Reviews & Interviews

With Brett Cross & Bill Direen (Anzac Day 2005)

Comments, Interviews, Reviews

  1. Mair, Catherine. "Poetry Event: TrustPower Into the Light Poetry Festival, Tauranga." Poetry NZ 17 (August, 1998): 86-87.

    At midday there was another bracket of readings, this time by Janice Bostock, Brian Turner and Jack Ross. … Jack Ross read translations and gave a cross-art performance using poetry and music, and deconstructing Kylie Minogue’s songs.

  2. Paterson, Alistair. "Editorial: Jack Ross Poetry Feature." Poetry NZ 22 (2001): 9-10.

    This issue features the poetry of Jack Ross, whose avant-garde interests and quirky attitude are exciting this country’s readers and critics.

  3. Sharp, Iain. "Books: Poetic Licence – Madness, philanthropy, self-aggrandisement or a desire to startle? Iain Sharp asks why people edit literary magazines." Sunday Star Times: S’day Life & Review (1/2/04): 23.

    Aucklander Jack Ross, who edits Brief (formerly A Brief Description of the Whole World), says he has a sense of mission. “I have extremely strong views on the writing I like and the writing I don’t like, and editing this magazine gives me a chance to promote the one and put into context (rather than, I hope, explicitly denigrate) the other.”

    Ross says he may be unremunerated but so are his contributors. “They do it for love, which makes it easier for me to do so too. And there is a certain satisfaction in holding the physical magazine in one’s hands - each time something from nothing much, a shaped artefact from a pile of contributions, commissions, possibilities ..."

    On his first poetry magazine, he received a long autobiographical poem by an American describing in detail various of the homosexual pick-ups he’d made, complete with graphic descriptions of the sex he had. “‘Nobody in their right mind would print this,’ was my first reaction. ‘It’s wildly overlength for our format; it’ll drive the subscribers (who still had a tendency to send in poems about cats and vases) insane; we might even be prosecuted for obscenity . . .’ But then the thought came to me: F–- it, I was born to put into print poems like this.’”

  4. Hamilton, Scott. "Opening the Green Door: A Conversation with Hamish Dewe." brief 31 (2004): 56-57.

    Hamish returned to China in May. Friends gathered for a send-off at the London Bar, and the inevitable tape recorder was wielded. Interrogation continued at McDonalds, where the sinister Mr Pigs made his intervention ...

    [Enter Mr Pigs, wearing a tattered public school jacket and strawberry ripple tie, and wielding a rag as greasy as his hair. Imagine Rod Stewart minus a shower, a shave, and a supermodel. ...]

    Mr Pigs: … Who is that bloke down the end of the table?

    Scott: The one in the white jersey?

    Mr Pigs: The one in the white woollen jersey. I’ve had my eye on him.

    Scott: That’s Jack Ross.

    Mr Pigs: He’s a complete reprobate. A complete reprobate, and a cricketer, to boot. Shake my hand son.

    Leon: OK...

    Mr Pigs: That’s a good handshake. Tight. Firm. [To Scott] Shake my hand ... that’s alright too, a B. You do it like men. Now look at him, at Ross Jack’s hands. Look at them. They’re little pink puffy things. You can tell a man from his hands. The size of his heart. I want a man with hands that will reach out big and strong to catch me if I fall off a cliff ... those are real hands you two have.
    Hamish: Were there women on this jolly old tub of yours?

    Mr Pigs: No ... women, but an ocean of pornography. Including the newspapers ...

    Scott: Especially the newspapers ...

    Mr Pigs: You see men, we’ve got this poison in us. You understand. Even Ross, Ross Jack has it. We’ve got to get it out. But that one didn’t worry me...Big Boy, the first A Bomb, they called it that. ...

  5. Ross, Jack. "Takahe 2004 Poetry Competition Report." Takahe 53 (December 2004): 2.

    There were 377 entries in this year’s competition. From these, I selected 22 which stood out for various reasons. I winnowed this group down to a shortlist of eight, all (I felt) excellent of their kind. Then the really difficult decisions began.

  6. Hamilton, Scott. "Field Recording at Galbraiths Alehouse." brief 33 (2006): 4-7.
    Location: Galbraith's Alehouse. Auckland.
    Date: 5/11/05.
    Subjects: Ross, Jack. Geraets, John. Hamilton, Scott. Taylor, Richard.

    Scott: I'm too lazy to write an editorial, and I thought that I could get away with a field recording at Galbraith's Tavern, with distinguished former editors.

    Jack: The trouble is that your transcripts are lies. Jack says 'I'm just drunk' and the like ...


    Jack: ... I don't have any special insight into editing. I never wanted to be a legislator. I wanted to publish stuff that seemed somehow innovative, but it had to be well-written too. And I wanted to have fun.

    John: All you can do is have fun.

    Jack: If this is going on record, as my last will and testament as retiring editor of brief, can I just say what a great help Michele Leggott has been? Having parts of the journal published on the nzepc she runs has helped a lot. It's nice to have that online ad, though you still have to get the physical mag –

    Scott: And there's something magical about the physical journal. Holding it in your hands, sniffing the pages ... it's not the same reading stuff online.

    Jack: They disappear very quickly though. They seem quite desirable – people are always looking for back issues.

    Scott: We only have one copy of the last issue left …

    Richard: I saw one for sale on trademe.co.nz, for big money. Collector's items. Big money, I tell you. If I could get them ...

    Jack: You already have a complete set, don't you?

    Richard: Yes, but I want more ...

    Jack: Maybe the problem is that you're hoarding them and holding down supply?

    Richard: I'm no hoarder. You don't make money on books by hoarding. Mao Tse-tung shot hoarders.

    Jack: brief might fall over for financial reasons at some stage – we are constantly diving into bankruptcy – but I think it's set a lot of things in motion that will continue – for instance, we now have Titus Books, a brand new publishing venture designed to put cutting-edge writing into print. ...

    John: The group thing. People intersecting. A community. It wouldn't be nearly so satisfying to publish in a journal in Europe or America, that you don't have that personal connection with.

    Scott: I reckon brief should be like Dr Who. All the editors should do a reunion issue every few years, just like the different Doctors would do a reunion episode.

    Richard: Alan Loney might not be keen.

    Scott: Well, Tom Baker refused to join one of the Dr Who reunions, but they went ahead anyway, and used stock footage of him for the episode …

    Richard: Do we have any stock footage of Loney? And anyway, what am I, if you're all Doctors? I've never been an editor.

    Jack: You're a Doctor's companion. You cry out whenever a cheaply-constructed monster appears and one of us comes and rescues you.

    Richard: Remember, Jack, it's Guy Fawkes – the best time of the year to shoot someone.

    John: How do you guys deal with the problem of an audience?

    Jack: I didn't know brief had one.

    John: The problem of producing a journal for a tiny audience? A lot of people would wonder if it's worth the effort ... so much of the writing in brief is, well, resistant, it's not easy to read ...

    Scott: It is is a bit of a problem for me, because I have been involved – quite heavily involved, at times – in political activism, and I believe in the importance of pieces of writing with titles like, say, 'Stop the War' or 'Oppose Brash' – I mean writing done for a mass audience, writing that communicates clearly, efficiently. But I also believe in the type of writing that brief publishes, which tends to be much more recalcitrant ... which resists easy readings. I think that in a culture of soundbites and clichés we need that recalcitrance ... at the same time, I don't like the idea of some autonomous, elite art, living in a bubble of self-referentiality. I think we need to set up a dialogue, a dialectic, between mass culture and elite culture, high art and low politics ... I don't know exactly how to do this.

    Jack: I wanted to do that, to take brief in a more populist, political direction. That was one of the reasons I did the Ahmed Zaoui issue. That got quite a bit of attention. It wasn't just a matter of political propaganda, though – we were also connecting the Zaoui case to questions of language, of cross-cultural exchange, of the problems of translation ... but I thought that a process of opening up started with you, John ...

    Scott: It's not a matter of demolishing the whole structure in some paroxysm of stupid anti-intellectual populism – intellectuals are very good at affecting anti-intellectual populism – but of letting a window open, letting some air in ...

