Energy, action and quirky plots as finalists announced
The wait is over! Finalists for the Ronald Hugh Morrieson Writing Awards, Taranaki’s premiere literary competition, have been announced.
The bumper 237 entries have kept this year’s judges busy since the competition closed in August.
There are five categories in the Awards; The Secondary School Poetry and Short Story categories, the Open section Poetry and Short Story categories and the Secondary School Research Article category.
Research Article judge, Matt Rilkoff, says this year’s entries demonstrate how many fascinating people live among us.
“It is a courageous thing to allow someone into your trust to tell such a personal story as that of your life. Just as it is a daunting responsibility for the writer to attempt to sum up a lifetime of experience and character in a handful of words,” he says. “You all deserve a round of applause.”
Short Story judge, Rachel Stedman, says there was a lot of energy, and in general, action seemed to be central to many entrant’s plots.
“I was really impressed at how the high school entrants managed to write from such diverse perspectives, and I really enjoyed the quirky plots of some of the school entries,” she says. “In the open section, I enjoyed the vernacular used – very rural kiwi, very RHM!”
Poetry judge, Apirana Taylor, congratulated every entrant.
“Poetry reaches beyond the mere bread and butter of our existence. It casts the poignant light of insight onto the human condition. It seeks to and raises our consciousness,” he says.
The Awards ceremony is being held at the TSB Hub in Hawera on 25 October from 7pm. All are welcome to attend to find out the winners and listen to a performance by Apirana Taylor, this year’s Poetry judge.
Secondary School finalists (all categories)
Denzal Adlam – Patea Area School
Hope Baker – St Mary’s Diocesan School
Nell Brown – Sacred Heart Girls’ College
Niall Clancy – Hawera High School
Maddison Cossey – Hawera High School
Puaawai Meihana Eiffe – Opunake High School
Sasha Finer – Hawera High School
Ashley Harrop – Opunake High School
Courtney Hatcher – St Mary’s Diocesan
Noah Hunt – Hawera High School
Megan Jackson – St Mary’s Diocesan School
Stevee-Jai Kelly – Opunake High School
Myah Kemsley – New Plymouth Girls’ High
Heather Phillips – Hawera High School
Yani Remoto – Hawera High School
Georgia Sparks – Hawera High School
Open Finalists (all categories)
Elizabeth Bridgeman – New Plymouth
Nell Brown – Sacred Heart Girls’ College
Emma Collins – Stratford
Maria Cunningham – Hawera
Anya Darling – Sacred Heart Girls’ College
Bruce Finer – Hawera
Stuart Greenhill – Stratford
Pip Harrison – Hawera
Janet Hunt – Inglewood
The Awards, sponsored by the Lysaght Watt Trust, honour the work of one of New Zealand’s most preeminent authors, Ronald Hugh Morrieson (1922 – 1972). Morrieson wrote four novels: a coming of age tale The Scarecrow (1963), Came a Hot Friday (1964), Predicament (published in 1975) and his only contemporary novel Pallet on the Floor (1976). All have been adapted for the cinema, the only New Zealand writer to have acquired this achievement. Two short stories were published posthumously, in 1974; ‘Cross My Heart’ and ‘Cut My Throat and The Chimney’.
This is worth a trip to Wellington!
Programme and map here.
Bad Things, Louise Wallace, Victoria University Press, 2017
Some poetry collections depend upon a thread of similarity; connective subject matter, recurring motifs, a cohesion of form, tone and voice. Other collections resemble mosaics made of infinitely varied pieces that come together in surprising and satisfying ways. Louise Wallace’s new book, Bad Taste, exemplifies the latter. Turn the page and you have no idea what to expect – yet everything fits in the same animated package. There is a freshness and a daring at work here, because the poetry seems beholden only to its own choreography. I love that. I can’t think of another book quite like it. The cover, with the little patch of flame in the dark, and the boat waiting with its strange mix of birds, is the perfect entry into the poems.
Sometimes the poems relate little stories; condensed in prose paragraphs or strung with slashes to read in a single outbreath. Certain poems stop you in your tracks when you get to the last line and then tip you off the tracks of reading. ‘The hunt’ begins with a woman needing silence, yet it’s impossible to find when her voice rings out ‘like bells in the library’. She needs ‘to go church to pray’, but the poem does the twist and tilt and the ending becomes uneasy:
and without the silence she can’t pray / and if she doesn’t pray she will starve
Images also keep you on your reading toes: they might be strange, brightly-lit, smudged. There is, for example, a depiction of terrible things, ‘bad things’, that might fill a head:
They grow there—
a forest of tiny umbrellas.
a crown of terrible heads.
from ‘Bad things’
Or the sight and sound of a woman in a dump shop; ‘I’m amazed, she says’ over and over (‘Trash Palace’).
