The Oceanic Feeling (2021)

Cover image: Katharina Jaeger (by courtesy of the artist) /
Cover design: William Bardebes (2020)

The Oceanic Feeling. Drawings by Katharina Jaeger. Afterword by Bronwyn Lloyd. ISBN 978-0-473-55801-7. Auckland: Salt & Greyboy Press, 2021. 72 pp.


  1. The Oceanic Feeling (7/1-18/10/17)

  2. Family Plot

  3. Lone pine (14/1-5/12/14)
  4. Family plot (26/6-12/8/15)
  5. When you’re the only one (30/9-19/11/17)
  6. Oh br/other! (6/1/16-13/7/17)
  7. This morning Sylvie (16/1/16-7/5/17)
  8. Zero is lying down today (18/1/16-22/10/17)
  9. What to do till the sentinels come (11-23/4/18)
  10. Rituals (9/1/16-7/5/17)
  11. My Uncle Tommy (15-23/4/18)
  12. 1942 (17/9-4/12/16)
  13. Very superstitious (4/1-21/8/16)
  14. Playing the long game (29/1-29/10/16)
  15. Are Kiwi women (30/1-29/10/16)
  16. Rather a shock (15/1/16-7/5/17)
  17. Family skeletons (10/1/16-7/5/17)
  18. Self-analysis (11/1/16-7/5/17)
  19. Checking into Facebook (31/1-5/12/16)
  20. A borrowed life (30/9-2/10/17)
  21. Psych 101 (7/1/16-4/1/17)
  22. What do you want? (8/9-13/10/18)

  23. Ice Road Trucker

  24. Ice Road Trucker (7/2-30/3/15)
  25. Two Fords (17/7-12/8/15)
  26. Stranded Polar Bear (21/11-14/12/19)
  27. Indexing Poetry NZ (5/1-29/8/16)
  28. Turning at the doorstep (21/1/16-19/10/17)
  29. The perils of public art (8/1/16-7/5/17)
  30. Communications committee (14/1-4/12/16)
  31. Oral exam, 1990 (1/1-21/8/16)
  32. Everything ages too fast (27/1/16-7/5/17)
  33. Restructuring (20/2-12/3/20)
  34. Kissing the Blarney Stone (23/4-29/8/16)
  35. Skins, 1981 (22/2-14/4/19)
  36. Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef (17-19/11/17)
  37. Mark (21/6-12/8/15)
  38. Reindeer games (27/12/17)
  39. The Mysterious Island (18-26/4/15)
  40. Antigone (29/5/14; 18/4-13/6/15)
  41. Shorts:
    • Birds of Passage (12/11/14-7/2/15)
    • Auckland Anthem (30/3-15/4/12)
    • Hunting in Palmerston (after Su Shi) (6/9-17/10/13)

  42. Translations

  43. On Early Trains (after Boris Pasternak) (26/1-7/2/15)
  44. Bangalore 2002 (after Boris Pasternak) (30/12/14-7/2/15)
  45. 1913 (after Apollinaire) (21/6-12/8/15)


Jack Ross’s latest collection combines poems about ‘families – and how to survive them’ (in John Cleese’s phrase) with darkly humorous reflections on Academia and various other aspects of modern life. It concludes with some translations from Boris Pasternak and Guillaume Apollinaire.

The book also includes a suite of drawings by Swiss-New Zealand Artist Katharina Jaeger, ably explicated in an Afterword by Art Writer Bronwyn Lloyd.

'… picture yourself on a Gold Coast beach, the wind idly leafing through the pages of a much-annotated copy of Benjamin’s Arcades Project on your lap; as ‘Baudelaire’ flashes by in your peripheral vision, you disinterestedly observe a sleek conferential shark feeding – though far from frenziedly – on a smorgasbord of swimmers, whose names end with unstressed vowels and whose togs are at least a size too small. The water is the colour of an $8 bottle of rosé. I find reading Ross – to borrow his victims’ parlance – kind of like that.'

