Saturday, January 9, 2016

Dear Neil Roberts by Airini Beautrais - A Review

Maintaining a memory

Dear Neil Roberts by Airini Beautrais

VUP Press, 2014, ISBN 9780864739735

Reviewed by Ann R Key - review originally published in AARGH! issue 3
I’M NOT from New Zealand, and I'm also not much of a sophisticate when it comes to poetry. I read what I like, skim, or ignore the rest, I can’t really tell you why I like what I do or what is good about it, just that for whatever reason a particular line or idea, mood or thought spoke to me and that was enough. But don’t ask me about structure or form, or poetic traditions because I don’t know. So I might not be the best person to review Airini Beautrais’ new book of poetry, Dear Neil Roberts (Victoria Press, 2014). But I am an anarchist and I have been here in New Zealand long enough that I had been told the story of Neil Roberts before.

In case you haven’t, the short version is that on 18 November 1982 anarchist and punk Neil Roberts blew himself up with a bomb he exploded outside the Wanganui Computer Centre. The Computer Centre held a large computer which held the National Law Enforcement Data Base. That database and the computer’s ability to record, store, and analyse personal information was seen as dangerous to civil libertarians. Sound familiar? Maybe this was the beginning of New Zealand’s obsession with surveillance? Anyway, Neil Roberts was 22 at the time and shortly before he exploded the bomb he left spray-­painted “We have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity” on the wall of a public toilet near the computer centre.

Dear Neil Roberts is a collection of interconnected poems that seeks to makes sense of not just who Neil Roberts was and why he did what he did, but what that time period was; just after the 1981 Springbok tour, Muldoon still in power, and that feeling of alienation and disenfranchisement strong. The poems try to understand of all this. The author is searching for what it means for her, what it means for New Zealand, for her children, and for young anarchists who might not be so young nor so militant anymore.

I’m not a Kiwi, and I’m not a poet, but like I said I am an anarchist and I do know about history. I think a lot about anarchist history, how important or not important it is to other anarchists and what that means; to me and more importantly for anarchism. I think a lot about history in general, about what Neil Roberts history means for the present, about how we create and consume history, and how, sometimes no matter how hard we try, we get it wrong when we try to write about history, when we try to create a historical narrative to make sense of the past. Anarchists and anarchist history are as guilty of this as anyone else. We have our martyrs, our heroes and heroines, and all too often people are more interested in the slogans and the easily digestible and self re­affirming stories, then they are in the more complicated realities and contradictory facts.

Maybe we need poetry to help us understand history. To help us understand that my three ­sentence summary of who Neil Roberts was and what he did will never be enough, not enough to understand all the multiple and contradictory ideas and thoughts he may have had in his head at the time, nor is it enough to read the news headlines to understand what kind of impact his words and his actions had on the people of New Zealand, from the police, to the anarchists, to a poet and young mother in
Whanganui 32 years later trying to understand how it all fits together.

Dear Neil Roberts did that for me. The poems give the reader a fuller and broader understanding of Neil Roberts and what happened, and what it may have meant, than my paragraph or paragraphs could. And they reminded me of Emma Goldman’s essay The Tragedy at Buffalo written following the 1901 assasination of US President William McKinley by Leon Czolgozs, a self­described anarchist. In the essay Goldman tries to make sense of what kind of sensitive person would be so outraged by the world around him, by its inequalities, injustices, lies, and uglinesses, that he would lash out, strike a blow against that world, even if it meant destroying oneself in the process. This history, these people, they are as much a part of our anarchist history, of our movement, as marches against war and fights against police surveillance and it behooves us and our movement to try to understand that a little bit better.

Airini Beautrais has done this with Dear Neil Roberts and it’s worth all our time to read these poems.

Dear Neil Roberts is available for sale in the Freedom Shop. 

Price - $18.00

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Shop hours

We're trying to keep the shop open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (21. - 23.12.) this coming week to cater for any emergency Xmas present needs.

We still have a few of the tee-shirts left that we screenprinted ourselves  - images of revolutionary women. 

We even have a few Slingshot and Bottled Wasp diaries left!

The shop will then be closed until after New Year.

Happy holidays to everyone!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

aargh! Issue 5 online

Issue 5 of the Aotearoa Anarchist Review (of Global Hegemony) can be downloaded here.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

New books!

