Thursday, December 23, 2004

Homo Floresiensis and dialectics

Someone with the delightful name Espe Espigares has written an interesting article on the recent discovery of Homo Floresiensis for the In Defence of Marxism website. Here's an excerpt:

The fact that Homo Floresiensis appeared some 85,000 years ago, and bones have been discovered dating from 13,000 years ago, confirms another interesting fact: that several species of humans have shared the planet at the same time. This is an idea now accepted in the scientific community, but articles on Homo Floresiensis in newspapers seem reluctant to accept it. It is proven without doubt that Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals lived in Europe at the same time. However, this is presented as an exception to the rule. In fact it is quite likely that several different species of hominids existed at the same time.

Evolution is not a linear and gradual matter. Evolution works in a dialectical way where for long periods of time nothing much seems to change. During these long periods there are quantitative changes taking place, and these quantitative changes accumulate. These longer periods are interspersed with shorter periods where quantity changes into quality, where the accumulated quantitative changes transform into apparently sudden and huge qualitative changes, shaking the old arrangement of the species. The late palaeontologist Steven Jay Gould termed this process “punctuated equilibria: “the history of life is not a continuum of development, but a record punctuated by brief, sometimes geologically instantaneous, episodes of mass extinctions and subsequent diversification.”

Read the rest here.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Historians in tweed sports jackets

Ed Rooksby has been having trouble with historians in tweed sports jackets:

I'm steaming at the moment. I went to a conference this morning on 18th Century revolutions, (it was free so I thought I might as well) organised by York History Department and left half way through...I knew beforehand that it wasn't going to be radical history and it was clear from the moment I arrived from the preponderance of yellow Pringle sweaters, side partings and white haired gents in tweed sports jackets amongst the delegates that the Centre for 18th Century Studies was not exactly a hotbed of leftism.

...The incident occured after I had sat through a paper on the Brabant Revolution in Belgium.
It wasn't particularly interesting, but I thought I'd have a go at asking a question anyway, since I hadn't said anything about the previous papers on the French Revolution. I asked what the speaker could say about the class base of the Belgian Revolution - it seemed to me that while the driving force behind 1789 in France could be said to have been the sans cullottes and petit-bourgeoisie, the Belgian Revolution was very much a process of manouevring amongst social elites. A reasonable enough question you might have thought.

The speaker didn't have to agree with the premises of the question and I suppose I might as well have been holding a big sign above my head saying 'Marxist!', but it didn't seem a particularly silly question. I distinctly remember the sight and sound of several sports jacket wearing historians in the audience rolling their eyes and sighing dramatically. The paper giver (a woman from Belgium) looked at me for a second as if I had just fallen out of a space-ship and then replied that 'Well, actually, elites always do intitiate and drive historical change in these situations' (or something similar) and proceeded to give me an account of how the French and Belgian revolutionary elites had merely sought to secure popular assent for their actions and that this was about as far as popular class involvement in history goes.

I didn't reply. I wish I did. I should have said to the paper giver and to the wise, tweedy head nodders in the audience that if you made the sweeping normative assertion that it was self-evident that elites intitiate and drive historical change in a seminar in the philosophy or political philosophy departments, you would at the very least be greeted with amazed incredulity and, possibly, you'd be laughed out of the room. I'm not annoyed so much that I was confronted with conservative history - but that the conservativeness of this history seemed unacknowledged. It was presented as common sense and as self-evident. How on earth academics can get away with such bold assertions containing implicit normative assumptions so large that you can see them a mile off is beyond me. Maybe 18th Century historians tend to be like that.

Doesn't sound like much fun, does it? EP Thompson spent a lot of the second half of his career as a historian tackling the 18th century, and he found that a lot of specialists in the period were fairly conservative. Perhaps British radical historians would be more likely to gravitate toward the more dramatic 17th (Hill) or 19th (EPT himself, plus plenty of others) or 20th (Carr, Hobsbawm) centuries?

Thompson decided that he had to beat the bourgeois academics at their own game, and ended up spending a long time in the archives. Defending the 'academic' look of the first half of his book Whigs and Hunters, Thompson said something like 'You have to fight the enemy with some firepower - you cannot destroy a frigate with a few musket shots from a canoe'. In other words, radical social scientists have to be able to defeat bourgeois social scientists where the latter are strongest - on the ground of empirical evidence. Thompson had to prove he was as knowledgable as his foes about the minutae of 18th century life, and the voluminous historiography of the 18th century, before he could hope to challenge their interpretations of the broad outlines of 18th century history.

