Book Thirty-Four

I Got Me Flowers (c.1975)

Prose Fiction


  1. I Got Me Flowers: Letters to a Psychiatrist (c.1975)

I Got Me Flowers:
Letters to a Psychiatrist

(c. 1975)

Letters to a Psychiatrist

L. H. Kyle

For Ursula

I got me flowers to straw Thy way,
I got me boughs off many a tree;
But Thou was up by break of day,
And broughtst Thy sweets along with Thee.

George Herbert

Leicester Kyle. Letters to a Psychiatrist. 2nd ed. ISBN 978-0-473-41327-9. Paper Table Novellas, 1. Auckland: Paper Table, 2017. iv + 87 pp.:

Leicester Kyle

Paper Table Novellas

Published by:
Paper Table
6 Hastings Rd
Mairangi Bay
Auckland 0630

Email: Publisher's contact

Copyright © Estate of Leicester Kyle 2017

ISBN 978-0-473-41327-9

This novella was originally issued sometime in the mid-1970s, as an undated, self-published pamphlet, under the title ‘I Got Me Flowers: Letters to a Psychiatrist.’

A complete transcript of this edition may be accessed online at:

What might happen if you decided to leave civilization behind and live rough on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island? Leicester Kyle’s intimate knowledge of the ecology of the region provides a solid underpinning to this compelling tale of a mid-life crisis that turns into a visionary quest.

The Rev. Leicester Kyle (1937-2006) trained as a botanist before entering the Anglican Church in his twenties. He took early retirement in 1995 to devote himself to full-time writing. In pursuit of this, he moved to Millerton on the West Coast in the late 1990s. He is perhaps best known for his experiments in eco-poetics, but his prose work shows many of the same themes and concerns.

Commentary & References:

Launch speech by Stu Bagby (3/12/17):

Congratulations to all concerned with the production of the three novellas. The result is striking.

Re-arranging some of Leicester Kyle's titles we get:
Living at a bad address,
Panic Poems,
Things to do with kerosene
... and now, today, we launch Letters to a Psychiatrist.

The book's blurb asks: “What might happen if you decided to leave civilization behind and live rough on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island? Leicester Kyle's intimate knowledge of the ecology of the region provides a solid underpinning to this compelling tale of a mid-life crisis that turns into a visionary quest.”

Or, perhaps we could say: It's a tale wherein the seventeenth century divine Norris of Bemerton, partly disguised as an unarmed Barry Crump/Robinson Crusoe, lets an omelette stand between him and sacrilege. (See Page 59).

I was reluctant to take on the task of launching the novella because I felt I hadn't known Leicester all that well. It's true we had shared meals at each others homes and met frequently enough over poetry. I don't recall our ever having talked about botany or religion. After his move to the South Island we corresponded. I wrote a small series of poems called “Letters to Leicester” one of which finishes by asking him: “perhaps you also saw the secrets of the great illusionists explained?” I was referring to a television programme, but over the years I've come to think I was onto something, that is, there was something of the shaman about him. Having said that, perhaps it is true of many priests.

Reading Letters to a Psychiatrist sometimes reminded me of Graham Greene's whiskey priest, though I picture Leicester being more at ease with the sherry and fruit cake he once offered at a book launch.

I found very interesting the fact that Leicester wrote the novella when in his thirties, many years before he took early retirement. It seems natural to suspect that he spent many years disillusioned with parish work. In his letters to me he often used surprisingly formal language. Perhaps this extract from the novella illustrates that:
The bishop granted me leave of absence, though reluctantly, and only after my assurance that the time would be spent in a positively edifying manner. He suspected my motives, as all married men do of the celibate, and always with good reason too. After careful thought I decided to spend the time on the North Buller Coast, and on one morning of the late spring of last year, took the Karamea bus, forsaking it at Mohikinui.
I cannot imagine anybody other than Leicester forsaking a bus.

Readers can be reassured that the writing employed in Letters to a Psychiatrist is not stilted or hard going. It is a beguiling read, written with skill and sureness. If today's publication could be described as a canoe with two outriggers, I have great pleasure in claiming that this third of the vessel has been launched.

Editorial Note

both the (selected) facsimile pages and the complete transcription is a copy of Leicester's original photocopied text lent to me by Richard Taylor. Bibliographical details and transcriptions of blurb and prelims are also given for the first commercial publication (Auckland: Paper Table, 2017).

- Jack Ross,
Mairangi Bay, March 2012 & November 2017.

© Leicester Kyle Literary Estate, 2012

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