new zealand electronic poetry centre

k a   m a t e   k a   o r a  

a new zealand journal of poetry and poetics
issue 12,  march 2013


Dougal McNeill

Small journals occupy a curious status and function within our literary-historical memories.[1] Scholarship has, for the most part, until recently at least, felt more comfortable amongst the bound solidity of the book and the Collected Works, the ephemeral always having about it too much of the street and the side-view. Magazines and journals are, though, for us as readers, caught up much more intimately in the rhythms and organisation of a reading life, the sense of discovery, anticipation and involvement that comes with subscribing to, and receiving, particular publications helping to build, and sustain, communities of readers, if not always also writerly coteries. This has been one of the great losses for a certain literary snobbery, or, if you will, programmatic attention, in the era of the e-reader; a surreptitious glance at a shelf or coffee table no longer reveals quite as many of our hosts’ ideological and literary affiliations.

Dispute has, for New Zealand literary history, been lost in this in-between status, and now occupies its status in the archives almost wholly forgotten. Ambitiously polemical, scornfully high-cultural, politically radical, simultaneously internationalist and concerned with the components of the national culture, for nineteen issues through the mid-1960s Dispute formed a distinct, and important, part of the New Zealand literary and intellectual landscape. There is no record of this in the official histories, though: it passes unmentioned in the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature; is absent from scholarly articles studying little magazines and their impact; and, perhaps more surprisingly, is not represented in Big Smoke, that important reclamation of marginal periodical history.[2]

This lack of scholarly attention is, in one sense, wholly understandable. Presented as a political journal, and caught up with the fortunes and aims of New Zealand’s marginal, fragmented far left, Dispute fits few of the criteria that would have drawn it into the spheres of disciplinary attention. Its absence is a genuine loss, though, and one which has unbalanced our critical sense of the development and advance of a particular history and allegiance. Not only did Dispute publish all sorts of material of interest to the literary historian – early interventions from to-be prominent intellectuals and writers Wystan Curnow, Roger Horrocks, and Peter Simpson, as well as an uncollected poem from James K Baxter – its life as a journal complicates some critical narratives. Dispute, a product of the mid-1960s, was neither ‘Wellington’ nor ‘Auckland’, to use the inadequate labels of an earlier critical controversy; too early for 1968, it anticipates Freed in its ebullient blend of the internationalist and the local, and, in the very audacity of its self-declared ambitions to produce ‘fit readers,’ anticipates the avant-garde works of the 1970s and beyond. Murray Edmond is right that ‘the magazines and small presses of the day [the 1960s] show more of the picture as it happened’: drawing Dispute back into our histories shows more of the picture still.[3]

My aims in these notes are archaeological and cartographic. Archaeology: the material I quote and draw on here, sitting for the most part untouched and unread in library stacks or boxed up in attics, deserves the attention of a new audience. Cartography: reading Dispute, I suspect, may prompt us to produce new maps for an old period. It represents part of the ongoing project to ‘create a robust intellectual tradition’ here through the ‘notable literary genre’ of literary critique (the terms are James Smithies’)[4] and I read it here not so much for its individual articles or for material to be ‘extracted’ into the permanence of another literary form, but as a literary event in itself, as a journal of poetics. This horizontal model is suggested, appropriately enough, by one of the most exciting, and ephemeral, of Dispute’s unacknowledged descendants:

In general, this vertical model – depending on various solo encounters with some kind of a-historical, timeless, reality – can be replaced with concepts that proceed horizontally. (And finds its entry here.) This is to begin to notice cultural and historical (extrinsic and de-centred) factors in writing…the horizontal approach to literature ripples out.[5]

Freed and AND both have their place in our literary history. They are both unthinkable, I want to suggest here, without the preliminary work of Dispute.

