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Cold Hub Press ~ R. A. K. Mason
Bags Dog Boat
The bags are locked, the labels clear,
My mind has marshalled all the gear
And reason reigns and has no fear.
Girl, you are young and I am old.
Only my heart will not be told
But cries apart and unconsoled.
It is a shambling dog that’s fled
From the feast and lifts its head
To scan the clouds and wail the dead.
My mind is sound, my reason clear.
The boat rocks at the Lethean pier.
My dog and I go aboard, my dear.
By permission of the Hocken Librarian
Publication date: 16 September, 2019
R. A. K. Mason
edited by Roger Hickin
with an introduction by Robert McLean
Softcover, 168 pp, 210 x 148mm
Allen Curnow called R. A. K. Mason (1905–71) New Zealand’s ‘first wholly original, unmistakably gifted poet’.
His Collected Poems, first published in 1962, was a rigorous selection made before Mason’s ‘late flowering’ of 1962–65. Some of the excluded poems and some of the late poems
have since seen the light of day in two biographies, but many are published here for the first time, drawn mostly from the papers of the Mason archive at the Hocken Collections, University of Otago, in Dunedin.
Reviewing No New Thing in Folios of New Writing in 1941 William Plomer described Mason’s poems as ‘gloomy, sexy and sardonic’. Curnow in the Christchurch Press spoke of
their ‘keen wit, salted by suffering’. To Roderick Finlayson (Landfall 99) they were ‘like those Spanish songs whose
strong harsh cries are disconcerting to some ears, but which pierce a receptive heart with sharp compassion’. Mason’s humanity and integrity were also expressed in pro-labour
and pacifist ‘propaganda poems’ which featured in the New Zealand Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Voice,
and three of these from 1939 are included in this selection, along with the verse script for the 1943 dance-drama ‘China’.
‘As all good writing has to, his writing came from his life. Each poem belonged to the life, like dark threads pulled
away from the frayed sleeve of an old coat. I call that quality authenticity.’ ––James K. Baxter, Landfall 99