Here are some of Michael’s books currently in print. To order Michael’s books, see the About page.
Out of It by Michael O’Leary (novel, ESAW, Kindle e-Book, 2011)
First published in 1987 this novel has acquired something of a cult status among both cricket fans and those interested in experimental prose and bohemian lifestyles. It is set in Auckland in the 1980s and is a mixture of stream of conscious internal dialogue between the main character, PSM, and himself. Externally, it follows the fortunes of the NZ cricket team at Eden Park playing against the world famous ‘Out of It’ eleven which includes Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Jim Morrison, James K Baxter, Bob Marley, all under the captaincy of Te Rauparaha. Each of the Out of It team includes a literary satire or vignette appropriate to that person. Collages by Greg O’Brien spice up the text and further emphasize the surrealist dada nature of the novel.
Livin’ ina Aucklan’ by Michael O’Leary (poetry, ESAW, 2nd edition, 2011)
This is a funky little collection designed to capture the good things about Auckland in the 1980s offset against the feeling of loss and emptiness felt at the end of an intense love affair with the destruction of so many of the city’s older buildings. The idea of Mount Albert being just as important as Montmatre if you live there pervades the whole collection. The title Livin’ ina Aucklan reflects the language of the streets and the whole project was a coming together of the way we lived in those days. This new edition includes a long more recent poem Auckland Revisited written in 2008.
Magic Alex’s Revenge by Michael O’Leary (novel, ESAW, 2009)
‘Magic Alex’s Revenge’ is the final instalment of Michael O’Leary’s trilogy, ‘The Dreamlander Express’. Following on from the first two parts, ‘Unlevel Crossings’ and ‘Straight’ Magic Alex is a complex and often beguiling look at the “Sixties” generation of peace and love and anti-materialism degenerated into the ‘I, me, mine’ selfishness sparked by the mid-eighties Rogernomics which continues into the 21st Century Schizoid Person, fuelled by technology and greed. Magic Alex also contrasts the Beatles in the 1960s with the ‘All You Need Is Hate’ of the 1930s epoch of Nazi Germany, how both used technology, one to emphasise good the other evil. Magic Alex’s Revenge is a cultural and individual tour de force through the 20th Century and early 21st, it incorporates one person’s attempt to understand and ride the nightmarish ‘Dreamlander Express’.
Paneta Street by Michael O’Leary (poetry, HeadworX, 2008)
Taking Bob Dylan’s 1975 album Desire as its creative starting point, Michael O’Leary’s book contains a mix of new and earlier hard-to-find poems. The first section ‘Livin’ ina Aucklan” contains most of O’Leary’s (now out-of-print) poems from his early Auckland days in the 1980s. The second section then moves on to Dunedin (where O’Leary lived for a decade) before finishing up in Wellington (O’Leary’s current location). Throughout the journey O’Leary’s book includes some moving tributes to dead friends such as Hone Tuwhare, Victor O’Leary and Nigel Cox. There is also a song lyric tribute to the old Hotel Paekakariki, which is based on The Eagle’s classic track ‘Hotel California’. Written in a wide range of styles and forms there is something here to delight everyone. The cover photo taken by renowned Wellington photographer, John Girdlestone, is after Bob Dylan’s album cover for Desire, and is a continuation of a comic series (done in tandem with Wellington poet and publisher Mark Pirie) of album cover remakes (which was featured this year in a one-page spread in The Dominion Post).
Straight by Michael O’Leary (novel, ESAW, 2007)
Straight is the second novel in Michael O’Leary’s trilogy. It concerns the early years of two of the first novel Unlevel Crossings’ protagonists, Hinengaro Te Riro i He and Paul Te Ariki Calvert. Straight is set in early 1980’s Auckland and begins with Paul Calvert’s return to that city after several years in the mysterious place called ‘Dreamland’. Fighting off several flash-backs he discovers that reality can often be stranger than dreams. Along the way he discovers things about his past that he had no conception of and his whole life is brought into existential question. Was his own birth due to an SS experiment during World War Two to create an ‘Aryan Mäori’, were his presumed parents gun-runners for the IRA, and who are the people following him around the city in a black Mercedes Benz? Add to this a surreal mix of local characters from the still down-at-heel Ponsonby drug scene and the upper-class opulence of Remuera and you have a novel alive with energy and surprise. In the background is the developing love story of Paul and Hine. Also the city of Auckland becomes a character itself, much in the way Graham Greene used his locations to define and enhance many of his novels.
