1994 it became the New Zealand Society of Authors.

A writer serves truth alone: JKB remained faithful to this belief.


Low Stakes – and High; review of Catchment Area, poems by James Harrison. London: Oxford University Press, 1959; Homage to Mistress Bradstreet and other poems, by John Berryman. London: Faber & Faber, 1959; in NZL 1049 (2 Oct. 1959) 12.

the value of a poet’s work depends far more on his grappling with (for him) central life issues than on his technical achievement. Out of the grappling the technique will come: all his life JKB remade this point in different ways.

John [Allyn] Berryman (1914-72) was born John Smith but his name changed when his mother remarried. Anne Bradstreet was the first known published poet of colonial America and Berryman honoured her when he assembled his poetry collection Homage to Mistress Bradstreet (1956). In 1964 his 77 Dream Songs won the Pulitzer Prize. It was his most famous collection. His Toy, His Dream, His Rest was published in 1968 and the two volumes were combined as The Dream Songs in 1969. Alcoholic, suffering from manic depression, he jumped from Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis in 1972, the year JKB died. Randall Jarrell and Theodore Roethke were other American poets who committed suicide as a result of depression partly caused by the isolation they experienced on college campuses.

page 265

The Right to Speak; review of Heroes and Clerks, poems by Philip Mincher. Wellington: Handcraft Press, 1959; in NZL 1051 (16 Oct. 1959) 13.

Philip Mincher (1930-2011) lived in Auckland. He contributed stories to NZL from 1952 to 1973. His stories have been collected as The Ride Home (1977) and All the Wild Summer (1985). They place him in the front rank of New Zealand story writers. Heroes and Clerks is his only poetry collection.

Noel Farr Hoggard (1913-75), short-story writer, printer and publisher, founded Spilt Ink (1932-37) a literary journal, in Wellington. It became The New Triad (1937-42), then Letters (1943-46) before beginning a distinguished history as Arena (1946-75). He also established the Handcraft Press to print his journals. As a result of his generous editorial policies many New Zealand writers were introduced to their public.

In the course of the review JKB revealed his admiration of Mincher’s poetry when he mimicked the remark that Curnow made about the young poet JKB in A Book of New Zealand Verse.


Poems beyond Fashion; review of The Green Heart, poems by Brenda Chamberlain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958; The Rebirth of Pride, poems by Jonathan Griffin. London: Secker & Warburgh, 1957; Collected Poems and Epigrams, by George Rostrevor Hamilton. London: Heinemann, 1958; and Poetry Handbook, a dictionary of terms, by Roberta Deutsch. London: Jonathan Cape, 1958; in NZL 1001 (24 Oct. 1958) 13.

Brenda Chamberlain (1912-71), Welsh poet and artist.

Jonathan Griffin (1906-90), poet, translator and diplomat. He was Director of BBC Intelligence during World War Two. His collected poems were issued in two volumes in 1989 and 1990.

George Rostrevor Hamilton, poet, critic, author of thirty-four books. As an inspector of taxes he was able to help with the tax problems of his friend Walter de la Mare. He was a director of the Poetry Book Society which, in the year of JKB’s review, gave its award to In Fires of No Return.


A Sack behind Him; review of Selected Poems, 1928-58, by Stanley Kunitz. London: Dent and Sons, 1959; in NZL 1053 (30 Oct. 1959) 13.

Stanley [Jasspoon] Kunitz (1905-2006) became a college lecturer and taught for twenty-two years at Columbia University. His first book of poems was published in 1930. In 1959 his Selected Poems, 1928-58 was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

JKB’s poem ‘An Old Photograph’ (uncollected) was in the same issue.


[Programme Note for Richard Campion’s production of The Wide Open Cage at the Unity Theatre, Wellington, on 19 November, 1959]. Published in Two Plays . . . The Wide Open Cage, and Jack Winter’s Dream, Hastings:page 266 Capricorn Press, 1959, and in CPl (p. 329).

McKay (p. 182) remarks ‘Richard Campion, who had produced Jack Winter’s Dream, remembered JKB turning up in an old gabardine coat with the script of a play typed on Government paper.’ In 1948 Campion began training in acting and directing at the Old Vic Theatre Training School in London. In 1951, when he and his wife Edith, a fellow trainee, were back in New Zealand, they decided that a company of professional actors was needed and so in the following year the Campions and Nola Millar established the New Zealand Players. Their first production was staged in May 1953. Edith was related to the Hannah family, which owned a national chain of shoe stores, and she funded the fledgling company’s early expenses.

The draft of the play which JKB first showed Campion was in two acts. Campion advised him to write an additional middle act which would help the play’s structure and movement. It was presented to crowded houses and was welcomed as an exciting, if disturbing, addition to New Zealand drama. In December 1962 it ran briefly in the Washington Square Theatre, a small New York theatre, directed by Robert Dahdah. It was staged at Unity Theatre in March 1973, directed by Campion, and in August 1975 at the Court Theatre, Christchurch, directed by Annette Facer. It was published in Two Plays: The Wide Open Cage, and Jack Winter’s Dream (by Louis Johnson’s Capricorn Press, Hastings, 1959); also in Howard McNaughton (ed.) Contemporary New Zealand Plays (Wellington: Oxford University Press, 1974).

JKB’s note began ‘This play has no message. It simply holds up a mirror to certain relationships among people.’ Years later, in the course of a 1971 radio interview, JKB made to me virtually the same comment about poetry. See No. 652, ‘An Interview with James K. Baxter’ which was recorded for broadcasting on the YC programme ‘Poetry Magazine’ in May 1971 and subsequently published in LF vol. 28 no. 3 (Sep. 1974) 241-250.

McKay (p. 184) wrote that

In a discussion following the first [New Zealand] performance, Baxter said he had rejected a neat plot in favour of a poetically satisfying scheme of ‘the eclipse of the forces of light by the forces of darkness’; and his approach was psychological rather than sociological. Like Jack Winter’s Dream, the play has a strong element of melodrama, something Baxter found attractive. He wrote to his mother on 7 November 1962: ‘I can’t really sift the lurid quality out of what I write. I would have been happy in the days of melodrama: SWEENEY TODD THE DEMON BARBER and so on . . .’

A draft of the first act was published in Numbers 10 (1959) 19 under the title ‘The Tough Side of Things’.

W.H. Oliver said (p. 92):

The play projects a multiple self-portrait. Skully is the Baxter who had believed that he could save himself without church and priest; Hogan thepage 267 self-destructive alcoholic. The climax – the devil-possessed Hogan killing Skully – is the fate Baxter had feared from the drink. Ted is the questing adolescent James, still in bohemia; Eila the kind of troubled young girl he went with; and Norah the rough loving mistress-mother he kept looking for.

Maurice Duggan admired it, despite its Catholic bent, and told Sinclair ‘I no longer completely subscribe to your thesis about the impossibility of writing plays in N.Z.’ (Richards, pp. 248-9).

An extract from the play expresses one of JKB’s lifelong predicaments: ‘There’s two men inside me, Eila. One’s a good old codger. Waiting for harp and crown. He’d never harm a hair of your head. The other one’s sad and bad and mad. He wants to grab hold of life with both hands [. . .] The trouble is, I want you to like them both.’ Lawlor realised this when he chose his title for his memoir – The Two Baxters.

A notice in the ODT (13 Dec. 1962) 8 entitled ‘James K. Baxter Play Opens in U.S.’ reported that the play had opened in the Washington Square Theatre in New York’s Greenwich village after being brought to the United States by the International Drama Council. A spokesperson for the Council described it as ‘the first New Zealand play to be seen in the U.S.’ Directed by Robert Dahdah, it had an all-American cast. The New Zealand consul-general Mr O.P. Gabites and Mrs Gabites were among ‘the small but enthusiastic audience’ on opening night.

In 1961 Campion produced JKB’s realistic drama Three Women and the Sea, which was not a success. (It was also called Tiger Rock.) The fourth collaboration between them resulted in the production of The Spots of the Leopard, composed in 1962, but not produced until 1967.


A Master Spirit; review of The Degrees of Knowledge, by Jacques Maritain. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1959; in NZL 1056 (20 Nov. 1959) 14.

Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) was a French philosopher of moderate realism in the tradition of St Thomas Aquinas. Both he and JKB considered this book to be his magnum opus.


Antipodean Voyages; review of Poems of Discovery, by William Hart-Smith. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1959; in NZL 1057 (27 Nov. 1959).


A Gap in the Spectrum (letter to editor); in LF vol. 13 no. 4 (Dec. 1959) 387.

This letter was written in reply to a review by Paul Day of Marilyn Duckworth’s novel A Gap in the Spectrum. Brasch’s comment, published at the foot of the letter, reads ‘For Mr Baxter’s information, the motto for reviewers of first novels is, No Quarter.’

JKB defended the writings of women writers (more frequently than thosepage 268 of men), including Ruth France, Marilyn Duckworth, Sylvie Ashton-Warner, Mary Stanley and Janet Frame.

Marilyn Duckworth (1935- ) novelist: see SB.

Janet Frame (1924-2004), novelist, short story writer and poet: see SB.


A Private Labyrinth; review of Journey to the Ends of Time (Volume One, Lost in the Dark Wood), by Sacheverell Sitwell. London: Cassell & Co. 1959; in NZL 1059 (11 Dec. 1959) 14.

(Sir) Sacheverell [Reresby] Sitwell (1897-1988), English writer, art critic, younger brother of Sir Osbert Sitwell and Dame Edith Sitwell, sixth baronet of Renishaw Hall, was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford. During World War One he served in the Grenadier Guards. In 1925 he married a Canadian woman. He wrote many literary works, including several collections of poetry and books on architecture and art, but was dismissed by many critics as just another Sitwell.


A Friend of the Family; review of Our Friend James Joyce, by Mary and Padraic Colum. London: Victor Gollancz, 1958; in NZL 1061 (24 Dec. 1959) 14-15.

On 13 September 1944, JKB said to Noel Ginn, ‘I am glad you liked Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I personally consider it to be one of the best novels ever written. The part about the Catholic Hell is overpowering.’ (Millar 374).

James [Augustine Aloysius] Joyce (1882-1941) had unhappy experiences at Catholic schools and gave up religion by the age of sixteen. At University College, Dublin, he studied English, French and Italian, was involved in dramatic and literary circles, and became a heavy drinker. He supported himself by book reviews, tutoring, singing and borrowing money and was involved in a few scrapes, partly as a consequence of his friendship with the prankster medical student Oliver St John Gogarty. Their friendship ended one midnight when Gogarty fired a series of revolver shots at some pans hanging near Joyce’s bed. Between 1904 and 1920 Joyce and his girlfriend Nora Barnacle lived in Zurich or Trieste, where Joyce taught English. His collection of stories Dubliners (mostly finished by 1906) was published in 1914 and his autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1916. (He began it in 1904 under the title ‘Stephen Hero’ but set it aside until he rewrote it years later.) His gloom lifted a little when Harriet Shaw Weaver began supporting him financially and he was able to become a fulltime writer.

At the invitation of Ezra Pound in 1920 he moved to Paris, where he lived for twenty years. Ulysses (completed 1921) was published in 1922. In 1931 he married Nora. Finnegan’s Wake (begun 1923) was published in 1939. In 1940 he returned to Zurich to avoid the Nazi occupation of France. He died therepage 269 in the following year after undergoing surgery for a perforated ulcer. Between 1912 and his death he never visited Dublin.

One of Joyce’s sisters became a nun and was sent to New Zealand to teach in Catholic schools. While she was a member of a religious community in Papanui, Christchurch, I was asked by Professor John Garrett to visit her to see if she would talk to me about her brother. But when I asked her about him she said only ‘Poor James!’

Padraic Colum (1881-1972) was born in Longford, Ireland. In 1904 he decided to make a living by writing poetry and plays and soon became an important figure in the Celtic Revival. He was also one of the founders of the Abbey Theatre. He married in 1912 and two years later he and his wife emigrated to the United States and began moving in Irish circles in New York. He lived in France for a time, associating with Joyce and typing part of Finnegan’s Wake for him. He was mentioned in Ulysses and at one stage he and his wife cared for Joyce’s invalid daughter. He was a friend of other important Irish figures as well, including Yeats, Lady Gregory, Synge, James Stephens, Padraic Pearse, Thomas McDonagh and Roger Casement. After returning to the United States he and his wife taught comparative literature at Columbia University. In 1945 they became American citizens. His Collected Poems was published in 1953. His wife died in 1957 and in the following year he published Our Friend James Joyce, which JKB reviewed unfavourably. In 1959 Colum published Ourselves Alone, the biography of Arthur Griffith which he began years earlier.


The Age of Anxiety; review of The Godly and the Ungodly, essays by Reinhold Niebuhr. London: Faber & Faber, 1959, and The Spiritual Crisis of the Scientific Age, by G.D. Yarnold. London: Allen & Unwin, 1959; in NZL 1062 (8 Jan. 1960) 10.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), the great Protestant theologian, explored the relationship between Christianity and the realities of modern social and political life. In 1914 he graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Divinity. In the following year he was ordained pastor. From 1916 to 1928 he served in a Detroit parish as an evangelical pastor. There he spoke in favour of workers’ rights and argued against the Ku Klux Klan. From 1928 he was professor of practical theology at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, remaining there until 1960. He developed a theory of Christian Realism, which caused him to abandon the left-wing and liberal positions he held previously. Once a pacifist and socialist, he became a supporter of American involvement in World War Two, an anti-Communist and even advocatedthe development of nuclear weapons.(Nonetheless hewas opposed to the Vietnam War.) In 1964 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson. He is thought to be the author of the serenity prayer used by AAmembers and recited many times by JKB.

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Niebuhr’s collection was subtitled ‘Essays on the religious and secular dimensions of modern life’. One of them, ‘The Impulse for Community’, may have affected JKB.


A Life of Pleasure; review of The Floating World in Japanese Fiction, by Howard Hibbett. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959; in NZL 1063 (15 Jan. 1960) 12.

Howard Hibbett (1920- ), is professor emeritus of Japanese literature at Harvard University.


Bedside Manner; review of Sex, Love and Society, by Dr E.R. Matthews, and Odd Man Out: Homosexuality in men and women, by Dr Eustace Chessner, both by Victor Gollancz: London, 1959; in NZL 1064 (22 Jan. 1960) 11-12.

Despite some pontificating by Matthews and in spite of JKB’s misgivings, it appears that Dr Edward Russell Matthews’s book was helpful to the adolescent audience for whom it was written.

JKB scolded Dr Chessner because he was aware that the matter was not as simple, or as scientific, as Chessner believed.


Portrait of the Artist as a New Zealander; in ODT (28 Jan. 1960) p. 4.

The item carried the following note: ‘The Otago-born poet James K. Baxter, revisiting his home territory during the holidays, was asked by the Daily Times to discuss the position of the writer in New Zealand today. Mr Baxter now lives in Wellington. He is probably the best-known contemporary New Zealand poet.’

JKB’s depiction of ‘slowly becoming a public figure, consumed by the spores of kudos, developing the reviewer’s shamble, the critic’s stoop, and accepting finally a permanent job at a university’ mirrors his opinion about the fate of poets on college campuses in the USA.

The title of the article echoes James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Dylan Thomas’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog.


Kilokery and Kalekhan; a study of Indian village life; in Education, IX.1 (Feb. 1960) 21-24.

Some memory notes for this article are found in Hocken MS-0975/109.

Kilokri is near Ashram Chowk, one of four corners of the Delhi ringroad.

Kale Khan is a village close to the Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station, Delhi.

chapattis: a chapati is a form of Indian flatbread.