Origins: Bearded nuts and glorified students

Peter Simpson remembers Christchurch in the 1960s as ‘rather moribund in the arts compared to how it had been in earlier decades,’ and it is in conflict with the particular staid and moribund complacency of the local political left that Dispute emerged.[6] Owen Gager and Michael Hudson, a History MA student and young, heterodox lecturer in the Economics Department at the University of Canterbury, were frustrated with the intellectual conservatism and pro-Soviet politics of the figures around the New Zealand Monthly Review. Gager, part of the youth radicalisation around the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, had submitted articles to the NZ Monthly Review critical of Soviet nuclear policy and then found them rejected for their antagonistic tone.[7] Excited by intellectual trends in periodicals overseas, and bored – and politically out of favour – with the aesthetic respectability and pro-Soviet political orthodoxies of Christchurch’s official left, a grouping emerged looking for opportunities for expression. Hudson, Gager and their supporters first attempted, rather cheekily, to take over control of the Monthly Review at its Annual General Meeting; when this failed they walked out and formed Dispute. The Christchurch Star reported its formation and carried a long quote from Gager:

In place of the policy of Monthly Review in according a consistent and uncritical adulation of the foreign policy of the Communist bloc countries, we will endeavour to judge the governments of other countries by the same standards as we will judge the government of New Zealand.

Although Dispute will be primarily a political journal, it will include articles on the arts and genuinely controversial issues of sociological and general interest.

As far as political commitments go, it will give critical support to the New Zealand Labour Party.[8]

The stated desire for ‘genuinely controversial issues’ gives some sense of the tone Dispute sought to set, and, for the next four years, it appeared listed as a ‘bi-monthly of politics and the arts.’ Anticipating the shock-tactics and theatrical literary politics of 1968, Gager and Hudson’s intervention into the NZMR had aimed to unsettle. In this they were successful: the next issue referred to Dispute’s supporters as a ‘squad of perennial undergraduates, bearded nuts and glorified students.’[9]


Owen Gager

If literary journals, in their very form, produce polyphony and fragmentation, they at the same time can come to be associated with a particular personality and the associations of a particular sensibility with a proper name: Eliot and The Criterion; Pound and The Egoist; Leavis and Scrutiny; Brasch and Landfall. So it was with Dispute. The journal was, in Keith Locke’s phrase, ‘very much Owen Gager’s creation.’ Gager, whose circle, Locke remembers, ‘included leading cultural intellectuals from his time in Christchurch and Auckland’[10] was the figure who drove the journal’s ambitions and intellectual outlook.

Gager is one the great, uncelebrated figures of New Zealand intellectual and political radicalism. For Peter Simpson ‘he was certainly an unforgettable presence on the scene in Christchurch in the mid-sixties,’[11] and everyone I have contacted for research on Dispute has vivid memories of him. A voracious reader, prolific writer and intensely cultured and politically-involved personality, Gager was an inspirational and highly divisive figure. Wystan Curnow’s memories capture the typical combination of local networks and wider ambitions that characterised the Dispute circles:

I’d known him [Gager] since Form 2 at Intermediate School…I was hugely impressed by him and my recollection is that he was reading Marx even then. Certainly he was ‘an intellectual’ to me and I retained a soft spot for him from that day forward.[12]

Around the Communist Party at Auckland University in 1956, and then quickly disgusted by the Soviet invasion of Hungary, Gager pursued a range of political and aesthetic interests. His intellectual development, though, was largely outside official institutions and the career structures of the university, and this may explain why, apart from passing references in Andrew Sharp’s writings on Bruce Jesson, he has gone largely unacknowledged: Gager, described in a Metro article from 1987 by a senior Labour politician as ‘one of the most intelligent men I have ever met, and the ultimate anarchist,’ moved from Dispute to far-left politics in New Zealand, and, later, Sydney and Melbourne, and now lives as an anarchist and itinerant bookseller in Australia.[13] Biographical accidents contribute to the journal’s surprising obscurity; two of the figures associated with it who may have played a role in referring to its impact in later debates, Owen Gager and Tim Curnow, have now spent most of their  lives outside of New Zealand. Gager’s personality and Dispute’s prose style fused. When Bill Logan, for an important period a close collaborator with Gager, described him as a ‘brilliant, articulate, widely-read man of broad interests’ and ‘difficult, prickly and socially awkward,’ he could well have been describing the journal as a whole.[14]

Genuinely controversial issues

Dispute marked itself as a radical break; part of its interest as a journal of poetics lies in its quite conscious use of style as a political category. The first issue gave half of its cover over to a poem – the distance here from the serious and orderly covers of most left-wing magazines of the time is clear. Whatever the merits of the poem as poetry, its prominence in the journal’s formal organisation shows a quite different sense of the significance of poetics and artistic expression to the supplementary, marginal positioning of poems in other left-wing journals such as the Monthly Review during the same period.

