Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Eleven Books of Rudyard Kipling

John Collier: Rudyard Kipling (1891)

"There are nine-and-sixty ways of constructing tribal lays
and - every - single - one - of - them - is - right!"

- Rudyard Kipling, 'In the Neolithic Age' (1892)

Of course Kipling wrote far more than eleven books. According to the editor of his online Collected Works, he was responsible (depending on how you count) for at least 4 novels, 351 stories, 553 poems, and 12 volumes of non-fiction.

It is, however, the eleven major books of short stories (excluding the seven collections written - at least ostensibly - for children) that I'd like to discuss here. The list below is arranged in order of publication:

Rudyard Kipling: Plain Tales from the Hills (1888)

  1. Plain Tales from the Hills (1888)
    [40 stories]

  2. Soldiers Three / The Story of the Gadsbys / In Black and White (1888)
    [24 stories]

  3. Wee Willie Winkie / Under the Deodars / The Phantom 'Rickshaw (1888)
    [14 stories]

  4. Life's Handicap: Being Stories of Mine Own People (1891)
    [28 stories / 1 poem]

  5. Many Inventions (1893)
    [14 stories / 2 poems]

  6. The Day's Work (1898)
    [12 stories]

  7. Traffics and Discoveries (1904)
    [11 stories / 11 poems]

  8. Actions and Reactions (1909)
    [8 stories / 8 poems]

  9. A Diversity of Creatures (1917)
    [14 stories / 14 poems]

  10. Debits and Credits (1926)
    [14 stories / 21 poems]

  11. Limits and Renewals (1932)
    [14 stories / 19 poems]

  12. = 193 stories / 76 poems

The Folio Society put out a very handsome edition of all eleven in one giant boxset a few years ago:

Rudyard Kipling: The Collected Short Stories (2005)

This set is broken up as follows:
  • Vol.1, Plain Tales from the Hills, Soldiers Three and other stories
  • Vol.2, Wee Willie Winkie and other stories and Life's Handicap
  • Vol.3, Many Inventions and The Day's Work
  • Vol.4, Traffics and Discoveries, Actions and Reactions and A Diversity of Creatures
  • Vol.5, A Diversity of Creatures (continued), Debits and Credits and Limits and Renewals

Mind you, one should probably add to this tally of published collections the volume of Uncollected Stories included in the posthumous, authorially sanctioned Sussex edition of Kipling's works. There are also a few other miscellaneous collections such as Abaft the Funnel (1909) and The Eyes of Asia (1917) to one side of his official tally of works.

Full details on the contents of all of these can be found in the supremely useful New Reader's Guide, maintained by the Kipling Society, which includes a complete list of stories, indexed alphabetically, by order of date, and by collection. This indispensable site also includes the full text of many of the stories, including such otherwise unobtainable gems as the classic "Proofs of Holy Writ" (1934), which has never been separately reprinted.

Rudyard Kipling: Sussex Edition (35 volumes: 1937-39)

The stories divide fairly readily into a few well-defined groups. "Kipling," as we know him, started with the remarkable spurt of stories created and published in India, then collected in a set of seven small Indian Railway paperbacks there in 1888:
  1. Plain Tales from the Hills
  2. Soldiers Three
  3. The Story of the Gadsbys
  4. In Black and White
  5. Wee Willie Winkie
  6. Under the Deodars
  7. The Phantom 'Rickshaw
The extraordinary variety and accomplishment of these stories literally - and almost unprecedentedly - put him on the world literary map. Contemporary readers appear to have been most struck by the Maupassant-influenced Plain Tales from the Hills, but probably modern readers will find the insights into race relations in the small collection In Black and White of more enduring interest, and certainly far from the cliché of blind and jingoistic imperialism he's now unfortunately (though not, alas, entirely unjustifiably) identified with.

Next we come to the later Indian and transitional stories, published throughout the 1890s, though with a gradually increasing admixture of American and British settings, dictated by his various places of residence during that decade.
  1. Life's Handicap
  2. Many Inventions
  3. The Day's Work
The stories here are becoming longer and more ingenious, and include a number of experiments in different voices, both animate ("The Children of the Zodiac," "A Walking Delegate") and inanimate (".007," "The Ship that Found Herself"). For the most part, however, they maintain the immediacy of his Indian work, and are seem by many as the summit of his achievement in the form.