I learned a similar lesson at a recent sociology conference in Wellington. A bunch of warmed-over Blairite policy analysts turned up to a session on social policy, where two Marxist friends of mine delivered research which suggested very strongly that the policy prgramme of the Labour government here was basically continuous with the classical neoliberalism of the late 80s and early 90s, and had failed to ameliorate the poverty caused by those policies. The comrades' arguments were so slick and so well-buttressed by fact that the Blairites ended up sitting and simmering and not even daring to denounce them. Great stuff, and potentially an important resource for the left-wingers in trade unions and NGOs who want to challenge the support of their leaders for Labour in the years to come.

Pale Male, the red-tailed hawk

From the World Socialist Website:

In Aesop’s Fables and other parables, animal behavior serves as an instructive paradigm for human and social relations. The sly fox dies of thirst trying to reach the grapes, the overconfident hare loses out to the persistent tortoise, the shackled lion humbles himself to let the mouse gnaw through his ropes.

What lesson might be drawn from the story of Pale Male, the 10-year-old red-tailed hawk whose nest was removed last week from the façade of one of New York’s most fashionable Fifth Avenue addresses, touching off angry protests?

Read the rest here.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

EP Thompson gets bootlegged!

The Poms have given up reprinting it, but EP Thompson's messy masterpiece The Poverty of Theory lives on in Korea, where bootleggers are cranking out copies for naive undergraduates and selling them off in Seoul's open-air book markets. The cheeky blighters even reproduce Merlin Press's copyright infringement warning! Sadly the bootleggers have followed the lead of the official 1995 reprint and excluded the three texts which accompanied the title essay in the original 1978 edition.

This specimen was a gift from Se Young Park, New Zealand's leading expert on North Korean place names (if you want to swap credentials, the man is currently completing a Masters' thesis on the subject in the Geography Department at AU). I'm pleased to have copy of The Poverty of Theory, by hook or by crook, because I'm supposed to be writing a PhD on the bloody thing. Wassup, though, with the birdlife? I know Thompson describes himself as the 'last of the great English bustards' or somesuch in the book, but is that any sort of excuse for those swans, if swans they be? Anyone who can explain the significance of the bootleggers' choice of cover art gets a mention on my acknowledgements page and a beer at the Clare Inn next week.

Kia kaha Orauta

Yesterday I blogged about a school in Venezuela which had resisted attempts to force its closure and which is now operating under the control of the working class community it serves. Today's Herald reports on a school in Moerewa which is defying Ministry of Education demands that it close, and which plans to operate next year under the control of the community it serves:

School board chairman Ken Brown says local whanau have retained control of the school, and an occupation will continue until it reopens to students next year. He said the school, now known as Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Maara o Hineamaru Ki Orauta (Maori school in the garden of our ancestor Hineamaru in Orauta), had alarms and moves by officials to enter buildings would be met with protests...

The 30-child school has continued to be a thorn in the side of Education Minister Trevor Mallard, who in February announced it was to close. In August, Orauta's board moved to set the school up as a private institution. Mr Mallard said no. In October, it offered to buy the school and sent a cheque for $3, one dollar for each of its buildings, which was promptly returned with a warning that the group must vacate the site by January 28. Then last month a Maori incorporation set up to manage the school's assets issued Mr Mallard with a trespass notice barring him from the school. Mr Mallard responded by saying he had no plans to visit.

Read the rest here.

The people of Orauta are not the only group of Maori challenging the government's authority head on right now. In the Far North, Ngati Kahu are refusing to acknowledge the passage of Labour's seabed and foreshore legislation through parliament. A Ngati Kahu hapu blockaded a road leading to disputed land and foreshore last week. Earlier this year Ngati Kahu elder Margaret Mutu sparked hysteria when she compared Labour's legislation to Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people, and warned of civil war in Aotearoa.

