Burst Kisses on the Actual Wind, Courtney Sina Meredith, Beatnik Books, 2021
Courtney Sina Meredith’s mother, poet Kim Meredith, has edited Courtney’s new collection and has written a moving introduction. I love this. And I love the gratitude list at the back, where thanks is offered to her editor, publisher, true love, village and children. It infuses the book with love.
This is a book of love.
The opening poem is like a staircase, with the opening line (‘I am aware of my privilege. Could you connect me to my community?’) dropping a word, one by one, to become ‘community’. For me this collection is the incandescent, life-affirming bridge between ‘I’ and ‘community’.
And if the collection is a poem bridge, it is built with diverse material, every time you shift your eye it shifts form, becomes visually distinct. The love and themes that hold the collection together are a constant; think love, travel, dailiness, mother, daughter, lover. Self and community. I adore this fluctuation between constancy and a mobility of form. The mind and heart go flying. The mind and heart are grounded.
This is a book of self.
One poem resembles a vessel, a mouth, a self container. The opening and closing lines (‘How about being a woman?’) move, one extra word at a time, to the fullness of the middle line (‘How about being a young brown queer single educated professional creative woman?’). It is a song, a chant, a plea, a mantra. It resonates thorough the connection as a whole.
A second poem, ‘eye’, removes the letter ‘i’, and enacts missing self, elusiveness, restless, regret, arrival, departure. The peppery gaps are signposting the vagabond ‘I’, so full of possibilities.
This is a book of travel.
Foreign cities, physical travel away from home, charting the distractions and attractions of elsewhere (New York, London, Mexico City, Iowa, maybe Chicago). Yet the travel is also internal, inscribing the pathways home, to an interior home. Coming home to self. Poetry is most definitely a sublime means of travel.
This is a book of the matter of fact and this is a book of the intensely moving.
I made a big curry for all of my friends. One of them gave me Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.
My cousin went to see another friend at a bar. A guy asked them for a threesome. They said no.
I read about Nelson when everybody left.
from ‘Aso fanau’
I have stolen away into the secret room
mothers build inside their daughters
I am feeding on a dowry centuries old
the bones sucked dry
a feast of bright quiet.
My mother’s dreams are here
beside the red gold river
born of shame and laughter
the shifting bank won’t hold.
from ‘I have stolen away into the secret room’
Courtney’s poetry is so lovingly crafted, the silence as potent as the kinetic line, the evocation of the physical, the need to feel the word and the day and the vital connections. In Burst Kisses on the Actual Wind, the poems open out, gloriously, and as readers we are invited to step in. My only misgiving is the smaller font is a challenge for the visually impaired. But this is a joy to read. A beautiful object thanks to Beatnik. In the final poem, ‘Avondale Heights’, the poet is home, and in the final line, ‘The horizon is vast’, the possibilities of life stretch wide. And that includes poetry. Sublime.
Courtney Sina Meredithis a distinguished poet, playwright, fiction writer, performer, children’s author and essayist, with her works being translated and published around the world. A leading figure in the New Zealand arts sector, Courtney is the Director of Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust, an organisation committed to championing Oceanic arts and artists. Courtney’s award-winning works include her play Rushing Dolls, poetry Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick, short stories Tail of the Taniwha and children’s book The Adventures of Tupaia. Burst Kisses On The Actual Wind is Courtney’s new collection of poetry, the book was released in 2021 by Beatnik Books.
Ah. Love is my final theme. My seventeenth gathering. I chose love because love is the ink in my pen, it drives the pencil filling my notebooks. It’s the reason I keep two blogs running when, at times, it seems impossible. There is the love of reading and writing stretching back to childhood. Love poetry can embrace many subjects, moods, objects, experiences, relationships. So many poetry books in Aotearoa are steeped in love. In what is written and, just as importantly, in the infectious love poets feel for the power of words. For the possibility of the line, silence, music, physical detail. As readers, writers, publishers, reviewers, booksellers of poetry, we are connected through a shared and invigorating love of poetry. Ah.
To celebrate the end of my theme season I have ten copies of Wild Honey: Reading New Zealand Women’s Poetry to give away. I will sign one for you or for a friend. You can leave a comment on the blog, on FB or Twitter: Which theme resonated for you? What theme do you suggest if I should ever do this again? Or just email me if you have my address.