After this we move to (so-called) "late Kipling":
  1. Traffics and Discoveries
  2. Actions and Reactions
  3. A Diversity of Creatures
  4. Debits and Credits
  5. Limits and Renewals
These collections are marked by an intermixture of verse and prose. Most of the stories are preceded or followed by poems which make veiled and far from straightforward comments on their themes and contents. Their style is more oblique and self-consciously "experimental" - sometimes to the point of extreme obscurity and even (presumably deliberate) bafflement.

Just what is the point of "Mrs Bathurst," from Traffics and Discoveries, for instance? Jorge Luis Borges and Paul Theroux debated it during the latter's visit to the former in Buenos Aires (according to Theroux's 1979 travel book The Old Patagonian Express, at any rate). It's a story of particular interest to New Zealanders, given the fact that the bar Mrs Bathurst keeps is in "Hauraki," a small (fictional) town just outside Auckland. The story's other settings include Cape Town and a London train station, in keeping with its themes of human loyalty versus machine-made division and alienation.

These later stories are probably now Kipling's main claim to fame as a writer - as anything but an historical curiosity, that is. The extreme obliquity of their technique, the obsessive use of the recondite jargon of trades, and of multiple levels of narration, certainly place him among the more technically accomplished - and tirelessly innovative - masters of the short story in English.

The last three of these collections constitute a kind of sub-group, dominated by the shadow of the Great War, which added the final ingredient of horror and despair at the waste of a civilisation which we tend to associate with modernists such as Eliot and Woolf. Kipling's late work does not really resemble theirs either in tone or content, but it certainly rivals it in depth and seriousness.

Many other points could be made about Kipling, but the variety and accomplishment on display in these eleven books certainly negate any facile attempts to denigrate him as some kind of also-ran, inferior in subtlety to either Conrad or James. They took him seriously, and so should we.

His fascination with the extreme edges of human psychology, ranging off into the paranormal (a subject of particular interest to him from his very first Poe-influenced stories - such as 'The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes' - to such late masterpieces as 'Wireless' or 'The House Surgeon') provided strange fuel for these last war-shadowed books. In stories like 'The Janeites' or 'The Gardener,' a sense of common humanity and compassion began to emerge, finally, from the man whose adoration of bullies and imperialists had earlier threatened to align him, almost, with Fascism.

Perhaps Kipling's popularity will, in future, be forced to rely on his almost equally ingenious - and rather more charming - children's books: The Jungle Books, Puck of Pook's Hill, and The Just So Stories. These are by no means devoid of politics and his own strange brand of Manichaean extremism, but they need not be read with these things in mind. Who, having experienced them in childhood, can ever subsequently forget the adventures of Mowgli or Rikki-Tikki-Tavi?

It would be a shame to pass by these 11 superb collections of stories, however, without understanding that they do collectively constitute his testament to posterity as a creative writer.

Rudyard Kipling: Traffics and Discoveries (1904)

One of the most interesting teaching experiences I've ever had came when I was discussing the story 'They' with an Honours English class at Edinburgh. They allowed some of us graduate students to acquire a bit of (unpaid) teaching practice, and I'd been allotted a class in Edwardian and pre-war fiction.

'They,' if you haven't read it (and who nowadays has?) is a story about a blind woman who lives in a house full of ghost children whom she is unable to see and therefore able to postulate as 'real' and 'alive.' The narrator can also see them - as it turns out, because he has lost a child himself, and is therefore attuned to their vibrations (or so one assumes). When he finally realises that the children are all ghosts, he self-exiles himself from the house, explaining to her that it is fine for her to live with them, but not for him: perhaps because, being childless, none of them are actually flesh of her flesh.

This theme of lost children is strong in Kipling, both before and after the war, in which he lost his only son in tragic circumstances (Kipling had pulled strings with his influential friends to allow the short-sighted 'Jack' to enlist, and thus blamed himself when he died in a particularly futile attack on the Western front).

