Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Landfall 218: Islands

Landfall 218 has been guest edited by poet and critic David Eggleton.

The title for this issue is "Islands" and it's a clever name for many reasons. A part of the volume has been most appropriately set aside for a tribute in honour of the 100th birthday of Landfall's founding editor Charles Brasch. The tribute section includes interesting reminiscences of Charles Brasch the person from some of his friends (Peter Entwistle, Alan Roddick, and Margaret Scott) and features several sterling poems dedicated to his memory by Peter Olds, Peter Bland, Sue Wootton and -- Janet Frame!

There's also a nice illustration of Brasch's poem Islands by Greg O'Brien. Of course this is the poem from which Janet Frame derived the title Towards Another Summer for the novel written in 1963 that remained unpublished during her lifetime.

To commemorate the friendship between Charles Brasch and Janet Frame, I approved the printing of the full text of a letter Janet Frame wrote to Margaret Scott in 1973, not long after Charles Brasch died. Janet was preparing to leave for her year as Katherine Mansfield fellow at Menton in the South of France, and she had asked Margaret Scott (a former fellow) for some tips about what to expect, and what to pack. Margaret, in her turn, had asked Janet whether she and Charles had ever talked about their own deaths, as this was a topic he had resisted discussing. Janet's letter, with its response to the hints about Menton and the further description of one particular memorable encounter with Charles, seems very timely not just because this is the Brasch centenary year, but because 2009 also marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship (now known as the Mansfield Prize).

Janet Frame also sent a poem to Margaret, which has been reprinted with the letter, called "Poets", comparing the death of a young and an old poet. The poem had never been shown to anyone else, except Charles, and Janet now dedicated it to his memory. The poem was first published in The Goose Bath (2006) and it has already become somewhat of a classic statement for the death of an artist, having been read out at several prominent funerals either at the request of the mourners and even in a couple of cases to my knowledge, because of a death-bed request.

Landfall 218
also contains a wide range of other literary and artistic delights, including fresh work from contemporary authors, an outstanding winning essay of the Landfall essay competition, and much other interesting non-fiction as well as reviews.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Brazilian Edition

Rumo ao outro verão

São Paulo: Planeta do Brasil, 2009
Título original: Towards another summer

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Poster Poetry Launch in Dunedin

Phantom Billstickers Poetry Poster Launch

Monday 16th November

12 Noon

468 George Street


(by the Obelisk)

Michele Leggott will be officiating.

The posters will feature these poets:

Sandra Bell

Jay Clarkson

Sam Hunt

Robert Pinsky

Marcie Sims

Joe Treceno

Brian Turner

This is the fourth of the Phantom Poetry Poster Launches this year. (First Auckland, then Wellington, then Christchurch, now Dunedin.) The Christchurch Launch was held on Janet Frame's Birthday (28th August) and involved a party and poetry readings at Al's Bar.

The Janet Frame Poem "The End" on a Phantom Poster

The French Connection

A panel discussion to commemorate
the 40th Anniversary of the Menton Fellowship

Sunday, 22 November 2009

1 pm - 2.30 pm

Dunedin Public Art Gallery

To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship, now known as the New Zealand Post Mansfield Prize, Dunedin Public Art Gallery hosts a panel session with Owen Marshall, Philip Temple, Fiona Farrell and current Burns Fellow, Michael Harlow.

These prominent South Island writers will talk about their experiences of living in France, writing in a room at the Villa Isola Bella where Mansfield once lived, and about the impact this unique fellowship has had on their literary career.

Chair: Richard Cathie

This session is dedicated to the late Janet Frame,
a previous holder of the fellowship.

Monday, November 9, 2009

All Good Bookstores

Spotted this staff recommendation at the big Auckland City Whitcoulls branch on the corner of Queen and Victoria Streets:

"Janet Frame is one of our most incredible writers. Her works are intense & emotive. A joy to discover."

There was a brilliant display of all the "Janet Frame Collection" at this bookshop. The Auckland CBD Borders shop is similarly generously stocked.

Every single one of Janet Frame's 12 novels is currently in print from Random House New Zealand, as well as most of her short stories and both her poetry collections, and the children's book she wrote. And the three volumes of autobiography are in print separately, along with an omnibus edition!

Quality independent and university bookshops will usually have a good supply of Janet Frame's books (along with other literary fiction).

Alas not all of the mainstream stores have such a good offering of Janet Frame books on sale, especially out in the provinces, where they only seem to know about Dan Brown and Harry Potter. Surely not every brain cell is confiscated when citizens leave the large cities?

