From Nowhere (Erewhon) to New Zealand.
"... Ever since Thomas More, 'Utopia' has meant both desirable paradise and unattainable ideal. Utopian literature:
'has a rich tradition in New Zealand, both in writing by New Zealanders and by others using a New Zealand setting. [...] New Zealand utopian literature is a living tradition that has now been established for over 150 years. It includes almost 150 adult titles and many more for young adult readers; and is being added to regularly.' [quotation from: Lynn Tower Sargent, in Robinson & Wattie, Oxford Companion, 555-56]
At the beginning of that tradition stands Butler's Erewhon. This national myth- making, this long-term process of projecting New Zealand as a distant and remote place, with little identity of its own apart from the borrowed glory of being 'This Other England,' nevertheless providing the site for a distant and remote vision of the future--whether positive or negative, eu-topian or dys-topian--conceptualizes the country, as it conceptualizes its constituent landscapes. Mental maps arise out of mental landscapes, which, if we are to believe Simon Schama, are always constructs. In this process, the image or leitmotif of Erewhon/Nowhere is a central element.
A recent instance is a sort of concrete poem distributed in postcard form by the expatriate New Zealander Jason Lofts, resident in "the unlikely place of the Principality of Liechtenstein," who "has designed an alternative souvenir of his home country. [...] Lofts [...] literally took New Zealand apart and produced a 'poem' consisting of seven anagrams of the words New Zealand and has made it into a postcard." The resultlooks like this:
NEW ZEALAND EZ A NEW LAND NEW AND ZEAL WEL AND ZANE NZ NEED A LAW Z, ELAN WANED EZE AND LAWN NZ: A WEE LAND
[cited source: "Poetry in the Post," New Zealand NewsUK (4 December 1996): 1]
In thus defamiliarizing thefamiliar, alienating the everyday reality of New Zealand by reshufflingits component parts--re-constructing, as it were, national identity--Lofts is availing himself of a device that was first used by Butler.[Footnote 24: Lofts in turn might well (consciously or not) be quotingJanet Frame, who has Godfrey, the protagonist of her novel TheRainbirds, muse in a sub-Joycean interior monologue: "No doubt myname is Dogrey Brainrid of Feelt Rived, Resonsand Bay, Dunndie, Ogoat,Shuto Sanlid, Wen Lazeland, Rotushen he-mis-phere, the Drowl":Frame, The Rainbirds (1968), also published as Yellow Flowers in theAntipodean Room (1969): 161] ..."
[Note, however, that"Wen Lazeland" is not a correct anagram of New Zealand.Nor is "Dogrey Brainrid" a complete anagram of thenovel's protagonist's name, Godfrey Rainbird.]
At the beginning of May this year I returned"literally" to NEW ZEALAND and, ever the avid amateuranagrammatist (alternatively, "anagram artist"), haveexpanded and reworked it as follows. Poetic licence and faithfulness toNew Zealand pronunciation are the excuses for the rare instances ofquasi-anagrams, e.g. "ez" for "is":
AADEELNNWZ 'AZE! NEW LAND? EZ A NEW LAND WE LAND ZANE NEW AND ZEAL LEAN ADZE NW ADZE NW LANE NZ, A WEE LAND NZ, A EWE LAND NZ NEED A LAW Z, ELAN WANED 'N' LAZED ANEW EZE AND LAWN WE A ZEN LAND NZ, A NEW DEAL LEAD A NEW NZ NEW ZEALAND
Commencing from a complete deconstruction into its componentelements, the hitherto undiscovered country's littoral (andliteral) landscape emerges from the haze ('aze), a nod orallusion to the Maori name for New Zealand of "Aotearoa",meaning "Land of the Long White Cloud", based on thenautical notion that the first sign of an island seen by a ship'slookout is often cloud in the sky above the land mass. As with manyfar-flung outposts of the British Empire, the country goes through atransformational process of conquest, colonization, confiscation,confusion, conversion, construction and consolidation. The"adze" lines evoke the clearing of large tracts of nativebush, such as in the northwest (Taranaki region in the west of the NorthIsland), transformed by European settlers into cattle runs, dairy farmsetc. "Ewe land" is a most apt connotation for acondescendingly small colony ("wee land") considering thatits human population is vastly outnumbered by non-indigenous sheep (atits peak in 1982 some 70 million ovine inhabitants to around 3 millionpeople, nowadays somewhat less disproportionate at roughly 30 millionversus approx. 4.5 million). The land itself tamed, it is then time tointroduce law and order, only as a consequence to confront theconfounding and often condemned New Zealand characteristic of backyardcomplacency or "she'll be right, mate!" mentality.In conclusion, the conceptual constituents of the country reshufflethemselves ("a new deal") into a consummate concreteconstruct of self-reinvention and reincarnation--a new NZ (NEWZEALAND).
Leaving aside literary considerations, conjectureand confabulation, NEW ZEALAND is--for logologists, at least--aself-solving conundrum: What English-language poem has its title at thebottom, consists of only two words made up of 7 different letters (2vowels and 5 consonants), ad the first and last (16th) lines of whichend in a "Z"? It is more than an anagrammatical poem.Recreational linguists are familiar with the following "-gram" family members: anagram, pangram, isogram, even the obscureautomynorcagram. So, why not conceive a new elite progeny--the"patriagram" [From Latin patria--(fatherland) via Greekpatris (native land) + -gram (something written)] meaning an anagram ofone's own country? Accordingly, this is, to be precise, apatriagrammatical poem, the poet being a"patriagrammarian"!
In a recent email exchangewith Richard Lederer, my humble efforts earned me the ultimate accolade("Jason, you are a true logologist"). In return, I toldhim that on May 6, 1985 I arrived in Europe, where I have since spentmore than half my life (28 years versus nearly 26 in New Zealand) andventured the explanation that "perhaps the process of coming toterms with expatriation and self-exile subliminally inspired me to payhomage to my home country when and the way I did."
by Jason Lofts inCheseaux-Noreaz, Switzerland