John Newton

Escape Path Lighting


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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 imagine 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 chill wind is blowing through Paradise.

Meanwhile, at the local health farm, Juanita Díaz, 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.

John Newton is a poet and literary historian. His non-fiction titles include The Double Rainbow: James K. Baxter, Ngāti Hau and the Jerusalem Commune (2009) and Hard Frost: Structures of Feeling in New Zealand Literature 1908–1945 (2017). He has published three volumes of poetry, most recently Family Songbook (2013). He is the 2020 Burns Fellow in Dunedin.

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