  7. Hamilton, Scott. "Jack’s Sampling." Reading the Maps [3/10/05]

    Jack Ross, my predecessor at the helm of brief and the poet laureate of Mairangi Bay, has an interesting essay on Sampling up at the Titus Books site (or should I say ‘down’ at the Titus Books site – how does one give directions on the internet?). Jack has a been trailblazer for the literary form now becoming known as the ‘page work’: typically, he mixes his own writing with found texts and dismembered classics in a very clever sort of collage. And if you’re inclined to dismiss this sort of stuff as incorrigibly marginal, I’m sure Jack would take great pleasure in telling you that he’s made the cut for the inaugural Aotearoa Literary Map, published recently by the New Zealand Book Council (check out the Northland and Auckland section – Jack’s in good company...)

  8. Cross, Brett. “A Word on Appraisals.” Titus Books Website [26/10/05]

    Standing at the wine table at a local book launch where Bill Direen and Jack Ross were both launching their novellas, a large well-imbibed woman leaned confidentially over to me and pointing at Jack said ‘he’s a pervert you know, his writing’s pretty good, but he’s a deviant’ she then straightened up and took another slug of wine.

    ... Jack Ross does enjoy using graphic sexual imagery, however his direct usage of it is not so much a sign of sexual perversity as a perversity of a wholly different order.

    It is the perversity of a writer who forthrightly claims that all material is the stuff of writing and no subject is taboo. If a particular button is considered taboo, then that is the button he will push. ‘Push on the sore point’ as he says in his latest poetry book.

    Perverse — deliberately deviating from what is regarded as normal, good or proper (Collins 1990).

    Perversion is not a goal however, if it was it would be reactive art, its deviation would be its intention. On the contrary the artistic output of both Jack Ross and Bill Direen (as with Frank Zappa, Dylan Thomas, Robert Wyatt etc) could only (by this humble author at least) be described as the natural form their artistic impulse takes. They do not set out to be weird or abnormal, and in fact do not (I would say) even consider themselves as being so, these are merely labels hung upon them by their neighbours as their work does not fall within familiar categories. ...

  9. Hamilton, Scott. "Jack Ross, live and uncensored, tomorrow night." Reading the Maps [8/4/06]

    One of New Zealand’s most prolific and iconoclastic writers will be performing tomorrow (that’s Sunday) night at Devonport’s Depot artspace, from 6.30. It costs five dollars to gawk at Jack Ross and hear his booming voice, but you will be well compensated by the pleasures his work provides, not to mention free wine and cheese.

  10. Green, Paula. Review of the Bluff Poetry festival. In Kathy Hunter's "Food for Body and Soul." Leaf Salon [2/5/06]

    ... Saturday morning and Jack Ross leads a group of us in a writing activity, we are split into small groups, handed a poem in translation, an anonymous poem, a random topic, and told to come up with a poster poem. He was very cool, got us all working together for several hours, without any bickering or sulkiness. I was with Cliff, Hilary Chung, Jacob Edmond, Bei Dao’s Chinese poem (where the title is longer than the poem itself), an instantly recognisable poem by Michele, and the topic “Land’s End.” Two Chinese experts in our group, but we went for some kind of intuitive response to the “imageness” of it all and tried to make a ripple poem based on the Fibonacci number series. Felt like we were in the single-word poem without emerging into the real world for days and it was fun.

    At the lunch table Jack, Richard, and I thrashed out the “how to review NZ poetry books” topic and I was one hundred percent behind Jack when he said he can’t see the point in reviewing books or poems you are tone death deaf to, whereas I think Richard prefers a more vinegary debate. When I read a review I want it to open up gateways, to broaden my reading horizons, to get me testing out new directions (but I am not up for the sycophantic reviews of little clubs) ...

  11. Hamilton, Scott. "Jack Plays Monopoly." Reading the Maps [20/6/06]

    ... I don’t know whether Jack Ross was intent on impressing the females in the audience, or whether he is one of that curious band of Dr Zoom aficianados and bootleg collectors, but a couple of weeks ago he mounted the stage of the Empire Bar on Ponsonby Rd and played an hour-long solo on monopoly. To the surprise of his audience, which had expected an uncomplicated poetry reading, Jack unfolded a map of Auckland with a monopoly-style grid laid over it, and proceeded to travel from his starting point - his turangawaewae, in life and in art - of Mairangi Bay to such exotic locales as Milford, K Rd, and finally the Coromandel. On the way he read a poem or two inspired by each locale.

    Jack’s progress to the mystic mountains on the far side of Kopu’s one-lane bridge was not without its troubles - the instruction ‘Miss a turn, catch the bus back to Milford’ became a groan-inducing refrain, a worse fate than Monopoly’s ‘Go directly to jail’, as Jack’s attempts to escape the North Shore became a sort of metaphor for the banality and futility of earthly existence, a Kiwi corollary to Kafka’s castle or Sisyphus’s quarry.

    Now Jack, who has previously insisted that ‘I’m not the blogging type - I don’t have any thoughts’, has founded mairangibay.blogspot.com and put a version of his ‘Auckland game’ there, along with a report on last week’s Titus launch. It seems to me that, unlike most poetry, or for that matter most writing of any kind, the ‘Auckland game’ is well-suited to publication on the internet. Hyperlinks are an ideal way of carrying readers from Jack’s map-board to the poems he has written about the places on this map-board. Ideally, I think, the hyperlinks would be placed on the map-board itself, not underneath it, but the template that blogspot.com gives to IT dummies like Jack and yours truly doesn’t allow for such feats of engineering.

    Never mind - the Boss would still be proud...

  12. Hamilton, Scott. "Transtromer Takes the Thumper." Reading the Maps [23/9/06]

    With sixty-two votes to John Ashbery’s sixty-one, Tomas Transtromer has won this blog’s ‘Greatest Living Writer’ poll by the skin of his teeth. A bottle of Old Thumper will be going in the mail to Stockholm as soon as I have the dosh. Don’t hold yer breath, Tomas.

    After taking an early lead, our own Jack Ross finished with a disappointing seventeen votes, possibly as a result of the discovery of a naughty portrait of Auckland’s most esteemed literary festival which he published very quietly several years ago. Despite his Nobel last year, Harold Pinter only took the bronze, but he will be cheered to see that two of his more obscure plays are being performed in Auckland at the moment. Orhan Pamuk struggled to get past jack, let alone Tomas, but he has worse things to fret about. Stephen King came in last with a mere three votes, which cheered me immensely. …

  13. Edmond, Murray. “Editorial Notes: I writer because I piss off.” Ka Mate Ka Ora 3 (March 2007): 82-83.

    Ezra Pound’s Canto LXXIII, one of the two notorious fascist cantos written in Italian, tells the story of a bombing with a self-congratulatory pride which amounts to ‘hymning the casual slaughter of the Canadian soldiers’ as Jack Ross puts it, and, indeed, hymning the planned self-slaughter of ‘that big-boned girl’ (Pound) who leads the soldiers to their deaths. Jack Ross outlines the history of his translation of these poems (leading to his acquisition of ‘Antipodean rights’) and of the checkered history of their emergence from Italian into English to take their place in the uneven totality of The Cantos. Ross argues that these two poems, abhorrent as they are, especially Canto LXXIII, ‘are much more of a piece with the rest of the poem than readers have hitherto felt comfortable admitting.’

    Pound was arrested for treason and, as Ross writes, ‘he was surprised to be told that he was regarded as a war criminal.’ It was for his broadcasts rather than his poetry that he was arrested. However both contained the same ‘tone of ill-digested rant,’ racist and pro-fascist. Perhaps it is surprising in itself that Pound, who had such hope for how poetry might affect the world, was surprised when it actually did. Poetry takes its place in the world and, to indulge a pun, carries its burden.

  14. Hamilton, Scott. “Cool Reading.” Picks of the Week 13 Feb. Scoop Review of Books (13/2/09):

    At this time of year, my social life is dictated by a desire to spend as much time as possible in air-conditioned rooms. It’s fair to say, then, that my plan to attend the poetry reading at Grey Lynn Library on Thursday February the 19th isn’t motivated by exclusively literary considerations. But with Jack Ross, Therese Lloyd, Michael Steven, and Lee Posna on the bill, I’ll be enjoying some excellent poetry that evening, as well as the cool hum of air conditioning.

    Jack Ross is one of New Zealand’s foremost literary bloggers as a well as a prolific critic, anthologist, novelist and, of course, poet, and over at The Imaginary Museum he has a detailed preview of what’s in store for the 19th.