Grateful thanks and aroha to all the poets, publishers and readers who have supported my season of themes. I so loved doing this!
So far it has worked by imagining you in all the places I would like you to be
this is the one I love. he is not here but the air is still warm from where he might have been
we have spent hours circling each other with words-thinly vowelled embraces
how to translate these words into silences or the silences into words
when I cannot fix you behind my eyes I carry your absence like stars on the blue roof
from Selected Poems, Victoria University Press, 2016
Two sitting at a table two at a table sitting two and two a table in the grass in the grass a table and on the table empty almost with a little a little empty almost but with a little water there sits a jar for love on the table a jar for love not a fresh jar every day fresh every day nothing in the jar that lasts always fresh they are sitting sitting at the table looking they are looking at the jar at the table at each other they are sitting looking sitting at the table at the jar looking looking sitting now is nearly the day the day is nearly now now go to sleep go to love go to jar go to look look looking look sit sitting catch that catch two sitting at a table two at table sitting two and two and two a table in the grass
from Fool Moon, Auckland University Press, 2004
Because of you
in you I see the shape of the heart all poets try to explain
you, the greatest poem I could never pen
how blessed I am to mother a son to exercise hope and love when everything else is absent
Son, your are a gift to men because of you I pray for men still love men hold hope for me, for you.
from Full Broken Bloom, Ala Press, 2017
The wind has shaken everything out of the quince tree. Behold the bony gullets of fledglings as yellow as the towers of rock that arise in Wyoming. ‘Stop blocking the gangway,’ the old woman used to say, cutting away long roils of yellow clay with her spade, hell bent on re-configuring a brand new version of genetically modified melancholy. ‘Never forget how the old ones arrived from Dubh Linn, the Place of the Dark Pool, formed from the union of the River Liffey and the River Poddle. Never forget that we are arisen from a line of proud people.’ And here I am, holding onto my end of the string and I know, my love, that you are holding onto the other.
Aroha mai I was trying to get to you but the wind kept changing direction
Aroha atu she hates it when institutions use Te Reo in their signatures she hates it when my wet hair drips all over the bedsheets
Aroha mai I couldn’t see you this time I was down a rabbit hole along the coast beside the point
Aroha atu love given love received there isn’t enough room in this house to house our love the brick square flat beneath a rectangle sky
Aroha mai your baby finally came the angels found your address submerged in yesterday’s current and she’s clapping in every photo
Aroha atu my feet don’t touch the ground these days take the stairs to stay fit I keep my car full of gas it is easy to recycle the past
Aroha mai my ghost is in town and I don’t know if I should email her back
Aroha atu already the skeleton wings of this year are casting long shadows we don’t know what’s for dinner but next door’s Tui keeps singing all the buried bones to life
and you’re opening every can of beans in the cupboard to feed the tired warrior in my arms
Courtney Sina Meredith
from Burnt Kisses on the Actual Wind, Beatnik Publishing, 2021
Helping my father remember
My father is in the business of transmissions. A radio technician, the basic premise being that a message is sent out, then received. Except something’s gone wrong with the wiring, and he didn’t teach me how to fix it. I see him, standing at the kitchen bench, his hand hovering over an orange and paring knife; trying to think what he had planned.
There is evidence that sound helps restore memory: the sound of a cricket ball colliding with tin fence; lemonade meeting beer in a shandy; sticks smouldering in the air, when pulled from a camp fire. The doctor says depression, my sister says stress, my father says stop being so bloody dramatic.
They say I am the most like you, and that we are like your mother. I am following you through tall grasses, as high as my head. You’re in your angling gear. It’s summer, I can hear the cicadas. There’s a wind up, but its warm. We’re heading to the river. You find Nana, and I’ll find you. We won’t be lost if we’re together.
I haven’t read a single new book since I’ve been with you. I’ve been so busy peering into your eyes where I can see dark passages & feinting canaries & gold & mine mine mine mine
Plus I’ve been preoccupied with the joy of sex the science of living the interpretation of dreams & my undiscovered self.
So today I read a love poem.
But when I looked at it, it just said your name.
It was very repetitive. It just kept skipping over itself. Skipping to the important bits. Slipping into something more comfortable.
