This award was launched by the Canterbury Poets’ Collective and The NZ Poetry Society in 2003. Five poets read in a festival slot and one poet gets the award. Originally the event was staged during the Christchurch Writers’ Festival but, after the earthquake, it moved to Wellington (with one brief return).
This year Dinah Hawken, Bob Orr, Claire Orchard, Chris Tse and Harry Ricketts read. The festival as a whole seems to short change poetry somewhat, so I welcomed the opportunity to hear this group. Ultra small venue which was full to max. Would there be an audience to fill something a little bigger?
But smallness is intimate and the readings were a treat. I was especially keen to hear Claire Orchard read as I have her debut book next on my pile to read and already have a strong relationship with the work of the other poets. I loved her reading.
The winner: Bob Orr. It feels like this award casts light on a poet who deserves a little more attention. Bob has the ability to take you to all four corners of the world and show you a vital snapshot. Something that gets to the very heart of place, of people, of experience. His poetry comes out of strong attachment to home but is wide in its reach. Wonderful!
Bob thought he had just come to read a couple of poems so was quite surprised to get the package with a cheque.
A few years ago I was delighted to launch a collection of Bob’s at the Grey Lynn Library. It was packed to the rafters with poetry fans of all ages. So seldom do I see such a turn out. The warmth and affection for Bob and his poetry in that room was exactly why he deserved this award.