  15. White, Gabriel. “Gabriel White interviews Jack Ross on his REM trilogy.” The Kitchen Table (YouTube - gabwhi's Channel):
    • Part One (focussing on Bruno & Atlantis): 9 video clips. [30/11/08]
    • Part Two (focussing on EMO): 8 video clips. [21/12/08]
    • The REM Trilogy Interview. 17 videos. [uploaded 15/2/09 & 7/4/09]

    On Sunday Jack Ross came over and we did the second part of an interview about his REM trilogy, this time focusing on the final book EMO. Jack is an extremely precise and articulate speaker, which makes it almost impossible to edit anything he says – he practically self-edits as he speaks. Consequently, I have left these interviews quite long, though I may go back and rework them.

    For my part this has been the most successful collaboration I’ve done with Jack, perhaps because it captures us more or less au naturel. While our collaboration or friendship has produced several tentative works, it has in actuality consisted of conversations, the best conversations of my life. It really has been a privilege to interview Jack on this ambitious work. The depth and scope of his insight never ceases to stagger me and yet he is always up for a joke or a whimsical observation. Jack is a great writer and a great person not because he’s smart or knowledgeable but because he uses his abilities to satisfy a natural curiosity.

    - Gabriel White: Work Journal (23/12/08)

  16. Leggott, Michele. “the dada lady of the sonnets.” NZ Poet Laureate blog [30/4/09]

    Shakespeare’s Sonnets are 400 years old this year and the Bard himself has reached his 23 April 2009 birthday/deathday. With poet and blogger Jack Ross, our Poetry off the Page students took sonnets, scissors, real and virtual glue to remix, blog and then perform some 21st century recensions in honour of WS. The Dada Lady of the Sonnets, a video record of the occasion, puts a new spin on an old mystery, and Jack presents the exercise in full at The Imaginary Museum. Happy 445th Birthday Bill!

  17. Hamilton, Scott. “'I have no complaints': Michael Arnold speaks from the hot seat.” Reading the Maps [4/10/09]

    If you think that Graham Henry has a tough job running the All Blacks, spare a thought for Michael Arnold, who became managing editor of the long-running avant-garde literary journal brief earlier this year.

    A Brief Description of the Whole World was founded by the famously cantankerous poet and printer Alan Loney in the mid-90s as a sort of redoubt within which the members of the neglected 'other tradition' of New Zealand literature could shelter from the slings and arrows of mainstream culture. When Loney's successor, John Geraets, attempted to open the publication to new contributors, and to expose the work of some of Loney's allies to criticism, he soon found himself at the centre of controversy. Angered by the accusation that their use of Maori history and symbolism was exploitative, senior Kiwi avant-gardists Wystan Curnow and Leigh Davis refused Geraets' offer of space to defend themselves and walked away from the journal.

    Geraets' successor as editor was also a lightning rod for controversy. Jack Ross' determination to publish a wider range of writers in the journal which was by now known as brief soon had Loney writing an open letter to traditional contributors and subscribers. Loney had the odd sympathiser, but his call for a boycott of Jack's brief was ignored.

    Undeterred by Loney's increasingly vituperative criticism, Jack worked to expand the range of brief by encouraging writers to discuss political issues more often within its covers, particularly when these issues related to the (mis)use of language. An important issue of the journal was dedicated to the case of Ahmed Zaoui, the Algerian politician, poet and refugee who was held for years without trial in the panoptic remand wing of Mt Eden prison. Jack's opposition to hysteria and xenophobia and his commitment to open, pluralist discourse were reflected in his publication of multiple translations and analyses of Zaoui's poems.

    Ross organised issues which commemorated the lives and works of Alan Brunton and Joanna Paul, two middle-aged Kiwi writers who died tragically in the early noughties, as well as a celebration of the work of the great New Zealand poet Kendrick Smithyman, who died in the mid-90s. Ross' commemorative issues were lively and various, featuring everything from memoirs and serious 'academic' essays to previously unpublished correspondence and dirty limericks.

    When I took brief over in the mid-noughties I tried to emulate Jack's themed approach by producing issues dedicated to exile and to war. The war issue, in particular, ruffled feathers: some admirers of a distinguished American postmodern poet didn't like the way I'd reproduced the warmongering statement that poet had placed on e mail lists in the weeks after 9/11. One long-time reader complained of the 'contamination' of the journal with 'millennial politics', and began a secret but heated campaign to part me from the editor's chair ...

  18. Bruns, Gerald. “Should Poetry be Ethical or Otherwise.” SubStance, Issue 120 (Volume 38, Number 3), 2009, pp. 72-91 (85-86):

    ... Not for nothing are pronouns called shifters. "I" and "you" are restless, but so are Celan's poems, whose language is arguably no longer a form of mediation but is anarchic in its Wortaufschuttung (Gesammelte Werke, II, 29) - its weird and wild way of combining and compounding words:

    [There is a translation (of sorts) of "Kalk-krokus" by the New Zealand poet Jack Ross: The Poem is available online at http://titus.books.online.fr/Percutio/Percutio.htm#Celan {note - p.32}]

    One can only imagine what Levinas would have made of "steckbriefgereiftes" or of the middle stanza with its smiling Sprengstoffe and die Delle Dasein which (as in Ross's rendition) should perhaps be allowed its Heideggerian resonance ("the dent of Dasein"). Meanwhile the chalk-crocus here does not appear to be a flower, though perhaps a good horticulturist could identify it.

  19. Reeve, Richard. “Romantic and Avant-Garde Personalism in Two Contemporary New Zealand Poets.” The International Literary Quarterly, 12 (August 2010):

    An internationalist, Ross’s new-world New Zealand ‘I’ is pervasively historically constituted. This is manifest in the wide selection of epigraphs he chooses—from Lady Murasaki, author of the tenth-century Japanese proto-novel The Genji, to Renaissance thinker Giordano Bruno, to a fridge magnet or graffiti—and also in the translation pieces that recur throughout Chantal’s Book. Poems are diary entries, day-to-day semiotic experiments such as transcriptions of public-toilet graffiti, outcomes of the erotic context to which he has submitted himself and which his book’s dedicatory title celebrates. This doesn’t mean that the entries are artificial; however, they have certainly been guided by an ‘academic’ impulse, in New Zealand poet Kendrick Smithyman’s New-Critical sense of the term: an impulse for which ‘language [is] a force to be respected to the point where one could properly talk about the autonomy of language.’ Like the later Smithyman (1922-95), with whose work he has engaged in depth, Ross is sufficiently comfortable with the autonomy of language to display himself openly in the manner of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions as an artefact to be examined.

  20. Green, Paula, & Harry Ricketts. 99 Ways into NZ Poetry. A Vintage Book (Auckland: Random House New Zealand, 2010):

    Other poets such as Jack Ross and Wystan Curnow write poems that depend heavily upon found material and that can be traced back more readily to the Dadaist motivation to write outside a traditional aesthetic; not necessarily to produce anti-poems but to produce poetry that signals traces of anti-lyricness. Both Ross and Curnow eschew rhythm and rhyme in favour of poetic effects borne out of borrowing, juxtaposition and arrangement, yet ironically their poetry frequently exhibits aural harmonies ... Curnow's Modern Colours, a 'sampler' from a manuscript entitled 'The Art Hotel', is the composition of both the roaming forager and a finely tuned ear. The result may be viewed in the light of postmodernism's fondness for theft or bricolage (creating work out of what is at hand) and conversely through the persistent reach of lyricism. The poems may be read as musical assemblages. Ross, with an ear equally attuned to music, transports and transforms versions of the Greek lyric poet Sappho's fragments (among other things) to create love poems that he dedicates to his wife. Perhaps Ross, like [Bill] Manhire and [Hinemoana] Baker, went looking elsewhere for words to represent an astonishing hereabouts. Ross's poems, intercut with found material, tingle with sweetness, spikes and shifting centuries. [Paula Green, 'The Found Poem, The List Poem', p.116]
    The Experimental drive has not abated and poets such as Jack Ross, Wystan Curnow, Olivia Macassey and [Will] Christie continue to push poetry to the limits of legibility, musicality, pain and pleasure because they are not satisfied by more accessible representations of the personal, the everyday or the imagined. [Paula Green, 'The New Millennium', pp.197-98]
    Jack Ross has aptly named his blog 'The Imaginary Museum' as exploring his site is a little like losing one's way in a real museum. Ross's in-depth discussions, both intellectually challenging and highly entertaining, include teaching notes, book reviews, poems, translations, and essays on a variety of topics and poets (for example, Stu Bagby, Robin Hyde, Hone Tuwhare, [Jen] Crawford and Mike Johnson. [Paula Green, 'Digital Poetry', p.282]
    In 2008, [Michele] Leggott and [Brian] Flaherty created a digital bridge, 'Love, War and Last Things,' for a New Zealand Studies conference at Florence. Four digital works (Jack Ross, Robert Sullivan, Paula Green, Rachel Blau du Plessis) and eight audio poems can be reached by clicking tourist spots on maps of Auckland and Florence. The project called for poetry that took advantage of digital technology by using music, animation or video footage. ... Ross intercut sound, video footage and photographs to create a digital work that gained rhythms and meaning out of juxtapositions beyond those evoked by the spoken word. [Paula Green, 'Digital Poetry', p.286]
    Over recent decades a number of New Zealand poets have chosen to write outside the 'mainstream' and instead to create poetry that draws, in some way and to some degree, on features of experimental poetry. Magazines, at times short lived, have emerged to provide a forum for less commercial voices ... Small presses have devoted themselves to experimental writing with tiny print runs, scant publicity and production values that range from the handmade to photocopies. Additionally, poets such as [Alan] Brunton and Jack Ross have self-published.

