Monday, March 05, 2012

The Leicester Kyle Project: Phase Two

Leicester's house at Millerton
(Oct 2005)

Well, it's been a long time coming, but I thought it was about time that I provided an update on how I was getting on with uploading Leicester Kyle's collected works.

Phase one (documented here) was posting all of Leicester's twenty-odd published books online. This is now substantially complete, though a good deal of proof-reading and reformatting still needs to be done.

Phase two is putting up a substantial selection from his posthumous papers and files. That's what I'm engaged on now, and hope to complete by the end of this year.

So far I can record the following discoveries:

  1. The Galapagos Tracts [A4: 74 pp.]
    Leicester's own description of this work, taken from the cv he compiled for a Creative New Zealand funding application in 2000, was as follows:
    Poetry based upon material in the first ten issues of ‘The Transactions of the N.Z. Institute’ (1867-1876).
    I remember Leicester showing me the ringbinder where he inserted each new instalment in this series of oddball found poems and pageworks extracted from that bizarre would-be scientific journal on one of my trips to Millerton in the late 90s.

    At the time I - rather impertinently, in retrospect - considered it far too esoteric and self-indulgent to be a practical publishing proposition. Now I think I can see more clearly what Leicester was driving at.

    I was very sorry to see that the contents of this ringbinder had not been included among the poems in the two boxfiles David Howard entrusted to me after Leicester's death. It's therefore with great satisfaction that I can announce that 51 of the 56 poems included in Leicester's own index to the Tracts have been recovered from among his online files.

    While admittedly still incomplete, I think that this gives us a pretty good idea of Leicester's overall intentions for the work. The text is now up, though the transcription needs to be reformatted before it's really usable.

  2. God Poems [A4: 56 pp.]
    These poems and short prose pieces, constructed on the model of Dante's Vita Nuova, chronicle the decline and fall of a family - Leicester's own.

    There's something Job-like in the intensity with which Leicester interrogates and inquires into the processes of God in this sequence, meant originally (apparently) to be performed as a kind of slide-show with photographs.

    Whether he ever intended to publish it is less certain. For myself, I believe that the questions that Leicester asks here are of more than purely personal interest. The work is complete, though some of the ordering of the individual pieces is conjectural.

  3. Five Millerton Sequences (2011) [A5: c.90 pp.]
    I'm hoping to publish this selection from Leicester's Millerton poems sometime later this year - details to be announced on this blog (and hopefully elsewhere as well). They would have come out in 2011, but the chance to do a print edition of Koroneho instead (as I describe here) was too serendipitous to ignore.

So what's left to do?

There are a good many more articles and nature pieces to be added to the page of Miscellaneous Prose. The Bibliography, Chronology, and Index of Titles all need a lot more work.

The most time-consuming task of all, though, will be sorting through the 750-odd shorter poems Leicester left behind in his two large box-files, and making a judicious selection from them available online.

I've decided to group them on seven pages, for more convenient reference:

  1. Selected Shorter Poems: 1 (1983-July 1995)
  2. Selected Shorter Poems: 2 (July 1995-September 1996)
  3. Selected Shorter Poems: 3 (September 1996-March 1997)
  4. Selected Shorter Poems: 4 (May 1997-April 1998)
  5. Selected Shorter Poems: 5 (June 1998-December 1999)
  6. Selected Shorter Poems: 6 (December 1999 - January 2004)
  7. Selected Shorter Poems: 7 (January 2004-February 2006)

As well as all that, there's also a page of Miscellaneous Poems: my selection of 24 of the 38 unclassified poems I found while trawling through Leicester's computer files.

What else? Well, there's now a gallery of images, which I'm very keen to expand, if anyone would like to send me any relevant photographs or drawings they have access to.

I'd also like to use this post to advertise the upcoming poetry symposium on Thursday-Friday (29-30 March, 2012) at Auckland University.

I'll be giving a short paper entitled "Digitising Leicester Kyle," on the process of posting Leicester Kyle’s long poem Koroneho in cyberspace, on Friday morning.

I’ll also be comparing my e-text with the more readable hardcopy version of the poem which is now available: Koroneho: Joyful News Out Of The New Found World. Edited by Jack Ross. Preface by Ian St George. Auckland: The Leicester Kyle Literary Estate / Wellington: The Colenso Society, 2011 (a joint publication with the Colenso Society, for William Colenso’s Bicentennial).

You can find the conference programme here. I'm afraid that it costs money to register, so you'll have to decide for yourselves just how keen you are to hear us. Hopefully it'll be a pretty entertaining event, with lots of interesting people speaking.

The Lounge reading on Wednesday evening (Senior Common Room, 28/3/12, 5.30-7 pm) is, however, free. I'll be reading at that as well.

Leicester's house on Calliope St. (Oct 2005)
[photographer unknown]

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