new zealand electronic poetry centre


Alan Brunton


A Letter for Project Bumper Books

Bill Manhire


I have the odd distinction of being Alan’s first publisher. Kevin Cunningham and I started the Amphedesma Press in London in the early 70s. Alan’s Messengers in Blackface was our second title, if title isn’t too grand a word for a chapbook of five remarkable poems printed across sixteen unnumbered pages.

I was always in awe of Alan. When I first met him I was a boy from Dunedin, and he lived in Auckland at the centre of excitements such as Freed. But the true and wonderful thing is that he always lived on a different map of the world from most of the rest of us. When he sent me a biographical note earlier this year for the online anthology Best New Zealand Poems, after teasing me gently about the length of my permissions letter, he concluded with the sentence: ‘Has recently appeared at international festivals in Colombia (2000), Denmark (2001) and Norway (2002) but not yet in his own country.’ I like the tone of voice that surrounds the simple fact – the genial raising of an eyebrow rather than a querulous complaint. For someone whose life as a writer and performer had such fixed purpose and sheer imaginative reach – in particular a commitment to the political dimensions of the word that give him kinship with poets like Blake and Shelley – he was entirely unpretentious. No false modesty, but none of the strut of self-importance: Alan just got on with it.

At the moment it’s his range as a writer which I find most astonishing: the fact that alongside his work as a poet and performer he could produce the remarkable guest-issue of Landfall 180, Hamilton Hometown, or that he could foster and father the whole variety of books that have appeared under the Bumper Books imprint.

It’s inspiring to know that with the right support the extraordinary energy and wisdom which Alan brought to Bumper Books will continue – as a gift to other writers as well as to readers – and that a key part of the project is to go on publishing Alan’s work. As he himself said over 30 years ago: ‘Let the words generate themselves and make of me what they will.’



October 2002


Last updated 27 November, 2002