new zealand electronic poetry centre




Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960-1975 Comment and Context

Ed. Alan Brunton, Murray Edmond, Michele Leggott.
Auckland UP, 2000




Charles Doyle, Victoria, BC, Canada

Letter to ML, 3 July 2000:

Received Big Smoke. Elated. Thanks to you, Alan, and Murray. Quite a feat, a lively viable anthology with barely a hint of the (then) establishment! Dipping in, have discovered many good things, notably the work of Hilaire Kirkland, just a name to me until now. How did she die so young? Also, hadn't realised what an interesting poet Mark Young is. And lots more – the notable influence of Charles Olson, gone Kiwi, and – though less so – Ginsberg and Creeley. I liked the parody of Baxter's Jerusalem, and much else. What, by the way, has happened to Brent Southgate?

Thanks for including me, I'm honoured. Thanks, too, for tracking me in your Bibliography. One little item I can add: In May 1965 a group of Auckland U students led by Julian Rosenberg staged a week-long sleep-out hunger demo against NZ Vietnam involvement. I joined them (for 24 hours!), the only AU lecturer to participate. Thanks to a burly veteran, the first time anyone ever spat in my face!

Before closing, let me say both introductions are excellent and, like the rest of the book, quite unlike anything preceding them, in their breadth of reference and anti-provincialism. This whole project shows me a New Zealand I didn't know I was leaving in 1968.


Brian Easton, Wellington

Letter to ML, 1 June 2001:

I promised to add a little to a story in the Big Smoke book. Alan Brunton may particularly like it.

Page 314 tells of Owen Gager reporting a CND marching song with the chorus 'Michael join the CND, Alleluia.'  It happened a long time ago, but my memory of its origin is this.

On the first day (Friday) of the second Easter march in 1962 we had gathered in Featherston and then marched over the Rimutaka Hill, stopping at the Kaitoke Hostel to overnight. Late that night we had gathered around in one of the darkish bunk rooms and were singing – someone had a guitar. The song 'Michael row the boat ashore', currently a pop song/folk song, came up. Someone suddenly oversang the rest of us with 'Rimutakas windy and cold, Alleluia / Chills the body not the soul, Alleluia,' at which point we all joined in, and added more verses. So there it was. A group of marchers singing after a long day. More verses were added over the next three days of the march.

I have a distinct memory of my inventing part of the new song. It was because it was the first time I had ever done anything so 'creative' in public and making people laugh as result, and this teenager got a warm glow which he has ever remembered.  (If it ever happens again, I'll let you know. I keep trying.) The actual part I recall myself inventing was revising the chorus to 'Michael join the CND, Alleluia.' But if anyone else recalls themselves inventing this bit, I will defer, as I can't really be sure.

For your interest I got out of the family album some photographs of the marches:


Marching up the Rimutaka Hill Road from Featherston. 
The banners were largely furled because of the wind.


At the top we were met by the Prime Minister, Keith Holyoake, who said he specifically went this way to his Pahiatua home that day to see us. (Looking back through the years, this is perhaps the most single extraordinary event of all the marches – that a prime minister should bother to take such a personal interest. KJH had a wonderful nose for public trends. I am sure he would not have been astonished when 20 odd years later New Zealand was declared nuclear free.)

That is more typical of the marching with the banners up.


On the Sunday we overnighted in a church hall in Lower Hutt. The local MP and still leader of the opposition, Walter Nash, came to visit and speak to us. He got a warmer welcome than KJH, but his attendance was not nearly as surprising.


After he had gone we sang in the Church Hall. Jim Delahunty with the guitar. One of the evident faces there is Con Bollinger (sitting up right of the three) who had marched at Aldermaston in the 1950s, and was one of the conduits by which the idea came to New Zealand. Next to him is dear Alex Stafford - who always seemed to be a march marshal. So you have an ex-CP (left honourably in 1956) and an active Quaker next to one another. Next to them (on the far left) is younger generation of Roger Young whose father had been incarcerated in a conscientious objection camp in World War II. That was what it was all about.




