Michael O’Leary has been included in the anthology, Notes for the Translators: Poems from 142 New Zealand and Australian Poets.

The book is intended to be offered to Chinese mainstream publishers for translation.

O’Leary’s poem is ‘Nuclear Family’ – a speculative fiction poem on apocalyptic war.

Notes for the Translators was collected and edited by Christopher (Kit) Kelen of the University of Macao, China. It also features other leading New Zealand and Australian poets like Les A Murray, John Kinsella, David Eggleton, James Norcliffe, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Mark Pirie and Niel Wright.


Michael O’Leary (pictured above, c1970s) recently published a book of his artwork over the last 40 years. It is accompanied by descriptions of his art along with key extracts from his poems that relate to his artworks.

It has an introduction by art curator Gregory O’Brien and was launched at John Quilter’s Bookshop, Ghuznee Street, Wellington, on Saturday 21 July 2012. It is available from Michael at pukapuka@paradise.net.nz

Here is part of O’Brien’s introduction to the book. The title of the essay is a nod to Maurice Duggan’s story ‘O’Leary’s Orchard’:


When Charles Barr wrote that ‘all criticism involves distortion,’ he probably wasn’t thinking of the kind of distortion Jimi Hendrix utilised in ‘Voodoo Chile’ or ‘Star Spangled Banner’. Forget about the small metal box on the stage floor, equidistant between the Fender Stratocaster and the Marshall Stack. Barr was talking of the gnarly, misshapen kind of criticism against which Charles Baudelaire railed over a century earlier. In his 1846 review of the Paris Salon, the father of modern art-writing laid it on the line: ‘I sincerely believe that the best criticism is that which is amusing and poetic; not that cold and algebraic kind which, under the pretext of explaining everything, displays neither hate nor love…’ Thus the best account of a painting can well be a sonnet or an elegy. Of similar mind, the American painter Fairfield Porter put it another way: ‘Aesthetics should be, or I think I prefer to say, is, a collection of personal remarks, avoiding systems and extrapolations…’
   In attempting a critical introduction to this sampling of Michael O’Leary’s diverse visual/verbal output, I would—channeling the benevolent spirits of Baudelaire and Porter—embrace and celebrate the effects and distortions of the work but without, I hope, distorting
the work further. Instead I would offer the reader/viewer a few vistas from the periphery of this munificent orchard, and corral a few thoughts appropriate to such a zone of carefully considered moves and virtuosic mishaps (‘what is the life of the mind but a history of
interesting mistakes,’ wrote Hugh Kenner) so that we might follow Michael O’Leary on his ’eccentric orbit’, to borrow an astrological term well-suited to his artistic progress, his trajectory through the inner and outer world of things.
  Needless to say, Michael is on the side of the makers rather than the annotators, elaborators and explainers. He places himself firmly in the grand tradition of artists who invent their own tradition. That said, he has inherited an assortment of character traits from Romanticism. Like Rimbaud or Mallarme, he is capable of the ecstasies of artistic creation and a euphoric immersion in nature or human company or music (the Beatles, Kurt Cobain…). Like Yayoi Kusama, from time to time he finds himself ‘obliterated in the dancing swarm of fireflies’. When the need arises, an inner need, he can also rally the troops, shake the battlements, blow the trumpet—just like Ken Bolton: ‘Unemployed at last!’ Or, again, like Kusama: ‘Love Forever Girls! Adolescence is on the way!’ Or Mallarme: ‘A lovely drunkenness enlists me to raise, though the vessel lists, this toast on high and without fear. / Solitude, rocky shoal, bright star…’

Gregory O’Brien

Title: ARTIST: Artworks and words
Author: Michael O’Leary
ISBN: 978-1-86942-132-8
Price: $50.00
Extent: 60 pages
Format: 260mmx208mm
Publication: July 2012
Publisher: Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop

Michael O’Leary’s cricket novel received a brief but good review in the Cricket Society’s Journal. Out of It, edited by Mark Pirie, was re-released as a 25th anniversary edition through HeadworX:

Review of Out of It by Michael O’Leary (HeadworX Wellington, New Zealand)

If there has ever been a stranger book on cricket, I’ve yet to see it. I always thought that Willie Rushton’s W. G. Grace’s Last Case was the strangest but this one ……………………. Well, it’s a reprint of a 1987 book which is apparently a ‘cult classic.’ The main story (?) is of a one-day match between a proper New Zealand side led by Jeremy Coney and a team named Out Of It. The latter team is skippered by the Maori chief Te Rauparaha with Bob Marley as Vice-Captain and the likes of Janis Joplin, Oscar Wilde, Jimi Hendrix and Hermann Goring playing (look, I’m not making this up!) with a running radio commentary from standard and made-up broadcasters. It reads not unlike one of the earliest Dadaist offerings, written under the influence of hallucinogenics and although that almost certainly isn’t the case, it may have been the author’s intention to read as if it was. Perhaps it’s about dislocation in society – perhaps it isn’t. Maybe it’s about a suburban man becoming unsettled in real life and entering the surreal world of the imagination – and maybe it isn’t. It’s unclassifiable (and occasionally, in parts, unreadable) but if you suspend disbelief, a kind of logic can be found. It’s not a spoiler to let prospective readers know that, unlike the song, Goring lasts for three overs and not the obligatory two balls, however small. If you can find an inexpensive copy, you will have something in your collection that will be unique.

Review by John Symons, Editor of The Cricket Society News Bulletin

(From Journal of the Cricket Society, Volume 26, No. 3, Autumn 2012, UK)