Now my class refused to believe that the children in the story were ghosts. They saw them as illegitimate children from the village. When I asked them why, in that case, the narrator thought it improper for him to spend more time there, they attributed this to snobbery and class privilege on his part.

Given the elusive, allusive style of Kipling's late stories, it's hard to find direct textual authority for a particular reading of any passage. I nevertheless attempted to persuade them that they weren't reading carefully enough, and were eliding over any number of passages to maintain their own reading. They riposted that that was simply my opinion, and that they had just as much right to theirs.

I guess I've been conducting that thirty-year-old argument in my head ever since. It was the age of reader response and Stanley Fish's notoriously provocative book Is There a Text in This Class? Certainly, in their eyes, I represented the past of 'authoritative,' 'agreed-upon' textual opinions, maintained by force of hierarchy rather than by argument. To me they seemed addicts of simplistic under-reading, determined to take the line of least resistance in each case.

Late Kipling is like that, though, as I found again recently when arguing with another student about the true 'meaning' of his armistice story 'The Gardener.' Is the grave the protagonist is trying to find that of her own illegitimate son, or is the true tragedy of the story the fact that he is her true son (through love and upbringing) but not in the physical sense? I've always leaned towards the latter reading, while most people assume that the former, more obvious reading is the one to go for.

Does this shadowy indeterminacy make his stories better or worse? The fact that they continued to hold the attention of Borges in his blindness would imply the former. And yet it's hard to know if it isn't simply one's own obtuseness which withholds a 'final' reading of each one. 'Dayspring Mishandled,' 'The Woman in His Life,' 'My Son's Wife' - such stories constitute an amazing legacy. Nobody ever really wrote like Kipling, early or late, and it's hard to foresee such a body of work ever being seen as obsolete - except, of course, by those most unanswerable of critics, those who haven't actually read him in depth.

Rudyard Kipling: Debits and Credits (1926)


Rudyard Kipling

Joseph Rudyard Kipling


  1. Kipling, Rudyard. The One Volume Kipling: Authorized. 1893 & 1928. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1930.
    • Volume I: Ballads and Barrack-Room Ballads
    • Volume II: The Light that Failed
    • Volume III: City of Dreadful Night
    • Volume IV: Plain Tales from the Hills
    • Volume V: Soldiers Three
    • Volume VI: Mine Own People
    • Volume VII: In Black and White
    • Volume VIII: The Phantom 'Rickshaw & Other Ghost Stories
    • Volume IX: Under the Deodars
    • Volume X: Wee Willie Winkie
    • Volume XI: The Story of the Gadsbys
    • Volume XII: Departmental Ditties and Other Verses

  2. Poetry:

  3. Carrington, Charles, ed. The Complete Barrack-Room Ballads of Rudyard Kipling. 1892. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1973.

  4. Kipling, Rudyard. The Seven Seas. 1896. The Dominions Edition. London: Methuen & Co., Limited, 1914.

  5. Kipling, Rudyard. The Five Nations. 1903. The Dominions Edition. 1914. London: Methuen & Co., Limited, 1916.

  6. Kipling, Rudyard. Rudyard Kipling’s Verse: Definitive Edition. 1912. Second Edition. 1919. Third Inclusive Edition. 1927. Fourth Inclusive Edition. 1933. Definitive Edition. 1940. London: Hodder and Stoughton Limited, 1945.

  7. Kipling, Rudyard. A Choice of Kipling's Verse. Ed. T. S. Eliot. 1941. Faber Paper Covered Editions. London: Faber, 1963.

  8. Rutherford, Andrew, ed. Early Verse by Rudyard Kipling, 1879-1889: Unpublished, Uncollected, and Rarely Published Poems. 1986. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

  9. Novels:

  10. Kipling, Rudyard. The Light that Failed. 1891. Macmillan’s Colonial Library. London: Macmillan & Co. Limited, 1891.

  11. Kipling, Rudyard, & Wolcott Balestier. The Naulahka: A Story of West and East. 1892. 2 vols. The Service Edition of the Works of Rudyard Kipling. London: Macmillan & Co., Limited, 1915.

