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Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 9. 1969.

Books — Words, Wine and Women

page 10


Words, Wine and Women

Rupert Glover: The Wine and The Garlic, Pegasus Press. Price $1.25. 32 pp.

It Would seem that in this short volume of verse Rupert Glover could not put a foot wrong. While in fact there are few lines which sturtle or surprise the reader, the poems are smooth, competent and intelligent—the best I should imagine of an interesting collection. There is a professionalism about his writing which stops short of the point of slickness, a complexity which is never over-complicated and an involvement well short of sentimentality.

His poem "Hallucinations" is a strange technical piece of work which is open I think to several interpretations of meaning. The reference in the first stanza to remembering Los Alamos, first atomic bomb centre juxtaposed with Margeurite Duras' Hiroshima Mon Amour "you saw nothing at Hiroshima nothing" produces the sadness of man facing the reality he has created. Original simplicity is destroyed; the defining, the naming process begins. The four parts of the poem are worth quoting in full to see how Glover with a minimum of embellishments and carefully chosen words achieves his intended effect.


Walking a night along
a windswept beach
and looking for a fairy circle
beyond my reach, too often
I remember Los Alamos
and the public folks.
You saw nothing at Hiroshima, nothing.


A vision of the diseased flesh
and inevitable chancres of the whole topography
embellished with the inescapable stench
of a dying whore, transformed itself
into a glossy photograph of the surface
of my brain.
the alps lie strangely cold
beneath the sign of the scorpion.


Always exists the darkening wood,
the shortened grass beneath the living
trees. The trees in spring have names.
Of the two women in the wood
alone it is the tall, the fair, who never
will sustain the man's unchosen quest.
And yet dissent
will bring no punishment.
Only in autumn will
the tall white dame
teach a bent and fallen man
to know the trees by name.


In the sun of the first ages
night was just a deeper shade of day:
a common shade of man and gods and man,
a howling whisper, creation's single way.
But now the wind or I
must name these nameless hills.
Run faster, horses of the night.

This mastery of words is a continual feature of the book. His other long poem "The Legacy" contains pathos, humour, bitterness, love, anger—all of people and events, all short pungent lines yet softened by the care put into them. Glover's work is neat, seldom a cliche, seldom an ugly sound. For example part of the recital of the bequests—

'Item: to yong Driver,
thee shameless shatter, I
bequeath the Registry Office
(I went there once). May he
marry soon; or if not,
have at least two daughters
as spirited as Lots.

The elder daughter will be
a credit to her teachers, and
the younger a credit to her
father. In his old age may
he hear her sing this song:

Many was the night I longed
to harvest my father
Not like elder sister's
love of duty
I liked his beard
mine, just for the hell
in it".

The only poem I am rather disappointed he included in this collection is "To Literary Critics" too trivial for this collection and perhaps included deliberately because it brings up an inevitable comparison of Rupert with Denis Glover and the hitter's fund of short pithy satire.

Rupert's short poems otherwise represent a refreshing variation of exhilerating moods. Unlike recent overseas trends, if one can judge by such collections as Love Love Love and World Makes the Love Go Round". Glover's poems are controlled, vibrant, clearly original. There is the gay witticism of his poem "Keeping the Ledger" balanced by the deeper tonal difference of a poem like "Nightshade" and the beauty of the poem "Song from Saigon".

Almost all of Rupert Glover's poems are worth reading and his selection of his own poems like his editorship of the Arts Festival publication Strawberry Fields is careful and constructive. His writing has a directness and the considered forthrightness of a mature poet. For example "Song of Saigon" skilfully combines three themes— parallels in classical mythology, peasant culture and sexual allegory.

"Look, look! they are fighting for me. Achilles has dealt a crushing blow, and swept priams men off the bushy plain in a wave of tidal flame.

If this goes on I shall walk in the dusty agora, missing the marketing fish, missing the abundance of rice. I shall be a gift from a god's pocket, a mind's-eye prize.

Like the lapping of
the water on the city
is the slap
slap slap of the
raider in my loins."

And yet the poem is successful, complete, with no preteniousness or undue sentimentality.

Rupert Glover appears to have denied the convention that a poet can not be the son of a poet. His is a poet and a very worthwhile one. His feeling is honest and his approach both light and serious. He catches both reality and fantasy, common place and ethereal, Miller's exuberance and Lawrence's sensibility, balanced perhaps between the wine and garlic.