C.K. Stead

C.K. Stead is New Zealand’s poet laureate.

Poem: ‘Has been’

C.K. Stead, 21 January 2016

(Peter Reading, 1946-2011)

‘The only permanence I suppose is in having been’ –                     thus           in four words             conjugating present and...

Poem: ‘The Gift’

C.K. Stead, 30 June 2011

Brasch in his velvet voice and signature purple tie

complained to his journal that you had ‘interrupted’.

I wasn’t sorry. That was Somervell’s coffee shop

nineteen-fifty-three. Eighteen months later you and I

were skidding on the tide-out inner- harbour shelvings

below your house from whose ‘small room with large windows’ you saw

that geranium ‘wild...

The release in 2009 of the first two volumes of T.S. Eliot’s letters, and the year before of the final volume of Katherine Mansfield’s, raises questions about the relationship between these two and their spouses, Vivien Haigh-Wood and John Middleton Murry.* Why was Eliot distrustful, and even apprehensive, of Mansfield? What was Murry’s relationship with Vivien – and...

1. I lift the lid on our compost bin. At the corner

of sight, Fantail flickers like migraine through the sudden

insect cloud. I am supplier – flies the supplies.

2. Feather-weight, Fantail bounces back off invisible

ropes. He has perfected the hook and the jab. Dancer

he is deft snatcher in flight of invisible snacks.

3. Scriptwriter also of dark memorials, it’s said

he conceals...

Diary: truth and autobiographies

C.K. Stead, 27 April 2000

The New Zealand novelist Maurice Shadbolt recently published what he described as a ‘memoir’, explaining that this form differed from autobiography in that it claimed only to recount events as the author remembered them, making no promise of accuracy. Since Shadbolt had announced publicly, a year or so before, that he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the excuse for inaccuracy and invention was complete. An expectation was aroused which the book didn’t disappoint.

Apocalyptic Opacity

Frank Kermode, 24 September 1992

The title sounds apocalyptic, but all it means on the face of it is that this novel is set in New Zealand now. Doubtless it could be interpreted as having other implications, and there is some...

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Spivsville

Jonathan Bate, 27 July 1989

In Book Two of Disraeli’s Sybil, or The Two Nations the hero meets two strangers in the ruins of an abbey. One of them claims that the monasteries represented the only authentic communities...

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Liza Jarrett’s Hard Life

Paul Driver, 4 December 1986

Of the five new novels grouped here, only one, I think, breathes something of that ‘air of reality (solidity of specification)’ which seemed to Henry James ‘the supreme virtue...

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Modernisms

Frank Kermode, 22 May 1986

The advantages and disadvantages of modernity have long been canvassed, so that you could say the topic is ancient. Pancirolli wrote a very popular book on it in the 16th century, and it was...

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Signora Zabaggy

Michael Rose, 2 August 1984

Let’s begin with ‘Let’s begin with the tea towel.’ Thus Professor Curl Skidmore, narrator of C.K. Stead’s All Visitors Ashore, announcing his presence in a text...

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