Wise words


Writer Owen Marshall gave the address at the university of Otago’s graduation ceremony last weekend.

Among his wise words were these:

. . . if the university as a whole “ever loses that essential love of knowledge for its own sake, that scholastic enthusiasm and tolerance, then the spark will be gone”.

The university was then likely to be “a place of formal, empty pedantry, meal-ticket mentality, or a debased, bums-on-seats democracy”, . . .


. . . “Everyone seems to be an expert on education, and a good deal of vehement and often ignorant criticism is advanced, for always there are people who are eager to find fault in the performance of others, yet unwilling or incapable of taking responsibility themselves.

“Of course we need accountability, efficiency and a response to modern youth and modern society.

“We also need to preserve and commend those values that are at the heart of the best universities – scrupulous scholarship, academic enthusiasm, intellectual curiosity, a fellowship of the heart and mind, and a desire to pass on knowledge.”


He emphasised the need for gratitude, which was “not much in fashion these days”.

“We hear much of rights, accountability, consumers, performance and delivery, all in a mechanistic way, but not much about gratitude, and not much about dedication.”

Graduates owed gratitude not only to family and friends but also to Otago University itself.

And he thanked Otago staff who had “persevered through the squalls of restructuring and the doldrums of educational policy, to maintain a vision of senior study that upholds opportunity based on talent, an openness to intellectual possibility, the value of reason and knowledge of life generally.” . . .

Tuesday’s Poem on Thursday


A couple of days late: this Tuesday’s Poem is Leaving The Tableland by Kerry Popplewell.

It was chosen by Tim Jones who said it showcases her skill at exploring the palce where landscape and memory meet. And it does.

Links on the right hand side of the page take you to others who write or feature a Tuesday Poem.

One of this week’s is Mother Ease by Pam Morrison at Cadence. A poem she says she wrote when  being mother was a defining role in my life. I wondered about other shapes ‘motherness’ might take.

Apropos of matters poetic, Beattie’s Book Blog has a couple of gems  on old age by Owen Marshall.

High tea and literary conversation


The invitation was to A Proper High Tea at Burnside  with the added attraction of a conversation in which Fiona Kidman and Owen Marshall would share their thoughts on The Spirit of Place in Writing.

Burnside is one of North Otago’s original homesteads which specialises in Victorian fare. The proper high tea included pease pudding, devilled chicken, cold sliced venison, jellied beetroot, green salad and rooled bread and butter.

Dainty cinnamon oysters, chocolate cream cakes and a selection of fruit tarts followed.

In between courses the two writers took us around New Zealand and the world with poetry and prose.

The evening was a fundraiser for the Janet Frame Eden Street Trust.

Earlier in the day Fiona had led a workshop on writing memoirs in the Janet Frame room at Waitaki Girls’ High School followed by lunch and writing time at Janet’s childhood home at 56 Eden Street.

Timeless Land


Brian Turner’s poetry, Owen Marshall’s prose and Grahame Sydney’s paintings combine to capture the people and places of heartland New Zealand.

Timeless Land, published by Longacre Press, is a glorious tribute to Central Otago.

In Place,  Turner writes: Once in a while/you may come across a place/where everything/seems as close to perfection/ as you will ever need . . .

Once in a while you may come across a book in which everything seems as close to perfection as you will ever need. This is such a book, one to linger over, read and re-read.

dairy 10013

Post 20 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

Deborah at In A Strange Land posts on Matariki by Melanie Drewery, illustrated by Bruce Potter.

Oswald Bastable posts on Jim Henderson’s Open Country  and Shooting from the HipLip by Lee Hughes.

book month logo green


Dansey’s Pass Pub for sale


The ODT reports  that the Dansey’s Pass hotel is on the market.

The hotel is a few kilometres from Naseby. It was built in 1862, and is one of the few old coach inns which remain.

We celebrated a 50th birthday there last year and can recommend the comfort of the bed and the standard of the food.