Lakshmi: Hindu goddess of material and spiritual prosperity.

Shivam Kali: perhaps the well-known image of mother Kali standing on the chest of a recumbent Lord Shiva.

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[Journal, February 1960]; Hocken MS-0975/045.

The manuscript also includes a draft of his play ‘Tiger Rock’; a draft of an unfinished poem ‘At the year’s end we come together’; various notes; a fragment of ‘A Question of Prudence’; a partial draft of a play fragment ‘After the Bomb’; another draft of ‘A Question of Prudence’; more notes for ‘Tiger Rock’; various drafts of poems and a draft of ‘Sisyphus and the Angel’.


Writers in New Zealand: a questionnaire; in LF vol. 14 no. 1 (Mar. 1960) 41-43.


Lent in Retrospect; in Zealandia XXVII.I (21 Apr. 1960) 8.

This item gives further expression to JKB’s devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus – perhaps in contrast to his feelings about his own mother.


Disquieting American [1]; (letter to editor); in NZL 1082 (27 May 1960) 11.

Thomas Andrew (Tom) Lehrer (1928- ) is an American singer, song-writer, humorist and mathematician. He began by writing blackly humorous songs but during the 1960s when he was writing for the TV show ‘That Was the Week that Was’ he wrote and presented satirical songs on topical events. In the early 1970s he gave up public performances and lectured in mathematics and music theatre at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He retired from university teaching in 2001.

William Franklyn (Billy) Graham Jr (1918- ) was brought up in North Carolina as a Presbyterian and became an evangelist with a worldwide reputation. At his revival meetings (‘crusades’) it is claimed that more than three million people responded to his invitation to turn to Jesus. His first crusades were held in circus tents in parking lots and were given exposure by William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers. Later he fostered evangelism internationally: on one occasion he attracted one million people to a service in South Korea. A friend of twelve US presidents, he has been given numerous honours and in 2001 he received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. Between 1947 and 2006 he published twenty-eight books.

In New Zealand a Protestant campaign to evangelise children was conducted by the Children’s Special Service Mission (CSSM). By 1934 Protestant evangelists established Crusader Unions among pupils in New Zealand schools. From about 1947 the CSSM and Crusader book rooms were opened to sell Christian literature. These later became the Scripture Union Bookshops.


The Company of Poets; review of Hoping for a Hoopoe, poems by John Updike. London: Victor Gollancz, 1959; Yet More Comic and Curious Verse, selected by J.M. Cohen, the Penguin Poets series. London: Penguin, 1959;page 272 Presenting Welsh Poetry, edited by Gwyn Williams. London: Faber & Faber, 1959; and The Prodigal Son, poems 1956-59 by James Kirkup. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959; in NZL 1085 (17 June 1960) 14.

John [Hooper] Updike (1932-2009), US writer, chronicled the American Protestant middle-class. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 1981 for Rabbit is Rich and in 1990 for Rabbit at Rest. A polymath writer, he wrote hundreds of literary and art reviews, especially in The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. He published eight volumes of poetry; his Collected Poems 1953-93 was published in 1993. He produced collections of short stories but it was his novels which made his reputation.

J[ohn] M[ichael Cohen (1903-89) edited two earlier humorous books: Penguin Book of Comic and Curious Verse (1952) and More Comic and Curious Verse (1956). While these were good of their kind, his translations of European writers into English remained his most important contribution to English literature.

Gwyn Williams: see Note 77.


Disquieting American [2]; (letter to editor); in NZL 1082 (1 July 1960) 11. A (not very) concealed verse letter.

Thomas Andrew (Tom) Lehrer (1928- ), singer, songwriter, humorist.

Mr Laurenson: reference not known.

The Screwtape Letters: ‘Dr C.S. Lewis, who shaped the conscience of every S.C.M. member throughout the world with his grim little book, The Screwtape Letters.’ (See No. 312, ‘Messages from the Cellar’.)

Mazengarb Report: in 1954 the National Government appointed barrister Oswald Chettle Mazengarb chairperson of a committee which produced the Report of the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents. He had contested parliamentary seats for National in 1935 and 1938.


The Blue Divan; in Image No 7 (Aug. 1960) 7-10.

The story seems to be set in Dunedin in the 1940s.

Image, a literary journal published in Auckland, was first published in 1958. It survived until 1960.


Sisyphus and the Angel; in Comment 5 (vol. 2 no. 1; Spring [Oct.] 1960) 29-30.

Hocken has a manuscript version, MS-0975/045.

In an earlier review JKB regretted the death of Albert Camus and remarked ‘Albert Camus’s play, The Possessed, is a posthumous publication. As such, it is bound to be of interest to those many readers who admired this great French writer and grieved at his early death. But those who look for the harsh lucidity of The Plague or The Myth of Sisyphus are likely to be disappointed.’ It ispage 273 possible that JKB’s impetus for writing ‘Sisyphus and the Angel’ came from this work of Camus.


A Literary Friendship; review of Robert Bridges and Gerard Hopkins, 1863-1889, a literary friendship, by Jean Georges Ritz. London/ New York: Oxford University Press, 1960; in NZL 1101 (7 Oct. 1960) 13-14.


Flowers and Thorns; review of Other Men’s Flowers, an anthology of poetry compiled by A.P. Wavell, the Penguin Poets series. London: Penguin, 1960; Collected Poems, Volume Three, by Roy Campbell. London: Heinemann, 1960; and One-Way Song, by Wyndham Lewis. London: Methuen, 1960; in NZL 1102 (14 Oct. 1960) 15.

A[rchibald] P[ercival] Wavell (1883-1950) was a field-marshal in World War One. Nick-named ‘the Bull’, he became famous for his success in the Middle East campaign. After the War he was appointed governor-general of Egypt and steered that country towards independence. His anthology was first published in 1945. This edition, which has an Introduction by his son, contains Lord Wavell’s famous statement: ‘It is a law of life which has yet to be broken that a nation can only win the right to live soft by being prepared to die hard in defence of its living.’

[Ignatius] Roy[ston Dunnachie] Campbell (1901-57) was born and educated in Durban. As a young man he spent some time in London and Europe before marrying in 1922 without his parent’s consent. As a result he was deprived of his allowance for a time. He returned to South Africa in 1925 but returned to England in 1927. His poetry and satires gave him entry to literary circles and he was friendly with the Bloomsbury Group until his wife had a lesbian affair with Vita Sackville West, the lover of Virginia Woolf.

After moving to France in the early 1930s he became more pro-Fascist. Unable to pay for the damage his goat did to a neighbour’s fruit trees, he and his family escaped to Spain in 1933. Two years later they were baptised as Catholics. He became a supporter of Franco during the Civil War and was present in Madrid for the victory parade of Franco’s army. It was unusual for a writer to be on the side of the Nationalists but Campbell was partly motivated by the Red Terror, the murders, many by nationalist death squads, of more than seven thousand Catholic nuns, brothers, priests and Bishops. This represented twenty per cent of the total serving in Spain. (The victims included a group whom the Campbells had sheltered in their home.)

At the beginning of World War Two he denounced Nazism and returned to Britain. He had a severe drinking problem and he and his fellow-alcoholic friend Dylan Thomas once celebrated St David’s Day by eating a bunch of daffodils. During the war he served in Africa. He remained formidably anti-Communist and on one occasion when Spender, a committed Marxist, was reading poetry in public Campbell climbed onto the stage and punched him.

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(This did not deter Spender from presenting him with the Foyle Prize in 1952 for his translations of the poetry of St John of the Cross.) In 1957 he died as the result of a car accident in Portugal where he and his family were living. He was the author of more than twenty books.

One-Way Song was published by Faber and Faber in 1933. In 1960 it was published by Methuen, with an Introduction by T.S. Eliot. (JKB reviews this edition.) One hundred copies of the Methuen edition were remaindered in 1972.


Inner Worlds; review of Thrones, cantos 96-109 de los cantares, by Ezra Pound. London: Faber & Faber, 1960; The Solitudes, and other poems, by Ronald Duncan. London: Faber and Faber, 1960; Lupercal, by Ted Hughes. London: Faber and Faber, [1960]; in NZL 1106 (11 Nov. 1960) 14.

Ezra [Weston Loomis] Pound (1885-1972), poet and critic, was born in the United States but chose to live most of his life in England and Europe. After World War One he despaired of the breakdown of western civilisation. He had already made his name with his imagist aesthetics, his translations and his poetry collections Personae (1909), Canzoni (1911), Homage to Sextus Propertius (1919) and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920). He moved from London to Paris where, by virtue of his personality and ideas, he had an influence upon Modernists which was disproportionate to his literary output. In 1926 Personae: the Collected Poems of Ezra Pound was published in New York and in 1928 T.S. Eliot edited his Selected Poems. During World War Two his broadcasts from Rome advocating economic reform and sometimes including anti-Semitic statements led to his arrest by the Americans after the War. While he was in detention in Italy he wrote The Pisan Cantos. But at the beginning of his trial in the United States it was ruled that he was not competent and for twelve years he was kept in a secure hospital. After his release he returned to Italy where he died on 1 November 1972, just one week after JKB. The Cantos, his most important book, was published in 1975.

Ronald Duncan (1914-82), poet and playwright, was a friend of T.S. Eliot, who accepted his poetry for publication by Faber and Faber, where Eliot controlled the poetry list. Duncan was a pacifist during World War Two.


Rules for (one) Catholic Writer; in Hocken MS-0704/021, Book XXI. This item is dated 28/11/60.


A Child’s Complaint. Weir Papers. MB 1184 Item 1/5 Box 2. Est. date. JKB has made a number of miniscule additions or alterations to the typescript. Some of these are indecipherable to me and have not been included.

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Notes from a Guitar; review of The Rain on the Water, poems by Brian Fisher. Auckland: Pelorus Press, 1960; in NZL 1110 (9 Dec. 1960) 16.


‘Working All Day’; (letter to editor); in NZL 1106 (16 Dec. 1960) 11. JKB’s poem ‘Working All Day’ was published in NZL 1106 (11 Nov. 1960) 14. ‘Marguerite’ (pseudo.) wrote in reply in the issue of 2 December.

Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993), Methodist minister and preacher, was the author of The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) which sold remarkably even though specialists condemned its thesis as unverifiable. JKB is alluding to this book.

King Log / King Stork: in the Aesop fable a family of frogs asked Zeus for a king. So Zeus dropped a log into their pond, saying ‘Behold, your king.’ But because it did nothing the frogs asked for a real king. So Zeus sent them a stork which began eating them. JKB used this image in his poem ‘Election 1960’ (CP 224), where the log represented do-nothing Labour, while the stork represented stir-things-up National.


[‘The Fisherman’; a TV script]; from The Tree House and other poems for children; Price Milburn, Wellington, 1974, pp. 49-51.

A commentary upon the poem included in CP 158. The poem was first published in NZ Parent and Child 4 no. 6 (June 1956) 17.


Incense to Idols; (letter to editor); in NZL 1114 (13 Jan. 1961) 9. Sylvia Ashton-Warner (1908-84), educator and novelist: see SB.


Letter to a Woman Writer; McKay Item 18/4. n.d.

Even though this item is undated it is possible to calculate from internal references the approximate date on which it was written and the circumstances which led to its composition. JKB makes reference to Sylvia Ashton-Warner whose Incense to Idols he defended in NZL (13 Jan. 1961). The article also refers to President Eisenhower who left office on 20 January 1961. I conjecture that about the time JKB wrote his defence of Sylvia Ashton-Warner he decided to write a defence of women-writers generally. I am not sure of the identity of the woman (‘P—’) to whom he addressed this letter but it is possible that she is ‘Paul Henderson’ (Ruth France).

the name . . . was that of a man: ‘Paul Henderson’ the pen-name of [Helena] Ruth France (1913-68). The poetry collection JKB referred to was Unwilling Pilgrim (1955) which he reviewed in Landfall in March 1956.

a friend of mine: the friend was Louis Johnson who was then teaching in Wellington.

Imagine a woman Durrell!: JKB was referring to Durrell as the author of ‘The Ballad of the Good Lord Nelson’ which he quoted approvingly in The Fire and the Anvil (1955).

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Robin Hyde: a reference to her novel Check to Your King; the Life History of Charles, Baron de Thierry, King of Nukahuia, Sovereign Chief of New Zealand (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1936).

Sylvia Ashton-Warner: a reference to her novel Spinster (1958).

Marilyn Duckworth: a reference to her novels A Gap in the Spectrum (1959) and The Matchbox House (1960).

nisi granum frumenti . . . ‘unless a grain of wheat’: an extract from ‘Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ (John 12.24).


Eliot and Joyce; review of The Invisible Poet: T.S. Eliot, by Hugh Kenner. London: W.H. Allen, 1960, and James Joyce, a critical introduction, by Harry Levin. London: Faber and Faber, 1960, 2nd revised edition; in NZL 1116 (27 Jan. 1961) 12-13.

Eliot married in 1915 but tired of his wife and separated from her in 1933. He arranged for her to be committed to a mental hospital and between his separation and her death in 1947 saw her only once. So part of the ‘invisibility’ in his poetry resulted from the fact that he did not want autobiographical elements discerned because he felt guilty about his actions.

[William] Hugh Kenner (1923-2003), Canadian scholar and critic, completed a PhD from Yale in 1950 on James Joyce. He taught at various universities and even before he wrote this Eliot study he had written books on Chesterton, Wyndham Lewis and Joyce, as well as collections of literary essays. A revised edition of his Eliot study was issued in 1969.

Harry [Tuchman] Levin (1918-94), scholar and critic, specialised in Modernist and comparative literature. He taught at Harvard from 1939 to 1983 and wrote many books on his field of interest.


The Kiwi and Mr Curnow; review of The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, selected with an Introduction and notes by Allen Curnow. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, [1960]; also Writing in New Zealand: Poetry in New Zealand, by W.H. Oliver. A Post-primary School Bulletin. vol. 13, no. 6, Wellington: Department of Education, 1960; in Education, X.I (Feb. 1961) 26-29.

Along with other poets of his generation JKB considered that Curnow’s prescriptive literary views and selection of poets and poetry misrepresented the true nature and achievement of some poets. While he said that he was satisfied by his own representation, he lamented the exclusion of others, telling Brasch, ‘The trouble with Allen as a critic and editor is that he is right within his frame of reference, but the frame of reference excludes the actual growing-points of quite a number of other people, who are not really much concerned whether they are New Zealanders or not.’ (McKay 187).

In a letter to C.K. Stead, Frank Sargeson gave his version ofpage 277 how the dispute arose:

Apparently Alistair Campbell got to know of a set of galley proofs with the Penguin agent in Wellington, and representing himself as Mr Campbell of the Education Department, and hinting at an enormous order, got a look at the proofs. The story is that Curnow had not included poems of his which he had got consent for, but had included one poem which Campbell hadn’t consented to. In some way Baxter and Johnson came into the dispute, and letters flew all over the place, with Campbell threatening to sue Penguin etc. I’m told that it cost Curnow in cables the ₤25 he got for Jessie Mackay Memorial prize. (Incidentally too the anthology was supposed to consist of Curnow and the rest – one-third Curnow but C denies this and says it is only one-fourth Curnow.) Anyhow the present situation is said to be that Penguin will back their horse Curnow, and the also-rans can kick up their heels in whatever way they please. (Sargeson, 272)

C[harles] C[hristopher] Bowen (1830-1917): see SB.

A[rthur] H[enry] Adams (1872-1936): see SB.

Colin Walter Newbury (1929- ): lecturer in Commonwealth History and Fellow of Linacre College, Oxford.