Quite often I will be browsing in a bookstore that is selling a book like "501 Great Writers" - which features Janet Frame - but try looking for a representative sample of her work. You're likely to be disappointed.

I'm often asked by visitors to New Zealand why it seems to be so hard to buy Janet Frame's books here in the very country that produced such a great writer on the world stage? It's a good question...

The pictured double edition containing INTENSIVE CARE and DAUGHTER BUFFALO is a particular treasure. It weighs a kilo and the novels are both deep and significant, major works of literature, but they're not any harder to read than any other work of literary fiction.

As Stephanie Dowrick once commented, "It is impossible to call yourself well-read if you have not yet discovered Janet Frame" (Sydney Morning Herald). I could extend the sentiment to say that someone who hasn't read Intensive Care or Daughter Buffalo or Living in the Maniototo can't claim to know Janet Frame's work well.

Save the Clutha

Heaven's Gate, Upper Clutha
Janet Frame loved the magnificent Clutha River that flows through her home territory in the lower part of the South Island of New Zealand. In 1958, in London, once her birth name "Janet Frame" had become too well-known for her to be comfortable living with it on a daily basis, she changed her name by deed poll to "Janet Clutha". In this way she was able to live anonymously for the rest of her life, reserving the name "Janet Frame" for publishing and literary purposes only.

As it has often been pointed out, she was fairly unusual in that she wrote under her proper name and lived under her pseudonym! It is not of course unusual for those who have achieved celebrity or notoriety to use assumed names in the attempt to avoid publicity and harassment, so that they can live as normal a life as possible. In Janet Frame's case, her apparent invisibility did help to serve the myth that she was some sort of anti-social recluse. The myth could not have been further from the truth, as anyone who lived in her neighbourhood or knew her as "Ms Clutha" (or more correctly "Dr Clutha") could testify, but it's true that it was one myth that Frame did not discourage as it meant that she had fewer interruptions to her work.

Janet Frame described her first view of the Clutha River in her autobiography:

From my first sight of the river I felt it to be a part of my life (how greedily I was claiming the features of the land as ‘part of my life’), from its beginning in the snow of the high country (we were almost in the high country), through all its stages of fury and, reputedly now and then, peace, to its outfall in the sea, with its natural burden of water and motion and its display of colour, snow-green, blue, mud-brown, and borrowing rainbows from light; and its added burden rising from its power, of the dead – withered or uprooted vegetation, the bodies and bones of cattle, sheep and deer, and, from time to time, of people who drowned.

After spending a year confined in the city, studying, writing, conscious always of boundaries of behaviour and feeling, in my new role as an adult, I now came face to face with the Clutha, a being that persisted through all the pressures of rock, stone, earth and sun, living as an element of freedom but not isolated, linked to heaven and light by the slender rainbow that shimmered above its waters. I felt the river was an ally, that it would speak for me.

I fell in love with Central Otago and the river, with the naked hills covered only in their folds by their own shadow, with their changing shades of gold, and the sky born blue each morning with no trace of cloud, retiring in the evening to its depth of purple.


1001 Best Things to See and Do in New Zealand by Peter Janssen

(Hodder Moa, updated second edition, 2009)

This informative and interesting book has recently hit the shelves of bookstores, in time for the Kiwi Xmas and for the influx of summer tourism to our nation.

New Zealand is a small country but is packed to the rafters with a variety of attractions to suit every kind of visitor, and also to tempt the local citizen who hasn't yet explored all that is on offer in their own "back yard".

This useful book includes a recommendation to visit Janet Frame's childhood home at 56 Eden Street, Oamaru, which is open to the public every afternoon during the summer months.

More information on visiting this site of literary heritage is available from

Oamaru's I-Site:

1 Thames Street
New Zealand
Phone: +64-3-434 1656,
Fax: +64-3-434 1657.

Peter Janssen has also featured the Janet Frame House in another of his books, Worth A Detour (2008).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Animals on Show

Animals on Show: A Critical Analysis of the Animal Entertainment Industry

A 'humane' educational resource:

~Focussed on the relationship between human and non-human animals.
~Designed for use within the NCEA framework for years 11, 12 and 13.
~Created and peer-reviewed by professional teachers and educationalists.

Animals & Us resources are designed to encourage critical thinking, advance knowledge and develop values of empathy and compassion.

The Janet Frame Literary Trust was pleased to support the aims of this resource by approving the inclusion of an extremely relevant excerpt from Janet Frame's novel Daughter Buffalo (in which Turnlung and Talbot Edelman visit Central Park Zoo in New York)

see for more information.

