John Pule's The Bond of Time: an Epic Love Poem — 20.03.14

John Pule's epic Pasifika love poem is to published by Canterbury University Press

John Pule's epic love poem described as "a precocious masterpiece" and "one of the great poems of Oceania produced in the last century" is to be published in a new edition this month by Canterbury University Press.

John Puhiatau Pule was just 21 years old living in Auckland when he wrote The Bond of Time: an Epic Love Poem, composed as a lyrical address by a lover to his beloved.

Pule says that The Bond of Time is classic Pacific poetry written in English and also about living in the Pacific and New Zealand.

"It is partly a love song to Polynesia. When I wrote it I was influenced profoundly by the New Zealand landscape, by Niue, and by the Pacific Ocean, and by world literature, from the English Romantics to modern European literature. I was delving into history and spending a lot of time in museums."

Pule published it in a limited edition in 1985. A second edition was published in 1998 by the Pacific Writing Forum University of the South Pacific, Fiji, when Pule was a writer in residence, but the poem has been out of print for 16 years.

Nearly 30 years after he wrote it, John Pule say that The Bond of Time, is a poem about a "great sad love that I experienced, and is also my love song to Polynesia"

Poet Jeffrey Paparoa Holman has written the introduction for the new edition, and is delighted that The Bond of Time, which he describes as an "all-but-forgotten classic of Pasifika poetry in English", will now have the opportunity to reach new hearts and minds.

"What is truly remarkable is such sustained energy and ambition in the hands of one who was barely beginning to write poetry with any serious commitment," he says in the introduction to the book.

"The Bond of Time is a vast, surreal cornucopia of images stretching over 88 pages, a non-lineal narrative bursting at its seams into every successive five-lined unrhymed stanza, each self-contained but caught in the net of Pule's ravishing imagination."

Holman says the "emotional forces of passion and creativity netted in the form throw up wave after wave of surprises: shifts in focus, illogical links, intuitive bursts of sensual simile and metaphor, sometime naïve, sometime magically profound".

The love that preoccupies the youthful poet in The Bond of Time is multi-faceted; it combines the erotic and surreal with the earthy and the mundane, the classical with modern. As Holman writes, "No one who comes to this epic love poem will go away hungry. To say that ‘all life is here' would be an understatement".

The cover design for the new edition features Pule's 2012 painting The Great World (To Hā).

The Bond of Time will be launched on 27th March by Jeffrey Paparoa Holman at Te Ao Mārama, University of Canterbury.

Detail, John Pule painting from the exhibition, The Great World (To Ha), 2012, oil and mixed media on canvas 2m by 2m, courtesy of the artist