t. 97, Bill Direen, Enclosures 4

Enclosures 4 by Bill Direen
Palmerston North: Massey Printery (2018)
RRP: $20.00 (obtainable from the author’s website), Pb, 82pp. ISBN: 978-0-473-45128-none noted
Reviewed by Anna Smith


If the avant-garde still exists in New Zealand then Bill Direen must number among its chief exponents. A puff from Scorpio Books announcing the performance of Bill Direen and The Builders in Christchurch a few years back celebrated him as ‘a true legend of the freak-pop/literary underground’. Nor are there many artists still actively channeling the mana of Antoinin Artaud as Direen does in Enclosures 4, this latest collection of writing out October last year from Massey Printery. Defiantly without an ISBN, Enclosures 4, like its predecessors, is a playful mash-up of genres from folk-tale to reflections on contradiction in mathematics, drainage of the Dutch polders, lyrics from a recording of Ferocious, a Wellington band, and it concludes with the final fragment of a mysterious novel starring Robert Stoat from Dunedin.

Unsurprisingly, a stoat also figures in the lead piece, ‘Tyrant Dream Story’, in which Direen explores the conundrum of finding oneself trapped in another’s dream. Told through an interlocking series of tales by an alchemist, a historian and a magician, as repetitive arcs from each tale snap at the heels of the next, the only possible means of escape appear to lie in action ‘outside’ the frame. The story-teller urges his listeners to rebel against their tyrant and toss him off his throne. For only through fighting one’s way out of the dream may the soporific, magical qualities of story-telling be defeated.

‘Mutism’’s urgent entreaty to ‘go beyond. . . [and] do the unthought of,’ (p. 25), while ostensibly addressed to the practices of film-making, is symptomatic of the avant-garde’s wider refusal to condone the determination of the past in the present. True birth occurs ‘from the death of letting everything go,’ (p. 25) from not sucking up to myth but of allowing books and paper to turn us on our heads. (p. 24)

Theatre culture and the stage receive a shake-up in ‘Theatrefraught’. Exit Brecht, stage right; enter Artaud. Actors rehearse multiplicities; audiences are self-consciously aware of the nonsense of categories and contradictions. The theatre as a system is dead: ‘Masquerades! Chastity! Illusion! The hallucogenic eye of the technician. Vertigo. A sense of going in all directions, of flight, of being here and everywhere. Of Comedy! Of Fantasy!’ (p. 53)

Here are pithy, enigmatic, alluring bones to suck on – to be pierced by, if we dare.

Anna Smith lives in Lyttelton and writes critical reviews of art and literature, and short stories. She is currently working on her second novel.