This is a picture of the 'On the Beach' CND Camp at Tahunanui Nelson, at New Year 1965. (This picture has been used in at least two books on the peace movement.) I must say that I get quite nostalgic looking at it. Some people I have kept in close contact with over the years, others have drifted away.

I was involved in 'On The Beach', but because I was not tenting did not appear in the picture. I don't recall all the people there, but the woman with the peace sign is Helen Sutch (who is the World Bank expert on anti-corruption). You may know of some of the others.

At 9.00 to Helen is Geoff Lane who was Chemistry at AU at one time. 11.00 is Richard Northey. 1.00 is Kevin Clements who runs a peace foundation in London. At 3.00 two across is Marie Locke - you know her as Leadbetter.


The 1966(?) Easter event (was that the one which included canvassing in Palmerston North?) gets to parliament. Marie Locke (now Leadbetter and an Auckland City or Regional Councillor) and her mother Elsie who has just died and lived such an inspiring life for so many of us – including those who marched with CND.


I comment in my book The Nationbuilders (due out at the end of the year) that had you asked whether there would have been a nuclear war or a nuclear-free New Zealand by 2000, most of the marchers would have plumped for the former. We always thought the Cuban Missile Crisis was not just a near run thing, but a warning of things to come.

John Esam,

Letter to CO, 22 July 2000:

I am not sure what the launch date is, or was, Christine, but did the tape arrive in time? Not that it could arrive out of time, metaphysically speaking . . . that would require an entirely different kind of postral service. Perhaps that is what birth is – we arrive just in time . . . And at the other end of the tape we run out of time. Anyway . . .


Letter to ML, 4 September 2000:

Yes, put the letter on the website – but perhaps delete the stray 'r' that has crept into 'postal'. (On the other hand, as accident is a technique the Gods often use to inform us here, not be too quick to assume it is either a mistake or ours: 'postral' brought up 'mistral' . . . So, a postal service for letters written on the wind? Wind-pneuma-spirit . . . Should we leave it in? For those who enjoy pneumatic bliss . . . Or – to have it both ways – take the 'r' out and leave this in?)

Website poems: the second poem on the tape is probably too long ('I am an old man walking round . . . '). But I have attached the other to this e-mail ('Old memories . . . '). I have also attached another piece from Orpheus/Eurydice 5 ('Matter is Change . . . ') in case there is room, and for the pleasure of it.

And – pleasure being reason enough – this haiku on the role of the poet from O:E 6:  

A scarecrow creaks
in the evening wind-


(from Orpheus:Eurydice, 5)

Old memories
Lie around in my throat;
Of the sea-night’s oceanic breathing
On my home’s beaches;
Of the sun in its noisy car
Gone across the sky;
Of the brown-grassed hills
Shaking off their summer thunder;
Of the light broken by the heat
Lying above the streets
Like a rich woman’s silk scarves;
Of space with its cosmic notes spilt
From hidden birds
Where people stand watching
The river horses of belief
Going senseless in the gorges
Of human experience;
Of a sound beneath an empty road
Become a human face appearing in
The column of time
Walking out through the ever-changing
Talking ribbon . . .  

Rain falling on the hill stones.
Someone I know sitting
Beneath the town clock’s tower
In the evening heat . . .
Mountains fade
With the coming of the wind,
The fire on the beach
Leaves a rim of faces.

(from Orpheus:Eurydice 5)

               Matter is Change,
The restless fulfilling of possibility
Whose order is
The marvellous rider, Being,
One with his horse of Chance.
Wait not for another guide then –
Go hang your restless seed
Upon the restless ocean.
Each person is a natural law,
A sheath in the world
For the Sword of Nothingness inscribed:
     ‘Take this and cut the puppet free.’  

Let go the strings that jerk
And never fear the laughing winds,
There is a heaviness in being
That will hold you here.
Life is weighted with itself,
No more yours to stop undressing
Than is the season leaves leave.
A great river stretches across
The universe
Where sun and worlds are whorls
Lasting a moment
As the water goes shallow
Over stones;
Wells walk in the street
Where seeing pours from Nothingness

Into space as each day's wave

Of universal things
And breaks like a flock of diving
Sweeping past your head.  

