new zealand electronic poetry centre


Mark Young


Comments on a Questionnaire

Kiwi 66, ed. Ian Wedde (Auckland: AUSA, 1966): 14, 16.


Six New Zealand poets were asked for written comments on an extract from Allen Tate’s book, The New Provincialism. The extract was the real point of departure; the questions following it, although direct, were intended more to delineate as much as possible the area of discussion.

The whole thing is an attempt to bring into direct confrontation the views of those poets on the long-standing question of regionalism in New Zealand poetry.

Regionalism is that consciousness or that habit of men in a given locality which influences them to certain patterns of thought and conduct handed to them by their ancestors. Regionalism is thus limited in space but not in time.

The provincial attitude is limited in time but not in space. When the regional man, in his ignorance, often an intensive and creative ignorance of the world, extends his own immediate necessities into the world, and assumes that the present moment is unique, he becomes the provincial man. He cuts himself off from the past, and, without benefit of the fund of traditional wisdom, approaches the simplest problems of life as if nobody had ever heard of them before. Society without arts, said Plato, lives by chance. Tne provincial man, locked in the present, lives by chance.

1 Where do you see Mason, Fairburn and Curnow in terms of this statement?

2 Would you describe New Zealand verse now as either essentially regional or provincial?

3 In terms of your answer to the previous question, do you think this trend is toward greater vitality or accomplishment?

4 Where do you see yourself as standing in relation to the two viewpoints?

5 Are these alternatives – the regional or provincial – relevant criteria in an appraisal of New Zealand verse, or is there some other issue that seems to you much greater in import?


Mark Young

I start by saying that I read poetry out of a DESIRE to read poetry and do not at the time of reading or later care or consider whether the poet is regional, provincial, an onanist or whatever.

My main concerns with other people's poetry are: how close to my heart is it? how does it sound? and these, of course, are not academic criteria.

New Zealand poetry, to me, is a desert with few oases. There are poems written here that move me, but these come from only a few people and I can find no poet here who moves me continually as, say, I am moved by Han-Shan, LeRoi Jones or Carlos Williams.

Also, I have no interest in whatever literary squabblings or placings go on here. I am an anarchist when it comes to the dried goose turd of politics in art – I would throw shit at everybody.

I leave it to others to determine the traits, trends and schools of poetry, for it holds no interest for me. If it did, I would do it professionally.



Last updated 07 March, 2004