Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Poetics of the Denniston Plateau

Leicester in Millerton
[photograph: Jack Ross (2000)]

Here's the abstract the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (which I belong to) a re sending out for a talk I'll be giving at Massey Albany next week:

The Poetics of the Denniston Plateau

In a recent reflection piece on the mining of the Denniston Plateau in NZ Geographic magazine [# 122 (July-August, 2013): 114], Editor-at–large Kennedy Warne asked:
To what extent … did John Hanlon’s song “Damn the Dam”, which topped the singles chart for 1973, help tip the balance against the raising of Lake Manapouri? Did Grahame Sydney’s paintings and Brian Turner’s poems celebrating Central Otago landscapes influence public perception of a wind farm proposal for the Lammermoor Range?

He goes on to speculate that “perhaps a shared cultural esteem offers a more resilient protection than laws ever can.”

In this paper I would like to examine the ongoing influence of poet Leicester Kyle’s cultural and conservationist activism on the West Coast during the last seven years of his life, from 1998 to 2006. During this period he published a number of books and poems critical of Solid Energy’s plans for the development of the Stockton Plateau – most prominently The Great Buller Coal Plateaux (2001).

Warne concludes his piece in NZ Geographic as follows:
… for me … it is Kyle who catches the breath of this place and warns of the impending silence – just as he did for Happy Valley, the contentious Solid Energy mining site near Stockton. In his lament for that landscape, he spoke of the birds, writing poignantly: “they have no song for apocalypse”.

Could it be that it is only now, seven years after his death, that Kyle’s work is beginning to have the influence he hoped for it all along? In what sense can (or should) poetry aspire to have agency in cases such as this?

Dr Jack Ross is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Massey University's Albany Campus. His latest book Celanie: Poems and Pictures after Paul Celan, a collaboration with artist Emma Smith, appeared in 2012 from Pania Press. His other publications include three full-length poetry collections, three novels, and three volumes of short fiction. He has also edited a number of books and literary magazines, including (with Jan Kemp) the trilogy of audio / text anthologies Classic, Contemporary and New NZ Poets in Performance (AUP, 2006-8). He blogs at The Imaginary Museum.

The Rev. Leicester Kyle (1937-2006) spent the last seven years of his life living in the tiny hamlet of Millerton, on the west coast of the South Island. Jack Ross – in association with Kyle’s other literary executor, David Howard – has been instrumental in setting up the website at http://leicesterkyle.blogspot.co.nz/ (2011-2013) to publicize Kyle’s work and make his collected writings accessible online.

Here are the address details (and a little map), if any of you would like to come along (the talk is free, open to all, and we might even run to some wine and biscuits if the college is feeling especially generous):

Wednesday, October 2nd

4.00-5.00 pm

COHSS Seminar Series

Staff Lounge AT3.50
Atrium Building (3rd Floor)
Gate 1
Albany Campus
Massey University

Atrium building, Albany Campus
[photograph: Jack Ross]

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