    Jack Ross writes poetry like an inquisitive magpie, a scholar, a linguist and a hot-air balloonist, and in all his writing ventures he inhabits the experimental genre on his own terms (see author inset, page 364). He draws upon an extraordinary range of sources and knowledge, raids his personal life, refuses to stick to English and sets up poetry journeys in the open air that take risks and favour the luxury of slowness. You need to spend time with the lines, to float on the page and let the wit, the cheekiness, the seriousness and the inherent love of language, despite any distrust on the part of the poet, seduce you. Chantal's Book is a book-length hybrid sequence - part diary, part scrapbook, part collage - that charts a love, a real-life love rather than a fake-for-the-sake-of-poetry love. Ross acknowledges he wanted to write the contours of this love with 'maximum honesty'; he juxtaposes samples from 'travel-books, street-signs, email, letters, advertisements, graffiti' along with his original text ('A few thoughts on sampling'). He suggests that to borrow writing he admires is a form of plagiarism, but to borrow bad writing, the world's bad copy, is a different story. In Chantal's Book, Ross includes scholarly intrusions to contextualise or clarify the writing, pockets of confession, lyrical traces and the faintly surreal. The first-person device ('I') is ambiguous. Who speaks here? The figure of Chantal is equally ambiguous, and in some ways, the steady compilation of parts strengthens her absence while foregrounding 'his' speaking presence ('It's not that you're entirely absent - just that you're not really allowed to speak, express a concrete point of view'). The poems give life to something, something acutely observed and missed and felt, but the real woman is the hollow in the text. Chantal's Book risks self-exposure, yet in its very interplay of parts warns the reader of the speaker's unreliability, of his struggle to achieve 'maximum honesty', of his tendency to duck and weave and hide. Herein lies the nub of much experimental poetry: it can't simply be catalogued satisfactorily under an all-embracing label such as 'postmodernism'. Truth is evasive but here one is granted a provisional, tentative version, Using the world's bad copy to help convey the truth of the situation alleviates the poet's reliance on his own choice of words to represent love. The end result, in contrast to some experimental work, promotes heart as much as it does cerebral talk. [Paula Green, 'Experimental Poetry', pp.358-59].

  21. Griffiths, Catherine. "The Trestle Leg Series.” Studio Catherine Griffiths (2009 - installed 2012).

    A note on The Trestle Leg Series

    Beneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge, on the north side, is a site of historic and contemporary significance: this place offers public road access to a local community; underside bridge access for essential maintenance works to the structure; and public access to an important reserve area including Te Onewa Pa/Stokes Point. From this vantage point there are expansive views of the Waitemata Harbour framed by the striking bridge structure overhead; it is a place for celebration of the natural environment as well as cultural and engineering heritage.

    New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) is upgrading the area of Princes Street under the Bridge. The first stage of the upgrade project is complete, and includes landscape improvements to the abutment area and new lighting to the bridge area. This stage of the project also included the The Trestle Leg Series: excerpts of poetry and prose wrapped around eight of the eastern trestle legs of the west box girder beneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

    The project team selected writers of national significance who have local connections to Auckland/Tamaki Makaurau and the North Shore. The typographic rendering of The Trestle Leg Series makes a visual connection through the underside of the bridge to the Pa site, reserve and the water. Cathy Challinor of Boffa Miskell led the NZTA project team in an intensive process working with local iwi representatives and local literary experts including Dr Jack Ross to select the writers and the excerpts. Permissions were obtained from the estates of the writers and visual artist and typographer Catherine Griffiths was commissioned to interpret these works onto the bridge columns:
    A.R.D. Fairburn (1904–57)

    Robyn Hyde (Iris Wilkinson) 1906-39
    published in Persephone in Winter, 1937

    Janet Frame 1924–2004
    published in Mate No 12, June 1964

    Kendrick Smithyman 1922–95

    Te Waatarauihi
    he rangatira o Kawerau, no Waitakere, 1860

    Frank Sargeson 1903–82
    published in The Stories of Frank Sargeson, 1964

    Maurice Duggan 1922–74
    published in Collected Stories, 1981

    Bruce Mason 1921–82

    Griffiths’ proposal was to render onto the steel structures — in the manner of painted lettering used on ships and bridges — the excerpts of poetry and prose in this three dimensional and atmospheric public space beneath the bridge. Lifted from the printed page and re-contextualised in a spatial and built environment demands that they are engaged with physically, on a much enlarged scale. The extracts of poetry wrap themselves around the steel columns, the fixed line length determines the shape and form of each, and requires the reader to move with the work, to spend time with the words, the sounds they make, meanings that are formed; to arrive at the work from any point, whether in full or part.

    A korero by Te Waatarauihi, chief of Te Kawerau in 1860, is addressed by the inclusion of speech punctuation. The poems by Frame and Smithyman, first published between 1959 when the bridge was built, and 10 years later, when the two clip-ons were added, deal with reclaiming land from the sea and the march of progress. “When they reclaimed the land, the sea made little fuss about possession, or such legal niceties as who was first owner”, wrote Frame in The Road To Takapuna, after having stayed as a guest of Sargeson at his Esmonde Rd home. Smithyman, who moved to Auckland in the 1930s, wrote in Building Programme how “they are changing the way of my city. The Skyline is not what it was, nor are we”.

    Signage companies Signright and Designcraft were commissioned to install the work. The Trestle Leg Series work is applied to the steel ‘clip-on’ structures which were an addition to the main bridge structure in 1969. The paint system and application methods had to be compatible with the specialist bridge steel coating system, including template application to ensure crispness of the lettering. The paint also needed to be extremely high performance to ensure longevity in a demanding environment that includes harsh marine conditions, public access and the demands of constant maintenance activities to the bridge structure.

    - Press release, June 2011.

  22. Samuels, Lisa. “Six modes of poetry experiment in New Zealand/Aotearoa.” Conference paper read at the Poetry & the Contemporary Symposium (Melbourne: Deakin University, 7-10 July, 2011).

    IV Transacted prose

    This mode points to prose shot through with experimenting interruptions such as discourse shift or mixing, mixed genre, and bricolage. A strong exemplar of this category is Jack Ross, whose collocation Monkey Miss Her Now (Danger Publishing, 2004) [xi] and the recent 'Coursebook from a War Zone' in Kingdom of Alt (Auckland: Titus Books, 201O) [xii] jump-cut prose in a manner that might be called pastiche or collage poetic. For that matter Ross also 'loops' historically, bringing Robinson Crusoe in to 'Robinsonade' in Monkey Miss Her Now. Generally Ross's loops tend more toward contemporaneity, sweeping literary and experimental Western world views through the multi-prose of his visions.

    Transacted prose is not meant to substitute for the term prose poetry, which might be understood as a continuous use of a self-similar prose-line pattern in a self-labeled poetic work. Such prose poetry is not as dominant in New Zealand/ Aotearoa experimental poetry as it has been in a North American context for some time. Transacted prose begins one way and shifts to another or to multiple others, as with Jack Ross, or it keeps a base line in imaginative prose without honoring normative narrative. Bill Direen is an example of the latter leaning, toward a prose that is stripped­out, a sort of cauterizing of the experimental possibilities of Ernest Hemingway but with the bemusement of a writer such as Harry Mathews. Direen's is a prose of committed distance and pained interest, in somewhat modular, somewhat paratactic sentence groups; the latter characteristic indicates the potential placement of transacted prose in a context of experimental 'new narrative'. The differences here are not crucial, though they matter to perceptions of genre stability and representational transitivity, openings and boundaries: the prose of Sugu Pillay, for a contrast, seems to me metafictive. It honors normative narrative by staying with her fetchingly bizarre characters as they work out their post-modern theory reading in the context of New Zealand Indian life. Murray Edmond pushes forward some prose experiments in his book Noh business (Berkeley: Atelos Press, 2005), for example, which combines prose modes such as essayistic observations on Noh theatre, new Noh particulates (plays that are in and out of the Noh he comments on), and travel observations in which knowing Noh becomes a question hinged on the movements of others across his observing. The transacted prose tone here is gentler than that of Jack Ross; its experimentalism is registered in its diremptive connections. We have to figure how to blend the genres of our reading - a travel diary, topical essay, creative production, and?


