Yet another obituary for a fine New Zealand poet. After Bernard Gadd and Hone Tuwhare comes news that Ruth Dallas has died.
In my opinion, Ruth Dallas isn’t as well known, or as well read, a poet as she deserves. She grew up and began writing poetry in Invercargill (for readers from overseas, this is New Zealand’s southernmost city, well away from the country’s main centres of population). She later moved to the university city of Dunedin, where she lived for the most part away from the literary scene. While her work had some powerful supporters, such as Charles Brasch, her poetry (and children’s books) were strongly located in the Southland landscape, and this did not appeal to a number of metropolitan critics.
The empty landscapes of Southland may not be for everyone, but I grew up there, knew and loved the places she was writing about, and found her concise and elegant poetry all the more evocative the further I moved from my Southland roots.
I recommend that you look for her Collected Poems (2000), check out her poem Calm Evenings online, and read her obituary in the Southland Times. In her quiet way, she was a major New Zealand poet, and certainly the pre-eminent Southland poet; and in her quiet way, she will be greatly missed.
In the late 1960s, when I first became interested in science fiction, I came across frequent references to the “ABC of science fiction”: Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke. Of the three, I never had much time for Bradbury’s brand of ornate nostalgia, but in my late teens and early twenties, I devoured many novels and short stories by both Asimov and Clarke.
These days, I find Asimov hard going, but I can still re-read Arthur C. Clarke’s early fiction with great pleasure. Clarke is often thought of as a hard SF writer, and indeed that is a strong component of his work; but unlike Hal Clement, Clarke’s work makes room for both the rational and the transcendent. My favourites among his books are the early novels Against the Fall of Night/The City and the Stars and Childhood’s End, and his first short story collection, Expedition to Earth.
In these books, his writing is at its most flexible and affecting. These novels and stories are full of regret for worlds and people lost, and wonder at what is to come: if the best of Bradbury and Clement had been blended together and then filtered through a distinctively English sensibility – a sensibility no less attuned than J.G. Ballard’s to the dying of the light of Empire – these books are what might have resulted.
For these books, for his later peaks – 2001 and Rendezvous with Rama – and for his continuing engagement with the world, I will miss Arthur C. Clarke.
(You can also read a eulogy for Arthur C. Clarke by The Ninth Hermit, which features a fine picture of the man himself.)
I posted back in December about the death of poet and anthologist Bernard Gadd. Mark Pirie recently sent me news that that the New Zealand Poetry Society has set up a Bernard Gadd Memorial page and that Michael O’Leary’s obituary of Bernard in the Dominion Post is available online.
Today, I received a comment to my obituary of Bernard which provided links to a couple of pieces from the Reading the Maps blog which are critical of Bernard’s writing and political positions. I was inclined not to allow the comment at first – partly because it was anonymous, and partly because of the tone of the content about one so recently deceased – but in the end, I decided to. Since the article links would otherwise be buried way down in my archive of postings, here they are:
Bernard Gadd’s Quest for Security.
Bernard’s Fling with TINA.
My own view is that these postings, the first in particular, are evidence that left-wing sectarianism – that narrow obsession with “purity” of political thought and hewing to the correct “line” which keeps the left squabbling over trifles rather than working on real, difficult issues – is alive and well in New Zealand.
But maybe I’m over-reacting. What do you think?
Hone Tuwhare died on 16 January in Dunedin. He was writing up to the day he died. He was a great New Zealand poet, spendidly independent of poetic schools, sects, factions, cabals and fashions. His inimitable voice will be sadly missed.
I didn’t intend this blog to be a memento mori, but with the passing of Bernard Gadd, Meg Campbell, and now Hone Tuwhare, such it is turning out to be.
Bernard Gadd died earlier in December. I’m late posting this news, and there are excellent memorials to Bernard on Harvey Molloy’s blog and on Helen Rickerby’s blog.
I never met Bernard, but read and enjoyed a number of his poems, was impressed by his steadfast commitment to a multicultural Aotearoa/New Zealand, and owe him a debt of gratitude for selecting stories of mine for two anthologies he edited: “Statesman” in a Longman Paul anthology for schools, I Have Seen the Future, and subsequently “My Friend the Volcano”, in the first volume of the Other Voicesseries produced by his publishing house, Hallard Press. These were the first two stories I had published professionally.
He and Trevor Reeves were among the first New Zealand publishers and anthologists to see that speculative fiction – science fiction, fantasy and horror – was part of the New Zealand literary scene, rather than being separate from it, and to include it in literary journals and anthologies.
Thank you, Bernard.