I looked away for a second & when I looked back the love poem had filled the whole room. It was thrusting against the ceiling & had burst through the open window pushing the vase of sunflowers right out.
I tried to call to you to come & look but the love poem was so big that it caught in my throat. There were fainting canaries everywhere like the fallen petals of sunflowers gasping yours yours yours yours
from Fully Clothed and So Forgetful, Victoria University Press, 2017
All that summer we kissed outside because we had nowhere inside to be alone. We had matching Clash t-shirts and black outlooks. After my shifts at Seafood Sam’s I would pick you up in my Dad’s ute and we’d drive to the river
so I could swim off the chip grease. I’d light a fire while you showed me the riffs you’d learned that day on your unplugged Fender. /I’ve been beat up, I’ve been thrown out,/ /But I’m not down, No I’m not down./ I requested Blondie but you said it was chick-music.
Poking the fire with a stick, the tinny twang of your dead strings. We thought we had it pretty bad. Your Dad didn’t like me because I was “the wrong flavour”. I craved city life. Packed my army bag and left home, but not before I withdrew half my chip money and bought you an amp.
from The Comforter, Seraph Press, 2011
The library is full of people looking for love. At the sound of footsteps approaching, a boy turns around with a meaningful glance, and casually slips a pencil behind his ear. Girls pause on the landings, clutching armfuls of books to their breasts. Sometimes, you feel sorry for these people. You wish this wasn’t happening. All you want is a book, and all the shelves are filled with eyes of longing.
from Secret Heart, Victoria University Press, 2006
Always on Waking
Always, on waking, I look out into treetops: I lie beside you in the shimmering room Where, whether summer morning, shell of dawn Or dazed moonlight patterns leaves on walls I wake to wide sky and the movement of treetops.
As the leaves flicker (thin scimitars of opaque Dull green the eucalyptus bundles over her bark strips) They become lucent; leaves lined with sunlight With moonlight are no longer drab But seem scimitars shining, are not now opaque.
While you are there I am nested among leaves; As sparrows come each morning for breadcrumbs So I look for your still face beside me; Without your calm in the face of what wild storm I am no longer nested, but desolate among these leaves.
from No Traveller Returns: The poems of Ruth France, Cold Hub Press, 2020
It was manuka honey, the best kind, in a big, white plastic bucket, given to you by someone with bees, because you’d been helpful, so much honey, it looked like it might last a lifetime and you being you, and maybe why I love you, you spooned it out into carefully washed jars and gave it to your uncle, your mother, your brothers, our friend with the little boy, your mother’s neighbour who had the birthday, so much honey, and after all that you gave away, there was still so much left for us.
from Meowing Part 1 (the Meow Gurrrls zine).
Is It Hard to Follow Your Heart When You Have Three?
(on the story of the giant octopus from Aelian’s De Natura Animalium)
is it hard to follow your heart when you have three?
one for circulation two for breathing
i am the stone jar of pickled fish you are the giant octopus
i wait in the dark for you you crawl up the sewer for me
we cast our votes two are for breathing
from The Starling 9
Toikupu aroha 1
I waited all night for you to come home to plant kihikihi into your cupped palms
now as you sleep I glide my fingers memorising the tracks that led me here
to this chest – arms – manawa with such vastness and proximity
I lean down taking in the entirety of your pulse and there my hā quickens
above lifelines grooved with spacious and honest certainty.
from Gaps in the Light, Ad Hoc Fiction, 2021
There are four extant poems written by the ancient Greek poet Erinna. Three of these concern the death of her childhood friend, Baukis.
you lost her, didn’t you? the one that made it worthwhile to be underneath the sun and breathing
you remembered her, didn’t you? the days you played chasing the tortoise topsy turvy, falling from all the white horses
you missed her, didn’t you? when marriage came like a thief and snatched her away the ribbon of your world
you mourned her, didn’t you? when the ribbon was torn the bright eyes empty, the breath stilled
you cried for her, didn’t you? raw, with it heaving out the wet thick language of snot and tears
you loved her, didn’t you? even more than a friend, the closest companion the only one
you wrote for her, didn’t you? wove her memory through hexameters to stave off oblivion
and, now, for her we read.
