new zealand electronic poetry centre


Mark Young

publications & biography

Publication of The Right Foot of the Giant (1999)

Mark Young bio note

Born Hokitika, 1941.

Earliest poetic influences were French, esp. the Surrealists & Apollinaire – I can’t remember how I stumbled over them, but do recall making painful translations & even more painful attempts at poems in French – followed by US poets of the fifties & sixties. Equally influenced by what was happening in other areas – the films of Kurosawa, Bergman & Truffaut, the prose of Genet, Burroughs & Kerouac, the music of Miles Davis, the sound of ‘Ray Charles blues shot blind on the phonograph.’ Have always been haunted by the images of René Magritte & Giorgio de Chirico. Might have become a musician; but first poem attempted – ‘Lizard’ – was printed in the NZ Listener, & ‘my destiny was shaped.’ Also, the instrument I played was double bass, & was becoming tired of carrying it everywhere. Published in most NZ journals during the sixties. Was awarded the Rothmans Poetry Book Prize of the year in 1969 for an unpublished manuscript later accepted for publication. Never came out due to internal turmoil at the publisher. The first part of this book contains most of those poems. Moved to Australia in late 1969. Wrote & published intermittently through to the early eighties. Fragments since then, but am now getting back into it. This book assuages my greatest regret, that I never had a collection of poetry published. This year will also see the removal of another unfulfilled desire: am in the final year of a Bachelor of Applied Science, majoring in Operations research.


Mark Young press release

It is forty years since Mark Young’s first poem, ‘Lizard,’ appeared in the NZ Listener. It is thirty years since his last publication in New Zealand, ‘Poem of a Morning on Another Planet,’ appeared in Love|Juice, a roneoed publication brought out by the short-lived Poets’ Co-operative.

In between there were the co-authorship of a ‘popular’ book on NZ painting, art reviews – until the newspaper he wrote for discovered that he was the same person they had just splashed all over the front page for a well-publicised drug bust – book reviews, inclusion in overseas anthologies alongside Leonard Cohen, Michael Ondaatje and Nobel prizewinners Wole Soyinka and Derek Walcott, publication in nearly all the local literary journals. He was awarded the inaugural Rothmans Book award for poetry in 1969, the year that he left New Zealand.

But history is unforgiving to poets who do not have a collection or a continuing public profile. Little magazines gather dust in libraries, public readings leave no legacy. And most historical anthologists do not like to have to dig too deeply. If poems are not accessible, then they are ignored; and since later anthologies are usually based on what has been anthologised before, then the poet is, over time, forgotten in any historical summation.

Mark Young was the major transitional poet to bring New Zealand poetry out of the narrow and stubborn search for a ‘local tradition’ that existed into the sixties and open it up not only to all the global changes in music and art and writing but also to the literary variety that the world had to offer. Some of his early work found its way into the journals of the local establishment, though usually several years after it was written, and this provided him with a reputation that enabled later poems to appear that might otherwise have remained invisible. However, much of his work from the latter part of the decade was only available through regular poetry readings.

The popular anthem of the time was ‘sex and drugs and rock ’n roll.’ Mark Young’s poetry touches on all these, sometimes in the same poem, but they are peripheral references in the main, part of the landscape in which he existed. It was, however, part of that landscape that overwhelmed him – he was too busy surviving in it to write about it. The phrase ‘powder corrupts’ appears in a fragment of an unpublished poem.

The Right Foot of the Giant brings together twenty years of poems. The first part of the book covers the years 1962 to 1968. The second part includes some earlier work such as ‘Lizard,’ but dates mainly from 1969 to 1979. Much of it is seeing print in New Zealand for the first time.

Bumper Books is proud to be publishing this volume, and so fill in a major gap in the history of New Zealand poetry.


© Mark Young

Last updated 21 March, 2004