        Remember yourself
As an empty door the wind
Blows about in like a sleepy dog
                      in a yard;
Listen to the stones of seeing
Falling down your senses’ wells.
Consciousness comes as a growing
Like a man walking closer growing
In your shape.
He will arrive and walk on
Within your body
Shining slightly from the void
As he goes into the distance.
Leave yourself there to turn
And follow him.  


Martin Edmond, Sydney


Letter to ML, 27 Oct 2003:

Andrew Davie. I know, or at least, knew him. I used to work for a mag that went into schools, Affairs I think it was called. One of my gigs was to interview two young New Plymouth artists, last year of school or just out of school. These two kids duly appeared, and I talked to them and wrote it up. One was Andrew. Kind of skinny, freckly kid, lots of energy.

Anyway, not very long after, I got a phone call ... from Andrew. He'd won a competition on the radio and the prize was dinner with Bo Diddley. And he didn't have anyone to go with so he asked me if I wanted to. We had this bizarre dinner in the dining room of the Waterloo Hotel opposite the Wellington Railway Station with Bo and half a dozen others, who mostly just talked among themselves. Bo Diddley was very grand. It was all like, what did you think of Jimi Hendrix, Bo? 'Hendrix was cool.' And then you'd have to think of another question. He probably wished we were girls ... afterwards we went to the concert

Anyway, Andrew. He already knew at 18 that he wasn't going to stick around, he went to London, must have been not long after Sonic II. And I never heard another word about him. But, there he is.



Jennifer Levy Halford, London

Letter to ML, 9 February 1999:

When I got home last evening, I looked at the collection of items which would, I thought, include the two poems you mentioned; it – the collection – is called Fine Arts plus One (the ‘one’ being me as the only non-fine-art graduate), and was produced by a group of us at Auckland Post-Primary Teachers' Training College. Is this the same as the Review you mention? I also looked at some other things I've written over the years and was disturbed to see how little there was, really: they include some book reviews (Primo Levi, Fred Uhlman and Isaac Bashevis Singer) and a poem about the visit my older brother (now dead) made to the flat he lived in as a child in 1939 before emigrating to NZ. I will try to do something with it.

You ask if I go to NZ often. Until 1992, about every three or four years on average, when my children were little i.e. half-fare little. This last trip was the first since 1992 and was wonderful, not least because my husband who has never been there fell in love with the place and uttered more admiring superlatives per unit time than I've ever heard before.


Letter to ML, 24 February 1999:

You asked about Hilaire Kirkland. Yes, I did know her but have not come across the poetry collection you mention [8 Poems]. It might be possible, however, to trace it either through the Net by accessing small specialist publishing houses or by contacting poetry journals.


Letter to ML, 10 May 2000:

Yes, I did get the letter from Elizabeth Caffin along with the PS about our having attended the same primary school. As soon as I saw her maiden name, the cabinet door opened, as it were, and out trotted the little girl I remembered, hair in plaits and wearing school uniform . . . it's amazing how enduring such memories are.


Letter to AI, 26 June 2000:

The book arrived last Friday and looks VERY nice indeed: elegant, interesting and beautifully presented (even my children were impressed.


Rore Hapipi, Taupo

Letter to ML, 6 September 2000:

Enclosed is the pre-Orbell version of ‘The Raw Men.’ Or, anyway, one of them! As, looking through old manuscripts, I see I’d written several versions. However, they’re all, more or less, along the lines of the enclosed version. With an addition or omission, here and there. Or a slightly different way of saying the same thing.

