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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Student's Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 8. April 30 1968

Books — Foreboding and the new Frontiers

page 8


Foreboding and the new Frontiers

Frontiers. Vol. 1 No. 1. Edited by David Prescott, P.O. Box 1659, Christchurch. 40c. Reviewed by Nevil Gibson.

The first thought regarding a new literary review is one of foreboding. Is it really necessary when the recent issues of Mate and Arena have been so appalling that one wonders whether they should have been published at all. The standard of new writing in New Zealand at the present moment seems to be at an all-time low. Work is published not for merit, but out of sympathy.

It is time editors (aspiring and actual) who want to encourage new writers, realise that only a minor part of contributed work deserved publication. Little magazines have a vital part to play in any literate culture, but low standards will gain nothing, neither will parochialism.

Frontiers appears to be breaking the "isolationist" stance of N.Z. literary magazines by virtue of a strong representation of overseas writing and a New York-based editor. But how much good this will do remains to be seen. As it is the best poetry in the first issue is by two Americans unknown to local readers.

Samuel Eisenstein's poems are terse, concerned with destruction and estrangement. Keith Wilson's are more obscure, depending largely upon disjunctive rhythm, confirming the sadly ignored art of poetry reading in public.

Of the N.Z. contributors it is pleasing to see more of Toss Woolaston's autobiography in print—it has long been in ms form and hopefully it promises extended publication.

Poems by James K. Baxter, Ruth Dallas and Robert Thompson are included but are disappointing, although one of Baxter's shows a departure from his more recent public pre-occupations.

The short story by Bernard Brodsky lacks tension and insight into his pensioner whose vision of life is as inform as his physique.

Finally in the issue are some examples of "concrete" poetry, all by overseas poets. It is somewhat to be expected that the latest poetic cult would find itself in a new review. But experimentations in typography in the "concreteness" of words themselves in print, are very limited in scope. There has been a anthology of this type of verse published recently in England by Alan Ross but has yet to reach New Zealand, and this will serve as an introduction if and when it does make an appearance.

All the same, "concrete" poetry should be viewed with some scepticism. The editor, in his introductory note, offers Frontiers as an open magazine welcoming both the traditional and experimental. This is, however, an error of enthusiasm that could mean the premature death of a promising venture. Too many literary magazines fear committment to some idea of literature (understandable only in the case of a subsidised one). Publication as a "responsibility to the material itself as it is created and is defined in larger time and space" tells us nothing that is certain, nothing that is new.

If Frontiers, or any such similar magazine, is to find an original voice and create something of value, it must be prepared to select carefully and edit vigorously. It must come to grips with new movements in literature, and re-explore old ones. The concept of "vanguard culture" is not a weirdie term from radical wastepaper baskets, but something that vitally needs discussion and expression. New Zealand has needed such writers for some time.

A new magazine must attempt to cultivate such latency, not just sit back and wait for contributions to flow in. It must not, however become the purveyor of cliche and synthetic "people's literature" such as the unlamented Fernfire. To deserve and achieve success Frontiers must seriously consider such questions, for existence alone is no guaranty of survival.