World Premiere of New Song Cycle

Jenny McLeod's Peaks of Cloud, a song cycle for tenor and piano to poems by Janet Frame, will be premiered by New Zealand tenor Keith Lewis and pianist Michael Houstoun at the NZ International Arts Festival in Wellington on the 7th March 2010.

Keith Lewis & Michael Houstoun: Peaks of Cloud

Tenor Keith Lewis and pianist Michael Houstoun present this recital which spans over 300 years of song. Recognised early in his career as a Mozart specialist, Lewis’s performances are noted for their beauty of voice and interpretative skills. Partnered by the impeccable artistry of Michael Houstoun, this recital promises an evening of beautiful insights.
With the sweet Baroque of Purcell, the subtle, direct songs of Britten and the quirkiness of Barber, this programme spans a range of emotional and musical colour.

At the heart of the recital is the world premiere of Jenny McLeod’s Peaks of Cloud, which sets seven poems by Janet Frame and brings together four iconic New Zealand artists.

Wellington Town Hall
Sunday 7 March 2010
7.30 pm

Tickets on sale at Ticketek from 9 am 19th November 2009

FYI You can listen to a Radio NZ interview with Jenny McLeod about writing The Poet, another song cycle based on Janet Frame's poems, here.

Stephanie Te Kare Baxter

29 September 1968 - 31 October 2009

Another sad loss to Janet Frame's "inner circle" of family and friends occurred last weekend with the untimely death (after a short illness) of Stephanie Baxter. Steph was raised by her grandmother Jacquie Baxter who was a close friend of Janet's. The photograph above was taken on February 15th 2004 after the interment of Janet Frame's ashes in the Frame family grave at Oamaru. Steph and several other members of the Baxter whanau attended Janet's family funeral as well as her State Memorial Service, as well as the private burial ceremony, each time honouring Janet's memory with heartrending and beautiful karanga and waiata. Janet's connection with Steph had been a long one, as she had kept vigil with the Baxter family in Dunedin, in the hours before Steph's birth. My brother Neil and I attended Steph's tangi last week at Kapiti College Marae, representing the Frame estate and the Gordon family, and also expressing our own grief. Steph will be sadly missed by her partner and children, her mother and her "mum", and her brother and the rest of the whanau, and the many other people who will mourn for her.

According to the website, the three white feathers - Te Raukura - are worn by Taranaki tribes "to demonstrate their continued commitment to resolve conflict through peaceful means". Steph inherited this tradition of non-violence and passive resistance from the Parihaka prophets through her Maori ancestry and there was also a pacifist legacy from the Baxter clan of Brighton near Dunedin (her great-grandparents Archibald and Millicent Baxter were notable anti-war activists). At Steph's funeral her brother-in-law spoke in his eulogy of Steph's remarkable gift of unconditional love, and of her ability as a peacemaker. May she rest in peace.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Owls don't weep; they screech

The title of Janet Frame's first novel Owls Do Cry is taken from a phrase written by William Shakespeare. Frame quotes the passage from The Tempest several times in the course of her narrative:

WHERE the bee sucks, there suck I:

In a cowslip’s bell I lie;

There I couch when owls do cry.

On the bat’s back I do fly.

After summer merrily:

Merrily, merrily, shall I live now

Under the blossom that hangs on the

The ambiguity of the word "cry" (meaning in English both "weep" and "screech") means that some people assume that Frame's owls are sobbing. I am pretty sure that owls don't cry tears. They HOOT.

I recently noticed that the French translation of Owls Do Cry, LES HIBOUX PLEURENT VRAIMENT, has been mis-named, contrasting with the more correct German translation WENN EULEN SCHREIN. The French owls appear to be blubbering, but the German owls are piercing the night with their calls.

Of course I have always thought it must be a nightmare translating Frame, when sometimes one can't even get past the title without wondering whether there is a deliberate play on words in it.

FYI "Owls Do Cry" was not Janet Frame's first choice of a title for her novel. Her working title was "Talk of Treasure". When this title was rejected by her publisher, she strongly advocated for the title "BETWEEN THE FLAGS", from her observation of the obsessive carefulness of conformist provincial society:

"the Woollen Mills, the chocolate factory, the butter factory, the flour mill - all meaning prosperity and wealth and a fat-filled land; and lastly a photograph of the foreshore with its long sweep of furious and hungry water [...] where you cannot bathe without fear of the undertow, and you bathe carefully, as you live, between the flags."

It was my discovery - in the course of archive research - that Frame had wanted to call her novel "Between the Flags", that led to the rediscovery of one of two "lost" Owls Do Cry manuscripts. Frame had written "Between the Flags" on the cover and so that document had been overlooked in searches for the original OWLS typescript.