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This article is taken from PN Review 169, Volume 32 Number 5, May - June 2006.

On Bill Manhire William Wootten

When interviewing Robert Creeley in 1976, Bill Manhire observed: 'There's a sense of humour in your poems, which I would call whimsy - without using that word in a nasty way.' Creeley, quite able to distinguish the perceptive from the nasty, does not demur, although he does choose to applaud the whimsy of Wallace Stevens rather than to dwell upon his own. Their conversation moves on to the subject of New York Poets such as Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch.

Creeley, Stevens and, to a greater degree, the New York Poets, have been the authors of a fair amount of whimsy, both humorous and otherwise. And, whilst appreciative critics tend to deal in whimsy's grander-sounding euphemisms, a taste for their work partially entails a delight in the sophisticated use of a quality often associated with light verse, the nursery or poems about cats. So too with Bill Manhire. Though there is little of the feline in his work, Manhire has written poems to be enjoyed by children, poems that are amusing, and poems that take pleasure in their own wit and workings. However, like those Americans, Manhire will use his whimsy to lift up weighty matters and adult themes, making use of a facility for the delicate and seemingly capricious play of fancy amongst words, images and ideas in order to explore both his own fictions and the fictiveness of the phenomenal world.

Born in Invercargill, New Zealand in 1946, Bill Manhire belongs ...


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