Yes, I'm afraid it's another obituary. Bernard Gadd died on December 11th last year, but I only heard about it earlier this month (See the Poetry Society's memorial page here).
Siobhan Harvey and some others are organising a reading in his honour, which I unfortunately won't be able to attend, but here are the details if you'd like to go along:
Where: Manukau Research Library, 15 A Ronwood Avenue, Manukau City
When: Wednesday 20th February at 5.30 pm
For myself, I thought I'd just write a few memories down here.
I first met Bernie in 1998, at the Tauranga Poetry Festival, where he was launching a book of Haibun with Catherine Mair and Patricia Prime. I offered to commission a review of it in the pander, of which I was then one of the editors. The pander's basic schtick (at the time) was anonymous reviews -- like the oldtime Times Literary Supplement -- and the notice, when it came, was pretty scathing.
I got an indignant letter from Bernie, which I printed in its entirety in the next issue, and so peace was restored.
We didn't meet often, but that was the basic pattern of our literary relations. We were both editors of the literary magazine Spin at the same time, and agreed on little, but I think we always respected each other's integrity and right to a contrary opinion: "Opposition is true friendship," etc.
I printed poems by him in Spin, in brief (which actually led to a falling-out with previous editor Alan Loney), and was happy to find myself on the same poetry list as Bernie at HeadworX. Something about his maverick, bull-at-a-gate attitude obviously appealed to Mark Pirie (and to John Dolan too -- I found a most intriguing review of Debating Stones (2002) at the Glottis website).
His name seemed to crop up everywhere! On cross-cultural anthologies of stories and plays for schools, on old articles about Te Kooti in the Polynesian Journal, in poetry magazines ... When Michele Leggott, Murray Edmond and Alan Brunton released their anthology of sixties and seventies poetry, Big Smoke, in 2000, Bernie came back at them with a counter-anthology of all the poets he considered unjustly excluded: Real Fire (Hallard Press, 2002).
He was feisty and irrepressible. I'm glad that he achieved some of the things he really wanted towards the end of his life. Alistair Paterson featured him on the cover of Poetry NZ 34, and his work was increasingly being feted and recognised.
For my own part, when I look back over old reviews and notices, I feel he treated me with a great deal of forbearance and understanding. He must have thought me an awfully jumped-up young cub at times ... But here he is on When the Sea Goes Mad at Night(Pohutukawa Press, 1999/2000), a millennial anthology edited by Theresia Liemlienio Marshall:
Ross’s poems have the effect of the post-modern. Places evoke crisp images, memories, fragments of thought, literary recollections which, set side by side, successfully create imaginative poems crammed with surprises and interest.and on Chantal's Book (2002):
This is a book of love poetry for Chantal, but very much of the 21st century, with a keen sense of the ambiguities and contraries of love, a questioning of its permanence and capacity to change the lovers, an almost edgy ambivalence. Here too is humour, satire, irony but not the jokey embarrassment at love and lust of, say, a Glover. A variety of poetic techniques are employed, often giving the page the appearance of a layered modernity. But the poetry is essentially accessible and direct.You can't say much better than that, can you? I wish I had a similar sheaf of notices of his own books I could flourish, but I always shied away from reviewing him somehow. I wasn't sure that I really understood what he personally was getting at with his interest in haiku and haibun, and his revisionist views on New Zealand history seemed to demand a more informed commentator than myself.
I am glad I printed so many of his poems at various times, though. He was a tireless contributor to magazines and anthologies, and they give off an increasing lustre now that there won't be any more of them. There was one in the special "Smithymania" issue of brief [26 (2003) 86, and this one in a later issue [29 (2004) 45], which now sounds rather sad, in retrospect:
comes from three days
you stand in a clear white space
your shorts show no hip nub
nor squinted navel
above a shoulder
is hatched shadow
or a hint of stanza
or window slats
our lines lie drifting
on table glass