Let's hope that the left rallies around the people of Orauta, if they end up having to confront Mallard's goons late in January. Keep you posted.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Revolutionary Education

Google may be able to put millions of books online, but what's the use of libraries if you can't read? Here's a report from Venezuela, where the left-wing reforms won from the Chavez government have seen a dramatic extension of the school system, including a nationwide drive to eradicate adult illiteracy, and where some schools have been placed under the direct control of working class and peasant communities:

The Alberdi School became a real educational centre, where there is a consciousness of the political role in the formation of new values striving to obtain a more just and dignified world...Today, this school has become the centre of organized development of the community, with not only its traditional function of giving classes, but it is also the nucleus where different missions converge: Robinson (literacy and primary education for adults), Mission Rivas (secondary studies for adults excluded from the system), Mission Sucre (University education), the urban land committees, the desks for water, sporting committees, development of the Cultural House, development of different community workshops, amongst them the incipient foundation of a school of documentary cinema, with the support of the community channel Catia TVe, plus so many other activities.

The community is well aware now that the school belongs to them and that the success reached will not be annulled by any legal sentence, nor by any other measure that may be applied. Now, in this sector of La Pastora, boys and girls go to school wearing a smile of happiness, and that smile and that happiness are the result of the revolution, revolution which will be made by the people, more than the government.

Read the whole thing here.

Meanwhile, in the good ol' US of A, a Left Alliance of radical scholars and teachers announces its existence:

We seek to build a better society, free of the bigotries and inequalities mentioned above, in which the passion for knowledge will flourish. We believe that activism--as well as teaching, research and writing--has an important role to play in bringing about a just and humane society. We want to establish institutional and societal conditions that will encourage analytic and critical thought as well as foster the full development of human potential and creativity. To these ends we seek to build and be part of a re-born left.

One of the organisations affiliating to the Left Alliance is Historians Against War, which has published a pamphlet in which several generations of historians discuss their experiences of war and of Home Front America. Read it here.

All these militant boffins might be able to cheer up poor old Terry Eagleton, who uses a review of the latest tome from Fank Ferudi (Britain's answer to Lindsay Perigo, if you must know) to lament the supposed passing of the 'classical intellectual':

One mark of the classical intellectual (more recently dubbed a "theorist") was that he or she refused to be pinned to a single discipline... Once society is considered too complex to be known as a whole, however, the idea of truth yields to both specialism and relativism. Because you can now know only your own neck of the woods, the general critique as launched by the conventional intellectual collapses. There is no longer any big picture, a fact for which our rulers are profoundly grateful.

I'm an admirer of Eagleton, who has written some powerful denunciations of the intellectual and political excesses of postmodernism, but I think he's wrong to be boosting a one-trick pony like Ferudi, a man who:

[D]oes not see market forces or the growth of professionalism as the chief villains in this sorry story. For him, the main factor is the politics of inclusion [!!]

Your enemy's enemy is not always your friend, Terry. Get thee to that Left Alliance website!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Towards an online academic library

Exciting news in today's Guardian:

Under a deal announced yesterday between the internet search engine Google and five of the world's top libraries, some of the globe's greatest literary treasures will soon be freely available for all to read on the world wide web. Oxford University's world-renowned Bodleian Library will initially make an estimated 1m books from its 19th-century collection available to Google, while Stanford University and the University of Michigan in the US will be contributing their libraries of a combined 15m titles. Also taking part in the scheme on a test basis are Harvard University and the New York Public Library.

The project will involve scanning millions of titles - many of them rare and delicate - and making the text available on the internet via Google searches. It is a process which experts have predicted could take as long as 10 years. "This project won't necessarily have an end date," said Fabio Selmoni, the managing director of Google's European advertising sales and operations. "As far as Google is concerned, it's very exciting to move into a non-digitised area and bring it to people all around the world. We're working very closely with libraries and publishers to make as much information available as possible."

... The scheme could revolutionise academic life by putting information at the fingertips of readers instead of being filed away in musty library catalogues. Students, scholars and amateur enthusiasts alike will be able to look at books which were previously out of reach - including works by Charles Darwin, Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Babbage - simply by connecting to the internet. "At the moment you can come and look at these texts if you have a bona fide scholastic interest," said Nicky Old, a spokeswoman for Oxford University. "Now you will be able to do it from the comfort of your home or office. And the benefit of being on the internet is that it's not just accessible, but searchable as well."

I love the idea of making the resources of academia - and, let's face it, every university is ultimately only as good as its library - available outside the academy. I visited the Turnbull for the first time during a recent trip to Wellington - got busted by a very stern librarian for bringing 'the naked tip of a ballpoint pen' into the hallowed space - and what impressed me most was the way that the unpublished and rare texts there are available to all visitors, not just those affiliated to one or another academic institution. A comprehensive online academic library would be a boon to scholars at isolated and small uiniversities, as well as freelance researchers and autodidacts, because it would do away with the need for the tiresome practice of interloaning.