Charles Doyle, also known as Mike Doyle (1928-): see SB.

Peter Bland (1934- ), poet and actor: see SB.

Gordon Challis: see SB.

David Elworthy entered the diplomatic service then became a publisher, founding Shoal Bay Press (Christchurch), of which he was publishing editor.

C[hristian] K[arlson] Stead (1932- ): see SB.

Barry Mitcalfe (1930-86), New Zealand poet and activist: see SB.

Gloria [Jasmine] Rawlinson (1918-95), poet and editor: see SB.


Private Lives, Public Follies; review of Collected Poems by William Plomer. London: Jonathan Cape, 1960; in NZL 1118 (10 Feb. 1961) 14.

William [Charles Franklyn] Plomer (1903-73), South African writer, mainly lived in England. In 1963 he was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.


Two Plays; review of The Possessed, a play in three acts, by Albert Camus. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1960, and The Blacks, a clown show, by Jean Genet. London: Faber and Faber, 1960; in NZL 1119 (17 Feb. 1961) 12.

Jean Genet (1910-83) was a French novelist, playwright and political activist. Always an outsider, he campaigned for human rights in France, the United States and in Palestinian refugee camps. In fact he raised a powerful voice against oppressors everywhere. His writings were banned in the United States.

Writer and philosopher Albert Camus (1913-60) was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957. Although he denied advocating an absurdist philosophy he did reflect upon the absurd in human experience, includingpage 278 people’s search for meaning in a universe which does not have a meaning. He and JKB held a number of views in common: both men were socialist, pacifists, inclined to individualism (perhaps not anarchism) and were opposed to capital punishment. He died in a car accident just two years after receiving the Nobel Prize. When JKB remarked that people ‘grieved at his early death’ he was not to know that he himself was to die at the same age – forty-six.

Fyodor [Mikhaylovich] Dostoyevsky (1821-81) was the author of Crime and Punishment (1866), the novel to which JKB refers.


Staying at Balisodare; review of a book with that title by Patrick Wilson. London: Scorpion Press, 1960; in LF vol. 15 no. 1 (Mar. 1961) 83-85.


Human Explanations; review of Pope Joan, a romantic biography, by Emmanuel Royidis, translated from the Greek by Lawrence Durrell. London: André Deutsch, 1960; and The Riddle of Roman Catholicism, by Jaroslav Pelikan. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1960; in NZL 1121 (3 Mar. 1961) 11.

The 19th-century writer Emmanuel Royidis wrote this provocative anticlerical novel about a woman who concealed her sexuality and travelled throughout Italy with a lover (disguised as her confessor). She impressed churchmen with her learning and was elected Pope. After ruling the Church wisely for just over two years she died suddenly while giving birth. Royidis was quickly excommunicated by the Greek Orthodox Church and the book was banned.

Despite provocation JKB’s love for a number of priests was generally sufficient to help him refrain from indulging in anti-clericalism. (For his dislike of particular priests see ‘Sad Father Song’ in ‘Ballad of Firetrap Castle’, CP 529, and ‘The Tiredness of Me and Herakles’, CP 595.) But he understood how it arose and saw some merit in it:

The anti-clerical humorous tradition is a safeguard against the solemn follies of bookmen. It eases the stresses that the demand for holiness imposes on brittle human nature, shows the man below the surplice, casts out the cruel Calvinist or Jansenist logic and gives the saddle-galled Ass in us a chance to kick and bray.

Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006) was an eminent historian of the Christian churches of the East and West. While Sterling Professor of History at Yale University he edited the religious section of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica and was elected President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. As well as receiving many other honours he was awarded honorary degrees by forty-two different universities. A practising Lutheran, he became a member of the Orthodox Church late in his life.


James Joyce [1]; (letter to the editor); in NZL 1121 (3 Mar. 1961) 11.

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The Lady and the Minister; review of Incense to Idols, by Sylvia Ashton-Warner. London: Secker and Warburg, 1960; in Comment 7 (vol. 2 no. 3; Autumn [Apr] 1961) 42-44.


Attached Women; review of The Spirit’s Pilgrimage, by Mira Behn. London: Longmans, 1960, and The Marriage of Gor, by Jenn Lawrie. London: Victor Gollancz, 1961; in NZL 1126 (7 Apr. 1961) 14.

Mira Behn (1892-1982) was originally named Madeleine Slade. As a young girl she spent two or three years in India when her father was commander-inchief of the East Indies Squadron of the Royal Navy. She returned to India as an adult and became a disciple of Gandhi, learning Hindi and leading a simple life. She worked for Gandhi, for ordinary people in practical ways, and for India’s freedom. But in 1959, after consistently failing to gain cooperation from Indian bureaucrats and officials, she left India. Late in her life she was honoured by the Indian Government.

Romain Rolland (1866-1944), French writer, art historian, philosopher and mystic, became influenced by the Vedanta of India which he described in Vie de Vivekanada (1929):

The true Vedantic spirit does not start out with a system of preconceived ideas. It possesses absolute liberty and unrivalled courage among religions with regard to the facts to be observed and the diverse hypotheses it has laid down for their coordination. Never having been hampered by a priestly order, each man has been entirely free to search wherever he pleased for the spiritual explanation of the spectacle of the universe.

His other publications relevant to this entry are Mahatma Gandhi (1924), L’Inde Vivante (essays, 1929), and Vie de Ramakrishna (essays, 1929).

Jenn Lawrie was a social worker who helped ‘a problem family’ in a London East End slum – a Gambian man and his English partner and their illegitimate children. They shared a kitchen and toilet with others, including two prostitutes. The author, police and various authorities successfully pressured the couple to marry, apparently convinced that marriage would solve their problems.


James Joyce [2]; (letter to the editor); in NZL 1127 (14 Apr. 1961) 11.


Between Two Cultures; review of Poems, by Dom Moraes. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1960; in NZL 1128 (21 Apr. 1961) 13.

Dominic Francis (Dom) Moraes (1938-2004) was a Goan writer and poet, author of over thirty books. Born in Mumbai, he was educated in Mumbai and Oxford. He was editor of various journals in London, Hong Kong and New York and took over the editorship of The Asia Magazine in 1971. He directed twenty or so documentary programmes for the BBC and ITV and became a war correspondent in Algeria, Israel and Vietnam before securing a position at thepage 280 United Nations. JKB may or may not have known of the similarities between them: Dom Moraes was a Catholic; he battled alcoholism all his life; and he left his first wife, although he did not divorce her. (He also left his second and third wives.) JKB also admired John Nobody (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1965). He wrote two memoirs, Never at Home and Son of My Father.


Poetry and Ambition; review of The Queen and the Poet, by Walter Oakeshott. London: Faber and Faber, 1960; in NZL 1129 (28 Apr. 1961) 13.

Walter [Fraser] Oakeshott (1903-87) became headmaster of Winchester College and Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford. He was a bibliophile and bibliographer and author of The Poems of Sir Walter Raleigh (London: Constable & Co., 1929). In 1935 he acquired a notebook which he identified in 1952 as having belonged to Sir Walter Raleigh. It contained some notes for his History of the World, a list of books he owned, and a previously unknown poem addressed to Queen Elizabeth. The Queen and the Poet was intended as a precursor to the publishing of the notebook.


Man and Poet; review of Dylan Thomas, the legend and the poet; a critical symposium edited by E[rnest] W[arnock] Tedlock. London: Heinemann, 1960; in NZL 1131 (12 May 1961) 14.

Between 1953 and 1960 JKB laboured to complete a tribute to the poet:

A gallon of gin and a flitch of pork,
Thomas lies slug-a-bed in New York.
Flat on her back in the big whorehouse
The English Language mourns her spouse.
She weeps as she works and keeps the tally.
He won’t bowl home from Dead Man’s Alley.
He drinks with the Great Bear and the Plough.
The short-stitch tailors,
The coffin-nailers,
The bedlam jailors
have her now. (CP 216)

The full list of contributors in Part One of this book is Suzanne Rousillat, Daniel Jones, Cecil Price, Pamela Hansford Johnson, Augustus John, William Jay Smith, Ralph Wishart, Lawrence Durrell, Roy Campbell, John Lehmann, Mario Luzi, Theodore Roethke, Alastair Reid, Richard Eberhart, David Daiches, Marjorie Adix, Philip Burton, George Barker, John Davenport, G.S. Fraser and Louis MacNeice.

Geoffrey [Edward Harvey] Grigson (1905-85), poet, critic, anthologist and purveyor of fiercely held opinions.

Karl Jay Shapiro (1913-2000) attended the University of Virginia beforepage 281 undertaking war service in New Guinea. His published poems, based on his war experiences, earned widespread approval and in 1945 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. In 1946 he was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. His early verse was formal in style but in The Bourgeois Poet (1964) and White-Haired Lover (1968) he used a more open form, having been influenced by Whitman and others. He taught English at the University of Nebraska and the University of California. His Selected Poems was published in 1968 and his autobiography Poet was published in three parts between 1988 and 1990.


Three for Thinkers; review of Freud: the mind of the moralist, by Philip Rieff. London: Victor Gollancz, 1959; The Owl and the Nightingale: from Shakespeare to Existentialism, by Walter Kauffmann. London: Faber and Faber, 1959; and Yeats’s Iconography, by F.A.C. Wilson. London: Victor Gollancz, 1960; in NZL 1132 (19 May 1961) 14.

Philip Rieff (1922-2006), American sociologist, taught at various universities. He was especially interested in how Freud’s ideas impacted upon Western society.

Walter Kauffman (1921-80), philosopher and religious scholar, emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1939 and taught philosophy at Princeton University from 1947 to 1980.

F[rancis] A[lexander] C[harles] Wilson (1921- ) wrote this book as a sequel to his W.B. Yeats and Tradition (London: Macmillan, 1958).


Solo and Chorus; review of Poems, by A.D. Hope. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1960; Australian Poetry, 1960, selected by A.D. Hope. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1960; Versions from Fyodor Tyutchev, 1803-73, by Charles Tomlinson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960; in NZL 1133 (26 May 1961) 13.

A[lec] D[erwent] Hope (1907-2000), was an Australian poet and literary critic, whose intelligent, sharp-edged verse earned him many awards and prizes and the reputation of being Australia’s greatest living poet. In 1992 he published his autobiography Chance Encounters (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press).

[Alfred] Charles Tomlinson (1927- ), English poet and translator, has been recognised for the skill of his translations from Italian, Russian and Spanish literature. His subject in this case is the Russian romantic poet Fyodor Ivvanovich Tyutchev (1803-73).

Vincent [Thomas] Buckley (1925-88), author of sixteen books and Professor of English at the University of Melbourne. Buckley’s Poetry and Morality: Studies on the Criticism of Matthew Arnold, T. S. Eliot and F. R. Leavis was published by Chatto and Windus (London, 1959). When JKB’s Pig Island Letters was published in 1966 it was recommended by the Poetry Book Society. Buckley wrote from Cambridge to congratulate him on his achievement.

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Douglas Stewart: see SB.

Fyodor [Ivanovich] Tyutchev (1803-73) was one of Russia’s last great Romantic poets.

Alexander [Sergeyevich] Pushkin (1799-1837) is regarded as the greatest of Russia’s Romantic poets and the cornerstone of modern Russian literature. Sensitive about his honour he fought twenty-nine duels and was fatally wounded in the last of these. He died at the age of thirty-seven.

Alexander Blok (1880-1921) was a major poet of the Russian Symbolist movement.


West and East; reviews of Introduction: stories by new writers. London: Faber and Faber, 1960; and A Silence of Desire, by Kamala Markandaya. London: Putnam, 1960; in NZL 1134 (2 June 1961) 36.

‘Kamala Markandaya’ was the pseudonym of Kamala Purnaiya Taylor (1924-2004), Indian novelist, who moved to England soon after independence was declared. Her 1955 novel Nectar in a Sieve became a best-seller.

It could scarcely have been written outside India,where the mutual obligations of husband and wife are so strictly and sanely defined: JKB’s comment about the nature of spousal relations in India contrasts with his opinion that his role as a husband was not ‘strictly and sanely’ defined.


Sacrifice; in Zealandia XXVIII.8 (8 June 1961) 17.


Is it Poetry? (letter to editor); in NZL 1134 (9 June 1961) 12.


Russian and Irish; review of Poems, 1955-59, by Boris Pasternak. English versions by Michael Harari. London: Collins and Harvill Press, 1960; in NZL 1137 (23 June 1961) 36.

Boris [Leonidovich] Pasternak (1890-1960), Russian poet and novelist, wrote and published many poems but was best-known for his epic novel Doctor Zhivago which was first published in an Italian-language version in 1957. In the following year Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, which he felt obliged to decline. Because the Soviet authorities made life difficult for him he turned back to poetry, the best of which is collected in this volume.


A Vegetable Bouquet for Mr Curnow; Alexander Turnbull Library; Louis Johnson Literary Papers; MS-Papers-8055-077 [June 1961].


Unbelief among the Lepers; review of A Burnt-Out Case, by Graham Greene. London: Heinemann, 1961; in Comment 8 (vol. 2 no. 4; Winter [July] 1961) 37-39.

[Henry] Graham Greene (1904-91), English novelist. In 1926, the year page 283he graduated from Balliol College, Oxford, he was baptised a Catholic. Like JKB he regarded himself as a writer who was Catholic rather than a Catholic writer; he stopped practising his religion in the 1950s but returned to it in the last years of his life. His great novels were affected by his religious beliefs, exploring, in particular, human propensity to evil. As a teenager JKB read Greene’s Brighton Rock (1939). Before long he also read The Power and the Glory (1940), The Heart of the Matter (1948), and The End of the Affair (1951). He then read The Quiet American (1955) and A Burnt-Out Case (1960). JKB concurred with one of the points which Greene made in this novel: ‘Mr Greene has put his finger directly on the ulcerated area which leads to a great number of lapses from the Catholic Church; the frequent exercise of authority without love or wisdom in Catholic families.’ JKB often made this and related points late in his life.


Doubt and Devotion; review of the Pensées, by Blaise Pascal, translated with an Introduction by I.M. Cohen. London: Penguin Classics, 1961; and The Cloud of Unknowing, a new translation by Clifton Wolters. London: Penguin Classics, 1961; in NZL 1143 (4 Aug. 1961) 35.

Blaise Pascal (1623-62), French mathematician and philosopher, planned to write a defence of Christianity but died before it was finished, leaving bits of paper containing his thoughts. So his book was issued with the title Pensées de M. Pascal sur la religion et sur quelques autres sujets. His famous wager (that even though the existence of God cannot be proved we should live as if it could because if it were true we would have everything to lose) is contained in Note 233 of the Pensées.


A Good Keen Man [1]; (letter to editor); in NZL 1143 (4 Aug. 1961) 28.

Barry Crump (1935-96) was the quintessential Kiwi joker. His first yarn, A Good Keen Man (1960) was based on his experiences as a hunter of deer and pigs. It was an immediate hit, as was its sequel Hang on a Minute Mate (1961). They were notable for their use of a New Zealand vernacular, their racy style, outrageous yarns and depictions of the central character as a drifter, nonconformist and survivor. He wrote twenty other books but none were as good as these two. A heavy drinker, Crump was married five times (once to Fleur Campbell, former wife of Alistair Campbell) and had nine children.


A Clear Eye; review of Thirty Poems, by Barry Mitcalfe. Wellington: Hurricane House, 1960; in NZL 1144 (11 Aug. 1961) 37.


A Good Keen Man [2]; (letter to editor); in NZL 1147 (1 Sep. 1961) 29.


