Book Thirty

Leicester Kyle

'It's vanity and not verity that makes a deity'
St. Augustine of Hippo

  1. The structure of this work was suggested to me by Dante’s La Vita Nuova. I have appropriated some of its elements, such as the supporting framework of the autobiographical story.

  2. At a public performance the work is best read by two voices, with the accompanying photographs projected onto a backing screen.


  1. Into Words
  2. The conference was an unhappy one ...
  3. God Watches Over
  4. His was the third signature
  5. There are voices
  6. Elaine had been put in the charge
  7. When it comes to understanding
  8. The grandparents had moved to Christchurch
  9. You shelter
  10. They had other pretensions
  11. You God Sit Enthroned
  12. Once we had a Big God
  13. Cecil left his job on the Grey River Argus
  14. Comfort, you say
  15. He also took an increasing amount of alcohol
  16. God of Ages
  17. For a time there was joy
  18. Even if you can’t be seen
  19. Now and then our parents fought
  20. Then there’s sex
  21. When in the mood Cecil would take us
  22. There must be more
  23. On wet days Cecil would wind up the gramophone
  24. For love
  25. Then Mavis dies
  26. You say this is
  27. The child lived and was named Jill
  28. The Fifth Sunday
  29. It’s one of the Sundays
  30. Mavis’s death overwhelmed the whole family
  31. The Last Unknown
  32. There came a universal peace and ours ended ...
  33. Does the Dove hover
  34. Then Cecil found brief influence
  35. If you are
  36. And then we heard them talking at the Church
  37. There are techniques
  38. But Helga fell ill, very ill
  39. She’s worn out
  40. He grew moodier, and sometimes violent
  41. If I
  42. Cecil came home in a couple of months ...
  43. Bit by bit
  44. From time to time we visited
  45. I can’t see
  46. Great-Uncle Jim died
  47. I will empty my head
  48. Then Helga found he was stealing from work
  49. You made us able
  50. Unwise friends, and unkind too
  51. God
  52. In death

Editorial Note

This sequence has been reconstructed from electronic files recovered from Leicester Kyle's computer hard-drive after his death. Unfortunately, as the files were arranged by alphabetical order of title, I have had to rely for the most part on internal evidence to reconstruct a probable order for the 28 poems and 24 short prose pieces called, by him, the "God Poems."

Sometimes the prose pieces - labelled above in italics - cite the poem (or poems) intended to come next directly by title. This is the case with proses 2, 10, 13, 15, 25, 27, 30, 44 and 48 above. In other cases the poem can be deduced by hints about its subject matter: the reference to "wind" in prose 32, for example.

I can't claim to have solved the puzzle definitively. While I think it's probable that Leicester planned to begin his performance of the sequence with the discovery of that old library copy of Auden's Look, Stranger! in a second-hand bookshop in Nelson, before moving back in time to earlier strata of his family history, I can certainly imagine other approaches.

In the absence of more direct proof, though, I thought it best to present the poems in at least one possible chronological order, as I do feel that they build a cumulative power through the narration of this family tragedy.

As with his other posthumous poetry sequence, The Galapagos Tracts, I'm not sure if the work was ever intended for publication, since his own notes (reproduced above) refer solely to a slide-show presentation. The fact that he cites Dante's Vita Nuova as one of his principal influences would seem to imply that he did envisage seeing it in print someday. For myself, I certainly think it sufficiently interesting to merit being reproduced here, despite any uncertainties about its ordering.

Leicester told me enough of his family history over the years for me to recognise this as a fairly accurate (albeit selective) account of the fortunes of the Kyle family from the Great Depression onwards. I don't know if any of the names have been disguised - I suspect some of them may have been. The autobiographical passages in such works as State Houses and Anogramma may also help us to fill in the odd gap in this account of the fall of a family.

The fact that these poems are arranged as a Job-like series of reproaches to God shows - if nothing else - how profoundly important the subject was for Leicester. He must, however, have believed that enough other people would see analogies to their own thoughts and experiences for him to wish to make public so bitter and disquieting a series of events.

- Jack Ross,
Mairangi Bay, February 2012.

© Leicester Kyle Literary Estate, 2012

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