Escape Path Lighting
8 October 2020
A drunken poet obliged to choose between Art and Love. What could possibly go wrong?
Rock Oyster Island. It’s a slack kind of place, but that’s the way the locals like it: lifestyle farmers, pensioned-off bikers, seekers and healers, meth cooks and fishing guides. It’s only a ferry ride to the city but the modern world feels blessedly remote. Working hard is not greatly valued. Mild Pacific sunshine pours down unfailingly.
When Arthur Bardruin, fugitive poet, washes up on Marigold Ingle’s beach, he dares to hope he may be safe from the gaze of the Continence Police. With Marigold and her parrot, Chuck, he finds an indulgent sanctuary. But the reach of aesthetic decorum is long. A chilly wind is blowing through Paradise . . . Meanwhile, at the Blue Pacific Wellness Farm, Juanita Diaz, Lacanian analyst, has problems with dissolute musician Frank Hortune, who has problems with his mother and a glad eye for Juanita’s lover.
Where did Chuck learn his bad-tempered Spanish? Can Juanita keep her man on the couch? Can Bardruin keep his trousers on? Will poetry be the winner on the day?
John Newton’s verse novel Escape Path Lighting is a throwaway epic, a romp, a curmudgeonly manifesto. The verse bowls along like a summer breeze. The satire leaves no target unscathed.
Born in Blenheim in 1959, John Newton grew up on a sheep farm at Port Underwood in the Marlborough Sounds. He taught for two years in the English Department at Melbourne, and from 1995 to 2009 in the English Department at the University of Canterbury. He is the 2020 Burns Fellow. The Double Rainbow: James K. Baxter, Ngāti Hau and the Jerusalem Commune was published by VUP in 2009, and Hard Frost: Structures of Feeling in New Zealand Literature 1908–1945 in 2017.
John is also the author of three poetry collections: Tales from the Angler’s Eldorado (1985), Lives of the Poets (2010), and Family Songbook (2013). His work appears in many major anthologies.