A new book order has arrived in time to save you from having to buy your loved ones a pair of socks for Christmas. A selection of titles:

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability by Lierre Keith.
“Part memoir, part nutritional primer, and part political manifesto, The Vegetarian Myth will challenge everything you thought you knew about food politics.”

Also on the subject of food - Abolish Restaurants: A Worker's Critique of the Food Service Industry by Prole.
“A 60-page illustrated guide to the daily misery, stress, boredom, and alienation of restaurant work, as well as the ways restaurant workers fight against it. Drawing on a range of anticapitalist ideas as well as a heaping plate of personal experience, it is part analysis and part call-to-arms.”

Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Ed).
“From the literary heft of Angela Carter to the searing power of Octavia Butler, Sisters of the Revolution gathers daring examples of speculative fiction's engagement with feminism. Dark, satirical stories such as Eileen Gunn's "Stable Strategies for Middle Management" and the disturbing horror of James Tiptree Jr.'s "The Screwfly Solution" reveal the charged intensity at work in the field.”

Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat from Mayflower to Modern by J. Sakai

“Always controversial within the establishment Left Settlers uncovers centuries of collaboration between capitalism and white workers and their organizations, as well as their neocolonial allies, showing how the United States was designed from the ground up as a parasitic and genocidal entity.”

Arena One: On Anarchist Cinema & Arena Two: Anarchists in Fiction
Richard Porton (Ed). With a contribution by Wellington filmmaker Russel Campbell.

“In the wake of the end of the Cold War and worldwide protests against corporate globalization, anarchism continues to attract new adherents among both aging leftists and new generations of young radicals. Arena aims to tap into this revived interest in libertarian ideas, culture and practice by providing a dynamic focal point: a journal that brings together good, stimulating and provocative writing and scholarship on libertarian culture of all kinds.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

AARGH! Number 5 is out

The fifth issue of the Aotearoa Anarchist Review of Global Hegemony is now available at the shop!
This time our theme is crisis, a product that neoliberal capitalism is remarkably effective at manufacturing and, in many cases, making money from.

Copies are available at the Newtown shop or can be ordered via mail or email. Price: $2.00.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Left Overs #4 - Prison a serious crime

Prisons - a serious crime

This country has one of the highest rates of imprisonment in the world & that statistic doesn't include those serving a non­-prison sentence or waiting for a court appearance.

As of 1st Dec 2014 there were 8,641 people in NZ's prison. That's more than the towns of Foxton, Featherston and Martinborough combined. Of those people in prison, more than half are Māori & a quarter aged under 25. On top of all that, 70% of people imprisoned get another conviction within five years; the justice industry is a revolving system.

We are inviting speakers who have been involved with the prison system to give a short presentation on this theme, followed by general discussion for all. Come along and join in.

When: 7pm, Thursday, 1st October 2015
Where: 17 Tory Street, Wellington (formerly 19 Tory St) 
What: Prisons - ­ a serious crime

Monday, September 21, 2015

Rebel Moon - a benefit for AK Press

A fundraising celebration of radical and independent publishing in Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond!

AK Press is a worker-run, collectively managed anarchist publishing and distribution company, in operation since 1990. On March 21st of this year, a fire in a building behind AK’s caught fire and the fire spread to AK’s warehouse. Two people living in the building died in the fire, much of AK’s inventory was damaged by water and smoke, and the city has deemed their building uninhabitable. While they have suffered a major blow they are carrying on and continue to publish and distribute anarchist and radical literature around the world, including to Aotearoa New Zealand. But they need all the help they can get and all money raised at this event will go directly to their fire relief fund.

More information about AK Press and the fire can be found at Also a
RadioNZ interview with Pip Adams promoting the AK Benefit.

Confirmed so far:

Jared Davidson, Mark Darby, Rebel Press, The Freedom Shop, Kassie Hartendorp, Faith Wilson, Leilani A Visesio, Kerry Ann Lee, Maria McMillan, Pip Adam, Mark Epoo, Scott Kendrick, Ken Simpson, Barry Pateman, Murdoch Stephens, Grace Millar

With music by:
mr sterile Assembly, Te Kupu, Gold Medal Famous, The All Seeing Hand

  • When: Saturday September 26, 2015
  • Where: Moon, 167 Riddiford St, Newtown, Wellington
  • $10 to $10 million depending on how generous you're feeling!

Readings from 6:30 pm, music from 9pm

AK Press books will be available for sale through The Freedom Shop