  12. Kipling, Rudyard. ‘Captains Courageous’: A Story of the Grand Banks. 1896. Melbourne & London: Macmillan & Company Ltd., 1942.

  13. Kipling, Rudyard. Kim. 1901. London: Macmillan & Co. Limited, 1940.

  14. Short Stories:

  15. Kipling, Rudyard. Plain Tales from the Hills. 1888. The Dominions Edition. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1913.

  16. Kipling, Rudyard. Soldiers Three / The Story of the Gadsbys / In Black and White. 1888 & 1895. The Dominions Edition. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1913.

  17. Kipling, Rudyard. The Phantom 'Rickshaw and other Tales. 1888 & 1895. New York: American Publishers Corporation, n.d.

  18. Kipling, Rudyard. Wee Willie Winkie: Under the Deodars / The Phantom Rickshaw and other Eerie Tales / Wee Willie Winkie and Other Child Stories. 1888 & 1895. Ed. Hugh Haughton. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988.

  19. Kipling, Rudyard. Life's Handicap: Being Stories of Mine Own People. 1891. Ed. P. N. Furbank. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987.

  20. Kipling, Rudyard. Many Inventions. 1893. The Dominions Edition. London: Macmillan & Co. Limited, 1913.

  21. Kipling, Rudyard. The Day's Work. 1898. The Dominions Edition. London: Macmillan & Co., Limited, 1913.

  22. Kipling, Rudyard. Traffics and Discoveries. London: Macmillan & Co. Limited, 1904.

  23. Kipling, Rudyard. Actions and Reactions. 1909. Macmillan’s Pocket Kipling. London: Macmillan & Co. Limited, 1920.

  24. Kipling, Rudyard. A Diversity of Creatures. 1917. The Medallion Edition. Dunedin: James Johnston, Limited / London: Macmillan and Co. Limited, n.d.

  25. Kipling, Rudyard. Debits and Credits. The Dominions Edition. London: Macmillan & Co. Limited, 1926.

  26. Kipling, Rudyard. Limits and Renewals. 1932. Ed. Phillip V. Mallett. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987.

  27. Kipling, Rudyard. Ten Stories. London: Pan Books Ltd., 1947.

  28. Kipling, Rudyard. A Choice of Kipling's Prose. Ed. W. Somerset Maugham. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1952.

  29. Kipling, Rudyard. Short Stories. Volume 1: A Sahib’s War and Other Stories. Ed. Andrew Rutherford. 1971. Penguin Modern Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977.

  30. Kipling, Rudyard. Short Stories. Volume 2: Friendly Brook and Other Stories. Ed. Andrew Rutherford. 1971. Penguin Modern Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977.

  31. Children's Stories:

  32. Kipling, Rudyard. The Jungle Books. 1894 & 1895. Illustrated by Stuart Tresilian. 1955. London: the Reprint Society, 1956.

  33. Kipling, Rudyard. The Brushwood Boy. 1895 & 1899. Illustrations by F. H. Townsend. 1907. London: Macmillan & Co., Limited, 1914.

  34. Kipling, Rudyard. Stalky & Co.: Complete. 1899. Ed. Isabel Quigley. The World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

  35. Kipling, Rudyard. Just So Stories for Little Children: A Reprint of the First Edition. Illustrated by the Author. 1902. New York: Weathervane Books, 1978.

  36. Kipling, Rudyard. Puck of Pook's Hill. 1906. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1957.

  37. Kipling, Rudyard. Rewards and Fairies. 1910. Macmillan’s Pocket Kipling. London: Macmillan & Co. Limited, 1920.

  38. Kipling, Rudyard. Land & Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides. 1923. London: Macmillan & Co. Limited, 1923.

  39. Kipling, Rudyard, ed. Thy Servant a Dog, Told by Boots. Illustrated by G. L. Stampa. 1930. London: Macmillan & Co. Limited, 1931.

  40. Kipling, Rudyard. Animal Stories from Rudyard Kipling. Illustrated by Stuart Tresilian. 1932. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1961.

  41. Kipling, Rudyard. All the Mowgli Stories. 1933. St. Martin’s Library. 1961. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1962.