Rabindranath Tagore: an appreciation in his centenary year; in Education X.8 (Sep. 1961) 237-242.

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Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the greatest figure in Bengali literature, started an experimental foundation at Shantiniketan to convey his philosophical and religious ideas. He wrote novels and plays but it was his poetry which made his name. As it became translated into English it gained him an international reputation with the result that he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913.

The article was prefaced by a note: ‘Mr Baxter has been a teacher and is now editor of the Primary School Bulletins. In 1958-59 he received a UNESCO cultural grant to visit India for six months.’


Poetic Attitudes; review of Thistles and Roses, by Iain Crichton Smith. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1961, and Solstices, by Louis MacNeice. London: Faber & Faber, 1961; in NZL 1149 (15 Sep. 1961) 35.

Iain Crichton Smith (1928-98), prolific Scottish poet and prose-writer.


Devotional Reading; (letter to editor); in NZL 1150 (22 Sep. 1961) 28. JKB wrote this in reply to a letter by J.F. Proctor in NZL 1147 (1 Sep. 1961) 29. I also replied to Joan Proctor in NZL 1151 (29 Sep. 1961) 33.


The Peasant Vision; review of Christ Recrucified, by Nikos Kazantzakis, translated by Jonathan Griffin. Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1956, and The Last Temptation, by Nikos Kazantzakis, translated by Peter A. Bien. Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1961; in NZL 111 (29 Sep. 1961) 39.

Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1952) was a Greek poet, playwright, novelist and philosopher. His metaphysical, existential and spiritual concerns were expressed in numerous publications, including Zorba the Greek (1946), Christ Recrucified (1948), The Last Temptation of Christ (1951), and God’s Pauper: St Francis of Assisi (1956). His Christ is a man who tries to honour a mission he does not understand and whose interior struggle and doubts represent the condition of all humans. He sacrificed his life in fidelity to a call he did not understand. From this description it will be obvious why he appealed to JKB. The Greek Orthodox Church excommunicated him in 1955 and the Catholic Church placed The Last Temptation of Christ on the Index of Prohibited Books.


Return to India; review of Walking the Indian Streets, by Ved Mehta. London: Faber & Faber, 1960; in NZL 1157 (10 Nov. 1961) 41.

Ved [Parkash] Mehta (1934- ), Indian and American writer, was blind from about the age of five. At fifteen he was sent from India to a school for the blind in Little Rock, Arkansas. Later he studied at Pomona College, California, and undertook programmes at Harvard and Berkeley. He gained a BA from Balliol College, Oxford, and an MA from Harvard. His impressions of a visit to India are recorded in Walking the Indian Streets.

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A Step Backwards; review of The Grasses of Waihi, by Brian Fisher. Auckland: Seal Brothers, 1961; in NZL 1159 (24 Nov. 1961).


Guinness is Best; review of The Guinness Book of Poetry 1959-60. London: Putnam, 1960; Ode to the Shadows, and other poems, by David Bulwer Lutyens. London: Secker and Warburg, 1960; and The Astronomy of Love, by Jon Stallworthy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961; in NZL 1160 (1 Dec. 1961) 39.

In 1934 the parents of Jon [Howie] Stallworthy moved from New Zealand to England. He was born in the following year. The Astronomy of Love was his first book of poetry. It was followed by many other books as he made his name as a poet and editor. He became poetry editor for Oxford University Press and was involved with the production of JKB’s The Rock Woman. Stallworthy wrote an acclaimed biography of Wilfred Owen (published 1974) and in 1983 he produced the definitive edition of Owen’s poetry.


Essay on the Higher Learning; in The Spike (1961) 61-64.

The first extract is from ‘Envoi [to “University Song”]’ (CP 52); the second is from Section 14 of ‘Songs of the Desert’ (CP 62). In Howrah Bridge and other poems (1961), the second of JKB’s Oxford collections, it was entitled ‘Pyrrha’. On the book’s dust-jacket he was quoted as saying ‘the first part was written some time ago by a man who thought he was a New Zealander; the second part, lately, in the past two or three years by a man who had become almost unawares, a member of a bigger, rougher family. The poems in India mark this change.’

Between 1935 and 1948 three psychologists named Boring, Langfeldt and Weld issued a series of introductory texts on psychology. The first was Psychology: A Factual Text (1935). JKB probably read this or some other of their texts when he took a course in psychology at the University of Otago in 1944.

Carmen is the title of a novella by Prosper Mérimée (1845) which George Bizet adapted into an opera of the same name. Frederick Sinclaire (1881-1954), professor of English: see SB.


New Zealand in Colour / Photographs by Kenneth and Jean Bigwood / Text by James K. Baxter. Wellington: A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1961.

Jacquie Baxter was commissioned to write the text of this book but the project was adopted by JKB when she found herself unable to complete it. Relics of her notes may be found in the history of Māori settlement provided for Plate 9 (about Taranaki, where she was born) and in the seemingly random reference to Bishop Bennett in the text accompanying Plate 22. (The Bishop persuaded her parents to send her to university.)

page 286
In the course of the Acknowledgments to the volume it was remarked that some of JKB’s verses were composed for this book. The text of a companion volume was written by John Pascoe. JKB wrote in his Introduction that

Perhaps to the Maoris, to whom many references are made in these pages, attributing spiritual powers to the Wilderness, refusing to fell a tree until the deities of the bush had been propitiated, were wiser than their European successors. The springs of thought and feeling did not dry up in them, and they have remained to a large degreeunruled by the hands ofa clock.(p. [2])

The ‘many references’ to Māori in the text were generally about their history or mythology: social comment of the kind just cited was otherwise rare, partly because it would not have been popular in a table-top book of this kind and partly because his pro-Māori sympathies had not yet fully developed. These two factors explain his annotation to Plate 18:

The Maoris, who seemed at the turn of the century a dying race, have now a high birth-rate, and share the work, dress and language of their European fellow-countrymen, without losing their own distinctive culture. Legal equality, inter-marriage, and the same basic education have put Maori and European New Zealanders on a common footing, though the problems of racial separation and assimilation are real ones.


The Virgin and the Unicorn; in Zealandia XXVIII.34 (7 Dec. 1961) 10. At various times JKB cited other people as being agents in his conversion, including St Francis of Assisi and Thomas Merton. Dismas, the Good Thief, was crucified alongside Jesus and asked to be remembered when Jesus came into his kingdom.

In this article JKB explains why he became a Catholic: ‘. . . the truest answer, for me, would be that of a child – “I wrote a letter to God’s mother and she obtained the gift of Faith for me”.’ She told him to confess his sins. He added, ‘Many modern men have had no true childhood . . . . The face of a natural mother may console them, but cannot reach or dispel the deepest terrors of interior darkness. For such men (among whom I would count myself to be) Mary, their supernatural mother, comes like an unhoped-for spring.’ This passage expresses the reason why JKB had such a devotion to Mary. ‘He gave us the Blessed Virgin as our own mother.’ Perhaps replacing the birth-mother he felt that he never had.

Our Lady of Good Counsel: in the fifth century a church near Rome was dedicated to Our Lady of Good Counsel. In 1903 the title Mother of Good Counsel was included in the Litany of Loreto, a Marian litany which originated from the shrine of Our Lady of Loreto in Italy, formally approved for universal Catholic liturgical use in 1587.

In his early poem ‘The Unicorn’, JKB equated the Unicorn with the adolescent. page 287See ‘self-centred universe’, like the adolescent.

Byzantine Sophia: the feminine aspect of God (Wisdom) in the Byzantine tradition.

‘Mary, cause of our joy’: a phrase from the Litany of Loreto.


Reconstructions; review of The King of Athelney, by Alfred Duggan. London: Faber and Faber, 1961; The Implacable Hunter, by Gerald Kersh. London: Heinemann, 1961; and Jason, by Henry Treece. London: the Bodley Head, 1960; in NZL 1164 (5 Jan. 1962) 36.

Alfred Duggan (1903-64) was the son of a wealthy Argentinian landowner of Irish descent who moved to England with his family. After he died his widow married Lord Curzon, former Viceroy of India. Alfred attended Eton and then Oxford University. Undergraduates were not permitted to have a motor vehicle within certain limits of the city centre so Alfred kept his Rolls-Royce just beyond them. Meticulously researched, his novels have an upper-class slant. The King of Athelney was a historical novel about King Alfred the Great. It was his eleventh novel.

Gerald Kersh (1911-68) became a writer after working as a fish-and-chip cook, bodyguard, all-in wrestler, debt collector, cinema manager and French teacher. His second novel was filmed twice with Richard Widmark (first) and Robert De Niro (second) in the lead role. He became a successful writer of detective stories, horror stories, gangster fiction and science fiction. This was the twenty-second of his forty-one books.

Henry Treece (1911-66) graduated from the University of Birmingham and became a teacher. He began his writing career by producing five collections of poetry but soon moved to the production of stories and novels, often historical. His output was prodigious.


The Big Questions; review of Common Sense about Religion, by John Hadham, Common Sense about Christian Ethics, by Edward Carpenter, and A Life after Death, by Dr. S. Ralph Harlow; all published in London by Victor Gollancz in 1961; in NZL 1168 (2 Feb. 1962) 36.

The ‘Common Sense’ series of thirteen books was produced by Victor Gollancz Ltd to provide a general overview of particular topics.

‘John Hadham’ was the pseudonym of James Parkes (1896-1981).

Edward Carpenter: no information available.

S[amuel] Ralph Harlow (1885-1972) was ordained a Congregationalist minister in 1912. During the First World War he served as Director of the YMCA for US forces in France. Subsequently, for thirty years, he was professor of religion and social ethics at Smith College, Massachusetts.


Selected Poems; review of Australian Poets Speak, edited by Colin Thiele and Ian Mudie. Adelaide: Rigby Ltd. 1961; The Many Named Beloved, by Samuel Menashe. London: Victor Gollancz, 1961; and Poems, by Boris page 288 Pasternak, translated by Eugene M. Kayden. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1961; in NZL 1169 (9 Feb. 1962) 36.

Samuel Menashe (1925- ), American poet and teacher, wrote lyrical poems with a spiritual quality which were not as well received in the United States as in England.


Excellent Plays; review of Luther, by John Osborne. London: Faber and Faber, 1961, and Becket, by Jean Anouilh, translated by Lucienne Hill. London: Methuen, 1961; in NZL 1170 (16 Feb. 1962) 36.

John [James] Osborne (1929-94) was living in a houseboat on the Thames and eating nettles he picked on the riverbank and then cooked when he conceived the theme of Look Back in Anger (1956) which he wrote in seventeen days while seated in a deckchair on a pier. It transformed British theatre. The success of that and his later work meant that he became much less angry by 1974 when he returned to the Church of England. (In the 1980s he opened his garden to paying visitors to raise money for repairs to the roof of his parish church.)

Jean [Marie Lucien Pierre] Anouilh (1910-87) was a French playwright. In 1959 he produced Becket, ou l’ honneur de Dieu, the play which is here translated by Lucienne Hill. It was his 24th publication. As in this play, his most common theme is the conflict between idealism and realism.


Australian Poets; review of The Best Poems of Hugh McCrae, selected and arranged by R.G. Howarth. London: Angus and Robertson, 1962, and Selected Poems of Kenneth Mackenzie, edited by Douglas Stewart. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1962; in NZL (23 Mar. 1962) 35.

Hugh Raymond McCrae (1876-1958) was a respected Australian poet and a friend of fellow-poets Norman Lindsay and Kenneth Slessor.

‘Kenneth Seaforth Mackenzie’ was the pseudonym of Kenneth Ivo Langwell Mackenzie (1913-55). He was the author of four novels and two collections of poetry.


Unicorn Waking; review of This Slender Volume, by Helen Blackshaw. Hamilton: Paul’s Book Arcade, 1961; in NZL 1177 (6 Apr. 1962) 35.


Wounded People; review of Tales from the Calendar, by Bertolt Brecht, translated by Yvonne Kapp and Michael Hamburger. London: Methuen, 1961; in NZL 1180 (27 Apr. 1962) 36.

[Eugen] Bertholt [Friedrich] Brecht (1898-1956) was a German dramatist. In the United States during World War Two he expressed his opposition to fascism in a series of great plays, none of which were translated into film by Hollywood because of his Communism. He returned to Germany after the war. Kalendergeschichten (1948) was translated as Tales from the Calendar.

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Nobody Loves a Critic; (letter to editor); in NZL 1183 (1 June 1962) 28.

JKB was a member of a panel which, on 29 April 1962, discussed on Arts Review (Radio 2YC) the state of New Zealand literature. The panel also included Anton Vogt and Barry Crump. In an NZL editorial dated 18 May 1962, Holcroft wrote

Mr James K. Baxter, with engaging modesty, suggested that New Zealand has had no real criticism apart from a few efforts from himself and Mr Curnow. He attributes this lack of talent to the moribund condition of the populace. Most of us, it seems are ‘half-dead’; the few bright intellects in our literary wilderness must expect neither understanding nor guidance outside their own immediate circle – a circle which at that moment (we suspected) could almost have been drawn in a recording studio in Wellington. If Mr Baxter’s meaning is being exaggerated, we are sorry for it; but sweeping statements beget broad interpretations. The inference seemed to be that our critics – except Mr Baxter and Mr Curnow – are spokesmen for the barbarians, the ‘half-dead,’ and are therefore enemies instead of allies. (‘Nobody Loves a Critic’, NZL 1183, 18 May 1962: 28)

McCormick’s centennial survey: E.H. McCormick’s Letters and Art in New Zealand, Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs, 1940. It was revised as New Zealand Literature; a survey. London: Oxford University Press, 1959. See SB.

Holcroft’s trilogy: Montague Harry Holcroft (1902-93), author of The Deepening Stream (1940), The Waiting Hills (1943) and Encircling Seas (1946) collected as Discovered Isles: a Trilogy (Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1950). See SB.


Commentaries; review of Later Poems, by Austin Clarke. Oxford: Oxford University Press for The Dolmen Press, Dublin, 1961; Abelard and Heloise, by Ronald Duncan. London: Faber and Faber, 1961; and My Sad Captains, by Thom Gunn. London: Faber and Faber, 1961; in NZL 1189 (29 June 1962) 35.

Austin Clarke (1896-1974), Irish poet and prose writer, produced twenty books of poetry, many plays, and three novels. The novels were banned by the Irish Censorship Board.

Ronald Duncan was born in South Africa in 1942 and came as a child to England. He became a prolific journalist, dramatist, fiction writer and poet. He died in 1982.


A Pig Island Journal (comments on the art of poetry); Hocken MS0975/106. Est. date.

Information provided in a draft reveals that this article was written when JKB was thirty-five years old – between 29 June 1961 and the same date in 1962. It has been placed near the later date. JKB re-used the definition of a page 290poem (‘A poem is a symbolic microcosm of the known universe of the man who writes it’) in No. 286, ‘Notes Made in Winter’, which was published at the end of that year.

The notebook which contains it also holds notes on moa hunters and notes about a 1963 meeting of the Post Office Staff Committee. It is assumed that these were written later than ‘A Pig Island Journal’.


A Bush Carpenter’s Outfit; Hocken MS-0975/106. Est. date.


Valuable Reprints; review of The Idea of History, by R.G. Collingwood, Conversion, by A.D. Nock, and Nine Dayak Nights, by W.R. Geddes; all published by Oxford Paperbacks. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961; in NZL 1191 (13 July 1962) 36.

R[obin] G[eorge] Collingwood (1889-1943), British philosopher, historian and Oxford don. The Idea of History was a collation of various papers of Collingwood’s made by his pupil T.M. Knox.

