Tag Archives: Academy of NZ Literature

Fiona Farrell’s University of Auckland lecture at AWF 2018


‘I’ve asked a librarian who has assured me there will be novels in the library, up on the fourth floor. But it’s strange, this public dismissal of fiction. It feels like part of some more general diminution of the arts and humanities in our universities, part of the culture that focuses on the body, on sport, rather than the imagination, part of some vast movement of the zeitgeist under our feet, that mistrusts the imagination and what it might be capable of conceiving. Part of a new global politics.

But in the meantime, here we go, the writers of fiction, in our air machines, bobbing along, fifty feet above our country, looking down, seeing how it might have been, how it yet might be, making things up. Imagining.’  Fiona Farrell

An extract from a riveting must read/listen lecture with a link to the whole piece:

Fiction and Factions: the Political Novel in New Zealand

Fiona Farrell delivered this year’s University of Auckland lecture to a packed house at the 2018 Auckland Writers Festival. For a PDF and podcast of the lecture, please follow this link.


The brief was broad: around 40 minutes, talk about anything, whatever is on your mind. Well, what’s been on my mind lately is politics. And fiction. Last year I published a novel, my seventh. It’s routinely introduced at talks and festivals as ‘political’. The only one to be so labeled.

Now, from my point of view, everything I have ever written has been political. The fact that I can write at all – descendant of Irish famine refugees and dispossessed Highland crofters – that I have been delivered the necessary health and education and readers with money, inclination and time for books – has all been over to politics.

But why this book? What makes a work of the imagination ‘political’? Is it because it occupies the junction between fiction and journalism, fact and fantasy? Is it because references to political events or politicians are embedded in the narrative like hokey pokey in ice cream? Does it depend upon some notion of authorial intention, not simply to entertain but to critique the workings of power? Is it because the text suggests factional allegiance, to left or right? And can fiction that professes to be ‘not political’ drift free above the muddle of ideas, decisions, actions that we bundle together and label ‘Politics’? Or is the personal political, as Carol Hanisch and the 70s feminists insisted and is every novel, every one of our imaginings inescapably ‘political’? And as a novelist, is there something distinctive about writing  ‘political fiction’?


Full lecture here at Academy of New Zealand Literature

On ANZL – Letter from Cape Town: Selina Tusitala Marsh on coconuts and colonialism

Selina Tusitala Marsh has written an account of her recent visit to Capetown that includes poems and journal prose. It has just been posted on the Academy of New Zealand Literature site.

The full here.

A brief extract:

Nearly There

There’s a poem that needs finishing. It began in London and will end in Cape Town. It started on the night of March 14 after a conversation with Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at Malborough House. I had been commissioned to write and perform a poem for Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth, for Commonwealth Observance Day on behalf of its 53 member states. After the Westminster gig we were invited back to one of the palaces, where I met the Duke of Edinburgh and had the following exchange:

‘Good evening, Your Highness.’

‘Yes. And what do you do?’

‘I’m a poet.’

‘Yeeess. But what do you dooo?’

‘Oh, I teach postcolonial literature at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.’

Cocking his head and holding my gaze, the Duke replied, ‘Post?

Slight smirk on his face, he then moved on down the line to other greeters.

After sharing this story with some poets, it was suggested that I record the conversation and turn it into an audio poem, capturing as many people with as many different accents saying the word ‘post’. I said I could do one better, that in July I was going to the Association of Commonwealth Language and Literature Studies conference in South Africa. There, I’d have Commonwealth representatives galore to give me their own accented enunciations of ‘post’: ‘POST!’ ‘post –‘, ‘post?’, ‘PoSt’, ‘Post!’, ‘P**T’, and perhaps even ‘!//post’ (if there were any Khoisan speakers around).

So, I’m off to Cape Town to finish a poem, write some poetry, and give my conference paper on an experiment where I apply avante garde poetry techniques (a mixture of Found Poetry, Erasure Poetry and Open Field Composition) by blacking out Albert Wendt’s classic 1977 novel Pouliuli (which happens to mean ‘black’, ‘void’ and refers to a metaphysical darkness). I’m also running a poetry workshop with Glen Arendse, a Boesman Mouthbow musician (the hunting bow is also a traditional instrument of the San Boesman – yes, think The Gods Must Be Crazy, then think again).

Hurrah!The Academy of NZ Literature is launched – Steven Touissant contemplates the NZ poetry scene

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 7.01.52 AM

Such noise! So many voices!

Steven Toussaint investigates the contemporary New Zealand poetry scene, and discovers much more than a tale of two cities.

Earlier this year, the Aotearoa/New Zealand literary community celebrated nearly twenty years of its Poet Laureateship with a sold-out gala event in Wellington. The laureates took turns at the podium, in the order of appointment, to read selections from their work, but also to reflect on the laureateship itself, on lives dedicated to poetry. In his opening remarks, the inaugural laureate Bill Manhire joked about English laureates like Robert Southey who ‘turned out poems for royal birthdays’. ‘Fortunately in New Zealand,’ he added, ‘there’s no requirement or expectation that you produce poems for the Queen or Prime Minister.’

Manhire’s remarks and the reading that followed presented a picture of the New Zealand laureate as public servant of the average reader—maybe even one uninitiated to the mysteries of poetry. This isn’t to denigrate the position, only to demystify it a little,tempering some of the pomp and circumstance.

‘New Zealanders are doubtful in an entirely pragmatic way,’ Manhire wrote in a 2011 essay for World Literature Today. ‘They want to give most things, including poems, a bit of a kick to find out just what they’re for.’ He characterises recent New Zealand poetry as ‘very happy with daily life’, and points to fellow laureate Jenny Bornholdt as a master of quotidian lyrics ‘where tradesmen call, children and recipes and baking are often on your mind, and neighbors behave in slightly quirky ways.’ Bornholdt enjoys an immense influence over the current landscape, he suggests, because ‘many of us recognise our lives in her poems.’


For the rest of the article go to the Academy website here.

You can also find details on the members, interviews, conversations, articles and other news.


Congratulations on the site and the initiative! Anything that will showcase our writers and writing, across both genre and region, is to be applauded. Bravo Paula Morris and team.

And thanks for acknowledging Poetry Shelf, Steven.