  42. Non-Fiction:

  43. Kipling, Rudyard. From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches: Letters of Travel. 1899. 2 vols. Macmillan’s Pocket Kipling. London: Macmillan & Co. Limited, 1914.

  44. Kipling, Rudyard. Sea Warfare. The Dominions Edition. London: Macmillan & Co. Limited, 1916.

  45. Kipling, Rudyard. Letters of Travel (1892-1913). Macmillan’s Pocket Kipling. London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1920.

  46. Kipling, Rudyard. A Book of Words: Selections from Speeches and Addresses Delivered Between 1906 and 1927. London: Macmillan & Co. Limited, 1928.

  47. Kipling, Rudyard. Something of Myself: For My Friends Known and Unknown. 1937. Ed. Robert Hampson. Introduction by Richard Holmes. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987.

  48. Secondary:

  49. Gilbert, Elliot L., ed. “O Beloved Kids”: Rudyard Kipling’s Letters to his Children. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson., 1983.

  50. Green, Roger Lancelyn. Kipling and the Children. London: Elek Books Ltd., 1965.

  51. Carrington, Charles. Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work. 1955. London: Macmillan Limted, 1978.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Pessoa World

Pessoa & Jack (Café A Brasileira, Lisbon: 26/6/18)
All photos (unless otherwise specified): Bronwyn Lloyd

So, if the song "Starry, Starry Night" is all about Vincent Van Gogh, did it ever strike you that the ABBA song "Fernando" might really be about the Portuguese poet (and ubiquitous cultural icon) Fernando Pessoa? The evidence, admittedly, is somewhat scanty, but when did that ever get in the way of a good piece of literary detective work?

"Fernando" is a somewhat shadowy figure in the song, repeatedly addressed by the speaker, but in a somewhat equivocal way, as if he were not so much an old comrade as an agent provocateur - perhaps the very one who, by betraying their secrets, guaranteed the loss of their cause? "Though we never thought that we could lose / there's no regret," Agnetha is careful to say. Really? Or is that simply a subterfuge designed to put the treacherous "Fernando" off the scent? I've often wondered ...

Mind you, I don't insist on this conjecture - simply mention it in order to underline just how slippery and subversive this Pessoa (Portuguese for "person" - our hotel had a notice specifying that only 13 "pessoas" were allowed in the lift at one time) can be.

Take the Casa Fernando Pessoa itself, for instance (Coelho da Rocha 16, 1250-088 Lisboa, Portugal):

Casa Pessoa: exterior (30/6/18)

It could not be said to be particularly easy to find: our cab driver had to crawl along the street for quite some time before we stumbled across it.

Casa Pessoa: vestibule (30/6/18)

Once in, however, Pessoa's status as king of the heteronyms is not left in any doubt (for those of you who aren't in the know, Pessoa is famous for evolving a series of parallel identities, or heteronyms, in whose respective voices he wrote a great deal of his oeuvre).

Casa Pessoa: bedroom (30/6/18)

Here is the poet's bed (or, more probably, a reasonable facsimile of same - while he did indeed reside in this house at some stage, little physical evidence of his presence there remains behind).

Casa Pessoa: the chest (30/6/18)

This chest definitely is a fake: or, rather, a simulacrum of the famous - and apparently inexhaustible - repository of the mass of unpublished manuscripts he was found to have bequeathed to posterity at his death.

Casa Pessoa: manuscripts (30/6/18)

Whatever they actually looked like, I bet it wasn't like this. Thousands of pages are alleged to have been crammed into this much storied artefact.

Casa Pessoa: embroidery portrait (30/6/18)

This picture seems to capture something of his peculiar elusiveness as a person (pun intended). It's a piece of embroidery, rather than a painting, so it must have taken an appallingly long time to make.

Casa Pessoa: palimpsest (30/6/18)

This rather more fanciful portrait posits him as a purely textual phenomenon: a creature of words rather than flesh and blood.

Casa Pessoa: horoscope (30/6/18)

And here's the poet's horoscope (note how Bronwyn, the photographer, has cunningly inserted herself into the composition as a looming shadow).

Casa Pessoa: library (30/6/18)

Here's a shot of the multiple flying Pessoas who infest the Casa's library. I'm not quite sure how these Mary Poppins-like mannequins are supposed to represent him, but they certainly do look rather striking.