The pass is the border between North and Central Otago. It’s a scenic drive through tussock covered hills but the road is unsealed, narrow with lots of twists and turns so not recommended for inexperienced drivers or passengers who get car sick.

Whitestone Cheese named a farmhouse style cheese  after it.

It’s also the subject of an Owen Marshall poem, from Occasional, published by Hazard Press.

                           – Dansey’s Pass –

Walk the wind arch of this burnished place.

Leave the gravel road behind like childhood.

Tussock flayed by austere Waitaki winds

is harsh, archaic and blown quite clean.

Here nature still defies all subjugation

and I rejoice in blissful arrogance

standing solitary upon the lion’s back.


– Owen Marshall –



Owen Marshall is the master of the short story. His gift for economy of word and phrase works well in poems too.

Today’s contribution to poetry month is Marsha’lls Ingratitude  one of 50 poems in his book Occasional, published by Hazard Press, 2004.



I hesitate to look the gift horse of existence in

the mouth, aware of all who have sack shuffled

into perpetual darkness, paid the ferryman his

coin, and those ova and spermatozoa impatiently

queuing on the chancy waiting list for the golden


interlude of life: that great oncer. Yet now I’m

old enough to have been around the traps, seen

the unheroic flipsides of this world’s flats, I

hear an inner voice, Oliver’s sad twin, which asks

not is there any more, but is there something else?


                 – Owen Marshall –

Even Words Grow Old


Today’s contribution to poetry month is Owen Marshall’s Even Words Grow Old from Occasional, published by Hazard Press, 2004.


Even words grow old


Even words grow old, finally over the hill

hearts grown cold though husks there still.

Piquant vocabulary becomes as a museum’s

buttoned shoes. Idioms rattle in the text

shrivelled in their shells, and prejudice

of an age lies exposed in bare expression.


Smiles of grammatical exactitude tighten

to a pedant’s rictus. Even words grow

old, no matter how resolute the will, and

meanings fade as the subtle colours of

the dying salmon. thus convulsive mutation

and slower evolution gather their ambiguity


and blunt that first magnificent precision

so kids can only mouth at Shakespeare and

olde Chaucer. Simulacra abound, amiable

dissembling appearance, yet meaning warped

or meanings true but faces hard to recognise

as cracked, dim frescos of Etruscan beauty.


Imprisoned on the page, even words grow old

sentenced to repetition and static senility

flashes of wonder and fleeting comprehension

from all points of the compass, but no one

direction. Strange things lie buried: bog

corpses of language of which we lack memory.


So writing’s fabric wears thin, and dresses

of the past no longer cover our modern hips.

Persian sages gave their dingle, immutable

injunction, and paradox, This Too Will Pass.

Even words grow old- but spawn afresh, thank God

bright, nervous fingerlings, perfectly attuned.


             – Owen Marshall –

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night


Sunday is St David’s Day which made the choice of a Welsh poet the logical choice for this Friday’s poem.

That of course led me to  Dylan Thomas  and the only one of his works I could find in any of my poetry books was Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.

It was Owen Marshall’s choice in Dear to Me 100 New Zealander write about their favourite poems, published by Random House  as a fund raising project by Amnesty International.

Writing about his choice, Marshall said he’d have preferred his favourite :

wasn’t as conventionally popular as this . . . nevertheless I cannot deny the power I find in this poem. that emotional power, and the theme which it drives, are almost entire within the first three-line stanza. And what a stroke of genius to use the adjective, gentle, rather than the expected adverb.

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night


Do not go gentle into that good night

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

                –      Dylan Thomas    –

Dansey’s Pass



Walk the wind arch of this burnished place.

Leave the gravel road behind like childhood.

Tussock flayed by austere Waitaki winds

is harsh, archaic and blown quite clean.

Here nature still defies all subjugation

and I rejoice in blissful arrogance

standing solitary upon the lion’s back.


– Owen Marshall –


This is posted because it’s Montana Poetry Day.


Dansey’s Pass  is the shortest, but not necessarily fastest, route between North and Central Otago.

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