Dispute, September 1964

Gager had been part of the ‘youthful New Left element within the CND’[15] and drew on this aesthetic in Dispute. It is hard, from this distance, to realise which gestures were the most confrontational, and Rosie Scott’s recent memoir gives some sense of the cultural world the journal worked against:

We were all obsessed about looking respectable to persuade the masses to our cause, and were pretty unhappy about poor Owen Gager wearing a duffel coast on our first Ban the Bomb march down the main street in Auckland.[16]

The duffel coat may stand in here as a symbol for Dispute’s general approach. The stance taken towards culture and writing was, following the spirit that it takes one axe to hew another, deliberately polemical. Heather Curnow, reviewing Frame’s The Adaptable Man, captures something of Dispute’s localist internationalism, and some of the political content in its stylistic form:

That The Adaptable Man is not set in New Zealand is immaterial to its importance…I would hesitate to put Janet Frame on a par with any of her New Zealand contemporaries, but would be confident to consider that she is the only prose writer of any merit to come out of New Zealand since Katherine Mansfield.[17]

Judith Binney elsewhere dismissed a book on Richard Taylor as ‘valueless to the historian’[18] whilst C.K. Stead – and his ‘donnish poetic persona’ - was taken as a model against which poetry should be struggling. For Richard Parker,

If one has a quarrel with Dr Stead, it is not because he lacks talent. Most of his verse is flawlessly made, and for the most part his meanings are well realised. His images come clean, his eye is precise, and the admiration of the most perverse reader will be easily won for such obvious and carefully nurtured ability. Yet in the last analysis one feels that this book is a kind of dead-end in poetry. This is because in much of his work he seems to be cultivating a wilfully minor voice, writing beautifully about issues that do not matter much.[19]

For all the individual attention paid to poetry, and there was plenty, Dispute’s significance as a journal of poetics lies in its determined programming of its readers, the ways in which it set out to create the readership for the avant-garde to come. Dispute published surveys of local reading habits, extensive articles on the inadequacies of Labour’s educational policies, regular tirades against censorship laws – including, daringly, reprints of stills the censor had excised from local screenings of foreign films – and other interventions designed to produce a readership outside ‘the great New Zealand sandwich’, a politically- and aesthetically-aware grouping ready to receive and produce the kind of radicalised culture Gager saw as necessary for both progressive art and revolutionary politics.[20]

Dispute, May/June 1966

The energy, anticipating the later work of Horrocks, Curnow and others, was for theory, and for a recognition of the importance of ideas in social life. Gager described Dispute as a ‘journal that can set out theory,’[21] and one way of setting this out was by contrast with existing, inadequate literary institutions. Holcroft’s Listener came in for repeated, and scornful, critique:

These offerings [poorly-written letters to the editor] are symptomatic of a general malaise which may be blamed upon our climate – inhospitable to certain ideas – and not upon MHH. But it is a climate for which he bears some responsibility. When the father tells his children how lucky they are, and how much better are the presents he gives them, he should not be surprised that the children are suspicious, insecure, and very, very ‘umble.[22]

The ‘lucky children’ of Dispute insist, again and again, on the value of theoretical reflection, that ‘ideas are relevant to New Zealand society’[23] : ‘the sooner [the old left] are jolted out of the automatic, politically futile, routine-rituals of left tradition the better for everybody. People scared of doing the intellectual work of the left are better out of the labour movement.’[24] In preparation for this ‘intellectual work,’ articles introduced readers to Gramsci, to the developing themes of the New Left Review, to long pieces on currents in contemporary New Zealand painting, and to controversies and campaigns abroad. There was a conscious effort to fuse a local high theoretical, interventionist culture with movements overseas: both Wystan Curnow and Roger Horrocks offered reports from the United States, while Dispute, at some expense, reproduced and championed McCahon.[25] (Peter Simpson remembers the journal for this reason, noting that ‘it was very difficult to see McCahon’s work in those days.’)  This theoretical commitment was reflected in the magazine’s production values: its covers, by the artist Vanya Lowry, were consistently interesting and inventive, its typeface clear and, for the standards of the period, generously spaced, and its advertisements for local literary, historical, and theoretical works.

