Leigh Davis - January 2002
These notes examine taste in some New Zealand poetry in its mid-twentieth century form. They are directed at how this poetry appears to have asked itself to be read, and at how it was asked to be read by its exemplary readers. Aspects of this asking one can say yes to now, and other aspects, no. These habits of mind, in an aggregate of writers and therefore readers, make mediation visible. That is, they show how a common framework of expectations regulated reading and writing. The poetry was this mediation’s ventriloquism.
Allen Curnow’s powerful category making role is thought about again. The work of Sidney Nolan and Rosalie Gascoigne is addressed in passing. James K Baxter’s, as well. The key moment in time is taken to be 1972, approximately, when Allen Curnow’s writing exploded, and James K Baxter’s imploded. In a dramatic expansion of his work Curnow came to exemplify problems of representation, in vernacular language, as New Zealand Poetry.