    Computer writing would seem to have an advantage in the unsettlement of genre - and I mean that term with colonial implications intact - because it connects, at least potentially, to most other instances of text, both 'ancient' works in the public domain and tweets in the now. A number of blogs here are attuned to the experimental, for instance Jack Ross's Imaginary Museum, which chronicles everything from the encyclopedic to the ludic, and Scott Hamilton's Reading the Maps, a running documentation of New Zealand culture and events and writers such as Kendrick Smithyman, a sometime experimenter of the mid-twentieth century.



    [xi] Danger Publishing is not provided with a publishing location and may be a self­production imprimatur. Monkey Miss Her Now includes the title work and another piece, 'Everything a teenage girl should know' (95-138), attributed to Lorraine West, who may be a pseudonym for Ross.

    [xii] See Lisa Samuels, review of Kingdom of Alt in Landfall Review Online, May 2011, at http://landfallreviewonline.com/.

  23. Hamilton, Scott. “Blogging and the curse of coolness.” Reading the Maps [2/1/12]

    ... Blogging may have been superseded by new and inferior innovations, but the medium need not die. Indeed, bloggers should treat the rise of alternative forms of online communication as a liberation, rather than a disaster. Freed from the curse of coolness, blogging can now develop as a literary and artistic genre, or set of genres. Blogging may have lost some of its old practitioners, but it should be able to attract writers, artists, and political thinkers dissatisfied with the short attention span of twitter and the ritualised onanism of facebook. Blogging may become an act of resistance against the dumbing down of culture and political discourse in the twenty-first century.

    Here in New Zealand, Richard Taylor's exciting, perplexing Eyelight is exploring the aesthetic possibilities of the hyperlink, and testing the limits of the internet 'page'. On a series of quieter but equally strange sites, Jack is showing that the blog can become a sort of cultural memory bank. Ross' A Gentle Madness documents his bibliomania, while his edition of the late Leicester Kyle's lost works is bringing an important writer out of the shadows. With his insistence on publishing one seriously researched blog-essay at the same time every week, Giovanni Tiso is using blogging to make a stand against our culture's tendency towards brevity and superficiality. Over at the Kea and Cattle blog, the newly-minted Rhodes Scholar Andrew Dean has been showing that wild eclecticism and intellectual rigour can go together, as he publishes mini-essays about subjects as different as depressed cricketers, South Island regionalism, Rilke, and The Simpsons.

    Like the characters in Alex Wild's first novel, today's bloggers are consciously rejecting fashion, and showing the possibilities inherent in a supposedly outmoded medium of communication.

  24. Little, Jennifer. “Massey editor for new-look Poetry NZ.” Massey News [28/5/14]

    Watching an Al Jazeera television item about a young Arab poet spraypainting words of protest on a wall somewhere on the West Bank struck a chord with Massey University English senior lecturer Dr Jack Ross.

    In his new role as managing editor of the country’s longest-running poetry journal, Poetry New Zealand, he hopes to infuse something of the spirit and energy of that far-flung poet in future issues of his new literary baby.

    In the spirit of his predecessors at the helm of the periodical, he intends to keep it youth-oriented, politically engaged, experimental, and culturally diverse – all necessary attributes for an international journal of poetry and poetics.

    Ross – a poet, editor and critic who teaches fiction, poetry, and travel writing in the School of English and Media Studies at the Albany campus – replaces distinguished poet, anthologist, fiction-writer, critic and retiring editor Alistair Paterson, who held the role for 21 years.

    From this year, Poetry New Zealand will be edited and published by Massey’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. An agreement was signed by its head of the School of English and Media Studies, Associate Professor Joe Grixti, Poetry New Zealand’s former managing editor Paterson, and production manager John Denny, for the future housing of the magazine by the university.

    The journal originated in 1951 when poet Louis Johnson began publishing his annual New Zealand Poetry Yearbook. Johnson's series stopped in 1964, but a bi-annual version re-christened as Poetry New Zealand was revived by Frank McKay in the 1970s and early 80s with a total of six issues, each with a different guest editor. It began appearing twice yearly under Oz Kraus at the end of the 1980s, initially with a series of guest editors and then with Paterson at the helm.

    Currently working on his first issue, the 49th in the series, which is due out in October this year, Ross says the journal will continue to feature work primarily by established local and some overseas poets, as well as commentary and reviews. Pivotal to attracting and fostering a new generation of poets is his wish to showcase emerging – and inevitably challenging – poetic trends, voices and styles.

    “There will still be a featured poet in each issue – but you’ll have to wait and see who’s been chosen to inaugurate the new yearbook version. It may be surprising to some!” he says. “Poetry New Zealand is for readers and poets who crave stimulation and real challenges from encountering experimental work that’s not always immediately accessible,” he adds.

    He’s keen on the idea of including some foreign language poetry in translation by overseas-based or migrant writers living here.

    Cosmetic and technological changes are afoot too. The feature poet’s portrait as the cover will be replaced with fresh new artwork. Contributors can also submit their work electronically for the first time. And instead of two issues per year there’ll be an annual edition with roughly twice the number of pages.

    The changes will not only open up new directions for readers and writers, but an opportunity for graduate students studying creative writing and communication at Massey to become involved in editing, design and layout through internships.

    “It [Poetry New Zealand] will help complement the link between teaching and doing your own work. It’s good for students to see that while you are at university, even in arts and literature you can be learning in a pragmatic way. These are real world skills.”

    Ross, who was featured in Poetry New Zealand’s Issue 22 in 2001 and guest-edited Issue 38 in 2009, has a wealth of experience in writing, editing and teaching poetry. He shares his poetic interests via a highly stimulating literary blog, The Imaginary Museum.

    No stranger to experimenting with genre, as in City of Strange Brunettes (1998), Chantal's Book (2002), and To Terezin (2007), as well as in foreign languages with Celanie (which he translated from German – via French – into English), he also co-edited the trilogy of audio and text anthologies Classic, Contemporary and New NZ Poets in Performance (AUP, 2006-8).

    While he acknowledges editing Poetry New Zealand is a time-consuming labour of love fitted around a busy teaching and PhD supervision schedule, he will be supported by an advisory board including Massey academics, poets and editors Dr Thom Conroy, Dr Ingrid Horrocks and Associate Professor Bryan Walpert; along with poet and academic Dr Jen Crawford; publisher and printer John Denny; poet and 2013 Burns Fellow David Howard; poet and editor Alistair Paterson ONZM; and poet and academic Dr Tracey Slaughter.

    Ross says his ultimate aim is to make Poetry New Zealand as relevant and rivetting to a new generation of readers and writers as the most powerful films, novels and digital content. Like the graffitied words of that young Arab poet.

  25. Tilley, Elspeth. “Hard-hitting or controversial work welcome in Poetry NZ.” Expressive Arts: Creative Writing | Theatre | Digital Media Production [5/6/14]

    Jack Ross, new editor of Poetry NZ, will be featured on Radio NZ National this Sunday. Jack is being interviewed by Justin Gregory about his plans for Poetry NZ on “Standing Room Only”, this Sunday (8/6). The programme starts at 12:40 pm. Jack said he will be talking with Justin about his plans to keep the journal at the cutting edge and encourage ground-breaking, even controversial, work. “As the new managing editor of Poetry NZ, I’d like to keep up a sense of excitement in the magazine. My predecessor, Alistair Paterson, was careful to maintain a youth-focus — both with the poets he featured and the work he included. I’d like to be as open as he was to new styles and new poetic approaches. Nor do I have any problem at all with including hard-hitting or controversial work. “Louis Johnson, who founded the New Zealand Poetry Yearbook in the 1950s, refused to withdraw some poems which the funding agencies objected to in the early sixties, and instead paid for the last volume of his yearbook himself! It’s that kind of courage I’d like to emulate. I don’t want there to be anything predictable about what people can expect when they open a copy of Poetry NZ. As the poet Alan Brunton once put it: “Keep the surprise alive!’ “The School of English and Media Studies at Massey University has been generous with a publishing subvention, and I hope that in future this journal can fold into our programme in numerous ways: perhaps principally by providing some of our graduate students with an internship in the world of practical magazine publishing.” Jack himself has published four poetry collections: City of Strange Brunettes (1998), Chantal’s Book (2002), To Terezín (2007) and Celanie (2012).

