'That's me trying to step out of that sentence' (1987)
AuthorsNewton, Johnshow all
This thesis addresses itself to changes which came over New Zealand poetry in the early 1910s. It discusses in detail the work of three poets whose public careers began in this period: Ian Wedde, Murray Edmond and Bill Manhire. Its perspective also necessitates the inclusion of one poet from either side of this chronological site: it opens by considering James K. Baxter and closes with a look at Leigh Davis. My focus is on the arrangement of pronouns, and on the way in which particular pronominal formations evolve through the work of these five poets.
I begin with Baxter, and concentrate on his late work, in the belief that we can see emerging there a new pronoun structure which resembles that which is most characteristic of the early Seventies.
Wedde and Edmond are discussed in tandem. The work of each is divided in two, and I attempt to locate a switch in direction which both undertake in mid-career and which is marked by a shift in the orientation of their pronouns. Manhire's work is then examined, firstly to see where it departs from that of his contemporaries, but later (and more significantly) to see to what extent it confirms that pattern just outlined.
Turning my attention to Davis, I once again examine the pronouns used and consider their relation to his critique of expressivity. His attitude to Baxter and Wedde (as well as to Allen Curnow) is pursued with an eye for the implications of Davis's innovations as well as for certain continuities between himself and his precursors.