Or the sight and sound of a woman packing her husband and various assorted characters, including ‘the owner of the local chip shop’, into a row boat:
though it was extremely cramped
and they rowed
out to the open ocean
and sat quiet
from ‘The body began to balance itself’
One poem may be densely packed and prose-like, while the next might offer short snappy lines that extend a poetic spine down the page:
fingers to forehead
hand to cheek
Strange poems, that may be hyper-real or surreal, hook with the element of surprise crouching somewhere:
7. You cannot take off the backpack.
8. You cannot just take off either.
9. You try to escape your own skin.
from ‘Right of return’
Sometimes it is a matter of taking three or four things (a man in a bus, the downhill, the light and the safety) and seeing what happens:
the light bounces
off the hill blindingly
bright and he’s saying
and he’s right, and all
through the bus
there is light.
from ‘Safety first’
Politics hue the mosaic pieces and slip in different directions, whether gender or ecological. Famous people glint the surface because their very presence is out-of-the-ordinary in the day-to-day ordinariness of what goes on. I especially like Meryl Streep, (but you also get Robert Redford and Reese Witherspoon): ‘Meryl Streep went nuts at me in the breakfast room, because I’d taken her table by mistake.’ I also like the arrival of Reeese, in ‘There are lots of ladies who have survived the desert’. The protagonist is walking in the desert, parched and desperate, when she hears wailing: ‘Reese Witherspoon emerges from behind a shrub, holding a plastic bowl full of oats and water.’ She cannot get her primus to work. Again Louise delivers the twist and tilt at the end of the poem, as though a shadow voice whispers to us to find perspective when we read of her neighbour: ‘Janet’s husband came home drunk one night and smashed a chair across her back.’
To understand the ability of the collection to travel and arc and shuffle, you need to juxtapose the offbeat with the achingly real. ‘Helping my father remember’ is the white hot searing heart of the collection. Communication is impaired: ‘Except something’s/ gone wrong with the wiring/ and he didn’t teach me/ how to fix it.’ The poem delivers such an emotional hit because of the way it lays little details alongside each other; the fact that the daughter is most like her father and his mother, and that sound might reactivate memory or that she is following him ‘through/ tall grasses, as high/ as my head.’ This time the ending is not a strange tilt but a poignant dive deeper below the poem’s surface:
to the river.
You find Nana,
and I’ll find you.
We won’t be lost
if we’re together.
If Louise’s new collection pulls you into a mosaic of dream, confession, anecdote or troublesome issues, it does so with a deft and darting accumulation of line. The overall effect works upon your ear, eye, heart and mind. There is stillness and movement, gaps and prickling images. I couldn’t ask for more – it’s a terrific read.
Louise Wallace is a poet and the founder and editor of The Starling, a literary journal for young NZ writers. She has published two previous collections: Since June (2009) and Enough(2013) . She was the 2015 Robert Burns Literary Fellow at Otago University.
Victoria University page
‘Reminders for December’ plus author note posted on Poetry Shelf
Louise in conversation with Pip Adam on Bad Things at Better Off Read
The Starling an online literary journal for young NZ writers
A new exhibition in Whanganui and Stratford features poems and artworks by MB Stoneman. The little booklet that accompanies the show is like a visual and audible dance in shifting light and shadows. The poetry is pared back but the detail shines. The artworks alluring. The poet/ artist has kindly given me permission to share the introduction, a few images and a poem. If you are in Whanganui and later Stratford there is still time to catch the show. The work is inspired by a nun, Meri Hohepa, James K Baxter, and a visit to Jerusalem with Hemi’s poetry books .
Website MB Stoneman
Space Studio / Gallery
Rhian Gallagher’s work is a moving blend of unique perspectives and poetic craft that creates subtly haunting effects.
Her first book of poems Salt Water Creek, published in London, was shortlisted for the 2003 Forward Prize for First Collection. In New Zealand, she won a Canterbury History Foundation Award in 2007, and wrote Feeling for Daylight: The Photographs of Jack Adamson, a non-fiction biography published by the South Canterbury Museum. She won the New Zealand Post Book Award for Poetry in 2012 for her second poetry collection, Shift.
In 2016, Gallagher collaborated with artist Lynn Taylor and Otakou Press printer-in-residence Sarah Smith to publish poems on the life and activities of Freda Du Faur (1882–1935), the first woman to climb Aoraki/Mount Cook.
She described the Burns Fellowship as an expansive, generous opportunity and a real honour. “In terms of creative space it is like moving from the backyard to a wide open plateau. Anything could happen! The Fellowship is also an opportunity for conversation and exchange within the humanities and, in this, it exudes possibility. It doesn’t involve a relocation for me but it is a completely new mindset.”
She will primarily be writing poetry. “One aspect of the work is focussed on the early history of the Seacliff Asylum in relation to Irish migrants. I’m looking to develop a series of letter poems.”
Full list of University of Otago recipients here
Selina Tusitala Marsh debuts on the National Library Poet Laureate blog with diary entries that provide a candid snapshot of life, poetry and keeping a secret. I love the way poetry and life smudge up against each other.
‘I want to do the right thing, and be a mum who meets her kids exactly where they are, rather than expecting them to meet me where I am, which is outside the house of poetry, at the intersection of writing and creative expression, art and music, in the town of books and reading and learning and yet, none of the boys have shown any interest in living here.’
Selina’s first Poet Laureate blog here