    The interview can be found at:

    Standing Room Only (8/6/14)

  26. Justin Gregory, "Standing Room Only." Poetry New Zealand (Sunday 8 June 2014):

    The Poetry New Zealand journal has had to adapt to survive more than most in its fifty year history. And with the appointment of Massey University lecturer and writer Jack Ross as its new managing editor, more changes are planned. But Jack tells Justin Gregory that his changes should feel more like renewal rather than reinvention.

    Duration:  9′ 41″.

  27. Green, Paula. “Happy Poetry Day from Poetry Shelf – 20 things to do that aren’t on the poster!” NZ Poetry Shelf (28/8/15):

    10: check out the poem that Jack Ross (an all-time favourite poet of mine!) included in my birthday book: he is reading in Hamilton’s Poetry Day festivities.

  28. Dornauf, Peter. “City's literary culture stunning.” Waikato Times (7/9/15): p.9.

    The month was rounded off with a focus on poetry. Poet Jack Ross gave readings from his own work and provided insights into the mysterious world of poetic conception and construction at Creative Waikato. This was followed on the last Friday night of August with an open mike session for would-be bards and rhymesters at the Central Hamilton Library.

  29. Rapatahana, Vaughan. “'Experimental' Poetry - part two.” Vaughan Rapatahana [Jacket2 Commentaries] (22/10/15): p.9.

    Jack Ross should require no introduction to Jacket 2 readers/viewers as he has written several commentary posts, specifically pertaining to mainly mainstream, accepted-poetry-heroes & heroines here. (He is editor of the well-established Poetry New Zealand journal.) However, Jack is especially interested in 'experimental' poetry. Indeed, he writes, '...what I expect to see in the overall NZ poetry scene in the near future is a move away from monoglot English-language dominance into a more multi-lingual, multi-cultural set of complex social / aesthetic negotiations. How painful and contested this transition will be depends on the state of health of our body politic. I think it will happen, and I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be a harmonious process -- but there are grounds for pessimism as well as optimism in certain recent developments in NZ writing...As far as Experimental writing goes, I suppose I feel disposed to experiment when I think there's too much complacency dominating a particular field or aesthetic paradigm. I'm not particularly impressed by attempts to recycle DADA or Oulipo in an apolitical context -- but I do like writing that seems to be responding to real pressures in an interesting way. Nor do I find the term "shock value" particularly offputting -- what's wrong with shocking people if they give every appearance of being asleep? [My stress.]

    Jack Ross goes on to reiterate a point I made some time back as regards the assimilation of what was once 'experimental' being subsumed and neutered by the English-language Anglo-American dominant, given that such ultimate containment of the subversive can occur anywhere. In other words, even despite any 'seduction' process (from Baudrillard) whereby any dominant discourse might be 'beguiled into submission' by crafty poetic subterfuge and play, postcolonial literature - as just one example - is now a staple diet of many university departments globally. Says Ross, '...experimentation tends to be followed by consolidation. It can be more revolutionary to eschew obvious signs of "experimentation" when the culture has got used to grainy xeroxes of concrete poetry. Perpetual reinvention is surely the job of any artist? You don't really know that something won't work until you've tried it...' Which, I guess, is what he is doing in his syncopated poem extract below left, which he describes as 'part Celan translation/part small-town paranoia' -


    Es ist Zeit, daß es Zeit wird          
     – Paul Celan, “Corona”

    bird stalks by
        5-fingered sky

    in the rearview mirror
        Autumn gnaws my hands
           we’re friends

    van reversing
        past the

    check out those jeans
        swap spit
           talk shit

    don’t stare at

    time she said
        it’s time the asphalt

    it’s time

    [Jack Ross, A Clearer View of the Hinterland: Poems and Sequences 1981-2014 (Wellington: HeadworX, 2014):, p. 117.]

  30. Green, Paula. “Poetry Shelf review: Six reasons to pick up Landfall 230.” NZ Poetry Shelf (10/12/15):

    Six: Jack Ross’s provocative nonfiction piece, ‘Is it Infrareal or is it Memorex?’ Jack juxtaposes quotes from Roberto Bolaño with a letter to Leicester outlining literary gossip (a scandalous poetry reading).

  31. Shanghaidaily.com, “Story event a tale of literary exploration.” China.org.cn (25/7/16):

    At first glance, Shanghai might seem like an unlikely place to host an international conference on English-language short stories. Yet last week, more than 250 writers, scholars and translators from 30 countries turned up for just such an event, organized by the Society of the Study of the Short Story and held at venues around the city.

    Attendees from home and abroad take part in the first plenary meeting on the theme "Influence and Confluence in the Short Story: East and West" at East China Normal University during the 14th International Conference on the Short Story in English last week.

    Attendees included English-language writers such as Clark Blaise, Robert Olen Butler, Gish Jen, Bharati Mukherjee, Evelyn Conlon and Yiyun Li. They were joined by a fleet of their Chinese peers, many of whom have had their works translated into English. The four-day conference included readings, workshops, book launches and panel discussions. It was also the first time the society has held such a conference in an Asian venue.

    East and West

    The conference's plenary meeting took place at East China Normal University and centered on the theme "Influence and Confluence in the Short Story: East and West." Writers from the Anglophone world were prompted by this theme to discuss the concepts of East and West as they relate to their own work and world literature as a whole.

    Irish writer Evelyn Conlon, whose most recent work "Not the Same Sky" tells the story of three young women who were among the 4,000 orphaned Irish girls shipped to Australia following the Great Famine of 1847, said: "The West is a political concept rather than a place. For people from Ireland, we go East when we set sail for Australia. So, one must choose the borders or settings of the story carefully to make our writing vivid and precise."

    Jack Ross, a New Zealand poet and lecturer in creative writing, said: "For years people thought we belonged to the West. However, the colonial and Maori history of New Zealand has made us neither East nor West. With increased immigration from Asian countries like China, Japan and Korea in the latter part of 20th century, the new generation of New Zealanders are eager to take on their own identities."

    Mark A. Jarman, a Canadian writer who has traveled extensively in Ireland, the United States and Italy, said he's never worried about the East or the West when writing. However, "in Canada, those who write in English are isolated from those who write in French," he said. "That's why I like the idea of coming to meeting where English writers are meeting Chinese writers to break the barrier of the two solitudes."

    The Chinese writers, meanwhile, spoke mainly on the influence of the Western tradition on modern Chinese literature.

    Fang Fang, president of the Hubei Writers' Association, said: "Whereas classical Chinese literature developed almost independently of Western influence, modern Chinese literature drew heavily on it. It wasn't until after 1985 that modern Chinese literature started to have its own independent characteristics."

    Recalling her own career in writing, Fang said her first novel was named after Guy de Maupassant's short story "Butterball."

    "It was a Chinese story of typical characters, but it was my first time to explore the dark side of human nature. Shedding political ideologies and styles, the story was not able to be published at that time. However, to write about human nature has become the theme of my novels ever since," she said.

    Su Tong, who is widely acknowledged as a master of short-form literature, gave credit to two American short stories — William Faulkner's "A Rose For Emily" and Carson McCullers' "The Ballad of the Sad Café" — which he said inspired him during his high-school years.

    Aside from their vivid depictions of life in the American deep south, Su said his biggest take-away from these works is that: "the secret of writing a good story lies in its characters, in the lives of common men and women."

    Zhao Mei, chairperson of the Tianjin Writers' Association as well as a writer of romance stories, said it was Virginia Woolf and Claire de [Marguerite?] Duras that led her to the feminist approach to literature. Bi Feiyu, winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2010, said he's benefited greatly from Sigmund Freud's writings on the analysis of dreams, which he said gave him a "third eye" to see the world by intuition.