Dispute, April 1966

Neither Wellington nor Auckland

This commitment to theory complicates one narrative of mid-sixties New Zealand poetics, because Dispute sits astride the Curnow/Baxter, Wellington/Auckland divisions. Gager led a rather peripatetic existence, travelling between cities – and, his business editor Tim Curnow recalls, leaving a string of unpaid printers’ bills behind him in each centre – and linked intellectuals and young writers in each centre as part of the Dispute project. Keith Locke identifies one audience in Christchurch as having emerged out of ‘University of Canterbury New Left Club’; in 1967 he referred to Dispute’s audience, not wholly positively, as Christchurch ‘intellectuals.’[26] Another audience for the journal cohered in Wellington, where Gager for a time was enrolled as an Honours student in the English Department. Dispute had an editorial address on Willis Street, and a readership in the Teachers’ College. Another audience again came from the Princes Street branch of the Labour Party, in which both Wystan and Tim Curnow were active, and which, in combination with Paul’s Book Arcade, a ‘highbrow quality bookshop’, formed the base around which Tim Curnow built both a subscriber and advertiser base for Dispute.[27] For all that the Princes Street branch offered a readership to Dispute, though, the journal’s aggressive insistence on theory remained unchanged. Reviewing the Princes Street branch’s pamphlet Opportunities for the Sixties, an unsigned notice remarked that it ‘has at least proved they can set down clichés as well as any speech-writer at present employed by the Parliamentary Opposition.’[28]

If Dispute fits few of the regional divisions we sometimes use to divide the literature of the period, its dual interests in literary and political work from both the United States and Britain disturb the shifts in influence sometimes attributed to the role of American poetics in a later period. Dispute drew on London’s New Left Review, to be sure, but it published reviews and notices of both UK and US poetry and theory, reprinting articles from the New York Spartacist and the British International Socialism (a journal in which some of Adrian Mitchell’s early poems were published). Nevil Gibson describes Dispute’s influences as a mixture of the Frankfurt School, Alasdair MacIntyre, Salmagundi, International Socialism and Gramsci, a far more eclectic and global mixture than most accounts of pre-1968 New Zealand intellectual life would allow.[29]

The production of theory mattered more for Dispute than its provenance. Maurice Shadbolt, reviewing the early stages of the campaign against the Vietnam War, noted with some satisfaction that ‘probably for the first time, New Zealand’s non-Communist and anti-Communist left has had to play it by ear…It is one thing to call the argument immoral, another to answer it. The left here still has to present a case.’[30] The tone here is typical, representing a demand not so much for localised reflection (‘the trick of standing upright here’) as for independent thought and direction. It begins, in a tradition Freed and AND, in distinct ways, will both develop, a project of internationalist localism.

Horror / of what is altogether / bearable

Poetry was important through all of this. Dispute published poems in each of its issues, especially from Barry Southam, Richard Packer, and Louis Johnson. James K Baxter published his (uncollected) poem ‘The Nightmare of John Calvin Urquhart, a city librarian, dozing in his lair, between two and three o’clock on a Friday afternoon’ in Dispute November-December 1964; Kendrick Smithyman first published ‘Flying to Palmerston’ in Dispute July-August 1966. Smithyman read Dispute regularly, and his presence points to one of the ways re-discovering Dispute expands our sense of literary development.[31] Murray Edmond, in a recollection of Freed, has drawn attention to the role of Smithyman and a Stage III paper in American poetry at Auckland University in the development of his generation’s poetics and outlook. Roger Horrocks, Wystan Curnow and Smithyman all lectured on that paper; Horrocks and Curnow were both contributors to it, and Smithyman both a contributor and a subject of its reviews and profiles:

For me, then, as a writer, Smithyman’s work was more important than Baxter’s. In fact it was through my association with the group of people round Freed that I came to appreciate his work, the attempt made in A Way of Saying to look at our poetry seriously, and the peculiar mix of his verse – the allusiveness, the formal case, the dense irony, filtered through a stubbornly individual vision and voice.[32]

Dispute forms an essential part of the pre-history of Freed, and its contributors move from rehearsals of their argument in its pages to more elaborate re-workings elsewhere but, so long as it remains unacknowledged in literary history, critics are forced into writing about these later publications as if they are without these foundations.[33] The group around Freed were known as the Cultural Liberation Front, and made explicit connections between their artistic radicalism and political radicalism. The possibility of that stance is due, in large part, to the preparatory work of Dispute: it marks, in the literary sphere, a link between the ‘old’ New Left of the CND, and the ‘new’ New Left of Freed.

