This was then — a memoir, with poems

Ian Rockel


Until he met Jean, the love of his life, the young Ian Rockel was on a road punctuated by pitfalls and traumas; it’s a tribute to his skills as a memoirist that he recounts his brushes with death, bizarre characters, mental meltdowns and the paranormal with such a wry touch and an entertaining flair.

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Ian’s bohemian days in the 1960s Wellington are one of many highlights in this book. When he wasn’t dreaming away days in the “grey-book tomb” of the Parliamentary Library, he was having vivid encounters with literary luminaries, hippies who danced in the bath, a shadowy presence known only as ‘Petrified Denims’, and a flatmate so short of clothing that when she washed what she wore there was nothing more, so she spent drying time as a model for the drawing club.

As curator of Rotorua’s Museum, Ian made an outstanding contribution to preserving the treasures of Te Arawa iwi and the history of spas in New Zealand. His experiences are the wellspring for his poetry; following his ‘fifty poems in fifty years’ What Know You, Stars?, this memoir is garnished with another rich and comprehensive selection of his work.

About the author

Born in New Zealand in 1939, Ian’s career spans teacher, art curator, editor, librarian, historian and poet. He first published poetry in student verse — later in the journal Islands. Ian read his poems at events in London, Wellington, Rotorua and Auckland. As Director of the Rotorua Museum he contributed to oral history in radio, TV and publications such as the chapter ‘Te Arawa’, for Alister Taylor’s quintessential Goldie; essays in Rotorua 1880–1990; and as principal editor of Tarawera Eruption Centennial. Ian also wrote Taking the Waters, a significant history of spas in New Zealand.

Additional information

Dimensions 148 × 210 mm