Casa Pessoa: portrait (30/6/18)

And here's one of the most famous paintings of the poet, scribbling industriously in - presumably - the Café A Brasileira now adorned by his statue nestled among the tables outside.

Manuel Amado: Fernando Pessoa's Bedroom I & II (1993)

These two paintings of the view out of his window by day and by night seemed to us the most effective in conveying the strange contrariness of his existence. I don't quite know why they seem so sad to me, so redolent of that peculiar Portuguese quality called saudade, but there they are. I don't know what was portrayed in the third of the group, but its absence makes these two seem even more haunting and thwarted, I feel.

Fernando Pessoa: Obras (1986)

Having reached an apparent impasse in tracing his steps through the streets of Lisbon, perhaps the best way to come to terms with this most unstable and equivocal of multiple personalities must be through the comparative solidity of the written word?

The three volumes above, published for the fiftieth anniversary of his death, constitute one of the last attempts to compile a reasonably systematic collected works for the poet. Thereafter everything fragmented into the (more-or-less) complete works of this or that literary persona of his. He has become, in the truest sense, a library rather than a human being.

Nevertheless, there are really only three (or perhaps four) major heteronyms one needs to take account of:

João Luiz Roth: Álvaro de Campos (1890-1935)

Álvaro de Campos is an expansive, Whitman-esque poet of global distances and imperial expansion. In his last phase melancholy overcame him, but he is in many ways the most attractive and accessible of Pessoa's different voices.

Alberto Caeiro (1889-1915)

Alberto Caeiro, the "keeper of sheep," is more of a pantheist - solitary, nature-loving, and (alas) short-lived, he has something about him of a Portuguese A. E. Housman.

Fernando Pessoa: Ricardo Reis: astrological chart (1887-?)

Ricardo Reis is more of a classicist - and pessimist - than either of his predecessors. The fact that he had no designated time of death led Portugal's other great twentieth-century author, José Saramago, to imagine him as an abandoned spirit, wandering listlessly about Lisbon searching for the remaining vestiges of his creator, in the novel The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis.
Saramago, José. The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. 1984. Trans. Giovanni Pontiero. 1991. The Harvill Press. London: The Random House Group Limited, 1999.

Bernardo Soares (1890-1935)

Bernardo Soares, the book-keeper, is a prose-writing 'semi-heteronym,' principally responsible for perhaps his most famous work, The Book of Disquiet, first published in 1982, and subsequently edited and re-edited, translated and re-translated in a bewildering variety of versions, each (allegedly, at least) more 'complete' than the last.

Here's are some of the versions available in English:
  1. The Book of Disquiet. Ed. Maria José de Lancastre. Trans. Margaret Jull Costa. 1991. Introduction by William Boyd. Serpent's Tail Classics. London: Profile Books Ltd., 2010.
  2. The Book of Disquiet. Trans. Alfred Mac Adam, New York: Pantheon Books, 1991.
  3. The Book of Disquiet. Trans. Iain Watson. London: Quartet Books, 1991.
  4. The Book of Disquietude, by Bernardo Soares, assistant bookkeeper in the city of Lisbon. Trans. Richard Zenith. 1991. New York: Sheep Meadow Press, 1996.
  5. Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet. Ed. & Trans. Richard Zenith. Penguin Modern Classics. London: Penguin, 2001.
  6. Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet: The Complete Edition. Ed. Jeronimo Pizarro. 2013. Trans. Margaret Jull Costa. New York: New Directions Publishing, 2017.

There's also a bewildering range of kitschy Pessoa memorabilia in virtually every gift shop in Portugal: t-shirts, mugs, fridge magnets, tote-bags, and ... book-ends. The latter I found irresistible, I must confess:

Pessoa Bookends

And here's my own mini-collection of Pessoa-iana, in all its glory. You may notice a preponderance of translations by Richard Zenith, but he does have the (self-proclaimed) virtue of trying to make sure that his various selections from the poet's works do not overlap too substantially with one another (or even with other translator's selections). So even though you already own one of his books, you more or less have to buy the others.