The sub-title of Arthur Darby Nock’s book is The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo.


Literary Middlemen; review of Saint-Beuve: A portrait of the critic 1804-42, by A.G. Lehmann. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962; The Visionary Company: a reading of English Romantic Poetry, by Harold Bloom. London: Faber and Faber, 1961; and Robert Lowell: The First Twenty Years, by Hugh B. Staples. London: Faber and Faber, 1962; in NZL 1202 (28 Sep. 1962) 35.

A[ndrew] G[eorge] Lehmann (1922-2006), critic and author, taught at Manchester, Reading and Buckingham universities. His other books included The Symbolist Aesthetic in France 1885-1895 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1968) and The European Heritage; an outline of Western culture (Oxford: Phaidon, 1984).

Charles Augustin Saint-Beuve (1804-69), French poet and literary critic, believed that to understand an artist it was necessary to understand his life. This notion was refuted by Marcel Proust.

Harold Bloom (1930- ), American literary critic. He is the author of about forty books, many of which contain his controversial critical theories. His distinguished academic career was crowned by his appointment as Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University.

Hugh B. Staples was also the author of Robert Lowell: Bibliography, 1939-59 (Harvard Library, 1959).


Horse (a novel). Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Hocken Library holds various drafts of the novel. Two of them are entitled ‘A Ghost in Trousers’ (Hocken MS-0975/112 and 0975/113). MS-0975/111 is another draft, while MS-0975/110 is a fair copy in manuscript.

In the Alexander Turnbull Library the Louis Johnson Literary Papers page 291include a copy of ‘A Ghost in Trousers’. In a letter of 27 August 1985 Anne French, managing-editor of Oxford University Press, confirmed to Johnson, on behalf of John Weir, who was advising OUP regarding the publication of Horse, that the Johnson copy was ‘a penultimate draft’ (Johnson, L. Literary Papers; MS-Papers-8095-079).

JKB may have conceived the notion of writing a semi-autobiographical novel as a result of reading Dylan Thomas’s Adventures in the Skin Trade (published posthumously in 1953), which he reviewed in NZL on 17 February 1956. He began making notes for Horse in 1958-9. These are recorded in a notebook (Hocken MS 0975/109) which also contained poems, prose and notes about India. These early notes demonstrate that the novel would be set in a university. The list of events which he proposed in MS-0975/109 reads:

(1)Climbing on pub wall – chased by cops – sleeping in broom cupboard.
(2)Swollen lip – prevents him from competing with Pillbag for Elizabeth.
(3)Mr Gallonguts’s prayer to the empty bottle, ‘Litany of the Holy Bottle’; Lit. Soc. Meeting with coarse readings. (‘Now belly-banging is my joy’).
(4)Episode with lecturer’s wife.
(5)Idyllic episode with Elizabeth.
(6)Party at flat; interrupted by . . .
(7)Sleeping between 2 girls after party.
(8)Working in iron works – Peter and Ivan and Ivan’s wife.

This is followed by a list of five ‘Stories Told’. The summary of the first of these, ‘This bitch is not on heat’, suggests the nature of the other four.

The next list is entitled ‘The Labours of Harry Glass’. These are modelled on the labours of Hercules. They are:

(1)Apples of the Hesperides
(2)Bringing back Cerberus
(3)Slaying of Hydra
(4)Stymphalian Birds
(6)Nemean Lion
(7)His Struggle for the Delphic Tripod (with Pillbag)
(8)Yoking of Fiery Bull
(9)Cleansing of Augean Stables

The novel’s first draft title, ‘The Adventures of Harry Glass’, faintly echoes Thomas’s Adventures in the Skin Trade. The draft notes also hold another echo, for JKB intended to parallel his ‘Harry’s’ exploits with those of ‘Hercules’ and drafted a list of these. James Joyce used this technique in Ulysses and JKB waspage 292 planning to mimic it. But when he resumed the project in 1962 he chose not to retain this parallel scaffolding. On 8 October of that year he informed me that he had written a tragi-comic novel which was partly a self-portrait. He intended keeping it in a drawer for a time – ‘not wishing to scandalise the faithful’ (who may have included his family). One month later he informed his mother that he had written some prose sketches. An extract entitled ‘Bulls and Cows’ was published in [Otago University] Review (1966) pp. 19-29.

It was written in 1962 but published posthumously. Oxford University Press representatives were not enthusiastic about the project but Jacquie Baxter was keen to have it published and I supported her wishes and acted as the book’s editor.


Breaking New Ground; review of Versions from Verlaine, by Ernest Currie, The Turning Wheel, poems by Ruth Dallas, and The Halting Place, by Paul Henderson, all published in Christchurch in 1961 by the Caxton Press; in Comment 13 (Oct. 1962) 42-43.

[Archibald] Ernest Currie (1884-1967) was born in Christchurch where he graduated from Canterbury University College MA, LLB. He practised law in the North Island and became crown solicitor (1925-19459). He was co-editor (with his friend W.F. Alexander) of the first important New Zealand poetry anthology (A Book of New Zealand Verse, 1906). He may not have wished to expose his own verse to critics and his group of translations collected as Versions from Verlaine was his only collection of poetry. In 1864 JKB followed his own advice to Currie when he wrote versions of Rimbaud’s ‘The First Communions’ (CP 296) and ‘Seven Year Old Poet’ (CP 300).

On 9 November 1962 Ruth France remarked in a letter to JKB, ‘As regards being a writer of novels – it’s just about as bad to be a New Zealander as it is to be a woman; there’s always the extra hurdle to surmount’. She was grateful to JKB for his generous remarks about her work, but rightly objected to the way in which some literary critics responded to women’s writing. (See McKay 189; S.P.E. 32/2/5/II).


New Zealand Writing; review of The Clock by the Ocean, by Phyllis Garrard. Christchurch: Pegasus Press, 1962; Under the Bridge: poems by Bruce Beaver. Sydney: Beaujon Press, 1961; Review ’62, edited by Peter Burns. Dunedin: Otago University Students’ Association, 1962; Gateway ’62, edited by Peter Alcock. Palmerston North: Palmerston North University College Students’ Association, 1962; in NZL 1205 (19 Oct. 1962) 19.

Phyllis [or Phillis] Garrard, New Zealand writer, aka Phillis Garrard Rowley. She is best known as the author of stories for girls, particularly the ‘Hilda’ sequence.

Bruce Beaver (1928-2004), Australian poet. He endured much illness but produced eleven collections of poetry.

page 293

A New Zealand Poet; review of Dawns and Trumpets, by Stuart Slater. Christchurch: Pegasus Press, 1962; in NZL 1208 (9 Nov. 1962) 18.


Unintended Cross; in Zealandia XXIX.31 (15 Nov. 1962) 10.

This article anticipates the NZ Tablet articles which JKB published later in the decade. It includes one of his central theses: ‘I am inclined to think that the majority of lapses from the Faith occur when people have only a sense of duty to oppose to temptation, not a sense that the Church is where human love flourishes best.’ He advocated a Christian humanism.


Pain, Resentment His Inspiration; Dominion, undated [prob. 1962]; VUW Library MS McKay 5/195. Est. date.


Notes Made in Winter; in NZPY X (1961-2) 13-15. It contains a paraphrase of his poem ‘The Bureaucrats’ (CP 249).


The Tragic Pregnancies; (letter to editor); in NZL 1215 (4 Jan. 1963) 8.

The NZL discussion resulted from M.H. Holcroft’s editorial ‘The Tragic Pregnancies’ (24 Aug. 1962) in which he discussed the effect of thalidomide upon the foetus and the consequent need to reconsider legislation regarding abortion. JKB’s last thoughts about abortion are contained in ‘Poet Writes to Priest; Let’s Free the Slaves of Mankind’ (No. 691).


The Big Season; (letter to editor); in LF vol. 17 no. 1 (Mar. 1963) 99-100.

Maurice Gee (1931- ), New Zealand novelist, short-story writer and writer of children’s literature: see SB.

R[aymond] A[ugustus] Copland (1918-2009), university teacher and writer: see SB. In 1974, anonymously, he edited John Macmillan Brown. The Memoirs, the book that JKB was unable (and perhaps unwilling) to complete.


The World of Sam Cash; review of One of Us, by Barry Crump. [Wellington]: A.H. and A.W. Reed, [1962]; in NZL 1227 (29 Mar. 1963) 18.


Smoke Signals; review of Night Thoughts, by Edmund Wilson. London: W.H. Allen, 1962; Play with a Tiger; a play in three acts, by Doris Lessing. London: Michael Joseph, [1961]; and Lonesome Traveller, by Jack Kerouac. London: André Deutsch, 1962; in NZL 1232 (3 May 1963) 19.

In his review of Kerouac’s book he referred to On the Road as ‘that masterpiece of the psychology of flight – flight from marriage, from settled occupation, and from what other people think of us. I must confess a prejudice in his favour.’ Eight days after the review appeared JKB began work as a postman.

In the course of the review of Kerouac’s Lonesome Traveller JKB remarked page 294 ‘I find the sense of a pilgrimage without destination entirely moving and convincing.’ He may have recalled the novel when he forged his Jerusalem connection.


Clerks and Cops; Hocken MS-0975/128.

(Note: ‘A Point of View – radio script’ crossed out.) The title may have been an echo of Philip Mincher’s Heroes and Clerks, which JKB reviewed in NZL on 16 October 1959. JKB remarked towards the end of his talk that ‘The battle of which I speak includes everybody. Simply to keep on moving is not enough. One has to wear a gun; one has to avoid becoming, after twenty-five, a bundle of reflexes. Recently I shifted from an office job to a job where I have to use my hands. It was a difficult change’. The change, and the mood that led to it, probably accounts for the militant tone of this talk. S.W. (Sid) Scott, a dedicated convert from Communism, argued in a letter that JKB’s claims were excessive: ‘Sweeping generalisations about “cops and clerks” on the one hand and “tribes” on the other are unwise. But it may be suggested that all three are good up to a certain point and very bad beyond it. Surely Mr Baxter, as a public servant, would not deny that even “paid” clerks have their place in the scheme of things?’ (NZL 1240; 28 June 1963, 9).


Clear Lenses; review of Selected Poems, by Thom Gunn and Ted Hughes. London: Faber and Faber, [1962], and African Negatives, by Alan Ross. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1962; in NZL 1239 (21 June 1963) 19.

Alan Ross (1922-2001), British poet, writer and editor, was born in India. At St John’s College, Oxford, he was a contemporary of Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin. During World War Two, like Denis Glover, he served on destroyers accompanying cargo ships to Russia. From 1961 until his death he edited John Lehmann’s London Magazine.


A Face in the Mirror; (letter to editor); in NZL 1240 (28 June 1963) 9.

JKB’s experience of editing a literary journal was with Canta and Numbers. He was regularly invited to speak to students at university congresses, including at Curious Cove in the Marlborough Sounds.


Impeccably Moderate; review of Australian Poetry 1962, selected by Geoffrey Dutton, Southmost Twelve, by Robert D. Fitzgerald, Rutherford, and other poems, by Douglas Stewart, and Birds, poems by Judith Wright. The four books were published by Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1962. The review is located in NZL 1241 (5 July 1963) 19.


Writing and Existence; Education, XII.7 (Aug. 1963) 16-19.

In the previous year JKB told a friend that the Director of Education regarded him as ‘an amiable donkey who occasionally excreted lumps of gold.’ page 295 (McKay 189). When JKB referred to himself as a bureaucrat he identified one point of tension. He had referred to this in his poem ‘The Bureaucrats’ (CP 249) and earlier in 1963 in his poem ‘Morning Train’ (CP 272).

It is the business of a poet, I think, to be destitute as well as honest. He advocated this again during his Jerusalem years.


Saved from the Thames; review of Face to Face, by Kevin Ireland: twenty-four poems, with an Introduction by Barry Crump. Christchurch: Pegasus Press, 1963; in NZL 1246 (9 Aug. 1963) 19.

Kevin [Mark] Ireland [born Kevin Jowsey] (1933-) poet and prose writer: see SB. In one of his poems, ‘A Way of Sorrow’, he lamented that he had to grieve alone over JKB’s death.


Words and Ideas; review of Scholasticism: Personalities and Problems of Medieval Philosophy, by Josef Pieper. London: Faber & Faber, 1962, and Imagination: a psychological critique, by Jean-Paul Sartre. Michigan: Ure Smith Pty Ltd for the University of Michigan Press, 1962; in NZL 1247 (16 Aug. 1963).

Josef Pieper (1904-91), philosopher, was professor of philosophical anthropology at the University of Münster, Germany. Among the most widely read of twentieth-century philosophers, Pieper received numerous distinctions, including the international Balzan Prize. He asserted a Christian concept of man as a counterbalance to secular thought.


The Sacred Craft; review of Affinities, poems by Vernon Watkins, London: Faber and Faber, 1963; Selected Poems, by Gregory Corso. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1963; and Mediterranean, and other poems, by Susanne Knowles. London: Heinemann, 1962; in NZL 1249 (30 Aug. 1963) 19.

Vernon [Philip] Watkins (1906-67), a Welsh poet, was a close friend of Dylan Thomas whom he readily forgave for forgetting to turn up to his wedding (where Thomas was meant to be best man). An important figure in Welsh literature, he was a bank cashier all his working life.

Gregory (actually ‘Nunzio’) Corso (1930-2001) was one of the Beat Generation, which included William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.


Further Notes on New Zealand Poetry; Hocken MS-0975/115.

Annotated by Mike [Charles] Doyle: ‘A talk given at the English Association Winter School, August, 1963’. A further version is contained in a notebook (Hocken MS-0975/047). This item contains importantinsights intoJKB’s conception of ‘Bohemia’. References in Ovid and Virgil: after bathing in a river the nymph Arethusa was pursued by the river god Alphaeus. She fled under the sea-bottom to thepage 296 island of Ortygia but Alphaeus flowed through the sea to the same place and there mingled with her waters.

Charles Doyle (1928- ), poet, anthologist, was born in Ireland but grew up in England. He came to New Zealand in 1951. From 1961 to 1967 he lectured at the University of Auckland. Then he moved to Canada. He wrote studies of JKB and R.A.K. Mason and published several collections of poetry. See SB.


Poetry and Education; Hocken MS-0975/144.

Annotated by Mike [Charles] Doyle: ‘Talk by James K. Baxter at English Association Winter School, August, 1963’ and ‘To Jacquie Baxter from Mike Doyle 1.6.73’.

The Baxter catalogue of the Hocken Library dates the copy August 1961. This should read 1963.

This item should not be confused with another ‘Poetry and Education’ (Hocken MS-0739/014) which was delivered to the Canterbury Sixth-Form English Teachers’ Association in1967, an item which is not collected because it was absorbed into ‘Notes on the Education of a New Zealand Poet’ in The Man on the Horse.

The verse passage beginning ‘Woman, wife, sailor’s rib’ is a partial draft of what became ‘Trawling Poem’ (CP 218).


James K Baxter: In their Words; a transcript of a tape recording of an interview recorded by the New Zealand Broadcasting Service (details not known). Est. date. McKay 1/29.

Even though the date of the interview is not known the text suggests to me that it occurred between 11 March 1963 (when he began work as a postman) and September 1963 (when he began writing ‘Pig Island Letters’).

‘The Advantages of Not Being Educated’ is an uncollected poem which was published in NZPY IX (1960) 27. The text follows:

Thule is in Greenland, north of Melville Bay.
Spare, if you can, a minute to consider
How the inhabitants of Thule dismay
Professor, salesman, oceanographer.