On re-reading them, I’m wondering (with a somewhat deflated feeling) if Margaret Orbell edited the poem to improve it! tighten it up! Rather than for reasons of ‘expediency’ as I thought at the time. However she did say she had to ‘fight’ to get the poem past her bosses at Maori Affairs (she was editor of their magazine Te Ao Hou at the time). And you will see that there are some interesting verses she edited out. Screwing another man’s wife, for instance. Climbing out of hotel maids’ windows, etc. (Hell! I guess I was just writing the truth! Writing about what I knew a lot of these guys got up to, in civilian life. Before they became famous as the ‘Maori Battalion.’ Perhaps I was naïve. Innocent? I was a lot younger at the time I wrote the poem. And, naturally, more ‘idealistic’. Believe it or not, it was meant as a tribute. I’d been imbued with the feats of the Battalion as a youth. Friends – and myself – who had fathers, uncles, older brothers, who served with the Battalion. And I’d heard all these stories. And what I wanted to – or tried to – capture in the poem was a – vitality. A vibrancy – and was there ever! – out of which these men came. Even if a lot of it was misplaced, as we all agree, today. – And which they carried over, with them, into the theatre of war. And (understandably), made them the formidable men, the fearless soldiers they were. Of course, I see war very differently now. And would have very different things to say about it. A result of growing old? ‘I’m older & wiser than you, my son. I’ve seen things – ‘

No, I haven’t seen the copy of North and South but there’s a coffee bar in town that stocks it. I will go down & have a squizz over a cup of coffee, later.

From the vibes I’ve been getting from people, Big Smoke has certainly generated a lot of excitement. I only hope they’re buying! It’s okay by me if you put ‘The Raw Men’ on the Internet.

It was a great time had by all at the launch, I reckon. Lots of vibrancy there. Certainly a change (of pace) for me, who lives a semi-reclusive existence, here in Taupo. My partner insisted I attend & get out in the big (bad?) wide world again. And, if nothing else, let people know I’m still with the living. And it was good to see ‘The Raw Men’ resurrected (resuscitated?), have new life breathed into it again after all these years. It’s not exactly 400 years. But 40 years isn’t bad. Some poems sink without trace, almost immediately they’re published, after all.



(For the Maori Battalion.)

‘ . . . From where did they come then, these men'? This fine unit that acquitted itself fourfold; the Maori Battalion. I was under the impression, from all reports, that anything fine in the Maori had died with the advent of the Whiteman . . . ‘ Statement by an Englishman newly arrived in the country.

This is where they came from, the Raw Men.
. . . And from the raw men they came.
The dark men, the squat men,
the slope-shouldered, solid-built men,
neat in khaki.  

This is where they came from, the brown men,
the dark-lipped, thick black-haired raw men,
born for the uniform.  

Praised in the deserts of Tobruk,
hailed in the heats of Mersa Matruh,
gloried in Greece.
We salute you, sons of New Zealand, Maori Battalion.
‘Kia ora koutou. Kia ora nga tamariki o Aotearoa’.  

Yes, this is where they came from, the Raw Men,
the fearless marauders of the Middle East,
the ‘hard-doers’ with hearts of lions.
collecting medals like stones on Hill 209 Tebaga Gap, Tunisia.  

From the pubs they came, drunk on a Saturday afternoon,
and the neighbour's house afterwards,
staggering, stumbling, stone-tripping homewards
through the half-light of dawn.  

Yes, this is where they came from, the Raw Men.
From the crude-hewn, back-block, saw-screaming,
sweat-sapping timber mills, they came
trudging to work in the early mornings,
their breaths rising in mists with the cold.

From the bush covered hill-slopes, they came,
plodding homewards down the snigging track
with axe slung on shoulder. Only the step is quicker
now. Not the 'Government Walk' of the morning,
going to work. And then the voice in the evening,
loud & clear, carried on the throbbing air, now that
the mill is silent and the darkness is falling. ‘Come
round to my hut after e hoa Tai. There's still
a couple of bottles left from last night.
We’ll clean them up’.  

Yes, this is where they came from, the men in khaki,
Tigers of Tunisia, cursing in the rains of Cairo,
singing in the heats of Helwan . . . With a rifle
in one hand and a guitar in the other. That's us!
. . . And a song ever ready on the tongue. That's us!
. . . Play hard and fight hard. That's us!
. . . ‘Real 'hard-doers' those boys’, they say,
‘But I’m glad I'm on their side. Good fighters’. That's us!
The guitars and the song. The work in the mornings
plagued by the dry horrors. That's us! ‘Poor old Rangi’s
got the shakes. Ha! Ha! Where you been last night e hoa?’
That's us! The ‘No thanks, I don't drink. Just
pour it all over me, I like the smell of it’,
Ha! Ha! That’s us!  

