LITERATURE – POETRY
Poetry in New Zealand is the child of a marriage between inheritance and environment. The inheritance has immense weight – the whole body of English (and European) literature – a weight constantly increasing as literary influences continue to flow from overseas. The environment, an egalitarian society set in a landscape of arresting extremes, is immediate and pressing. A small number of poets, most of them still alive, have succeeded in subduing both inheritance and environment to the exigencies of an individual vision.
The major periods in the development of poetry run parallel to English literary history: mid-Victorian romanticism evolving into Georgianism in the earlier twentieth century (we missed, to our loss, fin de siècle decadence), and giving place to the more astringent accents of the post-Eliot revolution. From the mid-nineteenth century to the present-day, colonists have brought books and literary fashions with them; English publishers have supplied the local market; New Zealand authors have aspired to publication in London. Not a few early settlers were men of taste, for whom regular consignments of books and periodicals were a lifeline to culture. Alfred Domett, the author of a readerless epic Ranolf and Amohia (1872) had known Browning well.