Google's won't of course be the first online library, though it will be by far the most comprehensive. Project Gutenberg blazed the trail, and has put over six thousand titles online without relying on any of the sort of corporate cash Google is swimming in after its recent $1 bn dollar share float. I've been a regular at the Marxist Internet Archive , which is the product of years of work by an international, nonsectarian team, and which seems to get bigger every passing week!

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Man in the Panama Hat

Here's a sort of memoir I somehow persuaded the long-suffering Jack Ross to include in the new double issue of .brief, Aotearoa's finest literary journal. There's an interview with Hamish to go with it, but like much else in the latest issue(s) (Richard's Taylor's confessions of constipation, for instance) it's far too rude to go on this blog. Mail $20 to Jack at 6A Hastings Rd, Mairangi Bay, Auckland 1311 and he'll throw the full 220 pages your way in a brown paper bag.

Footnote: Jack prints five translations of a poem by Ahmed Zaoui, complete with various commentaries, and justifies it with an editorial called '.brief Goes Political', and a bare couple of weeks later
Ahmed Zaoui is at long last freed, by order of New Zild's new-fangled Supreme Court. Coincidence, or something more? Who says the sword is mightier than the pen?


The first time I met Hamish Dewe he was wearing an exceptionally broad-brimmed panama hat, a buttonless dinner jacket, tight absinthe-green trousers, and a pair of battered Spanish leather boots.

Hamish didn’t see me – he was inspecting a row of books on the fifth floor of the Auckland University general library. I read the spine of the improbably large book already in his hands – The Cantos, Ezra Pound. I had already tried and failed to read the Cantos: Pound’s lines had seemed to me like index entries in a fabulously profound but quite unfathomable textbook. I figured Pound was writing for MA students, if not PhD students. Mustering my courage, I offered some friendly advice to the man in the panama hat. ‘Don’t read that mate, it’s too hard’. Hamish turned his head slowly, looked me up and down, and evidently didn’t like what he saw. ‘I’ve already read it, twice’ he announced, in that poor man’s posh accent which is the curse of all Dilworth College graduates. ‘Sorry, I guess I’ve neglected Pound’. ‘Indeed. Pound is often neglected. Pound and Hamish Dewe are both very neglected poets.’ Like a fool I had to ask who Hamish Dewe was. Eyes rolled under the panama hat. ‘Exactly...’

I got to know more about Hamish Dewe when I became a member of a short-lived group of first-year ‘poetry enthusiasts’ organised by the long-suffering Professor Roger Horrocks. Horrocks would meet us during his lunch break, arrange us into a tidy circle, and ask us talk about our ‘poetics’, whatever that meant. I remember Hamish’s grunts of disgust when the leather-clad Goth announced that he didn’t read other poets, for fear of ‘contamination’, and boasted that he only ‘composed’ on nights when the full moon shone clearly. Hamish’s discomfort increased when the pale one recited one of his lycanthropic compositions. I can still remember the last stanza, which was immediately preceded by Hamish’s muttered ‘It really can’t get any worse’:

Brothers, we have been betrayed
by imaginary women in a world of pain.
Run through the night, flash the purple blade:
Gaia, gaia, gaia, slay!

‘Very interesting, very interesting indeed’ was Horrocks’ tremendously grave verdict, as the man in the panama hat headed for the door. Of course, Hamish himself was a first-year poser poet - he’s probably still apologising for that hat. Most young poets try to act as well as write their idea of poetry. As an 18 year-old I tried hard to be Dylan Thomas, though I could never get close to the bard’s legendary thirteen sherries in one session. (Looking back, I’m rather pleased I couldn’t.) But Hamish Dewe was exceptional, because he had real poetry to go with the pose. And when Hamish and I founded a little literary rag to publish our juvenilia the difference between pose and poetry became clear for all to see. Here are two stanzas from the first issue of Salt:

Imagine, this morning, a garbled sea
shoaling the hulks sunk in a hundred shanties;
the drowned decks, coral holds, and weedy keels
of that fleet sent sailing, green
oceans ago, over the bay’s blue lid.