Yes, this is where they came from, those men.
From the street fights, the bar fights, the party fights.
From sleeping with another man's wife.
From the hotel maid's room in the morning, climbing
out the window and whistling down the street,
happy and full contented, home-bound, to fall
into a deep, dreamless sleep.
But always there is the laughter,
the white teeth flashing against the thick dark lips,
The grating spit-bubbling, carefree laughter.
The conversation, coarse and harsh.  

Yes, this is where they came from, the Maori Battalion.
From the timber mill villages. deep-bushed.
From the back-block settlements fringing isolated roads
that make passers-by ask, ‘Don't you get lonely here?’
And chilblain-footed children with bare feet
walking to school on icy roads on frosty winter mornings.  

From the shearing sheds they came. The Freezing Works.
The Wool Stores. The Power Board. The bush felling.
The scrub cutting. The post splitting. Truck driving.
Bully driving. Cow spanking. Cattle mustering.
The City Council, bare-torsoed with pick and shovel
and jack-hammer, breaking up the tar-sealed pavement.
‘Gee! there was some beaut sheilas went past today’.  

From the Hydro Works they came. The Construction Sites.
The coal mines. Naked muscles straining, pride
in pitting physical strength against work.
Sweat and dirt intermingled. The Public Works Department,
with the children standing on the roadside, laughing
and teasing, repeating what they heard their parents say
‘P.W.D. . . . Poor Working Devils!’ as the truck
passed them along the road.  

Yes, this is where they came from, those men.
Knights of the Middle East.
From the prisons and the borstals they came.
From country school teaching and offices
in a Government Department. In a city office. The Welfare Dept.
Maori Affairs. From lonely coastal farms, with the
sound of the surf ever lapping. From sulking, slouching,
lost and lonely, sullen in the alien city.
Open-neck shirted wharfies. Wild in a dance,
noisy in the films. Cigarette drooping-mouthed,
fish and chips eating from newspaper wrappings.
Billiard room haunting. Hanging about.
Drunk on the street, annoying the passers-by.
But always there are the exceptions. The quiet ones.
The earnest ones. The deep-thinking, serious ones.
As it is with everything there are the exceptions.  

Yes, this is where they came from, the Raw Men.
From singing in a bar led by a rich baritone voice,
‘ . . . Tomo mai e tama ma, ki roto, ki roto . . . ‘
All around they are singing. Everywhere there are mouths
opening and closing. Feet placed firmly apart,
heads thrown back, eyes opening and shutting, enraptured
in the singing. Always there is the singing.
At the parties back home there was the singing.
In the deserts of Egypt there was the singing.
On the battlefields of Libya there was the singing.
In the streets of Rome there was the singing.
Going to the war and returning, there was the singing.
Always there is the song and the guitars.
Above it, beneath it, right through it all,
there is the singing and the dancing and the laughing.  

Rowley Habib


Roger Horrocks,

Letter to ML, 7 February 2000:

When I returned to Auckland and started teaching in 1967, I think Charles Doyle had left. I certainly had no connection with him in terms of American poetry. He was a good poet, very aware of contemporary poetry, but I don't remember him bringing that into his teaching in 1962. I started up the American Poetry paper as a new paper, and was (to my knowledge) the first in the Department to teach a course on contemporary poetry. (Allen Curnow had taught some Wallace Stevens as part of a poetry course some years earlier. Kendrick Smithyman was also very aware of contemporary American poetry, but I don't remember him ever teaching it.) The American Poetry course was really motivated by what I had learned in the United States, 1964-66. I was very lucky to start it when I did because I caught the Freed generation of Wedde and Brunton, and then in the early 70s there was another burst (Murray Edmond?). I taught it alone for 3 (I think) years, then Wystan returned from the USA and joined me in teaching it. The dates for when people taught would be in University Calendars in the Library. Wystan started in 1970.

In terms of what I taught – it would start with the earliest American poetry (Anne Bradstreet) and go to Olson (I showed the 1965 film of Olson), via Pound and Williams. A lot to cover, but it was a survey! I was fairly catholic in my taste (Lowell as well as Ginsberg).



Last updated 02 April, 2004