Poetry Shelf noticeboard: the sublime Ladies LiteraTea 2019



Spot the authors before they head to the signing table! Excuse my bad photos.


I almost didn’t go to the Ladies LiteraTea yesterday afternoon, but I am so glad I did, as it was the strongest event yet! I had already read and loved some of the books and that makes a difference – to hear Elizabeth Knox read a section from The Absolute Book was bliss. I told the people next to me I thought of it as The Astonishing Book! Equally blissful to hear readings from two of my favourite poetry books of the year to date: Helen Rickerby’s How to Live and Vana Manasiadis’s The Grief Almanac. Plus Mary Kisler’s sublime Finding Frances Hodgkins. I can’t recommend these books highly enough.

You could hear a pin drop as we listened.

I loved watching Marilyn Waring on stage as she leaned back, shut her eyes, and listened to the other readers. It was like witnessing a most private and intimate moment – the moment when you lose yourself in the pleasure and power of stories and crafted words.

Four and half hours of intent listening in a packed auditorium with a sumptuous afternoon tea in the middle. It was heaven. The authors have either 20 or 10 minutes so you really lose yourself in their fluencies, preoccupations, loves.

Aside from the books familiar to me, I got to hear extracts from books I am about to read (Ruby Porter’s Attraction) and books I bought on the day (Laurence Fearnley’s Scent and Whiti Hereaka’s Book-Award winning, YA novel, Legacy).

Whiti also read the prologue she wrote for the book she has co-edited with Witi Ihimaera Purakau: Maori Myths Retold by Maori Writers. To hear this alone was worth driving in from the coast. I now have the book and I can’t wait to read it. I can’t wait to hear Whiti read again. I so wish you could hear her read the prologue.


Carole Beu and her team from the Women’s Bookshop worked hard to produce this stunning event. I loved every author; I was enchanted and moved. I laughed out loud, was on the verge of tears, delighted in the musicality of words, the stories they transported.

Thank you for the mahi and the aroha Carole – your event fed one very happy and satiated audience. Me included.



The programme:

1pm Michele Powles – When We Remember to Breathe  This beautiful collection bares the raw joy, beauty, discomfort & humour of modern motherhood. The result is remarkable & fearless. (Michele will be replacing Elizabeth Smither who is unable to make it.)

1.20pm Margie Thomson – Womankind  A landmark publication, with stunning words & images, about NZ women – all ages & ethnicities, famous & unknown – who have truly ‘made a difference’.

1.40pm Laurence Fearnley – Scented  A fascinating, poignant new novel about a women’s search for identity after her university career ends – obsessed with scent, she creates unique perfumes.

1.55pm Whiti Hereaka – Winner 2019 Young Adult Fiction Award for Legacy , & editor, with Witi Ihimaera, of the spellbinding Purakau: Maori Myths Retold by Maori Writers

2.15pm Helen Rickerby – How to Live  Poetry publisher from Seraph Press with her own new collection – witty, philosophical, feminist poems about women’s lives, that experiment with the poetic form

2.25pm Ruby Porter – Attraction  Provocative, engaging & highly praised first novel takes 3 young women on a road trip, navigating their relationships & NZ’s colonial past.

2.40pm Bernadette (Bets) Gee – Magnolia Kitchen  She’s an Instagram sensation & her book bulges with delectable recipes (including allergy-free), clever tips & sensational decorating inspiration

3pm – 3.45pm Afternoon Tea

3.45pm Marilyn Waring – The Political Years “This frank narrative of courage & tenacity in the face of an intensely patriarchal & homophobic polity will surprise & reward readers across generations” Sue Bradford

4.10pm Rosetta Allan – The Unreliable People A whole population exiled by Stalin, a Korean folk tale, Kazakhstan, a young art student searching for identity – – a fascinating novel.

4.25pm Linda Burgess – Someone’s Wife  A delightful collection of essays, personal & universal, exploring family, teaching, living overseas, being the wife of an All Black . . . witty & moving

4.40pm Vana Manasiadis – The Grief Almanac; A Sequel  A bold combination of poetry, essays, memoir, a lost mother, melding Greek with English; unconventional & richly textured.

4.50pm Elizabeth Knox – The Absolute Book  New from the brilliantly imaginative Knox, an epic fantasy with secrets, treasures, revenge, & three people driven towards a reckoning felt in more than one world.

5.10pm Mary Kisler – Finding Frances Hodgkins  The curator of the recent magnificent exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery, travelled throughout Europe & UK, following in Hodgkins’ fascinating footsteps.

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