The River is Deep and the River is Wide

New Zealand poetry in the 1980s
by
July 1983, no. 52

The River is Deep and the River is Wide

New Zealand poetry in the 1980s
by
July 1983, no. 52

The art of poetry is alive and well in New Zealand in the 1980s. In spite of the economic recession which has decimated literary journals and made the publication of poetry more than ever a dubious commercial proposition, in terms of both quality and quantity New Zealand poetry has probably never been stronger. There are a number of factors contributing to this situation. One is that, leaving aside isolated colonial precursors, poetry as a continuous history in New Zealand is a relatively recent affair going back only fifty or sixty years. Consequently, the stream has become broader and deeper with each passing decade, and yet the beginnings of the tradition are still (as it were) concurrent through the survival and continued activity of poets such as Allen Curnow, now in his seventies, who published his first book fifty years ago. There are in the 1980s poets active from every subsequent generation which has fed into the stream: poets from the 1940s (Louis Johnson, Kendrick Smithyman, Alistair Campbell), poets from the 1950s (Ruth Dallas, W.H. Oliver, C.K. Stead), poets from the 1960s (Vincent O’Sullivan, Hone Tuwhare. Michael Jackson), poets from the 1970s (Sam Hunt, Bill Manhire, Ian Wedde), and finally poets who have emerged within the last few years (Meg Campbell, Keri Hulme, Cilla McQueen), to mention only representative names.

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