Pessoa Bookends: left

Fernando António Nogueira de Seabra Pessoa

  1. Pessoa, Fernando. Obra Poética e em Prosa. Ed. António Quadros & Dalila Pereira da Costa. 3 vols. Porto: Lello & Irmão - Editores, 1986.

  2. Pessoa, Fernando. Poems of Fernando Pessoa. Trans. Edwin Honig & Susan M. Brown. 1971 & 1986. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1998.

  3. Pessoa, Fernando. Selected Poems. Trans. Jonathan Griffin. Penguin Modern European Poets. Ed. A. Alvarez. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974.

  4. Pessoa, Fernando & Co. Selected Poems. Ed. & trans. Richard Zenith. New York: Grove Press, 1998.

  5. Pessoa, Fernando. A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe: Selected Poems. Ed. & trans. Richard Zenith. Penguin Classics. London: Penguin, 2006.

  6. Pessoa, Fernando. English Poetry. Ed. Richard Zenith. Documenta poetica, 154. Assírio & Alvim. Porto: Porto Editora, 2016.

Pessoa Bookends: right

So what does it all add up to, this brief excursus through the wonderful world of Fernando Pessoa? "If I could tell you, I would let you know" (to quote W. H. Auden). There's something delightful about his single-minded pursuit of multifarious fragmentedness, as well as in the way Portugal has decided to celebrate him as their greatest poet since the sixteenth-century epic bard Luís de Camões.

On the other hand, there's undoubtedly something depressing in the fact that all this acclaim surfaced only long after his death - and an unmistakable atmosphere of neglect and self-deluding monomania still seems to hang about his head despite it all. He's somewhat of a joke in 'serious' Portuguese literary circles, one local Academic confided to me at the short story conference to which I'd just contributed a paper entitled "Pessoa Down Under," about the local Australasian manifestations of his pervasive influence.

Joke or not, Pessoa is here to say. And if you don't think much of his poetry in translation, well, which writer is it that you're really judging? There are enough of them in there for anyone, I would have thought, and enough collected works to last us till the cows - or, in this case, sheep - come home.

Camões & Jack - in silly hat
(Praça Luís de Camões, Lisbon: 26/6/18)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Can Poetry Save the Earth?

Our Changing World: Public Lecture Series
(Albany Campus, Massey University, 2018)

What the ...? Of course not, I hear you say. And, naturally, I have a good deal of sympathy with this view. I took the title from Paul Celan-biographer John Felstiner's intriguingly named book Can Poetry Save the Earth?: A Field Guide to Nature Poems. My unfortunate colleagues Jo Emeney and Bryan Walpert have been forced to live with it.

John Felstiner: Can Poetry Save the Earth?: A Field Guide to Nature Poems (2009)

This particular public lecture is by all three of us, you see, but unfortunately I was the one who sent in the rubric for it, some time in the balmy summer days of last year, when all such tiresome things seemed an awful long way off. Now, alas, it's hard upon us:

Not only that, but this:

Watch online

These public lectures are available to view online via webcasts.
If you can’t join us in person, why not join online?
Watch Webcast Live via these links
(will be stored so can also be watched after the event):

Here's yet another announcement from the Massey website:

Book and flowers Can poetry save the Earth? 

Thursday 31 May 2018  | Associate Professor Bryan Walpert, Dr Jack Ross, Dr Jo Emeney
Can Poetry Save the Earth? A Field Guide to Nature Poems is the title of poet and critic John Felstiner's 2009 exploration of how the human and natural worlds connect. Can writing and reading poetry change both? It’s a question that resonates with one of the most pressing issues of our time – the impact of climate change. Poets and editors Associate Professor Bryan Walpert, Dr Jack Ross and Dr Jo Emeney, from Massey’s creative writing programme, discuss how imagination and thinking about nature can be opened up through poetry and will read from their own work.

And here's the text of an article our wonderful communications director Jennifer Little wrote about the whole extravaganza:

Can poetry save the Earth?

Can reading, writing and studying poetry have any relevance to how we think about and respond to increasingly grim environmental issues? A trio of award-winning poets, editors and creative writing lecturers from the School of English and Media Studies will share their ideas on this intriguing notion in a public lecture.