- Robert McLean, Landfall Review Online

Born in Zurich in 1964, Katharina Jaeger studied art at Kunstgewerbeschule Zurich before emigrating to New Zealand in 1986. She has a Bachelor of Design from Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (now Ara Institute of Canterbury), where she currently teaches in the Visual Arts Programme. Katharina has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally for over two decades. She was a finalist for the Parkin Drawing Prize in 2017 and her most recent solo exhibition, Billow, was held at PG Gallery 192 in September 2019.

Bronwyn Lloyd is a freelance art writer and textile artist who lives in Mairangi Bay. She completed a PhD on Rita Angus’s Goddess paintings at the University of Auckland in 2010. Since 1999 Bronwyn has been publishing articles and catalogue essays on New Zealand painting, applied art and design, as well as fiction: her first book of short stories, The Second Location, was published in 2011 by Titus Books. Her series of needlepoint amulets, Under the Protection, was exhibited at Masterworks Gallery in November 2020.

Jack Ross has published five poetry collections, three novels, three novellas, and three books of short fiction, most recently Ghost Stories (2019). He was managing editor of Poetry New Zealand from 2014-2019, and has edited numerous other books, anthologies, and literary journals. He lives in Mairangi Bay on Auckland’s North Shore and teaches creative writing at Massey University. You can find further information on his blog, The Imaginary Museum, at

Sources & Acknowledgments:

Warmest thanks to publishers (and designers) William Bardebes and Emma Smith, of Salt & Greyboy Press.

I’d also like to thank Katharina Jaeger for her generosity in allowing me to use some of the beautiful ink on paper drawings from her ‘Prunings’ sequence. Also Tony Bond for his fine photographs of these images.

I remain very much in debt to Bronwyn Lloyd, Thérèse Lloyd, Tracey Slaughter, and Michael Steven for valuable editorial advice, and Bronwyn in particular for her insightful afterword to the collection.

Many of the pieces included here have been previously published, some in different forms. Thanks again to the editors and publishers of all those anthologies, websites and journals for permission to reproduce them here. For further details, please visit

Crissi Blair: Salt & Greyboy Press (2019)


In a 1927 letter to Sigmund Freud, French writer Romain Rolland coined the term "the oceanic feeling" as a way of referring to that "sensation of ‘eternity’," of "being one with the external world as a whole," which underlies all religious belief (but does not necessarily depend on it). In his reply, Freud described this as a simple characterisation of the feeling an infant has before it learns there are any other people in the world.

Those of us living in the midst of the world's largest ocean, the mighty Pacific, may have our own understanding of this 'Oceanic feeling.' At any rate, those are some of the ideas underlying this, my sixth full-length poetry collection.

Many of the 44 poems included have been published previously in periodicals or online (a complete list of these is available here). The book also features reproductions of ten ink-on-paper drawings - titled collectively 'Prunings' - by Swiss/NZ artist Katharina Jaeger, together with an Afterword by Art Writer Bronwyn Lloyd.

The poems are grouped in two sections. The first, 'Family Plot', discusses some of the stresses and strains associated with my - I suspect fairly typical - family history. Dementia, filial discord, madness, suicide ... need I say more?

The second, 'Ice Road Trucker', named after a North American Reality TV show, examines the compromises and vexations of contemporary life, in and out of the Academy. Again, I hope these themes and events are sufficiently representative to strike a chord with readers.

The book concludes with some versions of poems by Russian poet Boris Pasternak and French-Romanian poet Guillaume Apollinaire.


Salt & Greyboy Press

RRP: $NZ 20.00 (+ postage)

William Bardebes: 'Printing' (8/2/21)

Reviews & Comments:

  1. Tracey Slaughter, Launch speech for The Oceanic Feeling (March 11, 2021):

    It is one of the miracles of poetry that a scant handful of words arranged on a page can build around us a cathedral, the spatial ache and echo of unsayable feelings somehow cast aloft from a thin imprint of sounds.

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