Between 1930 and 1950 there were renewed attempts to establish arts and literary journals. The aim of many was to foster a nationalist literature that told New Zealand stories and stressed a New Zealand sense of place.
Phoenix was first published in 1932 by Auckland University students. Despite lasting just four quarterly issues, it has been pored over by many literary scholars. Styled after the modernist New Adelphi journal, Phoenix was important less for its content and more as an outlet for writers who became influential in developing a nationalist New Zealand literature. These included James Bertram, R. A. K. Mason, Allen Curnow, Charles Brasch, J. C. Beaglehole and A. R. D. Fairburn.
Smell and colour
Denis Glover wrote, ‘Under Bertram it [Phoenix] certainly smelt slightly scholarly: it was serious in a literary way. Under Mason it went ramping red. Marxism was the caper.’1
Bertram edited the first two issues and then left for overseas study. His successor was Mason, who transformed it from a mainly literary and aesthetic journal into a left-wing political platform. The other major contribution Phoenix made was in typographical design. Bob Lowry’s clean layout and use of new type and bold linocuts were strikingly modern.
The artist and political radical Kennaway Henderson founded the fortnightly magazine Tomorrow in Christchurch in 1934, in reaction to what he saw as New Zealand’s stagnant culture. Tomorrow’s purpose was to encourage free expression on important subjects. Its main focus was politics, but it was also a literary vehicle. Contributors included Allen Curnow, John A. Lee, R. A. K. Mason, Denis Glover, Robin Hyde, Frank Sargeson, Freda Cook, Muriel Innes and A. R. D. Fairburn. Tomorrow fostered debate about a nationalist New Zealand literature, which was influential in shaping New Zealand literary criticism. Henderson’s searing critique of capitalism and authority figures put him offside with the government, which saw the magazine as subversive and closed it down in May 1940.
Other journals originating in the 1930s and 1940s included:
- Spilt Ink (1932–37). Started by Noel Farr Hoggard, it focused on younger writers and poets.
- New Zealand Mercury (1933–36). Set up by Helen Langford, it was open to a wide range of poets.
- Oriflamme and Sirocco (1933) were published by Canterbury University College students, including Denis Glover, as a southern response to Phoenix. The university banned Oriflamme after one issue for an article on ‘free love’. Sirocco briefly succeeded it.
- Woman To-day (1936–39). Founded by leftist women like Elsie Locke, it featured articles on birth control, abortion and divorce law reform.
- Book (1942–47). Featuring Caxton Press writers and edited by Anton Vogt, it was also typographically progressive.
- Here and Now (1948–57). The successor to Tomorrow, the monthly was mainly a journal of opinion, but also paid attention to the arts.
- Arena (1942–75). Another Noel Farr Hoggard initiative, it published both prose and poetry and featured new talent like Fiona Kidman and Ian Wedde.
- New Zealand New Writing (1943–45). Edited by Ian Gordon, its contributors included Bill Pearson, David Ballantyne and A. P. Gaskell.
In 1947 Caxton Press began the quarterly Landfall under the editorship of Charles Brasch. He soon made it New Zealand’s pre-eminent literary journal, a status successive editors have maintained. Landfall featured new fiction and poetry, cultural commentary and criticism, and reviews of literature and the arts. Its list of important contributors was extensive, and included Allen Curnow, James K. Baxter, Robert Chapman, Janet Frame, Bruce Mason and James Courage. In 1994 Otago University Press took over Landfall and in 2014 it was published biannually.