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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33, No. 2 4 March 1970

Time for a Literature

page 13

Time for a Literature

The Premises:

1That literature is the history of the community, and provides the sources of discovery for the literal historians.
2That literature is the record of speech changes and revaluation of symbols within the community's language.
3That words are the mode of revelation and that, in being so concerned, literature will be the ideology of romance within the community.
4The work of literature does not lead its existence apart from the moral commitments of those who would destroy the community in order to restore the value of human life.
5It is literature that must create the forms of symbolic order, to imply the revelation within the location, the action, and the modulation of the symbols.

Who Needs Help Now:

The small magazines: ArgotFreedFrontiers. Each with a personal vision, each extending the realm of literary consciousness, each in the main tribal centres.

Mark Young — escaping a past of promise and the creditors that a man of letters collects;

Dave Mitchell — a delicate fear of publication yet with 3 volumes to shame the Elders unprinted;

Ian Wedde — high for a week in Northern Spain, then strange messages from Jordan, an individual muse of gentle construction, patronised by Landfall;

Russell Haley — scientific-fictive from Leeds gracing us now with his knowledge of the literary grabbag;

Richard Brooke — savage proseur and recently total dramatist exploring the sexual mythos of the insular mind;

Norm Bilbrough — the fear of the individual, also recordist of his masters in subtle portraits;

Sam Hunt — searching for a subject more necessary than himself along the estuaries of boozeheaved brain.

Over these names the bureaucrats sit stupidly unaware that this is where a literature is taking place and not in the fraudulent promulgations of the past. These people need cash to survive and not simply as a token for the services of buffoon or swiver of the Elders' daughters. They are beyond your command yet political patronage controls the pursestrings, be not afraid to cross their palms with silver! They may hang their mad heads in the pines at a later date but they will give you a motherfucking literature in the process. You burned out the brain of Brother Jim Baxter and, although each be a bastard to the muse, you will screw these to death in Thanatos unless you make over the profits of your system to their minds. And there are the other names to plough their deviant ways into your pockets around the comer from these. Largess now and not simply in the erection of shitcreek monuments.

"We have, however, entered quite another time — apocalyptic, anti-rational, blatantly romantic and sentimental ; an age dedicated to joyous misology and prophetic irresponsibility; one distrustful of self-protective irony and too-great self-awareness." Leslie Fiedler, Playboy, December 1969.

The Failures We can be Ashamed of:

The ungainly spectacle of N.Z.'s largest and most affluent university wasting its resources on preparing for publication a series of local 'classics' (may the good Lord forgive them) when a literature could be made by putting the present company of creators into pamphlet form, examples could be found in Yale, Wesley and Leeds publishing programmes.

The programme to teach N.Z. Lit. in the universities is based on inferior examples, badly researched and criminally misleading — a farce for all seasons.

Landfall — which everybody knows to be a shit of journal and not worth the lingering death it indulges itself in.

The tradition of criticism that has formulated those inferior models, we weep for the coming of a scholar or erudition, sympathy and humanity.

The weekend schools of writing that convince the gullible, the untalented, the schoolteachers, the housewives that literature is accessible to the mediocre.

The presses that print the bullshit that issues hard upon these schools.

The State literary Fund for condescension to the writers it should be rescuing with generosity and grace.

The anthologies which have proclaimed the mediocre to be masters and which removed dignity from the genuinely talented, their philosophies which tainted our minds with the crap their conceit and arrogance lead them to state as fact.

Those Happenstances we could not have missed:

Kurt Von Meier who introduced a number of teachers to Pound's A.B.C. of Reading and made our first serious art criticism.

Phoenix, which was the model for all future literary magazines and which gave us Curnow.

The introduction of the American Lit. teaching programme in Auckland University, now imitated elsewhere, and its two teachers: Doyle and Horrocks.

Ken Smithyman for the poetry and for A Way of Saying which helped us to take ourselves seriously in a time of need.

Allen Curnow's later poetry.

The small magazines which aided the eccentric in his definition of a literature and sustained him in his outside stance. The Arts Festival Literary Yearbook and its, mostly, intuitive editors.

The introduction of the Grove Press 6c City Lights Books catalogues into the country by inspired booksellers.

Janet Frame who did her own thing in her own time and was proud, and who created The Edge Of The Alphabet.

Keith Sinclair, who gave us a history.

The State Literary Fund which gave finance to some of the above was also necessary.

Those Books We Must Read Now:

Language and Silence, George Steiner, to aid the spiritual.

The Cantos of Ezra Pound, to keep us humble.

Selected Works of Alfred Jarry, Watson Taylor 6c Shattuck, to keep us insane.

Eros and Civilisation, Marcuse, to keep us sane.

Understanding Media, McLuhan, which is provocative.

The Young American Poets, Carroll, because it's helpful.