Sunday, December 8, 2013

Reviews of Robert J Pope’s King Willow

Last December I launched/published a book of poems, King Willow, by the late, forgotten Wellington poet, cricketer and songwriter Robert J Pope (1865-1949).
Pope’s neglect is common enough for New Zealand poets. Their reputations exist during their lifetimes and very few are enduring. However, more increasingly digital texts of these early poets are available online. I am now working on making a digital ebook pdf of Robert J Pope’s poems for distribution online.
In the meantime, watch this space. Here are two excellent reviews received on publication of Pope’s book this year, showing he still has plenty of relevance as a poet to today’s readers:


Review of King Willow: Selected Poems by Robert J Pope, edited by Mark Pirie, HeadworX Publishers.

Robert J Pope’s poem ‘King Willow’ appeared in Mark Pirie’s book A Tingling Catch: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009 (HeadworX, 2010). It talked of the opening of the 1932 cricket season.
Pope was a well-known Wellington poet, cricketer and songwriter. He was born in 1865 and died in 1949. Pope wrote the famous school song ‘New Zealand, My Homeland’. Pirie has put together many of his poems. This selection gives a picture of the man and his times and restores a significant New Zealand poet.
These poems are not old, dusty stuff. King Willow traces a time when Pope began writing and publishing during the Edwardian era and spans two world wars. He put together sporting verse on the 1924-25 All Blacks Tour of Great Britain and France.
Growing up in Dunedin, Pope says in ‘Memories’:

…Twas there by the fireside my father sat
And I upon his knee,
Enthralled by the wondrous tale he told
Of the Old, Old Man of the Sea.

There my mother plied her needle oft—
Sure toll our rents supplied:
And yonder the spot where my sister fell—
She was the first that died…

King Willow is fascinating, even with the rather mannered quality to some of these poems.
(Otago Daily Times, 16 February 2013, p. 49)


Review of King Willow: Selected Poems by Robert J Pope, edited by Mark Pirie, HeadworX Publishers.

King Willow, Selected Poems, Robert J Pope, edited Mark Pirie, is a scholarly piece of research - a timely and substantial publication.
It presents much of the work of Robert J Pope (1865-1949) who had largely dropped out of sight and might otherwise have remained so, as have many other poets who preceded Allen Curnow's 1945 A Book of New Zealand Verse and became overwhelmed by the latter's new orthodoxy.
In this respect, Mark Pirie has done stupendous work in rediscovering him (as he has many other writers) and bringing him back into notice. Pope certainly deserves such discovery and recognition.
A long term and substantial writer, he 'deserves' as Pirie says, 'recognition ... as a significant precursor to the urban 1950s Wellington Group'. This is an enlightening and extremely worthwhile publication. (Poetry NZ 47 (August 2013))

The Journal of the Cricket Society also reviewed it:

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