The valley is near the sea.
The wind tears up our valley from the sea.
The wind gets under our house,shakes us like dice.
Our trees get wind-burnt leaves. The natives do best.
The others become twigs in the ground.

The first stanza comes from my hideously-titled ‘After the Storm: Three Shanties’. The second comes from Hamish’s sequence ‘Dot to Arbitrary Dot’. For me, the precision and unforced rhythms of ‘Dot to Arbitrary Dot’ were another humbling rebuke from the man in the panama hat. Perhaps I should have read the Cantos after all?

Hamish and I didn’t bother to distribute many copies of that first issue of Salt. We both knew that there were only two other people in New Zealand who knew anything about poetry, and that all we could possibly do was mail copies to Allen Curnow at Karekare and Kendrick Smithyman at Birkenhead. When Curnow wrote back, he was full of praise for Hamish. “I wonder whether anyone could explain why your ‘the inexact/ winds’ works quite so well”, gushed the great man.

Perhaps Curnow sensed a kindred spirit as well as a talented poet – Hamish had spent a lot of time at Karekare, and his poems were already staking an imaginative claim to the sea and foreshore. The second Salt featured a sequence of poems about Hamish’s grandfather, a Portugese sailor who jumped ship in the Hokianga:

That which is unseen
in the dreams
of sailors...

He reached overboard
to his reflection
always seen
on the surface,
seen as a shoal of fish,
turning and flashing,
nestled and distinct -
each surface decided
by the seascape

Hamish found his voice and his style early. A Hamish Dewe poem does not offer his readers enthralling narratives, or strange revelations about other minds, or rich characterisation, or metaphysics, or polemic. What it aims at is less ambitious, and harder to achieve. Like Larry Eigner, a poet he has celebrated, Hamish gives us lines that are at once exceptionally observant and fiercely idiosyncratic. The idiosyncrasy comes from the quality of attention the poet is able to give to the world, rather than the imposition of eccentric ideas upon the world. Hamish makes vision visionary:

One sees the moon
starting over
a red knot

and framing
the trees
picking them out
as examples

Like most poets, Hamish became interested in poetry because it gave him something he couldn’t get in the ‘real’ world. Why spend your time communing with the dead on the fifth floor of the library, when there are plenty of living people to hang out with? Why spend hours scratching out a couple of lines, when there is so much talk all around you every day? Where many young poets wallow in their alienation, Hamish turned it into cool and acute observation. The outcast from the feast of life sees everything, and is fooled by nothing.

For a while Salt’s aesthetic credo changed with every issue, as its editors’ reading list expanded. What didn’t change was the dogmatism with which each new change of line was promoted. By issue #5 postmodernism had taken hold, and for the rest of the magazine’s life its editors and most of its contributors thrashed about happily in Derrida’s swamp of unmeaning. Miriam Bellard’s design skills made us look a lot smarter than we were.

In retrospect, Salt and John Geraets’ .brief were the last gasps of the aesthetic of abstraction that had burst upon New Zealand in the late 60s with Alan Brunton’s Freed. Brunton and his merry but earnest comrades had freed the word so that it might be conscripted to fight in a political as well as literary war. By the 1980s, the freedom of the word was being codified and legalised by the theorists of And. By the 1990s, the freed word was an excuse to party, and the party drug of choice was ecstasy, not Brunton’s acid. Freakiness had become an end in itself. For all our fearless slogans and disjointed sentences, we were about as ‘adventurous’ and as ‘dangerous’ as a roller coaster ride at the Easter Show.

Hamish Dewe the editor may have offered up the sound bites of postmodernism, but Hamish Dewe the poet always kept a clever distance from the strictures of the freed word. In successive issues of Salt Hamish honed his style, crafting lines that showed a haiku-like combination of simplicity and suggestiveness:

Reality: the pine cone’s footfall.

But Hamish was never a miniaturist – like his hero, he understands that the fragment is an epic form. In the breakthrough poem ‘Under Under Under Under’ Hamish presented Salt readers with a Poundian onslaught of image and allusion, held together by a mood of near-hysteria and a thrillingly fragile music. With its allusions to a disordered relationship and its creepily complicit natural imagery, ‘Under Under Under Under’ sometimes seems to me like an odd echo of Curnow’s ‘A Spectacular Blossom’. Like Curnow’s classic, ‘Under Under Under Under’ is unmistakably an Auckland poem, full of the ominous humidity of an Auckland summer:

The touch of sand underfoot,
upon returning from
“strenuous exercise.”