Fieldworkers state the Thulians entrap
Great crested grebes with jam tins filled with hot
Potatoes buttered. The great bill goes snap.
And the bird swallows, chokes, painfully dies.

It makes one grit one’s teeth to think of it.
They worship, writes one travelling Jesuit,
page 297 A Spirit called Gorambuzanudap
All-seeing and all-loving and all-wise.

Blunt Thule (alas) offends the social map
By being what it is in spite of what
It has been told to be. The Thulians prize
The art of love and several other things:

A song, a boat, a well-carved walrus tooth
Their word for ‘good’ means ‘one who speaks the truth’.
A race uneducated, raw, uncouth.
They fish, grow fat, laugh much, and have no kings.

‘Evidence at the Witch Trials’ is a poem which was first collected in Howrah Bridge and other poems (London/New York/Wellington: Oxford University Press, 1961). It is found in CP 214.

‘Regret at Being a Pakeha’ was published in NZL (13 Dec. 1963). The text follows:

Sea-egg, puha, pork and kumara,
Eaten among friends.
A bridge between the living and the dead:

These things should be enough.

A man and his shovel digging a drain.
Talk of women in the sun.
The touch of bodies in consolation:

These things should be enough.

Old wounds forgiven, happiness remembered,
Song at the altar of reconciling
And silence when the branch is bare:

These things should be enough.
Were it not that we carry as miners do
Our hard identity, a crust of dust.
A tombstone always in the living lungs.

Lionel [Mordecai] Trilling (1905-75) became a leading US literary critic. He was primarily interested in the social and cultural connotations of literature. He graduated from Columbia University where he later made hispage 298 name as a teacher. He was associated with the Partisan Review.

Edmund Wilson (1895-1972) was a US writer, literary and social critic. Educated at Princeton University he then edited Vanity Fair and was a reviewer for The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. His own books, which revealed the influence of Marx and Freud, included surveys of symbolism in poetry and European socialism. His third wife was the writer and literary critic Mary McCarthy. When they were in the middle of their many arguments he would lock his study door and she would attempt to push burning papers under it. He had another marriage and various affairs. He was a critic of US policies during the Cold War. He replied to much of his correspondence with a printed postcard which reads

Edmund Wilson regrets that it is impossible for him to Read manuscripts, write books and articles, write forewords or introductions, make statements for publicity purposes, do any kind of editorial work, judge literary contests, give interviews, conduct educational courses, deliver lectures, give talks or make speeches, broadcast or appear on television, take part in writers’ congresses, answer questionnaires, contribute to or take part in symposiums or “panels” of any kind, contribute manuscripts for sales, donate copies of his books for libraries, autograph books for strangers, allow his name to be used on letterheads, supply personal information about himself, supply photographs of himself, supply opinions on literary or other subjects.

Allen Tate (1899-1979), poet, writer and translator. Educated at Vanderbilt University he was deeply conscious of Southern culture and became a member of the Fugitive group which supported the values of the Southern experience. Tate valued the past over the present. He taught or was writer in residence at various universities, including North Carolina, Princeton, New York, Chicago, Minnesota, Rome and Oxford.

‘Wilderness is wilderness’. This poem has not been found.


The Human Condition [1]; review of The Private Ear and The Public Eye, two one-act plays by Peter Shaffer. London: Hamish Hamilton, [1962]; My Place, a play in three acts, by Elaine Dundy. London: Victor Gollancz, 1962; The Screens, by Jean Genet. London: Faber and Faber, [1963]; and Plays, Volume 2, by Bertolt Brecht. London: Methuen, 1962; in NZL 1251 (13 Sep. 1963) 18.

JKB usually did not produce standard book reviews. Instead he was what Holcroft called ‘a creative critic’.

Peter [Levin] Shaffer (1926-) studied history at Trinity College, Cambridge. The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964), which reflected his historical interests, was the third of his plays to be produced. His most famous play was probably Equus (1973), although Amadeus (1979) was equally successful.


A Political Diagnosis; review of The Status Quo Seekers, by Harold Innes. Wellington: Price and Milburn, 1963; in NZL 1254 (4 Oct. 1963) 19.

page 299

Harold [Hirst] Innes (1909-95), businessman, sold reject cheese, among other things, during the Depression of the 1930s to make ends meet. With that experience behind him he joined the dairy industry because the incoming Labour Government had decided to give a guaranteed price for dairy products. He became director of milk marketing for a time until the prime minister decided that he was better suited for private enterprise. So Innes returned to the family business and became managing director of Waikato Breweries. He fostered art and music and became a friend of Fairburn, Glover and other writers. The Status Quo Seekers drew on his experience to consider future trends in business, the economy and politics. His brewery business was amalgamated with L.D. Nathan’s in the early Sixties and he became managing director. He won a franchise to sell Bass beer in New Zealand, set up an English pub in Auckland, and tried but failed to establish a New Zealand restaurant in London. He became the chairman of the Citizens’ Association for Racial Equality and opposed the Springbok tour of 1965. In 1967 he founded Food Bank New Zealand which distributed milk arrowroot biscuits to India and other developing countries. Labour Governments appointed him to the Boards of Air New Zealand and the Bank of New Zealand. In 1974 he was made a CBE. In 1995 he drowned while swimming at Rothesay Bay, Auckland, possibly after a heart attack. The successful brewer Douglas Meyers wrote of him that he ‘really cared about people’ and that this was ‘his strength and his weakness’ in business.

JKB considered the ‘Government dealings’ with Māori and correctly anticipated the future: ‘This hidden sore point will undoubtedly become a major issue in the next twenty years.’


Tribal Behaviour; review of There and Back, by Barry Crump, and Please to Remember, by Stewart Kinross. Both books were published by A.H. and A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1963; in NZL 1255 (11 Oct. 1963) 18.

A New and Strong Talent; review of The Sudden Sun, by J.E. Weir. Christchurch: Pegasus Press, 1963; in NZL 1257 (25 Oct. 1963) 18. JKB wrote the cover-note for this book, my first collection of poetry:

John Weir’s poems are a refreshing event in New Zealand writing. They satisfy as much by their intellectual honesty as by their clear, hard images of earth, weather and seasons. There may be uncertainties in the characterisation of the people within the poems – a child on a beach, a young couple walking together, the poet’s dead father, an old man outside a pub – but the movement towards dramatic form brings with it the kind of strength one rarely finds in a poet’s first book. John Weir has a lyric gift, certainly; but more than that, he is sharply aware of his fellow-men and the problems of the age.

page 300

Break-through; review of Of Clouds and Pebbles, poems by Gloria Rawlinson. Auckland: Paul’s Book Arcade, 1963; in NZL 1260 (15 Nov. 1963) 19.

Gloria Rawlinson: see SB.

307.Henry Lawson; review of The Grey Dreamer, by Denton Prout. Adelaide: Rigby Ltd. 1963; in NZL 1262 (29 Nov. 1963) 19.

See ‘Pig Island Letters’, section 8 (CP 281):

Political action in its source is pure,
Human, direct, but in its civil function
Becomes the jail they had laboured to destroy.


Our Lady and the Soul at the Door; in the Marist Messenger (henceforth MM) XLII.12 (Dec. 1972) 4-6.

Editor’s note p. 4: ‘The Messenger was one of the first Catholic periodicals to print the work of James K. Baxter to whom tributes have been paid recently after his untimely death and whose burial at the Maori village of Jerusalem the nation viewed on TV. We reproduce here one of the poems to Our Lady that he much valued and that has an appropriate appeal now. He sent it to us on July 7, 1964 when he was working as a postman and a poet and living at Ngaio. He dated the completion of the poem as 13/10/63. It appeared in print in his third collection, Pig Island Letters, published by the Oxford University Press in 1966. Along with the poem he sent to us his own commentary on it. It has not yet been printed anywhere as far as we know. – Editor.’

In a letter to me (29 Oct. 1963) JKB wrote, ‘I think it works; for I do talk most inwardly to Our Lady – one needs that inward dialogue where play, humour, random creativity, can have a part.’

Maurice Shadbolt was the friend in Otago (Burns Fellow at the University of Otago) to whom he referred. See SB.

The series of verse letters was published as ‘Pig Island Letters’ (perhaps hinting at the title of ‘Pig Island Chronicle’, the comment column contributed by Fairburn (as ‘Poaka’) to Here and Now. This poem was reproduced as Section 13 of ‘Pig Island Letters’.

Stat crux dum volvitur orbis: ‘The Cross stands [firm] while the world turns.’ (transl.). ‘a mounded water breast’. See earlier reference to Waimarama and my letter to JKB (p. 56, this volume).


Deprived People; review of No! in Thunder: Essays on Myth and Literature, by Leslie A. Fiedler. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1960, and A Kind of Homecoming, by E.R. Braithwaite. London: Frederick Muller Ltd, 1963; in NZL 1265 (20 Dec. 1963) 18.

page 301

Leslie A[aron] Fiedler (1917–2003) was an American university lecturer and literary critic who was interested in mythography and the application of psychological principles to American literature. His most famous critical work was Love and Death in the American Novel (1960). He received many honours in his lifetime. No! in Thunder was the fourth of his thirty-nine books.

E[dward] R[icardo] Braithwaite (1920- ), novelist, was born in Guyana. He served in the RAF during World War Two but could not find appropriate work in England afterwards because of the colour of his skin so, unwillingly, he taught at a London East End school. This provided him with the experiences he wrote about in To Sir, With Love (1959). Then he became a social worker. He continued to write and his books were banned in South Africa by the apartheid regime. Eventually he became a UNESCO representative and then permanent representative for Guyana at the United Nations. Afterwards he taught or was writer-in-residence at various American universities.

310.Letterto a Young Poet; Hocken MS-0975/148. Est. date. There is also a copy in McKay 18/1/20 MS 975/158. JKB probably borrowed his title from the title of a poem by George Barker in A Vision of Beasts and Gods (London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 1954), which he reviewed in Numbers in 1954. He had previously cited the poem in The Fire and the Anvil and in his article ‘Something to Consider’, published in 1956.

This talk anticipates the talks JKB gave to students between 1966 and 1972. It also reveals the depth of his religious conviction.

‘For over the known world of things’: actually ‘But over the known world of things’. These lines cited by JKB are from George Barker’s ‘Letter to a Young Poet’ in A Vision of Beasts and Gods (London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 1954).

311.A Human Testament; review of The Burning Perch, by Louis MacNeice. London: Faber & Faber, 1963; in NZL 1272 (4 Feb. 1964) 18.

MacNeice’s humanist qualities appealed to JKB and account for the feeling expressed in this review. The final paragraph applies, to a large extent, to many of the poems he wrote during his own last years.


Messages from the Cellar; review of Collected Plays, by Charles Williams. London/New York: Oxford University Press, 1963; and Phantastes and Lilith, two novels by George MacDonald. London: Victor Gollancz, 1963; in NZL 1277 (20 Mar. 1964) 19.

Charles [Walter Stansby] Williams (1886-1945) wrote poetry, novels, plays, essays and theology and had a particular interest in fantasy novels with a contemporary setting. He was a devoted adherent of the Church of Englandpage 302 and earned the respect of T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis. He became the editor of Oxford University Press.

George MacDonald (1824-1905), minister, author of fairy tales and fantasy novels. Descended from the MacDonalds of Glencoe, he belonged to the Congregationalist Church but rejected the Calvinist teaching of predestination and other stern doctrines. He became a pastor but was usually too liberal for his congregations. He published many books but is best remembered for his fairy tales and for such prose fantasies as Phantastes (1858), The Princess and the Goblin (1872) and Lilith (1895).


Poetry Yearbook; (letter to editor); in NZL 1278 (26 Mar. 1964) 8.

JKB’s letter refers to the fact that late in 1963 the Advisory Committee of the New Zealand Literary Fund, of which he was a member, refused to give a grant to assist the production of the NZPY unless six of the poems selected were removed, as they were considered indecent. (Three were by JKB, two by Richard Packer and one by Martyn Sanderson. The three poems by JKB were ‘The Girl in Yellow Jeans’, ‘A Travelling Salesman’s Winter Meditation’ and ‘The Minute of Danger’.) The committee’s members were Professors Ian Gordon (Wellington), J.C. Garrett (Canterbury) and E.M. Blaiklock (Auckland), Mr M.H. Holcroft (editor of the NZL), Dr Margaret Dalziel (Reader, University of Otago) and JKB (the PEN representative). The vote was 4-2 in favour of suppression. JKB wanted to resign from the committee but was persuaded not to. He announced that he would continue to publicly oppose the committee’s decision.

In an article entitled ‘Poetry Yearbook and the New Zealand Literary Fund’ (Comment, Jan. 1964, 30) Louis Johnson disclosed that the grant from the Literary Fund (which would amount to £300 that year) covered editorial fees, payment for contributors, and assistance for the publisher’s production costs. In 1963 when the eleventh issue of NZPY was being prepared for publication the publisher (Albion Wright of Pegasus Press) was asked to forward the manuscript. Four months later Johnson and the publisher were told that the grant would be approved provided that the six poems were removed. No reason was given. But after the news broke in the media Gordon admitted in a press release that even though the poems were not criminally liable, the Yearbook containing them would not be funded because they were not in good taste and consequently not in the interest of the general public. He meant that they should not be funded by ‘the taxpayer’. However he neglected to mention that they were not actually funded by ‘the taxpayer’ from income tax, but from profits made as a result of Government taxes on gambling (horse-racing). According to Richard Packer he also failed to mention that members of the committee (such as himself) were paid from public funds.

Part of Johnson’s reply follows: page 303

As a writer I fully believe that one of the most important and fundamental principles of freedom is at stake in the matter and therefore cannot let the matter rest lightly.

It will be recalled that I wrote a similar protest at the time of the committee’s request to inspect last year’s manuscript. At that time, I raised a number of important questions. They included:

1. In the event of the committee not agreeing with my selection of poems, who is to have the final say in the matter?

2. In the event of the committee demanding the withdrawal of poems from the manuscript would I have the right to indicate somewhere in the book the fact that poems had been withdrawn, or to print on the title page ‘edited by Louis Johnson and the members of the State Literary Fund Committee’?

The only answer you gave me was that ‘the Committee reserves to itself the right to inspect all manuscripts for which a grant is sought.’

This was not an answer to my questions but an evasion. And the evasion is necessary in this case because, I submit, the committee wants to act as a censoring body, but wants to pretend that it is not a censoring body; and above all else, does not want to put any statement onto paper which will give anyone the right to accuse it of censorship. I think the committee ought to clarify its own objectives on this point.

If the committee reserves the right to inspect all manuscripts, do those rights include editorial interference? No reason was given for the request that the poems be excluded from the issue. The committee wishes in fact to be the final editor.

I would also point out that for ten years . . . the committee, through its chairman [Professor Ian A. Gordon], waived the right to inspect Yearbook manuscripts. The committee, I was told, considered the editorial responsibility to be mine. No reason has been given as to why it should no longer be so.

One may take it that the six poems in question are objected to on grounds of likely obscenity. I submit that it is not the function of the committee to determine this, and that a grave error has been committed in desiring to usurp the ordinary functions of the law.

It should be evident that the contents of the poems questioned are no more dangerous to the concept of decency than, among many other books favoured by the committee with grants and awards, the following [four examples follow, including ‘The current issue of Landfall in which the famous four-letter word of D.H. Lawrence’s is used.’].

Johnson’s article ended:

It is also much easier to foresee a time when the words ‘published with the aid of the New Zealand Literary Fund’ will indicate a volume that few will want to read, but which, as has been the case for so long in Russia, officialdom thinks will do us no harm should we continue, in the TV age, to indulge such Un-New Zealand tastes as reading. (Comment, Jan. 1964, 30).

