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Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 3. 1969.

Prayer, Prose and Poetry with Trevor James — A bouquet for David

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Prayer, Prose and Poetry with Trevor James

A bouquet for David

So at last we have the germ of a literary controversy, It is a pity that David cannot detect facetiousness in my article so he takes great exception to my remark about Argot's Tailing to 'commit' any severe breaches of propriety'. Perhaps critics ought not to be facetious−it means that their criticism is taken too seriously.

However there are quite a number of confusing features about David's objections, particularly when he starts to group the Screaming Romantics and Steaming Obscurantists' together with that vague term 'the Romantic tradition'. I wonder if David is saying−by implication, the the Romantic tradition is also concerned with obscurity, whereas modern (or contemporary−he seems to prefer the term) poetry is not? If he is saying this and I am not readily prepared to credit him with such an absurdity then he had better think again and start doing a bit of reading.

One of my objections (perhaps a naive one) is that so much of contemporary mod. sub-literati poe, sie is wrapped up in a 'private language' which the poet almost seems to be hiding behind unable to adequately communicate with anyone but himself. Poetry is not concerned with such attempts at therapeutic aesthetics. Primarily we can identify poetry as communication—of a specialised type. Admittedly modern poets have to find a viable way of expression and it may even be that this 'private language' will one day be accepted and conventionalised so that it will be capable of communication to a wider public—but to do this properly, i.e build up a convincing mythology or set of motifs, takes more genius and patience than the pubescent poetry of a student rag will readily reveal.

Again most contemporary poetry—as the student level bears the marks of being emotive rather than concerned with workmanship−this follows on from the point above, that emotive poetry is usually personal, lacking the mark of art which is the ability to transcend the level of the individual and communicate gracefully and effectively. To do this the poet is someone which very few students are, but should be, he is a craftsman, making and moulding in words, a polished artifact where all words aim to produce an affect to which the metre, imagery etc., are all parts of the poets machinery.

Again I have a feeling that student-poets are somewhat needlessly ashamed, or unaware, of their education. The whole tradition of English literature is crammed full of examples of poetry from which we can profit. The tradition of Marvell, of Spenser, Poet and Arnold gives numerous and different examples of how to use language which, while we must use our own way, teaches something of the skills necessary to poetry There is no reason why we should not copy other, and ultra-trad styles—simply to discover something of the skills necessary for our own writing. To be able to be a truly original poet is not something which we are going to be able to fall upon by chance−but is a quality of genus which will have to be earned by hard work and endurance.

As regards Argot−I think it good, but the poetry there could still try to make the leap from the concrete to the abstract more convincing. All the poet's ideas and moralising must flow naturally from the poem, not seeming stuck on or utterly incommunicable to anyone except those who are 'tuned in' on the poet's 'wave-length'.

As far as I'm concerned about David's criticism of 'A Sonnet' his is quite right, but surely he can recognise a conscious attempt to copy a particular style, and perhaps he might even realise that such An attempt is no more than an academic exercise. Perhaps he can't but then Ginsburg didn't copy Shakespeare did he?

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Photo by Robert W. Joiner

Photo by Robert W. Joiner

This poem below is by an anonymous young young woman (as least I think, suspect, hope (?) its' a woman) who signed herself 'E.P.' and observed that she didn't think I would publish it. Well I don't really know what to make of 'From Elizabeth'. It may be genius or something quite different, but I think I have come to like it very much. I'm not going to attempt any criticism of it but I am inviting, and will welcome, any readers criticism. Perhaps 'E.P.' will reveal herself—.

From 'Elizabeth'

. . . That grosbois is oak, ash, elm,
Beech, horbeche and hornbeam
But of acorns tithe shall be paid
For every lamb a penny
Time out of mind
One lira per sheep nel Tirolo
Sale must be in a place overt
Not in a backe-room
And between sun-up and sun-down
Dies solaris
Ut pena ad paucos
Metus ad omnes perveniat
Of 2 rights the more ancient preferred
Caveat emptor
Horsfaire from 10 of the block before
Until sunset
And queenes dominions . . .


Inscription On My Tombstone

At last I have become detached
From every single natural thing
Now I can die without sin
And what no one has ever touched
I have touched and felt is too
I have examined everything
That no one can at all imagine
I have weighed and weighed again
Even imponderable life
I can die and smile as well

William A.

Hunting Horns

Our past is noble and tragic
Like the mask of a tyrant
No trick of chance or of magic
Nothing quite insignificant
Makes our love seem pitiful
And Thomas de Quincey drinking his
Sweet and chaste and poisoned glass
Dreaming went to see his Ann
Let us since all passes pass
1 shall look hack only too often
Memories are hunting horns
Whose sound dies among the wind

William A.