When the Person You Love Leaves You in the Night
When the person you love leaves you in the night, it is only natural to get out of bed and follow them. It is also only natural for your pyjamas to be all crumpled and your hair sticking up at the back. It is only natural to feel confused, and alone.
Nine times out of ten, a light will be on and you will walk into the living room, squinting. The person you love will probably be making human body parts out of plasticine, or playing video games. They will look up and say ‘Hello’ and smile at you like you’re some kind of lost baby animal. You will feel a little bit found.
If there is no light on in the house, it is important that you check the garden. If there is no garden, check the balcony. The person you love will be out there, staring at the moon and not crying. You are the one who cries. Except that one time… and the other. Don’t ask them if they’re okay because they will just say ‘Yeah’. Besides, you are the one who was left alone in the night.
Just look at them in the moonlight, and let them look at you. Stay very still. Then take their hand in slow motion and walk to the kitchen. The person you love will follow you, and so will the moon. Pour some milk into a pan and simmer gently. You will see a quivering white circle. The moon will be in there somewhere. Slice cheese onto bread and turn on the grill.
When you have two pieces of cheese-on-toast, put them on a plate. Pour half the milk into the mug with Peter Rabbit on it and half into the souvenir mug from Sweden. There will be sugar on the floor and it will stick to your feet. Swing yourself up onto the kitchen bench. You and the person you love will sit with your feet dangling side by side. The sugar will fall without a sound. You will drink your milk. The person you love will eat their grilled cheese, with sips of milk in-between. Peter Rabbit will eat his radishes.
Congratulate yourselves for drinking calcium. Sit at opposite ends of the couch with your legs tossed over their legs. Talk until you wake up the birds.
It is important that at some point during the night the person you love reminds you that you are the person they love. It is also important that they thank you for the grilled cheese. If they don’t, give them a pen and a piece of cardboard. Drop them on the side of the road. Tell them, ‘You can hitchhike from here.’
from Starling 4
Love Poem with Seagull
I wish I’d seen it from your side of the table when the horrid gull attacked my fish and chips, the springy baton of haddock in my hand a signal for the post-saurian psycho to swoop at my talon-less fingers as they moved toward my mouth in their classically dithering mammalian way, because if I’d had the privilege to see the stress-warped, flexuous face behind my bat-like ultrasonic shrieks of shock as I fought off the bird unsuccessfully then I’d have some idea of what it means for you to love me, the sort of person who manages to always look like this or feel like this regardless of how much easier being normal is.
from There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime, Victoria University Press, 2018
our love is a tracking device more sure than any global positioning system
just carve us into wooden tablets then imprint us on opposite corners of a mighty length of siapo and watch tusili’i spring forth
making bridges to connect us over rock-bound starfish scampering centipedes and the footprints of bemused birds
we have many stories of losing and finding each orther
of getting lost and losing others
but today all is well
I lie beneath the old mango tree smothered with coconut oil embellished with wild flowers and droplets of your sweat
your aging shoulders still fling back proud
and I still arch towards you like a young sweetheart
you have whispered in my hair
and we both know this is our final harbour
from Tapa Talk, Huia Press, 2007
This morning when I looked out my window they were the first thing I noticed. I saw them flocking outside my house. I like to look at them from my window. I get the sun there. I’ll go out and stroke them. I wonder what they think of me. Some people don’t have anything much but if you put a hen on their knee they start looking. I’m not fast on my feet. I have bother with my eyes. I’ve got friends that can’t get out. Everything goes downhill. I would go back to when I was younger. I love the first things. When you’re young you’ve only a future. I’ve made no plans for dying. I haven’t paid for anything. I’d be terrified if they made a mistake. I do love everything about living though. I love being able to see. I like to look out my windows and see the leaves like a blanket on the ground. I love the autumn. I love the hens in the autumn. They’re beautiful. I couldn’t imagine my life without them. They’re everything to me.
from How I get Ready, Victoria University Press, 2019
Serie Barford was born in Aotearoa to a German-Samoan mother and a Palagi father. She was the recipient of a 2018 Pasifika Residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre. Serie promoted her collections Tapa Talk and Entangled Islands at the 2019 International Arsenal Book Festival in Kiev. She collaborated with filmmaker Anna Marbrook to produce a short film, Te Ara Kanohi, for Going West 2021. Her latest poetry collection, Sleeping With Stones, will be launched during Matariki 2021.