In Can poetry save the Earth? (Thursday 31 May at 6:30pm), Associate Professor Bryan Walpert, Dr Jack Ross and Dr Jo Emeney will explore the idea that writing and reading poetry can connect us to the natural world in a way that resonates with one of the most pressing issues of our time – the impact of climate change.

They will discuss how imagination and thinking about nature can be opened up through poetry, and will read their own and others’ work – from home grown greats such as Hone Tuwhare and Brian Turner to American poet Robert Frost and Romantic English poet John Clare. It is the fourth of ten free public lectures in the 2018 Our Changing World series, featuring speakers from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

They’ve borrowed their lecture title from Can Poetry Save the Earth? A Field Guide to Nature Poems - poet and critic John Felstiner's 2009 exploration of how the human and natural worlds connect.

While Felstiner may have intended just to give his book a catchy title, “Poetry and poets can use their sway to agitate for change. Why else would so many of us be put in prison?” says Dr Emeney.

“I can think of at least one example where the use of a chemical pesticide (DDT) was banned across the United States as a direct result of a book on the subject written by a poet.”

“I think Felstiner chose the title in a teasing way, since it's so obvious that poetry can't save the Earth. It gets more interesting when you start to question ‘why not’, though,” says Dr Ross. “Why couldn't it at least help? Doesn't poetry - by its nature - suggest certain attitudes which might be of value in keeping us alive?”

“I don’t think a particular poem is likely to save the Earth,” Dr Walpert says, “but I think that poetry as a whole can have an important effect on the way we think about the problems around us.”

Eco-poetry voices 21st century concerns

While there are and always have been ‘nature poets’, there’s now a complete school of thought, with learned journals, anthologies, and growing bodies of work called ‘eco-poetry,’ says Dr Ross.

He and Bryan have co-supervised a PhD thesis in this relatively new, cross-disciplinary field. “I don't see how one can be a poet and not be aware of your environment, regardless of what that awareness actually means or constitutes,” he says.

“Poetry is about respect, about making sure that in future we listen more carefully to the voices who've been warning about this for so long: before Rachel Carson [ecological prose poet and author of the ground-breaking 1962 environmental science book Silent Spring], even, and all the way back to John Clare [19th century English poet) and [Romantic English poet and painter] William Blake (those 'dark satanic mills’).

“Perhaps in the current context,” says Dr Walpert, “at a time when we are so overwhelmed with digital waves of language and such a public experience of it, much of it without nuance – private experiences of language that take more than a few seconds to read, that bear re-reading, and that embrace complexity have a particular value.”


Dr Jo Emeney has written two poetry collections: Apple & Tree (Cape Catley 2011), and Family History (Mākaro Press 2017), as well as a recent nonfiction book, The Rise of Autobiographical Medical Poetry and the Medical Humanities(ibidem Press 2018).

Dr Jack Ross is managing editor of Poetry New Zealand, New Zealand’s oldest poetry journal (now published by Massey University Press), as well as author of several poetry collections, including A Clearer View of the Hinterland (2014).

Associate Professor Bryan Walpert has published several collections of poetry in the US, the UK and New Zealand, most recently Native Bird (Makaro Press); a collection of short fiction, Ephraim’s Eyes, which includes the short story, 16 Planets, that won the climate change themed Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Award for fiction. He’s also written two scholarly books on poetry, Resistance to Science in Contemporary American Poetry and the recently published Poetry and Mindfulness: Interruption to a Journey.

Lecture details:
Can poetry save the Earth? 31 May, 6.30pm: Sir Neil Waters Lecture Theatre (SNW300), Massey University Auckland campus, Albany.
Register at massey.ac.nz/ourchangingworld

If all that hasn't put you off, feel free to put in an appearance tonight at the lecture. Failing that, you can see the poems I'm going to be reading as well as the images from my powerpoint here, on my Papyri website. (Hint: it's likely to involve both Paul Celan and John Clare):

Gisèle Celan-Lestrange (1927-1991): "Etching"

[all pictures of the event courtesy of Bronwyn Lloyd]:

Jo Emeney, Bryan Walpert & Jack Ross