Situations Vacant: Wellington, Auckland, Rome, Berlin…

Dispute, January 1968

Dispute, in keeping with the history of small magazines, collapses for reasons the archive leaves obscure. From mid-1968 its production values drop sharply, and its content narrows in focus to immediately political questions. Tim Curnow ceased to be involved sometime around 1967, Vanya Lowry stops being commissioned to produce covers, and, as the mass radicalisation of 1968 comes to New Zealand, the figures associated with Dispute turn their attention wholly to politics and the chances for immediate political activism. Gager, Logan and, for one issue at least, Roger Horrocks all become involved in Spartacist, one of the flourish of New Left periodicals coming out of 1968; other literary figures now have publishing opportunities in Freed and elsewhere. Dispute, without a warning for which any records remain, disappears in the year that ‘demanded the impossible.’

If Dispute is absent from the record, and from organised literary memory, from here on, though, its themes and project are continued, in modified form, by its personnel. Smithyman’s poetic influence plays out in Freed. Wystan Curnow and Roger Horrocks both work to create local critical habits of theoretical reflection – and to forge New Zealand high-cultural audiences for demanding poetics – in Parallax, AND, and Antic. When Leigh Davis quotes ‘Trotsky’s famous critique of Formalism’ in his introduction to AND he indicates, whether consciously or not, some of the dense networks of allusion and association these figures have produced in the world of little magazines and journals Dispute pioneered.[34]

Dispute ‘off the maps’

It is all the more curious, then, to consider how thoroughly this journal has disappeared from critical view. When Roger Horrocks writes that ‘the New Zealand literary scene has traditionally been hostile to anything that smells of theory’, a position repeated as late as 2007, and that ‘the idea of a ‘vanguard’ audience happens to collide head-on with a basic New Zealand assumption: that art should never been ‘elitist’’[35] he both continues the tradition of ‘literary critique’ pioneered by himself and others in Dispute, and effaces its record from that very intellectual tradition.

Restoring Dispute to the scholarly record serves a dual purpose here. The work done by Gager and others seems to me important, and worth renewed attention. The ‘big smoke’ coming from little magazines and periodicals in the period after the CND and before 1968 is, if not as exciting as that which comes afterwards, certainly more stimulating than the dominant images of the period credit. But also, as Horrocks’ comments above indicate, reading Dispute restores a sense of the continuity, and depth, of radical traditions in writing and poetics in New Zealand. There was not, contra some well-publicised complaints, a sudden eruption of ‘fashionable’ theory in the 1980s, and nor was the common reader abandoned for trends overseas.[36] AND and Freed have their own local innovations and freshness, certainly, but the cross-over and healthy contamination of personnel and poetic interests from the days of Dispute indicates a more robust, and more locally grounded, counter-tradition of theoretically informed, politically ambitious, transformative poetics than is often acknowledged. Ka Mate Ka Ora, in one sense, may recognise in Dispute the portrait of a distant relative.

How to assess the life of journals? Perry Anderson, reflecting on his own New Left Review, outlines some of the difficulties for any final judgement on Dispute:

The life-span of journals is no warrant of their achievement. A couple of issues, an abrupt extinction, can count for more in the history of culture than a century of continuous publication. In its three years, the Athenaeum put German Romanticism into orbit. The fireworks of the Revue Blanche, the first journal of a modern avant-garde, lit Paris for barely a decade. Lef closed after seven issues in Moscow. These were reviews at the intersection of aesthetic innovation with philosophy and politics. Journals of criticism have often survived longer – The Criterion, in its various incarnations, for the most of the inter-war period, Scrutiny from the thirties into the fifties. Reasons for closure might be external, even accidental, but typically the vitality of a journal is tied to those who create it.[37]

Dispute was tied to its creator, and did not survive the shift in Gager’s attention from literature and politics to politics tout court. If four years is too long for ‘abrupt extinction’, Anderson’s comments indicate a useful way to place Dispute. It existed in a period ‘between things ended and things begun,’ pushing out of the milieu of the CND and towards the poetic and political radicalisation of the later 1960s, yet without surviving into the period of Freed and the student revolt. Dispute demanded theory, and theoretical reflection, and worked to create an audience who could read poetry – and political theory – of a kind that assumed this sort of desire. The audience it produced, though, worked on that project in other journals, other forums, other areas. With aesthetics too radical for the generation it rejected, Dispute, with its duffel coats and beards, was at the same time too staid for the poetics about to emerge from the space it had created: there is no David Mitchell in its pages, no Wedde, no Edmond. A few years’ biographical difference are crucial here, as is geographical location: Dispute lost its Auckland connections – through Tim and Wystan Curnow, and as Gager settled in Wellington – at precisely the moment that Auckland, with Freed and the young poets coming out of Stage III American literature - became the centre of New Zealand poetic innovation.

