New Zealand poets Steven Toussaint and Gregory Kan have been awarded the prestigious 2017 Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship. This is the first time two poets have been the recipients of the fellowship.
The poets will have the opportunity to focus on their craft full-time, with each having a six-month tenure at the Sargeson Centre in Auckland, and sharing an annual stipend of $20,000.
Originally from the United States, Steven Toussaint is looking forward to seeing where the fellowship takes him, as his writing is often troubled by our increasingly digital environment.
“The digital age has opened up wonderful opportunities for new kinds of communication. However, it has also scattered our attention in many different directions. At times I feel concerned that my attention is strained by all the media and digital attractions that exist around me,” he says.
Steven will use the fellowship to work on a new book of poetry, which will consist of individual poems with unifying themes about religious imagination.
Steven’s published works include a chapbook, Fiddlehead, which was published in New Zealand in 2014, with his first full length book, The Bellfounder, published the following year in the United States.
Gregory Kan says the fellowship provides a wonderful platform to help writers gain traction in an unrestrained world of literature.
“The digital age has meant that we have more writing than ever before – it’s a form that was previously only accessible to a privileged group, but is now more pervasive than ever which is fantastic,” he says.
Gregory will be using the fellowship to work on another book of poems. He will be consolidating pieces of already completed work as well as writing new pieces which interrogate the writing of biography and autobiography in this era of overwhelming and spectacular information.
Gregory published his first book this year, This Paper Boat with Auckland University Press, which is on the Okham NZ Book Awards long list for poetry. His work has been published in numerous literary journals, as well as contemporary art exhibitions and catalogues.
Frank Sargeson Trust Chair Elizabeth Aitken-Rose says she is delighted with the calibre of this year’s fellows and is excited to see them take their work to the next level.
“The current technological revolution is shining a light on some wonderful talent we may never have known about before – and this was quite evident in the quality of applicants we received this year,” she says.
“Being a writer in the digital age gives writers unprecedented opportunity, yet this can make it more challenging for writers to cut through and have their voice heard. This is particularly the case for poets, we are very excited to have two poets win the Fellowship this year.
“The fellowship will assist Steven and Gregory in gaining traction in this highly competitive environment, giving them a platform from which they can continue to build their careers and time to dedicate to their projects.”
The fellowship will run from 1 April 2017 to 30 November 2017. Steven will have the first stint at the residence with Gregory finishing out the tenure.
In 2016 the fellowship was awarded to Diana Wichtel and Breton Dukes. Other previous winners include Alan Duff, Michael King and Janet Frame.
The fellowship has been recognising and supporting some of our greatest talents for more than 30 years, says Grimshaw & Co Partner Paul Grimshaw.
“It offers vital support to New Zealand writers to focus, uninterrupted, on their work,” Grimshaw says. “They are contributing to New Zealand’s literary landscape and we are very proud to support them.”
Further information on the Fellowship is available here. Any queries can be directed to Elizabeth Bennie at email@example.com or on +64 9 375 2393.