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   n z e p c
Murray Edmond   

All Together Now: A Digital Bridge for Auckland and Sydney             




the very memory of each or most
of our meetings spins my head like a
slipped coin  fool's gold caught from
                        the air
tossed between strangers always on the verge
of intimacy     of really meeting this once
                        at last
I'll bide our times together in dream
of now and here waking again together

(Bruce Beaver, ‘Anima,’ Anima and Other Poems [U of Queensland P, 1994] p. 97)

The dedication for Beaver’s Anima and other poems reads: ‘To Aotearoa.’ Has any New Zealand poet ever dedicated a book ‘To Australia’? ‘Anima’ is a long 13 part poem, which particularly evokes Auckland, its physical, psychic and social landscapes from the later 1950s and early 1960s. The passage quoted above is from Part XIII of ‘Anima’ which begins:

We lived on the Quadrant behind Government House
in what had been a doctor’s dispensary,
one room with huge windows looking out
on harbour views and the ubiquitous cranes
over a run-wild garden full of feral
cats who used to climb and fight in trees,
falling shrieking to the earth as some
unused footage in a Tarzan film. (p 95)

Reading this poem I experienced the pleasure of being looked at by some admiring stranger and having pointed up such exciting urban under-life as one didn’t know was going on in one’s own town. More than half a century later, one of the few remaining buildings from that time still standing on The Quadrant is Newman Hall, once a hostel for Roman Catholic students, and still a Catholic Centre. The undergrowth behind Newman Hall has long been cleared to make a pathway down to the University of Auckland Law School. But in The Qudrant’s run-wild days, James K. Baxter used to pad into Newman Hall on his bare calloused feet, moving through the city like the tomcat of his eponymous poem, ‘through fences, walls’ with his ‘badges / of bouts and fights.’

In another book, Headlands: prose sketches (U of Queensland, 1986), Beaver imports poetic cruiser and flaneur of love and death, Frank O’Hara, to the sands of Karioitahi:

. . . here and now the spasmodic crowd of surfers and sunbathers are largely European tinted, even the part Maori. Most are tall and well-proportioned, the lifesavers like giant Aryans with calves like vases. We have to watch out for motor bikes and beach buggies. Frank O’Hara looks down and laughs. (p.54)

Beaver, in his 1969 volume Letters to Live Poets, was the first of the older generation (well, he was 41 at the time) of Australian poets to acknowledge O’Hara who came to have such an influence on a number of young Australian poets who were beginning their adventures in 1969. I’d like to thank Bruce for looking at Auckland with such affection and for bringing Frank to Aotearoa on a ghostly but pleasurable visit.




©Murray Edmond