Airini Beautrais lives in Whanganui and is the author of four poetry collections and a collection of short fiction. Her most recent poetry collection is Flow: Whanganui River Poems (VUP 2017). Bug Week and Other Stories recently won the Ockham NZ Book Fiction Award 2021.
Jenny Bornholdt is the author of many celebrated collections of poems, including The Rocky Shore (Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry, 2009) and Selected Poems (2016), and editor of several notable anthologies, including Short Poems of New Zealand (2018). In 2005 she became the fifth Te Mata Estate Poet Laureate, during which time she wrote Mrs Winter’s Jump (2007). In 2010 she was the Creative New Zealand Victoria University Writer in Residence. In 2013 she was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature. In 2016 she edited the online anthology Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems. Jenny’s most recent collection is Lost and Somewhere Else (2019).
Murray Edmond, b. Kirikiriroa 1949, lives in Glen Eden. 14 books of poetry (Shaggy Magpie Songs, 2015, and Back Before You Know, 2019 most recent); book of novellas (Strait Men and Other Tales, 2015); Then It Was Now Again: Selected Critical Writing (2014); editor, Ka Mate Ka Ora (http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/kmko/); dramaturge for Indian Ink Theatre. Forthcoming: Time to Make a Song and Dance: Cultural Revolt in Auckland in the 1960s, from Atuanui Press in May, 2021.
Ruth France (1913–68) published two novels: The Race (1958), which won the New Zealand Literary Fund’s Award for Achievement, and Ice Cold River (1961); and two volumes of poetry: Unwilling Pilgrim (1955) and The Halting Place (1961), under the pseudonym Paul Henderson. Poems from a third collection, which remained in manuscript at the time of her death, are published as No Traveller Returns: The Selected poems of Ruth France (Cold Hub Press, 2020).
Janis Freegard is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Reading the Signs (The Cuba Press), and a novel, The Year of Falling. She lives in Wellington. website
Bernadette Hall lives in the Hurunui, North Canterbury. She retired from high-school teaching in 2005 in order to embrace a writing life. Fancy Dancing is her eleventh collection of poetry (VUP, 2020). In 2015 she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for literary achievement in poetry and in 2017 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Joy Holley lives in Wellington and has recently completed her Masters in fiction at the International Institute of Modern Letters. Her writing has been published in Starling, Sport,Stasis and other journals.
Claudia Jardine (she/her) is a poet and musician based in Ōtautahi/Christchurch. In 2020 she published her first chapbook, The Temple of Your Girl, with Auckland University Press in AUPNew Poets 7 alongside Rhys Feeney and Ria Masae. For the winter of 2021 Jardine will be one of the Arts Four Creative Residents in The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora, where she will be working on a collection of poems.
Hebe Kearney is a queer poet who lives in Tāmaki Makaurau. Their work has appeared in The Three Lamps, Starling, Oscen, Forest and Bird, a fine line, and Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021.
Erik Kennedy is the author of There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime (Victoria University Press, 2018), and he is co-editing a book of climate change poetry from Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific forthcoming from Auckland University Press later in 2021. His second book of poems is due out in 2022. His poems, stories, and criticism have been published in places like FENCE, Hobart, Maudlin House, Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, the TLS, and Western Humanities Review. Originally from New Jersey, he lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Helen Lehndorf’s book, The Comforter, made the New Zealand Listener’s ‘Best 100 Books of 2012′ list. Her second book, Write to the Centre, is a nonfiction book about the practice of keeping a journal. She writes poetry and non-fiction, and has been published in Sport, Landfall, JAAM, and many other publications and anthologies. Recently, she co-created an performance piece The 4410 to the 4412 for the Papaoiea Festival of the Arts with fellow Manawatū writers Maroly Krasner and Charlie Pearson. A conversation between the artists and Pip Adam can be heard on the Better Off Read podcast here
Courtney Sina Meredith is a distinguished poet, playwright, fiction writer, performer, children’s author and essayist, with her works being translated and published around the world. A leading figure in the New Zealand arts sector, Courtney is the Director of Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust, an organisation committed to championing Oceanic arts and artists. Courtney’s award-winning works include her play Rushing Dolls, poetry Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick, short stories Tail of the Taniwha and children’s book The Adventures of Tupaia. Burst Kisses On The Actual Wind is Courtney’s new collection of poetry, the book was released just this month.