Whatever its political ambitions – and those demand another essay, and in another journal to this one – Dispute's aesthetic and poetic programme, then, is a transitional one. If this is a reason why it has slipped from the critical record, it may also be a reason for us to work for its restoration. Clear lines of development, and passages from one influence to the next, help in the construction of the patterns of intellectual and literary history. The actual process of transmission and refinement of argument, though, work when ‘the horizontal questions clamour.’ Dispute matters as a repository, as reading material, as a place where, in Leigh Davis’ words, ‘the conditions of mere proximity are political and destabilising.’[38]

The justification for these notes here is in part to do with courtesy. Owen Gager performed a valuable service, in an intellectually inhospitable climate, developing a journal that fostered the kind of theoretically-informed, demanding and politically engaged poetics that stands, in some sense, as part of this journal’s own tradition. His legacy is also, though, one sketching a poetico-political path not taken. That may also, especially if we follow both Dispute and Freed and take Smithyman as our guide, be good reason for attention:

I speak loosely because thinking
not of a map’s ineptitude but of
some shiftless nature which is prior.
Maps merely feign to represent the case.
Shiftless? A shifty case, more like.[39]

Dispute forms part of that ‘shiftless nature’ just prior to the later, much better documented, revival of radical, political poetics in New Zealand. It deserves restoration to the historical record.



[1] The bulk of research for these notes comes out of interviews and correspondence with former contributors to Dispute, and I thank them all for their insights and patience in the face of some detailed questioning around events and positions from almost fifty years past. Particular thanks to Bill Logan, who offered his time for an extended interview and made private archival material available to me, and to Vanya Lowry, who has very kindly granted permission for Ka Mate Ka Ora to reproduce her covers as part of this essay. Owen Gager, after some very helpful initial phone calls from Melbourne, decided not to be involved with my project. I thank him for his opening remarks. Given Dispute’s polemical outlook, and the very different trajectories of its contributors in the decades since the 1960s, I should stress that the analyses in this essay – and its faults – are mine alone. I am happy to acknowledge the assistance of the Prometheus Research Library in New York.

[2] For valuable context see here James Smithies, ‘Post-War New Zealand Literary Critique’, Thesis Eleven 92, Feb. 2008, Mark Williams, ‘On the Margins? New Zealand Little Magazines from Freed to And’, JNZL 5, 1987, and Mark Williams, ‘And and the ‘Understanders’: Recent Developments in the New Zealand Little Magazine Scene,’ in David Carter (ed.), Outside the Book: Contemporary Essays on Literary Periodicals (Sydney: LCP, 1991). None of these studies mention Dispute.

[3] Murray Edmond, ‘Poetics of the Impossible,’ in Alan Brunton, Murray Edmond and Michelle Leggott (eds.), Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960 – 1975 (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2000), p. 21.

[4] Smithies, ‘Post-War New Zealand Literary Critique,’ pp. 87, 88.

[5] Leigh Davis, ‘Set Up,’ AND 1, 1983, p. 3.

[6] Peter Simpson, by email, 25/8/11.

[7] See Owen Gager, ‘Contamination without Representation,’ Comment 10, January 1962. The editors remarked: ‘For all that Mr Gager is an emphatic and articulate socialist, this discussion, in shorter form, was rejected by the New Zealand Monthly Review’, p. 1.

[8] Quoted in Wolfgang Rosenberg, ‘Take-over bid for NZMR,’ NZMR August 1964, p. 22.

[9] T.P.H. ‘One Man’s Fancy’, NZMR, September 1964, p. 26.

[10] Keith Locke, by email, 4/08/11.

[11] Peter Simpson, by email, 25/8/11.

[12] Wystan Curnow, by email, 16/07/11.