The 1963 NZPY was published without a grant from the Literary Fund.

page 304

Holcroft added fuel to the fire by publishing an editorial entitled ‘Freedom’s Champion’ in response to a letter from an unknown correspondent. Johnson led the charge against Holcroft. He was followed by JKB, Glover, Brasch, Stead, Rawlinson, Oliver, Schwimmer, Packer, Doyle, Shadbolt and others. JKB’s reply was moderate but Oliver was indignant and Brasch and Stead accused Shadbolt of impropriety.

Dr Dalziel resigned from the committee in protest at the personal nature of Holcroft’s assault on NZPY and Lou Johnson. That day Gordon denied in a media interview that that the Government had applied pressure to the committee to take a conservative stance but he was forced to admit that Sir Leon Gotz, Minister of Internal Affairs, had instructed the committee to ‘tighten up’. (Gordon’s position was compromised by the fact that he was a member of the Indecent Publications Tribunal, set up in 1963 to give teeth to the Act.)

In A Sea of Words (1986) Holcroft eventually admitted that he was wrong to have taken this position. He explained that because he had struggled without financial help when he was a young writer he became concerned that if the committee funded the Yearbook the Government might abolish all financial assistance to writers and publishers. Of course his change of heart came too late to help the Yearbook, which was forced to close after that issue. Holcroft’s action damaged Johnson’s reputation.

The closure of NZPY would have been particularly galling to Johnson because of the earlier closure of Numbers on similar grounds.

314.Suburban Mirrors; review of A Time to Embrace, poems by Keith Sinclair. Hamilton: Paul’s Book Arcade, 1963; in NZL 1280 (10 Apr. 1964) 18.

315.The Rabbit Warren; Craccum, May 1964, p. 9.

Craccum: Auckland University Students’ Association. Auckland. 1 (10 Mar. 1927)-.

According to Canta (vol. XXXIV.2, 13 Mar 1964: 1) the first issue of Craccum for the year was banned because of an eighty-line poem by JKB and a review by B.F. Babbington of The Group, a novel by the American writer Mary McCarthy. A Canta journalist reported that the middle pages of the student newspaper had to be removed and reprinted, even though 5000 copies had been already printed and 115 sold. At that stage the Executive of the Students Association intervened and sought a legal opinion on whether the poem and the review would contravene the Indecent Publications Act.

See following article.


The Power of Mrs Grundy; some comments on censorship; a Guest Editorial; in Salient XXVII.3 (2 Apr 1964) 2; also published in Craccum XXVIII.3 (1 May 1964) 16.

page 305

It carried a note, ‘This is a condensation of Baxter’s views on censorship and university life as they appeared in a guest editorial in Salient, Victoria University student paper.’


Smell of the Lamp; review of Who is my Neighbour, by Anne Ridler. London: Faber and Faber, 1963; Phaedra, a verse translation of Racine’s Phèdre, by Robert Lowell. London: Faber and Faber, [1963]; and Advice to a Prophet and Other Poems, by Richard Wilbur. London: Faber and Faber, 1962; in NZL 1284 (8 May 1964) 19.

Anne Ridler (1912-2001), British poet and editor, was originally named Anne Barbara Bradby. She married Vivien Ridler, who became printer to Oxford University.

Richard [Purdy] Wilbur (1921- ), American poet and translator, received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1957 and in 1989.


The Double Vocation; review of Water, Rock and Sand, poems by Peter Levi. London: André Deutsch, [1962]; in NZL 1285 (15 May 1964) 19.

Peter [Chad Tigar] Levi (1931-2000), prolific poet, reviewer, biographer, translator, became a Jesuit priest. (He left the Jesuits in 1977.) He was Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1984 to 1989, but for the greater part he worked as a fulltime writer. His first book The Gravel Ponds was published by André Deutsch (London, 1960).


The Sudden Sun; (letter to editor); in LF vol. 18 no. 2 (June 1964) 191-195.

Jackson’s reply was published in LF vol. 18 no. 3 (Sep. 1964) 290.


Pope John’s Council; review of Letters from Vatican City, by Xavier Rynne. London: Faber & Faber, 1963; in NZL 1290 (19 June 1964) 18.

‘Xavier Rynne’ was the pseudonym of Francis Xavier Murphy, who used his own middle name and his mother’s maiden name to write insider’s reports on the Second Vatican Council for The New Yorker. In 1935 he joined the Redemptorists, the familiar name of Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris (abbreviated as C.Ss.R), which is translated as the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. This organisation of male religious was founded in Italy in 1732 by St Alphonsus Liguori. Ordained a priest in 1940, Murphy was awarded a PhD by the Catholic University of America. He became a chaplain to US forces during World War Two and for some time afterwards. In 1959 he was appointed professor of theology at Lateran University, Rome. During the Second Vatican Council he wrote reports as an accredited journalist, his identity protected by his pseudonym. His articles depicted events as a contest between conservatives and liberals. After the council he became a visiting professor at Princeton and was connected for a time with Johnpage 306 Hopkins University. Finally he became rector of Holy Redeemer College in Washington D.C. He wrote more than twenty books.

321.[Poetry 1964]; Introductory Note from A Selection of Poetry by James K. Baxter, published by Poetry Magazine, 1964.

The publication was annotated, ‘This supplement of Poetry Magazine is prepared expressly for distribution to schools and educational institutions.’ Edited by Barry Mitcalfe, Teachers’ College, Kowhai Road, Wellington.


A Sense of Urgency; review of The Priest, by Lilian Helegua. London: Peter Owen, 1963; in NZL 1292 (3 July 1964) 19.


A Maori Prophet; review of Ratana, the origins and the story of the movement, by J. Henderson. Wellington: the Polynesian Society, 1964; in NZL 1296 (31 July 1964) 19.


Domestic Entanglements; review of The Old Masters, by Thomas Baird. London: Faber and Faber, 1963; A Cage of Humming-Birds, by June Drummond. London: Victor Gollancz, 1964; The Burning Bird, by Samuel Youd. London: Longmans, 1964; and The Key to my Heart, by V.S. Pritchett. London: Chatto and Windus, 1963; in NZL (21 Aug. 1964) 18.

Thomas Baird (1924-90), US educator and author, graduated from Princeton University in 1945 and became a Master of Fine Arts in 1950. As a teacher of art history he specialised in medieval and Renaissance art. He also wrote novels and stories which included information about art.

June Drummond (1923-2012). This, her first novel, presented life in South Africa against a background of apartheid. But she and her publishers discovered that apartheid turned off readers so she began writing thrillers and romances instead.

[Christopher] Samuel Youd (1922- ), novelist and science fiction writer, used his own name and various pseudonyms in his more than fifty books. V[ictor] S[awdon] Pritchett (1900-97), prolific British biographer and writer, was knighted in 1975 for services to literature.


James K. Baxter speaking at the opening of an Exhibition of Paintings by Drew Peters at Artides Gallery; in NZ Potter vol. 7 no. 1, pp. 42-3.

Drew Peters: no information available.

Et verbum caro factum est: ‘And the Word was made flesh’. John 1.14.


Wild Honey; review of Alistair Campbell’s Wild Honey. London / New York: Oxford University Press, 1964; in Te Ao Hoū 48 (Sep. 1964) 51.

Te Ao Hoū [The New World] (1952-76), was a quarterly journal published by the Department of Māori Affairs. Its long-time editor (from 1954) waspage 307 Erik Schwimmer. In 1955 Jacquie Baxter’s short story ‘For All the Saints’ was published there, the first story in the journal by a Māori writer writing in English.


Australian Voices; review of Poetry in Australia: Volume I, From the Ballads of Brennan, chosen by T. Inglis Moore, and Volume II, Modern Australian Verse, chosen by Douglas Stewart. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1964; in NZL 1301 (4 Sep. 1964) 19.

T[om] Inglis Moore (1901-71), Australian literary scholar, editor and writer.


The Quality of Boldness; review of The Living Sky, a selection of poems by Alexander Craig. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1964; in NZL 1305 (2 Oct. 1964) 19.

Alexander Craig (1923-96), Australian poet and editor.


Three Poets; review of Inside – Looking Out, selected poems by Patricia Godsiff; The Road, poems by Frederick C. Parmee; and Home is the Warrior, a collection of poems by Nancy Bruce; all three books by A.H. and A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1964; in NZL 1310 (6 Nov. 1964) 18.

Patricia [Mary] Godsiff also produced Tribute to Cook: a sequence of impressions in verse of the first voyage of Captain James Cook R.N. (Renwick, N.S.W: the author, 1970). Her poetry was represented in Real Fire: poetry from the 1960s and 1970s in New Zealand (selected by Bernard Gadd. Dunedin: Square One Press, 2001).

Frederick C. Parmée, New Zealand poet, also author of Two Poems of Revolution: Early Poems in a New Movement in New Zealand (Onerahi: the author, 1970), and The Sounds of Now: Two Poems in a New Movement in New Zealand Poetry (Onerahi: the author, 1971).

Nancy Bruce contributed poems on Māori subjects to Te Ao Hoū in 1960. Later she also wrote poems for children.


Return to Tradition; review of Captain Quiros, a poem by James McAuley; A Beachcomber’s Diary, ninety sea sonnets by John Blight; and The Ghost of the Cock, poems by Francis Webb (all three books by Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1964); and I Hate and I Love, poems by John Thompson. Melbourne: F.W. Cheshire Pty. 1964; in NZL 1313 (27 Nov. 1964) 21.

James [Philip] McAuley (1917-76), poet, editor, academic, graduated in English from Sydney University. In 1945, before he had published the first of his eleven books of poetry, he became a literary celebrity when he (with Harold Stewart) perpetrated the ‘Ern Malley’ hoax, concocting sixteen ‘poems’ by the unknown author in a pseudo-modernist style, and sending them to Max Harris, editor of Angry Penguins, who rushed them into print. page 308McAuley published his first book of poetry in the following year. He became a Catholic in 1953. Although he was on the left wing of politics he was anti-Communist and in 1956 became the first editor of Quadrant, the cultural/ literary journal which emanated from the anti-Communist Association for Cultural Freedom. From 1961 he became Professor of English at the University of Tasmania. He died from cancer at the age of fifty-nine, his most important writing not yet done. Captain Quiros was his fifth book of poetry.

John Blight (1913-95) worked as an accountant until the early 1970s when he retired to devote himself to writing. He won several awards and prizes for his poems about the Queensland coast and the sea.

Francis Charles Webb-Wagg (1925-73), Australian poet, published his work over the signature of ‘Francis Webb’. He was schizophrenic and spent much of his life in psychiatric hospitals in England and Australia. Despite great difficulties and suffering he wrote some very important, if neglected, poetry. In the year he died he was awarded the Australian Literature Society’s Gold Medal and the Christopher Brennan Award.

John [Joseph Meagher] Thompson (1907-68), Australian poet, broadcaster and radio producer, graduated BA from the University of Melbourne in 1929. In London he wrote poetry and unpublished novels and married (1938). His wife worked at Victor Gollancz’s Left Book Club. As war loomed they travelled to Perth, where Thompson became an announcer for the ABC. After the war they settled in Sydney where he worked as a feature writer and producer for the same organisation.


No Ordinary Sun; review of book with that title by Hone Tuwhare. Auckland: Blackwood and Janet Paul, 1964; in Te Ao Hoū 49 (Dec. 1964) 56.

Hone Tuwhare (1922-2008) was a great New Zealand poet: see SB. He became Robert Burns Fellow in 1969 in succession to Ruth Dallas, who followed JKB. Also like JKB he received the position for a second year when he was awarded it again in 1974. In 1972 his wife Jean Tuwhare was with JKB when he died.


Poets New and Old; review of Australian Poetry 1964, selected by Randolph Stow. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1964; The Unknowing Dance, by Chad Walsh. London, New York: Abelard-Schuman, [1964]; and Urien’s Voyage, by André Gide, translated by Wade Baskin. London: Peter Owen, 1964; in NZL 1316 (18 Dec. 1964) 19.

[Julian] Randolph Stow (1935-2010), novelist and poet, graduated from the University of Western Australia and then lectured at the universities of Adelaide, Western Australia and Leeds. He also worked for a time as an anthropologist in the Trobriand Islands. By the time he edited Australian Poetry 1964 he had already published two books of poetry and three novels. In 1979 he was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award. He lived in page 309England from 1966 until his death.

Chad Walsh (1914-91), professor of English, wrote poetry, children’s books, and fantasies for adults. He was a religious man and wrote two books on C.S. Lewis, whose own books led him to convert from agnosticism to the Episcopalian Church.

André Gide (1869-1951). His existential fable Le Voyage d’Urien was originally published in 1893. Its title puns on the phrase ‘Le Voyage du rien’ (‘voyage to nowhere’).

Wade Baskin edited and translated a considerable number of generally philosophical writings, especially from the French language.


Drama and Criticism; review of Play, and two short pieces for radio, by Samuel Becket. London: Faber and Faber, 1964; and TLS: Essays and Reviews from The Times Literary Supplement 1963, no. 2, Oxford University Press, 1964; in NZL 1318 (8 Jan. 1965) 13.


Who was Ned Kelly? in Australian Book Review vol.IV.4 (Feb. 1965) 52. Hocken Library holds three manuscript copies (MS-0975-129, MS-0975/135 and MS 975/136).

I remember staying about thirty years ago with a great-aunt in a Sydney suburb: this may have happened in 1937 when the Baxters interrupted their voyage to England in order to spend some time in Sydney.

[Edward] Ned Kelly (1855-80) was an Irish-Australian bushranger and outlaw who has become one of Australia’s icons.


‘For the Methodical and for Muddlers’; review of Through Lent with the Church, by Raphael Clynes, O.F.M. Dublin: Gill & Son, 1962; and Prayers of Life, by Michel Quoist. Dublin: Gill & Son, 1963; in MM XXXV.I (Feb. 1965) 19.


The Pythoness; in NZL 1324 (19 Feb. 1965) 8, 20.

It may seem surprising that JKB should have written such an extensive overview of the poetry of Edith Sitwell but he may have been partly moved by the fact that in 1955 she became a Catholic convert. (Evelyn Waugh was her godfather.) It is probably his most accomplished critique of a single writer.


Inside the Tribe; review of Namatjira, by Joyce D. Batty. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1963; in NZL 1327 (12 Mar. 1965) 13.

Albert Namatjira (1902-59) was a highly successful indigenous Australian artist who painted landscapes in a European manner, not in the symbolic indigenous manner. Because of his race he was forced to endure various wrongs but his fame and popularity always caused a backlash which forced authorities to back down. He is now recognised as one of the great Australian artists.

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Voices from the Suburbs; review of My Side of the Story, by Peter Bland. Auckland: Mate Books, 1964; and Prince of the Plague Country, by Richard Packer. Christchurch: Pegasus Press, 1964; in NZL 1328 (19 Mar. 1965) 18.

The first edition of the literary journal Mate (1958-60) was produced in Auckland in 1958. It was edited by Robin Dudding.


Bread and a Pension; (letter to editor); in LF vol. 19 no. 2 (June 1965) 205-209.

JKB was incensed that Louis Johnson’s poetry never received its due from Curnow and other literary critics such as R.L.P. Jackson.


Our Lady in the Bullring; in MM XXXV.6 (June 1965) 2.

Pacem in Terris is the title of an encyclical of Pope John XXIII which advocated universal peace. It was published on 11 April 1963.


A Boy Killed; review of A Saint at Stake; the strange death of William of Norwich, by M.D. Anderson. London: Faber and Faber, [1964]; in NZL 1343 (2 July 1965) 19.