Hannah Mettner (she/her) is a Wellington writer who still calls Tairāwhiti home. Her first collection of poetry, Fully Clothed and So Forgetful, was published by Victoria University Press in 2017, and won the Jessie Mackay Award for best first book of poetry at the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She is one of the founding editors of the online journal Sweet Mammalian, with Sugar Magnolia Wilson and Morgan Bach.
Grace Iwashita-Taylor, breathing bloodlines of Samoa, England and Japan. An artist of upu/words led her to the world of performing arts. Dedicated to carving, elevating and holding spaces for storytellers of Te Moana nui a Kiwa. Recipient of the CNZ Emerging Pacific Artist 2014 and the Auckland Mayoral Writers Grant 2016. Highlights include holding the visiting international writer in residence at the University of Hawaii 2018, Co-Founder of the first youth poetry slam in Aoteroa, Rising Voices (2011 – 2016) and the South Auckland Poets Collective and published collections Afakasi Speaks (2013) & Full Broken Bloom (2017) with ala press. Writer of MY OWN DARLING commissioned by Auckland Theatre Company (2015, 2017, 2019) and Curator of UPU (Auckland Arts Festival 2020 & Kia Mau Festival 2021). Currently working on next body of work WATER MEMORIES.
Louise Wallace is the author of three collections of poetry published by Victoria University Press, most recently Bad Things. She is the founder and editor of Starling, and is currently working on a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Otago.
Iona Winter (Waitaha/Kāi Tahu) lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin. Her hybrid work is widely published and anthologised in literary journals internationally. Iona creates work to be performed, relishing cross-modality collaboration, and holds a Master of Creative Writing. She has authored three collections, Gaps in the Light (2021), Te Hau Kāika (2019), and then the wind came (2018). Skilled at giving voice to difficult topics, she often draws on her deep connection to land, place and whenua.
Ashleigh Young is the author of Magnificent Moon, Can You Tolerate This?, and How I Get Ready (Victoria University Press). She works as an editor at VUP.
Courtney Sina Meredith is a distinguished poet, playwright, fiction writer, performer, children’s author and essayist, with her works being translated and published around the world. A leading figure in the New Zealand arts sector, Courtney is the Director of Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust, an organisation committed to championing Oceanic arts and artists. Courtney’s award-winning works include her play Rushing Dolls, poetry Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick, short stories Tail of the Taniwha and children’s book The Adventures of Tupaia. Burst Kisses On The Actual Wind is Courtney’s new collection of poetry, the book was released just this month by Beatnik Books.
This is multi-note poetry – each poem a sharp turn to different effect but the poetry co-exists so sweetly. There is not a dud note.
Today I am in the mood for surprise.
Zack Anderson’s ‘Vapor Wake’ is a lush string of words, a momentum of startling image and sound. A taste:
shadow the streaming track
the wormy spoor
the hex print
the luminous index
data streaming from me
like a wedding dress
a mantle, a mantis
Murray Edmond goes ‘Camping in the existential forest’ with tercets that wryly build a miniature narrative, strange, theatrical and evocative:
Someone coming in
gumboots. Tramp tramp tramp. Beat
of own tell-tale heart.
Courtney Sina Meredith hooks me with an off-kilter memoir-like cluster of little pieces, definitely luminous. From ‘Pony’:
Unless my memory is playing tricks on me. The rats
were white with blazing red eyes.
I’m translating myself from a time when I was sure.
I recently did an email conversation with Manon Revuelta where I enthused about her debut collection, Girl Teeth. This new poem, ‘Prayer’, shows the subtle along with the degrees of surprise and lyricism Manon is capable of. A taste:
Look at this busy dance I do with my hand
When I’m talking to people
Shredding paper in the darkness of my pocket
It is the quiet work of saying things
Min-a-ret 8 is a treat to be read on multiple occasions like a good album that needs multiple listenings.
Erena Shingade is a poet and arts writer from Auckland, New Zealand. Her work has been published by platforms such as The Spinoff, Landfall, Mimicry, Blackmail Press, Atlanta Review, Ka Mate Ka Ora, & the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre. After completing an MA thesis on the Zen Buddhist poetry of Richard von Sturmer in 2017, she continues to research the intersection of the poetic and the religious. During the day she works as a publicist for Allen & Unwin.