  32. Tay, Karen. “Writing the End of the World.” The Pantograph Punch (5/8/16):

    The Cold War period, from the late 1940s to early 1990s, saw a proliferation of novels about the evils of nuclear warfare. Novels like Robert C. O’Brien’s Z for Zachariah, Nevil Shute’s On The Beach, Louise Lawrence’s Children of the Dust, Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz and Pat Frank’s Alas Babylon all have the remnants of humanity reverting to a kind of primitive half-life in contaminated wastelands after the bomb, eking out an existence salvaging scraps from a fallen society.

    That the tales are dire should come as no surprise, given the political climate of the time. Dr Jack Ross, Massey University Senior Lecturer in English and Media Studies, points out that the Cold War period was when the post-apocalyptic genre could first be said to come into its own. “The obvious point of origin is the atomic bomb blasts on Hiroshima and Nagasaki: after that, the apocalypse could not but seem only too imminent.”


    There are university classes in the US taught on the subject of cli-fi now. But has the trend peaked, or will it become an ossified trope of eschatological fiction?

    Dr Ross of Massey University believes we’ll see the subgenre simmer down. “I edited a book of short stories by NZ writers called Myth of the 21st Century, in which my co-editor Tina Shaw and I invited contributors to speculate on what would be dominant myths, or themes, or memes of the coming century,” he says. “I expected a lot about climate change – both Tina and I wrote stories dominated by the notion – but it was interesting to me how little it figured in other writers’ visions. There's a wonderful early short story by Arthur C. Clarke in which the glaciers are returning to crush our cities, but for the most part there was a residual optimism in twentieth century science fiction writers, which led them to postulate escape into the cosmos as the answer to climate change. Now, in our more down-beat times, we can no longer really believe such things.”

    If writers are moving away from cli-fi, it may be that the genre is now uncomfortably close to home. With extreme weather patterns causing unprecedented droughts and super storms, and scenarios like Arctic ice melting at an alarming rate, suddenly the scenario of an earth wiped out by environmental disasters is no longer fiction. It’s news.


    Why this proliferation of YA fiction about the world ending? Dr Ross thinks it’s because youthful readers are ‘extremists’. “They want something grand and overarching, and are ready to be radical in their opinions. They lack the protective cushioning and inertia of older readers. That’s one reason why genuinely revolutionary texts, such as Huckleberry Finn, say, or Catcher in the Rye, are so often aimed directly at a childish or adolescent audience.”

    Perhaps it’s not so surprising that the idea of a cataclysm ending life as we know it, so that the world may be built anew, is appealing to young audiences, living as they are in a society that is often beyond their control.

  33. Sethi, Sanjeev. “"I Take Poetry Pretty Seriously." A Chat With Jack Ross, Editor of Poetry New Zealand.” The Review Review [13/12/16]

    I’d like to conclude by saying that while the main focus of Poetry NZ must remain an anatomy of the nature of the poetry produced in this country – in itself a massive task – the last thing I think we should be doing is cutting ourselves off from international trends in poetry. Poets from elsewhere will always be welcome to submit to us, and there’s absolutely no requirement for them to address – or even think about – specifically “New Zealand” issues when they do so.

    If you send us your best work, we’ll be happy to include it. And that goes for work in translation and dual-text, too. New Zealand is both a multicultural and a multi-lingual society now, and a true reflection of its poetic identity involves vital questions of language as well as culture.

    As a postcolonial state, New Zealand (like many other countries) is only now beginning to come to terms with the theft of land and sovereignty from its indigenous inhabitants, the Maori. That’s as much of a poetic as a political issue for us. We have to try to imagine our way out of these blank walls of hatred and suspicion, try to create a harmony based on mutual respect and justice.

  34. Geraets, John. "Wholes in Part: Late Century Forays." JNZL 34.2: New Writing 1975-2000 (2016): 8-32 [12-13, 29-30].

    [Jack Ross is an established editor, academic, creative writing teacher and anthologist who is widely published as a poet, prose writer and critic ...]

    New writing struggles under the same [neo-liberal] stresses even as it seeks to interrogate them. As Ross demonstrates in his review of the nascent speculative fiction, the radical transformation of social life is sharply reflected in the response of local fiction - dystopian rather than utopian, revelling in the dysfunction rather than seeking reconciliation, day-dreaming rather than calculating. Taking M. K. Joseph's The Time of Achamoth (1977) as an archetype in this fictional response, Ross looks back on the political mythos in fictional responses dating from C. K. Stead's anti-Muldoonism in his dystopian-realist Smith's Dream (1971) and also forward to the fiction of social fantasy that concerns younger (and some older) fiction writers like Harrison, Johnson and Mann. As Ross indicates of this new fictional genre, away was apparently the better place to be in order to really size up the here and now.

  35. Moretz, Laura. “Editor Roundtable: How Long Should a Writer Wait for a Literary Magazine?” The Review Review [19/2/17]

    Jack Ross, editor of Poetry New Zealand and poet:

    Wearing my editor's hat, I guess my first advice to people submitting pieces would be to check carefully on the magazine's website or back issues to find out details of the suggested response time. If this time has elapsed, and nothing has been heard, I think a quick business-like email to the editor asking if a decision has yet been reached is entirely appropriate. If you're still within the stipulated waiting period (whether it be six weeks or three months), probably better not.

    If you don't receive a response to this enquiry, I think you can safely begin submitting the work somewhere else, without further ado. Nor do I think you're honour-bound, at that point, to inform the initial magazine of your decision.

    If you get a better offer for your piece while it's still under consideration by another magazine, best to send the first bunch a quick, business-like email to tell them about it. No apologies are necessary, but it's courteous to keep them informed, as it saves them spending any more time on a piece which is no longer available.

    If no time-period is clearly stipulated (which already shows an ominous degree of amateurism, in my opinion), I would say an enquiry after six weeks would be fine.

    Wearing my writer's hat, I guess my longest waiting period to date has been (from memory) 18 months. I'd actually forgotten all about the submission in question, only to get a letter from the editor asking me to revise it and also add supplementary details (it was a translation, and they wanted copies of the originals of the poems in question) within the next few days to meet their print deadline. This is extremely bad form in anybody's lexicon: a ridiculously long silence followed by a demand for immediate, frenetic activity shows a kind of top-lofty contempt on the part of the editor which I wish I could say was unprecedented. Alas, it's not even unusual. It was the top magazine around these parts, which may have explained why they thought they could act in this way.

    This is why I think it's important that editors should be familiar with both sides of the selection process. Hopefully, if you've been pissed around by somebody else, this makes you less prone to do the same thing yourself. I also believe firmly that all communications between author and editor should be conducted with courtly politeness. It's fatally easy to read hastily written emails as contemptuous in tone, even with this is entirely unintended.

  36. Nicola Legat, 10 Questions with Jack Ross. Massey University Press website (22/2/17):

    1. Now that it’s published, what pleases you most about New Zealand Poetry Yearbook 2017?

    I think the thing I like best about it is the number of younger contributors we’ve managed to include. My wife Bronwyn was leafing through it the other day and suddenly burst out: ‘These kids are putting us all to shame!’ That’s about right, I think. It’s not that I’ve relaxed any of my editorial standards to ease them in over the bar — on the contrary, there seem to be a lot of younger writers out there (most of whom I’d never even heard of before), who are writing hard-hitting, honest, beautiful poems. Long may the trend continue! I think some of it may be due to the fact that we now allow — or, rather, encourage — email submissions. You have to be pretty organised (as well as pretty determined) to keep on sending out those typed submissions, complete with stamped self-addressed envelopes, week after week, month after month, the way we used to do ...

  37. Stead, C. K. “The Sinclair Cohort.” The New Zealand Poet Laureate blog [27/6/17]

    One cannot say there are no detractors, no equivocations, none among our literary community for whom he doesn’t significantly figure (he was dismissed by Lauris Edmond for example); but for most of that community Smithyman is ‘up there’ among the New Zealand poets who are deserving of close attention, and likely to remain so – one whose admirers have included some significant poets (Murray Edmond, Jack Ross) of later generations.

  38. Chidgey, Catherine. The Beat of the Pendulum (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2017): 312-13. [launch date 9/11/17]

    I know when you’re in agonising situations, time tends to telescope. You wouldn’t do this to a patient, would you. And you wouldn’t do this to someone you cared about. You’d only do it to someone you completely despised. This is the ultimate sin; I have no interest in ever forgiving. I’ve already changed the name. Surely the person you’re writing about must be dead. The only defence is hiding a leaf in the forest. Mothers, fathers…are you going to run it by them and see what they think? What if they say no, you do not have my permission to publish this? Surely my mother’s going to slip on the stairs one of these days … but are you going to push her? You can always disappear in a cloud of ink. My brother might fall down the stairs tomorrow. We’re not bold enough about telling the truth. We mask it and muffle it. Hopefully none of you have a recording device.

