Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Collapsing the Conventional – NZ Young Writers Festival 2021

Festival dates: Thursday 28 October– Sunday 31 October

Full Programme

Now in its seventh year, the New Zealand Young Writers is itching to get started, with a four-day packed programme delving into poetry, playwriting, performance and more.

The free to attend festival opens with a bang on Thursday 28 October at our cool new Writers Block venue at 53 Castle Street, Dunedin, hosted by the incomparable Marea Colombo (Improsaurus). We’ll be celebrating the launch of the festival with live music, tasty refreshments and even tastier performances. The event will also showcase the work of St Hilda’s students from their Creative in Schools programme, exploring poetry through sculpture, dance, drama, painting, and collage.

On Saturday, lit-enthusiasts can sharpen up their own poetry skills with How to Speak Words and Influence People, a spoken word workshop led by National Slam Champion, poet, and toast enthusiast Jordan Hamel. No experience is required for this fun and friendly spoken word how-to that explores different ways of performing your words.

Breaking boundaries is a mission statement for the festival and this year is no different with a programme full of workshops that explore the limitations society places on our bodies and how to overcome them through literature.

Playwright Dan Goodwin will deconstruct what it means to weave accessibility into narrative and ground our stories in the communities they emerge in with their workshop and writing mental health and disability theatre; and will join Jackson NieuwlandWhina Pomana and Hana Pera Aoake, in Playing with the Trouble: Writing Gender and the Body, a conversation/performance about fluidity, gender, the body and how to write about it.

The programme continues to blur the lines between genres with events that celebrate artistic expression in all forms. In Put Your Body Into It: Somatic Writing Rituals, poet Rushi Vyas will lead participants on a short walk where they will enact a somatic ritual before writing a response to the experience; researcher Zoë Heine will be joined by Hana Pera AoakeJordan HamelRobyn Maree Pickens and Lily Holloway for a hybrid conversation/workshop on writing about climate change in Getting Our Feet Wet: Storytelling for Sea-Level Rise; and Dunedin’s celebrated Ōtepoti Writers Lab will be celebrating its second birthday with a showcase of writing in all forms.

Taking creativity out of traditional spaces, two yet to be announced writers will be taking up micro-residencies in the Dunedin Botanic Garden for the duration of the festival, sponsored by online literary magazine Starling. Join the two writers, Starling editor Louise Wallace, Starling writer Lily Holloway and Jackson Nieuwland and Carolyn DeCarlo (Starling interview subjects) in a conversation/performance at the Writers Block on Saturday for a micro-residency wrap-up and celebration of the newest issue of Starling.

Festival Director Gareth McMillan said the festival was excited to inspire young writers and to encourage them to see the power in their words, whatever form they take, and to experiment with style.

“We’re really passionate about removing the boxes from the creative arts and this programme aims to show young people that it’s not about format, it’s about authenticity,” McMillan said.

“Whether you see yourself as a poet or a novelist, or neither, or a mix, it is about using your words to express what is important to you and we hope our events and workshops will provide people with the tools to do just that.”

Brand new for 2021, test your literary knowledge at the taskmaster-style Wordmaster: Festival Smackdown. Come along with a team, or make new mates on the night, to take on every literary challenge comedy legend Reuben Crisp can throw at you, from a spelling bee to charades and more.

And not forgetting our festival favourites, the Otago Poetry Slam returns this year MCd by Jordan Hamel with calibration poet Emer Lyons. Open to all ages, this fast-paced war of words will select a champion to represent Otago at this year’s nationals.

The last day of the festival will once again host Dunedin Zinefest offering a cornucopia of DIY wares from the city’s best poets, illustrators, artists, designers, and zinesters. With live entertainment, the event offers the opportunity to browse and buy – and be inspired to make your own zines at the Wake ‘n’ Make from 12pm-2pm.

A few of the people involved include:

 Dan Goodwin (they/them), a Scottish-Pākeha performance poet, actor and writer, and winner of the Harold and Jean Brooks award. Dan is hosting an event called Accessible and Authentic. Having written about experiencing psychosis and in a world full of lockdowns, they want to help people work through their unexamined mental health in a safe way.

Hana Aoake (they/them), is an artist and writer who will be speaking at Playing with the Trouble: Writing Gender and the Body, where they bring their perspective on our flawed perspectives of gender. Their Māori ancestors talk about community living in pre-colonial times but today a pregnant Aoake faces daily reminders of society’s binary views when people ask the gender of their baby. They will also be part of Getting Our Feet Wet: Storytelling for Sea-Level Rise, talking about the human impact of climate change from an indigenous perspective (such as the returning of damaged resources to Māori) and a global perspective (climate change refugees).

Rushi Vyas (he/him) is the author and two-time finalist for the National Poetry Series (US). He will lead a workshop on somatic writing rituals, based on his research into how behavioural patterns set us up for certain activities, especially the creative. His work explores ritual in relation to colonialism and how to use it to decolonise arts.

Jordan Hamel (he/him) is a writer, poet and performer. He was the 2018 New Zealand Poetry Slam champion and represented NZ at the World Poetry Slam Champs in the US in 2019. He will be using his expertise to lead a workshop on spoken word and host festival favourite the Otago Poetry Slam. He is also coeditor of an upcoming poetry anthology on climate change will talk about the power of poetry in activism in Getting Our Feet Wet.

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