This year, The Women’s Bookshop hosted two Ladies Litera-Tea events. I didn’t make the first one, but the one on Sunday was perhaps the best one I have been to. The range of voices was inspired programming. I needed toothpicks to hold my eyes up when I left home, but Dame Fiona Kidman had me sitting up listening to the sonnets she wrote for her mother, Kirsten McDougall mesmerised with an extract from the must-read Tess, Heather Kidd showed the diverse creativity and ambitions of rural women (wow!), Michalia Arathimos spoke of the gut-wrenching origins of her debut also must-read novel Aukati, Fiona Farrell’s extract from Decline & Fall on Savage Street had me sitting on the edge of my seat, the sentences were so good (now have a copy!). Hearing how Eat My Lunch came into being from Lisa King underlined the difference one person can make (with help from friends!).
The first half was a glorious rollercoasting brain-sparking heart-warming delight.
By this stage no vestiges of tiredness. I thought I might flag in the second half but the immune-system boost continued. Wow! Hearing Sue Wootton read poems was a bit like hearing Anne Kennedy read and I just wanted more (please can she come to AWF?), Annaleese Jochems had me gasping every time she read an extract (also now on my table), Diana Wichtel’s account of Driving to Treblinka and her missing Polish Jewish father was so moving I was in awe of her tenacity and ability to bring that story to life on the page, Tina Makereti made abundantly clear why Black Marks on the White Page matters and why this collection is compulsive reading. I actually loved the way – rather than read her own award-winning ‘Black Milk’ – she picked ‘Famished Eels’ by Mary Rokonadravu to read (it had won the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the Pacific Region).
We tell stories and we write poems in so many different ways – and that matters.
I came home with four new novels and so much more! Thank you Carole Beu, her team and the authors. I so needed that pick-me-up. Seriously I felt like I had come back from a month at Sandy Bay after reading novels and swimming.
Somewhere in the glorious mix, Courtney Sina Meredith read some new poems – which is no easy thing. I loved hearing her half sing/half speak an early poem, ‘Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick’, and I loved hearing the new poems. There is the same musical lift, the same political undercurrents, the same heart that beats along every line – yet there is also a stepping out, a tasking risks, a renewed self exposure with vital attachments to the world. Courtney kindly agreed to let me post two new poems that make a rather good pairing. Just so you can have a taste. I feel rather lucky as I an read them with her performance voice taking over.
I just adore the way these two poems make conversations with each other.
How about being a woman?
How about being a young woman?
How about being a young brown woman?
How about being a young brown queer woman?
How about being a young brown queer single woman?
How about being a young brown queer single educated woman?
How about being a young brown queer single educated professional woman?
How about being a young brown queer single educated professional creative woman?
How about being a young brown queer single educated professional woman?
How about being a young brown queer single educated woman?
Author note: I was 22 when I wrote this and in a lot of pain, I had no idea what was ahead of me, ignorance really is bliss. Months later I would undergo my first major operation and my endometriosis would be confirmed. I was channeling ancestors and trashing lovers and asking myself to keep on giving when I really felt like there was nothing left to give.
Courtney Sina Meredith is a poet, playwright, fiction writer and musician based in Auckland. She’s held a number of international writers’ residencies including the prestigious Fall Residency at the University of Iowa. In 2012 Meredith published her first book of poems, Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick, and in 2016 launched a collection of short stories, Tail of the Taniwha, with Beatnik Publishing.
Courtney Sina Meredith, 2017 Arts Queensland Poet in Residence, will talk to Annie Te Whiu of Queensland Poetry Festival about her poetry, and the importance of place and politics in her writing, see here.
From Paula: For Poetry Shelf’s Winter Season, I invited 12 poets to pick one of their own poems that marks a shift in direction, that is outside the usual tracks of their poetry, that moves out of character, that nudges comfort zones of writing. It might be subject matter, style, form, approach, tone, effect, motivation, borrowings, revelation, invention, experimentation, exclusions, inclusions, melody …. anything!
A new partnership between the festival, WORD Christchurch and Creative New Zealand has resulted in the talented line-up of New Zealand writers, all with acclaimed books, set to make an impression at the renowned literary event.
