04 April 2008

Ruth Dallas, 1919-2008

Yet another obituary for a fine New Zealand poet. After Bernard Gadd and Hone Tuwhare comes news that Ruth Dallas has died.

In my opinion, Ruth Dallas isn't as well known, or as well read, a poet as she deserves. She grew up and began writing poetry in Invercargill (for readers from overseas, this is New Zealand's southernmost city, well away from the country's main centres of population). She later moved to the university city of Dunedin, where she lived for the most part away from the literary scene. While her work had some powerful supporters, such as Charles Brasch, her poetry (and children's books) were strongly located in the Southland landscape, and this did not appeal to a number of metropolitan critics.

The empty landscapes of Southland may not be for everyone, but I grew up there, knew and loved the places she was writing about, and found her concise and elegant poetry all the more evocative the further I moved from my Southland roots.

I recommend that you look for her Collected Poems (2000), check out her poem Calm Evenings online, and read her obituary in the Southland Times. In her quiet way, she was a major New Zealand poet, and certainly the pre-eminent Southland poet; and in her quiet way, she will be greatly missed.

3 comments:

chiefbiscuit said...

Great to have this acknowledgment of Ruth Dallas' work. Thoughtful and perceptive.

harvey molloy said...

Tim, I only found out about Ruth's death from your blog. I think that she's probably our most under appreciated poet. There's a great deal of Asia/Buddhist influences in her work. I've been reading her again this year, especially 'The Wheel.' Some of her work is also quite quirky, almost surreal.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks for both comments! Harvey, I in turn must thank Mark Pirie for forwarding an obituary of Ruth on to me; that was the first I heard of her death. There has since been a little more "official" recognition of her death, including a Dominion Post obituary, but nowhere near what there should have been.