new zealand electronic poetry centre

Iain Lonie

 Capital of the minimal  

Iain Lonie (1932-1988) was an authority on ancient medicine and lectured at Otago University. He was also a master of the stately conversational poem in the tradition of Coleridge. While the importance of his diverse models (from Eugenio Montale to Peter Porter) is clear, Lonie’s is a discrete and discreet career in New Zealand letters. He is the invisible man; such works as were published in his lifetime are out of print (although the posthumous Winter Walk at Morning is still available from VUP) and no Collected Poems is proposed.  One can only wonder at his demeanour when, for instance, Hone Tuwhare’s technically infantile poetry was lauded over his own; presumably he poured himself a drink, then read the Greek that many mistook his work for. Still, as Lonie suggested in Tonight,

                It takes years of rain
to wash away an image from the mind:
slowly it forms again, as in the tales

which men invent of shadows no one casts
or stains that will not go away.

Anthony Ritchie, the composer most aware of local literature, deftly set Collection Day and My Toaster Tells the Time in his Opus 76, Five Dunedin Songs (1996). Earlier Charles Brasch, that benevolent patriarch of Dunedin letters, addressed Lonie:

I lose you among words and rhythms, lose
The man and find the poet more than man,
Groundswell of voices speaking in your one
Voice, though you did not hear them till they chose
You instrument and charged you hotly with
Their passions and obediences; you are theirs
Hardly your own; you serve their wars,
Suffer their knowing, recreate them from death.
[Born and Made]


  • Recreations (Wai-te-ata Press, 1967)
  • Letters From Ephesus (The Bibliography Room, University of Otago, 1970)
  • The Hippocratic Treatises: a commentary (Walter de Gruyter Inc., 1981)
  • Courting Death (Wai-te-ata Press, 1984)
  • The Entrance To Purgatory (McIndoe, 1986)
  • Winter Walk at Morning (VUP, 1991)


The editor gratefully acknowledges the Estate of Iain Lonie, his literary executor Bridie Lonie, and the original publishers for making this work available to Capital of the Minimal. All texts are copyright and may not be used without written permission.

© The Estate of Iain Lonie 2004


Last updated 12 July, 2004