The writers are award-winning and wildly popular Wellington poet Hera Lindsay Bird, critically acclaimed Auckland poet, playwright and fiction writer Courtenay Sina Meredith, and best-selling Wellington novelist, comic artist and blogger Sarah Laing. They will be accompanied by Rachael King, author and programme director of WORD Christchurch, who has worked with the festival to select the writers and curate their events.
Participation in the festival is part of the New Zealand at Edinburgh 2017 season which sees the return of a New Zealand season across the various Edinburgh festivals taking place in August. This follows an ambitious and successful presentation in 2014.
With the theme of Brave New Words, this year’s book festival programme features more than 1000 authors from 45 countries.
Hera Lindsay Bird will appear with recent Ted Hughes prize-winner Hollie McNish in Poetry Superstars, and perform in a late night spoken word showcase. Courtney Sina Meredith will join a 21st Century Women panel, curated by guest selectors Roxane Gay and Jackie Kay. Meredith will also appear alongside Scottish poet and musician MacGillivray in Reshuffling the Pack. Sarah Laing will host a reading workshop of Katherine Mansfield stories, as well as talk about her book Mansfield & Me alongside English comic creator Hannah Berry in Graphic Novels of Influential Women. Rachael King will also appear in the children’s programme.
“We are thrilled that the relationships developed during previous seasons have resulted in this new partnership. It will expose the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s audiences to new and talented voices from Aotearoa and provide a dynamic international networking opportunity for the writers,” said Creative New Zealand senior manager for international, Cath Cardiff.
The festival expressed an interest in working with a local partner to bring New Zealand authors to its programme. This worked well with WORD Christchurch’s aspirations to engage more with international partners and to promote New Zealand literature overseas.
“We are delighted to be working with WORD Christchurch this year and we are very much looking forward to welcoming some of New Zealand’s wonderful writers to the book festival in August,” said Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Nicky Barley.
“It has been a pleasure to work with Edinburgh International Book Festival on programming New Zealand writers into some fantastic events that will showcase their talents and ensure maximum exposure for their work,” said Rachael King.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival began in 1983 and is now a key event in the August festival season. It has grown rapidly in size and scope to become the largest and most dynamic festival of its kind in the world. In its first year the book festival hosted 30 events, now it programmes more than 800 events attracting around 220,000 visitors.
To support the writers to attend the festival Creative New Zealand has provided $20,000 towards airfares, accommodation and administration costs.
Hera Lindsay Bird has an MA in poetry from the International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington where she won the 2011 Adam Prize for best folio. Her debut, self-titled book of poetry HERA LINDSAY BIRD was published in July 2016 by Victoria University Press (VUP). It has become the fastest selling, most popular book of poetry the VUP has ever published, and won Best First Book of Poetry at the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
Courtney Sina Meredith is a poet, playwright, fiction writer and musician. Her play Rushing Dolls (2010) won a number of awards and was published by Playmarket in 2012. She launched her first published book of poetry, Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick (Beatnik), at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair, and has since published a short story collection, Tail of the Taniwha (2016) to critical acclaim. She has been selected for a number of international writers’ residencies. Meredith describes her writing as an “ongoing discussion of contemporary urban life with an underlying Pacific politique”. She is of Samoan, Mangaian and Irish descent.
Sarah Laing is the author of two novels, Dead People’s Music and Fall of Light, and a short story collection, Coming Up Roses. With a background in illustration and design, she runs the popular comic blog Let Me Be Frank, which she started when she held the Frank Sargeson Fellowship in 2008. She has contributed comics to magazines, illustrated children’s books, and co-edited Three Words: An Anthology of Aotearoa/NZ Women’s Comics. Her latest book, Mansfield & Me, is a graphic biography and memoir, which compares the life of New Zealand’s most famous writer Katherine Mansfield, to Sarah’s own life of creativity, insecurity and celebrity obsession.
Rachael King has been the programme director of WORD Christchurch since 2013. She is the author of two books for adults, The Sound of Butterflies (winner of Best First Novel at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards) and Magpie Hall (long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award), and one for children, Red Rocks, which won New Zealand’s longest-running literary award, the Esther Glen Medal. Her work has been translated into eight languages and has garnered critical praise worldwide.