JKB takes a moderate and compassionate approach to this event in which a boy was said to have been tortured by Jews. The Life and Miracles of St William of Norwich, by Thomas of Monmouth, is a dubious chronicle at best. But the rumours and hostility generated led to an attack by a mob on Norwich Jews in 1190. They were all killed. In 1290 Jews were banned from England and not allowed to return until 1655 when Cromwell decided to allow back to England any Jews who were being persecuted in Catholic European countries.


Sex and Paradise; review of The Quest for Love, by David Holbrook. London: Methuen, 1964; in NZL 1344 (9 July 1965) 19.

David Kenneth Holbrook (1923-2011) was a graduate of Downing College, Cambridge, an academic, and a novelist, poet and literary critic. His output in the latter field was prodigious. In The Quest for Love he sought to ‘make connections between the recent findings of psychoanalysis about love and our dealings with reality, and the poet’s preoccupations with these.’ He was convinced that relationships between men and women needed an experience of fulfilled love. Rather than abandon his conviction that D.H. Lawrence was a cad he reiterated it in 1992 in Where D.H. Lawrence Was Wrong about Woman.


Enigmatic Novelist; review of Joseph Conrad; a giant in exile, by Leo Gurko. London: Frederick Muller, 1962; in NZL 1347 (30 July 1965) 19.

Leo Gurko is an important American critic who wrote books about Tom Paine, Thomas Woolf, Ernest Hemingway and other writers of fiction, including Conrad.

page 311

In the Early World; review of the book with that title by Elwyn S. Richardson (Educational Research Series no. 42). Wellington: New Zealand Council of Educational Research, 1964; printed in New Zealand by Whitcombe & Tombs; reviewed in NZ Potter, VIII.1 (Aug. 1965) 37-39.

Elwyn S[tuart] Richardson was a primary school teacher.

The book was also reviewed by Jacquie Baxter in Te Ao Hoū no. 53 (Dec. 1965) 54.


Vietnam as a Bullring; (letter to editor); in MM XXXV.8 (Aug. 1965) 17.

Reply to a letter by T.K. in MM XXXV.7 (July 1965) 33.

T[erence] K[evin O’Neill] (1930-77) was a member of the Society of Mary and a Catholic priest (ordained 14 Nov. 1959).

The anti-Vietnam War movement in New Zealand was founded upon the anti-nuclear movement which had already existed for a number of years. In 1961 students from Victoria University organised the first Aldermaston March (from Featherston to parliament steps in Wellington). That year Russia exploded a fifty megaton nuclear device and the United States announced that it was resuming nuclear testing in the Pacific. The nuclear-free ‘No Bombs South of the Line’ petition of 1963 gained 80,238 signatures. The Government’s announcement in 1965 that New Zealand troops were to be sent to Vietnam generated more protests. These multiplied in 1966, especially in Auckland and Wellington, when Air Vice Marshall Ky and President Lyndon Johnson separately visited New Zealand with requests for increased military assistance.


Good Pope John; review of Pope John XXIII’s Journal of a Soul (translated by Dorothy White). London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1964; in MM XXXV.8 (Aug. 1965) 2.

Following the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (1881-1963) was elected pope, taking the name of Pope John XXIII. A humble man, he had not expected to be nominated and arrived at the Vatican with a return train ticket. He summoned the Second Vatican Council (196265) which renewed the Catholic Church and opened it up to the world. In September 1962 he was diagnosed with a gastric carcinoma and he died on 3 June 1963 after a pontificate of four years. He was aged eighty-one. His life and pontificate was a key reason why JKB’s parents, particularly his father Archibald, became a Catholic.


Some Problems of Catholic Writers; included in Five New Zealand Poets: a Bibliographical and Critical Account of Manuscript Material; A Thesis Presented for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in English Literature in the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. By John E. Weir. March, 1974, pp. 230-231.

page 312

It is estimated that the typescript is dated 18 August 1965.


Literary Gossip; review of Ezra Pound’s Kensington, an exploration 1885-1913, by Patricia Hutchins. London: Faber and Faber, 1965; in NZL 1350 (20 Aug. 1965) 18.

Patricia Hutchins had already published James Joyce’s World (London: Methuen, 1957).


Debate on Vietnam; (letter to editor); in NZL 1350 (20 Aug. 1965) 10.


A Sponge of Vinegar; review of Summer in the Gravel Pit, stories by Maurice Duggan. Wellington: Blackwood and Janet Paul and Victor Gollancz, 1965; in NZL 1351 (27 Aug. 1965) 18.


Conversation about Writing; [‘Writer and Reader (8)’]; in New Zealand Monthly Review 60 (Sep. 1965) 28. (Subsequently abbreviated as NZMR.)

New Zealand Monthly Review was a left-wing journal founded in Christchurch in May 1960, edited by H. Winston Rhodes (1905-87). See SB.


Beginnings; in LF vol. 19 no. 3 (Sep. 1965) 237-42.

This was collected in Beginnings: New Zealand authors tell how they began writing (Wellington: Oxford University Press, 1980).


Virtue Alarmed [1]; (letter to editor); in NZL 1353 (10 Sep. 1965) 11.

Holcroft’s editorial was dated 27 August 1965. Mandy Rice-Davies and Christine Keeler were central figures in ‘the Profumo Affair’, a sexual-political scandal which broke in June, 1963, leading to a loss of confidence in the Conservative Government of Great Britain. Rice-Davies was never charged with being a prostitute so she was not convicted. She became a nightclub entertainer and her celebrity status made her an international drawcard. When it was announced that she was to entertain New Zealanders some alarmed citizens of Hamilton, including church and civic leaders, petitioned Parliament not to allow her into the country.

Thomas Philip Shand (1911-69) served in the South Pacific with the New Zealand Air Force in the Second World War. In 1946 he was elected to Parliament as the National Party’s MP for Marlborough. After National became Government under Holyoake in 1960he was given various portfolios, including Immigration. In response to the Hamilton petition he announced that Rice-Davies would not be allowed entry without approval from the Department of Immigration and that this would not be given if Parliament approved the petition. Holcroft argued that as a British citizen without criminal convictions she should be allowed to enter the country if she wished. He ended ‘We shame ourselves before the world if we slam this door.’

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Two Good Plays; review of The Royal Hunt of the Sun, a play concerning the conquest of Peru, by Peter Shaffer. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1964; and Inadmissible Evidence, a play by John Osborne. London: Faber and Faber, 1965; in NZL 1354 (17 Sep. 1965) 19.


The Shaking of the Tree; in MM XXXV.10 (Oct. 1965) 9.


A City was Born; review of City of Dunedin, a century of civic enterprise, by K[enneth] C[ornewell] McDonald. Dunedin: Dunedin City Corporation, 1965); in NZL 1359 (22 Oct. 1965) 18.


Virtue Alarmed [2]; (letter to editor); in NZL 1360 (29 Oct. 1965) 11.


Mr Shand and the Rain of Fire (an open letter); in NZMR 62 (Nov. 1965) 7-8.

Tom Shand MP was a vigorous minister, a hearty red-baiter, and a military interventionist (although not Minister of Defence). He vigorously supported sending New Zealand troops to Vietnam, announced by the Government in 1965. He contracted lung disease and died in 1969, before the war ended. See No. 371, ‘Vietnam Protest’.

JKB’s anti-Vietnam War poems of that year were ‘A Bucket of Blood for a Dollar’ (CP 320) and ‘The Gunner’s Lament’ (CP 323).

Our Lady of the Desert; in MM XXXV.11 (Nov. 1965) 3-4. On 18 August 1965 JKB wrote to me that

When I write for the Marist Messenger, I’m well aware I’m ‘lying’ in a way I’m not in HENLEY PUB – the latter is my truest contribution to the Catholic body of experiential knowledge; the former will of course be much more acceptable, but in particular to the already converted. I feel the Lord desires me to fish in troubled waters – among the Greeks a Greek . . . among the Bohemians a Bohemian.

JKB’s most heartfelt poetic tribute to Mary is Section 13 of ‘Pig Island Letters’ (CP 284). The priest was Frank McKay, who became JKB’s biographer.


A Parade of Poets; review of The Faber Book of Modern Verse, edited by Michael Roberts, with a supplement chosen by Donald Hall; and The Faber Book of Twentieth Century Verse, edited by John Heath-Stubbs and David Wright; both published in London by Faber and Faber, 1965; in NZL 1363 (19 Nov. 1965) 18.

Donald Hall (1928- ) is a US poet and editor. He was educated at Harvard and Oxford and in time was recognised as a major US poet. He also wrote essays and edited numerous books, including more than sixty for the page 314University of Michigan Press.

John [Francis Alexander] Heath-Stubbs (1918-2006), English poet, was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry to signify his achievement.

David Wright (1920-94) was born in South Africa but came to England when he was aged fourteen. After graduating from Oriel College, Oxford, in 1942 he became a freelance writer.


T.S. Eliot’s Background; review of Notes on Some Figures behind T.S. Eliot, by Herbert Howarth. London: Chatto & Windus, 1965; in NZL 1364 (26 Nov. 1965) 20.

In 1959 Herbert Howarth published T.S. Eliot’s Criterion: the Editor and his Contributors. Eliot founded The Criterion in 1922; it ran until 1939.

When JKB remarked that ‘One suspects that Eliot’s own lifelong conflict between an enormous sense of duty and a solitary free-booting imagination derived in a large degree from the influence of this remarkable woman’ (his mother) his insight may have been sharpened by his awareness of his own situation.


With Stubble and Overcoat; in NZL 1364 (26 Nov. 1965) 25.

JKB contributed this talk to a series entitled ‘What Writers Read’, in ‘Feminine Viewpoint’ (National Programme) on 19 August. Passages in square brackets are inserted from ‘Books: a radio script’ (Hocken MS0975/121): they were not included in the NZL version. JKB’s talk bears some resemblances to Grahame Greene’s ‘The Lost Childhood’.

Tolstoy and Auden moved him along the road but here JKB credits Dylan Thomas for helping to convert him to Christianity.


TV Outlook; reply to a survey; in Fernfire 13 (Dec. 1965) 30.


Before the Innocence of God; in MM XXXV.12 (Dec. 1965) 5.


Foreword to The Tree House and other poems for children. Wellington: Price Milburn, 1974, pp. 7-8.

Publisher’s Note: ‘James K. Baxter prepared this book for publication some years before his death. (The poems were not published until after his death.) To his original typescript, Mrs J.C. Baxter added the TV script about The Fisherman, and four other poems: Three Little Mice, Eel Fishing, The Trapper and Eagle. These four were first published in the School Journal and are included by permission of the New Zealand Department of Education.’ Baxter began teaching at Epuni School, Lower Hutt, on 1 February 1954 and wrote many of these poems for children at the school. It is assumed that he wrote the Foreword and submitted the collection for publication in 1965, the year in which Pegasus Press declined to publish it.

page 315

Visit from a Poet; in Blue and White (annual magazine of St Patrick’s College, Silverstream) 1965, p. 25.

The item was written by Peter Walls (Upper Sixth). On the same page there was a photograph of JKB attributed to the Evening Post and captioned ‘Mr J.K.Baxter, Poetand Postman’. The magazine also contained JKB’s poem ‘Sealion’(CP318).


[I am Negro]; in Hocken MS-0704/026, MS Book XXV. pp. [69-70].

It is likely that JKB wrote this segment as a prose-poem component to the previous poem in the manuscript book. He had already deleted the following verse section (numbered ‘4’) which includes some of the phrases and ideas found in the prose-poem:

That talking branch the phallus does not speak;
Justice demands unbreakable silences,
A world of open, empty forms,
The Beatles, God, cosmetics, education;
Yet if it did, the Negro-coloured words
Thinking the blue note

The closing line of the prose-poem text ‘I am Negro’ was probably suggested by the refrain line (‘I am a Negro’) in Langston Hughes’s poem ‘Negro’.

[James Mercier] Langston Hughes (1902-67), poet, short-story writer, novelist and playwright, was born in Missouri. In 1921, with financial help from his father, he enrolled at Columbia University. During his time as an undergraduate he lodged in Harlem where he enjoyed interacting with the black community. While living there he wrote ‘Negro’:

I am a Negro:
Black as the night is black,
Black like the depths of my Africa.
I’ve been a slave:
Caesar told me to keep his door-steps clean....

He did not enjoy his studies in engineering, nor some other aspects of Columbia, and withdrew to travel to Africa and other places.

When he returned to the United States he enrolled at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1929. Before long his scrutiny of self and of the Black American experience, in poetry and in prose, marked him out as one of the leading writers of his generation. He became a prominent lecturer and later in life held positions at the universities of Chicago and Atlanta.

It is possible that JKB tapped into the tone and structure of ‘Negro’page 316 when he composed his poem ‘The Maori Jesus’ in 1966, a few months after transcribing ‘[I am Negro]’ into his manuscript book.


[Baxter on his own Poetry]; in Poetry in New Zealand, chosen and edited by Charles Doyle. Auckland: Collins, 1965. p. [29].


The Idea of Progress; in NZMR 63 (Dec. 1965-Jan. 1966) 13-14.

JKB used the story of the Māori and the bureaucrat as the introduction to Part Two of ‘Notes on the Education of a New Zealand Poet’ in The Man on the Horse.


Verse Collections, review of Caves in the Hills, by A.I.H. Paterson; and The White Flame, by Sylvia Thomson (both books published by Pegasus Press, Christchurch, 1965); in NZL 1366 (10 Dec. 1965) 18.

A[listair] I.H. Paterson (1929-), New Zealand poet, lived for most of his life in Auckland where he was an educational officer for the Royal New Zealand Navy. He produced several books of poetry and succeeded Frank McKay as editor of Poetry New Zealand, the anthology founded by Louis Johnson. See SB.

Sylvia Thomson also wrote Over the Greenstone Water (Christchurch: Pegasus, 1966) and The Dance of the Bells (Christchurch: privately printed, n.d.).


Vietnam Protest; (letter to editor); in NZL 1366 (10 Dec. 1965) 10.

The Vietnam War (referred to in Vietnam as ‘the American War’) was fought between 1959 and 1975. It was preceded by the first Indo-China War of 1945-54 between France, the colonial power, and the Communist Viet Minh. After the French withdrew, it was agreed at the Geneva Conference that the country would be divided at the 17th Parallel. Then a civil war broke out in the south between the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) supported by North Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh and the South backed by the United States. Concerned with the theory of forward defence, the New Zealand Government under Keith Holyoake initially sent only a civilian medical team but in 1964, as a result of pressure from the USA, twenty-five military engineers were sent to do reconstruction work. But further pressure from the USA resulted in the sending of a four-gun field artillery battery in 1965 (increased to six guns in 1966). It was this original four-gun unit to which JKB referred in his open letter to the Minister of Defence. In 1967 two companies of infantry were sent and other personnel were added up to 1969. These were integrated into the much larger Australian force. As the US forces were progressively withdrawn from 1970 so were the New Zealanders until only two training teams were left. When the Kirk-led Labour Government took power in December 1972 these teams were withdrawn. The war raisedpage 317 issues of national identity and independence in foreign policy. About four thousand New Zealand military personnel served in the war; thirty-seven were killed and one hundred and eighty-seven were wounded. By the early 1970s, thousands of people marched in protest through New Zealand streets (although many were also motivated by other issues).


The Africans; (letter to editor); in NZL 1368 (24 Dec. 1965) 11.

A follow-up letter to ‘Vietnam Protest’.

the town I live in: Wellington, but within weeks he would be living in Dunedin.