  39. Nicola Legat, 10 Questions with Jack Ross. Massey University Press website (19/3/18):

    5. Can Poetry New Zealand’s heritage sometimes feel a burden?

    I guess there’s a certain eccentricity about this particular magazine’s history that makes it amount to more of a useful set of precedents than an oppressive burden of expectations. Its long-term editors – Louis Johnson, Frank McKay, Alistair Paterson – have mostly been contrarians, fighting to retrieve suppressed voices, critical of the received versions of official Kiwi culture. That’s the heritage I’m trying to uphold.

  40. Rose Hoare, The poetic licence of Lang Leav: Behind the business of Instagram poetry. Stuff: Life & Style (15/4/18):

    When I was asked to write about her, I'd never heard of her. And when I contacted the editor of Poetry New Zealand, a journal which has been publishing New Zealand poetry since the 1950s, to ask about Leav, he hadn't heard of her either.

    Although he suggested I not read anything into this, I can't help but see it as emblematic of a schism between old and new, between traditional poetry, published in academic presses and read by a select few brainiacs, and a new wave of poetry, published on social media and read by millions of fiercely admiring fans.

  41. With Jo Emeney (Massey University Library, 16/4/18)

  42. Christine Young, Life lines - can poetry save the Earth?. Channel: North Shore's Monthly Magazine, Issue 87 (May 2018): 95.

    They’ve borrowed the lecture title from Can Poetry Save the Earth? A Field Guide to Nature Poems - poet and critic John Felstiner's 2009 exploration of how the human and natural worlds connect. While Felstiner may have intended just to give his book a catchy title, “Poetry and poets can use their sway to agitate for change. Why else would so many of us be put in prison?” says Jo. “I can think of at least one example where the use of a chemical pesticide (DDT) was banned across the United States as a direct result of a book on the subject written by a poet.”

    “I think Felstiner chose the title in a teasing way, since it's so obvious that poetry can't save the Earth. It gets more interesting when you start to question ‘why not’, though,” says Jack. “Why couldn't it at least help? Doesn't poetry - by its nature - suggest certain attitudes which might be of value in keeping us alive?”

  43. Anna Bowbyes, Poetry New Zealand Student Poetry Competition Winners. Massey University Press (24/8/18):

    We are thrilled to announce the winners of the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook Student Poetry Competition, judged by Jack Ross.

    To read all the winning entries, click here.

    Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to everyone who entered!

    The first-prize winners in each category will be published in next year’s edition of Poetry New Zealand Yearbook, publishing in March 2019.”

  44. Aorere College Facebook Page (13/9/18):

    A huge congratulations to Fili Fepulea'i-Tapua'i who has won the Year 11 category of the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook Competition.

    Described as “hard-hitting,... from the heart" by competition Judge Jack Ross, Fili's winning poem- "275 Love Letters to Southside" will be published in the 2019 edition of the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook. What an awesome achievement!.

  45. Amberleigh's winning way with words. Kuranui College Online Newsletter (19/9/18):

    Kuranui Deputy Head Girl, Amberleigh Rose, has won first place in the high school section of the Massey University Press Poetry Yearbook competition, designed to foster a love of words.

    Amberleigh’s poem entitled Snake’s Tongue is an unconventional poem about love, causing one of the judges to comment in their feedback that they liked it because “It was a bit different and showed wisdom beyond her years”.

    “It’s what I call my weirdo poem,” explained Amberleigh. “It’s not straightforward and it twists and flicks, keeping you guessing.”

    The poem is going to be in next year’s edition of the yearbook and someday she would like to write a book of poems herself. For Amberleigh, poetry is a passion, especially slam poetry. “I love the way the words feel and their sound, the meaning behind how you speak and what message you’re trying to send.”

    Growth, another one of Amberleigh’s poems, was chosen to be a part of Christine Daniell’s ‘Poems Around Town’. The street art project focuses on fostering a love of words. A panel chose poems from Wairarapa to hang up around the community and Amberleigh’s poem has pride of place on the side of the Trust Lands Trust building in Masterton.

    Writing comes naturally to Amberleigh, but it wasn’t until she experienced poetry that her creative side really took off. “It was like a key had turned inside me and there was no going back.”

    Kuranui’s Head of English, Kathryn Holmes, said her work ethic and natural ability has meant that she has excelled at the college. “However, it is her heart that makes her very special; this adds depth to her poetry which means her message can resonate with the reader.”

    Apart from writing poetry, Amberleigh also excels in the sciences and her love of environment and communities has seen her enrol in Canterbury University, where she will study Natural Resource Engineering. “I am interested in making our world a cleaner, better place.”

  46. Congratulations Kathryn Briggs. Baradene College of the Sacred Heart (1/11/18):

    In Term 3, Kathryn's poem "Earth is a star to someone" received 1st place for the Year 12 category of the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook competition run by Massey University. This poem will be published in next year’s edition of 'Poetry New Zealand Yearbook'.

    Click here to read 'Earth is a star to someone'.”

  47. NZSA Canterbury Heritage Book and Writing Awards 2018. NZSA website (26/9/18):

    NZSA Canterbury Heritage Book and Writing Awards 2018


    Judge: Fiona Farrell

    Short list:
    1. Harvest by Christine Carrell (Nugget Stream Press 2017)
    2. The Life of De’Ath by Majella Cullinane (Steele Roberts Publishers, 2018)
    3. Finding by David Hill (Puffin 2018)
    4. This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman(Vintage Penguin Random House 2018)
    5. The Annotated Tree Worship: List of Topoi/ Draft Research Portfolio by Jack Ross (Paper Table 2017)
    6. Gone to Pegasus by Tess Redgrave (Submarine Press 2018)

    Last week NZSA Canterbury announced the winners, runners-up and specially commended writers who had been selected by our judges in the Heritage Literary Awards. The competition was nation-wide and attracted entries from leading publishers and writers throughout New Zealand. All the judges – Prof Tom Brooking (nonfiction books), Fiona Farrell (novels), Owen Marshall (short prose) and Bernadette Hall (poetry) spoke of the high standard of the entries and the difficulty of making a decision.

    The most popular section was for non-fiction books and there were nearly 40 of these - probably most of those that were published during the past year. The fiction category attracted around 20 entries and again they were of a high standard.

    The function which was part of the Christchurch’s Heritage Week celebration was held in St Michael’s Church, a magnificent wooden building dating back to the 1870s and a very fitting venue.

    ...The fiction prize went to Fiona Kidman for her new novel This Mortal Boy. Fiona Farrell who presented the award said that ‘it has been a real privilege to read such a wonderful book.’ This is the story of Albert Black, known as the ‘jukebox killer’. He, was only twenty when he was convicted of murdering another young man in a fight at a milk bar in Auckland on 26 July 1955. His crime fuelled growing moral panic about teenagers, and he was to hang less than five months later, the second-to-last person to be executed in New Zealand.

    The runner up was David Hill for his Young Adult novel Finding and there was a special mention for Tree Worship by Jack Ross.

  48. Nicola Legat, 10 Questions with Jack Ross. Massey University Press website (16/1/19):

    1. Another Poetry New Zealand Yearbook is off to print. What are the strengths of the 2019 edition?

    I think this may well be the issue I’m proudest of so far. We have a very strong poetry feature, from one of New Zealand’s most original — though still strangely neglected — poets. We have a nice blend of essays, ranging from the very personal (Elizabeth Kirkby-McLeod’s piece on her father’s suicide) to the profoundly learned (Erena Shingade’s analysis of Richard von Sturmer’s Zen poetics). We have deeply considered reviews of a range of recent books. Above all, though, we have a positive cornucopia of poems by hordes of poets old and new. I defy anyone not to find something to like in there.
    4. There’s a great spread of age and experience in this book. Does the number of young writers bode well for poetry in New Zealand?

    Well, yes, I think it does. Mind you, the subject matter of their poetry tends to be darker than I would like sometimes — but there’s no denying that the intensity of the emotions these young writers feel tends to concentrate their work amazingly. There’s nothing diffuse or self-indulgent about the best of them. But they seem only too aware that they’ve been doomed to live in interesting times. Franklin Roosevelt said in the 1930s that the generation then coming of age had ‘a rendezvous with destiny’ ... As it turned out, he was quite right. I can’t help feeling that the same may be true of this generation, too.

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