Harry Ricketts

First Things

210mm x 138mm
Publication date:
9 May 2024

Hide Description- Show Description+



First memory.

First going hitchhiking.

First seeing my father angry. 

First shotgun.

First poem.

In First Things, Harry Ricketts chronicles his early life through the lens of ‘firsts’: those moments that can hold their detail and potency across a lifetime. Set mostly in Hong Kong and Oxford, these bright fragments include the places, people, writers, encounters and obsessions that have shaped Ricketts’ world, from his first friends and rivals to his first time being caned by a teacher and his first time dropping acid. There are other, more enigmatic firsts here too, like the first time he realised what really mattered, and the first time he began doubting God. ‘I wanted to believe in God and, even more, wanted God to believe in me.’

Who really were we, back then? Which parts of ourselves get to be remembered and carried along with us, and which parts are gone forever? In First Things, the gaps in between shine as brightly as the memories themselves.

'Right from the start, you’re into Ricketts’ thoughtful, often engagingly whimsical prose. It’s the voice of a good lecturer, plus a bit more. The puzzles that are people intrigue him; they’re recorded and respected.' —David Hill, NZ Listener

'When a brilliant polymath like Harry Ricketts takes to memoir, you just know it is going to be something special. First Things does what it says on the tin. It’s an exercise in autobiography defined by firsts: the first things that he can remember, the first times he experienced certain things – his first poem, his first shotgun, the first time he went hitchhiking, the first time he ever saw his father angry.' Andrew Paul Wood, Kete Books

Harry Ricketts is a poet and literary scholar and has published around 30 books. He has lived in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand, since 1981. Until his retirement in 2022, he was a professor in the English Programme at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington. His books include the internationally acclaimed The Unforgiving Minute: A Life of Rudyard Kipling (1999) and Strange Meetings: The Lives of the Poets of the Great War (2010). His recent poetry collections include Winter Eyes (2018) and Selected Poems (2021). With historian David Kynaston, he is the co-author of Richie Benaud’s Blue Suede Shoes: The Story of an Ashes Classic (Bloomsbury, 2024).

Cover photograph: Harry Ricketts on his third birthday, 28 May 1953, Ipoh
Cover design: 
Todd Atticus

Related Products