[13] Jonathan Hunt, quoted in Caroll du Chateau, ‘How Auckland’s Intellectual Left of the Sixties Took Over the Country,’, Metro, June 1987, p. 88.

[14] Bill Logan to Ted Crawford, 2/2/1993.

[15] Toby Boraman, Rabble Rousers and Merry Pranksters: A History of Anarchism in Aotearoa/New Zealand from the mid 1950s to the early 1980s (Christchurch: Katipo Books, 2007), p. 6. See chapter one more generally for this CND milieu. Michelle Leggott, ‘Protest, Performance, Publication’, in Big Smoke, pp. 313 – 314, quotes a CND ‘marching song transcribed by Owen Gager’ from Craccum as part of a report from Wystan Curnow on a CND march.

[16] Rosie Scott, ‘Learning to Write’, Griffith Review, 23, 2009, p. 53.

[17] Dispute, July 1967, p. 16. An occasionally condescending tone crept in. Rosamund Miles dismissed Sargeson’s Memoirs of a Peon as ‘both prurient and sick by our Alex Comfort-enlightened standards’ (p. 15). 

[18] Dispute, July-August, 1966, p. 17.

[19] ‘Declining the Gambit,’ Dispute July-August 1965, pp. 9, 8.

[20] Bruce Jesson analyses reading habits in Dispute April 1966; of 330 University of Otago students surveyed, 11 read Landfall against 150 for Time magazine. Dispute in January 1968 listed films banned by the censor as ‘another loss to New Zealand’s cultural experience’ (p. 7)

[21] Gager to James Robertson, 8/1/1967.

[22] J.H. Bentley, ‘Listening with MHH’, Dispute, July-August 1967, p. 7.

[23] Editorial, Dispute, November-December 1964.

[24] Unsigned, ‘Argument: Unity,’ Dispute, January 1968, p. 5.

[25] See Wystan Curnow, ‘American Letter,’ Dispute September 1964, Wystan Curnow, ‘Germ Warfare in Academe,’ Dispute July 1967, Nevil Gibson on Gramsci and ‘Labour’s post-socialist phase’ in Dispute January-February 1965, Roger Horrocks on ‘Vietnam Mythology,’ Dispute April 1967.

[26] Keith Locke, by email, 4/8/11; Keith Locke to Owen Gager, 26/7/1967.

[27] Tim Curnow, by email, 16/11/11.

[28] Dispute, May 1965, p. 4.

[29] Nevil Gibson, by email, 29/08/11.

[30] Maurice Shadbolt, ‘Vietnam and the Trad Left,’ Dispute July-August 1965, pp. 1 – 2.

[31] Peter Simpson, by email,

[32] Murray Edmond, ‘Creating a Potent Image: Notes on the Magazine The Word is Freed’, Span 16/17, 1983, p. 61.

[33] See here Patrick Evans on Freed: ‘With their commitment to a model of art as elitist, originating primarily overseas…they really believed they were claiming only one corner of the field for themselves, and their arrival marked the first time in New Zealand writing in which a generic interruption did not necessarily intend the replacement of the entire status quo.’ The Penguin History of New Zealand Literature (Auckland: Penguin, 1990), p. 206, emphasis added. This description could stand in just as well for Dispute, a journal Evans does not discuss.

[34] Davis, ‘Set Up,’ p. 5. Roger Horrocks continues Dispute-like themes in issue 2 of AND, with an article entitled ‘No Theory Permitted on these Premises.’

[35] Roger Horrocks, ‘Off the Maps,’ Parallax 1: 3, 1983, p. 247, Roger Horrocks, ‘An Essay About Experimental Film that Ended Up as an Essay About New Zealand,’ Parallax, 1: 1, 1982, p. 84. Both themes are elaborated, and updated, in Roger Horrocks, ‘A Short History of the New Zealand Intellectual’ (in Laurence Simmons, ed. Speaking Truth to Power, Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2007).

[36] This position has any number of variations; its most recent manifestation was in C.K. Stead, Book Self (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2008).

[37] Perry Anderson, ‘Renewals,’ New Left Review II; 1, 2000, p. 5.

[38] ‘Set Up,’ AND, p. 4.

[39] Kendrick Smithyman, ‘Reading the Maps: An Academic Exercise’, Selected Poems, ed. Peter Simpson (Auckland: Auckland Univerity Pres, 1989), p. 129.



Last updated 9 May, 2013