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This article is taken from PN Review 41, Volume 11 Number 3, January - February 1985.

New Zealand: Pocket of Poetry Elizabeth Smither

Just recently I suggested to a friend that it might be good for the longer poem in New Zealand if certain of our poets, perhaps the fittest, went on sponsored walking tours. These university appointments are rather static and the appeal of the knapsack and the gnarled stick and stopping to look at the 'flower in a crannied wall', though that might be a short poem, could produce some interesting results. Because I feel this is the next thing that is going to be tackled in New Zealand poetry. I've been practising it a little myself, in secret, like someone trying to turn sheets.

This is a facetious beginning but not untruthful. New Zealand poetry today does have a remarkable willingness to turn its hand to anything and to try any combination. I can hear some of the first holders of the Wordsworth Walking Scholarship saying: Why not a series of short poems linked by the idea of the walk itself, why not a series of haiku that goes on for twenty pages? Why does a long poem have to be long in form when it only need be long in philosophy? We are a practical nation of theory-splitters.

Sometimes trying to account for this kind of pragmatism I imagine myself what must have happened on the voyages out: a kind of endearing loss. A loosening of stanzas, like teeth loosened after a fall. The crannied flower with no wall to grow in. 'They are ...


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