Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 3. April 1, 1958
The Night Shift, Baxter, Doyle, Johnson, and Smithyman (Capricorn Press, 10/-).
O broken bands are strong to grasp the thunder.
O give her compassion; my weakness tears
Her loveliness apart whom I need whole.
And the heart remembers, whips its waters white in a grief for absence of his sky-blue laughter.
Play on me, dear my man,
My husbandman, untune
The bowling night.
Poetry cannot be described by the bookful; every poem needs a separate review. The best one can do is to say "This is worthy reading"—and it is. I found Baxter's "Songs of the Desert" (fourteen poems of love struggling to be creative), and Doyle's poems of suffering at the loss of love most rewarding, but all four contributors are fairly evenly competent and the appeal of one or other is a subjective matter.
Some of these verses are immediately luminous, some yield to concentration, some remain opaque save to the sharers of that experience, and perhaps with some there is nothing to be extracted after all. This is not great poetry, but it is good enough to repay the effort, often considerable, of comprehending it.
New Worlds For Old, Louis Johnson (Capricorn Press, 10/-).
Here is a mixed bag. Johnson has indeed the satirist's sophisticated, withdrawn, uninvolved, occasionally cynical vision of contemporary life, and his criticism is at its best timely and devastating. "Here Together Met", "Suburban Train", "The Way We Live Now", and many another are to be counted among the credits, but there are also a number of pieces whose worth is distinctly mediocre.
The total impact of the volume is unpleasant; perhaps that is a merit in a work of this kind, but the picture of a shatteringly contemptible society, unrelieved by any hope of salvation except perhaps in personal dedication to the search for meaning, is a tough one to stomach.
What Johnson says of the new world needs saying, and needs reading, too. But the statement would have been better without certain poems and with a little more good courage. I do not see the need to adopt the attitude appropriate to the belief that all we have are "fables" to help us to "hold something to cherish crouched by the guttering fire."
But for those who share impatience with mid-century urbanity, Johnson certainly has something to say.