Negative Capability (2)

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Friday 17 September 2010
Ron Brownson

I came across some memorable quotes by four of our modernist poets and thought that you'd enjoy them:

Here, where we are beginning…
Allen Curnow

I think I have no other home than this.RAK Mason

Leave the nest early, child. Our climate’s changing…
Robin Hyde

The godwits vanish towards another summer.
Everywhere in light and calm the murmuring
Shadow of departure; distance looks our way;
And none knows where he will lie down at night.
Charles Brasch

What brought these fragments of poems to mind was my re-reading Paul Millar's great biography No Fretful Sleeper: a life of Bill Pearson (Auckland University Press, Auckland, 2010).

Auckland City Libraries catalogue gives a pithy summary of this book's rationale:

" 'There is no place in normal New Zealand society for the man who is different', wrote William Harrison (Bill) Pearson. One of New Zealand's most distinguished fiction writers and sharpest critics, Pearson's life was also fraught with contradiction and secrecy, largely because of his homosexuality. Born in a small town in 1922, he grew up in a society dominated by a rugged ideal of manhood; not easy for a sensitive boy who preferred intellectual pursuits to sports. He went to university and teachers' training college, then taught at the tiny Black-ball School, a period from which he drew the material for his celebrated novel, Coal Flat. After serving in WW2, he received his PhD from the University of London - where distance gave him a clear critical perspective on this country of 'fretful sleepers' - then returned to New Zealand as a scholar, editor and lecturer. Pearson's life is emblematic of vital elements, and conflicts, in 20th-century New Zealand society: intellectual culture, left-wing politics and the growing acceptance of homosexual identity and Maori and Pacific Island culture."

Interestingly, in the biography there is barely a mention of E.H. McCormick and one of the comments that Paul quotes by Eric made me think that the two men were maybe unsympathetic of each other while at the University of Auckland. I will have to write to Paul and ask him if this was the case. Both men were among our best scholars and writers. Without question!