Sunday, June 15, 2008

Time to go solo?

I've blogged before about Percutio, the elegant little literary annual that Bill Direen founded a couple of years ago in a bold attempt to start a dialogue between the cultures of New Zealand and continental Europe. The second issue of Bill's baby arrived last September, but it has just been noticed by Critic, the Otago University student magazine. Here's what Critic's annonymouse reviewer had to say:

April 17, 2008 13:30

William Direen (Ed.)
Titus Books

Written in a variety of languages and featuring the work of poets, writers and photographers,
Percutio, edited by William Direen is an interesting and, at times, incomprehensible collection of writings. Given the task of writing on a crucial period of development implicit in the creative process, notable New Zealand and French literary figures describe their methods and influence in the 2007 issue of Percutio.

There was some poetry, there was some prose, there were paintings and there were photographs – whether I understood them at all was another issue altogether. J. Ross, Will Christie, Stuart Porter and Jo Contag were notably bewildering. After Sally McIntyre's thoughtful prose describing her take on Nigel Bunn’s photograph 'Untitled 2', Contag's 'U.S. Criminal Code vs. The Poetry of Oscar Wilde' left me utterly confused and ever so slightly baffled – if they were not one and the same. One could identify a sliver of structure in the ideas presented in the various stanzas. Contag seemed to touch on what appeared to be the nature of the US Justice system while also presenting a rather romanticized scene of genial people frolicking through gardens. I'm sure the poet understood what she was writing...

Conversely, Brett Cross's 'a cobble-path theme' or 'un motif de chemin pavé' is a simple and significantly more beautiful poem. In the work, Cross explores the binary opposition between nature and progress. The magnificence of nature is examined in the fourth stanza: “at the valley's foot / circled by peaks of ruptured stone,” while the construction of civilisation culminates in the creation of “a model world.” I also enjoyed the radical Arno Löffler, a German writer who begins his piece of prose by describing the role and popularity of icecream in New Zealand society...

I was adequately satisfied by the work that I did understand. In literature as in life, sometimes you get it and sometimes you don't.

Now, many people reading this post will know Brett Cross as the man behind Titus Books, the enterprising outfit that has given New Zealand a score of new volumes from a dozen authors over the past several years. As the Director and general dogsbody of Titus, Brett has been responsible for correcting Richard Taylor's spelling, elucidating the arcane allusions in Jack Ross' novels, defending David Lyndon Brown against charges of obscenity from outraged librarians, and buying yours truly endless drinks.

After being rated above a number of Titus authors by Critic, will Brett decide to abandon all this rather trying activity, and strike out on a new, solo career? Perhaps the rest of us will have to lift our games?


Blogger Dr Jack Ross said...

A couple of points about this, Maps.

First, the review isn't "anonny mouse" -- if you check online at, you'll see the author's name at the bottom of the page.

Second, do you have any idea what s/he's talking about in that final paragraph? Does anyone else?

"Apart from the odd poem or mixed media work, I was sufficiently enlightened by this publication." Isn't there a "not" missing in there somewhere?

The passage continues with the assertion that there's "nothing ground-breaking" about "this publication", despite the admission above that "it is beyond me"! Is it an entrance qualification to be syntactically and conceptually challenged before one can set up as an online critic these days?

Nice to have it noticed, though, I suppose. I thought it was a very cool, very good-looking piece of work, with a multicultural, multilinguistic perspective which hasn't been seen in this country since (at least) Michael Harlow's Frontiers in the 70s. But maybe I'm prejudiced.

9:31 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

obamalamadingdong and all his hatefilled lil obamazoids better prepare. They have sewn the seeds and come Nov. will reap the whirlwind. I don't know WHAT the political landscape of America will look like after then, but it will be VERY differant then the one the heads up their asses crowd at obamacentral delude themselves into believing exoists today or ANY day. We have had an UTTERLY unqualified conman shuved down our throats by rank misogyny and outright disregarding of the electorates will. They think they are royalty and don't have to listen to the pesants. Me thinks they should study French or Russian or A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N history to see what happens to royalty when the oppresed citizenry has had enough. AND WE HAVE! to even contemplate the likes of obamalamadingdong and ms.dong defiling the White House is disgraceful and an insult to the men and women who have fought and died over two centuries to first birth and then keep the American experiment alive. THESE PEOPLE DO NOT BELIEVE IN OUR CONSTITUTIONAL FORM OF GOVERNMENT!!! They do NOT believe in the sanctity of one citizen one vote. They are, as they have already proved, willing to do and say anything to anyone to accomplish their goal. And the good of the country is NOT their goal. FIGHT THEM RIGHT NOW OR GET LOST !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111

10:36 am  
Blogger Richard said...

For the record Brett has been perhaps correcting my deliberate word inventions - one mispelling mentioned was partly his fault as he didn't allow me time to proof read my book properly (this needs to be done not only by the author but but others and then returned to the author - - the mis-spelling arose as I used OCR scanning initially and it sometimes doesn't come out right and I didn't seem to have time to proof read.

The last "Percutio" was excellent and Brett's poems were great...a lot or almost all of what Bill touches seems to been always interesting and challenging - I don't know who reviewed it...I wasn't in it ... Brett deserved the accolade however.

I agree with Jack it is pathetic that critics are still concerned with "difficulty' and so on... that issue (if it ever was one in literature in the 20th/21st Centuries) really died in the 60s or earlier.

A huge amount of NZ literature is compounded of participant in what I have long called:

"The great conspiracy of dullness."

We need a another Pope and a Dunciad and some several sharp Swifts... (we already have a swift sharp!)...

But we need indeed myself and Bill Direen etc (and other Titus writers -and others who have such talents elsewhere) as we want ability, ingenuity, imagination, creativity, power with language, and the courage to experiment and inventiveness.

There is almost no one in this country or possibly the world who has the ability to appreciate great writing such as my own (Richard Taylor's) or that of Bill's or Maps or Jen Crawfords etc

I just get on with EYELIGHT and my life - I don't care what anyone thinks. It doesn't matter.

Bach and Shakespear were virtually unknown or appreciated widely until many many years after their deaths.
Some are known in their lives but being known etc is only transient - art, high art, its value and richness; is in the process and the doing and perhaps the completion not in the dribbling responses of cynical and half-witted critics.

12:23 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'I just get on with EYELIGHT and my life - I don't care what anyone thinks. It doesn't matter.

Bach and Shakespear were virtually unknown or appreciated widely until many many years after their deaths.'

Overweening EGOTISM from the Taylor of threadbare suits!

10:29 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Egotism is essential to life.

12:13 am  
Blogger Richard said...

The difference between Shakespeare etc and myself is that I am poet.

12:14 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the writing in this magazine seemed to try too hard to be intellectual, yet was in reality very boring. it is sad anyone would find the writing "difficult" because they would be falling into the trap the authors would want, obscurity equalling intellegence when in fact the writing lacked depth. I liked Jo Contags image....otherwize, yawn.

6:02 pm  
Blogger staticmansion said...

just got around to actually writing this ages after the fact -

& this is a small quibble but i think important as part of a wider conversation about how hierarchies of media (or, and if i may go there - gender?) are assumed -

re the statement:

"After Sally McIntyre's thoughtful prose describing her take on Nigel Bunn’s photograph 'Untitled 2'..."

this is quite wrong - i mean, sure, one of the things i write is art criticism, and any fiction i've written is a bit of a nod to that personal history of looking and reflecting on looking -

but in fact the photo and the piece of writing were written entirely separately and came together quite accidentally, if confluentually.


9:54 pm  

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