new zealand electronic poetry centre


Alan Brunton



Alan Brunton: Answers to Michael O'Leary's Questionnaire on Small Publishers in New Zealand

Originally published in brief #28 (Spring 2003)
[included in Michael O'Leary, Alternative Small Press Publishing in New Zealand (Original Books, 2002)].


1 - What was your initial reason for getting involved in publishing? Please try to think of this in the spirit of what you were thinking and doing at the time.

To control the means of production, to exorcise the demon of editorial censure, to prolong the infantile dream of liberty . . .
Inspired by stories of Baudelaire sleeping beneath the printer's press, as his magic incantations were reduced to ink and paper.

2 - Who or what was your main influence behind your decision to publish? These may include literary or non-literary influences.

The example of rock and roll artists controlling their own labels, e.g.
The Beatles with Apple;
Lewis and Pound with BLAST;
Ferlinghetti with City Lights Books;
Jean Luc Godard and The Nouvelle Vogue movie scene coming out of France;
1968 graffiti during the "Days of Rage".

3 - In your choice of authors was the main consideration for inclusion philosophical, literary or pragmatic?

When Red Mole started to publish (books, magazines, records) it was to begin an across the board media empire! We published the first self-produced long-play record (Crossing the Tracks); e.p. (Mr. Asia); magazine (Spleen) and programmes for performance that contained theory and individual creative efforts, e.g. Oh Ravachol (1978).

4 - "...and if there is still a number of commissioned works which seem to have been dreamed up by a sabotaging office-boy on an LSD trip, there are now each year a growing quantity of books which worthily add to our literature." Professor J.C. Reid from an article introducing New Zealand Books in Print, written in 1968. I interpret Reid's assessment as an indication of the rift between the acceptable 'worthy' literature as endorsed by academia, and the new wave of sabotaging office boys and girls who at that time commissioned publishers to put out their works, or simply published things themselves, and in many cases the work of their friends. Comment on this quote in relation to the 'Vanity Press' vs 'Real Publishing' debate.

All publishing in New Zealand is 'Vanity Press'; all publishers run to Creative NZ; all publishing is personality-based and supported by appeal to a schismatic market. Books that do not support New Zealand's concept of nationalism are not published by 'real publishers'

5 - Initially, was your focus outwardly cosmopolitan or inwardly New Zealand looking, and how has this emphasis changed over the years?

Always cosmopolitan - desperately looking beyond the narrow confines of a provincial and Anabaptist society; it remains so, but with ironical references!

6 - What were your methods of printing and distribution as a publisher? Did you receive any financial or other assistance from either public organisations, or private sponsorship?

All publications are self-financed - although the old Arts Council did grant $40 to print Spleen once (1976). Distribution is by catalogue & word of mouth; Bumper Books does not market. Our freedom lies in the fact that the market comes to us. All the same, we are open to individual donation - we appeal to guilt among the overly-rewarded.

7 - How much of your publishing was commissioned and paid for (either fully or partially) by the author? Was your operation helped by the voluntary work of friends and family?

All publishing is volunteer - it's the last area of amateurism in our society.

8 - What has been the cost to you personally in terms of time, money and resources, of being involved in publishing in New Zealand? You may consider this in relation to more difficult areas such as relationships with friends, family etc. also.

One does not count the cost - two might; that's why one must work alone.

9 - Where do you place yourself and your achievements as a publisher (and as a writer if applicable) in the history of the modern-day New Zealand literary scene? Do you feel that your contribution has been adequately acknowledged.

New Zealand does not have a literary scene; it has a 'writer's scene' which is different. All work is for the future . . .


A.B. Wellington, 2000.

Last updated 17 October, 2003