Alternative Small Press Publishing in New Zealand 1969-1999 by Michael O’Leary (Literary criticism, Steele Roberts Ltd, 2007)
“The history of small, private presses in this country is also (largely) the history of our literature.” (Michael Gifkins’ 1990 ‘Bookmarks’, New Zealand Listener).
This quote graphically states the case for the important place small press publishing has in the literary culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. Expanding this further, it is true to say that without the existence of such presses many of our writers, both well-known and obscure, may never have had the opportunity of being published authors, especially at the fledgling time of their career. This book, will endeavour to prove that our literature would be the poorer if such publishers didn’t exist, that we may have little literary industry or culture without them.
Sounds of Sonnets by Michael O’Leary and Mark Pirie (poetry, HeadworX, 2006)
Sounds of Sonnets is a collection of sonnets by two well known New Zealand poets. The collaborative volume has a long history in poetry, e.g. Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads. In contrast Pirie and O’Leary have chosen the sonnet form, a well-known form in New Zealand verse. Each poet has 25 sonnets to depict their style and content, usually elegiac and satirical. In doing so the two poets combine here to produce a substantial volume that will entertain and bring notice once again to the sonnet form in NZ. The book also includes a Foreword on sonnets by Wellington critic/poet F W N Wright and a cover after the Simon and Garfunkel album Sounds of Silence!
“…a book of 25 sonnets each by the two most publicly active and enterprising contemporary New Zealand poets is a timely eye opener on one of our needlessly dark corners.” – From the Foreword by F W N Wright
Make Love and War by Michael O’Leary (poetry, HeadworX, 2005)
Make Love and War is Michael O’Leary’s first all new poetry collection for several years. The first section comprises his romantic and elegiac poems, written about friends, people and places and includes the elegy for the late musician/writer Graeme Collins as well as several love poems, including the title poem with its savage ironies. The second section moves away from shorter lyrics and includes two technically adroit longer poems ‘Auckland Revisited’ (which explores his early years in Auckland) and ‘Station to Station’ – an on the road rail blues song for David Bowie. As with O’Leary’s earlier works popular music is an important influence on the structure and form of his unique poetic. This new collection is sure to please fans old and new alike.
JAAM 21: Greatest Hits: An Anthology of Writing 1984-2004 edited by Michael O’Leary and Mark Pirie (HeadworX/JAAM/Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop, 2004)
Since the 1980s and 1990s the small press Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop and the literary magazine JAAM and its offshoot publishing arm, HeadworX, have made a unique and significant contribution to New Zealand writing. This ‘special 21st birthday issue’ of JAAM offers a retrospective showcase of some of the local and overseas writing that has helped reshape and reinvigorate the local literary scene over the last two decades. In doing so, the issue emphasizes the connection JAAM and the two small presses have made between popular music and literary culture in New Zealand.
The book contains 104 contributors from 100 publications, including Sam Hunt, Fleur Adcock, Albert Wendt, Hone Tuwhare, Jenny Bornholdt, Lauris Edmond and Fiona Kidman.
Toku Tinihanga: Selected Poems 1982-2002 by Michael O’Leary (poetry, HeadworX, 2003)
Toku Tinihanga (Self Deception) is the selected poems of Michael O’Leary, a well known poet, publisher and performer. Spanning twenty years, the book ‘presents the most ready approach to a powerful writer who never falls into mediocrity and consistently shows a strain of genius’ (from the Foreword by F. W. N. Wright).
Unlevel Crossings by Michael O’Leary (novel, Huia Publishers, 2002)
A work of ‘surrealism Maori’. Patrick Mika Fitzgerald, of Te Arawa, German and Irish descent, embarks on a physical and psychological train journey from Auckland to Dunedin . Along the way Fitzgerald picks up clues to elements of a mysterious 1930s relationship between the SS, the IRA and his Te Arawa mother (which in turn is entwined with a Nazi reading of Edward Tregear’s 1885 book, The Aryan Maori.) O’Leary’s rhythmic prose, wordplay and multilingual punning fuel the novel’s sense of the ludic. Political and literary satiric jabs add feisty humour to the book’s exploration of the relationships between people; between New Zealand and elsewhere. The tissue of ‘Unlevel Crossings’ spans space and time to connect the here and now to Continental philosophical and theological discourse.