Crashing on carpet in stupor:
dreaming of brandy all night.
The smallest of blood blisters
upon your left heel.

The high modernist organisation of ‘Under Under Under Under’ is underlined by Hamish’s variations on a riff from David Jones’ ‘A, a, a domine deus’:

a a a a


It’s the doors that sense my intent to approach.

I enquired up and down.

He said “take me to your leader.”
The doors did not reply.
He staked his life on the roll of a fuzzy dice,
which side the blood
might stain in the crash.

‘Under Under Under Under’ was written at the beginning of a difficult time in Hamish’s life, a time when university gave way to the drudgery of menial jobs and repayments on a huge debt. The amusement park aesthetics of Salt had little to offer in the way of consolation. Like me, Hamish became increasingly interested in politics as the 90s wore on. When he returned to university to write a master’s thesis, Hamish chose as his subject Bruce Andrews, the US poet who tries to mix Marxism with postmodern wordplay. I have a memory of Hamish at an anti-debt demonstration at the end of the 90s, wrestling with a cop who had tried to pick a female protester up by her hair. ‘Get your filthy fucking hands off her!’, the poet of passionate detachment screamed. How do you put a scream into poetry, without sounding like a moonstruck Goth? Like me, Hamish struggled to relate the class struggle to the world of books. Even ‘Under Under Under Under’ seemed too ‘literary’, too detached.

The contradiction between art and life was intensified after Hamish went to China to teach English, first in an obscure provincial university and later in one of the New Economic Zones on the country’s coast. Hamish had studied Marx before he travelled to China, but reading Capital with a cat on your lap in a Sandringham bungalow is no preparation for exposure to the white heat of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’. Today, the New Economic Zones are as close as we can get – and a lot closer than most of us would like to get – to the primitive, competitive capitalism which horrified and inspired Marx and Blake. Teaching fat children to speak in the pseudo-posh tones of Dilworth English, Hamish came to know not the dark satanic mills, but the satanic mill owners:

The children of the rich require
graded papers, guanxi, lies,
liaisons, hair colour, yes men, yes men, yes men,
Why such effort changing habit, food, language, lovers
when it’s all arbitrary?

I read the cache of poems Hamish mailed home from China at the same time as I was going through The Still Centre, Stephen Spender’s collection from his ‘red’ period in the mid-30s. Like many of the pieces in Spender’s book, Hamish’s China poems mix a half-digested Marxist vocabulary with very traditional natural imagery, and manage to communicate a romantic rebellion against an ugly yet powerful reality. The solemn categories of Marxist economics somehow become exclamations of moral outrage. Isolated in an alien and alienating society, Hamish turned imaginatively and emotionally to ‘the New Zealand scene’ he had left behind. In his earlier poems, Hamish had emphasised the otherness of the natural world; in China, he found a source of strength in this otherness:

In Karekare I could believe in an external world

Hamish's China poems are shot through with contradictions, and like all truly honest poems they say things their author doesn't mean to say. Marxist language is offered as a means of relating the contradiction between the sensibility of the poet and the nature of his subject matter, but this language is unable to handle the pressure of the poet's authentic emotional response to the subject matter. It is a bandage which does not fit over the wound. Hamish wants to pass moral judgement on China and on many of the people he meets, but to do this he looks ultimately not to Marxism but to a thoroughly romantic impulse deeply embedded in the history of New Zealand poetry. Nature becomes moral critique in a manner especially reminiscent of Baxter, a poet Hamish had always professed to despise.

The China poems confirm Hamish’s talent for observation. An image from ‘Bad Faith’ comes to me again and again:

the ferns
in the rain

Where other poets would generalise windily, Hamish effortlessly turns a simple image into a powerful symbol of exile and suffering. The moments of revelation in China have added another pole to Hamish’s poetry – from now on, the cool observer is locked into a dialectic with the romantic. When he returned to New Zealand last year, Hamish jumped into a series of old cars and drove up and down the North Island, greedily filling notebooks with the latest editions of the ‘local and special’. What will he make of this material, now that he has returned to China? What common language might the dialogue between Karekare and the New Economic Zones find? Hamish’s poetry will answer these questions in the years to come. For now we should pay homage to what the man in the panama hat has already achieved. Hamish Dewe has been neglected for too long!