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‘Yesterday, as part of the Hawke’s Bay Readers & Writers Festival, I went to see ‘the godfather of NZ literature’, Bill Manhire, in conversation with Aotearoa’s latest poetry sensation, Hera Lindsay Bird. And I can’t tell you what a golden hour that was, such a privilege! Hera steered their talk, and the Q+A session that followed, with just the right tautness and slack to keep things sharp yet in flow.
The conversation ranged over many topics: the joy of “doing different voices”; the difference between writing poetry and prose; ‘the beige short story’; New Zealand’s periodic literary angst about its ‘contempory literary situation’ and the usefulness (or not) of such discussions; cultural cringe; the potential for translation; creative collaboration; the definition of a poem—“poetry trembles in that mid-space … it’s ‘a prolonged hesitation between sound and sense’ … the music has always been crucial to me”.
Bill discussed his forthcoming poetry book, Some Things to Place in a Coffin, named after a poem written for and about the painter Ralph Hotere, with whom he collaborated over the years. And shared a couple of his other poems, beautifully read with a gracious, measured ease, along with a recent, humorous short story about a “deranged children’s writer”. I was deliciously captivated.’