Raiment reviewed in the Waiheke Weekender


A review of Jan Kemp’s memoir Raiment has been published in the Waiheke Weekender:

‘Jan Kemp emerged as a leading young New Zealand poet in the ‘70s, when poetry was still seen as something men did. It seems incredible now, but when the anthology The Young New Zealand Poets was published in 1973, Jan Kemp was the only woman — out of nineteen poets — included. In 1979 (beyond the time covered in the book) Kemp toured with the so-called Gang of Four: Alistair Campbell, Hone Tuwhare and Sam Hunt billed as “Jan Kemp, the youngest — and prettiest? — of the four poets on tour.”

Sample poem:


A puriri moth’s wing lies light in my hand -

My breath can lift it -

Light as this torn wing, we lie on love’s breath.

The story of her first 25 years — of a 1950s childhood, student life and an early marriage in the 1960s and early 70s will resonate with anyone who remembers hippies living in crumbling Parnell flats, years when feminism was in its infancy. Jan writes about the years of the “six o’clock swill”, “mixed flatting” and “free love” with simple, ego-less honesty. “We were still very chauvinistic in the late sixties. Even me.”

Before meeting her first husband, a cigar-smoking Dutch nudist electrician who was much older than her, Jan spent a summer working in a student job — a chocolate-topping factory in Newmarket, wrapping labels on plastic bottles. And then she escaped to the bush — a bach in Titirangi, with her new husband. It didn’t last. “All the old arguments: [he said] if you hadn’t got mixed up with those poets, you wouldn’t leave. It’s all your fault it went wrong — you were able to attract more lovers than I could.”

When she lived in Titirangi, her English professor, Mac Jackson, with his wife, son, and infant daughter Anna lived nearby. Baby Anna grew up to become an academic, like her father, and a poet — she happens to be the author of the next book reviewed here.’