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This report is taken from PN Review 212, Volume 39 Number 6, July - August 2013.

A Note on the Cover Painting Gregory O'Brien
Bill Manhire once referred to painter Ralph Hotere - who died in February - as 'the best publisher a poet could ever have'. Anyone who has studied Hotere's vast body of work incorporating words, phrases, lines and entire poems by Manhire will know exactly what he meant. By way of Hotere's art, Manhire's poems have been subsumed into the fabric of some of the most important works of art created in Aotearoa/New Zealand in recent decades. Painting from 'Malady' (1970) is one of a series of stark, minimalist paintings using Manhire's concrete poem 'Malady', with its incantatory repetition of three utterances: 'malady', 'melody' and 'my lady'. In this instance, the ambiguous circle-form might be the shape of the sun or moon - the day- or night-world eclipsed by language; it also hints at the shape of a lens or viewfinder, human head or eyeball, a letter of the alphabet - a sighing, romantic 'O' - or the semibreve of musical notation. A thought-bubble. An open mouth. Within this essential, resonant shape, Manhire's lyrical 'melody' advances and recedes - a plain-chant or waiata (Maori song). Hotere spent the last four decades of his life at Port Chalmers, near Dunedin, where he pioneered an art which drew deeply upon New Zealand Maori as well as Pakeha (European) traditions, the rigorous abstraction of his art offset - as is the case here - by the sound and texture of a lyrical poetry taken to heart.

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